To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
This is an astonishing book, astonishing both in its range and in what it seeks to make clear. Its central concern is with the nature and origins of selfhood, a distinctively human phenomenon. Its rather contrarian view is that Selfhood emerges as a product of inevitable uncertainties about our acceptance by the larger group or, more broadly, as a product of our doubts about how Others see us. Self, in a word, is then a joint project, Cogitamus, ergo sum, rather than the simplex Cartesian Cogito, ergo sum. Selfhood is not just a product of inner processes but it expresses the outcome of real or imagined exchanges with Others.
This is a book of astonishing breadth, for Philippe Rochat explores not only different forms of self-awareness, but also the varied settings in which such self-awareness may be evoked. And in the process he leans upon evidence from his own well-known experimental studies of young children, evidence from linguistic theory itself, and evidence from comparative cultural studies of peoples around the world. For him, the evidence is overwhelmingly, “Without others, there is no self-consciousness.”
Indeed, it is this other-related nature of self-awareness, with its accompanying fear of rejection, that creates the compelling dynamic of shame that is so much a feature of human awareness. It seems an odd way of putting it, but for Rochat selfhood is as much if not more a human distress maker as a distress dispeller (as it is in Freudian thinking).
The achievement of labelling was investigated in a longitudinal study of one mother–infant dyad, using video-recordings of their free play in a period between 0; 8 and 1; 6. Analysis of joint picture-book reading revealed that this activity had very early on the structure of a dialogue. The child's lexical labels might be regarded as more adult-like substitutes for earlier communicative forms that he had utilized in the dialogue. These were smiling, reaching, pointing and babbling vocalizations, all of which were consistently interpreted by the mother as expressing the child's intention of requesting a label or providing one. Participating in a ritualized dialogue, rather than imitation, was found to be the major mechanism through which labelling was achieved.
The nature of early games and how they might assist the infant in language acquisition were explored in a longitudinal study of two mother–infant dyads, using video-recordings of their free play. Analysis of appearance and disappearance games, in particular, revealed: (1) a restricted format, with a limited number of semantic elements, and a highly constrained set of semantic relations; (2) a clear repetitive structure, which allowed both for anticipation of the order of events and variation of the individual elements; (3) positions for appropriate vocalizations which could in turn be used to mark variations; and (4) the development of reversible role relationships between mother and child.
A speech act approach to the transition from pre-linguistic to linguistic communication is adopted in order to consider language in relation to behaviour generally and to allow for an emphasis on the USE of language rather than on its form. The structure of language is seen as non-arbitrary in that it reflects both attention structures (via predication) and action structures (via the fundamental case grammatical form of language). Linguistic concepts are first realized in action. A pilot study focusing on the regulation of JOINT attention and JOINT activity within the context of mutuality between mother and infant is discussed, with emphasis on ritualization in mutual play as a vehicle for understanding the development of the formal structures of language.
Tomasello et al. point up the mutual interdependency of the unique human capacity for intersubjectivity and the evolution and institutionalization of culture. Since both intersubjectivity and cultural cooperation require localized knowledge, Homo sapiens is highly reliant on such knowledge and in that sense is a highly localized species, requiring special means to surmount cultural misreadings and to achieve translocal, or global, interconnection.
There is nothing in the world to match child rearing for the depth and complexity of the challenges it poses both for those directly caught up in its daily intricacies and for the society to which child and caretakers belong. The truly extraordinary chapters of this book, so imaginatively written as “Manuals of Child Rearing” for seven different cultures literally all over the world, are testaments not only to the astonishing variety of ways in which those challenges are met but, as well, to the sheer ingenuity of our species in coping with the task of replacing itself.
To begin with, child rearing, given humans’ cultural adaptation, is not straight-line evolutionary extrapolation of “biological species reproduction.” Cultural adaptation, by any standard, is a big deal as well as a recent one, perhaps only a half million years old. Human immaturity seems shaped (if a bit haphazardly) to its requirements: not only to growing up per se (at best, rather a vapid idea) but to growing up Balinese or Ifaluk or Japanese. And it is not only prolonged helplessness that is special about human infancy, but its utter reliance on sustained and extended interaction with a committed and enculturated caregiver.
The very act of “having a baby” brings the mother/caregiver into the culture in a new way. Bringing a baby into the world is fraught with cultural consequences. Your status changes, and even more to the point, the rights and responsibilities that go with your role in the culture also change.
The narration of a life history provides a special intersect where two richly elaborated psychological systems meet. The first involves the processes used in recounting or interpreting narrative itself; the second concerns processes involved in retrieving memories. To understand how a life history is told or how it is being interpreted is virtually impossible without a grasp of narrative structure. We have discussed narrative processes elsewhere (Feldman, 1991b; Bruner, 1990, 1991), and need only note two points here. The first is that in autobiography, as in all narrative, the product is a highly constructed one. The second is that how a narrative is constructed, its form or pattern, provides us with a basis for understanding or interpreting it – whether the interpretation is accurate or not, in whatever sense it may be accurate. Put bluntly, this is to say that narrative patterning does not “get in the way” of accurate autobiographic reporting or interpreting, but rather, provides a framework for both telling and understanding (Rubin, in press). This creates an anomaly similar to the one Bartlett (1932) introduced into the study of memory years ago, and we shall return to it presently. It is an anomaly that still plagues cognitive science today when it attempts to deal with such notions as frames and scripts (e.g., Bransford & Johnson, 1972; Pichert & Anderson, 1977).
Students of memory have become increasingly interested in autobiographical memory in the last decade. By autobiographical memory some mean any situated, real-life memory; others mean only personal memories, things in which, somehow, self was engaged (Rubin, 1986, introduction).
I have often thought about the curious contradiction that has existed in Russian intellectual culture – how a country with such a long and chilling record of despotically suppressing ideas, even consciousness, could at the same time breed such searchingly conscious literature. Indeed, the contradiction, so evident in Czarist Russia, even survived the revolution of 1917. It even manifested itself within the microcosm of Russian psychology, torn as it has been for over a century between the gross and reductionist reflexologies of Sechenov and Pavlov, on the one side, and the psychological and cultural subtleties of Vygotsky and Luria on the other. Here is a culture of unquestionable social and intellectual power that seems forever torn between the conflicting ideals of unreflective and mindless obedience backed by force and deeply subjective, conscious reflection. Even as I write, the Russian nation is being subjected to two such crazily divergent scenarios as the bombardment of its Parliament building, its “White House,” accompanied by a request to reflect on a new Constitution – both on the orders of the same leader, its “President.”
I want particularly to set down my reflections on this puzzling issue in this volume dedicated to the memory of Sylvia Scribner. For she was one of two people with whom I ever discussed this matter seriously – the only psychologist – the other being Sir Isaiah Berlin who was the president of my college at Oxford and my good friend during a decade of teaching at that great university.
The expression the remembered self is, I suspect, a cunningly designed oxymoron – rather like, say, the title of a recent book, The Remembered Present (Edelman, 1990), which also poses a conceptual challenge. I gladly accept the challenge, for I shall want to argue in what follows that Self is not an entity that one can simply remember, but is, rather, a complex mental edifice that one constructs by the use of a variety of mental processes, one of which must surely be remembering. I shall want to concentrate in what follows on the nature and course of these construction processes and upon some of the conditions that guide and constrain them.
Obviously, one of these processes is selective memory retrieval. But what sorts of criteria guide the selectivity? One set of them must surely be derived from some sort of “need” to emphasize agency, to recover memories related to the initiation of relatively autonomous acts governed by our intentional states – our wishes, desires, beliefs, and expectancies. This would be quite consistent with what has come to be called the “primary attribution error” (or “tendency”) according to which we attribute behavior not to circumstances but to dispositions and motives (cf. Griffin & Ross, 1991). And though we know that this tendency is more likely to be operative in judging and predicting others than in doing the same for ourselves, it is still a potent tendency in the latter case. The claim, simply, is that Self is a concept one of whose defining properties is agency. But this criterion also has, as it were, its flip side: Let us call it victimicy.