One-year-olds' understanding of nonverbal gestures directed to a third person

Maria Graefenhain*, Tanya Behne, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated whether infants comprehend others' nonverbal Communicative intentions directed to a third person, in an 'over-hearing' context. An experimenter addressed an assistant and indicated a hidden toy's location by either gazing ostensively or pointing to the location for her. In a Matched control condition, the experimenter performed similar behaviors (absent-minded gazing and extended index finger) but did not Communicate ostensively with the assistant. Infants could then search for the toy. Eighteen-month-old infants were skillful in using both communicative Cues to find the hidden object, whereas 14-month-olds performed above chance only with the pointing cue. Neither age group performed above chance in the control condition. This study thus shows that by 14-18 months of age, infants are beginning to monitor and comprehend some aspects of third party interactions. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Preverbal development
  • Communicative intentions
  • Overhearing
  • Nonverbal gestures
  • EYES


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