Szufnarowska, J., Rohlfing, K, J., Fawcett, C., & Gredebäck, G. (2014) Is ostension any more than attention? Scientific Reports

According to natural pedagogy theory, infants are sensitive to particular ostensive cues that communicate to them that they are being addressed and that they can expect to learn referential information. We demonstrate that 6-month-old infants follow others’ gaze direction in situations that are highly attention-grabbing. This occurs irrespective of whether these situations include communicative intent and ostensive cues (a model looks directly into the child’s eyes prior to shifting gaze to an object) or not (a model shivers while looking down prior to shifting gaze to an object). In contrast, in less attention-grabbing contexts in which the model simply looks down prior to shifting gaze to an object, no effect is found. These findings demonstrate that one of the central pillars of natural pedagogy is false. Sensitivity to gaze following in infancy is not restricted to contexts in which ostensive cues are conveyed.