Re: attention and Intention

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Tue Jan 18 2005 - 18:44:52 PST

Here's something more to throw in the pot (or out with the herrings.)
Anyhow, here's what I wrote a few months ago in a chapter for the Zero to
Three people:
"We do know that babies can engage in some joint sound play with adults.
Turn taking and some imitation occur earlier, but, at nine months, babies
begin to match adults' new vocalizations and gestures (like 'bye-bye').
Caregiver's comments that are sensitive to the child's focus of attention do
sustain a nine month old's engagement, but coordinated joint attention to a
third entity (like a toy) is not typical at nine months. Sound play gets
around the problem. It collapses who to coordinate with and what to
coordinate about: The play partner to coordinate with is also the source of
the play object - the sounds and responses to sounds."

Play with sound (and maybe making funny faces -- naah the channel for
feedback about the baby's own funny face isn't as good as in sound play is
it? ) is like a hothouse (hmmmm hot zone?) for attention and maybe it
cultivates intention.
The other issue is what is the difference (if any) between (a) a sort of
reflective instant of attention that can be the impetus to check out others'
attention, and (b) coordinated joint attention that builds from/on itself?

When I was thinking about this I was getting help from reading about joint
activity with in Carpenter, Nagell & Tomasello, 1998; Moore, 1998; Rollins &
Snow, 1998; Bergen & Mauer, 2000; Ninio & Snow, 1996. (Full references on

By the way, another interesting piece I found when I was doing the same
project was a longitudinal study from Finland rare in that it relates
children's phonological awareness at 3 and 4 yrs to what happens in
interactions when they are 1 and 2 year olds (better if caregivers are
attuned to baby's interest, able to regulate and sustain baby's attention,
support gradually more independent play). That study is by Silvén, Niemi, &
Voeten, 2002.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Cole" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 7:33 PM
Subject: Re: attention and Intention

> Bill--and Jay and ?-- to whom I did not respond earlier re this topic.;
> Bill, you write: It's as if the child
> inquires "What are you looking at?" and in this perspective it is not such
> leap to think that the child is, in some very simple way, seeking to see
> the adult has in mind, i.e. what are the intentions of the adult.
> This is the same age at which children appear to attribute
> intentionality --AS WHAT ANOTHER HAS IN MIND- in a number of
> circumstances. There is closely related work
> on pointing (which does not follow the story as told by LSV, although
> could be seen
> as compatible under some interpretations). It is (keep in mind wide
> individual variation)
> the same age at which children appear to comprehend a word and perhaps
> begin to utter one.
> It was this sort of convergence of coincidences that got me to respond
> positively to thinking about a connection between symbolic/sign
> mediation and intentionality. May just a pink or blue herring.
> mike
> On Tue, 18 Jan 2005 20:07:46 -0500, Bill Barowy <>
> > I have had the advantage of reading the whole article on infant
> > social referencing, so I'd like to clear some misunderstanding. The
> > conflation of attention and intention is not on the part of the authors.
> > is not the basis of their theory.
> >
> > Rather, the authors suggest it is in the developmental progression of
the way
> > that an infant seeks to disambiguate a novel situation. The child, upon
> > being surprised, may look to an adult. The interesting results are
this: At
> > seven months, infants look to an adult with the same frequency,
regardless of
> > where the adult is looking. The frequency with which ten month old
> > look to the adults, however, does depend upon where the adult is
> > The authors posit that this is due to the child's rudimentary
> > of intention -- the child's gaze depends upon the gaze of his/her social
> > partner, i.e. upon the attention of the social partner. It's as if the
> > inquires "What are you looking at?" and in this perspective it is not
such a
> > leap to think that the child is, in some very simple way, seeking to see
> > the adult has in mind, i.e. what are the intentions of the adult.
> >
> > But here is something perhaps a bit more provocative, a little more
> > trouble-making. Is it so far fetched to think that this attribution of
> > intention by selective attention does not persist in adults? If, at a
> > cocktail party, a colleague who has been conversing with another nearby
> > to you and asks "What do you think?" do you not assume that the question
> > directed to you, that the query was intended for you? What do you
> >
> > bb
> >
> >

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