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Re: [xmca] Honestly....
Andy, I am going to say to you too that this is a large part of the point. The behaviorists believed that there is no real difference between a human baby and a white rat. Both could be trained in almost any way, and both *needed* to be trained if they were to amount to anything, the baby in fact more so than the rat. But on the contrary, it seems to me undeniable that a human baby is a *human* baby, and is born with many skillful resources that evolution has provided to our species. What I think confuses people is that a human baby is in many ways (though, importantly, by no means all) prepared by being unprepared, so to speak. A hatchling is able to break its way out of the eggshell and is soon pecking its way around. A newborn puppy is stumbling around effectively in a few hours, and is able to find its mother and to nurse. Go a bit further back down in the evolutionary bush and you'll find that lizards are completely independent as soon as they are hatched. They go about their lizzarding with no trouble at all, needing no guidance.
In comparison, the human baby seems to just lie around doing nothing. A very limited bunch of reflexes, as you say, Andy, and most of them disappear pretty soon (the Moro, for instance, and I think the Babinski too). The newborn human is completely dependent on others for food and shelter. Why on earth would this be? Why would homo sapiens, with the devious smarts to outhunt and outmaneuver every other species, including other homos, have such dumb and useless babies?
The obvious answer is that the helplessness has value. Human babies are programmed *not* to do things instinctively. They are born to be flexible, to learn the particular ways of their cultural group. They are born with the characteristics that will draw adults into serving their needs, so that as a result they have the opportunity to learn what they need to know. Their long period of dependent childhood (which has been getting steadily longer over the course of human evolution) pays off in the long run, both for the individual and for the group.
On Apr 27, 2010, at 7:38 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
> As I understand it, the new-born has a *very* limited bunch of reflexes which are sufficient for a propensity to attend to the actions of others to be unfolded by appropriate actions of the nearby adults. Very limited. Along the lines of Jenna's comment, I can't see what "interaction" would mean to a 2-day old child. There is no doubt that humans are so built that normal development absolutely requires interaction with others, but I think we must be very cautious in supposing what is there already.
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> But Jenna, isn't that a large part of the point? The fact that we commonly assume that what we see in the young child is related to what adults do shows how infants can, without really trying, 'draw out' the adults around them into interaction, far from it being the other way around. Better put, it's not one way around or the other, but a complex interaction from the get-go to which both partners contribute, having been prepared to do so by many millenia of evolution.
>> On Apr 27, 2010, at 5:21 PM, Jenna McWilliams wrote:
>>> But then again, I wonder how commonly we assume a child's behavior that looks like something we recognize in adult behavior is identical to that behavior. For all we know, this child could be trying to figure out why a strange non-mother person is looking at him OR why his leg is cold OR where the strange sounds are coming from OR why nobody has given him his breakfast--OR that could simply be the expression of a child whose rear end suddenly got all warm and squishy. Right?
>>> Jenna McWilliams
>>> Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University
>>> On Apr 27, 2010, at 6:12 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>>> Thanks for the Levontin, which I will read with pleasure. But on this issue I'm drawing more on my own experience than what I read in books. After I finished my undergraduate degree I didn't want to get a PhD, so I looked for work around London and managed to get a research job that involved conducting observations of neonatal behavior at birth and an assessment (designed by pediatrician Berry Brazelton) of their capabilities during the first weeks of life (we repeated it at intervals from about 3 hours to 6 weeks of age). I am attaching a photo I took of one of our research participants to illustrate why I think it's not quite right to say that children must 'acquire' the tendency to engage in interaction. To talk of the child being 'summoned' to interaction works better for me, and obviously children need to be drawn out (but 'trained'? Not so sure about that!). I forget the exact age of this child, but he was about 3 days old. My students are always surprised to see h
> ow attentive and intent such a young baby can be.
>>>> On Apr 26, 2010, at 10:30 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>> Martin, have a look at this book, around p 147-8 and around p 238. The claim is that human children are not born with any exploratory drive; even this has to be "trained." Human beings certainly have a propensity towards collaboration, joint attention and so on, but these have to be drawn out and trained, or we have absolutely nothing.
>>>>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>>>>> On Apr 26, 2010, at 9:52 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>> even the tendency to engage in interaction is acquired only because other human beings around the child "summon" the child to interaction.
>>>>>> Andy, I wouldn't say this statement is incorrect, but I don't think it is the whole story. Here is the abstract of a new paper:
>>>>>> Human Nature: A Comparative Overview
>>>>>> Hogh-Olesen, Henrik
>>>>>> Journal of Cognition and Culture (ISSN: 1567-7095); Volume 10, No. 1-2, pp. 59-84(26); April 2010
>>>>>> The differences and similarities between human and non-human animals are constantly up for discussion and an overview is needed. Four central fields of behaviour related to (1) complex symbolic activities, (2) tool making and tool use, (3) culture and social transmission and (4) sociality and morality, are surveyed and comparatively analysed to identify particular human characteristics. Data from a broad range of sciences are brought together to introduce light and shade into the picture. The differences found inside field four are especially striking. Humans are “ultra-social”. Evolution seems to have favoured a more collaborative kind of sociality in our species, and features like other-regarding preferences, large scale cooperation with non-kin, and strangers as well as third-party sanctions, appear to be derived properties of humans that have evolved after Homo and Pan diverged._______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
>>>>> An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity: http://www.brill.nl/scss
>>>>> [The attachment not-born-road.pdf has been manually removed]
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> xmca mailing list
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>> xmca mailing list
> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
> An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity: http://www.brill.nl/scss
> xmca mailing list
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