Most psychologists claim that we begin to develop a “theory of mind”—some basic ideas about other people’s minds—at age two or three, by inference, deduction, and logical reasoning.
But does this mean that small babies are unaware of minds? That they see other people simply as another (rather dynamic and noisy) kind of object? This is a common view in developmental psychology. Yet, as this book explains, there is compelling evidence that babies in the first year of life can tease, pretend, feel self-conscious, and joke with people. Using observations from infants’ everyday interactions with their families, Vasudevi Reddy argues that such early emotional engagements show infants’ growing awareness of other people’s attention, expectations, and intentions.
Reddy deals with the persistent problem of “other minds” by proposing a “second-person” solution: we know other minds if we can respond to them. And we respond most richly in engagement with them. She challenges psychology’s traditional “detached” stance toward understanding people, arguing that the most fundamental way of knowing minds—both for babies and for adults—is through engagement with them. According to this argument the starting point for understanding other minds is not isolation and ignorance but emotional relation.
This book is terrific—both an intellectual feat, and a delight. It makes a bold and creative claim, pulls together a wide range of evidence from lab science and everyday experience, and gives us something genuinely new and exciting. It could change all our ideas—parents' and researchers—about what is going on in babies' minds.
It's a book by a sensitive writer who offers many striking insights about children growing up - insights that combine a deep humanity with real psychological and philosophical acumen. There are precious ideas here, well worth sharing with behavioral science, philosophy, anthropology, and related disciplines.
Reddy describes how babies as young as eight months can fake crying and laughter. She talks of nine-month-olds who, unwilling to stop playing, feign deafness despite their mothers' calls; and of babies not yet one year old acting innocent when caught doing something forbidden. By the time the children in Reddy's studies were 2 1/2 they were indulging in face-saving lies, often ready to blame siblings, to avoid punishment. However, as familiar as Reddy's observations may seem to many of us, she is challenging the established line.
Provide[s] exceptionally sensitive, careful and thoughtful descriptions of the everyday lives of babies...Reddy's book is full of eloquent and informative descriptions of the playful way that even young infants tease, act coy, and generally muck about with their parents.
The mixture of close observation and probing speculation...makes for compelling reading.
Reddy has written a fascinating, in places provocative, work that examines how infants know the minds of others in their environment through active, ongoing reciprocal engagement.
[I] recommend How Infants Know Minds to anyone interested in infant development...As time goes on, I am more and more convinced that parents need support in trusting their instincts, and How Infants Know Minds is written in that spirit of openness to what may occur between people. Reddy sets out to prove that it is worth giving the youngest babies the benefit of the doubt in terms of their engagement with others...The really compelling aspect of Reddy's work is the belief that rising to the challenges of a real relationship with an infant as a person has profound implications for one's own development in terms of how we see ourselves and others.
The theory Reddy puts forward is not only provocative; it comes with ample supportive evidence and successfully addresses the hoary philosophical puzzle of how the Cartesian gap is bridged. It integrates data on infant social competence with a radically revised view of development and provides a model of how young infants can read minds without having a theory of others' minds, and without cognitive representations of the self and the other.
Every once in a while, a piece of academic writing appears like a breath of fresh air in the somewhat musty world of scholarly discourse, armed with a renewed look at ordinary phenomena without fear or favor. This is the enduring feeling I have had of Reddy's book...Reddy's work has direct bearing on the methods we use in engaging with infants, whether it is for research or personal relationships. In fact that is the significance of her work, that there really should be no distinction between research and reality.
- 288 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.