Infants use shared experience to interpret pointing gestures

Kristin Liebal*, Tanya Behne, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated whether 1-year-old infants use their shared experience with an adult to determine the meaning of a pointing gesture. In the first study, after two adults had each shared a different activity with the infant, one of the adults pointed to a target object. Eighteen- but not 14-month-olds responded appropriately to the pointing gesture based on the particular activity they had previously shared with that particular adult. In the second study, 14-month-olds were successful in a simpler procedure in which the pointing adult either had or had not shared a relevant activity with the infant prior to the pointing. Infants just beginning to learn language thus already show a complex understanding of the pragmatics of cooperative communication in which shared experience with particular individuals plays a crucial role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-271
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009




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