Humans are adapted to spontaneously transfer relevant cultural knowledge to conspecifics and to fast-learn the contents of such teaching through a human-specific social learning system called 'pedagogy' (Csibra & Gergely, 2006). Pedagogical knowledge transfer is triggered by specific communicative cues (such as eye-contact, contingent reactivity, the prosodic pattern of 'motherese', and being addressed by one's own name). Infants show special sensitivity to such 'ostensive' cues that signal the teacher's communicative intention to manifest new and relevant knowledge about a referent object. Pedagogy offers a novel functional perspective to interpret a variety of early emerging triadic communicative interactions between adults and infants about novel objects they are jointly attending to. The currently dominant interpretation of such triadic communications (mindreading) holds that infants interpret others' object-directed manifestations in terms of subjective mental states (such as emotions, dispositions, or intentions) that they attribute to the other person's mind. We contrast the pedagogical versus the mindreading account in a new study testing 14-month-olds' interpretation of others' object-directed emotion expressions observed in a communicative cueing context. We end by discussing the far-reaching implications of the pedagogical perspective for a wide range of early social-cognitive competences, and for providing new directions for future research on child development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience