The study investigates a social–pragmatic expectation that may motivate children to search their environment when asked for the referent of a novel label. In one experimental phase, the experimenter presented 40 two-year-olds a bucket containing a novel object and another visible object – either familiar or novel. The experimenter either asked children for the referent of a novel label, or a non-specific question. In a second experimental phase, all children saw a bucket containing a novel object, and two visible objects – one familiar and one novel. We found that, in both phases, children tended to bypass the visible novel object, preferring instead to search inside the bucket for the referent of a novel label. These findings are consistent with an expectation – dubbed the EXPECTATION OF COMPETENCE – that if an adult asks a child for the referent of a name, it is because the adult likely believes that the child knows that name, and thus the child can expect to be capable of finding its referent.