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 Coherence of Temporal Structure
Juan Carlos Garelli

Time provides an organizing structure that helps identify different entities. The many behaviours invariably performed by a person share a common temporal structure, which has been labelled self-synchrony which refers to the fact that separate parts of the body such as limbs, torso, and face, move together sychronously to a split second, whereby I mean that starts, stops and changes in direction or speed in a muscle group occur synchronously with starts, stops and changes in other muscle groups, be they agonistic or antagonistic.

Furthermore, these changes in movement occur simultaneously with natural speech at the phonemic output (Chomsky, 1975), such that the temporal structure of self-sychronous behaviour is like an orchestra, in which the body is the conductor and the voice the music.

Try to pat your head, rub your belly, and count at the same time, and you will experiment that violating temporal coherence is attainable at the cost of a great deal of effort and concentration.

All the stimuli, be they auditory, visual, tactile or propioceptive emanating from the self share a common time structure.

Now this ability to amalgamate oneís own senses temporally overlaps with the ability to discern them from the perception of similarities and differences in what is seen and heard in another person. Such a capacity seems to be hereditary in nature and can be observed very early in life.

Spelke (1984) has reported that infants are responsive to temporal congruity between auditory and visual stimuli, matching events synchronously across sensory modalities: amodally. She presented four-month-olds with two animated cartoon videos played back side by side, placing the sound track midway between the two TV monitors. The infants could tell which video was synchronous with the sound track, thereby preferring to watch the sound-synchronous film. Infants invariably display the ability to grasp synchrony across perceptive modes, no matter whether they are both visual, visual and auditory, propioceptice and auditory (as in the case of rhythm and dance) (Lawson 1990).

Our own studies have shown that infants as young as two months old will notice a discrepancy of about 40 milliseconds between sight and sound that are expected to be paired, such as in lip reading (Garelli 1990).

It follows that infants act as though two events sharing the same temporal structure belong together. Naturalistically, the stimuli provided by human behaviour which share a common temporal structure belong to an entity that is distinct by virtue of its unique temporal organization. Moreover, we have carried out prospective observations that extend these findings to the propioceptive senses. Propioceptive perception is not underscored in an audiovisual society as the one we live in. However, musicians and ballet dancers generally are better furnished to become aware of their propiocetive perceptual world. Just as infants, who have no idea of the extension of human capacity to modify the environment, and who inhabit a sensory world in which perception is integrated, as opposed to the split sensory world of adults. Infants recognize the patterns of sound, sights, touches, bodily sensations emanating from posture and movement, from striped musculature from their own and are able to match sound with movement and with bodily sensations. Hence the deep nature of rhythm and sensory wholeness.

Finally, we have studied the interactions that take place between infant and mother, particularly during the first year of life, and have set up followup programmes to check out whether observable interference by motherís own temporal structure not being attuned to the childís rhythm during any kinf of daily interchange, such as playing, feeding, bathing, cuddling, following, crying, calling, smiling, and so on, might distort the childís image of mother or self. We have found strong correlations between attuned mothers who communicate with the infant via all these channels as a whole, and mothers who are absent-minded and permanently interfere with temporal structure: they donít keep the beat, albeit the child makes ostensible efforts to bring mother down to earth, some mothers are unable to follow the childís rhythm and sing another song or introduce noise into the relationship.



Chomsky, Noam (1969), Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. The M.I.T. Press

Garelli, Juan Carlos (1990) Mother-infant rhythmical sensory attunements. Infant Psychology, 3, 2, 105-135.

Lawson, K. R. (1990), Spatial and temporal congruity and auditory-visual integration in infants. Developmental Psychology, 16, 185-192.

Spelke, E. S. (1984) The development of intermodal perception. In L.B. Cohen (De.), Handbook of infant perception, New York: The Academic Press.

Stern, Daniel, (1985). The Interpersonal World of the Infant. New York: Basic Books