Vygotsky (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Table of contents

  • Introduction (Michael Cole and Sylvia Scribner), 1
  • Biographical Note on L. S. Vygotsky, 15
  • Basic Theory and Data
    • 1. Tool and Symbol in Child Development, 19
    • 2. The Development of Perception and Attention, 31
    • 3. Mastery of Memory and Thinking, 38
    • 4. Internalization of Higher Psychological Functions, 52
    • 5. Problems of Method, 58
  • Educational Implications
    • 6. Interaction between Learning and Development, 79
    • 7. The Role of Play in Development, 92
    • 8. The Prehistory of Written Language, 105
  • Afterword (Vera John-Steiner and Ellen Souberman), 121
  • Notes, 135
  • Vygotsky’s Works, 141

Chapter 1 “Tool and Symbol in Child Development” (pp 19-30)

[Discussion about how language development and practical intelligence were seen as developing separately, for example, Piaget identified egocentric speech as though there was no organizing function of the language activity (p 23-24).]

[Apes and people with aphasia …]

“Guillaume and Meyerson offer a different conclusion regarding the role of speech in the inception of uniquely human forms of behavior. From their extremely interesting experiments on tool use among apes, they concluded that the methods used by apes to accomplish a given task are similar in principle and coincide on certain essential points to those used by people suffering from aphasia (that is, individuals who are deprived of speech). Their findings support my assumption that speech plays an essential role in the organization of higher psychological functions.” (p 22-23)

“Our analysis accords symbolic activity a specific organizing function that penetrates the process of tool use and produces fundamentally new forms of behavior.” (p 24)

“… the most significant moment in the course of intellectual development, which gives birth to the purely human forms of practical and abstract intelligence, occurs when speech and practical activity, two previously completely independent lines of development, converge.” (p 24)

[V. describes how language is used to form complex processes, different from direct manipulation as evidenced in apes (p 26)]

[Young children name their drawing after it’s completed. Later, the child describes what they will draw. (p 28)]

“… the planning function of speech comes into being in addition to the already existing function of language to reflect the external world.” (p 28)

[Reference to social speech… ]

“The path from object to child and from child to object passes through another person.” (p 30)

Chapter 2 “The Development of Attention and Perception” (pp 31-37)

[Description of how human perception can identify categorized object, such as a round object with two metal strips would be identified as a clock. (p 33) oki: Wondering how this relates to Gestalt theory?]

“… perception of real objects.” (p 33)

Chapter 3: “Mastery of Memory and Thinking” (pp 38-51)

[Discussions of how memory is remembering in young children, but thinking in adults; making connections, seeing relationships in complex abstractions.]

“It may be said that the basic characteristic of human behavior in general is that humans personally influence their relations with the environment and through that environment personally change their behavior, subjugating it to their control.” (p 51)

Chapter 4: “Internalization of Higher Psychological Functions” (pp 52-57)

[Discussion about mediated activities, tools, signs …]

“The tool’s function is to serve as the conductor of human  influence on the object of activity; it is externally oriented; it must lead to changes in objects. … The sign, on the other hand, changes nothing in the object of a psychological operation.  It is a means of internal activity aimed at mastering oneself; the sign is internally oriented.  These activities are so different from each other that the nature of the means they use cannot be the same in both cases.” (p 55)

[Pointing as an action that came about from unsuccessful grasping of an object out of reach. ]

“… the process of internalization consists of a series of transformations: a) An operation that initially represents an external activity is reconstructed and begins to occur internally. … b) An interpersonal process is transformed into an intrapersonal process. … c) The transformation of an interpersonal process into an intrapersonal one is the result of a long series of developmental events.” (p 56-57)

Chapter 5: “Problems of Method” (pp 58-75)

[Giving example of a whale looking like a fish but having origins that resembles that of mammals, and recognizing this distinction in the study of language development.]

“… external features (phenotypes) … [genotype] is explained on the basis of its origin rather than its outer appearance.” (p 62)

[Development defined …]

“… a complex dialectical process characterized by periodicity, unevenness in the development of different functions, metamorphosis or qualitative transformation of one form into another, intertwining of external and internal factors, and adaptive processes …” (p 73)

“Although stimulus-response methodology makes it extremely easy to ascertain subjects’ responses, it proves useless when our objective is to discover the means and methods that subjects use to organize their own behavior.” (p 74)

Chapter 6: “Interaction between Learning and Development” (pp 79-91)

[Introduction and discussion of the “zone of proximal development.”]

“… what children can do with the assistance of others might be in some sense even more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone.” (p 85)

“This difference between twelve and eight [years of age], or between nine and eight, is what we call the zone of proximal development. It is the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.” (p 86)

“The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation … The actual development level characterizes mental development retrospectively, while the zone of proximal development characterizes mental development prospectively.” (p 86-87)

“… human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.” (p 88)

Chapter 7: “The Role of Play in Development” (pp 92-104)

[Imagination, rules of behaviour, object/meaning, signs, action/meaning, inverting the ratios of object/meaning or action/meaning, …]

“… every game with rules contains an imaginary situation in a concealed form. The development from games with an overt imaginary situation and covert rules to games with overt rules and a covert imaginary situation outlines the evolution of children’s play.” (p 96)

Chapter 8: “The Prehistory of Written Language” (pp 105-120)

[Discussion about development of written language abilities in children, from speech to symbols.]

“… written language consists of a system of signs that designate the sounds and words of spoken language, which, in turn, are signs for real entities and relations. Gradually this intermediate link, spoken language, disappears, and written language is converted into a system of signs that directly symbolize the entities and relations between them.” (p 106)

“It is easy to see that the written signs are entirely first-order symbols at this point, directly denoting objects or actions, and the child has yet to reach second-order symbolism, which involves the creation of written signs for the spoken symbols of words.” (p 115)

“As second-order symbols, written symbols function as designations for verbal ones.” (p 116)

Afterword (Vera John-Steiner and Ellen Souberman) (pp 121-133)

“Perhaps the most distinguishing theme of Vygotsky’s writings, is his emphasis on the unique qualities of our species, how as human beings we actively realize and change ourselves in the varied contexts of culture and history.” (p 131)

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