Preschoolers understand the representational and communicative nature of iconic gestures

Abstract

Twenty 3.5- to 4-year-olds participated in a study to investigate children’s understanding of the representative and communicative nature of iconic gestures. Two toys, one of them with a sticker attached, were presented to the child. It was not possible to request the toy with the sticker by asking (experimenter wore headphones) or pointing (toys were too close together), but they could show the experimenter which toy they wanted by performing the correct gesture. Children had to generate the correct iconic gestures themselves as the gestures were not modeled during test trials. On 70% of the trials children performed a correct gesture (p = .045), instead of only producing other response types (no response, verbal request, wrong gesture, pointing). This study shows that children understand that iconic gestures can represent objects, and also that they can use iconic gestures to communicate.


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