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(Vygotsky) The Genesis of Higher Mental Functions

(Vygotsky) The Genesis of Higher Mental Functions

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145
he
Genesis
of
lilgher
Mental
Functionsthem
a
majorplace
in
genetic
explanation.
The
most
important
of
these
qualitativeshifts
in
ontogenesis
is
concerned
withthe
introduction
of
cultural
means
of
media
tion
into
what
wereformerly
"natural"
processes.
The
use
of
cultural
sign
systems
plays
an
especiallyimportantrole
in
this
qualitativeshift.Theintroduction
of
these
sign
systems
into
the
child's
functioning
in
areas
such
as
memory
and
problem
solvingchanges
the
nature
of
these
processes
ina
funda
mental
way.
There
are
a
massivedisruption
anda
restructuring
of
the
child'smental
processesat
this
point.
There
may
evenbe
a
temporary
decrease
in
the
level
of
functioning;but
after
the
psychological
processes
have
been
restructured
as
a
result
of
acquiring
sign
systems,
the
process
(e.g.,
memory)becomesmuch
more
powerful
in
the
culturalmilieu
inwhich
it
will
be
called
upon
to
operate.
In
what
we
have
coveredso
far
there
are
two
ways
inwhichthe
ideasexpressed
inthe
present
work
aredirect
reflections
of
Marx's
ideas.
First,
Vygotsky
stressed
thatthe
explanation
ofa
phenomenon
in
social
and
psychological
realms
must
rest
on
an
analysis
of
its
origins
and
development.
Justas
Marx
arguedthat
an
analysis
of
society
must
be
based
ona
knowledge
of
the
socioeconomic
history
of
that
society.
V y ~ o t s k y
claimed
that
an
analysis
of
an
individual's
mental
processes
must
be
based
ona
knowledge
of
the
earlier
stages
throughwhich
he/shehas
gone.
Second,
Marx
emphasizedthat
although
a
societymay
develop
over
long
periods
of
time
by
making
quantitative
increments(e.g.,from
an
earlier
form
of
capitalism
to
a
later
one),fundamental
qualitative
shiftswilloccasionally
take
place
and
will
restructure
the
entire
society.
These
revolutions
are
a
necessary
am
importantaspect
of
history.
Inthe
present
paper
Vygotsky
uses
the
notionof
revolution
in
his
argumentagainsttheories
of
childdevelopmentthat
view
ontogenesis
as
.a
steady
stream
of
quantitative
increments
in
mental
functioning.Per.haps
the
mostinterestingargument
Vygotsky
makes
in
thispaper
(andin
the
paper
on
voluntary
attention)
isconcerned
withthe
social
foundations
of
cognition.
As
notedinthe
intro
duc
lion
to
thisvolume,this
is
oneofthe
key
ideas
inthe
theory
144
I
I
______
--------'.1.-------------------
.....
-<
From
L.S.
Vygotsky.
Razvitie
vysshikh
psikhicheskikh
funktsii
[The
development
of
highermentalfunctions].Mos
cow.
1960.Pp.
182-223.
1:<1ilo(,
IlIlrodl/("(/1I1/
Here
Vygotsky
covers
several
of
his
majorthemes,
including
geneticexplanation,
the
social
origins
of
cognition,
internalization,
andthe
role
of
sign
systems
in
mediating
humanthinking.
As
noted
previously,
these
themes
have
come
to
playan
i m p o r t ~ n t
role
inthe
theory
of
activity.
Vygotsky
beginsthis
paper
with
an
analysis
ofthe
nature
of
geneticexplanation.
He
takes
into
accountboth
historical
and
ontogenetic
forms
of
development
and
argues
thatanunderstanding
of
mentalphenomenamust
be
based
on
anunderstand
ing
of
theirorigins
and
evolution.
He
devotes
several
pages
to
analyzing
the
very
notion
of
development,
since
hethought
thatmany
psychologists
had
falseideasabout
its
nature.Specifically,
he
criticizes
analyticapproachesbased
onthe
pre
formism
he
sawunderlying
much
ofthe
thinking
in
develop
mental
psychology.
He
also
rejects
the
notion
that
the
ontogenesis
of
higher
mental
functions
consists
simply
ofa
steady
process
of
quantitative
increments
inthe
child's
knowledge;in
contrast
to
this.
he
claims
that
sudden,
qualitative,
..
revohrtionary"
shifts
play
an
important
role.
He
argues
that
rather
than
try
to
ignorethese
qualitative
shifts
in
development
-
as
if
they
were
disruptions
in
the
otherwisesmooth
progression
that
constitutes
development
-the
investigator
should
giveTHEGENESIS
OF
HIGHER
MENTAL
FUNC
nONS
L.S.
Vygotsky
 
,
[he
Genesis
of
Higher
Mental
Functions
147
of
activity.
Vygotsky
proposed
that
higher
psychological
pro
cessescarried
out
by
individuals
are
directreflections
of
social
processes
inwhichtheindividual
participated
at
an
earlier
stage
of
ontogenesis.
Inthe
terms
ofthe
present
paper,
highermentalfunctions
are
first
carried
outonthe
"interpsychologi
cal"
plane
andonly
later
onthe
"intrapsychological"
plane.
Of
central
concern
are
the
socialprocesses
used
byone
party
to
controlanother
in
social
interaction
and
how
theseregulative
processes
are
taken
over
bytheindividual
child,
allowing
him/
her
tofunction
as
anindependentcognitive
agent.
As
Vygotsky
puts
,it,
".
.
. M \ ~ . " @ ~ h M i s m - n n d e r l y i n g
higher-mentaL
'{'\!)JlI'9IlieRlStl
is
l
copyfrom
social
interaction.
Al!'l'dtiaber,menl
al
lun,
elias
_lnt
ernali:<ed
social
relationships."
.,
\-7ygotsky's
interpretationhere
of
higher
mental
functlons
10
'terms
of
control
or
regulationhas
muchin
common
withwhat
has
recently
been
studied
inthe
West
under
headingssuch
as
"executiveroutine
,"
"metacognition
,"
etc.However,Western
investigators
have
usuallylimitedtheir
attention
tothefunctioningof
the
individualonce
hel
she
has
begunto
operate
as
anindependent
cognitive
agent.
Theyhavenot
examined
the
social
origins(at
the
interpsychological
level)of
these
cognitive
pro
cesses.
Thus,
a
major
point
that
distinguishesVygotsky'sapproachfrom
manyofthoseinthe
West
is
his
emphasis
on
thenotionthatthe
structure
of
processes
onthe
intrapsychological
plane
is
a
reflection
of
the
way
processes
are
carried
outonthe
interpsychologicalplane.
An
importantpoint
tonoteaboutVygotsky's
ideas
onthe
social
origins
of
cognition
is
that
itisat
this
point
that
he
uses
thenotionof
internalization.
He
is
not
simply
claimingthatsocialinteraction
leads
to
the
development
ofthe
child's
abili
ties
in
problemsolving.
memory,
etc.:
rather,
he
is
sayingthat
the
very
means
(especially
speech)used
in
social
interaction
are
taken
over
by
the
individualchild
and
internalized.Thus,
Vygotsky
is
making
a
very
strong
statement
here
about
inter
nalizationandthe
social
foundations
ofcognition.In
summary.
in
lerms
ofthe
features
of
the
theory
of
activity,
we
can
see
thatamong
otherthings,
Vygotsky
is
concerned
in
0'
146
L.
S.Vygotsky
thispaper
withhowone
mustuse
a
genetic
analysis
to
under
stand
how
higher
mental
functions
are
themediated,
internal
ized
result
of
socialinteraction.'
J.V.W,
The
third
aspect
of
our
investigation
is
mostcloselycon
~ c e r n e d
with
ourhistorical
wayof
viewing
higher
forms
ofbe
havior.
The
analysis
of
higher
mental
processes
aidsus
in
~ ' u n d e r s t a n d i n g
fundamental
problems
of
the
child'scultural
de
velopment.
It
allows
us
to
analyzethe
genesis
of
higherbehavioralforms,
Le.,
the
mental
forms
that
constitutetheobject
of
our
study.
According
to
Hall,
psychology
produces
a
geneticexplanation
ofa
higherform
oflogic:
it
is
concerned
withthe
question
of
where
agiven
phenomenon
is
goingand
from
whence
it
came.
It
isalso
concerned
withthe
results
of
future
transformations.For
the
developmentalpsychologist
the
historicalform
of
explanation
is
the
highestpossible.
In
order
to
answer
thequestion
ofwhata
form
of
behavior
represents,
hel
she
finds
it
necessary
to
discoverits
origin
and
the
history
of
its
development
up
tothe
present.
InBlonsky1s
words,
behavior
can
be
understood
only
as
the
history
of
behavior.
Butbeforeturning
tothe
genesis
of
higherforms
of
behavior,
we
must
elucidate
the
very
concept
of
development,
as
wehavedoneinthe
chapters
[of
our
bookjon
the
analysis
and
structure
of
highermental
processes.
Thefact
is
that
because
of
the
crisis
in
psychology,
all
concepts
have
become
meaningless
and
vague.They
change
dependingon
the
investigator'spoint
ofview.In
different
systems
of
psychologybased
on
different
methodological
principles,all
the
fundamental
categories
of
research,
including
that
of
genesis,acquire
differentmeanings.
A
second
consideration
that
compelsus
tolook
at
the
genetic
problem
is
that
contemporary
psych010gists
havenot
yet
come
to
appreciate
the
unique
nature
ofthe
development
ofthehigher
forms
of
behaviorthat
are
the
object
of
our
research.
The
child's
cultural
development,
as
we
have
already
tried
to
estab
lish,
represents
a
completely
new
level
of
development,
which
,,'
,'.
,
,,
I,.t
L{
..;
'·.L
'.
'''('1,-
l
."
1
I:':.
,'.
t",
~ . ~
-;'
.
."••••
'.
:
••••••
',
,
~ r
.
""'1,
.:
('
'1
.....
::'
.:'
~
I
.'
....
~ ! V
~
,
" . ~ ~
r
{
....
~
~ ~
.w;,.
 
148
L.S.Vygotsky
The
Genesis
of
HigherMental
Functions
149
not
only
is
insufficiently
studiedbut
is
usuallynot
even
distin
gUishedin
child
psychology.
If
we
turn
od-
trn
psychology,
we
see
that
ms
fhat
must
be
OVercome.
The
first
such
problem,
a
regrettab
e
vestige
of
prescienllfic
thoughtin
psychology,
is
latent,
__
.pr
Ie
theory
of
child
d e v e l o p m e n ~
Old
ideas
and
mistaken
theories
that
disappear
fromscience
leave
traces
and
remnants
inthe
habits
ofthought.
In
spite
of
the
fact
that
welong
ago
rejected
the
view
thatchildren
are
distinguishedfromadults
only
by
the
proportions
of
their
bodies
-in
scale
and
size
-
this
ideacontinues
to
exist
in
subtleform
in
childpsychology.
No
essay
in
this
field
can
now
openly
repeat
the
long-rejected
falsehood
that
the
child
is
an
adult
in
miniature,
but
this
view
is
nevertheless
retained
to
this
day
inhidden
form
in
almost
everypsychological
investigation.
It
is
sufficient
to
say
thatthe
most
important
aspects
ofchild
psychology,
such
as
studyof
memory,
attention,
and
thought,
are,
in
our
estimation,
only
beginning
to
escape
from
this
deadendandto
recognize
the
process
of
psychological
development
in
all
its
real
complexity.
But
inthe
vastmajority
of
cases,
scientific
research
latently
continues
to
maintain
aview
that
would
explain
the
child's
development
in
purely
quantitative
terms.
Sucha
viewwasonce
adhered
toin
embryology.
A
theorybased
on
this
view
is
called
"preformism"or
a
"theory
of
pre
formation."Its
essenceconsists
ofthe
doctrine
that
the
em
bryo
contains
an
organism
thatis
completelyfinished
and
formed
in
advance.
The
onlyd
iIference
isthat
it
is
ofa
smaller
size.For
example.
J.ccording
to
thistheory,
the
entire
oak
tree
with
itsroots,
trunk,
and
branchesis
contained
in
the
acorn,
the
only
differencebeing
that
it
is
anoak
in
miniature.
With
regard
to
humans,
it
is
assumed
that
the
fully
formed
human
organism,
ina
much
smaller
form,
is
contained
in
thehuman
seed.Fromtnis
point
of
view,the
whole
developmental
process
can
be
represented
very
simply:it
consists
purely
ofa
quanti
tative
increase
inthe
size
of
what
exists
from
the
very
begin-
ninginthe
embryo.
The
embryograduallygrows
andin
this
manner
is
converted
into
a
matureorganism.This
point
ofview
was
abandonedlongago
in
embryology,
and
is
ofonly
his
toricalinterest.
Meanwhile,
in
psychology
it
c o ~ t i n u e s
to
exist
in
practice
despite
the
factthat
in
theory
it
was
long
agoabandoned
in
thisdiscipline
as
well.
From
a
theoreticalstandpoint,
psychology
longago
gave
up
the
idea.
that
the
child's
development
is
a
purely
quantitative
process.
Everyone
agrees
that
the
processis
much
more
com.
plex,
and
is
not
confinedto
quantitative
changes
alone.But
in
practice
psychology
still
has
not
discovered
the
complex
pro
cess
of
development
in
allitsreal
fullness
and
has
notidentified
all
the
qualitativechanges
and
conversions
involved
inthe
child's
development.
Claparede
is
quite
correct
whenhe
says
in
hispreface
to
Piaget'sresearch
thatthe
problem
ofthe
child's
thought
isusuallyposed
in
purelyquantitative
terms
in
psychology
and
that
onlynewworkw'ill
permit
us
to
redefine
it
as
a
qualitativeproblem.
He
points
out
that
formeranalyses
oCthe
child's
in
tellectual.developmentusuallyrelied
on
several
additions
and
subtractions.
the
growth
ofnew
experience,
and
liberation
from
some
mistakes.
Modern
investigations
reveal
to'
usthat
the
very
nature
ofthe
child's
intellectgraduallychanges.
If
wewantedto
characterize
inone
general
principle
the
basicre,quirement
the
problem
of
development
poses
for
mod
ernresearch,
wewould
say
thatthis
reqUirement
is
that
one
must
stUdythe
positive
aspects
ofthe
child's
behavior.This
notion
is
in
need
of
somefurtherclarification.
Up
to
the
present,all
thepsychological
methods
applied
to
the
investigation
ofthe
normal
and
abnormal
child's
behaviordespite
all
the
great
variation
and
differences
that
exist
a m o n ~
them,
haveone
feature
in
common:
negative
characterization
of
the
child.
All
of
thesemethodstellusabout
what
the
child
does
nothave
or
what
is
lacking
inthe
child
compared
withthe
adult.Inthe
abnormalchildthesedeficiencies
are
specified
in
terms
ofthe
normalchild.
We
are
always
confronted
witha
negativepicture
ofthe
child.
Thisdoes
not
tellus
anything

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