For children, pointing packs a powerful message


Pointing gets the point across. According to a new study of how small children know what other people know, researchers figure out that the act of pointing underscored what was important to learn. Children naturally know this. And they figured that out by tricking them.

“Children were willing to attribute knowledge to a person solely based on the gesture they used to convey the information,” says Carolyn Palmquist, University of Virginia. “They have built up such a strong belief in the knowledge that comes along with pointing that it trumps everything else, including what they see with their eyes.”

They tested 48 preschoolers by showing them a video tape of a woman hiding a ball under one of four cups. Another woman hid her eyes and did not see where the ball was. In three different videos one or both of the women grabbed a cup, did nothing or pointed to a cup to indicate where she thought the ball was. Clearly, the woman who hid the ball knew where it was. The children were asked to guess which woman knows where the ball is. For the pointing video, the children only guessed correctly half the time – a statistically, that’s chance. The pointing sent such a strong message of knowledge, that the children assumed that the woman who could not know where it was, did know where it was.

“From an early age, when children see pointing, they understand it as an important gesture used in context of teaching and learning,” Palmquist continued. “Generally people point because they have good reason to do it.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday Psychological Science


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