Reference and attitude in infant pointing

Ulf Liszkowski*, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated two main components of infant declarative pointing, reference and attitude, in two experiments with a total of 106 preverbal infants at 1;0. When an experimenter (E) responded to the declarative pointing of these infants by attending to an incorrect referent (with positive attitude), infants repeated pointing within trials to redirect E's attention, showing an understanding of E's reference and active message repair. In contrast, when E identified infants' referent correctly, but displayed a disinterested attitude, infants did not repeat pointing within trials and pointed overall in fewer trials, showing an understanding of E's unenthusiastic attitude about the referent. When E attended to infants' intended referent AND shared interest in it, infants were most satisfied, showing no message repair within trials and pointing overall in more trials. These results suggest that by twelve months of age infant declarative pointing is a full communicative act aimed at sharing with others both attention to a referent and a specific attitude about that referent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalJournal of child language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007




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