[CATEGORY IN INDEX AT STEIN-BRATEN.NET: OPENING LECTURES]
Opening keynote lecture at the International Conferance on Educational Therapy, June 2002, Lillehammer, Norway (The complete version, including illustrations, has appeared in the proceedings ed. A. Arnesen: The Resilient Child: How coping and resilience promote and develop the capacity to learn, The Norwegian Educational Therapist Association 2003:11-29)
The Other-oriented Nature and Nurture of the Self-organizing Mind:
Roots of resonance and learning to cope in infant development and evolution
Theory Forum Network on the Foundations of (Pre)Verbal Intersubjectivity
Dept of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo
I thank the programme committee for the invitation to give this opening keynote talk. I shall address the phenomenology of mirroring companions' movements and indicate how virtuous and vicious circles of re-enactment arise from children's peculiar capacity for learning from virtual participation in what others are doing. Some implications of the discovery of mirror neurons and other-centred participatory learning will be indicated for an educational therapy that is sensitive to the other-oriented nature and nurture of children's self-organizing minds and their embodied emotional memories. Finally, I shall suggest how roots of resilience and learning to cope and take care may be traced to a transition stage in human evolution in which hominid children's capability for participatory learning from resonant mirroring in face-to-face situations may have afforded a critical selective advantage.
Illustrations of mirror resonance: virtual participation in what the other is doing
First, I invite you to take a look at the situations portrayed in these photos (including those underlying the top illustrations in Fig. 1) and to reflect on what you are seeing.
[Illustrations were presented of infants (11 - 12 months) in diverse cultures feeding their big sister, including a Yanomami-infant in an Amazona tribe (drawing after photos by Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1997:486 (fig. 4.88); and an Oslo-boy, Thomas (11 3/4 month), after having been spoon-fed by his sister, reciprocates by spoon-feeding her (drawing after photo and video-recording by Bråten 1996). (The underlying photo of both series, revealing how the infants' mouth postures mirror the mouth movements of the recipient of the food, have been reproduced in Bråten 1998a:248-9)].
You see here children from various cultures engaged in feeding others. To the left an Amazona tribe baby (recorded by Eibl-Eibelsfeldt) is offering a morsel to his big sister. To the right an Oslo boy, Thomas, about the same age (11 3/4 months), is reciprocating his big sister's spoon-feeding. So here we see infants affording care giving before their first birthday. But what else do we see? Look at the mouth positions of the feeders portrayed in the photos. What we see manifested here, just like what feeding adult do, is other-centred participation: the feeding children mirror by their mouth movements the recipient's mouth movements. Notice how the Yanomamo baby's mouth is wide open as the morsel approaches the adult's mouth, and how the lips tighten as the adult's mouth begins to close for the bite, and how the Oslo boy, when reciprocating his sister's spoon-feeding, opens his own mouth as she receives the spoon with food. By their mouth movements these children manifest their altercentric mirroring of the other's activity, that is, other-centered resonance of the partner's doing as if their were co-authoring the other's intake of the food. Later, with reference to the discovery of so called "mirror neurons", I shall indicade how the virtual-other mechanism enabling such identification with what the other is doing is neurophysiologically subserved.
With these feeding situation snapshots as reference illustrations I shall approach these questions:
(Q1) What enables infants, before their first year's birthday, to afford and reciprocate care giving, such as learning spoon-feeding in face-to-face situations?
(Q2) What may be the neurobiological basis for such virtual other-centred participation in what the caretaker is doing and which enables circular re-enactment of such activity?
(Q3) What kind of memory is entailed in such participatory learning -- whether from actual or virtual hand-guidance?
(Q4) What kinds of virtuous and vicious circles of re-enactment of care and its reverse may arise from children's peculiar capacity for learning by virtual participation?
(Q5) In the therapeutic dialogue, can existential meaning be assigned to bodily felt events in the past that were never given a narrative label, hidden as they were from the child's declarative memory? In Daniel Stern's terms, may "a protonarrative envelope", devoid of any declarative label, be opened in the therapeutic and educational dialogue?
(Q6) In which evolutionary conditions would learning by other-centred participation have afforded the most critical selective advantage and provide a basis for resilience and for learning to cope and take care?
Infant capacities and communicative development in a new perspective
In the last decades some of the story of human infancy has been re-written, as it were, replacing earlier theoretical views of infants as a-social and ego-centric with a new understanding of infant capacity for interpersonal communion from the outset.
Recent infancy research has uncovered that infants are able to engage in interpersonal communion from the outset, consensually attending and bodily attuning to one another's emotive expressions and gesture- and sound-producing movements. It is demonstrated by the documentations of neonatal imitation and of protoconversation in the first months of life.
Such sociality and other-orientation from the outset do not fit the auto-enclosed and ego-centric point of departure for child development which was posited in the first quarter of this century, by Freud in terms of the pleasure principle that had to be replaced by the reality principle, and Piaget who defined a long developmental period of de-centration before sociality and intersubjectivity could emerge. Unlike the ladder-metaphor that may be attributed child developmen in traditional theories, according to which only the higher stages entail sociability and a return to lower stages entails "infantile regression", in the new infant research perspective we use the metaphor of a staircase (cf. the COMM.figure below) in which each of the lower steps endure throughout life underlying and in support of higher-order steps.
This new understanding is manifest in the title and contents of these two volumes: In Daniel Stern's seminal book "The Interpersonal World of the Infant" (Basic Books 1995), he specifies the domain of intersubjective relatedness connecting the infant's subjective self with evoked and actual companions. In the collective volume on "Intersubjective Communication and Emotion in Early Ontogeny" which I have published (Cambridge University Press 1998), the very authors of findings at odds with the traditional Freudian and Piagetian view of infant and child development provide documentation and interpretations, examining different levels of intersubjective attunement in early human development arising from the foundations of infant intersubjectivity which Trevarthen was the first to define in the 1970's. Here we offer accounts, with a comparative eye also on autism and non-human primate behaviours, of infant capacities and sociabilities which may be allocated to these COM1M2-steps of intersubjective attunement and understanding in early child development:
M.2: Meta-communication and understanding of other minds
M.1: Meanings mediated in verbal conversation by symbols and self-reflection
O: Object-oriented joint attention and cultural learning by other-centred participation
C: Communion in the primary mode of intersubjective attunement and shared vitality contours
Figure:. Steps in early communicative development, with each lower step enduring and supporting higher-order steps throughout life (cf. Stern 1985; Braten 1998a; red. 1998).
(C) Communion in mutual subject-subject engagements from the first weeks after birth
newborn imitation, even in the first hour after birth (video glimpses will be shown) and protoconversation in the first months of life. For example, Kuguimutzakis has video-records (which will be shown) of 45-minutes-olds attempting to imitate his uttering /a/, and in her studies of speech perception Kuhl finds that by 6 months infants are beginning to turn "the deaf ear" to sound distinctions that make no sense in the ambient language. Such primary intersubjective attunement in a dyadic reciprocal format of protoconversation prepares for and supports higher-order abilities later in life (cf. the chapters by Braten; Kugiumutzakis; Kuhl, Meltzoff & Moore; Murray; Rommetveit; and Trevarthen in Braten (Ed.) 1998).
(O) Object-oriented, secondary intersubjective attunement when infants join others in shared attention about objects, and other-centred learning by imitation to manipulate objects (from about 6-9 months). For example, Meltzoff reports that nine-month-old learners re-enact object-manipulation they have seen enacted the previous day; and that 18 month-olds "read the intention" of an adult who tries to pull a dumbbell apart, and I have shown that already by eleven months, infants can reciprocate caregivers' acts. Such object-oriented cultural learning in a triangular format opens for semantic learning (cf.. chapters by Braten; Meltzoff & Moore, Akhtar & Tomasello; and Hobson in Bråten (ed.), 1998).
(M1) Mediate symbolic communication and verbal conversation of first-order (from 24 months). Tertiary intersubjective understanding entailing predication -- two-year-olds, having begun their first predications and soon beginning to engage in verbal conversation. Usage of personal pronouns, such as "I" "mine", and "You", usually coincides with the two-year-old's recognition of herself or himself in the mirror, and with a sense of verbal self and narrative self and other (Stern, 1985) coming to be expressed in conversational and narrative speech (cf.. chapters by Akhtar & Tomasello, Harris, Hobson, in Breten (ed.) 1998).
(M2) Meta-communication and second-order understanding of other's understanding , including theory of simulation of other minds (theory-of-mind) (from 3 - 6 years of age). Such understanding of others' minds and emotion (Dunn, 1998) opens for perspective-taking and emotional absorption, even in fictional others (Harris, 1998), probably supported by the capacity for altercentric participation, identified already in infants (cf. chapters by Braten, Dunn, and Harris in Braten (ed.) 1998). For example, in an Oxford study, Rall & Harris (2000) find that when 3- and 4-year-olds are asked to retell fairytales, say about Cinderella, they manage best when the verbs in the stories listened to are consistent with the stance of the protagonist with whom they identify, inviting their altercentric participation in 'Cinderella's slippers', as it were. The children have trouble when the verbs in the stories told are used from the reverse perspective, at odds with their perspective-taking. In verbal conversation partners, such simulation of mind (Braten 1973, 1974) by virtue of altercentric perspective-taking enables them to complete one another's utterances and to reply to one another's half-spoken questions.
Thus, preverbal capacities and opportunities for cultural learning in early infancy, including the capacity for altercentric (speech) perception and perspective-taking, nurture and support the higher-order level abilities for conversational and narrative speech and simulation of mind.
When infants and toddlers afford and reciprocate care giving
Within the above horizon, let us now return to the opening illustrations of the Oslo boy reciprocating his sister's spoon-feeding before his first year's birthday. Now, in order for Thomas to learn to reciprocate the spoon-feeding he has not only experienced being spoon-fed, but must somehow have felt to take a part in the feeder's activity from the feeder's stance, as if he were co-authoring the feeding, even though his parent or sister has been the actual author of the previous feeding. Moreover, sitting face-to-face while having been spoon-fed, the infant's re-enactment of the activity of the feeder as a model depends on sensori-motoric reversal, i.e. mirror reversal of the model's movements in order for the infant to feel to be virtually moving with the model's movements.
This I term altercentric participation., i.e. other-centred virtual participation in what the other is doing as if being hand-guided. That enables the infant to participate in the caretaker's movements from the caretaker's stance, entailing a virtual co-enactment of the caretaker's movements as if the infant were hand-guided or a co-author of the caretaker's activity. Such other-centred participation in the caretaker's movements affords the infant to share specific temporal contours of feeling flow patterns, which Stern (1999) calls 'vitality contours', and invites circular re-enactment in similar situations from a bodily felt participant memory, not necessarily conscious, of the manner in which the activity has been virtually co-enacted and the feeling that directs the enactment.
This capacity for other-centred participation has bearings for prosocial behaviour in a twofold way, first by enabling the child to share in a peer's felt need or distress and, second, by having learnt to offer care by altercentric participation in caregivers. Thus, when peers in need or distress reactivate in the child shared feelings by virtue of altercentric participation in the peer, semblant of the form of bodily self-feelings evoked in situations in which the infant has been helped or comforted, then such peer situations should invite re-enactment towards the peer of the kind of care giving in which the infant has felt to virtually participate when previously afforded care.
To expect care giving by infants is at odds with traditional theories of child development that viewed the infant as awaiting a long period of development before becoming social and, indeed, prosocial. Even so, and even though it did not affect her father's theory, Anna Freud has been a pathfinder by her empirical documentation of early prosociality. For example, in the studies of Infant without families in wartime nurseries during the Second World War, she reports with Dorothy Burlingham, about the episode with Rose (19 months) and Edith (17 months): Rose is sitting at the table and drinking her cocoa when Edith climbs up and tries to take the mug from Rose's mouth. Rose looks at her in surprise, then turns the mug and holds it for Edith so that Edith can drink the cocoa. Here is a nurturing and sharing act, perhaps even altruistic, arising from virtual participation in Edith's effort to get a drink. And by turning the mug so that Edith can drink from Edith's position, reverse to that of Rose, she demonstrates altercentricity and may have re-enacted that kind of drinking help she herself previously has been afforded.
Such occurrences, like the episode with Thomas, of re-enactment of the care-giving afforded by care-givers, I see as evidence of the early capacity for altercentric participation in others. Both nature and nurture is at play here.
First, nature plays its part in the sense that infants have the altercentric capacity to engage in others in the mode of felt immediacy, that is, in other children in need and in the models that afford learning.
Second, nurture plays its part in the sense that virtual other-centred participation in the care-giving movements and accompanying feelings affords infants with an experiential ground for potential re-enactment towards others, including the caregivers..
During verbal conversation
We may even observe the manifestations of such virtual participation in what the other is doing in verbal conversation between speech-competent partners. Conversation partners manifest their virtual other-centred participation inter alia by sentence completion as an overt manifestation of such virtual participation in the other's production. This I have modeled in terms of co-actor simulation of one another's production and understanding in a cybernetic model, put forward in the early 1970's (Bråten 1973, 1974) -- the first model to articulate the simulation version of theory-of-mind approaches in psychology and philosophy. As I would phrase it today in terms of altercentric participation, when you find yourself more or less unwittingly completing what your conversation partner is about to say, you overtly manifest your virtual participation in the other's speech act as if you were a virtual co-author, enabled by a virtual-other mechanism, i.e. by an other-centred mirror system adapted in phylogeny to subserve preverbal and verbal conversational efficiency. This, then, is clearly operational also in the preverbal mind.
Learning by altercentric participation defined
Let me now summarize the defining operational characteristics of learning by altercentric participation. This is imitational learning by Ego from Alter which
(1) in face-to-face situation entails perceptual mirror reversal of Alter's enactment,
(2) evoking sensori-motor engagement in Alter's movements in a participatory sense involving virtual co-enactment of Alter's movements as if Ego were hand-guided and a co-author of Alter's activity,
(3) giving rise to shared temporal vitality (affects) contours, reflecting the manner in which the enactment is felt to be virtually co-enacted and the feeling that directs the co-enactment,
(4) enabling circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such virtual co-enactments.
Thus, infants learn to re-enact from altercentric perception of their caregiver's enactment as if they had been hand-guided from the caregivers' stance.
Virtual and actual hand-guidance. Deficits in altercentric identification
When this altercentric capacity is biologically impaired, the mirror reversal and identification required will present problems, for example, to subjects with autism. Their revealed difficulties in gestural imitation in face-to-face situations, in reverting and matching the facing model's gesture, such as grasp thumb or peek-a-boo, or simply raising arms (Ohta, 1987; Whiten & Brown, 1998) has been predicted and explained in terms of deficits in altercentric perception (Braten 1998), and independently confirmed in a study of autism by Hobson & Lee (1999) describing this deficit in terms of a lacking capacity for identification with the model.
As you know, when teaching a manual task to children with learning problems, it helps to hand-guide them, or in the case of children with autism, at least to face the same direction as the child. Also for ordinary children, when the task is complex, hand-guidance afford the learner to experience actual co-enactment of task as basis for subsequent re-enactment. In ordinary cases, observations of the model in face-to-face situations usually suffice. The infant learn to perform from virtual participation in the model's movements as if they had been hand-guided. Thus, their virtually moving with the model as if being virtually hand-guided, like a child with learning problems who is actually hand-guided, may conform to the same operationally closed format of a dynamic dyadic system of co-enacted movements from a shared stance.
The question of neurobiological support: mirror neurons
Let me now turn to the question of possible neurophysiological support for such a capacity, i.e. whether there may be neurobiological basis for altercentric participation in the caretaker's or model's activity enabling circular re-enactment of such activity.
When the sight of another's motor activity evoke premotor units: discovery of mirror neurons
A pertinent discovery has been made in non-human primates. On the basis of their study of functional organization of the macaque monkey brain, Rizzolatti et al. (1988) have suggested that premotor neurons are activated in anticipation of a purposive movement, for example, grasping a piece of food. De Pellegrino, Fadiga, Fogassi, Gallese and Rizzolatti (1992) designed an experimental situation pertaining to this question: Could such premotor neurons be activated merely by the sight of another's grasping the food out of one's own reach?
[Illustration presented of a macaque monkey watching a morsel being grasped and grasping the morsel. In both these situations -- (left) when the monkey is observing a morsel-grasping movement by the experimenter, and (right) when the monkey is reaching for the morsel to grasp it, there is "mirror neuron" cell firing in the monkey's brain (Drawing based on a video recording presented by Rizzolatti (2000). Cf. also Di Pellegrino et al. (1992) who also picture the activation profiles of a mirror neuron in these two situations; and Fig.5.5 in Bråten (ed) 1998:p.122))].
In the first situation (left) the monkey watches the experimenter grasping a piece of food on a plate out of reach of the monkey. In the next situation (right) a plate with a piece of food is offered to the monkey who reaches for food. Premotor cell activation in the monkey is recorded in both situations: first, by the sight of the grasping movements of the experimenter; second, by the animal's own grasping movements. This could indicate that the sight of the experimenter's grasping the piece of food evokes virtual grasping in the monkey, activating the same kinds of networks that combine with others to subserve the monkey's own grasping. Thus, there is mirror neuron activation in both situations of seeing food being grasped and preparing to reach for food. The discovery of such pre-motor mirror neurons by Rizzolatti and his University of Parma group has clear implications for our understanding of how learning by altercentric participation is subserved (examined in Bråten (ed.) 1998:105-124) and for questions about the evolutionary emergence of dialogue (examined at an international conference at the Hanse Institute of Advanced Study in July 2000 on "Mirror neurons and the evolution of brain and language). Rizzolatti and Arbib (1998) spell out some of the possible implications for understanding how the first primitive dialogue may have emerged from such a mirror system, and I, having predicted that such a discovery would be made, have specified how the system may subserve the virtual-other mechanism enabling altercentric perception, including mirror reversal in face-to-face situations (cf. our respective contributions in Stamenov & Gallese (eds) 2002).
Thus, there appear to be potential neurophysiological support, or at least part of a neurosocial basis for the kind of processes I have described and specified as our capacity to virtually move with the movements of others, and hence for infant' circular re-enactment of goal-directed movements which have felt to be co-enacted by virtue of other-centred participation. For example, it seems reasonable to assume that an othercentred mirror system for matching or simulating others' acts may afford a precursory and nurturing path to simulation of other minds, i.e. the ability that becomes operational at the second order step M2 in the communicative staircase indicated previously (cf. Braten, 1998ab, Gallese & Goldman, 1998), and that such preverbal capacity for virtual participation in what others are doing are likely to support the kind of inner feedback loops manifested even in verbal conversation when for example, the listener completes the speaker's aborted statement or replies to a question only partly formulated.
What kind of memory is involved?
And now to the question about the kind of memory that may be involved in other-centred participation. I submit that we are here dealing with a kind of "e-motional" memory that is embodied, but not submitted to a declarative or verbal processing and labelling. By "e-motional memory" I mean here the affective remembrance -- which is not conceptual and may not be conscious -- of virtually moving with Alter's movements leaving Ego with a characteristic vitality contour and procedural memory of the virtual co-enactment which may be evoked for re-enactment in similar situations. The composite term "e-motional" combines the folk sense of being 'moved by' and the root sense 'out-of-motion'. We could also use Fogel's (in press) term "participatory memory" to denote this particular and peculiar memory that arises from virtual participation in the model's or instructor's doing as if the child were the co-author of the doings from the model's or instructor's stance. This is other-cenetred participatory learning, leaving the learner with an e-motional memory of that virtual participation.
Thus, from e-motional memory of virtually moving with the sound- or gesture-producing movements of the (m)other, infants can re-enact the movements they have felt to be virtually co-enacting. This enables the young learner to participate in the movements from the model's stance as if the infant learner were hand-guided or a co-author of the model's activity. Such learning by virtual other-centred participation enables 11-12-month olds to reciprocate and re-enact the caregiving to which they have been subjected from e-motional memory of having virtually co-enacted the caretaker's activity, and which in face-to-face situations entails perceptual mirror reversal.
Circular re-enactment of care giving
In an environment affording care, the infant gets recurrent opportunities to not just be subjected to care but to feel to be virtually co-enacting such care giving, inviting circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such care giving if and when others in need or distress reactivate in the child feelings semblant of the form of bodily self-feelings evoked in situations in which the infant has experienced care giving, and hence activating circular re-enactment of care.
Then others in need or distress may invite caring efforts resembling the caring afforded by others earlier in infancy from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in that care giving. Altercentric participation is at play in a twofold way here: first, by the part it plays in learning from caregivers; second, by the way in which it may be elicited by others in need or distress activating circular re-enactment of caregiving offered to them.
Child abuse inviting circular re-enactment of abuse
Why is it that abused toddlers have been found to more likely to be abusive to other children? In the way that sensitive caregiving invites circular re-enactment we should also expect that experiences of abuse may come to invite circles of re-enactment. A radical entailment of the capacity to learn by other-centred participation, is that the victim in an abuse situation -- before defence mechanisms set in -- may be virtually co-enacting the abuser's activity, i.e. compelled not only to be a victim, but to be a co-author of the abuse, calling for circular re-enactment as one of several potential paths open to the victim.
Circular re-enactment of abuse somehow entails that the child victim has been compelled not just to suffer the victim part, but to feel to participate in the abusive movements, sharing the vitality contours reflecting the manner of abuse and the feelings that direct the abuse. In virtue of such altercentric participation the victim may come to experience engagement in the bodily motions and feelings of the abuser, not just the suffering. That leaves the victim with a compelling bodily and emotional remembrance that increases the likelihood of circular re-enactment of abuse in peer relations or towards younger children later in ontogeny from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in actual alter's abuse, while suffered by the victim's bodily ego.
Empirical support: abused toddlers are more likely to become abusive than other toddlers
Thus, prior to defence mechanisms setting in, the abused child is not just a victim of the abuse, but virtually takes a part in the abusive and hurtful event as a co-enactor of the abuse, inviting as one of several paths an increased likelihood of circular re-enactment of abusive behaviour towards other potential victims.
The above implies that children who have experienced caretaking or parenting in a harsh, punitive, neglecting or abusive manner should be more likely to respond with fear, anger, or even attack peers or younger children in distress, as compared to responses by children with a different experiential background. Empirical studies point in this direction. For example, observing abused toddlers abusing other infants George and Main (1985) indicate a vicious circle in the early impact of the quality of the caretaking background. Severely abused toddlers have been observed at a day-care centre to react fearfully or aggressive towards other children in distress, and by the second year of their life to re-enact the abusive behaviour of their parents. Some of the toddlers found to having been abused were never observed to express obvious concern for another child in distress. Sometimes, they even tormented the other child until it began crying and then, while smiling, mechanically patted or attempted to quiet the crying child (George and Main 1985; Harris 1989).
There is thus a double vicious circle in the tragedy of child victims of abuse. Not only are they deprived of full emotional holding quality in their own life. By virtue of circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of abuse, some of them may even later in ontogeny be driven to deprive others of that same quality of life, or pursue different paths, including divorcing the bodily self from the victim's virtual other, each running different independent courses.
Again, as in the case of circular re-enactment of care, no conceptual or verbal "memory" is required for experiences of abuse in felt immediacy to give rise to re-enactment. Indeed, men and women who have been subjected to incest and abuse in their infancy or early childhood may first come to realize that they may have been victims when a crisis breaks out in adult years. But while the experience of abuse is not re-presented in virtue of any conceptual memory, the child is certainly affected in the most profound way. That is why the composite term e-motional "memory" is useful to denote the affective experience and remembrance of moving with the other's motions that afford the infant the feeling of participating in the movement and accompanying emotions. Different from higher-order conceptual memory, this kind of "e-motional memory" will be ineffaceably affected by abusive motions felt to be co-enacted, and increase the likelihood of circular re-enactment of the previously felt co-enacted movements later in ontogeny. This may be why is it that some childhood victims of abuse entertain a feeling of guilt, and that others only by virtue of a crisis in adulthood realize that they may have been victims of abuse in their childhood
It need not come to circular re-enactment of abuse. For one thing, evolution has afforded roots of resilience, and competitive experiences may afford alternative models. Thus, several paths are open to the victim. One such alternative path is to disengage from the body subjected to abuse, or to divorce the bodily ego from the virtual alter, each running their separate course. Circular re-enactment of abuse may be also be prevented if the previous victim's capacity for altercentric participation is not "turned off" in relation to other potential victims, unless pain-seeking has become a motivating force.
Such virtuous and vicious circles of intergeneration re-enactment may be seen to evoke different kinds of characteristic vitality contours entailing what Stern (1995, 1999) terms protonarrative envelopes which -- while being extra-linguistic and nonconceptual -- await re-opening and transcendence in relations to others later in life. Vicious circles of re-enactment of abuse, as well as other paths pursued by the victim, for example, divorce of the victim's virtual other from the bodily self in what used to be called "multiple personality disorders", entail a 'past' hidden from consciousness, and which is devoid of existential meaning in a sense of .being brought to bear in the phenomenological present.
Recapitulation and summary so far
And now, let me summarize the succinct replies offered to the first four questions:
(Q1) Regarding the question about infants affording and reciprocating care giving, I have indicated how the infant feels to be virtually co-enacting the model's performance, as if the infant were hand-guided, and which in face-to-face situations entails perceptual mirror reversal of the demonstration afforded by the model, and as for infants who reciprocate care giving -- I have exemplified with spoon-feeding situations how such participatory learning comes about by the way in which the infant when previously subjected to such caregiving, have felt to be virtually co-enacting the caregiver's activity. As for defining characteristics and overt manifestation of virtual participation in what others are doing I have given examples of that, from feeding situations, from the Olympic arena, and also how conversation partners manifest their virtual other-centred participation. Such overt manifestations also opens a way for identifying in classroom situations, as well as in other interactive group situation, observable manifestations of inclusion.
(Q2) Regarding neurobiological -- or I should rather say neurosocial -- support of the mirror connectivity involved in altercentric participation -- I have referred to the discovery of mirror neurons in macaque monkey studies and to the identification of a mirror system in the human brain, and which we may assume subserve the virtual-other mechanism enabling altercentric perception.
(Q3) Regarding the question of what kind of memory is involved in learning by altercentric participation -- I have suggested how such virtual other-centered participation in the model leaves the learner with e-motional memory of temporal contours of shared vitality affects, reflecting the manner in which the act is performed and the feelings accompanying the co-enacted movements that invite circular re-enactment in similar situations. I have shown also how this may afford an explanatory reply to questions (Q4) about victims of abuse.
(Q4) Regarding the finding that abused toddlers are likely to be abusive to other children I have offered this answer: While a reversing of position from victim to abuser which would be difficult to understand in a traditional perspective, it may be expected from the kind of potential vicious circle evoked by virtual-other participation in the abuser's offence Before defence mechanisms set in, the victim may be compelled to feel to be virtually co-enacting the abuser's activity. Such altercentric participation in the abuse may come to compel circular re-enactment of abuse, while there may be also several other potential paths open to the victim.
(Q 5) And now to the critical question about whether existential meaning can be assigned to such traumatic events in the past hidden, as they were, from the victim's declarative memory: In contrast, e-motional memory, or that which Alan Fogel (in press) terms "participatory memory", is per definition non-verbal, hidden in the body or the heart, as it were. He points the possibility of allowing for what Dan Stern terms "now-moments" - Aha-insights which may allow for such hidden memories to be accessed and hence transformed in the intersubjective present. In the therapeutic dialogue, existential meaning and hence, transcendence, may be assigned in the intersubjective present constituted in dialogue with the other -- virtual or actual -- provided that the child is allowed to be a dialogical participant in a shared inquiry.
One thing is to break the abuser's "model power" to define the situation to which the child victim may submit, even when feeling in his or her heart and body that something is terribly wrong. Another, much more difficult challenge, is to re-activate participatory e-motional memory, locked in the body in a pre-verbal or non-verbal manner. In a phenomenological and existential sense, I have suggested with G.H. Mead that the past can only exist in the intersubjective present holding the promise of an emergent future that invites a re-definition of the past brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present shared with dialogical companions.
And yet, the protonarrative envelopes of traumatic 'pasts", locked in e-motional memory, hidden and yet retained as they has been by a bodily e-motional memory outside awareness and verbal narratives, denied any consciously declared narrative label, need somehow to be assigned an existential and phenomenological meaning in order to be opened in the intersubjective present. Brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present shared with dialogical companions as an actualized past, it may open for an emergent future that invites this past to be acknowledged and then re-written in view of the emergent future created in the present in co-authorship with the other -- actual and virtual.
In Harlene Anderson's (1997) terms: how can a shared inquiry open for "a process of forming, saying, and expanding the unsaid and yet-to-be said"? Being aware of the way in the therapist's potential model power may come into play, expected by the child to be the source of the only valid replies, and hence transforming the conversation into a monological conversation, she and Harold Goolishian try to avoid becoming the "narrative editor" (Anderson 1997:96).
G.H. Mead made the point that nothing exists -- no past, no future -- except in the present, in the extended present that includes an emergent future as well as a past, resembling perhaps Husserl's view of the present. Mead adds, however, that the emergent future contained in the present demands a "re-writing" of the past contained in the present. Now, if that is the case, then I suggest that existential meaning can only be assigned in the intersubjective present constituted in dialogue with the other -- actual or virtual -- holding the promise of an emergent future that invites definition and re-definition of the past brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present constituted with sensitive dialogical companions who, to use Buber's terms, do not transform the I-You dialogue into an I-It conversation in which means and ends are introduced,.
The threefold meaning of the term "present" gives a clue for tentative replies to the last question, and pertaining to the therapist-child relationship: First, they are present to one another, in each other's presence; second, they are in one another's present, partially sharing here and now, and third, each one is offering herself or himself as a gift, as a present, for such intersubjective sharing which may be communion or communication constituting a shared and novel intersubjective present. Thus, qua educational therapists you are present to the children ~ as they are present to you, not just with their mouth and conceptual mind, but with their body and which may open for an I-You dialogue in Buber's sense.
Such virtual participation in Alter's act as if ego were a co-author of the act or being hand-guided from Alter's stance, is sometimes unwittingly manifested overtly, not only when opening one's own mouth when putting a morsel into another's mouth. We may see it demonstrated, for example, as I shall show you in a video glimpse, when our princess Märtha Louis jumped in her spectator box as she was watching her horse jump to cross the last and difficult hinder at the Olympic Games in Sidney summer 2000. This capability to identify with what the other is doing from the other's stance provides the infant learner with an efficient entrance into the culture into which the infant is born, learning to cope and take care.
This mode arises from intersubjective communion with the model by virtue of a Virtual-Other mechanism which enables mirroring of the model's goal directed movement.
Ten years ago, at the 7th International Educational Therapy conference here in Oslo, I spelt out some of the implications of children being born with the virtual other in mind for understanding attachment, pointing to the key to the self-creative autonomy of the learning child, demanding respect of the parent, the educator and therapist. While invited to engage with the child in a synchronic dance, in which they may know the steps better, they would have to find the shared rhythm and resonance to swing with the child (Sophie Freud, 1989) and to leave room for the child's own self-creative and resilient dancing with the child's virtual other. While we usually takes learning in dialogue to mean just learning by dialogue with actual others, there are also creative dialogical cycles within the child, as identified by Winnicott in transitional phenomena , i.e. the child's self-creative engagements with what I term the child's virtual other. The challenge to the guiding adult is threefold, I then pointed out: First, to let go, from time to time, of one's own controlling self bent on achieving successful outcomes in representational mediacy, and instead open for intersubjective engagement with the child in felt immediacy. Second, to be ready to comply with the child's invitation to engage in dialogue, or -- if not so invited -- to patiently wait for openings to step into the child's dance. Third, to leave time and space for the child to creatively continue the dance by herself, that is, with her virtual other; and to be ready to be let in on, and appreciate, the creative outcome of such self-engagements. As I said then, we all bear within us this capacity to engage with actual others in felt immediacy and to self-engage with our inner virtual other. That is the common base of learning through dialogue (Bråten in Gomnæs & Osborne (eds.) 1993:25-38)
On roots of resilience and learning to cope and take care in human evolution
And now to the question (Q6) about evolution, about the possible roots of resilience and of ..
this capacity for virtual-other dialogue and participatory learning. The questions are these:
In which evolutionary conditions would altercentric perception have afforded the most critical selective advantage? Deprived as they were by their parents' bipedalism of the body-clinging advantage enjoyed by young offsprings of apes, how could hominid children learn to cope and take care, and in turn become pedagogic parents?
Comparing adult-infant relations and infant-carrying modalities in humans and chimpanzees
Based inter alia on my comparative studies for a decade of infant-adult relations in humans and chimpanzees, my speculative reply is this: Compensating for the lost protective and nurturing advantage of offsprings clinging to their mother's body which may be attributed to Miocene apes, such an adapted mirror system would have made a critical difference to Pliocene hominids, and to early Homo erectus before the invention of baby-carriers which would have restored some of the lost advantage continued to be enjoyed by modern apes (Fig. 3 (left)).
[Pictorial illustrations are presented of back-riding offspring of great apes, and of an infant being carried in baby sling attributed to a Homo Erectus mother, accompanied by this text: Deprived as they were by their parents' bipedalism of the body-clinging advantage enjoyed by young offsprings of apes, how could hominid children learn to cope and take care, and in turn become pedagogic parents? Clinging to the mother's body, offsprings of great apes are afforded opportunities to learn and orient themselves without transcending own body-centred stance. While probably enjoyed also by ancestral Miocene apes, this protective body-clinging learning advantage would have had to be compensated by the children of Pliocene hominids and early Homo erectus, and especially before the invention (perhaps by Homo erectus mothers) of baby-carrying device. Before the invention of baby slings they would have to depend on capacities to learn from a distance by other-centred participation to cope and take care. Herein may be the phylogenetic root of resonance and resilience.
Not only would they have had to resort to "mental clinging" in Bowlby's sense of attachment. In order to compensate for the loss of the protective and instructive mode of actually moving with their mother's body, they would have had to depend on face-to-face modes of communion and on cultural learning by virtually moving with observed models. Mother-infant pairs capable of protoconversation and joint visual attention, would have had a selective advantage in both contributing to and drawing upon an emerging protolanguage cultural environment, and in particular before the invention of baby-carrying slings, which Richard Leakey attributes to Homo erectus in this scenario:
"[w]e see a small human group, five adult females and a cluster of infants and youths. they are athletic in stature, and strong. They are chattering loudly, some of their exchanges obvious social repartees, some the discussion of today's plans [...] to gather plant foods [...]. Three of the females are now ready to leave, naked apart from an animal skin thrown around the shoulders that serves the dual role of baby carriers and, later, food bag." (Leakey 1995:93-97)
In some contemporary African cultures, unlike many Western cultures, such baby-bags are still in use, for example, in the Gusii culture, where often a sibling of the infant is assigned the task of carrying the infant on the back (LeVine & LeVine, 1988), and where face-to-face interplay with infants by looking or talking is relatively rare:
Virtually all of [the Gusii mothers'] interaction with the babies includes holding or carrying, and they often respond to infant vocal or visual signals with physical contact rather than reciprocal talking or looking. By contrast, the Boston mothers, who hold their babies in less than a third of their interactions from 6 months onward, seek to engage their infants in visual and verbal communication at a distance. (LeVine et al., 1996:198).
Compensating for the loss of instructive and protective body-clinging advantage
Taking after the facial expressions, vocalizations and gestures of adults is a way to ensure connectivity and learning even at a distance. In phylogeny, when distinguishing hominid cultures from patterns in other primates, we may thus speculate that an enhanced mirror system subserving face-to-face pedagogy and learning in situations inviting transition of own body-centred stance, may have afforded necessary roots of resilience, compensating for the loss of the instructive and protective advantage enjoyed by offsprings of other apes. It may have facilitated the transition to what Donald (1991) terms 'mimetic culture'. This entails a tool-designing pedagogy and mimetic learning by hand-guidance and, I would add, learning by altercentric participation (virtual hand-guidance). Donald also argues for the transitional role of a mimetic Homo erectus culture towards a narrative (mythic) culture. An evolved capacity for altercentric perception in face-to-face learning and warning situations may have been precursory and supportive of later conversational speech adaptation in archaic humans. To infants endowed with the capacity for virtual (other) participation in gesticulating and articulating others, an emerging ambient speech language, perhaps accompanied by a speech-mediated pedagogy, would have afforded opportunities for their beginning to attune themselves by altercentric speech perception to the prosody and rhythm of the emerging language culture into which they were born.
Thus I have ventured a speculative reply to the last question (Q6) about evolutionary conditions in which learning by other-centred participation would have afforded the most critical selective advantage entailing children's capacities to learn by other-centred participation to cope and take care. Herein we may find the phylogenetic roots of resonance and resilience in children.
1. Opening keynote lecture at 11th International Conference of Educational Therapy, Lillehammer June 3-5 2002. Parts are based on a talk the First Århus Conference on Existential Psychotherapy, Århus, Denmark Dec.3-5 1999 (printed in this bilingual essay collection on Dialogue in Infant & Adult: Stein Braten: Modellmakt og altersentriske spedbarn. Bergen: Sigma 2000:244-260).
2. This mode arises from intersubjective communion with the model by virtue of a Virtual-Other mechanism which enables mirroring of the model's goal directed movement. This phenomenon has been uncovered by way of inference from a postulate which I put forward at a Gordon Research Conference on Cybernetics of Cognition in 1986. Criticising and transcending Maturana's notion of autopoiesis in biology of cognition for its monadological implications, I proposed that we are born with an intersubjective companion space with an inner Virtual Alter complementing our bodily Ego with the same operational efficiency (Latin: virtus) as an actual Alter, and which hence invites and permits reciprocal engagements with others from birth (Braten 1988ab).
3. I refer you also to Hallvard Hastein's classroom studies in terms of altercentric participation currently being carried out in some schools in the southern parts of Norway from the perspectives of inclusion and exclusion
4. Postscript: After my talk, Elaine Arnold, who has studied the separation and reunion of Afro-Caribbean children, mentioned that she had observed a difference with respect to (the lack of) facial expressions, and wondered if it may have something to do with the way in which the had been carried: While some African children (having been carried on the back) showed a lack of facial expressions, Caribbean children, who were more in communication with the adult carriers, were more open with regard to facial expressions.
5. Some putative evolution stages towards speech culture (partly in line with Donald, 1991) may be compared to precursory and supportive steps towards speech in infant and child development (cf.. Braten (ed.) 1998). But there is this critical difference: While evolution of speech has entailed the creation of novel linguistic oceans never before in existence, the child in development is born into an already existing linguistic ocean of talk in which the child so rapidly and efficiently learn to swim, as it were. In dialogue, for example, the "attunement to the attunement of the other" (Rommetveit, 1998:360) appears to be prepared for by the mutual, dance-like interplay which we can observe already in the first weeks after birth.
6. Presented to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Febr.10, 2000, and at the conference on "Mirror Neurons and the Evolution of Brain and Language", Hanse Institute for Advanced Studies, Delmenhorst July 5-8 2000.
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