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Harrison, A.M. (2009). How Infants Know Minds by Vasudevi Reddy Harvard University Press, London, UK, 2008; 273 pp; £25.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(4):936-939.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(4):936-939

How Infants Know Minds by Vasudevi Reddy Harvard University Press, London, UK, 2008; 273 pp; £25.95

Review by:
Alexandra M. Harrison, M.D.

How Infants Know Minds by Vasudevi Reddy is a well-written exploration of infant development that will be of value both to researchers and clinicians. The book includes an excellent review of much of the infant development literature, illustrating the key points with real life examples. The book is divided into 11 chapters, with substantial endnotes and (what is particularly helpful) a summary/conclusion at the end of each chapter.

In this review, I first summarize the key organizing concepts the author develops in the book. I then provide indications of the usefulness of the book for the practicing psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Finally, I suggest an extension that the author might consider in her future research in this area. I end with some brief concluding remarks.

There are two related organizing concepts in this book. The first concept is that babies can understand other people as persons but that they do this in ways that are different from those of older children and adults. That is, they use their significant innate abilities to perceive affective and intentional communications outside of language and to respond to them in ways that allow them to learn about not only the individual with whom they are communicating but also allow them to learn about themselves.

The second major concept is what Reddy calls the ‘second person’ perspective to psychological development. The author contrasts this ‘second person’ point of view with two contemporary psychological perspectives, which she labels the ‘first person’ and ‘third person’ perspectives.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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