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Paulus, Markus; Murillo, Esther; Sodian, Beate (2016): When the body reveals the mind: Children's use of others' body orientation to understand their focus of attention. In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Vol. 148: pp. 101-118
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Abstract

A considerable amount of research has examined children's ability to rely on explicit social cues such as pointing to understand others' referential intentions. Yet, skillful social interaction also requires reliance on and learning from implicit cues (i.e., cues that are not displayed with the explicit intention to teach or inform someone). From an embodied point of view, orienting movements and body orientation are salient cues that reveal something about a person's intentional relations without being explicit communicative cues. In three experiments, the current study investigated the development of the ability to use body information in a word learning situation. To this end, we presented 2-year-old children, 3.5-year-old children, and adults with movies on an eye-tracking screen in which an actor oriented her upper body to one of two objects while uttering a novel word. The results show that the 3.5-year-old children and adults, but not the 2-year-old children, related the novel word to the referred object (Experiments 1 and 2). Yet, when the actor oriented her body to one object while pointing to the other object, children of both age groups relied on the pointing cue (Experiment 3). This suggests that by 3.5 years children use another's body orientation as an indicator of her intentional relations but that they prioritize explicit social cues over the implicit body posture cues. Overall, the study supports theoretical views that an appreciation of others' intentional relations does not emerge as an all-or-nothing ability but rather emerges gradually during the course of early development. (C) 2016 ELSEVIER. All rights reserved.