Chapter 9. Giving a nod to social cognition
Developmental researchers recognize that multiple component skills and social processes underlie children’s communication. Infants’ gestures have catalyzed consideration of non-verbal behaviors as markers of early communicative and social competence. The current study examines infant sign and conventional gesture production to inform debate on developmental and contextual constraints on communicative competence. Based on observations over eight months, we describe the emergence timing of gestures and signs in ten infants’ spontaneous behavior. We test whether two features of gestures and signs, relative frequency of caregiver use and motoric complexity, explain variation in emergence timing. We find that while these features may constrain whether infants produce particular gestures or signs, additional explanatory mechanisms must account for the late emergence of some conventional gestures.