Joining intentions in infancy

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In order to understand how infants come to understand others' intentions we need first to study how intentional engagements occur in early development. Engaging with intentions requires that they are, first of all, potentially available to perception and, second, that they are meaningful to the perceiver. I argue that in typical development it is in the infant's responses to others' infant-directed intentional actions that others' intentions first become meaningful. And that it is through the meaningful joining of intentions that understanding continues to develop. I use three common arenas in the first year to illustrate this claim: infants'anticipatory adjustments to being picked up, infants' emerging compliance to others' directives, and infant teasing. Even by the age of two months infants adjust their postures appropriately, gazing at the adult's face as they approach with arms outstretched to pick them up. From the middle of the first year infants come to recognize the meanings of verbal directives and start to comply with them, being drawn further into the cultural worlds of their families. In the last quarter of the first year infants start to playfully tease and foil others' intentions in a variety of ways, actively redirecting the course of intentional engagements. Others' intentions are thus increasingly available to infants, allowing cooperation, challenge, and further elaboration. Joint intentional actions are best understood as the processes through which intention awareness develops rather than just as the products of such awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-44
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Issue number1-2
Early online date1 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


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