mirror stage

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The stage of childhood development in which the ego is formed according to Jacques Lacan's psychoanalysis. His theory is based on the so-called ‘mirror test’ conducted by his friend, the psychologist Henri Wallon, who compared the reactions to a mirror of 6-month-old human babies with similar aged chimpanzees. What was noteworthy about the experiment to Wallon, and hence Lacan, was the fact that the chimpanzees showed only limited interest in their reflection, whereas the human babies were utterly fascinated. Lacan concluded from this that the human babies had misrecognized the image in the mirror as their actual selves. For the first time in their lives, the babies obtained an image of themselves as a whole (thus creating in them the narcissistic sense that before that moment their body was fragmented); by the same token, the babies see that their body is distinct from both their environment and the body of others. In this way, too, the subject is alienated from itself. It introduces the subject into the imaginary order.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies — Social Sciences.

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