The Point of Pointing

Submitted on Friday, 11/22/2013, at 4:42 PM

Article by Katherine Duke ’05

Photos by Rob Mattson

Human beings seem unique among species in our ability to communicate through words. But what about communication without words—through gestures? When a small child points a finger, or looks where someone else is pointing, in what sense is she engaged in “communication”? Is she using intellectual abilities that go beyond those of a dog or a chimpanzee? How can we tell?