Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 711-719

First online:

Eighteen-month-old human infants show intensive development in comprehension of different types of pointing gestures

  • Edina PfandlerAffiliated withDepartment of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University Email author 
  • , Gabriella LakatosAffiliated withDepartment of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University
  • , Ádám MiklósiAffiliated withDepartment of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University

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This study explored children’s development in comprehending four types of pointing gestures with different familiarity. Our aim was to highlight human infants’ pointing comprehension abilities under the same conditions used for various animal species. Sixteen children were tested longitudinally in a two-choice task from 1 year of age. At the age of 12 and 14 months, infants did not exceed chance level with either of the gestures used. Infants were successful with distal pointing and long cross-pointing at the age of 16 months. By the age of 18 months, infants showed a high success rate with the less familiar gestures (forward cross-pointing and far pointing) as well. Their skills at this older age show close similarity with those demonstrated previously by dogs when using exactly the same testing procedures. Our longitudinal studies also revealed that in a few infants, the ability to comprehend pointing gestures is already apparent before 16 months of age. In general, we found large individual variation. This has been described for a variety of cognitive skills in human development and seems to be typical for pointing comprehension as well.


Pointing Gesture Communication Development Comparative Infant