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The social reach: 8-month-olds reach for unobtainable objects in the presence of another person

Ramenzoni, V. C., & Liszkowski, U. (2016). The social reach: 8-month-olds reach for unobtainable objects in the presence of another person. Psychological Science, 27(9), 1278-1285. doi:10.1177/0956797616659938.
Linguistic communication builds on prelinguistic communicative gestures, but the ontogenetic origins and complexities of these prelinguistic gestures are not well known. The current study tested whether 8-month-olds, who do not yet point communicatively, use instrumental actions for communicative purposes. In two experiments, infants reached for objects when another person was present and when no one else was present; the distance to the objects was varied. When alone, the infants reached for objects within their action boundaries and refrained from reaching for objects out of their action boundaries; thus, they knew about their individual action efficiency. However, when a parent (Experiment 1) or a less familiar person (Experiment 2) sat next to them, the infants selectively increased their reaching for out-of-reach objects. The findings reveal that before they communicate explicitly through pointing gestures, infants use instrumental actions with the apparent expectation that a partner will adopt and complete their goals.
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