Infant Social Cognition: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

Infant Social Cognition: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

Infant Social Cognition: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

Infant Social Cognition: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

Excerpt

In this volume, we have brought together all the evidence currently available concerning the development of social cognition in infancy. The task of each author has been to synthesize research and theory concerning the central issues in this area. The result, we feel, is a set of remarkably prescient and heuristic chapters. Each of the chapters deals in detail with one aspect of the process whereby babies come to understand the social environment and their role in it. Much of the relevant research has been concerned with the development of the capacity to identify, remember, and recognize social objects--people--as distinct from inanimate objects in the environment, and these issues are discussed by several contributors. Another important area of investigation concerns development of the capacity to make inferences about the behavioral propensities, motivations, and emotions of other people. Related to these topics is the infant's ability to attribute meaning to its social experiences. Here it is generally believed that the infant's understanding is limited by the immature nature of its cognitive capacities. These limitations also define the extent to which the baby can be aware of its social experiences and open to influence by them. Finally, underlying many of the chapters is a common theme: What concept of itself does an infant develop, and what are the mechanisms subsuming the development of this concept of self?

In our opinion, the topic of infant social cognition--as defined by the above issues--must rank as one of the most important areas in developmental psychology today. It is a topic that stands at the intersection of a number of areas--perceptual, cognitive, social, emotional, and personality development. Consequently, more than any other topic, this area demands that theorists and researchers recognize the mutual influences and interrelation-

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