Variability of signal sequences in turn-taking exchanges induces agency attribution in 10.5-mo-olds

Tibor Tauzin, György Gergely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Infants' sensitivity to contingent reactivity as an indicator of intentional agency has been demonstrated by numerous referential gaze-following studies. Here we propose that variability of signal sequences in a turn-taking exchange provides an informative cue for infants to recognize interactions that may involve communicative information transfer between agents. Our experiment demonstrates that based on the abstract structural cue of variability of exchanged signal sequences 10.5-mo-olds gaze-followed an entity's subsequent object-orienting action to fixate the same object. This gaze-following effect did not depend on the specific acoustic features of the sound signals produced. However no orientation following to target was induced when the exchanged signal sequences were identical or when only a single entity produced the variable sound sequences. These results demonstrate infants' early sensitivity to detect signal variability in turn-taking interactions as a relevant feature of communicative information transfer which induces them to attribute intentional agency and communicative abilities to the participating entities. However when no variability was present in the exchanged signals or when the variable signal sequences were produced by a single entity alone infants showed no evidence of attributing agency. In sum we argue that perceiving contingent turn-taking exchange of variable signal sequences induce 10.5-mo-old preverbal infants to recognize such interactions as potentially involving communicative information transmission and attribute agency to the participating entities even if both the entities and the signals they produce are unfamiliar to them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15441-15446
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - Jul 30 2019


  • Agency
  • Communication
  • Gaze following
  • Infant
  • Turn taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Variability of signal sequences in turn-taking exchanges induces agency attribution in 10.5-mo-olds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this