Current Themes in Research on Joint Attention
Philip J. Dunham
As infants approach their first birthday, they begin to display an increased interest in various external objects and events during interactions with their caregivers. Previously established dyadic (infant-other) interactional structures are gradually transformed into a triadic (infant-object-other) social system. During this period of development, infants face the difficult task of learning to coordinate their attention and actions on objects in their environment with the attention and actions of their social partners; a task that will continue in increasingly esoteric and complex social endeavors throughout their life. In the contemporary literature concerned with child development, these early coordinated episodes of joint attention are now widely recognized as functionally significant across several basic dimensions of development. Adamson and Bakeman ( 1991) have argued that ". . . episodes of shared attention are pictured variously as moments for the mutual regulation of affect and of problem solving, for the negotiation of communicative intentions, and for the sharing of cultural meaning" (p. 9).
The present volume was developed to provide the reader with an overview of the rapidly growing literature concerned with the origins of these triadic joint attentional episodes and their potential role in early social, cognitive, and emotional development. The volume has been designed to occupy an important niche in social development libraries that currently exists between texts concerned primarily with early infant-caregiver dyadic interactions (e.g., Field & Fox, 1985; Kaye, 1982; Schaffer, 1977; Stern, 1986), and more recent texts concerned with the preschool child's emerging "theory of mind" (e.g., Astington, 1993; Astington, Harris, & Olson, 1988; Frye & Moore, 1991; Perner, 1991;