On Saturday evening, I attended a very interesting lecture by Developmental Psychologist, Vasudha Reddy. Reddy is from the University of Portsmouth and, not only, studies the development of children but is particularly interested in the development of babies as well. She focusses on what babies help us to understand about the nature of human experience.
First Reddy defines the difference between dialogue and genuine dialogue. Usually when people talk about dialogue they think in terms of logos, the word, verbal conversations, but in early development most people who use this term are open to considering it in non-verbal communication also. What Reddy means by dialogue is the process in which two persons, a person and a thing even, can genuinely connect. She then explained her influence from Martin Buber: Buber believed that a ‘lack of a script’ was necessary for genuine conversation. If two people were to have a conversation with a script it would be dead and fake, thus, will be expressionless as they will both know what lines follow next – so no surprise there.
It’s Absence Matters To Us
Categorisation/Objectification – we all do it, for instance, you go to a party and someone asks you “what are you studying?”, and they have switched off as soon as you have said “art & design”. They are not interested because you do not study a similar discipline to them. Another example is you see someone in a suit and you instantly label them as being spoilt and snobby: you categorise them even before you have spoken to them.
Invisibility – When people do not notice you, in an office, for example, or going to a conference and the speaker does not look at you once or select you to ask a question.
Exclusion – Reddy explained that even when you know that you are being excluded it can really hurt. For example, there was an experiment carried out where she asked three children to play a simple ball passing game, then asked two of them to pass only to each other leaving the third out. It did not take a minute for the third to feel excluded, even when she knew it was not intentional, there was something so powerfully hurtful.
Why Infants Bother To Talk To Us
Something hair-raising about his voice – the deep comforting voice – and there is also something in this foreigners speech which is calling out for us to join him. Even when we do not understand what Hadjidakis is saying, we are interested in his voice and this is what babies are faced with: this powerful invitation to join in a world they do not know yet.
So let us look at examples of very early invitations from others to come and join in the world and look at their responses.
You can even see babies invited to join the world by animals.
However, there is a lot of debate whether this is imitation or intentional.
Babies Prefer Being Looked At
Reddy displayed two faces which were shown to new-born infants within 2 to 5 days of birth. In one of them the eyes are looking away and the other the eyes are directly looking forward. New born infants looked longer and more frequently at the eyes looking forward than the eyes looking to the side. This could be down to preference.
Infants Creating New Dialogue
Infants show sufficient interest in getting emotional reactions from others. Why do they like getting reactions? Is it because they like the attention? Satisfaction? Perhaps it builds their self-esteem? Examples of actions which create responses are:
Showing off – for instance if I finish a drawing and you like it, so I do some more to get more praise from you.
Clowning – where babies imitate a facial expression and cause someone to laugh, for example.
Teasing – something a baby does deliberately to get a reaction from the parent, for instance, baby dropping something on the floor, parent consistently picks it up. Baby finds this amusing.
Example of teasing:
Outcomes may vary depending on the mood you convey whilst looking after your baby. For instance, if a mother is depressed whilst looking after her baby, the baby may express things unlike others: either suppressing attention and emotions or over-expressing. But what is the motivation for their dialogue? Is it because they want to join in? Want to belong? Is it for socialisation or survival is well? Surely it would be all, if someone offered them food when hungry they would take it to survive. If they did not talk they would feel like nothing and depressed. Overall, I feel that it is particularly important to engage with babies as well as observing them because everyone, even babies, like to feel useful and create reactions from others. Also, responding to a baby’s action is valuable as it may cause distress. I believe engagement and interacting with your baby will strengthen your bond, thus, lead to a happier baby in future .