Cultural-historical psychology

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Cultural-historical psychology is a branch of psychological theory and practice associated with Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria and their Circle, who initiated it in the mid-1920s-1930s.[1] The phrase "cultural-historical psychology" never occurs in the writings of Vygotsky, and was subsequently ascribed to him by his critics and followers alike, yet it is under this title that this intellectual movement is now widely known.[2] The main goal of Vygotsky-Luria project was the establishment of a "new psychology" that would account for the inseparable unity of mind, brain and culture[3] in their development (and/or degradation) in concrete socio-historical settings (in case of individuals) and throughout the history of humankind as socio-biological species.

History[edit]

Lev Vygotsky, born in Orsha, Russia (now in Belarus) in 1896, was a psychologist who contributed mostly to developmental psychology.

Vygotsky posed that in a social environment, children develop higher cognitive functions in practical activities. His theories were controversial in the Soviet Union and they remained virtually unknown, although introduced into the Western world in the 1930s, until the 1970s. This is when they became a pivotal point in models built in developmental and educational psychology. Although many current scholars do not agree with his theories or agree about what he meant, the 21st century has bought about scholarly reevaluations of many of the important aspects of these theories.[4]

Alexander Luria was a neuropsychologist and developmental psychologist. Together with Vygotsky, he helped create cultural-historical psychology and was a leader of the Vygotsky Circle. Separate to his work with Vygotsky, Luria is known for his case studies "The Mind of a Mnemonist", about a man with a highly advanced memory, and "The Man with a Shattered World", about a man with traumatic brain injury.

Theoretical premises[edit]

Cultural-historical psychology never existed as such during Vygotsky's lifetime. He never accomplished a developmental theory of his own and, by his own admission, died at the threshold of a new psychological theory of consciousness.

Vygotsky believed in the "new man" that he referred to as a "superman" of the future Communist society and advocated for a psychological theory that would account for the development from the actual level of human development to the potential one of a "superman". To that end, he claimed that the development of "higher psychological functions" are a result of the impact of parents, caregivers, peers and the culture at large. In one of his unfinished and abandoned manuscripts that was never published during his lifetime Vygotsky speculated that

Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the high functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.[5]

This idea was well known at least fifty years before Vygotsky, was advocated for by a number of other psychologists, and is known under the label of "sociogenesis". The post-Vygotskian tradition focuses, thus, not only on individual learning and the influences adults and peers have on learning, but also on how cultural beliefs and attitudes affect instruction and learning.[5]

In contradistinction to Freud's and Freudian "depth psychology" and the behaviorists (and many others) "surface psychologies" of the average people in their everyday environment, Vygotsky postulated "peak psychology" of his own, which would focus on the highest, "peak" performance of people in their actual life and potential, future "superman" capacity. This "peak psychology" was never accomplished and largely remained an interesting and promising, yet utopian scientific project of considerable interest in the contemporary context of 21st century psychological research.

The benefits and failings of the theory[edit]

The larger project of the new psychology of Vygotsky and Luria failed,[6] and no universal integrative theory of human mind and development was built by the time of Vygotsky's death in 1934 or, for that matter, ever after. However, the earlier intellectual effort and the legacy of the Soviet scholars of the 1920s-1930s was not entirely wasted and later developed in a range of special—typically, loosely related—fields of psychological theory and practice such as cultural[7][8] and child psychology[9] and education (most notably, in the subfields of dynamic assessment (including the vague idea of the zone of proximal development, the ZPD) [10] and the so-called developmental education[11]), neuropsychology,[12][13] or psycholinguistics.[14] Other notable areas of theory and practice that are in the dialogue with the cultural-historical tradition of Vygotsky and Luria are psychotherapy,[15] theory of art,[16] "dialogical science",[17] cognitive science,[18] semiotics[19] and, in the words of Oliver Sacks, somewhat vague perspective, mindset and philosophy of "romantic science".[20]

Influences[edit]

The major influences on cultural-historical psychology were the mechanist neurophysiology of Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Bekhterev (during the so-called "instrumental period" of the 1920s),[21] philosophy of language and culture of Wilhelm von Humboldt and his followers,[22] socio-economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and, primarily, holistic German-American Gestalt psychology—specifically, the works of Max Wertheimer and Kurt Lewin.[23][24] The holism of the German-American Gestaltists gradually became the dominant theoretical framework of cultural-historical psychology of Vygotsky and Luria in the 1930s and virtually totally eradicated Vygotsky's physiological mechanism and reductionism of the 1920s.[25]

A few of these earlier influences were subsequently downplayed, misunderstood or even totally ignored and forgotten. Thus, cultural-historical psychology understood as the Vygotsky-Luria project, originally intended by its creators as an integrative and, later, holistic "new psychology" of socio-biological and cultural development should not be confused with later self-proclaimed "Vygotskian" theories and fields of studies, ignorant of the historical roots and the intended breadth and depth of the original proposal and its consistent emphasis on the need in a new theory of consciousness.[25] These include such as sociocultural psychology, socio-historical psychology, activity theory, cultural psychology, or cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT).[26][27]

Vygotsky-Luria Circle[edit]

Vygotsky and Luria informally collaborated with other psychologists, educationalists, medical specialists, physiologists, and neuroscientists. The foundation of the integrative science of the mind, brain, and behavior in their bio-social development, was the main work of the Circle. They incorporated ideas of social and interpersonal relations, the practices of empirical scientific research, and "Stalinist science" founded on the discursive practices of Soviet science in the 1930s.[28] There were around three dozen people involved in the research for Vygotsky's theory, at different periods of time.

In 1924, the Circle was formed in Moscow after Vygotsky moved there from Gomel, Belarus. At the Institute of Psychology he met Zankov, Solv'ev, Sakharov, and Varshava, as well as Alexander Luria, with whom he would go on to collaborate with.[28]

The group grew at a gradual rate and all research was conducted in Moscow, Kharhov, and Liningrad, located in the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany during the Great Patriotic War (1941), the group disbanded and any further post-Vygotskian research after the beginning of World War II, was conducted by Luria, Leontiev, Zankov, and Elkonin.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.) (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  2. ^ Yasnitsky, A., & van der Veer, R. (2014). What is this book and what is it about? In Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.) (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  3. ^ Toomela, A. (2014). There can be no cultural-historical psychology without neuropsychology. And vice versa. A. Yasnitsky, R. van der Veer, & M. Ferrari (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (313 - 349). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  4. ^ Yasnitsky, Anton; van der Veer, René (2015). Revisionist Revolution in Vygotsky Studies: The State of the Art. East Sussex, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138887305. 
  5. ^ a b "Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory: What You Should Know". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-05-16. 
  6. ^ Cf.: "He laid out a most ambitious program of unification with an 'historico-cultural' approach as the central feature. Though tuberculosis cut him off at a very early age, Vygotsky left prolific disciples, most notably Luria and A.N. Leont'ev, who founded the Vygotsky school of cognitive psychology, focused on brain damage and on child development. There is a great irony in that history: preaching a comprehensive science, Vygotsky started one more school" (p. 254). Joravsky, D. (1989). Russian psychology: a critical history. Cambridge: Blackwell.
  7. ^ Arievich, I.M. & Stetsenko, A. (2014). The "magic of signs": developmental trajectory of cultural mediation. In Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge University Press (pp. 217-244)
  8. ^ Subbotsky, E. (2014). Luria and Vygotsky: challenges to current developmental research. In Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge University Press (pp. 295-312)
  9. ^ Grigorenko, E.L. (2014). Tracing the untraceable: the nature-nurture controversy in cultural-historical psychology. In Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge University Press (pp. 203-216)
  10. ^ Kozulin, A. (2014). Dynamic assessment in search of its identity in Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., & Ferrari, M. (Eds.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology. Cambridge University Press (pp. 126-147)
  11. ^ Zuckerman, G. (2014). Developmental education. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (177-202). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  12. ^ Akhutina, T. & Shereshevsky, G. (2014). Cultural-historical neuropsychological perspective on learning disability. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (350-377). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  13. ^ Kotik-Friedgut, B. & Ardila, A. (2014). Cultural-historical theory and cultural neuropsychology today. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (378-399). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  14. ^ Werani, A. (2014). A review of inner speech in cultural-historical tradition. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (272-294). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  15. ^ Venger, A. & Morozova, E. (2014). Cultural-historical psychotherapy. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (403-422). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  16. ^ Bulgakowa, O. (2014). From expressive movement to the "basic problem": The Vygotsky-Luria-Eisensteinian theory of art. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (423-448). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  17. ^ Bertau, M.-C. (2014). The need for a dialogical science: Considering the legacy of Russian-Soviet thinking for contemporary approaches in dialogic research. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (449-473). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  18. ^ Falikman, M. (2014). Cognition and its master: New challenges for cognitive science. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (474-487). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  19. ^ Ivanov, Vyacheslav V. (2014). Cultural-historical theory and semiotics. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (488-516). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  20. ^ Sacks, O. (2014). Luria and "Romantic Science". In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (517-528). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  21. ^ Friedrich, J. (2014). Vygotsky's idea of psychological tools. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (47-62). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  22. ^ Bertau, M.-C. (2014). Inner form as a notion migrating from West to East: Acknowledging the Humboldtian tradition in cultural-historical psychology. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (247-271). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  23. ^ Yasnitsky, A. (2012). К истории культурно-исторической гештальтпсихологии: Выготский, Лурия, Коффка, Левин и др. Archived 2015-02-16 at the Wayback Machine. PsyAnima, Dubna Psychological Journal, 5(1), 60-97
  24. ^ Yasnitsky, A. (2012). A History of Cultural-Historical Gestalt Psychology: Vygotsky, Luria, Koffka, Lewin, and others. PsyAnima, Dubna Psychological Journal, 5(1), 98-101
  25. ^ a b Zavershneva, E. (2014). The problem of consciousness in Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology. In A. Yasnitsky, R. Van der Veer & M. Ferrari (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology (63-97). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  26. ^ Toomela, A. (2000). Activity theory is a dead end for cultural-historical psychology. Culture & Psychology, 6(3), 353-364
  27. ^ Chapters 7. Michael Cole: artefact-mediated action -- setting the record straight; 8. James V. Wertsch: cultural tools and mediated action -- getting it wrong; 9. James V. Wertsch: mediation and the zone of proximal development; and 10. The essential commentators in Part II. Vygotsky in America in Miller, R. (2011). Vygotsky in perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  28. ^ a b c Yasnitsky, Anton (2011). "Vygotsky Circle as a Personal Network of Scholars: Restoring Connections Between People and Ideas". Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science. doi:10.1007/s12124-011-9168-5. 

External resources[edit]