When do children become aware of themselves as differentiated and unique entity in the world? When and how do they become self-aware? Based on some recent empirical evidence, 5 levels of self-awareness are presented and discussed as they chronologically unfold from the moment of birth to approximately 4-5 years of age. A natural history of children's developing self-awareness is proposed as well as a model of adult self-awareness that is informed by the dynamic of early development. Adult self-awareness is viewed (...) as the dynamic flux between basic levels of consciousness that develop chronologically early in life. (shrink)
Mirror self-experience is re-casted away from the cognitivist interpretation that has dominated discussions on the issue since the establishment of the mirror mark test. Ideas formulated by Merleau-Ponty on mirror self-experience point to the profoundly unsettling encounter with one’s specular double. These ideas, together with developmental evidence are re-visited to provide a new, psychologically and phenomenologically more valid account of mirror self-experience: an experience associated with deep wariness.
Individuals tend to judge bad side effects as more intentional than good side effects (the Knobe or side- effect effect). Here, we assessed how widespread these findings are by testing eleven adult cohorts of eight highly contrasted cultures on their attributions of intentional action as well as ratings of blame and praise. We found limited generalizability of the original side-effect effect, and even a reversal of the effect in two rural, traditional cultures (Samoa and Vanuatu) where participants were more likely (...) to judge the good side effect as intentional. Three follow-up experiments indicate that this reversal of the side-effect effect is not due to semantics and may be linked to the perception of the status of the protagonist. These results highlight the importance of factoring cultural context in our understanding of moral cognition. (shrink)
To what extent do early intuitions about ownership depend on cultural and socio-economic circumstances? We investigated the question by testing reasoning about third party ownership conflicts in various groups of three- and five-year-old children (N = 176), growing up in seven highly contrasted social, economic, and cultural circumstances (urban rich, poor, very poor, rural poor, and traditional) spanning three continents. Each child was presented with a series of scripts involving two identical dolls fighting over an object of possession. The child (...) had to decide who of the two dolls should own the object. Each script enacted various potential reasons for attributing ownership: creation, familiarity, first contact, equity, plus a control/neutral condition with no suggested reasons. Results show that across cultures, children are significantly more consistent and decisive in attributing ownership when one of the protagonists created the object. Development between three and five years is more or less pronounced depending on culture. The propensity to split the object in equal halves whenever possible was generally higher at certain locations (i.e., China) and quasi-inexistent in others (i.e., Vanuatu and street children of Recife). Overall, creation reasons appear to be more primordial and stable across cultures than familiarity, relative wealth or first contact. This trend does not correlate with the passing of false belief theory of mind. (shrink)
This article examines what might constitute the first manifestation of consciousness in the life of an individual, focusing on the subjective starting state of newborns. It presents evidence showing that we are born with some minimal self-awareness, a kind of awareness that might even be present in foetuses depending on the criteria used. It investigates the mechanisms that might account for how self-awareness quickly evolves from being minimal and phenomenal in the context of sensation, perception, and action and discusses the (...) innate propensity of newborns to detect sameness in the experience of things that surround them. It identifies two putative mechanisms that would support an innate propensity to detect sameness: synesthesia and the vicariousness of experience. (shrink)
Self-recognition by 86 children was assessed using the mirror mark test in two different social contexts. In the classic mirror task condition, only the child was marked prior to mirror exposure . In the social norm condition, the child, experimenter, and accompanying parent were marked prior to the child’s mirror exposure . Results indicate that in both conditions children pass the test in comparable proportion, with the same increase as a function of age. However, in the Norm condition, children displayed (...) significantly more hesitation while removing the mark, often touching it without removing it or, if so, promptly putting the mark back onto their forehead. In the Classic condition, only one child showed such hesitation. These results suggest that from the outset, mirror self-recognition can refer to social awareness. This link is interpreted as the trademark of human self-consciousness, a deeply rooted “looking glass” self-awareness. (shrink)
What are the roots of human normativity and when do children begin to behave according to standards and norms? Empirical observations demonstrate that we are born with built-in orientation toward what is predictable and of the same - henceforth what deviates from it -, what is the norm or the standard in the generic sense of the word. However, what develop in humans is self-consciousness, transforming norms from “should” to “ought” and making human normativity profoundly different from any other forms (...) expressed in infancy, other animals, or any smart machines. Self-consciousness is the ability to objectify oneself through the evaluative eyes of others. It sets us apart as a species and is at the roots of human normativity. A developmental blueprint capturing the progressive co-emergence of self-consciousness and normativity in the human child is proposed. (shrink)
Self-awareness is viewed here as the phenotypic expression of an interaction between genes and the environment. Brain and behavioral development of fetuses and newborn infants are a rich source of information regarding what might constitute minimal self-awareness. Research indicates that newborns have feeling experience. Unlike automata, they do not just sense and respond to proximal stimulations. In light of the explosive brain growth that takes place inside and outside of the womb, first signs of feeling as opposed to sensing experience (...) are discussed. Feeling experience is considered as the necessary condition for having minimal self-awareness. Both would co-emerge in development. However, minimal self-awareness is rapidly supplemented with an awareness that is not just perceptual, but also conceptual and ethical, primarily defined in relation to and by others. (shrink)
Distinct layers of awareness about objects, people, and the self grow from an implicit biologically given core at birth. Each added layer of subjective experience would correspond to major qualitative shifts: the emergence of a contemplative stance by 2 months, self- consciousness from around 21 months and the manifestation of an ethical stance by 3–5 years. This new “onion” way of looking at psy- chological experience is meant to capture the fact that a new emerging layer of awareness does not (...) block, re-construct, or fun- damentally re-structure “à la Piaget” the expression of those ontogenetically anterior via bounding up equilibration and other re- flective abstraction “bootstrapping” mechanisms. In contrast to Piaget’s overall representational re-organization, what is pro- posed here with the onion metaphor model is a multilayer view on consciousness in development, each layer offering a particular zone of awareness through which we constantly navigate depending on the mind state of our being in the world: dozing and dreaming, im- plicitly or explicitly aware, co-aware, conscious, or co-conscious. The model is illustrated using facts on the early development of picto- rial understanding, mirror self-experience, self-consciousness, interpersonal awareness, and sharing awareness in development. The main purpose of the theory is to show that what develop in chil- dren between birth and 5 years are ultimately additional ranges of subjective experience, new possibilities of being aware in the world. (shrink)
In three studies we report data confirming and extending the finding of a tendency toward a White preference bias by young children of various ethnic backgrounds. European American preschoolers who identify with a White doll also prefer it to a Black doll. In contrast, same age African American children who identify with a Black doll do not show a significant preference for it over a White doll. These results are comparable in African American children attending either a racially mixed, or (...) an Afro-centric, all African American preschool. These results show the persistence of an observation that contributed to school de-segregation in the United States. Results also reveal a lack of congruence between skin color identity and preference is not limited to African Americans. There is a comparable, if not stronger White preference bias in five to seven-year-old Polynesian and Melanesian children tested in their native island nations. Using a modified procedure controlling for binary forced choice biases, we confirm these findings with second generation American children of Indian descent showing clear signs of a White bias. These results are consistent with the idea that during the preschool years children are sensitive and attracted to signs of higher social status that, for historical reasons and across cultures, tends to be associated with lighter skin color. (shrink)
Imitation and mirroring processes are necessary but not sufficient conditions for children to develop human sociality. Human sociality entails more than the equivalence and connectedness of perceptual experiences. It corresponds to the sense of a shared world made of shared values. It originates from complex ‘open’ systems of reciprocation and negotiation, not just imitation and mirroring processes that are by definition ‘closed’ systems. From this premise, we argue that if imitation and mirror processes are important foundations for sociality, human inter-subjectivity (...) develops primarily in reciprocation, not just imitation. Imitation provides a basic sense of social connectedness and mutual acknowledgment of existing with others that are ‘like me.’ However, it does not allow for the co-construction of meanings with others. For human sociality to develop, imitation and mirroring processes need to be supplemented by an open system of reciprocation. Developmental research shows that from the second month, mirroring, imitative, and other contagious emotional responses are by-passed. Imitation gives way to first signs of reciprocation (primary intersubjectivity), joint attention to objects (secondary intersubjectivity), the emergence of values that are jointly represented and negotiated with others (tertiary intersubjectivity), and eventually the development of an ethical stance accompanying theories of mind by 4 years of age. We review this development and propose that if mirroring processes enable individuals to bridge their subjective experiences, human inter-subjectivity proper develops from reciprocal social exchanges that lead to value negotiation and mutual recognition, both cardinal trademarks of human sociality. (shrink)
Philippe Rochat's FINITUDE is a rumination on time and self-consciousness. It is built around the premise that finitude and separation form the human self-conscious reality of time. It argues that we need to reclaim time from current theories in physics that tend to debunk time as an illusion, or state that time simply does not exist. This thought-provoking book considers how, from a human psychological and existential standpoint, time is very real. It examines how we make sense of such reality (...) in human development and in comparison to other living creatures. The book explores how we represent time and live with it. It tries to capture the essence of time in our self-conscious mind. If we opt to live for as long as possible and knowing that it is going to end, how should we exist? FINITUDE contemplates this most serious psychological question. It considers the developmental origins of human subjectivity, the foundations of our sense of being alive and the explicit awareness of existing in finite time. It deals with how we live and represent our finite time, how we construe and archive in memory the events of our life, how we project ourselves into the future, and how we are all constrained to knowingly exist in finite time Offering an overarching understanding of concepts, above and beyond the methodological details, this book will be an essential reading for all advanced students and researchers interested in the psychology of time, and the development of self. (shrink)
The engineer's look at how the mind works omits a central piece of the puzzle. It ignores the dynamic of motivations and the social context in which mindreading and metacognition evolved and developed in the first place. Mindreading and metacognition derive from a primacy of affective mindreading and meta-affectivity (e.g., secondary emotions such as shame or pride), both co-emerging in early development.
Catchy acronyms such as are good mnemonics. However, they carry the danger of distracting us from deeper issues: how to sample populations, the validity of measuring instruments, the levels of processing involved. These need to be considered when assessing claims of universality regarding how the mind works – a dominant and highly rewarded drive in the behavioral and brain sciences.
Social animals need to share space and resources, whether sexual partners, parents, or food. Humans, however, are unique in the way they share as they evolved to become Homo negotiatus; a species that is prone to bargain and to dispute the value of things until some agreement is reached. This evolution had far-reaching consequences on the specific makeup of human psychology – a psychology that has for trademark a compulsive preoccupation with the self in relation to others. I propose that (...) the understanding and sharing of intentions are probably the consequences of such evolution, and not its origins. (shrink)
The comparative study of empathy should be based on the developmental taxonomy of vicarious experiences offered by the abundant literature on infants and children's cognitive, social, and emotional development. Comparative research on the topic should refer to the various kinds of empathy emerging in an orderly fashion early in human development.
We applaud Baumard et al.'s mutualistic account of morality but detect circularity in their articulation of how morality emerged. Contra the authors, we propose that mutualism might account for a sensitivity to convention (the ways things are done within a group) rather than for a sense of fairness. An ontogenetic perspective better captures the complexity of what it means to be moral.