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On the origins of understanding : from early intentions in utero to shared social projects of common purpose

Delafield-Butt, Jonathan (2014) On the origins of understanding : from early intentions in utero to shared social projects of common purpose. In: Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland Medical Psychotherapy and Child & Adolescent Faculties Joint Meeting 2014, 2014-11-27 - 2014-11-28, The Royal George Hotel.

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Abstract

This paper examines the origins of the infant mind in its first purposeful movements, evident in utero, and traces their development into complex projects of social meaning-making in the first year of life. All movements require prospective control, an anticipation of their future effect. This constitutes the first form of knowledge, knowing ahead of time the effects of a particular self-generated action. At first, these are basic and simple, but over development they become serially organised into projects requiring greater knowledge of their distal consequences, as they expand in capacity and reach. This is a transition from brainstem mediated conscious control to more abstract, cortically mediated control. In social engagement, self-generated acts of expression made with another co-create regular, non-verbal narrative patterns that establish common meaning available for social understanding and sharing intentions. By tracing development of meaning-making from solo projects in utero to shared narrative projects in early life, we can better appreciate social patterns and their compositions evident in health, disrupted in pathology, and important for development and learning.