One-year-olds comprehend the communicative intentions behind gestures in a hiding game

T Behne*, M Carpenter, M Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)


This study explored infants' ability to infer communicative intent as expressed in non-linguistic gestures. Sixty children aged 14, 18 and 24 months participated. In the context of a hiding game, an adult indicated for the child the location of a hidden toy by giving a communicative cue: either pointing or ostensive gazing toward the container containing the toy. To succeed in this task children had to do more than just follow the point or gaze to the target container. They also had to infer that the adult's behaviour was relevant to the situation at hand - she wanted to inform them that the toy was inside the container toward which she gestured. Children at all three ages successfully used both types of cues. We conclude that infants as young as 14 months of age can, in some situations, interpret an adult behaviour as a relevant communicative act done for them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-499
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


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