Six-month-olds’ ability to use linguistic cues when interpreting others’ pointing actions

Isu Cho, Yoonha Lee, Hyun joo Song

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The present research investigated whether six-month-olds who rarely produce pointing actions can detect the object-directedness and communicative function of others’ pointing actions when linguistic information is provided. In Experiment 1, infants were randomly assigned to either a novel-word or emotional-vocalization condition. They were first familiarized with an event in which an actor uttered either a novel label (novel-word condition) or exclamatory expression (emotional-vocalization condition) and then pointed to one of two objects. Next, the positions of the objects were switched. During test trials, each infant watched the new-referent event where the actor pointed to the object to which the actor had not pointed before or the old-referent event where the actor pointed to the old object in its new location. Infants in the novel-word condition looked reliably longer at the new-referent event than at the old-referent event, suggesting that they encoded the object-directedness of the actor's point. In contrast, infants in the emotional-vocalization condition showed roughly equal looking times to the two events. To further examine infants’ understanding of the communicative aspect of an actor's point using a different communicative context, Experiment 2 used an identical procedure to the novel-word condition in Experiment 1, except there was only one object present during the familiarization trials. When the familiarization trials did not include a contrasting object, we found that the communicative intention of the actor's point could be ambiguous. The infants showed roughly equal looking times during the two test events. The current research suggests that six-month-olds understand the object-directedness and communicative intention of others’ pointing when presented with a label, but not when presented with an emotional non-speech vocalization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101621
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea ( NRF-2018S1A3A2075114 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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