Infants’ Use of Shared Experience in Declarative Pointing


should be sent to Kristin Liebal, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany. E-mail:


In this study, we asked whether 14- and 18-month-old infants use the experiences they have previously shared with others when deciding what to point to for them declaratively. After sharing a particular type of referent with an adult in an excited manner, 18-month-olds subsequently found a picture of that type of referent more worthy of declarative pointing than some other picture—but only for that adult, not for a different adult. Mixed results were found with 14-month-olds. We thus show that by 18 months, infants accurately track their shared experiences with specific individuals and use this to make communicative decisions. These results also demonstrate that infants sometimes use declarative pointing to indicate not totally “new” things, as in the classic formulation, but things which are “old” in the sense that “we” should recognize them as similar to something we have previously shared.