Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A long-standing debate in the study of human communication centers on the degree to which communicators tune their communicative signals (e.g., speech, gestures) for specific addressees, as opposed to taking a neutral or egocentric perspective. This tuning, called recipient design, is known to occur under special conditions (e.g., when errors in communication need to be corrected), but several researchers have argued that it is not an intrinsic feature of human communication, because that would be computationally too demanding. In this study, we contribute to this debate by studying a simple communicative behavior, communicative pointing, under conditions of successful (error-free) communication. Using an information-theoretic measure, called legibility, we present evidence of recipient design in communicative pointing. The legibility effect is present early in the movement, suggesting that it is an intrinsic part of the communicative plan. Moreover, it is reliable only from the viewpoint of the addressee, suggesting that the motor plan is tuned to the addressee. These findings suggest that recipient design is an intrinsic feature of human communication.

Original publication




Journal article


Cogn Sci

Publication Date





Communication, Legibility, Perspective taking, Pointing, Recipient design