Journal of Child Language

Brief Research Report

Infant gaze following and pointing predict accelerated vocabulary growth through two years of age: a longitudinal, growth curve modeling study*


a1 University of Washington


We found that infant gaze following and pointing predicts subsequent language development. At ages 0 ; 10 or 0 ; 11, infants saw an adult turn to look at an object in an experimental setting. Productive vocabulary was assessed longitudinally through two years of age. Growth curve modeling showed that infants who gaze followed and looked longer at the target object had significantly faster vocabulary growth than infants with shorter looks, even with maternal education controlled; adding infant pointing strengthened the model. We highlight the role of social cognition in word learning and emphasize the communicative-referential functions of early gaze following and pointing.

(Received June 06 2006)

(Revised February 06 2007)


c1 Address for correspondence: Rechele Brooks, University of Washington, Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, Box 357988, Seattle, WA 98195-7988. e-mail:


[*] We gratefully acknowledge financial support from NSF (SBE-0354453), NIH (HD-22514) and the Tamaki Foundation. We thank Craig Harris, Calle Fisher, Dawn Kragness, Jacque Mullen, Ksenia Kosobotsky and Tiffany Bybee for assistance in conducting the research, Robert D. Abbott and Jeff Munson for help with the growth curve models, and Patricia Kuhl and Barbara Conboy for helpful discussions. Portions of this work were presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Kyoto, Japan in June 2006.