Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Adam A. PackEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_753-1


An early developmental hallmark in human social cognition is the ability to understand pointing as a form of referential communication. Referential pointing in humans is a triadic communicative transaction involving the management of joint attention between an informant, a receiver, and a subject of interest. Pointing is not only adaptive as a form of communication but it can also inform a receiver and an informant about each other’s visual perception, social awareness, and knowledge state. In human infants, the ability to understand the referring function of the pointing cue develops over the first 2 years of life (reviewed in Pfandler et al. 2013). Since the early 1990s, there has been an “explosion” of studies in nonhuman animals on how they respond to pointing cues, whether they produce pointing cues, and if they appreciate a pointing cues’ referring function (see summaries in Miklosi and Soproni 2006, Pack and Herman 2006; Lyn 2010; Kaminski and Nitzschner 2013;...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Psychology and BiologyUniversity of Hawaii at HiloHiloUSA
  2. 2.The Dolphin InstituteHiloUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sarah Dunphy-Lelii
    • 1
  1. 1.Bard CollegeAnnandale-On-HudsonUSA