Fourteen-month-old infants track the language comprehension of communicative partners

Bálint Forgács, Eugenio Parise, Gergely Csibra, György Gergely, Lisa Jacquey, Judit Gervain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Infants employ sophisticated mechanisms to acquire their first language, including some that rely on taking the perspective of adults as speakers or listeners. When do infants first show awareness of what other people understand? We tested 14-month-old infants in two experiments measuring event-related potentials. In Experiment 1, we established that infants produce the N400 effect, a brain signature of semantic violations, in a live object naming paradigm in the presence of an adult observer. In Experiment 2, we induced false beliefs about the labeled objects in the adult observer to test whether infants keep track of the other person's comprehension. The results revealed that infants reacted to the semantic incongruity heard by the other as if they encountered it themselves: they exhibited an N400-like response, even though labels were congruous from their perspective. This finding demonstrates that infants track the linguistic understanding of social partners.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12751
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • N400
  • Theory-of-Mind
  • experimental pragmatics
  • false belief
  • language acquisition
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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