FROM COMMUNION AND ALTERCENTRIC MIRRORING IN INFANCY
Examining infancy research findings of protoconversation, imitation and prosociality in laboratory, hospital, nursing and home conditions, the essays in this part address these questions: What may such findings tell us about domains or levels of intersubjective communion and understanding in the child's communicative development, and how do they relate to steps in cultural learning and evolution? (essays nos 14 and 18). How may we account for infant-adult protodialogue in the first months of life and for infant reactions to perturbation of such reciprocal engagements? (nos 13, 14 and 15). What kind of processes and mechanisms may be involved in infant imitation, including neonatal imitation and early imitational learning in face-to-face situations (no 15), and how may we account for occurrences of infants and toddlers affording and reciprocating caregiving -- and most critically, todlers' abusing others? (nos 16 and 17).
With some unavoidable overlaps and repetitions, the essays in this part reflect some talks and public lectures given in the period 1987-99. following my postulate of an inborn virtual-alter mechanism (the prologue, this volume). By way of inferences, collaterals, observations, and examination of experimental results, it led inter alia to the identification of learning by altercentric mirroring as if the infant learner were hand-guided by the model even in face-to-face situations (essays nos 15 - 18). The independent discovery of 'mirror neuron' by Rizzolatti and his group (referred to in essay no 4 and again in nos 17 and 18) indicates partial neurophysiological support.
Paper no 14 is an abstract, written jointly with Colwyn Trevarthen, of a talk on early cultural learning at a ZiF-symposium in Bielefeld 1994, which we never got around to write out more fully. However, in a lecture (reflected in essay nor.18) on the occasion of another ZiF-symposium (again organized by Günter Dux) I follow up on cultural learning also in evolutionary contexts, venturing speculations about the selective advantage of child capacity to learn to cope by altercentric mirroring of adult models in early homo erectus conditions.
Appendices report from my chimpanzee observations, and from some crude efforts to explore by "neural net" simulations competing viewpoints in perception.