Exploring early communicative behaviours: A fine-grained analysis of infant shows and gives

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The ability to share and direct attention is a pre-requisite to later language development and has been predominantly studied through infant pointing. Precursors to pointing, such as showing and giving gestures, may display similar communication skills, yet these gestures are often overlooked. This may be due to difficulty in discerning these gestures in interaction. The current study had two aims; firstly, to identify the micro-behaviours associated with showing and giving gestures in infants under 12 months, in order to ascertain whether these form two discrete communicative behaviours. Secondly, to examine whether these micro-behaviours predicted caregiver responses to these gestures. Fine-grained coding of show and give gestures, their micro-behaviours and caregiver responses was conducted through secondary analysis of naturalistic, triadic interactions between 24 infants, caregivers and a selection of toys. Findings suggested that the micro-behaviours arm position, hand orientation and eye-gaze, were significant predictors of infant gesture type, however only arm positioning was a significant predictor of caregiver response. This suggests that early showing and giving gestures can be classified based on some associated micro-behaviours, however caregiver’s responses may not be contingent on these same cues, potentially resulting in difficulty understanding infant gestures. Our findings enhance our understanding of infant communication before 12 months, provide guidance to both researchers and caregivers in the identification of infants’ early shows and gives, and highlight the need for greater study of these early pre-linguistic behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-97
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Early online date20 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Pre-linguistic communication
  • Communicative behaviors Showing gestures, Giving gestures, Micro-behaviours, Joint attention, Caregiver responsiveness
  • Showing gestures
  • Giving gestures
  • Micro-behaviors
  • Joint attention
  • Caregiver responsiveness


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