What is it like to be a person who knows nothing? Defining the active intersubjective mind of a newborn human being
Article first published online: 14 MAY 2010
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Infant and Child Development
Special Issue: The Intersubjective Newborn
Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 119–135, January/February 2011
How to Cite
Trevarthen, C. (2011), What is it like to be a person who knows nothing? Defining the active intersubjective mind of a newborn human being. Inf. Child Develop., 20: 119–135. doi: 10.1002/icd.689
- Issue published online: 6 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 14 MAY 2010
- embodied intelligence;
- cultural learning
As thinking adults depend upon years of practical experience, reasoning about facts and causes, and language to sustain their knowledge, beliefs and memories, and to understand one another, it seems quite absurd to suggest that a newborn infant has intersubjective mental capacities. But detailed research on how neonatal selves coordinate the rhythms of their movements and senses, and how they engage in intimate and seductive precision with other persons' movements, sensing their purposes and feelings, gives evidence that it is so. The developmental and functional neuroscience of the human brain agrees. Indeed it seems that cultural intelligence itself is motivated at every stage by the kind of powers of innate intersubjective sympathy that an alert infant can show shortly after birth. We are born to generate shifting states of self-awareness, to show them to other persons, and to provoke interest and affectionate responses from them. Thus starts a new psychology of the creativity and cooperative knowing and meaning in human communities. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.