12-month-old infants actively seek information from a knowledgeable social partner.

Bazhydai, M., Westermann, G., Parise, E. (2019). 12-month-old infants actively seek information from a knowledgeable social partner. Poster presented at the Budapest CEU Conference on Cognitive Development (BCCCD19), Budapest, Hungary. 


Infants’ active social communication serves an interrogative function (Southgate, Van Maanen, & Csibra, 2007). Studies showed that infants expect to learn from previously reliable social partners (Begus & Southgate, 2012; Goupil, Romand- Monnier, & Kouider, 2016; Tummeltshammer, Wu, So- bel, & Kirkham, 2014). The present study investigated whether 12-months-olds reliably identify and selectively seek information from more knowledgeable adults when in need of relevant informa- tion. We measured social referencing as a behavioural correlate of epistemic, information-seeking process. In a live, head-mounted eye-tracking laboratory experiment, infants were introduced to two unfamiliar adults, an Informant (reliably labeling novel toys) and a Non-Informant (providing an equal amount of social engagement, but ignorant about object labels). At test, the caregiver placed two novel objects out of infants’ reach and asked to locate a novel referent among them. Infants were significantly more likely to turn to the Informant than the Non Informant (t(29) = 3.34, p = .002, Cohen’s d = .73; one-sample t-test, Bayes Factor Analyses yielded strong support for the alternative hypothesis, BF10 = 24.5). In addition, infants looked equally more often at either the Informant or the Caregiver than at the Non-Informant, and following the initial look, increased looking at the Informant while reduced looking at the Caregiver. These results highlight the active interrogative role of social referencing emerging prior to the mastery of pointing as part of the preverbal communicative toolkit.