Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Foundation of Intersubjective Communication from New Understanding of Infants Social Nature


Former 1996/1997 Social Sciences - Law

End Report

In the last two decades, findings have been made that contradict traditional theories of child development and invite a new understanding of man’s social nature and levels of early cultural learning. Examples are newborns’ capacities for imitation of facial gestures, proto-conversation and attunement to adult speech in early infancy, and prosocial and dialogical interplay in young peers. Scientists who first reported the findings or made explanatory proposals, convened in August 1994 in The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to take stock of and discuss each other’s’ findings and theory proposals. Contributing to a sourcebook in preparation, they have joined the Theory Forum network on communicative development, anchored in Oslo.

The research group at CAS is recruited from this network. Diverging in their views on the intricate nature-nurture interplay of social, emotional and cognitive-perceptual mechanisms in early imitative and linguistic attunement, they will continue the dialogue. A specific aim is to differentiate levels of intersubjective communication and cultural learning – as a basis for further testing upon return to research sites and laboratories.

A question the research group devoted a great deal of time for discussing has been: What are the empirical-operational divides and developmental transitions between, on the one hand, subject-subject interaction in a mutually felt immediate sense, as evident in early infancy (infant intersubjectivity), and, on the other hand, intersubjective understanding conveyed by notions, concepts, and perhaps even by the mental simulation (theory of mind), which some would attribute to older children’s understanding of other’s feelings and perceptions?

During the year at CAS, the researchers worked on finishing their contributions to the book Intersubjective Communications and Emotion in Early Ontogeny, which will be published in 1998 by Cambridge University Press. The work of editing was also done at CAS with the help of two part-time research assistants. The book will be published with this review from the publisher:

"This book brings together for the first time the most senior international figures in psychology, psychopathology, sociology, primatology and neuroethology to address the key question of the role of intersubjectivity in early ontogeny. Together, they offer a new understanding of child development, learning and communication and highlight comparisons with processes in autism and in infant ape development. Theory and findings are integrated in these domains..."

The work on the book offered experimental and testable answers to the question raised above. It has also nurtured other publications on the issue, which will be followed up on by the group leader as his being invited to the ZiF Center for Interdisciplinary Reseach in Bielefeld.


  • Aukrust, Vibeke Grøver
    Associate Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 1996/1997
  • Edwards, Carloyn Pope
    Professor University of Kentucky 1996/1997
  • Freud, Sophie
    Professor Em. 1996/1997
  • Germundson, Gunnar
    Research Assistant 1996/1997
  • Harris, Paul
    Dr. University of Oxford 1996/1997
  • Heimann, Mikael
    Professor University of Gothenburg 1996/1997
  • Hundeide, Karsten
    Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 1996/1997
  • Levin, Irene
    Associate Professor Oslo and Akershus University College 1996/1997
  • Nakano, Shigeru
    Professor Fuji Women's College 1996/1997
  • Nøklestad, Anders
    Research Assistant 1996/1997
  • Rommetveit, Ragnar
    Professor Em. University of Oslo (UiO) 1996/1997
  • Trevarthen, Colwyn
    Professor University of Edinburgh 1996/1997

Group leader

  • Stein Leif Bråten

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 1996/19972000/2001