Intersubjectivity Seen as Separate from Attachment: Different from Traditional Thought

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- Intersubjectivity should be considered a major motivational drive that confers important survival advantages such as sex or the need for attachment, Dr. Daniel Stern said at a conference on attachment theory sponsored by the University of California, San Francisco.

He defined intersubjectivity as the "psychic or psychological counterpart of attachment," the desire to know other people and to make oneself known to them that pushes humans toward intimacy and belonging. Essentially, it allows humans to register and read the intentions of other humans and to grasp a situation within just a few seconds.

Attachment, on the other hand, governs the physical need for security in the form of contact like proximity and touching.

Dr. Stern, professor of psychiatry at the University of Geneva, said he believes the two systems are complementary, but separate and independent. For example, autistic children can attach, but they have severe deficits in the ability to grasp others' emotions and intentions--evidence that attachment and intersubjectivity are different entities.

Intersubjectivity concerns itself with the emotional aspects of attachment and the clinical problems that arise when the attachment process is impaired. "This approach can help psychiatrists to better understand where attachment stops and where other things begin," he said.

Biologic evidence that humans are wired for intersubjectivity can be found in the recent discovery of mirror neurons, which are found in the premotor cortex and fire when an individual sees someone else perform a certain act, whether or not the viewer is performing the same act. …