The Sense of an Emergent Self

Subject: Psychology
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1285
Topics: Childhood, Human Development


The book titled “The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology” presents important information gathered from recent research concerning infants. The book compiles different insights from psychoanalytic studies and develops theories that explain how infants understand the self and how they register growth in the earlier years. There has been an increased interest in the need to understand the growth of infants as well as how they react to different circumstances in their first days of life. The third chapter of the book talks about the sense of an emergent self. Notably, when an infant is eight weeks old, a remarkable transformation occurs that allows the infant to be more cognizant of the environment and more active. Previously, there was limited research that could explain how infants of this age view the world. However, with the current research, the author can explain in detail how the child shifts from a pre-organized and pre-cognitive state to a more active stage in life. Most significantly, the chapter explains how infants at this stage view the social world and how they become part of it. Understanding the infant’s sense of self is also an important aspect as it helps in recognizing the different changes that occur in their lives. This paper presents a reflection of the third chapter of the book highlighting the development of the emergent self.

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The chapter gives attention to the changes that occur in infants when they are two months old. Unfortunately, other researchers have not been able to present a detailed analysis of the psychoanalytic changes that occur in infants of this age. For this reason, the chapter is highly informative. Many parents have been keen to observe newborns and monitor their behavior (Rochat, 2005). However, many of the parents do not understand what is going on in the infant’s life. As a result, it is imperative to understand what infants feel, what they see, as well as what they think. According to the chapter, earlier studies were not able to define what happens to infants at this stage. The fact that children in this age are unable to talk was always a form of limitation in many studies that sought to establish the cognitive patterns of infants as well as their social behavior (Stern, 1998). For this reason, there has always been a common assumption that infants are hungry, sleepy, crying, fussing, or eating. From the text, it becomes explicit that understanding infants in this manner does not portray the processes that take place in their minds and their lives. The chapter highlights that infants are in a state of alert inactivity. They are aware of the things that happen to them, and it is possible to understand how they view different objects (Bremner & Fogel, 2007). The only way to understand the behavior of infants is to observe them keenly. Through observation, it is easy to tell why newborns behave in a certain manner. By different stimuli, it is possible to understand how children react to the interaction with different objects and people.

The chapter revealed that infants have a very strong visual motor system. Previously, it was not common knowledge that the visual system of infants is advanced. The chapter made it clear that infants can see clearly from the right focal distance. They have proper reflexes that determine the level of eye movements. As a result, many researchers have relied on observing how infants use their visual capacities (Stern, 1998). It is possible to get answers to different questions concerning infants by observing how they use their eyes. It is intriguing to recognize that a close analysis of a two-month-old baby can present a psychoanalyst with adequate information on the role they play in the social world as well as how they react to different situations (Philippson & United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, 2009). The chapter also revealed that there are successful studies that have been able to determine how infants can distinguish one object from the other. It emerged that the process of habituation/dishabituation is the most effective paradigm for understanding how infants distinguish different objects.

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The basic concepts of these studies were intriguing because they provide insight into the fundamental perceptions of infants at only two months. Although it is difficult to determine the criteria that infants use to differentiate one object from the other, it is possible to determine the objects that an infant has seen for the first time. The chapter revealed that parents and clinicians have a different perspective of understanding how infants react to different situations (Bremner & Wachs, 2011). However, cognitive research has transformed the manner in which experts view young infants. Parents try to regulate the different cycles that infants experience. However, many parents do not take the time to appreciate other changes that take place in the life of the infant (Stern, 1998). According to the author, the changes that take place after a child becomes two months old are too drastic and important for anyone to remain oblivious.

Clinicians view infants as having an active subjective life. For this reason, they seek to understand the passions and confusions that infants undergo. The views of clinicians have been important in understanding the different fluctuations that take place in the life of the infant. Most importantly, the fluctuations explain how the development of the emergent self occurs (Stern, 1998). Infants experience a form of organization that emerges through learning. The chapter placed emphasis on the fact that learning is an important process in the life of an infant. Each day, an infant has numerous learning opportunities (Stern, 1998). The learning process triggers new mental organizations. These mental organizations are responsible for the development of the self. The mental organizations serve as reference points that help an infant develop the sense of self. For example, the text highlights how the body and the actions that surround it define the initial organization in the mind of an infant.

Experiential learning is also critically important in helping infants understand the sense of self. When infants are two months old, the sense of self is still in the formation stage explaining why experts call it the emergent self. Chapter 3 placed emphasis on how the learning process lays a foundation for different types of development. The emergent self is only one of the byproducts of the learning process. Later, the learning process facilitates the formation of the core-self. Scholars have described different processes involved in the development of the emergent self. There are different methods that researchers employ to monitor how the emergent self develops as an important stage in the life of infants (Stern, 1998). There are limitations to the methods used, but they have been successful in understanding how the emergent self develops. One of the processes is amodal perception. Through this process, infants demonstrate a remarkable level of perceptual unity.


The chapter introduced new concepts that help to understand how the emergent self develops in infants. Previously, there has been insufficient information concerning the perception of infants towards their social environment and to the self. However, the text was highly informative, and it helps the reader appreciate the process that two-month-old infants undergo. The changes that take place during this stage help experts to understand the various processes involved in infant development. The chapter placed emphasis on the need for future research to focus on presenting more details of how infants experience the world. Unlike the views of many, infants have numerous capabilities such as the visual motor system that helps them to perceive different objects. They can distinguish one object from the other through the habituation process.

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  1. Bremner, J. G., & Fogel, A. (2007). Blackwell handbook of infant development. Malden, MA [etc.: Wiley Interscience.
  2. Bremner, J. G., & Wachs, T. D. (2011). The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Infant Development, Volume 1, Basic Research. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  3. Philippson, P., & United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. (2009). The emergent self: An existential-gestalt approach. London: Karnac.
  4. Rochat, P. (2005). The self in infancy: Theory and research. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  5. Stern, D. N. (1998). The Sense of an Emergent Self. In The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology (pp. 37-68). London: Karnac Books.
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