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Infants' Contribution to the Achievement of Joint Reference
Dare A. Baldwin
Vol. 62, No. 5 (Oct., 1991), pp. 875-890
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131140
Page Count: 16
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This research examines whether infants actively contribute to the achievement of joint reference. One possibility is that infants tend to link a label with whichever object they are focused on when they hear the label. If so, infants would make a mapping error when an adult labels a different object than the one occupying their focus. Alternatively, infants may be able to use a speaker's nonverbal cues (e. g., line of regard) to interpret the reference of novel labels. This ability would allow infants to avoid errors when adult labels conflict with infants' focus. 64 16-19-month-olds were taught new labels for novel toys in 2 situations. In follow-in labeling, the experimenter looked at and labeled a toy at which infants were already looking. In discrepant labeling, the experimenter looked at and labeled a different toy than the one occupying infants' focus. Infants' responses to subsequent comprehension questions revealed that they (a) successfully learned the labels introduced during follow-in labeling, and (b) displayed no tendency to make mapping errors after discrepant labeling. Thus infants of only 16 to 19 months understand that a speaker's nonverbal cues are relevant to the reference of object labels; they already can contribute to the social coordination involved in achieving joint reference.
Child Development © 1991 Society for Research in Child Development