Human communication rests on a basic assumption of partner cooperativeness, including even requesting. In the current study, an adult made an ambiguous request for an object to 21-month-old infants, with one potential referent being right in front of her and the other being across the room. In a normal situation (Hands-Free), infants interpreted the request as referring to the distant object—the one the adult needed help fetching. In contrast, in a situation in which the adult was constrained so that fetching either object herself would be difficult (Hands-Occupied), infants selected the far object much less often. These results suggest that infants just beginning to acquire language already understand something of the cooperative logic of requests.
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