On being moved in thought and feeling. An approach to autism

Hobson, R Peter (2007) On being moved in thought and feeling. An approach to autism. In: New developments in autism. An approach to autism. Jessica Kingsley, London, pp. 139-154. ISBN 978-1-84310-449-0

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I can explain the title of this chapter, 'On being moved in thought and feeling: An approach to autism', because I want to approach the question 'What is autism?' from a fresh starting-point, one that encompasses a particular view of typical development. The view is that early interpersonal experience is critically important for the acquisition of cognitive as well as social abilities. On the other side to this coin is a thesis about what makes autism 'autism'. The thesis is closely allied to Kanner's (1943) suggestion that the children have 'inborn disturbances of affective contact'. The story is one that focuses both on what individual children lack by way of the necessary equipment to achieve fully-fledged intersubjective engagement with others, and what follows by way of interference with the kinds of interpersonal process that normally promote flexibility in children's thinking and attitudes. The central idea is that being moved by others--and here I am talking about movement in subjective orientation, especially as these involve feelings and attitudes--is one of the most significant features of human social life. It is foundational for experiencing people as people with their own subjective orientations to the world, for evolving forms of self-other awareness, for the construction of increasingly sophisticated concepts about the mind ('theory of mind'), for self-reflection and aspects of executive functioning, and for the kinds of symbolic functioning and flexible stance in relation to the world that contribute so much to human creativity in thinking and action. Of course it will not be possible for me to argue for each and every one of these claims. I have tried to do so in two books (Hobson 1993, 2002), of which the most recent (The Cradle of Thought) is intended to be reader-friendly to a wide audience. What I shall try to do in this contribution is to illustrate what I mean by 'being moved'. I shall do this by citing specific studies, mainly but not exclusively conducted in the Developmental Psychopathology Research Unit, Tavistock Clinic and University College London. En route, I shall offer some reflections on the implications of the findings for our notion of what is 'basic' to autism.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Communication (incl. disorders of) > Autism
Department/People: Special Units
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/106

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