Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

By Chris Moore; Philip J. Dunham | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Origins of Mind in Perception and Action

George Butterworth
University of Sussex: England

This chapter is concerned with the spatial signaling function of gaze and the associated postures of the human head and hand, which serve as the foundation for human referential communication. Deictic gaze, or joint visual attention as it is often called, may be defined simply as "looking where someone else is looking." Joint attention is thought to pave the way in human development for deictic gestures, such as manual pointing, which draw attention to a particular object by locating it for another person. For humans, joint visual attention and pointing may offer one of the bases in shared experience for the acquisition of language ( Bruner, 1983).

A series of studies carried out in our laboratories over nearly 20 years with human infants is reviewed in this chapter. Some of these studies are now published, others have been presented as conference papers, and other work is still in progress. This chapter reviews the whole program in the chronological order in which it was carried out, with special reference to the main concern of this book, namely the origins and role of joint attention in human development. The research program also has implications for theories of childhood egocentrism, for theories of the origins of thought and language, for the phylogeny of visual attention, and for theories of mind. For reviews dealing more specifically with these issues, see Butterworth ( 1987), Butterworth and Grover ( 1988), and Butterworth ( 1991a).

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