Mentor: Dr. Robert Wozniak
This study asks the questions, “What do children understand about the communicative function of action? Can they recognize an action as a representation of an object, and can they use that enactive representation communicatively to respond to a request?” Our aim is fourfold. First, to study comprehension of enactive representations as a function of age, we ask whether young children can correctly interpret empty-handed actions as representing an object and if so, at what age? Second, we evaluate potential developmental differences between comprehension of BPO (body part as object) vs. IO (imagined object) gestures. Third, we assess whether it is possible to train those children who do not already comprehend one or the other gesture type. Finally, we would like to see which is the more powerful predictor of gestural comprehension ability: age or language ability (as measured by vocabulary size). Our questions will be answered through testing 24 or 34 month old children. Subjects will be asked to select a toy from a small group based on a gesture preformed by the experimenter. It is expected that the younger children will not be able to retrieve the desired toy when shown IO gestures; however we predict they will be able to correctly complete the task when shown BPO gestures.