Social Interaction and the Development of Knowledge

By Jeremy I. M. Carpendale; Ulrich Miiller | Go to book overview

11
From Joint Activity to Joint Attention:
A Relational Approach to Social
Development in Infancy
Ulrich Miiller
Pennsylvania State University
Jeremy I. M. Carpendale
Simon Fraser University

In the last decade, there has been growing interest in the onset and development of social behaviors in infancy, such as joint attention, and the developmental relation between joint attention and communicative behaviors (Carpenter, Nagell, & Tomasello, 1998; Corkum & Moore, 1995; Morissette, Ricard, & Decarie, 1995). Empirical research has identified a number of behavioral changes beginning at about 9 months that appear to reflect a new level in infants' social understanding. For example, around 10 months of age, infants begin to follow the pointing gesture of another person (Carpenter et al., 1998; Morissette et al., 1995), and they engage in social referencing behaviors (i.ev they display the tendency to look toward their parents and use their parents' emotional expression when faced with ambiguous situations; Walden & Ogan, 1988). The ability to coordinate attention with others is essential for the emergence of communicative behaviors and social referencing, is a prerequisite for language acquisition, and makes further social and cognitive development possible.

Although there is widespread agreement that important changes in social behaviors occur at the end of the first year of life, there is considerable controversy over the interpretation of these changes. According to a rich interpretation, the emergence of communicative gestures and social referencing is taken to indicate that infants have acquired the abilities to view other persons as being psychologically related to the world and to impute mental states to self and others (Bremerton, 1991; Legerstee, 1998). Specifically, Tomasello (1999) argued that the discovery of the mental state of

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