Re: [xmca] The social origins of pointing??

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Nov 04 2007 - 14:31:42 PST

I'll pass that question on to our local group, Paul, and forward the article
to you.
I believe that the advent to joint intentionality (in Tomasello's framework)
is likely to be
central to the answer he would give. Would this mechanism be different than
for LSV?

I believe that there are many question concerning primary and secondary
in infancy that really need to be studied among people, such as the Quechua,
for whom the
environment created for and by the neonate is quite different from that
characteristic of the
populations most developmental psychologists work with.


On Nov 4, 2007 2:20 PM, Paul Dillon <> wrote:

> mike,
> Does Tomasello explain how the infant realizes that the act of pointing
> draws tthe attention of the caregiver?
> Paul
> *Mike Cole <>* wrote:
> Dear XMCA-ites
> A few weeks ago in our seminar on mediational theories of mind, we
> read recent work by Tomasello and colleagues on the ontogeny of pointing
> as
> communicative gesture. Tomasello
> does not cite the work of Vygotsky on this topic because in his opinion,
> Vygotsky's oft-cited views about the social origins of pointing have been
> definitively proven erroneous.
> Given how often the example of the social origins of pointing are
> repeated in chat-inspired writings, it seems worthwhile in light of
> current
> research to question his views and to ask what difference it would make to
> our ways of theorizing if we were to incorporate current work such
> as that of Tomasello and others.
> What follows is a brief descriptions of the issues. If people are
> interested, we could go into this more deeply. If not, not.
> 1. (From out Group's discussion). For Vygotsky, pointing as a
> communication
> gesture arises out of a failed grasping motion. An adult, seeing an infant
> unsuccessfully grasp for an object, interprets the grasping as pointing at
> the object and treats it as a communicative act. The movement "becomes a
> gesture for others" (56, Vygotsky /Mind in /Society), and the adult gives
> the movement meaning. Through this interaction, the original unsuccessful
> grasping-motion is transformed into pointing, which becomes more refined
> and
> simplified over time. Vygotsky interpreted the pointing gesture as an
> example of internalization and transformation of the intermental to the
> intramental.
> 2. (From Cole and Cole, The development of Chidlren (2001), p. 295)
> Between 9 months and a year, babies acquire *secondary
> intersubjectivity,*the ability to share mental states with another
> person and to understand
> what they are intending to do (Chapter 5, p. 197). The close link between
> secondary intersubjectivity and communication is evident in the form of
> behavior called *social referencing,* the process through which babies
> check
> their caregiver's reactions to an uncertain event or an unfamiliar person
> as
> a guide to their own behavior. Secondary intersubjectivity is a crucial
> precursor to language acquisition because babies and their caregivers are
> sharing knowledge about the objects and events that are the focus of their
> joint attention.
> Secondary intersubjectivity is also apparent when babies begin to point at
> objects (Butterworth, 2003). Pointing is clearly a communicative act
> intended to create a joint focus of attention, but it is a primitive one.
> When 12-month-olds see a remote-controlled car roll past them, first they
> point at it and then they look to see how their caregivers react to it
> (social referencing). At 18 months of age, the function of pointing
> becomes
> communicative in a more complex way. Now children are more likely first to
> look at their caregivers to see if they are looking at the car and then to
> point to it. If babies this age are alone in the room when the electric
> car
> appears, they do not point until the caretaker walks back into the room,
> clearly demonstrating that their pointing has a purpose and is meant to
> communicate to another person (Butterworth, 2003).
> 3. (From Class discussion)
> Tomasello, on the other hand, argues that pointing arises as a
> pre-linguistic communicative gesture. Instead of viewing pointing as
> something that acquires a communicative meaning through interaction,
> Tomasello argues that pointing has a communicative meaning from its
> initial
> formation because the infant has acquired the social-cognitive skills to
> share experiences with others, view others as mental agents,
> and form goals with others. Pointing initiates joint attention of the
> infant
> and another towards an object because of a shared communicative
> intentionality. The infant points because he wishes to inform, request
> information from, or share an emotional expression with an adult about an
> object. For Tomasello, pointing is more than just a request for an
> object, as Vygotsky seemed to imply.
> Not only does pointing serve various communicative functions, but
> Tomasello
> also argues that human pointing forms the basic foundation for language.
> Both pointing and language both require the same social-cognitive skills
> of
> requiring infants to see others as "intentional agents with whom one can
> share experience" (Tomasello et al. "A New Look at Infant Pointing," 718).
> Pointing serves the same purpose as an utterance: it introduces a topic
> (old
> or new) for communication.
> 4 (Some questions).
> What is significant about the following?
> a)Tomasello does not cite the work of Butterfield and Butterfield's
> account
> does not appear to lean heavily on the idea of secondary
> intersubjectivity.
> b). There is still an obviously important role for the adult in
> ontogeny of pointing in Tomasello, but it attributes communicative intent
> to
> the child from the onset. So clearly the role of the social other is
> different.
> Overall, however, it seems wise to me that people seeking to illustrate
> Vygotsky's ideas about the social origins of higher psychological
> functions
> not use the example of pointing unless or until they
> can take account of the research briefly noted above.
> mike
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Received on Sun Nov 4 14:35 PST 2007

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