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The social roots of self development: from a bodily to an intellectual interpersonal dialogue


Bolis,  Dimitris
Independent Max Planck Research Group Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;

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Fini, C., Bardi, L., Bolis, D., Fusaro, M., Lisi, M. P. P., Michalland, A. H., et al. (2023). The social roots of self development: from a bodily to an intellectual interpersonal dialogue. PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH-PSYCHOLOGISCHE FORSCHUNG. doi:10.1007/s00426-022-01785-6.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-1BCF-D
In this paper, we propose that interpersonal bodily interactions represent a fertile ground in which the bodily and psychological self is developed, gradually allowing for forms of more abstract and disembodied interactions. We start by focusing on how early infant-caregiver bodily interactions play a crucial role in shaping the boundaries of the self but also in learning to predict others' behavior. We then explore the social function of the sense of touch in the entire life span, highlighting its role in promoting physical and psychological well-being by supporting positive interpersonal exchanges. We go on by introducing the concept of implicit theory of mind, as the early ability to interpret others' intentions, possibly grounded in infant-caregiver bodily exchanges (embodied practices). In the following part, we consider so-called higher level forms of social interaction: intellectual exchanges among individuals. In this regard, we defend the view that, beside the apparent private dimension of "thinking abstractly ", using abstract concepts is intrinsically a social process, as it entails the re-enactment of the internalized dialogue through which we acquired the concepts in the first place. Finally, we describe how the hypothesis of "dialectical attunement " may explain the development of abstract thinking: to effectively transform the world according to their survival needs, individuals co-construct structured concepts of it; by doing so, humans fundamentally transform not merely the world they are being in, but their being in the world.