5th Int. Conference on Human Ethology
Tutzing, W-Germany, 27 - 31 July 1986

Hands: Pacemakers of Human Cognition?

A. Abstract of originally intended lecture

An earlier paper "On Concepts of "Cognition" in Biology", 2nd workshop of the ESSCS, Cambridge 1984, tried to show that only hominids develop an additional cognitive quality,"Eigen-quality". By visual feedback of hand movements (an effect of permanent bipedality), a neurocybernetic loop is closed.

In the present paper some further implications are hypothetically drawn on psychological processes during hominization, finally leading to self-recognition: hands, being environmental objects and parts of the subject at the same time, serve as "pacemakers". The rest of the body, tools, artifacts, everything handled is endowed with Eigenquality and helps constructing a self-related environment. Watching conspecifics and behavior of the own shadow may lead to the experience of a "whole-self", recognized (truly reflective!) in a mirror.

Evidence in support of the hypotheses is presented from facts in developmental psychology.

B. Text of Poster presented:

1. Vertebrate forelimbs acquired a complex sensorimotor apparatus by
    changing their role in locomotion during phylogeny:
    a) as fish fins: stabilizing, steering
    b) as tetrapode legs: pulling, pushing, propping
    c) as primate arms: hanging, reaching

2. Arboreal living conditions brought additional sensorimotor complexity,
    the "eye-hand-complex":
    a) Visual control of arm and hand movements together with
    b) stereoscopic vision enabled reaching and
    c) manipulation

3. Permanent bipedality liberated hands and their sensorimotor apparatus
    from locomotor functions - manipulation becomes "overcontrolled"
    ? "Eigen"quality of self-monitored, (reafferently) self-controlled,
self-generated movements
    ? self-consciousness

4. Humanization in this neurocybernetic view: a process of construction
    of an "Eigen-world", beginning in the domain of prehension
    (tools as "Eigen-objects") and extending into the
    a) social domain: conspecifics behave Eigen-like by empathy
    b) ego-domain: Eigen-arms, Eigen-legs, Eigen-trunk, Eigen-shadow,
    Eigen-face in a mirror ...

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