Contingent Labeling after Infants’ Pointing Helps Infants Learn Words

Abstract

Previous studies provide suggestive evidence that infants’ pointing gesture is associated with language development, but cannot verify a causal role of pointing in word learning. The present study thus experimentally manipulated infants’ production of pointing, and responses to pointing, to investigate the role of pointing in infants’ performance of forming novel word-object associations. Sixteen-month-olds were introduced to pairs of novel objects, and then heard the labels after they had pointed to an object, or when they were just looking at it, or at a predetermined time schedule. Results showed that children learned the labels the best when the labels were provided contingently after their pointing gesture. These results suggest that offering information in response to infants’ pointing gestures may lead to better word learning.


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