Before the `Third Element': Understanding Attention to Self

In Naomi Eilan, Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack & Johannes Roessler (eds.), Joint Attention: Communication and Other Minds. Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 85--109 (2005)
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Abstract

The entry of an external object or the ‘third element’ into the dyad is generally taken as necessary for evidence of an understanding of others' attention, leading to an equating of the terms joint attention and awareness of attention. This chapter considers meta-theoretical and methodological reasons for psychology's disregard of mutual attention in this context and provides an alternative account of the emergence and development of attention awareness. Through the course of the first year human infants show a range of emotional reactions to mutual attention and an increasingly complex range of attempts to regain it when it is absent or retain it when it is present. Prior to the onset of joint attention involving distal objects, mutual attentional engagements expand from an awareness of the self as an ‘object’ of others' attention to an awareness of the infant's own actions and expressions as ‘objects’. Providing the most direct experience of others' attention, mutual attention not only also reveals an awareness of attention but is the basis upon which further appropriate development of attention awareness can occur.

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Vasudevi Reddy
University of Portsmouth

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