In a series of eye-tracking studies, we investigated preverbal infants’ understanding of social exclusion by analyzing their gaze behaviors as they were familiarized with animations depicting social acceptance and explicit or implicit social exclusion. In addition, we implemented preferential reaching and anticipatory looking paradigms to further assess understanding of outcomes. Across all experiments (n = 81), it was found that 7–9 month-old infants exhibited non-random visual scanning and gaze behaviors and responded systematically and above random chance in their choice of character and, to some extent, in their anticipation of the movement of a neutral character during a test trial. Together, the results suggest that not only do preverbal infants follow and understand third party social events, such as acceptance and exclusion, but that they also update their representations of particular characters as events unfold and evaluate characters on the basis of their actions, as well as the consequences of those actions.
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