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Galenson, E. (1964). Comment on Dr Call's Paper. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:294-295.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:294-295

Comment on Dr Call's Paper

Eleanor Galenson

I should like to comment first upon the observational data in Dr Call's paper. Although the piece of behaviour described occurred prior to any contact between the mother's breast or clothing and the baby's face, there was, of course, contact between the infant's and mother's bodies, and the stimulation of kinaesthetic sensation through the lifting itself. Also, olfactory and auditory sensations were present prior to the contact. These are important considerations when we come to decide whether we can really call this anticipatory behaviour, in terms of the establishment of memory traces. Is this not learning by conditioned reflex, rather than later learning which Spitz has described as 'learning according to human pattern, involving shift of cathexes onto memory traces'? After all, reflex behaviour is influenced by practice and by environmental conditions; sensory stimulation is necessary; there is a differential response to varying stimuli; and the internal state greatly influences the reactivity of the organism in reflex behaviour. The behaviour described by Call shows all these attributes.

When Call describes 'the capacity for adaptation', I wonder on what level he considers this to take place? For there can be a type of adaptation via reflex behaviour too, and perhaps these infants show just that. None the less, the presence of such 'adaptive behaviour', even on a reflex basis, is a most interesting fact, and certainly should be followed up at length to discover what happens to it, not only in the unusual babies and mothers, but perhaps even more importantly in the average group. For example, are these hand movements the precursors of the motor hand patterns which accompany nursing; the rhythmic kneading of the breast, or later of the mother's fingers, as has been described by Spitz; and the still later ear-pulling or nose-stroking movements which so frequently accompany thumb-sucking; and perhaps still later the finger-tapping and doodling of adulthood?

The adaptation of the mother to the baby is an aspect difficult to discuss, since the cues of the newborn to which the mother responds are so subtle.

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