Young children create iconic gestures to inform others

Tanya Behne, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Much is known about young children's use of deictic gestures such as pointing. Much less is known about their use of other types of communicative gestures, especially iconic or symbolic gestures. In particular, it is unknown whether children can create iconic gestures on the spot to inform others. Study 1 provided 27-month-olds with the opportunity to inform a novice how to perform a task. The majority of children created appropriate iconic gestures, and they did so significantly more than in a control condition in which the need to inform someone was removed. In Study 2, some of the 21-month-olds tested also created novel iconic gestures but to a lesser extent. Results are discussed in relation to children's symbolic, linguistic, and social-cognitive development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2060
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number8
Early online date30 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Iconic gestures
  • Social-cognitive development
  • Intentional communication
  • Communicative development
  • Gesture-speech integration


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