When Do Infants Begin to Follow a Point?

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Developmental Psychology






Infants’ understanding of a pointing gesture represents a major milestone in their communicative development. The current consensus is that infants are not capable of following a pointing gesture until 9–12 months of age. In this article, we present evidence from 4- and 6-month-old infants challenging this conclusion. Infants were tested with a spatial cueing paradigm in Experiment 1 (500-ms stimulus-target onset asynchrony [SOA]) and Experiment 2 (100-ms SOA). The results revealed that the younger infants shifted their attention in the cued direction when presented with a pointing gesture and with a foil (i.e., same size and shape as pointing gesture) at both SOAs. Older infants shifted their attention only in response to the pointing gesture at 100-ms SOA. Experiment 3 tested infants’ preferences for the social stimulus (i.e., pointing gesture) relative to the foil and a non-social stimulus (i.e., an arrow). The results revealed that infants are biased to selectively attend to the pointing gesture. Taken together, these results suggest that 4- and 6-month-old infants are capable of preferentially selecting and following a pointing gesture. It is theorized that this early capacity assists infants in their developing understanding of triadic forms of communication.