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Re-conceptualizing joint attention as social skills: a microgenetic analysis of the development of early infant communication

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
The present longitudinal study examined how 28 infants’ joint attention behaviours undergo developmental change across the 9 to 12 month age range. Two competing theoretical views of the development of infants’ joint attention are the cognitivist and skill-based conceptualizations of social cognition. The present study reviews and discusses the conceptual differences between these two approaches in detail. Starting from the operational definition of joint attention the differences between these two conceptualizations of infants’ social cognition are explicated. It will be shown that each framework operates from a different set of assumptions regarding the development of joint attention behaviours. In turn, it will be argued that these assumptions naturally lend themselves to different metrics of behavioural measurement and programmes of research. The central tenets of the skill-based conceptualization of social cognition are presented and contrasted with those of the cognitivist framework. Empirical research situated within the cognitivist framework is examined and discussed in light of the differences between these two conceptualizations of joint attention. Following from this review, the rationale and purpose for the present study is described, and the study presented. Prior research has established that beginning around 9 months of age infants’ joint attentional behaviours increase in frequency. Less research, however, has been conducted to investigate how the temporal characteristics of infants’ joint attention behaviours change with development. Infants’ joint attentional abilities were assessed using the Early Social Communication Scale (ESCS). Contingency scores produced by T-pattern analysis, wherein infants’ joint attention behaviours contingently followed object specific events (e.g., an active toy object), were found to undergo changes in frequency, timing, and probability of occurrence across the months of assessment. Implications of these results for a skill-based conceptualization of joint attention are discussed.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Carpendale, Jeremy
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