Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Infants' gestures and mothers' responses: Effects of form and communicative context
by Olson, Janet, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 2009, 142; 3359059
Abstract (Summary)

This study investigated whether the types of gestures infants used varied as communicative intent context was manipulated. It also investigated whether mothers’ responses to infants’ gestures varied as a function of communicative intent context and gesture type. Twenty-four, 13-month-old infants and their mothers were videotaped for 18 minutes as they played with standard toy sets. Infants’ gestures were coded in response to six stimuli (i.e., communicative temptations) designed to elicit gestures in three communicative contexts: protodeclarative, protoimperative, and ambiguous. Infants’ gestures toward the “communicative temptations” were coded as pointing, open-handed reaching, object extensions, or other gestures. Mothers’ responses to infants’ gestures were coded as no verbal response, nonspecific utterance, and labels. Mothers’ Labels were further coded as object labels, action labels, mental state labels, and modifiers.

The type of gestures infants used varied with communicative intent context. Infants were most likely to point in the protodeclarative context and use object extensions in the protoimperative context. Infants used both pointing and open-handed reaching in the ambiguous context.

Mothers responded often to infants’ gestures with words. Infants received high proportions of verbal responses after protodeclarative pointing and protoimperative object extensions (i.e., nonspecific utterances and labels). However, in the ambiguous context, infants did not receive greater proportions of nonspecific utterances or labels after pointing and reaching than no verbal responses. Surprisingly, when mothers responded verbally to infants’ gestures across communicative intent contexts, many of their responses were nonspecific and did not contain labels specific to communicative temptations.

When mothers did provide labels, the types of labels they provided varied within communicative intent contexts. Mothers infrequently used modifiers and action labels in all contexts. Mothers used many object labels after protodeclarative pointing and after pointing and reaching in the ambiguous context. Unexpectedly, mothers responded with a large proportion of mental state labels after infants’ gestures in all communicative intent contexts and after all gesture types. These results suggest that labels mothers provide after infants’ gestures may serve as a mechanism for vocabulary acquisition and mental state understanding.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Masur, Elise F.
Commitee: Kuo, Li-jen, Magliano, Joseph, Malecki, Christine, Mounts, Nina, Pillow, Brad
School: Northern Illinois University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Gestures, Infant, Maternal responses, Proto-declarative, Proto-imperative
Publication Number: 3359059
ISBN: 978-1-109-18618-5
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