On the origins of intentions and development of meaning: sharing interests, feelings and purpose in embodied narrative projects

Research output: Contribution to conferenceKeynote


This talk will explore the origins of human intentions in the body movements of the foetus and young infant. These exploratory movements are necessarily future-oriented, exhibiting a ‘sensorimotor intentionality’ that generates knowledge through learning the consequences of one’s self-generated acts. In foetal life, these actions are simple movements of the arms, legs, body, or head, but they are always made with some anticipation of their consequences and are organised to achieve a desired future. As development proceeds, these simple movements become serially organised to achieve complex projects, and made socially with others they express interests and feelings that can be shared between persons. Interestingly, the patterns of arousal and rhythms of communication made between infant and adult generate a four-part narrative structure common to all the expressive arts of drama, dance, and music. Contributing to these narratives engagements with their particular communicative musicality gives infant and adult a shared experience with a special meaning particular to those individuals. Generation of shared narrative patterns enables social expectation and learning, and the capacity to engage in these successfully may indicate health, while failure may indicate concern for pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013
EventFOUR WINDS Infant Mental Health Conference - Kochi, Japan
Duration: 21 Sep 2013 → …


ConferenceFOUR WINDS Infant Mental Health Conference
City Kochi
Period21/09/13 → …


  • meaning-making
  • intentions
  • motor development
  • infant mental health
  • development

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