I consider the developmental origins of the socially extended mind. First, I argue that, from birth, the physical interventions caregivers use to regulate infant attention and emotion (gestures, facial expressions, direction of gaze, body orientation, patterns of touch and vocalization, etc.) are part of the infant’s socially extended mind; they are external mechanisms that enable the infant to do things she could not otherwise do, cognitively speaking. Second, I argue that these physical interventions encode the norms, values, and patterned practices distinctive of their specific sociocultural milieu. Accordingly, not only do they enhance and extend the infant’s cognitive competence. They also entrain the infant to think and act in culturally appropriate ways. These physical interventions are thus arguably the earliest examples of social practices that scaffold the infant’s cognitive development and shape the development of their cultural education. Gallagher and Vygotsky’s point still stands. In order to understand the development of mature forms of cognition—including social cognition—we must trace their ontogenetic development as it unfolds interpsychologically, that is, within the dynamics of social interaction, support by embodied skills, and embedded in encompassing mental institutions. Building on Gallagher’s analysis, this paper has considered the family as the earliest mental institution and, in so doing, briefly tried to shed light on the developmental origins of the socially extended mind.
Read also: The Socially Extended Mind