Social precursors to symbolic understanding of pictures were examined with 100 infants ages 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 months. Adults demonstrated 1 of 2 stances toward pictures and objects (contemplative or manipulative), and then gave items to infants for exploration. For pictures, older infants (12, 15, and 18 months) emulated the adult's actions following both types of demonstration trials. For objects, infants did not emulate actions following either stance at any age. The findings suggest that infants enlist their imitative learning skills in the context of learning the conventions of action on pictorial symbols. The data are interpreted as pointing to the importance of social learning in developing an understanding of the referential function of pictorial symbols.