Does Making Something Move Matter? Representations of Goals and Sources in Motion Events With Causal Sources

Laura Lakusta, Paul Muentener, Lauren Petrillo, Noelle Mullanaphy, Lauren Muniz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown a robust bias to express the goal path over the source path when describing events (“the bird flew into the pitcher,” rather than “… out of the bucket into the pitcher”). Motivated by linguistic theory, this study manipulated the causal structure of events (specifically, making the source cause the motion of the figure) and measured the extent to which adults and 3.5- to 4-year-old English-speaking children included the goal and source in their descriptions. We found that both children's and adults’ encoding of the source increased for events in which the source caused the motion of the figure compared to nearly identical events in which the source played no such causal role. However, a goal bias persisted overall for both causal and noncausal motion events. These findings suggest that although the goal bias in language is highly robust, properties of the source (such as causal agency) influence its likelihood of being encoded in language, thus shedding light on how properties of an event can influence the mapping of event components into language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-826
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2017



  • Causal motion events
  • Event representation
  • Goal bias
  • Goal paths
  • Language development
  • Source paths

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