chapter  3
34 Pages

The function of emotions in early infant communication and development

ByColwyn Trevarthen

Emotions are intrinsically-generated, central, regulatory states of the brain that unify awareness and co-ordinate activity of a coherent, mentally-active subject. Emotions direct and give communicable subjective evaluation to cognition; that is, to attention, behaviour and learning. Human emotions regulate a unique intersubjectivity that generates cooperative awareness and acquires cultural knowledge. The role of emotions in human consciousness and its development can be illuminated by an analysis of the emotions of infants in relation to the above three environments or arenas of regulatory functioning: one's body, things and other persons. Emotions, as motive states of an integral behaving subject, set limits and directions for coherent awareness and unified intentionality. Emotions serving social functions are communicated directly between subjects and coordinate their motives. Emotions are regulators, not products, of psychological activities. The natural context for emotions is a dynamic engagement between persons who are seeking to control a negotiation of purposes and understandings with feelings.