I respond to two sets of objections to my characterization of infant suffering and the problem that it presents to traditional theism. My main theses were that infant suffering to death is not ‘horrendous’ in the technical sense defined, and that a good God need only balance off rather than ‘defeat’ such suffering. David Basinger, on the other hand, claims that some infant suffering should be considered horrendous, while Nathan Nobis suggests that such suffering must be defeated (...) by God rather than merely balanced off. -/- . (shrink)
The marketing of infant formula in third-world countries in the 1970s by Nestlé S.A. gave rise to a consumer boycott that came to be a widely taught case study in the field of Business Ethics. This article extends that case study by identifying three specific individuals who were associated with managing Nestlé’s response to that boycott. It reveals their subsequent direct involvement in a number of additional “classic” 1980s business scandals (some of which ended with major criminal trials and (...) the imprisonment of eminent business figures)—and describes tangential linkages to other business scandals of the time. The article discloses a behind-the-scenes pattern of business villainy, adding both depth and breadth to previous accounts of these scandals. The article offers a conceptual framework that goes beyond personal greed as an explanatory factor for such unethical behavior in the business world, suggesting the presence of personal and organizational networks of intrigue and opportunity. The linkages between the scandals suggest an epidemiological process with the plotters acting as “virus” carriers contaminating various corporate cultures. (shrink)
In this article I evaluate recent attempts to illuminate the human infant cry from an evolutionary perspective. Infants are born into an uncertain parenting environment, which can range from indulgent care of offspring to infanticide. Infant cries are in large part adaptations that maintain proximity to and elicit care from caregivers. Although there is not strong evidence for acoustically distinct cry types, infant cries may function as a graded signal. During pain-induced autonomic nervous system arousal, for example, (...) neural input to the vocal cords increases cry pitch. Caregivers may use this acoustic information, together with other cues, to guide caregiving behavior. Serious pathology, on the other hand, results in chronically and severely abnormal cry acoustics. Such abnormal crying may be a proximate cause of adaptive infant maltreatment, in circumstances in which parents cut their losses and reduce or withdraw investment from infants with low survival chances. An increase in the amount of crying during the first few months of life is a human universal, and excessive crying, or colic, represents the upper end of this normal increase. Potential signal functions of excessive crying include manipulation of parents to acquire additional resources, honest signaling of need, and honest signaling of vigor. Current evidence does not strongly support any one of these hypotheses, but the evidence is most consistent with the hypothesis that excessive early infant crying is a signal of vigor that evolved to reduce the risk of a reduction or withdrawal of parental care. Key Words: colic; crying; early infant crying; honest signaling; infanticide; parental care; parent-offspring conflict; separation call; vocalization. (shrink)
This article discusses how the results of infant research challenge the assumptions of the classical sciences of social behaviour. According to A.J. Bergesen, the findings of infant research invalidate Durkheim's theory of mental categories, thus requiring a re-theorizing of sociology. This article argues that Bergesen's reading of Emile Durkheim is incorrect, and his review of the infant research in fact invalidates his argument. Reviewing the assumptions of sociology in the light of the findings of infant research, (...) it is argued that the real challenge is to formulate a research strategy that combines the findings of the two sciences. (shrink)
J S Mill used the term ‘dead dogma’ to describe a belief that has gone unquestioned for so long and to such a degree that people have little idea why they accept it or why they continue to believe it. When wives and children were considered chattel, it made sense for the head of a household to have a ‘sovereignal right’ to do as he wished with his property. Now that women and children are considered to have the full complement (...) of human rights and slavery has been abolished, it is no longer acceptable for someone to have a ‘right’ to completely control the life of another human being. Revealingly, parental rights tend to be invoked only when parents want to do something that is arguably not in their child's best interest. Infant male circumcision is a case in point. Instead of parental rights, I claim that parents have an obligation to protect their children's rights as well as to preserve the future options of those children so far as possible. In this essay, it is argued that the notion that parents have a right to make decisions concerning their children's bodies and minds—irrespective of the child's best interests—is a dead dogma. The ramifications of this argument for the circumcision debate are then spelled out and discussed. (shrink)
What does a confrontation between philosophy and psychoanalysis look like? My task is a philosophical investigation of a psychoanalytic concept. Thus, I offer a conceptual analysis of a concept that is used both clinically and as a part of a metapsychology. The concept that I investigate in this article is regression. I work with the following two problems: What does a conceptual analysis of the phenomenon called regression look like? Regression can be regarded as an instrument that can give us (...) knowledge about ourselves. What does this mean? I compare two ways of analyzing regression, an atomistic as well as an holistic approach. This comparison is made by way of a discussion of the conceptual analysis of the infant. Can we construct the inner life of the infant? How should we conceptualize the primitive? Using concepts like âconceptual holismâ and âholism of attributesâ, I draw parallell conclusions about the construction of the infant's inner life and the analysis of the concept of regression. (shrink)
An evolutionarily informed perspective on parent-infant sleep contact challenges recommendations regarding appropriate parent-infant sleep practices based on large epidemiological studies. In this study regularly bed-sharing parents and infants participated in an in-home video study of bed-sharing behavior. Ten formula-feeding and ten breast-feeding families were filmed for 3 nights (adjustment, dyadic, and triadic nights) for 8 hours per night. For breast-fed infants, mother-infant orientation, sleep position, frequency of feeding, arousal, and synchronous arousal were all consistent with previous sleep-lab (...) studies of mother-infant bed-sharing behavior, but significant differences were found between formula and breast-fed infants. While breast-feeding mothers shared a bed with their infants in a characteristic manner that provided several safety benefits, formula-feeding mothers shared a bed in a more variable manner with consequences for infant safety. Paternal bed-sharing behavior introduced further variability. Epidemiological case-control studies examining bed-sharing risks and benefits do not normally control for behavioral variables that an evolutionary viewpoint would deem crucial. This study demonstrates how parental behavior affects the bed-sharing experience and indicates that cases and controls in epidemiological studies should be matched for behavioral, as well as sociodemographic, variables. (shrink)
This paper and its subsequent parts (Part II and Part III) build on an earlier publication (McKenna 1986). They suggest that important clinical data on the relationship between infantile constitutional deficits and microenvironmental factors relevant to SIDS can be acquired by examining the physiological regulatory effects (well documented among nonhuman primates) that parents assert on their infants when they sleep together.I attempt to show why access to parental sensory cues (movement, touch, smell, sound) that induce arousals in infants while they (...) sleep could possibly help one of many different subclasses of infants either to override certain kinds of sleep-induced breathing control errors suspected to be involved in SIDS or to avoid them altogether. I do not suggest that solitary nocturnal sleep “causes” SIDS, that all parents should sleep with their infants, or that traditional SIDS research strategies should be abandoned. However, using evolutionary data, I do suggest that an adaptive fit exists between parent-infant sleep contact and the natural physiological vulnerabilities of the neurologically immature human infant, whose breathing system is more complex than that of other mammals owing to its speech-breathing abilities. This “fit” is best understood, it is argued, in terms of the 4–5 million years of human evolution in which parent-infant contact was almost certainly continuous during at least the first year of an infant’s life. Thus, to dismiss the idea that solitary sleep has no physiological consequences for infants does not accord with scientific facts. (shrink)
The relationship between a biological process and a behavioral trait indicates a proximate mechanism by which natural selection can act. In that context, examining an aspect of infant health is one method of investigating the adaptive significance of infant-directed speech (ID speech), and it could help to explain the widespread use of this communication style. The correlation between infant growth and infant-directed speech is positive and significant, and provides a vehicle for testing evolutionary history hypotheses.
Trivers’s theory of parental investment suggests that adults should decide whether or not to invest in a given infant using a cost-benefit analysis. To make the best investment decision, adults should seek as much relevant information as possible. Infant facial cues may serve to provide information and evoke feelings of parental care in adults. Four specific infant facial cues were investigated: resemblance (as a proxy for kinship), health, happiness, and cuteness. It was predicted that these cues would (...) influence feelings of parental care for both sexes, but that resemblance would be more important for men than women because of the importance of paternity uncertainty in the ancestral environment. Seventy-six men and 76 women participated in a hypothetical adoption task in which they made judgments of infant faces. Average zero-order, partial, and component score correlations all revealed that men placed primary emphasis on cues of resemblance, while women placed primary emphasis on cues of health and cuteness (cues of infant quality). The correlations also showed that men placed a significantly greater emphasis on cues of resemblance than did women. (shrink)
Infant facial characteristics may affect discriminative parental solicitude because they convey information about the health of the offspring. We examined the effect of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) infant facial characteristics on hypothetical adoption preferences, ratings of attractiveness, and ratings of health. As expected, potential parents were more likely to adopt “normal” infants, and they rated the FAS infants as less attractive and less healthy. Cuteness/attractiveness was the best predictor of adoption likelihood.
The mismatch between the demand for, and supply of, health products has led to the increasing involvement of courts worldwide in health promotion and marketing. This study critically examines the implementation of one country’s Milk Code within the framework of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, and the efficacy of the judicial process in balancing corporate marketing and state regulatory objectives. Drawing upon the Philippine experience with its own Milk Code, it evaluates the capacities of courts to determine (...) policy costs and risks against the benefits of delineating and containing corporate marketing strategies for milk substitutes and supplements. The study finds that the methodological and information-based challenges faced by courts in resolving multi-dimensional health issues may not be overcome without serious questions concerning the legitimacy of the judicial process itself. Despite the deficiencies of litigation and adjudication, the study notes the catalytic potential of a judicial decision in opening up vital policy space for future renegotiations among rival parties and interests. Third-party intervention is explored relative to this catalytic function. (shrink)
The problem of infant suffering and death is one of the most difficult versions of the problem of evil, especially when one considers how God can be thought good to the infant victims by the infant victims. In the first portion of this paper, I examine two theodicies that aim to solve this problem but (I argue) fail. In the final section, I suggest that the problem is better handled by maintaining not that God must redeem the (...) suffering of such children, but that such children are not the sort of beings whose suffering a good God can or should redeem. (shrink)
The overall goal of this target article is to demonstrate a mechanism for an embodied cognition. The particular vehicle is a much-studied, but still widely debated phenomenon seen in 7–12 month-old-infants. In Piaget's classic “A-not-B error,” infants who have successfully uncovered a toy at location “A” continue to reach to that location even after they watch the toy hidden in a nearby location “B.” Here, we question the traditional explanations of the error as an indicator of infants' concepts of objects (...) or other static mental structures. Instead, we demonstrate that the A-not-B error and its previously puzzling contextual variations can be understood by the coupled dynamics of the ordinary processes of goal-directed actions: looking, planning, reaching, and remembering. We offer a formal dynamic theory and model based on cognitive embodiment that both simulates the known A-not-B effects and offers novel predictions that match new experimental results. The demonstration supports an embodied view by casting the mental events involved in perception, planning, deciding, and remembering in the same analogic dynamic language as that used to describe bodily movement, so that they may be continuously meshed. We maintain that this mesh is a pre-eminently cognitive act of “knowing” not only in infancy but also in everyday activities throughout the life span. Key Words: cognitive development; dynamical systems theory; embodied cognition; infant development; motor control; motor planning; perception and action. (shrink)
In this paper the very earliest relationship of mother and newborn will be described phenomenologically through an interlacing of Donald Winnicott''s work on maternal holding with Maurice Merleau-Ponty''s concepts of flesh and chiasm. Merleau-Ponty''s thinking suggests that the holding relationship described by Winnicott is formed as much by the infant''s holding of the mother as it is by mother''s holding of her infant. Both flex and bend towards each other and inscribe each other yet retain their own particularity. (...) Further specification and articulation of the lived body of both arises from the ongoing overlapping and sedimenting of past and current touches, movements, sounds, and sightings initiated internally and externally. Examples drawn from fieldwork and secondary sources will illustrate this ongoing embodied relationship. (shrink)
In this article I criticize the recommendations of some prominent statisticians about how to estimate and compare probabilities of the repeated sudden infant death and repeated murder. The issue has drawn considerable public attention in connection with several recent court cases in the UK. I try to show that when the three components of the Bayesian inference are carefully analyzed in this context, the advice of the statisticians turns out to be problematic in each of the steps.
One of the most controversial issues to face any industry has been the infant formula problem, especially in the less-developed countries (LDCs). Producers of infant formula were confronted with a boycott which evolved from a grass-roots level to one which involved many nations, international and national public agencies, non-profit organizations, scientific research institutions, large church denominations, and every company in the industry. An international boycott was aimed at Nestlé, one of the largest producers of infant formula.The aim (...) of this paper is (1) to examine both sides of the controversy, and (2) to analyze the results of the boycott, specifically the introduction of product codes and changes in industry and company strategies. In both areas ethical implications were involved. (shrink)
The signal functions of infant crying cannot be understood properly without due attention to their ontogenetic development. Based on our own research on the development of infant cries, we argue that the controversies in cry literature will not be solved by static models, but that progress will made only when considering ontogenetic changes in interpreting cry data.
I review recent evidence that very young, pre-verbal infants attribute belief-like states when anticipating the behavior of others. This evidence is drawn from infant performance on non-verbal false belief tasks. I argue that, contrary to typical interpretations, such evidence does not show that infants attribute belief-like states. Rather, it shows that infants apply an enhanced version of what Gergely ( 2011 ) calls the “teleological stance” to brief bouts of behavior. This requires them to parse behavioral sequences into goals (...) and rationally/informationally-constrained means of achieving them; however, it does not require the attribution of unobservable mental states, like beliefs, that are causally responsible for behavior. (shrink)
Most sources providing information on infant feeding strongly recommend breastfeeding. The WHO and UNICEF recommend that women breastfeed their babies and that health professionals promote breastfeeding. This creates severe pressure on women to breastfeed, a pressure which is ethically questionable since many women have physical or emotional problems with breastfeeding. In this article, we use insights from the ethics of risk to criticize the current breastfeeding policy. We argue that there are problems related to balancing aggregate wellbeing versus individual (...) wellbeing, that not enough attention is paid to alternatives, that women’s emotions and their need for free choice should be considered and that issues of equity are currently overlooked. We also criticize the way scientific information is presented in the current policy. We conclude that the official sources of information on infant feeding should be revised. Information should be more nuanced and designed to support mothers, and families in making a free choice on what is the best way to feed their babies. (shrink)
An evolutionary account of excessive crying in young infants – colic – has been elusive. A study of mothers with new infants suggests that more crying is associated with more negative emotions towards the infant, and perceptions of poorer infant health. These results undermine the hypothesis that excessive crying is an honest signal of vigor.
The problem of infant suffering and death has remained one of the most intractable problems for theists. Andrew Chignell has attempted to develop a theodicy for this problem that is based on Marilyn Adam’s paradigm for theodicy. However, his discussion repeatedly avoids the argument that, traditionally, most have thought to be the basis of this problem of evil. Thus, his theodicy provides the traditional theist with no adequate response to the problem. I argue that since infant suffering is (...) a serious (and inadequately addressed) problem for any theodicy, animal torture and death is a serious problem as well. I note that few theodicies have addressed animal suffering in a manner that takes their pain seriously. (shrink)
From a cognitive perspective, intentional communication may be viewed as an agent's activity overtly aimed at modifying a partner's mental states. According to standard Gricean definitions, this requires each party to be able to ascribe mental states to the other, i.e., to entertain a so-called theory of mind. According to the relevant experimental literature, however, such capability does not appear before the third or fourth birthday; it would follow that children under that age should not be viewed as communicating agents. (...) In order to solve the resulting dilemma, we propose that certain specific components of an agent's cognitive architecture (namely, a peculiar version of sharedness and communicative intention), are necessary and sufficient to explain infant communication in a mentalist framework. We also argue that these components are innate in the human species. (shrink)
In this commentary we raise three issues: (1) Is it motherese or song that sets the stage for very early mother-infant interaction? (2) Does the infant play a pivotal role in the complex temporal structure of social interaction? (3) Is the vocal channel primordial or do other modalities play an equally important role in social interaction?
In a recent article published in this journal, Andrew Chignell proposes some candidates for greater or ‘balancing out’ goods that could explain why God allows some infants to be tortured to death. I argue that each of Chignell's proposals is either incoherent, metaphysically dubious, and/or morally objectionable. Thus, his proposals do not explain what might justify God in allowing infants to be tortured, and the existence of infant suffering remains a serious problem for traditional theism.
In addition to endogenously produced opiates, which are part of normal affiliative neurocircuitry and attachment formation, exogenous opiates – such as drugs of addiction and abuse – may affect affiliation. We consider possible modulatory effects of such exogenous opiates on the development of early parent–infant attachment from both parents' and infants' perspectives.
Although the dynamic field model predicts infants' perseverative behavior in the context of the A-not-B manual search task, it does not account for infant perseveration in other contexts. An alternative cognitive capacity explanation for perseveration is more parsimonious. It accounts for the graded nature of perseverative responses and perseveration in different contexts.
The debate over how to best guide HIV-infected mothers in resource-poor settings on infant feeding is more than two decades old. Globally, breastfeeding is responsible for approximately 300,000 HIV infections per year, while at the same time, UNICEF estimates that not breastfeeding (formula feeding with contaminated water) is responsible for 1.5 million child deaths per year. The largest burden of these infections and deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using this region as an example of the burden faced more generally (...) in other resource-poor settings, we contrast the evolution of the clinical standard of care for infant feeding with HIV-infected mothers in high-income countries to the current international clinical guidelines for HIV-infected mothers and infant feeding in resource-poor settings. While the international guidelines of exclusive breastfeeding for a 6-month period seem to offer the least-worst strategy for reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV during infancy while conferring some immunity through breastfeeding post-6 months, we argue that the impact of the policy on mothers and healthcare workers on the ground is not well understood. The harm reduction approach on the level of health policy translates into a complicated, painful moral dilemma for HIV-positive mothers and those offering them guidance on infant feeding. We argue that the underlying socio-economic disparities that continue to fuel the need for a harm reduction policy on infant feeding and the harm to women and children justify: (1) that higher priority be given to solving the infant feeding dilemma with improved data on safe feeding alternatives, and (2) support of innovative, community-driven solutions that address the particular economic and cultural challenges that continue to result in HIV-transmission to children within these communities. (shrink)
The ability to determine an infant’s likelihood of developing autism via a relatively simple neurological measure would constitute an important scientific breakthrough. In their recent publication in this journal, Bosl and colleagues claim that a measure of EEG complexity can be used to detect, with very high accuracy, infants at high risk for autism (HRA). On the surface, this appears to be that very scientific breakthrough and as such the paper has received widespread media attention. But a close look (...) at how these high accuracy rates were derived tells a very different story. This stems from a conflation between “high risk” as a population-level property and “high risk” as a property of an individual. We describe the.. (shrink)
Our starting point for the origins of language goes beyond prosody or infant-directed speech to highlight the affective, multimodal, and co-constructed nature of meaning-making that was likely present before the split between African great apes and hominins. Analysis of vocal and gestural caregiving practices in hominins, and of meaning-making via gestural interaction in African great apes, supports our thesis.
In addition to the infant cry being a signal for attention, it may also be a critical component of the early formation of attachments with caregivers. We consider the complex development of that attachment, which involves reciprocal interactive signaling and a host of evolutionarily conserved caregiver factors.
Falk's hominin mother-infant model presupposes an emerging infant capacity to perceive and learn from afforded gestures and vocalizations. Unlike back-riding offspring of other primates, who were in no need to decenter their own body-centered perspective, a mirror neurons system may have been adapted in hominin infants to subserve the kind of (m)other-centered mirroring we now see manifested by human infants soon after birth.
By synthesizing evolutionary, attachment, and acoustic perspectives, Soltis has provided an innovative model of infant cry acoustics and parental responsiveness. We question some of his hypotheses, however, because of the limited extant data on infant crying among hunter-gatherers. We also question Soltis' distinction between manipulative and honest signaling based upon recent contributions from attachment theory.
Potential ethical issues can arise during the process of epidemiological classification. For example, unnatural infant deaths are classified as accidental deaths or homicides. Societal sensitivity to the physical abuse and neglect of children has increased over recent decades. This enhanced sensitivity could impact reported infant homicide rates. Infant homicide and accident mortality rates in boys and girls in the USA from 1940 to 2005 were analysed. In 1940, infant accident mortality rates were over 20 times greater (...) than infant homicide rates in both boys and girls. After about 1980, when the ratio of infant accident mortality rates to infant homicide rates decreased to less than five, and the sum of infant accident and homicide rates became relatively constant, further decreases in infant accident mortality rates were associated with increases in reported infant homicide rates. These findings suggest that the dramatic decline of accidental infant mortality and recent increased societal sensitivity to child abuse may be related to the increased infant homicide rates observed in the USA since 1980 rather than an actual increase in societal violence directed against infants. Ethical consequences of epidemiological classification, involving the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence and justice, are suggested by observed patterns in infant accidental deaths and homicides in the USA from 1940 to 2005. (shrink)
The results of two experiments examining infants at 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 months 0f age and varying levels of father interaction are summarized to show that separation protest is more a function of a strange person remaining in an unfamiliar laboratory situation with the infant than the temporary loss of a specific parent. The use of protest as an index of infant-parent attachment seems undesirable.
In a recent article in this journal Andrew Chignell assesses attempts by Marilyn McCord Adams and Eleonore Stump to resolve the problem that infant suffering poses for theistic belief, concluding that while the theodicy of each is inadequate in its current form, both can be satisfactorily amended. I argue that (1) Chignell fails to show that the theodicy of either Adams or Stump is inadequate and that (2) since Chignell's revisions are based on assumptions about God and evil held (...) by few, such revisions are of little value as responses to the actual challenge infant suffering poses for theistic belief. (shrink)
The majority of the commentaries focused on excessive crying and colic and included two major themes: the consideration of proximate physiological mechanisms, and challenges to my interpretation of the signal functions of early infant crying amount. I initially concluded that none of the competing signaling hypotheses enjoyed strong support, but I nevertheless favored the signaling vigor hypothesis above the signaling need and manipulation hypotheses. Consideration of the neurobiological causation of the n-shaped crying curve and further evidence and argumentation concerning (...) the potential signal functions, however, do not allow for the elevation of any one of these hypotheses above the others, and it remains the case that none are strongly supported. Taken together, however, the target article and commentary do provide a solid foundation for further research. In the target article, I also proposed a model of how infant cry acoustics can influence patterns of care and abuse. Commentary has enriched this model by including the consideration of developmental changes in cry acoustics across early infancy, and by further integrating the cry signal with other modalities of communication and with later development. I trust that the foregoing will show that the joint pursuit of the proximate mechanisms and the potential signal functions of early infant cry amount and cry acoustics should prove fruitful. Before embarking on my reevaluation, however, I begin this response by addressing the issue of consciousness in evolutionary accounts of signaling. (shrink)
Although the birth and early life of an infant is similar throughout the world, meanings ascribed to infants differ according to cultural values and beliefs. This essay describes how scholars and healers have come to see the infant as distinct from other types of people, and what implications this distinction carries for how health care is practiced. The first portion of this essay explores how understanding of the infant, particularly the well-accepted notion of normal infant growth (...) and development, came to prominence. Drawing from the history of medicine, philosophical thought and colonial practice, this essay demonstrates that the roots of thinking about the infant in terms of his growth are deep and well-defined in North American and European ideologies. The second portion of this essay describes the practical applications and political implications of beliefs about the normal infant. In the arena of applied health, policy makers measure infant growth in light of assumptions about the normal. A case study of indigenous populations in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, shows that these measurements are highly political. Here government health officials create and manipulate statistics to ensure that indigenous infant health is represented as being below normal. The normal infant can thus be understood as a subtle and effective construct which, in Irian Jaya, at the least, is used to assimilate indigenous people into the nation-state. (shrink)
Talia Welsh (2006) argues that Shaun Gallagher and Andrew Meltzoff's (1996) application of neonatal imitation research is insufficient grounds for their claim that neonates are born with a primitive body image and thus an innate self-awareness. Drawing upon an understanding of the self that is founded upon a ?theory of mind,? Welsh challenges the notion that neonates have the capacity for self-awareness and charges the supposition with an essentialism which threatens to disrupt more social constructionist understandings of the self. In (...) this paper, I initially defend Gallagher and Meltzoff's (1996) application of infant imitation to understandings of neonatal self-awareness by explaining how body image schemas can be understood as non-representational embodied cognitive phenomena that challenge ?theory of mind? theory. I then further develop the claim that neonates are born self-aware with reference to my own work in fetal development. I conclude that Welsh's political concerns are unfounded by showing how the conclusion that a neonate is self-aware does not signal a return to an essentialist understanding of self-awareness, but rather introduces into philosophical and psychological discourse possible alternate understandings of an embodied sense of self that are embedded within intersubjective contexts. (shrink)
In this commentary, we question (1) how embodied Thelen et al.'s model is relative to their aims, and (2) how embodied the behavior of children is in particular response systems, relative to how much dynamic systems theory emphasizes this idea. We close with corrections to mischaracterizations of an alternative, neural network perspective on infant behavior.
In recent years, some scholars have claimed that humans are unique in their capacity and motivation to engage in cooperative communication and extensive, fast-paced social interactions. While research on gestural communication in great apes has offered important findings concerning the gestural repertoires of different species, very little is known about the sequential organization of primates’ communicative behavior during interactions. Drawing on a conversation analytic framework, this paper addresses this gap by investigating the sequential organization of bonobo mother-infant interactions, and (...) more specifically, how individuals solicit carries from one another. It shows how bonobos establish participation frameworks before producing a carry request gesture and how the ensuing communicative actions can be organized in adjacency-pair sequences. Moreover, the timing between the initiation of an action and its response is similar to what has been documented in adult human interaction. Finally, it outlines some of the orderly practices bonobos use to deal with the absence of response from the addressed participants in carry sequences. Keywords: adjacency pair; pan paniscus ; conversation analysis; gestures; interactional time; sequence organization. (shrink)
This article is about the recognition of personhood when death occurs in early life. Drawing from anthropological perspectives on personhood at the beginnings and ends of life, it examines the implications of competing religious and customary definitions of personhood for a small sample of young British Pakistani Muslim women who experienced miscarriage and stillbirth. It suggests that these women's concerns about the lack of recognition given to the personhood of their fetus or baby constitute a challenge to customary practices surrounding (...) burial as a Muslim. The article suggests that these women's concerns cannot be adequately glossed as a clash of Islamic belief versus Western medicine. Rather, they represent a renegotiation of Islamic opinion and customary practices within the broader context of changes in the medical and social norms surrounding pregnancy loss and infant death in multi-ethnic British society. (shrink)
Prelinguistic infants must find a way to isolate meaningful chunks from the continuous streams of speech that they hear. BootLex, a new model which uses distributional cues to build a lexicon, demonstrates how much can be accomplished using this single source of information. This conceptually simple probabilistic algorithm achieves significant segmentation results on various kinds of language corpora - English, Japanese, and Spanish; child- and adult-directed speech, and written texts; and several variations in coding structure - and reveals which statistical (...) characteristics of the input have an influence on segmentation performance. BootLex is then compared, quantitatively and qualitatively, with three other groups of computational models of the same infant segmentation process, paying particular attention to functional characteristics of the models and their similarity to human cognition. Commonalities and contrasts among the models are discussed, as well as their implications both for theories of the cognitive problem of segmentation itself, and for the general enterprise of computational cognitive modeling. (shrink)
The development of speech perception shows a dramatic transition between infancy and adulthood. Between 6 and 12 months, infants’ initial ability to discriminate all phonetic units across the worlds’ languages narrows—native discrimination increases while nonnative discrimination shows a steep decline. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to examine whether brain oscillations in the theta band (4-8Hz), reflecting increases in attention and cognitive effort, would provide a neural measure of the perceptual narrowing phenomenon in speech. Using an oddball paradigm, we varied speech stimuli (...) in two dimensions, stimulus frequency (frequent vs. infrequent) and language (native vs. nonnative speech syllables) and tested 6-month-old infants, 12-month-old infants, and adults. We hypothesized that 6-month-old infants would show increased relative theta power (RTP) for frequent syllables, regardless of their status as native or nonnative syllables, reflecting young infants’ attention and cognitive effort in response to highly frequent stimuli (“statistical learning”). In adults, we hypothesized increased RTP for nonnative stimuli, regardless of their presentation frequency, reflecting increased cognitive effort for nonnative phonetic categories. The 12-month-old infants were expected to show a pattern in transition, but one more similar to adults than to 6-month-old infants. The MEG brain rhythm results supported these hypotheses. We suggest that perceptual narrowing in speech perception is governed by an implicit learning process. This learning process involves an implicit shift in attention from frequent events (infants) to learned categories (adults). Theta brain oscillatory activity may provide an index of perceptual narrowing beyond speech, and would offer a test of whether the early speech learning process is governed by domain-general or domain-specific processes. (shrink)