Starting from Scratch: The Origin and Development of Expression, Representation and Symbolism in Human and Non-Human Primates

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This book compares the beginning of symbolic thought in human infancy with that of our close primate relatives, the chimpanzees. The author investigates the precursors of symbolism by studying the actions and interactions of a small group of these intelligent, non-human primates who live in Singapore Zoo.

Drawing upon his years of detailed observations, Matthews offers an in-depth analysis and interpretation of chimp behaviour to present an unprecedented account of the beginnings of symbolic thought. The book shows that the actions the chimpanzees perform have structural and semantic similarities with the actions of emergent expression and representation we find in human infancy. Of great importance is the finding that chimpanzee mark-making activity is not an artefact of human interference, but part of chimpanzee culture. Young chimpanzees seem to be introduced to acts of pretence and imagination by older and more experienced ones and taught the rudiments of expression, representation and symbolism.

The implications for our understanding of symbolism, language, art and education are enormous, as are those about our origins and our place within nature. The book is written in an accessible style for both specialist and non-specialist readers, and illustrated with the author’s drawings and photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book’s value ... lies in the author’s ability to provide a starting point for provocative thinking about how expressions, representation, and symbolism may have emerged in humans and non-human primates in relation to artistic development." - Michael J. Beran and Lisa A. Heimbauer, Georgia State University Language Research Center, USA, in PsycCRITIQUES

"Meticulously scholarly. He shares his thought processes with the reader, explaining why he does things, how, and his observations would please Darwin, Piaget, all the greats! Each time I try to put the book down, the next section beckons and looks interesting." - Tina Bruce, Honorary Visiting Professor of Early Childhood Studies, Roehampton University, UK

"Starting from Scratch is not your typical psychology text. It combines careful observation with an interpretative lens that is seldom encountered in scientific work. Professor Matthews' work supplements and extends previous studies and provides a valuable database on chimpanzees' representational capabilities." - Kerry Lee, Associate Professor, Applied Cognitive Development Lab, National Institute of Education, Singapore

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781841696898
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 12/26/2010
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Matthews is an artist and educator. He has taught all age groups from nursery children to University level, at institutions including Goldsmiths Art School and Goldsmiths Faculty of Education at the University of London, and the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His main research area has been early symbolism in very young children; more recently he has become involved in studying the precursors of symbolic thought in non-human primates.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Expression, representation and symbolism in primates 2. Genesis 3. Spontaneously generated expressive structure 4. Structural principles: Modification, variation and extension of first generation actions 5. The meaning of the moving hand 6. Directions and locations 7. The end of the line 8. Repetition and variation upon a structural theme 9. The giving of meaning 10. Sentences in the sky 11. Point of arrival and moment of impact 12. Helping hands 13. Shape, form and symmetry 14. Empathy and imagination 15. Dialogue 16. Dynamic structure 17. Continuous rotation 18. In a spin: The development of the rotation 19. Bottoms-up: Script-violation 20. Rotation around an axis 21. Rhythmn 22. A new kind of desire 23. Structure 24. The image 25. Shapes of things to come 26. The dynamic knot 27. Drawing and writing 28. Description 29. The scratch 30. Agon 31. Dying slave 32. Sack-cloth and ashes 33. Ida draws Conclusion

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