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Re: [xmca] Honestly....

Adding to Helen's observation, I have video of my son ( an audiologist) holding his 12 hours old daughter out in front of him along his arm, head supported in extended arm and hand ..., so that they are face to face. He is checking to see if she responds to him. He sticks his tongue out at her and she does this back to him. He calls to his wife who is videoing this from the hospital bed "did you see that??? He does it again and she "replies"/ copies"

He tries something different. He does a yawn and YES she yawns back. These responses are recorded on the video.

As a researcher in early childhood, I can see that my granddaughter's early responses have been carefully noted, especially her speech development because her mother is a speech pathologist. Both parents paid very careful attention to record very early sounds and responses. These video recordings over the first days , weeks and months and spoken observations are very helpful in showing that learning from birth is supported by a social situation, and also shows how parents 'in the know' observe with intention and how that interested observation builds abilities in the child to respond.


On 28/04/2010, at 12:25 PM, Martin Packer wrote:


I am sure that you have a very smart daughter! But I do think that what you've described is not as unusual as the nurses viewed it. Nurses do so much more than their fair share of the work in a hospital that they don't generally have the time or opportunity to observe what neonates are doing.

A few weeks ago I mentioned here the research of Fajans, one of Kurt Lewin's students, who showed that the response of an infant to an interesting object varied depending on whether an adult was present or not. The infant seemed to perceive the object as more potentially available if someone were around to fetch it, and of course during the first year infants require that other people not only feed and clothe them, but move them around and fetch and carry for them. In your case, you facilitated your infant daughter's response to the nurse entering the room by supporting her, probably holding her in a seated position, because the newborn's head is so large in proportion to the body that they have very limited ability to move it unaided.

It's interesting that your second observation was when she was about 2 months old, because there's a marked change in the organization of infant behavior at around six weeks. Neonatologists distinguish 6 behavioral states in newborns, but around 6 weeks it gets very hard to apply the criteria. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Hanus Papousek, who I believed first developed the scoring of these states, and he confirmed my observation. One has the impression that already the infant has acquired some degree of control of their own reactions to the environment (note how I wove in those Vygotskian terms!), and consequently has greater ability to initiate interactions, such as the overtures to the other baby that you describe.

Why infants are so fascinated by other infants continues to puzzle me, however! Perhaps it's the similarity of tempo.


On Apr 27, 2010, at 7:40 PM, Helen Grimmett wrote:

When I was in hospital with my first baby I was sitting on my bed one
morning holding my new daughter and singing her a song, engrossed in how
intently she was watching me. As I sang, a nurse entered the room and
Natalie immediately swung her head round to look at her. The nurse was stunned, saying she had never seen such a young baby (a few days old) do

About 7-8 weeks later at my new mums group the maternal health nurse
commented on the way that Natalie (being held on my lap) was watching
and smiling at the baby on the Mum's lap next to me. "She's going to be
a bright one, that one!" she 'warned' me.

Being my first baby, I didn't recognise any of these actions as unusual
and thought this must be what all babies do, but the maternity nurses
who had seen hundreds of babies thought it was very unusual. Perhaps
Martin, it was those very early (within hours) intense interactions of talking, singing and reading to her that 'summoned' her to expect others
to be interesting to interact with too? But don't all new parents do
this? (Well perhaps not the reading! - That was the luck of this child
to have two primary school teachers as parents!)


----- Original Message -----
From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:13 am
Subject: Re: [xmca] Honestly....
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>


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 how
attentive and intent such a young baby can be.


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