Give and take: The development of conventional infant gestures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


To understand the development of nonverbal communication, the manual gestures of 11 infants between 9 and 15 months of age were observed while they played with their mothers several times a month. Infants were more likely than their mothers to request objects and less likely to respond to requests for objects, suggesting a relatively acquisitive style of interaction. The proportion of infant requests that involved a vocalization rose with age, suggesting that infants increasingly use vocalizations to emphasize instrumental communications. Infant gazing at mother was most likely during offers that infants initiated without a preceding maternal request. When infants gestured and gazed at mother, they also tended to smile. Unsolicited offers involving gazing at mother and smiling appear to index self-initiated, positive social contact. The results help distinguish between instrumental and social approach functions of nonverbal conventional communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-590
Number of pages25
JournalMerrill-Palmer Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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