Consciousness in children

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's first hypothesis - that consciousness (as he carefully defines it) is based on language, specifically the development of consciousness in children based on language.
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Consciousness in children

Post by EEprofessor »

JJ made a comment in one of the Q&A sessions that he and his students at Princeton were researching the development of consciousness in children. Children cannot develop consciousness until they develop language and JJ hypothesized that this happened from 2.5 to 5 years old.

Is anyone aware of whether or not any of this specific work was published? I believe they were trying to determine markers and developmental milestones that indicated the state of consciousness development. I have unprecedented access to a developing child (my grandson) and I want to help accelerate his development in any way possible. JJ mentioned the following:

A mother is constantly instilling the seeds of consciousness in a two- and three-year-old, telling the child to stop and think, asking him “What shall we do today?” or “Do you remember when we did such and such or were somewhere?” And all this while metaphor and analogy are hard at work. There are many different ways that different children come to this, but indeed I would say that children without some kind of language are not conscious.

He also said:

I can give you one example that came from my being in a restaurant in Princeton, where I saw a little boy — I guess he must have been six — tagging along behind his mother, who seemed to be cross with him as she went up to pay the bill. He simply tugged on her coat and said, “Can I say it in my mind?” And the mother turned around crossly and said “Yes.” And the little boy just stood there and a glaze came over his face. So we turned that into an experiment. We started doing various things and finding out when children can say things to themselves and sing things to themselves in their mind, and it turns out to be about four-and-a-half — it is pretty clear. Now what does that mean? Does that mean consciousness? I’m not sure, we still have to work at it.
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Re: Consciousness in children

Post by benjamindavidsteele »

This makes me think of Lev Vygotsky. He was an early Soviet psychologist. But his writings weren't available in the West until the 1980s. He believed language began as social speech as part of what he called the zone of proximal development where the speech of others helped the child's developing mind. Children then began private speech which is spoken but only to themselves and this eventually becomes silent inner speech. Vygotsky thought this was related to the development of consciousness.
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Re: Consciousness in children

Post by Chomer »

Is this the journal you're looking for? It's called 'Social and Emotional Learning' and the link leads to JSTOR.
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Re: Consciousness in children

Post by Moderator »

That looks like a good candidate.

It wouldn't be what Jaynes was referring to, as it came much later and not at Princeton, but Phil Zelazo has done research on the development of consciousness in children as they acquire language that very much supports Jaynes's ideas on this.
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