Communicating to Learn: Infants’ Pointing Gestures Result in Optimal Learning

Kelsey Lucca, Makeba Parramore Wilbourn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Infants’ pointing gestures are a critical predictor of early vocabulary size. However, it remains unknown precisely how pointing relates to word learning. The current study addressed this question in a sample of 108 infants, testing one mechanism by which infants’ pointing may influence their learning. In Study 1, 18-month-olds, but not 12-month-olds, more readily mapped labels to objects if they had first pointed toward those objects than if they had referenced those objects via other communicative behaviors, such as reaching or gaze alternations. In Study 2, when an experimenter labeled a not pointed-to-object, 18-month-olds’ pointing was no longer related to enhanced fast mapping. These findings suggest that infants’ pointing gestures reflect a readiness and, potentially, a desire to learn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-960
Number of pages20
JournalChild development
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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