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Human twelve-month-olds point cooperatively to share interest with and helpfully provide information for a communicative partner

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This paper investigates infant pointing at 12 months. Three recent experimental studies from our lab are reported and contrasted with existing accounts on infant communicative and social-cognitive abilities. The new results show that infant pointing at 12 months already is a communicative act which involves the intentional transmission of information to share interest with, or provide information for other persons. It is argued that infant pointing is an inherently social and cooperative act which is used to share psychological relations between interlocutors and environment, repairs misunderstandings in proto-conversational turn-taking, and helps others by providing information. Infant pointing builds on an understanding of others as persons with attentional states and attitudes. Findings do not support lean accounts on early infant pointing which posit that it is initially non-communicative, does not serve the function of indicating, or is purely self-centered. It is suggested to investigate the emergence of reference and the motivation to jointly engage with others also before pointing has emerged.
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Keywords: attitude; cooperation; helping; infant communication; inform; pointing; reference

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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