Monday, November 30, 2009

Shared Intentionality

Yesterday, I wrote about being civilized - a process that involves rules of conduct in order for the individual to think of others as well as his- or herself. Tomorrow's NY Times (print edition) will feature this article about a study by Dr. Michael Tomasello. He has written a book called Why We Cooperate, which explores the roots of getting-along behavior. The article takes a look at how it arises in children. Tomasello believes that the willingness to help others comes about naturally (i.e., is innate). This is contrary to the beliefs of many scholars who believe that cultural influences (whose rules I mentioned below) shape a child's behavior, and basically minimize the likelihood that he'll be a two-year-old (=me-me-me) forever.
The essence of this helping behavior is what he calls "shared intentionality," or the development of group think ("me to we," as social activist Craig Keilburger has called it).
Interesting work - and let's hope more such findings emerge as further food for thought.

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