James L. Yu

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Eva Simms

Committee Member

Paul Richer

Committee Member

Connie Fischer


Dualism, Embodiment, Human-Science, Infant Research, Intelligence, Phenomenology


This project challenges the dualistic conceptions in infant research literature by reexamining a collection of infant research records from a phenomenological, non-dualistic perspective. Grounded in the recent convergences between phenomenology and cognitive sciences, this project utilizes a combined phenomenological-hermeneutic method. This model of analysis is applied to three major areas in infant research: physical knowledge, memory-based learning, and social behaviors. The primary pool of data is drawn from written research records from both primary and secondary sources. To reinterpret empirical findings the analysis includes a systematic reexamination of the ontological presuppositions of infant researchers/scholars, and a reflective, experience-near approach. The author attempts to deconstruct reified concepts and concretize theoretical abstractions that have been used to describe and interpret experimental observations reported in the literature. Accordingly, the conceptual framework of this project is founded on several phenomenological notions that seek to transcend dualism: phenomenal world, lived-body, and intersubjectivity.

The first part of investigation demonstrated that subject-object dualism has had a major impact on contemporary conceptions of infants' object/physical knowledge. In turn, it was shown that a unified subject-object view of perception can allow for a non-conceptual perspective on the infant's understanding of the physical world; specifically, the permanence of objects and other physical principles are abstract descriptions of what are already implicit in the infant's lived-world. Second, the lasting influence of mind-body dualism was revealed through a critical re-reading of the research studies concerning memory-based learning behaviors. Based on the idea of intelligent action without representation, several experimental studies were reinterpreted in order to capture the immediacy of infants' coping behaviors. Lastly, the prevalence of the self-other ontological separation in the research literature was shown through a systematic reexamination of the research on infants' facial perception, imitation, and social intentionality. In addition, it was demonstrated that the rationale underlying the thesis of a "discriminatory consciousness" and self-and/or-other representations can be effectively deconstructed through a phenomenological re-reading of some of this supporting empirical evidence.