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Re: [xmca] MARKED activity within a Dynamic Systems Developmental Model

Hi Larry,

I need to read the book, and not just the review, but based only on the later my response continues to be, 'Okay so far.' What I mean by this is that although the dynamic systems approach seems worth exploring, Smith and Thelan seem to view the *individual* as the system. If one is going to adopt a systems approach it makes a lot more sense to me to consider the individual infant as *part* of a system that is social and cultural. (That will surprise noone here, I hope!)

While the reviewers, Lewkowicz and Lickliter, list the dualisms that Smith and Thelan apparently avoid, it is noteworthy that individual/social is not one of these. They write, tellingly, of the "individual's entire developmental system." There is in fact not a single mention of other people in the entire review. Developing child as Robinson Crusoe!

Note that if we bring others into the picture, as elements of the system, then the problem of teleology, of figuring out if there is an innate "end-state," and if not then how the direction of development is chosen, dissolves. The infant doesn't have an end state to their development built in, for sure. But the adults who take care of the infant *are* the end state, or one possible end state, and so the system *as a whole* does have a teleology built into it. The adults, for example, speak the language that the infant will come to speak. Is that language innate? Of course not. Does the infant somehow invent its language from nothing? Of course not. Where Smith and Thelan (as the reviewers quote them) argue that developmental accomplishments are "carved out of their individual landscapes, and not prefigured by a synergy known ahead by the brain or the genes," I would say we have to respond that, first, landscapes are not individual but social (as Lewin recognized), and, second, that the synergy is certainly not known ahead by the brain or the individual infant's genes, but it is known ahead of the child by the culture. That's not to suggest that every infant ends up exactly like its parents, of course. There are indeed unique developmental pathways. But each is traced within a cultural landscape, imbued with value and motive. And where, once again, Thelan and Smith seem to treat these as properties of the individual infant, we have known for a long time that optimal stimulation, for example, is established and maintained in dyadic interactions. 


On Apr 8, 2011, at 7:50 PM, Larry Purss wrote:

> Hi Mike
> I'm attaching a 4 page book review on Thelen & Smith's book.  The last page
> discusses "quasi-motives" and is pointing in the direction you suggest we
> reflect on. It also recognizes roots of this theory going back to Kurt
> Lewin.  The suggestion that "values" be accounted for by factors of
> "approach/withdrawal" and the effective intensity of stimulation is an
> interesting hypotheses of a foundational causal mechanism.
> Larry
> On Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>> Larry,
>> It seems to me that one of the things that makes research on the A-not-B
>> error difficult to interpret is the way the social aspects of the situation
>> are backgrounded. If you look at the photos in the article by Smith and
>> Thelan, it is evident that the infant adopts an upright posture only with
>> the aid and support of an adult, presumably the mother. And of course the
>> placement of objects, their hiding, etc., is undertaken by another adult.
>> The whole experimental situation is thoroughly social - a manifestation of
>> the 'Great-We' if ever there was one - the stage during which the infant's
>> contact with objects is almost exclusively accomplished via adults, who
>> offer some objects, remove others, and so on.
>> But all this is backgrounded in the analysis of what occurs. The "field"
>> that Smith and Thelan describe contains, so far as I can see, no social
>> dimension. I find their research very interesting, very detailed and
>> thorough, and their analyses fascinating, but in this respect it seems to me
>> they miss something important, namely the intersubjective character of what
>> is going on, as you point out.
>> Martin
>> p.s. what page is the discussion of the "nesting of time"? I haven't found
>> that yet.
>> On Apr 7, 2011, at 9:13 AM, Larry Purss wrote:
>>> Hi Mike and Martin
>>> Thanks for responding.
>>> Mike, I will keep the terms "inscribed" and "culturally mediated" in mind
>>> when reflecting on marked activity.  I'm struggling with how to elaborate
>> a
>>> coherent developmental narrative that I am able to use in my
>> conversations
>>> with others.  In this sense I am trying to participate in a language
>> "game"
>>> or "dance".  I work as a counsellor in elementary school settings and
>>> attempt to position myself or take a stance as a developmental
>> story-teller
>>> in conversation with others who speak from a position of behavioural
>>> narratives. With Jerome Bruner I believe the developmental narratives we
>>> engage in have profound implications for our cultural practices of social
>>> equality (or inequality) and practices of recognizing or negating the
>>> other.  CO-constructing discursive or narrative "explanations" of why we
>> act
>>> the way we do seems to be at the center of my my project to act morally
>> or
>>> ethically or with a "conscience" in order to construct possible worlds.
>>> In my quest to come up with folk psychology explanations or narratives
>> that
>>> can be co-constructed and used to transform the practices within public
>>> school settings [on a moment to moment microgenetic time scale] I am
>>> searching for developmental models [as narratives] that can create
>> "possible
>>> worlds with our actual minds" (Bruner)  Now in order to take this
>> particular
>>> developmental stance or position within school structures I need to
>> become a
>>> better story-teller as I converse with others in my day to day activity.
>>> Martin, attempting to become a different kind of person and at the same
>> time
>>> participate in developing possible worlds I've come to this moment in
>> time
>>> when I'm trying to understand marked activity as a particular subset of
>> the
>>> multicausal pathways explained in dynamic systems theory [as a narrative
>> ].
>>> Martin you asked if I can say more about why I consider posture to be
>>> marked? You mentioned that standing the infant prevents the bodily memory
>> of
>>> reaching to A from producing the A-B error.  I understand this changing
>> the
>>> infant's posture as a marked activity. The intersubjective changing of
>> the
>>> infants posture  is one particular instance of the phenomena I am
>>> highlighting as reflecting marking activity.
>>> I picked this example because it highlights "bodily memory" as a
>> particular
>>> causal pathway [one among multiple causes] and a precursor to language
>>> memory.  The intersubjective process of the adult intentionally changing
>> the
>>> infants posture is why I considered it as marked activity.
>>> is central to Fonagy's notion of "marked" as a term coined to explain
>>> intersubjective developmental processes.
>>> In the article I posted Smith and Thelen draw our attention to multiple
>>> causes or processes of  development that coordinate organized patterns of
>>> behavior. When reading about bodily memory I was struck by how their
>>> explanation parallels how Fonagy uses he term "marked" to explain a
>>> particular subset of intersubjectively inscribed behaviors that focus on
>> the
>>> infants affective attunement [where the parent or caregiver responds in
>> very
>>> specific ways to the infants affective actions] Marked responses don't
>>> MIRROR,  copy, or imitate the infants affective actions.  In fact, Fonagy
>>> suggests mirroring behavior is actually disruptive to development and
>> causes
>>> agitation and alarm in the infant. Marked responses by the parent CONTAIN
>>> the infants affective experience.
>>> Mike, this process of affective attunement or marking is clearly
>> culturally
>>> mediated as what the parent sees [perspective] and therefore marks
>> depends
>>> on folk psychology.  If the parent sees the infants affect as an
>> expression
>>> of  the soul or spirit or alternatively as expressing innate drives these
>>> culturally mediated narratives alter the form of marking [as affective
>>> attunement.]
>>> Fonagy takes a position that the quality of marked attunement is decisive
>>> for the forms of "reflective function" that develop in the infant as a
>>> result of the intersubjective dance between parent and infant.  This is a
>>> particular naarative of development and is an extension of Bowlby's
>>> attachment theory. [but rejects Bowlby's notion of attachment as
>> "templates"
>>> that DETERMINE the future]
>>> Developmental systems theory suggests bodily memory [embodied] and
>> narrative
>>> memory are CONSTRAINTS on how we anticipate our future moves and are a
>>> subset of particular causal mechanisms.  Narratives to explain our
>> affective
>>> responses develop from MARKED recognition of the affective responses of
>> the
>>> infant that are ATTUNED [empathic is a term often used].  IF marked
>>> attunement is a fundamental process as we develop folk psycholgy
>>> explanations of affect and its "regulation" or "mastery" as a particular
>>> intersubjective subset of the multiplicity of causes [tools and signs]
>> then
>>> dynamic systems theory may be a promising narrative to articulate to
>> advance
>>> our folk psychology notions to explain behavior and alter the kinds of
>>> worlds and selves WE form.
>>> Final comment on dynamic systems theory.  One fundamental concept of the
>>> model is  multicausality. Multiple causes organize the field or system.
>> The
>>> other fundamental concept of the model is  "time as nested"  After
>> reading
>>> Martin's history of Lewin's field theory its left me cautious to use the
>>> term "nested."  Is seeing "time" as nested qualitatively distinct from
>>> seeing "spaces or places" as nested?
>>> Larry
>>> On Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 2:24 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>>> Larry,
>>>> Can you say more about why you consider posture to be marked? On a
>> (very)
>>>> quick read through the article, the suggesting seems to be that standing
>> the
>>>> infant prevents the bodily memory of reaching to A from producing the
>> A-B
>>>> error. (A variety of other changes have the same effect.) What makes
>> this a
>>>> ZPD, in your reading?
>>>> As for the nested character of time... I have to read further (and
>> perhaps
>>>> in a standing posture). :)
>>>> Martin
>>>> On Apr 6, 2011, at 9:58 AM, Larry Purss wrote:
>>>>> Smith and Thelan's article [attached] highlights some empirical
>> evidence
>>>> for
>>>>> the centrality of MARKED activity for development.  Refer especially to
>>>> page
>>>>> 346 where 10 month old infants do the A not B task and the activity
>> that
>>>>> becomes MARKED is a shift in posture from a sitting to a standing
>>>> position.
>>>>> This marked shift in posture allows the infant to be in a ZPD that
>> allows
>>>>> the infant to be successful on a task that is thought of as being a
>> later
>>>>> developing capacity.
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