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Referential pointing is a characteristically human behavior, which involves moving a finger through space to direct an addressee towards a desired mental state. Planning this type of action requires an interface between sensorimotor and conceptual abilities. A simple interface could supplement spatially-guided motor routines with communicative-ostensive cues. For instance, a pointing finger held still for an extended period of time could aid the addressee's understanding, without altering the movement's trajectory. A more complex interface would entail communicative knowledge penetrating the sensorimotor system and directly affecting pointing trajectories. We compare these two possibilities using motion analyses of referential pointing during multi-agent interactions. We observed that communicators produced ostensive cues that were sensitive to the communicative context. Crucially, we also observed pervasive adaptations to the pointing trajectories: they were tailored to the communicative context and to partner-specific information. These findings indicate that human referential pointing is planned and controlled on the basis of partner-specific knowledge, over and above the tagging of motor routines with ostensive cues.

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Journal article


Sci Rep

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Adolescent, Adult, Communication, Female, Humans, Knowledge, Male, Models, Theoretical, Psychomotor Performance, Young Adult