Abstract and Keywords
A neural networks approach to the development of joint attention can inform the study of the nature of human social cognition, learning, and symbolic thought process. Joint attention development involves increments in the capacity to engage in simultaneous or parallel processing of information about one’s own attention and the attention of other people. Infant practice with joint attention is both a consequence and an organizer of a distributed and integrated brain network involving frontal and parietal cortical systems. In this chapter I discuss two hypotheses that stem from this model. One is that activation of this distributed network during coordinated attention enhances the depth of information processing and encoding beginning in the first year of life. I also propose that with development joint attention becomes internalized as the capacity to socially coordinate mental attention to internal representations. As this occurs the executive joint attention network makes vital contributions to the development of human social cognition and symbolic thinking.
Keywords: joint attention, parallel and distributed processing model, social-brain network, social cognition, depth of information processing, symbolic thought process, cognitive and emotional development
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