Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy

By Lewis P. Lipsitt | Go to book overview

2 Infancy, Biology, and Culture

Daniel G. Freedman

The Committee on Human Development The University of Chicago

The thesis here is very simple minded. It is merely an extension of the monistic position in the mind-body controversy and seeks to emphasize the point that everything that man does, at some level of analysis, is reflective of his biological makeup.

Dualistic positions usually emphasize the opposition of learning and biology, so let us start by asking what we mean by learned behavior. Language provides a convenient paradigm. How is it that little children learn that sounds stand for something concrete (nouns) or actions (verbs), or, later, that they can modify the first two categories? Imitation is not the answer, for parrots can imitate but they never use language. Children somehow attach sounds to things and to actions naturally, picking up the sounds and designates of the caretakers with extraordinary skill. Even though we cannot now know what they are, biological structures must be posed as accounting for this ability. An entire school of developmental linguistics has arisen around this simple point and, as most know, the work of Chomsky ( 1965) on how meaning is derived from language has become the focus of a biologically based linguistic theory.

Incidentally, the fact that chimps and gorillas can be taught deaf sign language and that they can communicate it with facility is another sign of their evolutionary proximity to man. Although they never master human grammatical usage, as does even the youngest speaking human child ( McNeill , 1970), no other animal has come close to their manlike communicative skills.

-35-

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Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributors ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant 1
  • Acknowledgments 26
  • References 26
  • Comments on "Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant" 32
  • References 34
  • 2: Infancy, Biology, and Culture 35
  • References 53
  • Comments on "Infancy, Biology, and Culture" 55
  • References 57
  • 3: Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case 59
  • References 77
  • Comments on "Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case" 80
  • References 85
  • 4: From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior 87
  • Acknowledgments 103
  • References 103
  • Comments on "From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior" 105
  • References 106
  • A Reply to Freedman 107
  • References 108
  • 5: Developmental Psychobiology Comes of Age: A Discussion 109
  • References 126
  • 6: Three Themes in Develomental Psychobiology 129
  • References 137
  • Author Index 139
  • Topical Index 143
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