From intersubjectivity to subjectivity: the transformative roles of imitation and intimacy

M. Suzanne Zeedyk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    51 Citations (Scopus)


    How is the transition between intersubjectivity and subjectivity accomplished? While many developmental theorists have argued that social interaction gives rise to individualistic capacities (e.g. representation, language, consciousness), relatively few theorists have attempted to identify the precise mechanisms that might be responsible for this transformation. The present paper addresses this gap by drawing attention to the central role played by emotional intimacy. It is argued that subjectivity arises out of intimate engagement with others, and particular attention is given to the role of imitation in fostering such intimacy. While the primary focus is on infant development, links are made to work with atypical populations because they offer valuable insights into the developmental processes under consideration here. The ultimate aim of the paper is to demonstrate that by recognizing the emotional intimacy inherent within adult–infant interactions, new solutions are offered to theoretical problems that developmental psychology continues to face in accounting for the origins of subjectivity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-344
    Number of pages24
    JournalInfant and Child Development
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • Affect attunement
    • Intimacy
    • Emotion
    • Oxytocin
    • Intersubjectivity
    • Representation
    • Self-awareness


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