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1- and 2-year-olds’ expectations about third-party communicative actions

Thorgrimsson, G., Fawcett, C., & Liszkowski, U. (2015). 1- and 2-year-olds’ expectations about third-party communicative actions. Infant Behavior and Development, 39, 53-66. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2015.02.002.
Infants expect people to direct actions toward objects, and they respond to actions directed to themselves, but do they have expectations about actions directed to third parties? In two experiments, we used eye tracking to investigate 1- and 2-year-olds’ expectations about communicative actions addressed to a third party. Experiment 1 presented infants with videos where an adult (the Emitter) either uttered a sentence or produced non-speech sounds. The Emitter was either face-to-face with another adult (the Recipient) or the two were back-to-back. The Recipient did not respond to any of the sounds. We found that 2-, but not 1-year-olds looked quicker and longer at the Recipient following speech than non-speech, suggesting that they expected her to respond to speech. These effects were specific to the face-to-face context. Experiment 2 presented 1-year-olds with similar face-to-face exchanges but modified to engage infants and minimize task demands. The infants looked quicker to the Recipient following speech than non-speech, suggesting that they expected a response to speech. The study suggests that by 1 year of age infants expect communicative actions to be directed at a third-party listener.
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