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The Interactional InstinctThe Evolution and Acquisition of Language$
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Namhee Lee, Lisa Mikesell, Anna Dina L. Joaquin, Andrea W. Mates, and John H. Schumann

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384246

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384246.001.0001

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Interactional Readiness

Interactional Readiness

Infant‐Caregiver Interaction and the Ubiquity of Language Acquisition

(p.108) 4 Interactional Readiness
The Interactional Instinct

Namhee Lee

Lisa Mikesell

Anna Dina L. Joaquin

Andrea W. Mates

John H. Schumann

Oxford University Press

The interactional instinct is an innate drive within human infants to attune to, imitate, and interact with conspecifics. It is a powerful developmental precursor for the ontogeny of symbolic formation and referencing in humans and therefore the acquisition of language. Because of interaction's sociostatic value, the interactional instinct essentially motivates infants to achieve attachment and social affiliation with their caregivers. Once attachment and affiliation are achieved, the infant will continue to engage in emotional interactions with an adult, leading to the emotional entrainment of behaviors, words, and linguistic structure in their social environment and attachment to caregivers who are the source of the language. In this chapter, human neonate behavior (vocalizations, gaze attunement, and body movements) with mothers and other caregivers are demonstrated to be behavioral manifestations of the interactional instinct and that it is facilitated and subserved by the brain's mirror‐neuron system.

Keywords:   interactional instinct, innate drive, infant, attachment, social affiliation, interaction, caregiver, mirror‐neuron system

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