Early Social Cognition: Understanding Others in the First Months of Life

Early Social Cognition: Understanding Others in the First Months of Life

Early Social Cognition: Understanding Others in the First Months of Life

Early Social Cognition: Understanding Others in the First Months of Life

Synopsis

In recent years, much stimulating research has emerged on children's theories of mind, construed as the understanding of others' intentions, beliefs, and desires. In this context, there is a renewed interest in the developmental origins of social cognition. This book is an expression of this new interest, assembling current conceptualizations and research on the precursors of joint engagement, language, and explicit theories of mind. The focus is on what announces such remarkable development.

The book is divided into four parts. Part I deals with the nature and development of social cognition in infancy. Each contribution provides a different view of the important features of social cognition in the first months of life. Part II presents recent empirical findings on the developing ability by young infants to detect whether caretakers and social partners are attentive and responsive to their own behavior in social exchanges. Part III focuses on the early development of infants' ability to monitor others in their action, their gazing, their animacy, and their emotion. Part IV offers a commentary on the contributions as a whole, discussing the basic theoretical assumptions guiding current research on early social cognition. The author identifies the conceptual strengths and weaknesses of the work presented and suggests interesting avenues for future research.

Excerpt

In recent years, an abundance of clever experiments have provided novel information on perception, action, and representation of physical objects at the onset of development. This new wave of findings supports theories that revise traditional views on the origins of physical knowledge. in comparison, the origins of social knowledge did not receive the same attention from basic researchers. This is paradoxical considering that people are obviously more vital entities for infants than midsize physical objects.

The first systematic observations of young infants' visual scanning of the environment made in the 1960s demonstrated the robust preference for facelike displays. These kinds of pioneer observations did not stir basic research in infancy from focusing mainly on the origins of physical cognition. Considering that Piaget has been a major target of theoretical revision, his focus on the physical aspect of reality constructed by infants and children might be his most pervasive legacy in the realm of contemporary research in infancy. But faces and people are primary attractors for neonates and certainly the primary reality they perceive and act on. Animated, self-propelled, planful, intentional, moody, reciprocal, talkative, caring: People are more than physical things. They call for special knowledge.

In recent years, much stimulating research has emerged in relation to children's theories of mind, construed as the understanding of others' intentions, beliefs, and desires. Within this context, there is a renewed interest in the developmental origins of social cognition. This book is an expression of this new interest, assembling current conceptualizations and research on the precursors of joint engagement, language, and explicit theories of mind. the focus is on what announces such remarkable development.

From the first signs of social attunement to the adoption of an intentional stance (understanding of others as intentional, planful agents), there is a 12-month developmental period. This is a giant step . . .

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