Pointing the way to social cognition: A phenomenological approach to embodiment, pointing, and imitation in the first year of infancy

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 40 (3):135-154 (2020)
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I have two objectives in this article. The first is methodological: I elaborate a minimal phenomenological method and attempt to show its importance in studies of infant behavior. The second objective is substantive: Applying the minimal phenomenological approach, combined with Meltzoff’s “like-me” developmental framework, I propose the hypothesis that infants learn the pointing gesture at least in part through imitation. I explain how developments in sensorimotor ability (posture, arm and hand control and coordination, and locomotion) in the first year of life prepare the infant for acquiring the pointing gesture. The former may directly enable the latter by allowing the infant to experience its own body as being “like those” of others, thus allowing it to imitatively appropriate a broader range of adult behavior. My proposal emphasizes the embodiment of mind in the development of cognition, contrary to latent dualistic tendencies in some developmental literature.

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Hayden Kee
Chinese University of Hong Kong


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