Is She a Good Teacher? Children Learn to use Meaningful Gesture as a Marker of a Good Informant

AbstractTo learn from others, children rely on cues (e.g., familiarity) to infer who will provide useful information. We extend this research to ask whether children will use an informant’s inclination to gesture as a marker of whether they are a good person to learn from. Children (N=459, ages 4-12 years) watched videos in which actresses made statements accompanied by meaningful iconic gestures, beat gestures, or no gestures. After each trial, children were asked “Who do you think would be a good teacher?” (good teacher- experimental condition) or “Who do you think would be a good friend?” (good friend-control condition). Results show children do believe that someone who produces iconic gesture would make a good teacher over someone who does not, but this is only later in childhood and only if a child has the propensity to see gesture as meaningful. The same effects were not found in the good-friend condition.

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