Individual differences in gesture interpretation predict children's propensity to pick a gesturer as a good informant

Elizabeth M. Wakefield*, Miriam A. Novack, Eliza L. Congdon, Lauren H. Howard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


To learn from others, children rely on cues (e.g., familiarity, confidence) to infer who around them will provide useful information. We extended this research to ask whether children will use an informant's inclination to gesture as a marker of whether or not the informant is a good person to learn from. Children (N = 459, ages 4–12 years) watched short videos in which actresses made statements accompanied by meaningful iconic gestures, beat gestures (which act as prosodic markers with speech), or no gestures. After each trial, children were asked “Who do you think would be a good teacher?” (good teacher [experimental] condition) or “Who do you think would be a good friend?” (good friend [control] condition). Results show that children do believe that someone who produces iconic gesture would make a good teacher compared with someone who does not, but this is only later in childhood and only if children have the propensity to see gesture as meaningful. The same effects were not found in the good friend condition, indicating that children's responses are not just about liking an adult who gestures more. These findings have implications for how children attend to and learn from instructional gesture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105069
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Beat Gesture
  • Early Childhood
  • Iconic Gesture
  • Individual Differences
  • Learning, Informants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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