You are here: Home Publications One-year-olds warn others about negative action outcomes

One-year-olds warn others about negative action outcomes

Knudsen, B., & Liszkowski, U. (2013). One-year-olds warn others about negative action outcomes. Journal of Cognition and Development, 14, 424-436. doi:10.1080/15248372.2012.689387.
Warning others about unexpected negative action outcomes is a paradigm case of communicative helping and prospective action understanding. The current study addressed the ontogeny of warning in infants’ gestural communication. We found that 12- and 18-month-olds (n = 84) spontaneously warned an adult by pointing out to her an aversive object hidden in her way (Problem condition). In control conditions the object was either positive (No Problem condition) or the adult had witnessed its’ placing (Problem known condition), which resulted in significantly less pointing. Results show that infants intervene spontaneously and with foresight through communication, in order to help others avoid a problem before it has occurred. These acts of warning entail an understanding of others’ negatively defined goals (to avoid an outcome) and their incorrect representations of reality. Findings support theories of altruism and social-pragmatic competencies in infancy.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn