Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

Synopsis

It is perhaps no exaggeration to suggest that all of what is intrinsically human experience is grounded in its shared nature. Joint attention to objects and events in the world provides the initial means whereby infants can start to share experiences with others and negotiate shared meanings. It provides a context for the development of both knowledge about the world and about others as experiencers. It plays a central role in the development of the young child's understanding of both the social and nonsocial worlds and in the development of the communicative interplay between child and adult. The first devoted to this important topic, this volume explores how joint attention first arises, its developmental course, its role in communication and social understanding, and the ways in which disruptions in joint attention may be implicated in a variety of forms of abnormal development including autism.

Excerpt

This collection started life as an idea for a symposium at the Society for Research in Child Development in New Orleans, 1993. The idea for the symposium had been to present some of the work that contemporary researchers were conducting in the area of joint attention. The notion that human experience is grounded in its shared nature is one whose significance has long been recognized, and joint attention is a topic that has been on the agenda for developmental psychologists for several years. However, research on joint attention has typically been discussed in isolated subcommunities. The SRCD symposium was supposed to be a first step in bringing together some of these lines of research. In selecting contributors, it quickly became clear that quite a large number of individuals had equally legitimate claims on representation, and that although research on joint attention was spreading in new directions, it was also starting to cohere in an exciting way. A book compiling more of these lines than could be represented in a single symposium seemed the right next step. We therefore explored the potential territory and selected a number of individuals and groups representing the primary domains of interest. It is significant, we believe, that everyone we approached agreed that the project was extremely timely and agreed to participate, in some cases in the face of considerable competing obligations. We are very grateful to the contributors for their promptness.

After the first drafts of the chapters had been collected, Amy Pierce, then our editor at Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, suggested that a foreword might enhance the structure of the book. No one has played a more important role in bringing to our joint attention the shared nature of human experience than . . .

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