Paper - The origin of pointing: Evidence for the touch hypothesis

  • Metadata:
    • author: Cathal O’Madagain, Gregor Kachel, Brent Strickland
    • title: The origin of pointing: Evidence for the touch hypothesis
    • year: 20192019

    • url: Weblink
  • Background:
    • Empirical evidence shows that object touches that look like pointing decrease in frequency as soon as the typical pointing gesture in infantspointing gesture in infants
      Social pointing in infants develops between 9 months (understanding) and 12 months (production) and is a fundamental communicative gesture. Prior, pointing is primarily used for private purposes, l...
      appear.
    • Arrow hypothesis: Object is found at the vector that is extended form the finger (pointing)
    • Line hypothesis: Object is found at extended vector that connects eyes and fingertip (touching)
  • Research Question:
    • Are early pointing gestures only attempts to touch the objects?
  • 18 month-olds, 3 year-olds, 6 year-olds and adults
  • Study 1:
    • Method:
      • 18 months: child was seated in front of researcher, plushie appeared behind researcher, child had to point to plushie
      • older: Marbles hidden under one cup out of multiple, participant had to point to correct cup
    • Results:
      • Fingertip-eye line is closer to the objects than the pointing-arrow line across all ages
      • The older, the less difference in angle between the two
  • Study 2:
    • Method:
      • An magnet was either placed on a 2D plane in front of the child or to either side of a 3D box
      • participants were asked to point to the magnet (for the 18 month-olds, actors tried to elicit pointing response)
      • Coding: Are the hands rotated when pointing?
    • Results:
      • There was an increase in ankle rotation in the 3D condition, indicating touch attempts (pointing would not require a rotation)
  • Study 3:
    • Focused on understanding/interpretation rather than production
    • Method:
      • 2 images were presented, where a person was seated in front of 3 cups
        • A: pointing and looking at the same one (viewing line and pointing arrow matching) while the hand itself was closer to another cup)
        • B: looking at the one closest to the hand (viewing line and closeness of hand matching), but pointing to another one
    • Results:
      • 18 month-olds and 3 year-olds consistently chose the cup where the gaze matches the closeness of hand in B, but are at chance level in A
      • 6 year-olds have no preference
      • 9 year-olds have a greater preference for the looked-at cup in condition A (pointing-arrow)
      • Adults prefer the gaze in both conditions
  • Interpretation:
    • All 3 studies suggest that touching attempts are predecessors for pointing gestures.
    • Possible explanations: Caretakers put their attention on things that infants touch and thus infants learn to "pretend" to touch far away objects in order to lead the attention of their interaction partner.