Two months later, Doddy’s understanding of mirrors had taken a step forward. Facing the mirror in front of his father, he now seemed to realise that his father’s reflection was connected to the person standing behind him. When Darwin made a face in the mirror, Doddy turned to look at the man, not at his reflection. We saw Athena doing something similar at the same age. We would sit her on the bed and stand to one side, so that she could see us in the mirror but not herself. She would raise her arms and throw herself forward, reaching, as though in prayer. When we waved, she would give her characteristic double-handed wave in return, a cross between a communicative gesture and an exuberant attempt at taking flight, raising both hands high and then batting them down on the duvet on either side. Then she would turn to look at the figure reflected, confirming it against its image. She understood something about the mechanics of reflection, that what you see in the mirror is not just an extension of the world but a special version of it. She was far from having a full understanding of it, but the looking-glass world was becoming real.You can read Angelique Richardson's letter here.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Doddy and Daddy
Angelique Richardson has also responded to Alison Gopnik's TLS review, mentioned in a previous post. She draws our attention to 'one fine child psychologist', Charles Darwin, quoting from his 1873 work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Darwin was indeed a pioneer of infant observation, which was most memorably documented in his short article 'A biographical sketch of an infant', published in 1877. The subject of the article was Darwin's infant son Doddy (properly William), who was born in 1839. The piece contains many rich observations, but of most interest to me were Darwin's comments on Doddy's reaction to his reflection in a looking glass. Doddy's mirror reactions were first observed at four and a half months, at which stage he seemed to take his own reflection as the image of another being, a Doddy double. Later, he began to make the connection between the reflection and the person who was being mirrored. In The Baby in the Mirror, I describe how Darwin's observations inspired some of my own: