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Children provide a test case for psychological and epistemological theories. Many theories fail: They do not suffer the little children to come to them.
That’s part of the point of Vasudevi Reddy’s fascinating How Infants Know Minds. The title contains the thesis: Infants know other minds. They don’t act by mere instinct, or mere reflex. And they aren’t just responding to stimuli or bodies. Infants know other minds.
Reddy - Thesis - Children - Thing - Babies
Reddy began to formulate her thesis when she had children of her own: “The most striking thing my babies were telling me was that they could understand me and others as persons. They were teasing, joking, playing with our expectations and attitudes and interests, being shy, and showing offer long before they were able to speak. Understanding other minds didn’t seem to be a problem to them” (1).
Consider the fact that “neonates can imitate tongue protrusions” and the “considerable evidence that they can imitate mouth opening, and some evidence that they can imitate finger movements and eye blinking and even one vocal sound – an elongated ‘aaaa'” (47). This should arouse more wonder than it does. How does an infant even know he or she has a tongue, much less that it’s somewhere near the part of the face as the adult’s tongue? The adult intends to be imitated; somehow the infant knows that too, discerning intentions and not mere bodily movements.
Piaget - Imitation - Reasons - Imitation - Ability
Piaget thought infant imitation impossible, for two reasons: “(1) because imitation requires quite a complex ability to rasp the similarity between self and the person or animal to be imitated, an ability presumed to be impossible at birth without considerable experience of self and others; and (2) because imitation of specific acts was presumed to require specific learning about the similarity between self and other in the parts of the body producing those...
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