The core knowledge (CK) account of human development ascribes higher-order cognition to infants on the basis of looking time measures. In this paper, we investigate the conceptual foundations of this account through an examination of the preferential looking paradigm. We focus on the use of this paradigm in social cognitive and morality research, which involves ascriptions of expectation, surprise, preference, belief understanding, and moral judgment to infant looking behavior. We compare CK researchers' usage of these terms with everyday usage, and conclude that the application of belief and morality to infant looking behavior is overzealous. Based on these considerations, we argue that a developmental systems approach may provide a more appropriate theoretical framework for studying the development of such capacities.

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