Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby's Intercorporeality

While reading "The Philosophical Baby" by Alison Gopnik, I found the following passage on an interesting experiment.

The psychologist Susan Johnson endowed a very clearly nonhuman thing, a sort of brown robotic blob, with the ability to react contingently to a baby. When the baby made a noise, the blob chirped, and when the baby moved, the blob lit up, and so forth. A second identical blob made the same chirps and lit up the same way but did so in a way that was entirely unrelated to what the baby did. The events were the same, but the statistical relations between the events were different---the chirps were correlated with the babies’ actions in one case but not the other.
   Then each blob turned so that one end of it faced away from the baby and toward an object. The babies turned to follow the "gaze" of the reactive blob but not the unreactive blob. They seemed to think that the reactive blob could see. And the babies babbled and gestured more at the blob that interacted with them than at the blob that didn't.
[Gopnik, A. (2009). The Philosophical Baby. New York: Picador, p.98.]

It seems that the babies tend to differentiate people and things, based on the possibility of interaction. The baby was able to establish the circular relation of interaction with the 'reactive' blob, but not with the 'unreactive' blob. The baby acts and the blob reacts, then the baby reacts and the blob reacts again.... Here, the perception of the blob's action solicits the baby's action, and vice versa. Clearly, there is the intercorporeality between the baby and the 'active' blob.

Differentiating the animated beings from things in general is a question whether we are able to establish the intercorporeal relation with them. It's not a question whether they have the minds or not.