From imitation to reciprocation and mutual recognition
Imitation and mirroring processes are necessary but not sufficient conditions for children to develop human sociality. Human sociality entails more than the equivalence and connectedness of perceptual experiences. It corresponds to the sense of a shared world made of shared values. It originates from complex "open" systems of reciprocation and negotiation, not just imitation and mirroring processes that are by definition "closed" systems. From this premise, we argue that if imitation and mirror processes are important foundations for sociality, human inter-subjectivity develops primarily in reciprocation, not just imitation. Imitation provides a basic sense of social connectedness and mutual acknowledgment of existing with others that are "like me." However, it does not allow for the co-construction of meanings with others. For human sociality to develop, imitation and mirroring processes need to be supplemented by an open system of reciprocation. Developmental research shows that from the second month, mirroring, imitative, and other contagious emotional responses are by-passed. Imitation gives way to first signs of reciprocation (primary intersubjectivity), joint attention to objects (secondary intersubjectivity), the emergence of values that are jointly represented and negotiated with others (tertiary intersubjectivity), and eventually the development of an ethical stance accompanying theories of mind by 4 years of age. We review this development and propose that if mirroring processes enable individuals to bridge their subjective experiences, human inter-subjectivity proper develops from reciprocal social exchanges that lead to value negotiation and mutual recognition, both cardinal trademarks of human sociality.
Rochat, P. (2009)., From imitation to reciprocation and mutual recognition, in J. A. Pineda (ed.), Mirror neuron systems, New York, Humana Press, pp. 191-212.
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