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Between Terror and Trust: Patterns of Parent-Infant Communication in Play
Unformatted Document Text:  effective strategy for acquiring important skills in a safe environment where mistakes do not cause the loss of life, consider the challenge faced by the air force in training recruits. Fighter jets are very expensive and hard to navigate. It would be too dangerous and costly for the army to train pilots directly on the jets. It is imperative that pilots actually succeed on their very first attempt -- a seemingly intractable problem paralleling that faced by young animals stalked by predators. For this reason, new pilots are trained in simulators, which is to say in a technologically enhanced form of pretend play, where they can experience a broad range of situations involved in flying a fighter jet and thus have a chance to practice and train the necessary skills without having to risk their lives. If they make an error during this simulation training, nothing is lost; the pilot’s life is safe and the jet undamaged. Practicing important skills in simulation is a very powerful technique for success. Yet if scary games, such as chase play, serve to arouse a response in the infant that to a degree of approximation simulates an encounter with a real predator, the games we will be focusing on in our presentation are not themselves credible candidates for predator evasion training. Games such as peek-a-boo, finger-eating, and monster-faces do not in themselves enact what in an actual encounter with a predator would be sensible behavior. It is not a good idea, for instance, to stick your finger into the wolf's mouth, yet in play, this is precisely what we observe children do with their pretend-scary fathers. Our focus is therefore the paradoxical nature, within this broad theoretical framework, of this specific class of communicational transactions. The proposal we make in this talk is that these games serve the function of scaffolding a series of complex cognitive and emotional skills relating to the management

Authors: Kyas, Jirina. and Steen, Francis.
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effective strategy for acquiring important skills in a safe environment where mistakes do
not cause the loss of life, consider the challenge faced by the air force in training recruits.
Fighter jets are very expensive and hard to navigate. It would be too dangerous and
costly for the army to train pilots directly on the jets. It is imperative that pilots actually
succeed on their very first attempt -- a seemingly intractable problem paralleling that
faced by young animals stalked by predators. For this reason, new pilots are trained in
simulators, which is to say in a technologically enhanced form of pretend play, where
they can experience a broad range of situations involved in flying a fighter jet and thus
have a chance to practice and train the necessary skills without having to risk their lives.
If they make an error during this simulation training, nothing is lost; the pilot’s life is safe
and the jet undamaged. Practicing important skills in simulation is a very powerful
technique for success.
Yet if scary games, such as chase play, serve to arouse a response in the infant
that to a degree of approximation simulates an encounter with a real predator, the games
we will be focusing on in our presentation are not themselves credible candidates for
predator evasion training. Games such as peek-a-boo, finger-eating, and monster-faces do
not in themselves enact what in an actual encounter with a predator would be sensible
behavior. It is not a good idea, for instance, to stick your finger into the wolf's mouth, yet
in play, this is precisely what we observe children do with their pretend-scary fathers.
Our focus is therefore the paradoxical nature, within this broad theoretical framework, of
this specific class of communicational transactions.
The proposal we make in this talk is that these games serve the function of
scaffolding a series of complex cognitive and emotional skills relating to the management


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