I See Your Point: Infants Under 12 Months Understand That Pointing Is Communicative

Madelaine Krehm, Kristine H. Onishi, Athena Vouloumanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Do young infants understand that pointing gestures allow the pointer to change the information state of a recipient? We used a third-party experimental scenario to examine whether 9- and 11-month-olds understand that a pointer's pointing gesture can inform a recipient about a target object. When the pointer pointed to a target, infants subsequently looked longer when the recipient selected the nontarget rather than the target object. In contrast, infants looked equally long whether the recipient selected the target or nontarget object when the pointer used a noncommunicative gesture, a fist. Finally, when the recipient had no perceptual access to the pointing gesture, infants looked longer when the recipient selected the target rather than the nontarget object. Young infants understand a fundamental aspect of the communicative function of pointing: Pointing, but not all gestures, can transfer information. Gestures may thus be one of the tools infants use for an early understanding of communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-538
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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