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6 - The Development of Information-Requesting Gestures in Infancy and Their Role in Shaping Learning Outcomes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2020

Lucas Payne Butler
University of Maryland, College Park
Samuel Ronfard
University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathleen H. Corriveau
Boston University
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Human infants are remarkable learners. Although they are born with very limited knowledge about the world around them, by the end of the second year of life they demonstrate highly sophisticated reasoning abilities and a robust understanding of the physical and social world. Despite recent discoveries in what infants know, important questions still exist surrounding how they come to know it. In this chapter, I explore one mechanism that spurs early learning – a drive to seek out information through preverbal gestures. To do so, I first review the evidence for information seeking during infancy (e.g. attentional biases). I then turn to infants’ understanding of adults as rich sources of information, and describe how infants transition from attending to information to explicitly seeking it out. Here, I propose that long before infants acquire the verbal abilities to ask questions, they point to request information. I then argue that interrogative pointing plays a direct role in learning, with a specific focus on the link between pointing and word learning. I conclude with an exploration of infants’ transition from preverbal to verbal information requesting through question asking.

The Questioning Child
Insights from Psychology and Education
, pp. 89 - 117
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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