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The great Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky has long been recognized as a pioneer in developmental psychology. But somewhat ironically, his theory of development has never been well understood in the West. Mind in Society should correct much of this misunderstanding. Carefully edited by a group of outstanding Vygotsky scholars, the book presents a unique selection of Vyg The great Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky has long been recognized as a pioneer in developmental psychology. But somewhat ironically, his theory of development has never been well understood in the West. Mind in Society should correct much of this misunderstanding. Carefully edited by a group of outstanding Vygotsky scholars, the book presents a unique selection of Vygotsky's important essays, most of which have previously been unavailable in English. The Vygotsky who emerges from these pages can no longer be glibly included among the neobehaviorists. In these essays he outlines a dialectical-materialist theory of cognitive development that anticipates much recent work in American social science. The mind, Vygotsky argues, cannot be understood in isolation from the surrounding society. Man is the only animal who uses tools to alter his own inner world as well as the world around him. From the handkerchief knotted as a simple mnemonic device to the complexities of symbolic language, society provides the individual with technology that can be used to shape the private processes of mind. In Mind in Society Vygotsky applies this theoretical framework to the development of perception, attention, memory, language, and play, and he examines its implications for education. The result is a remarkably interesting book that is bound to renew Vygotsky's relevance to modem psychological thought.


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The great Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky has long been recognized as a pioneer in developmental psychology. But somewhat ironically, his theory of development has never been well understood in the West. Mind in Society should correct much of this misunderstanding. Carefully edited by a group of outstanding Vygotsky scholars, the book presents a unique selection of Vyg The great Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky has long been recognized as a pioneer in developmental psychology. But somewhat ironically, his theory of development has never been well understood in the West. Mind in Society should correct much of this misunderstanding. Carefully edited by a group of outstanding Vygotsky scholars, the book presents a unique selection of Vygotsky's important essays, most of which have previously been unavailable in English. The Vygotsky who emerges from these pages can no longer be glibly included among the neobehaviorists. In these essays he outlines a dialectical-materialist theory of cognitive development that anticipates much recent work in American social science. The mind, Vygotsky argues, cannot be understood in isolation from the surrounding society. Man is the only animal who uses tools to alter his own inner world as well as the world around him. From the handkerchief knotted as a simple mnemonic device to the complexities of symbolic language, society provides the individual with technology that can be used to shape the private processes of mind. In Mind in Society Vygotsky applies this theoretical framework to the development of perception, attention, memory, language, and play, and he examines its implications for education. The result is a remarkably interesting book that is bound to renew Vygotsky's relevance to modem psychological thought.

30 review for Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is another book I’ve gotten from the list of the 25 most quoted books in social science. Oddly, I’ve read and reviewed another of Vygotsky’s books (his ‘Thought and Language’) and that is known as his most famous book – and yet this one is his most cited. The world’s a funny place, isn’t it? I’m just going to tell you the bits of this I found particularly interesting. The first was how important it is for children to get to play. He says that from about 3 children start to realise that they This is another book I’ve gotten from the list of the 25 most quoted books in social science. Oddly, I’ve read and reviewed another of Vygotsky’s books (his ‘Thought and Language’) and that is known as his most famous book – and yet this one is his most cited. The world’s a funny place, isn’t it? I’m just going to tell you the bits of this I found particularly interesting. The first was how important it is for children to get to play. He says that from about 3 children start to realise that they are not going to get instant gratification for all of their desires. They learn that they need to side-step the frustration of this by engaging in play. The play may not always be immediately related to their desire – but it serves the purpose of both distraction, while also preparing the way for increasing abstract thought. The abstract thought side of play is particularly important. Vygotsky says that we generally think of play as being a manifestation of a child’s imagination – but his point is that play in young children is often very concrete, that is, it is a concrete expression of children beginning to learn how to access abstract thinking (imagination), not just engaging with the concrete world around them. Play provides ways to step outside of the concrete world of the child, but it does so first by remaining quite tied to that world. So that, for instance, much of the child’s games involve some form of imitation of the world they already know. He says that children are generally ‘older’ in the games they play (a head taller than their actual age) – their narratives have them a bit older or, for instance, they may play at being their mother and so significantly older than they are. While the differences here between the ‘real’ world and the ‘imagined’ world are significant, what is also significant is the idea that the imagined world follows strict rules. The games are imaginary, but they remain tied to the concrete in so far as mum doesn’t suddenly get to be able to fly or have a super long tongue that she can use to catch flies. There is a lovely game he discusses that helps make this much clearer. It involves two sisters who decide to play a game of being sisters. That is, the ‘game’ is their actual life. Except, this isn’t at all an acting out of their life. Not that they do things in the game they wouldn’t do in life – it isn’t as if they became the boxing sisters or grew imaginary beards. The difference is in the noticing of the rules in the game they play, even when it is what they live unthinkingly in life. Here is a step toward abstract thought in the sense of being able to see the guiding rules behind the sort of behaviours that constitute being sisters. Another game involved a mother and son being mother and son – again, what was being performed may have not looked terribly different from everyday life, except it is completely different since ‘the rules’ are being made clear. The games these children play are externalised – that is, they actually play them – but by adolescence children have stopped externalising their play and are able to run through the same process ‘in their heads’ – that is, as pure imagination. For Vygotsky, imagination is basically ‘silent play’. And since imagination is increasingly abstract it is learnt later and from play. So, rather than play being the external manifestation of imagination – actually imagination is internalised play. The point that drives Vygotsky’s ideas here is that human thinking is social in character. Now, that is too easy to confuse with not saying very much at all. He means this quite literally and not at all superficially. As a Marxist, he believes that humanity makes its own world and that it does this by how it makes tools. The tools we make shape the way we interact with the world and this fundamentally changes our brains (not necessarily the literal structure of our brains, but the mental processes that allow us to interact with the world and think). These changes in the tools we use and the changes they make to how we think change what it means to be human across history. If society is in a constant process of development, and this development is impacted by the tools society uses (what Marx called the ‘means of production’) then human cognition needs to be understood within this changing process. All of that might sound a bit off the point – but Vygotsky uses this in a number of ways that really change how we can understand children’s learning and how we can go about conceiving cognitive development. Prior to Vygotsky most psychology considered childhood to be a process of natural development – but if humans are different according to the level of the development of the productive forces (different according to the tools we use) then talk of ‘natural development’ or ‘natural phases of development’ misses the main point of what it is to be human. This is Vygotsky’s criticism of Piaget – that Piaget saw childhood development as being around fixed stages that occurred though maturation – whereas Vygotsky saw the creation of the human child as something that happens in society and as a function of the requirements of society. This all probably sounds a bit over the top, but having these ideas in mind might help to explain his core ideas and how he came to them. His main idea is his ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development. But to understand it you have to understand what everyone else was working on first. Basically, if you wanted to know what stage of development children were up to prior to Vygotsky you would give them something that looked a lot like an IQ test. This might say that two 10 year olds you are studying have the IQ of the average 8 year old. And this would have been as much as we would need to say – this would sum up their learning and cognitive level. Vygotsky didn’t like this because it presents something that is both asocial and dead. The children can only show you what they already know – which doesn’t really tell you very much about what they are ready to learn. But how can you test what they are ready to learn? Well, the ZPD tests what the child can do with assistance from those around them – that is, rather than giving them an IQ test, the person giving the test might also provide the child with some hints. This sounds like cheating, but the point is that I can give you all the hints in the world, but you are probably not likely to be able to solve a complex problem in quantum theory. You know, my saying, ‘you might want to try using Schrödinger’s equation there’ probably isn’t going to really help you all that much, even if Schrödinger ‘s equation is exactly what you should be using. But if the 10 year old is quite confident with adding, but can’t multiply, then hinting to them that 4 times 4 is four lots of fours that can then be added together, that might be enough of a hint to allow them to solve ‘with assistance’ what they couldn’t solve without assistance. And so what? Well, what they can do with assistance today is what they are on the cusp of learning to be able to do without assistance tomorrow. That is, it tells you what they are ready to learn. Whereas, unless you have studied quite a bit of physics, then solving a problem in quantum mechanics using Schrödinger’s equation is going to be beyond most of us and ‘hints’ aren’t really going to be of much help. In Vygotsky’s terms, Schrödinger is outside of our zone of proximal development. The ZPD shows cognitive development as something alive – rather than the ‘fossilised’ version of what is ‘already known’ that comes with IQ tests. Our two 10 year olds with the IQs of 8 year olds might be able to solve problems with assistance of 10 year olds and 12 year olds respectively – so, rather than these two kids being at equal stages of development (which their IQs would suggest) they are really quite different in what they are ready to learn. For Vygotsky language is a tool in much the same way that tools are – that is, we use language to help us solve problems. He tells us of a young girl given a complex problem to solve involving knocking sweets with a stick, and using some chairs. He listens in as she solves this problem. While she is solving it, she talks to herself – something, like playing before, we later learn to internalise and not say out loud. Language becomes a way for us to hear what we are thinking and also a way to structure our thoughts in more abstract ways and thus language helps us to solve problems we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. He shows this again with children who are not yet able to write. He gets them to draw a story and then asks them to ‘read’ him the story from what they have drawn. It is clear that many children’s drawings are a first step along the road to understanding the process of abstraction necessary for symbolic representation and this is the first step in learning to read and write. He also shows that very young children are tied to the concrete even in their drawings – so that if they are drawing a child running they might do so by making running movements with their hand with the pen in it, and therefore only produce short lines on the page. This link to the concrete is shown nicely earlier in the book when he asks a child to say something like ‘John is standing’ – but if the child saying this can see John and John is sitting, the child finds it almost impossible to say ‘John is standing’. Instead, the child will end up saying ‘John is sitting’. The level of abstraction necessary to say the opposite of what is externally the case is beyond the child. As is said at one point here, the idea of children having natural phases of learning development is a dangerous idea because if a child is ‘behind’ in this phase of learning we have too often separated them out from the other children and given them tasks that we think will ‘give them the basics’ so they can ‘catch up’. The problem is, according to Vygotsky, that learning only makes sense socially, and so this isolated learning makes the learning meaningless for the child and takes away the structures and supports that they might otherwise have been able to rely upon to learn. Our trying to help causes more harm than good.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    I take in interest in Vygotsky's work primarily because he seeks to rescue experimental psychology from a) Cartesianism/cognitivism/the "theater of the mind" on the one hand, and b) A "naturalist" behaviorism which offers either poor explanatory power (Chomsky's classical critique of Skinner's language book), or threatens a radical irrealism if we are bold enough to extend it from a psychological methodology into a full-blown epistemology. In other words, Cartesianism loses all grip on the social I take in interest in Vygotsky's work primarily because he seeks to rescue experimental psychology from a) Cartesianism/cognitivism/the "theater of the mind" on the one hand, and b) A "naturalist" behaviorism which offers either poor explanatory power (Chomsky's classical critique of Skinner's language book), or threatens a radical irrealism if we are bold enough to extend it from a psychological methodology into a full-blown epistemology. In other words, Cartesianism loses all grip on the social nature of learning, meaning, and language-acquisition, while the "naturalist" behaviorism is in denial about its own constructivist assumptions, which will eventually foreclose the idea of matter and material history itself. Yet another gloss on Vygotsky is that he's on to the same idea as Bakhtin / Volosinov, something like a Marxist semiotics. If that sounds contradictory, it's because Marxisms always struggle to articulate a relationship between material 'base' and social 'superstructure' that is neither reductive in either direction nor dualist-- a material-social dialectic, in other words. This is the goal to strive for, IMHO. It's not as easy as it sounds. And if you're like me, it doesn't sound that easy to you in the first place. Which is why it's helpful that Vygotsky was a genius and he managed to write down at least some of his thoughts, and those writings have made it into English since the '70s. As the psychologist who wrote the preface to V's Thought and Language remarked, American psychologists and philosophers alike typically respond to Vygotsky like J. Fodor did, accusing him of naively mixing philosophy and psychology while insisting that he was a pure psychologist. Vygotsky clearly had a different concept of psychology than Fodor. Clearly, Vygotsky, like Merleau-Ponty, was convinced of the value of empirical data for understanding 'the mind' (if we can speak of such a thing). Neither of the two thinkers seemed to believe that there can be 'critical experiments' in psychology. That is, any experiment is as much a test of the viability of its theoretical framework as a test of the truth or falsity of a hypotheses generated by that framework. Obviously, philosophy of science is a complex matter and this admission amounts to a rather major concession to pluralism of some kind. Better to do justice to the concrete social origin of meaning than to defend an illusory foundationalism, though.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kerfe

    We are often wrong on our way to figuring things out. We don't learn in a steady march of additional facts. Unlike what our current education methods and evaluations would have us believe, learning does not follow a straight ever-rising line of success on a chart. We learn by making associations: circling around the problem or situation, with sudden leaps of connection and insight. We don't solve problems by memorizing. We make analogies; we relate this to that. This involves some trial and error-- We are often wrong on our way to figuring things out. We don't learn in a steady march of additional facts. Unlike what our current education methods and evaluations would have us believe, learning does not follow a straight ever-rising line of success on a chart. We learn by making associations: circling around the problem or situation, with sudden leaps of connection and insight. We don't solve problems by memorizing. We make analogies; we relate this to that. This involves some trial and error--let us emphasize this word: "ERROR". We learn by making errors. We are wrong before we are right. THAT is how we learn. It's not the facts themselves that are important, but the way they are used and organized and where they lead us. Not only brain function, but context. Unfortunately, education is presently obsessed with facts and the "right" answer, a stream of ever rising numbers from test scores. Problems that we need to solve in our lives don't come with an answer key. And they often don't have any relation to the "facts" that the media or business and politics feeds us. Vygotsky's book, while dense reading, has many alternative ideas to consider about teaching and learning.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I’m sure someday we’ll have artificial intelligence augmentation that will read along with us, whispering in our ears about the kind of stuff it knows we’re curious about. Until then, reading an old book will remain a hit-and/or-miss affair, especially science texts. What information herein has been proven, or disproven? What is fundamentally wrong-headed, and what is only misleading because so much has since been learned? Vygotsky probably isn’t a name most people know, but then neither is David I’m sure someday we’ll have artificial intelligence augmentation that will read along with us, whispering in our ears about the kind of stuff it knows we’re curious about. Until then, reading an old book will remain a hit-and/or-miss affair, especially science texts. What information herein has been proven, or disproven? What is fundamentally wrong-headed, and what is only misleading because so much has since been learned? Vygotsky probably isn’t a name most people know, but then neither is David Riesman or Alexander Luria. But any modern educator knows the term “zone of proximal development”, which Wikipedia defines as “the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help”. This is the reason I’ve decided to dive in. (By the way, although this book was published in 1978, it is an edited compilation of Vygotsky’s writings from the early 1930s, shortly before he died of tuberculosis at the age of 37.) Near the end of his life, Vygotsky’s research developed this ZPD concept, although it apparently didn’t make it into any of his own published works. In fact, it appears there some contentiousness regarding his research (including ZPD), which I’m not looking into. If you’re more curious than I, you could start with the “criticisms” and “revisionist” discussion on his Wikipedia page. Looking back in time provided some fascinating insights. One of the more interesting ones involved Vygotsky’s methodology. Today, the social sciences strive hard for statistical rigor, and statistics rely on quantitative data. But it is readily apparent that social studies will have to deal with far, far more variables than seen in physical or biological studies, and eliminating variables for control will inevitably eliminate important information. Many scientists (and even more non-scientists) deride non-quantitative data as “anec-data”, sneering that “the plural of anecdote is not data”. But careful observations in small-𝒏 studies can clarify what is happening in ways that complement large-𝒏 studies, and might reveal information that could never be discerned from a large quantity of sterilized data. For example, one well-documented approach is thick description. Vygotsky’s approach, almost a century ago, was quite informal and ad hoc, and would probably be laughed at today. But starting his way is probably the only way his ideas could take place, since they focused on the social construction of knowledge. Some contemporaneous theories suggested that cognitive development was innate to the human brain; others provided mental models that treated development/learning as if it were little more than nudging reflex behaviors into a preferred form. What Vygotsky showed by his careful interactions with children was that their interactions with others was critical to how they perceived sensations, and even more how those changed their brains. For example, his experiments with very young children demonstrated that “thinking” was effectively a function of “remembering”: only what had been witnessed was within the child’s ontological world. According to Vygotsky, if you point out the window to the sun in a blue sky and ask them to say “it’s very dark outside tonight”, they’ll struggle and often can’t even make such claims [is this true?!?] But within just a few more months, counterfactual possibilities can be introduced. Another example is the role speech plays in imagination. His experiments recorded the introspective “egocentric” speech of young children, when they are playing by themselves and not speaking to others, and discerned that the speech is a narration of what would gradually develop into an internal imagination: by narrating events similar to those they’d seen, but with themselves in a new role as a mother or horse-rider, for instance, they were effectively training their own imagination. For example, imagine that you put a button box in front of a child and ask them to push different buttons when they see different stimuli. For example, the leftmost button when they see a horse. If you put a symbol of a horse (a horseshoe, perhaps) on that button, the change in ability will differentiate children at differing levels of development. Some can only use very obvious symbols (maybe an outline of a horse); others can use representative symbols (a horseshoe), or even abstract symbols (the letter “H”). One thing that shows how social construction plays a role is that an experimenter can affect this: pointing out that the U-shape is a horseshoe and can represent a horse will change success. Such a lesson wouldn’t help very young children; older children could even be taught a convoluted story (maybe “the shape looks like a tornado, and if you saw a tornado, you’d get on a horse and ride away, right?”) to aid them. Adults tended not to find such instruction helpful, again: either they could already do it without assistance, or the assistance was ineffective. Today one might think, well, duh!”, but many intuitively “obvious” claims turn out to be false. Some of the theorists at the time couldn’t explain how social interaction could change the stepwise brain development they’d posited. Much of the first half of the book deals with childhood learning along these lines, including some very interesting discussions about the difference between symbols (including language) and tools. Both are mediators: in both cases, we use them to change things. In the example above, a child is using the symbol to create a new mental pathway between a stimuli and a result. Tools, similarly, are used to change things, but in this case the change is to the outside world. Apparently at the time, some theorists believed that language and symbol use was effectively the same as tool use. By highlighting the internal/external difference, Vygotsky pushed those threads into divergence. The Zone of Proximal Development only played a smallish role in the book — about seven pages near the end. But even that helped me refine how I think about this important pedagogical concept. Perhaps this image will help: This is the target of the teacher. It doesn’t do much good to spend time instructing a student on something they can already do unaided, nor something they aren’t prepared to tackle even with help, does it? So the goal is to try to discover what a student’s ZPD is, and then try to design lessons that help students learn material that will grow those concentric circles, so they’ll be able to master more without help, and be capable of mastering more with assistance. One difficulty is that the ZPD is an abstraction. There won’t be a clean, bright line on the inside or the outside, and no teacher can ever know a single student with too much fidelity anyway. And, of course, the classroom will have many students, each with a different ZPD. In fact, recent pedagogy (still controversial in some circles) involves detracking, which is “when students are deliberately positioned into classes of mixed ability”. That means that a classroom might include high-ability students alongside those who are struggling for various reasons. The latter might include students with Special Education needs, or students still learning the language (English Language Learners in the U.S.), or students with poor academic skills. Remember Venn Diagrams? Those overlapping circles whose intersections and unions were one of the minor topics back in high school mathematics? Imagine the intersection of all the zones of proximal development of a highly diverse urban classroom, and how small it is likely to be. That makes designing lessons that all the students can learn from exceedingly difficult. The response is to create lessons that are differentiated so that students of differing abilities can still learn effectively. In mathematics, I know of two groups that have started tackling this. One is Cambridge’s NRICH group, which calls these Low Threshold, High Ceiling tasks. The other is Stanford’s “Youcubed” team (led by Jo Boaler), which calls their effort Low Floor, High Ceiling (possibly because ’Muricans don’t use the word “threshold” too often). In Mind in Society, Vygotsky doesn’t go into nearly enough depth to help me build better lessons. But I’m pleased to report that he did force me to consider assessment more. My educational training taught me to distinguish between formative and summative assessment. We use the former to determine what students don’t yet know, and the latter to gauge their performance after teaching is concluded. For example, never grade homework, since students are still learning. (Well, we “grade” it with respect to whether a student did it or didn’t do it, not whether they got more or fewer answers correct.) What the Vygotsky has to say throws this into disarray. Look at that diagram again, and note that traditional testing ignores the ZPD. To paraphrase his example: imagine that I use traditional testing to evaluate two new ninth graders on their Algebra and pre-Algebra knowledge. They both fair poorly, performing at the level expected of seventh graders. Then I assess them again, this time providing examples, hints, and suggestive questions — but no actual instructions or answers. One, with that help, is capable of answering questions at the level of an eighth grader; the other can answer questions at the tenth-grade level. What this kind of assessment would tell me is that one of the two isn’t ready for my class, and needs quite a bit of remedial work. The other is ready, and will possibly excel or even be bored. How should this impact my assessment strategy, much less my end-of-term grading policy? There are techniques for this that I’ll have to ponder. For example, I could increase the weighting of “group tests”, but I’d have to make sure students going into it have about the same ability to solve problems collaboratively — which makes this a recursive problem, doesn’t it? Reading Mind in Society is a good way of delving more deeply into issues that a teacher should think about, although there are likely to be other books (journal articles, etc.) that do so more directly. Still, as a pioneering work in psychological development, it’s very illuminating — and most of it is quite easy to read, as well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ronald

    "We call the internal reconstruction of an external operation internalization. A good example of this process may be found in the development of pointing. Initially, this gesture is nothing more than an unsuccessful attempt to grasp something, a movement aimed at a certain object which designates forthcoming activity. The child attempts to grasp an object placed beyond his reach; his hands, stretched toward that object, remain poised in the air. His fingers make grasping movements. [...] When th "We call the internal reconstruction of an external operation internalization. A good example of this process may be found in the development of pointing. Initially, this gesture is nothing more than an unsuccessful attempt to grasp something, a movement aimed at a certain object which designates forthcoming activity. The child attempts to grasp an object placed beyond his reach; his hands, stretched toward that object, remain poised in the air. His fingers make grasping movements. [...] When the mother comes to the child's aid and realizes his movement indicates something, the situation changes fundamentally. Pointing becomes a gesture for others. The child's unsuccessful attempt engenders a reaction not from the object he seeks but from another person. Consequently, the primary meaning of that unsuccessful grasping movement is established by others. Only later, when the child can link his unsuccessful grasping movement to the objective situation as a whole, does he begin to understand this movement as pointing." I learned thru this book that using words is no different from using fingers ; as with the grasping that becomes pointing, the word usage is aimed at another person. Speach is therefore the internal reconstruction of an external operation; when i use words like these, i no longer grasp what i feel but i point at what i feel, in the unsuccessful attempt of which a reaction from you the reader is engendered.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    A beautiful woman came up to me when I was reading this because she "loves Vygotsky." I can't say if this book will have the same benefits for you, but I wanted to let you know it's a possibility. A beautiful woman came up to me when I was reading this because she "loves Vygotsky." I can't say if this book will have the same benefits for you, but I wanted to let you know it's a possibility.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    “Standing a head taller” is an empowering theme that Soviet cognitive psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky mentions from time to time, and he notices this quality most with the children he observed throughout his career. In these cases, imaginative play allows a child to internalize the activities of older individuals, learning and developing in the “zone” which continues to motivate the mind throughout one’s life. Most people seem to believe this development stops at a certain age, adulthood (anywhere “Standing a head taller” is an empowering theme that Soviet cognitive psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky mentions from time to time, and he notices this quality most with the children he observed throughout his career. In these cases, imaginative play allows a child to internalize the activities of older individuals, learning and developing in the “zone” which continues to motivate the mind throughout one’s life. Most people seem to believe this development stops at a certain age, adulthood (anywhere between 13 and 24, according to different cultural beliefs), but I would argue that we continue to see ourselves a head taller, especially those who embrace the idea of life-long learning. For the majority who became adults and stopped the imaginative play, a good reminder will come when a person visits a place from their recent past: an old school, first job site or even the home to which, we are told, we can never go back. Recalling the feelings of that time when we hoped and dreamed to be grown up might make one feel a head taller than they were, but children get to live this experience everyday, a head taller than they are. Perhaps this is why someone like Vygotsky wanted to surround himself with these young active learners, as he could share in their enthusiasm to try new things for the rest of his tragically shortened life he knew, at the age of 26, he was going to live. In the pages of Mind in Society, Vygotsky vents some of his frustration at adults who accept that things are the way they are, contemporary psychologists like Ted Thorndike and Jean Piaget, and their view of adulthood as the end of the developmental line. Equally frustrating is their search for the lower limits of ability, the beginning of a developmental stage where children or certain animals could do some things or not do some things. Given the proper amount of observation, children will never cease to impress open-minded adults that there are not many things they can’t do: anything that can be imagined could be played out. Vygotsky and his team had the right amount of patience for such viewings of children, infants and people with cognitive exceptionalities as able learners who go through a process of interpersonal (the mind in a society) and intrapersonal (internalizing society) adaptation. Attempts to get candy from a shelf or using coloured cards to recall instructions for a game of questions, both experiments described in this book, meet the participants at their level of cognitive ability. While he share opinions and gives respect to other constructivists and behaviorists in their respective fields, it seems a challenge for Vygotsky to accept their limiting theories; both “Problems of Method” and “Interaction between Learning and Development” are places where Vygotsky hashes out how quickly these theories fall apart. Setting limits is akin to censorship, something Vygotsky struggled with professionally in Soviet Russia. Borrowing a quote from another Soviet author who faced censorship and limitations, Mikhail A. Bulgakov’s “manuscripts don’t burn” is very applicable. It is impressive how so much of Vygotsky’s thoughts survive on paper, and how many decades later his ideas are finally catching hold of minds in a far wider society than most people would have imagined. Somehow I know Vygotsky would have imagined it like this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wildflower_girl

    Vygotsky rocks. Every early childhood teacher should read at least a little of his actual work (not just what the textbooks say). I love Vygotsky!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe McCluney

    I've always found Vygotsky's ideas, particularly the "zone of proximal development" in the form of scaffolding, to be useful instructional techniques and good ways to help students apply knowledge to different concepts. However, as an explanation for cognitive development, they makes less sense to me. I am not convinced that sociocultural tools and influences alone are enough to override or precede biological foundations necessary for learning to occur (whether in stages or not), even if they ar I've always found Vygotsky's ideas, particularly the "zone of proximal development" in the form of scaffolding, to be useful instructional techniques and good ways to help students apply knowledge to different concepts. However, as an explanation for cognitive development, they makes less sense to me. I am not convinced that sociocultural tools and influences alone are enough to override or precede biological foundations necessary for learning to occur (whether in stages or not), even if they are important to the development of knowledge. In this way I find myself somewhere between Piaget and Vygotsky. Vygotsky's ideas seem more relevant to conscious learning and development than simply learning and development per se.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Morgan

    I am a pre-service high school teacher, and I have heard a lot about Vygotsky, especially in my classes on Second Language Acquisition (SLA). I wanted to go straight to the source in order to understand the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and other educational implications of Vygtosky's theory. Reading the chapter on development and learning really helped me understand what the ZPD is. Now I know that we need to assess students in a way that shows us not just what they know, but what they are I am a pre-service high school teacher, and I have heard a lot about Vygotsky, especially in my classes on Second Language Acquisition (SLA). I wanted to go straight to the source in order to understand the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and other educational implications of Vygtosky's theory. Reading the chapter on development and learning really helped me understand what the ZPD is. Now I know that we need to assess students in a way that shows us not just what they know, but what they are beginning to learn. In other chapters found some useful points about the importance of mediation (tools and signs) and how that ability is unique to human development. That being said, this book was difficult to get through. Some of his ideas were difficult to understand or not relevant to a high school teacher. I have never taken a psychology class, and I know that made his technical discussions more difficult. And for a lay person like me, the introduction and afterword (not written by Vygotsky) were completely incomprehensible! I'm glad I read this book so that I can cite the source of what the ZPD is and means. However, I think I need to find a book that makes Vygotsky accessible to teachers if I'm going to continue studying his work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Seymour Millen

    A great series of essays from the preeminent Soviet psychologist, Lev Vygotsky. Suffers invisibly from being taken quite haphazardly from his manuscripts provided to American scholars many years after his death, and the editors are quite open about the liberties they took with the translation and selection of the essays contained within. although it's one of the shortest and broadest collections of Vygotsky's works translated to English, I think it gives a misleading impression if taken as an in A great series of essays from the preeminent Soviet psychologist, Lev Vygotsky. Suffers invisibly from being taken quite haphazardly from his manuscripts provided to American scholars many years after his death, and the editors are quite open about the liberties they took with the translation and selection of the essays contained within. although it's one of the shortest and broadest collections of Vygotsky's works translated to English, I think it gives a misleading impression if taken as an introduction to his thought; as Yasnitsky's studies show, his theories changed very greatly over his career, and without a prior and critical introduction to Vygotsky elsewhere I think one is liable to miss some of his meanings. The influence of the gestalt school, for example, is very clear when one is looking for it, but without this understanding I think it's possible to come away from Mind in Society thinking of Vygotsky as offering an endorsement of current developmental and cognitive psychology 50 years before it arrived, rather than a stinging critique of his contemporaries that is still relevant today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Flora Assaf

    After a few years studying social constructivism, it's very interesting to read about the social and historical aspects of human mind development. The editors did a great job turning Vygotsky's isolated texts into one single book and in clarifying his most difficult concepts by researching its origins. However, the author mentions tons of studies without explaining how they were conducted -- or any other detail really -- so I missed being able to check the sources of his conclusions (a problem w After a few years studying social constructivism, it's very interesting to read about the social and historical aspects of human mind development. The editors did a great job turning Vygotsky's isolated texts into one single book and in clarifying his most difficult concepts by researching its origins. However, the author mentions tons of studies without explaining how they were conducted -- or any other detail really -- so I missed being able to check the sources of his conclusions (a problem which the editors seemed to be aware and tried to bring as much information as they could). Still, it's a must read to everyone interested in education.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    As a third level lecturer in computing my interest in this book was limited to its potential application in my teaching. Unfortunately my hopes were not fulfilled as although the book appears to give a good rounded view of Vygotsky contributions their applications in my context appear limited and must be extrapolated quite wildly. Nevertheless it may prove to be another stone to the foundation of teaching for many readers, and for that reason alone it should be recommended as long as one does not As a third level lecturer in computing my interest in this book was limited to its potential application in my teaching. Unfortunately my hopes were not fulfilled as although the book appears to give a good rounded view of Vygotsky contributions their applications in my context appear limited and must be extrapolated quite wildly. Nevertheless it may prove to be another stone to the foundation of teaching for many readers, and for that reason alone it should be recommended as long as one does not expect ready made solutions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mat

    This was the first book I have ever read on psychology. As Vygotsky's name kept appearing in texts on psycholinguistics and motivation and children's development in my TESOL course, I decided to check him out. I didn't understand everything I read but could feel my brain trying to expand to keep up with Lev's intellect. It was fascinating stuff. I learned the differences between 'learning' and 'development' and how they are not necessarily the same thing as well as many of the mistakes we have m This was the first book I have ever read on psychology. As Vygotsky's name kept appearing in texts on psycholinguistics and motivation and children's development in my TESOL course, I decided to check him out. I didn't understand everything I read but could feel my brain trying to expand to keep up with Lev's intellect. It was fascinating stuff. I learned the differences between 'learning' and 'development' and how they are not necessarily the same thing as well as many of the mistakes we have made in the teaching profession. The most I got out of this book was Vygotsky's thoughts on how writing should be taught - in a nutshell, he says it should be taught in an inductive way so that children will write out of necessity and desire to do so, not just a boring lecture on the mechanics and how to write. Thanks to this chapter, I now have new ideas on how I will teach my daughter to write English and Japanese in future. Look forward to reading Thought and Language by Vygotsky at some future date - probably his most famous work which was originally put out by MIT Press - but this shorter work was more than enough for me to process for now. If you are at all interested in how humans differ from other primates in terms of for example higher psychological processes (such as speech) or are interested in child psychology, just to name a few topics he tackles here, then this book is for you. His style of writing is quite academic and slightly highbrow and definitely singular (!) but not too hard to follow if you go through it slowly. I feel I will get more and more out of this book with repeating readings. This year I plan to improve my previous study on motivation that I have been conducting on my university students and Vygotsky has given me some ideas on new approaches I might try. It is amazing to think that these ideas were around in the 20s and 30s but largely ignored in his own life time, especially outside of Russia. Anyone interested in pedagogy should read some Vygotsky.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Fulton

    This book is a little hard to follow. In short, Vygotsky wrote a series of summaries based on his own research along with a limited level of engagement with other contemporary psychologists. Short, dense, worth the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Lovely stuff

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kyrstin

    I don’t think I understood most of this book. It’s so convoluted.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donovan

    Interesting but what's the point in reading it as opposed to other psychology books, only talks about childhood development Interesting but what's the point in reading it as opposed to other psychology books, only talks about childhood development

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Linnen

    Five years ago, at the urging of Vygotsky's student Alexander Luria, we agreed to edit a collection of Vygotsky's essays which would reflect the general theoretical enterprise of which the study of the relationship between thought and language was one important aspect. Luria made available to us rough translations of two of Vygotsky's works. The first, "Tool and Symbol in Children's Development" (1930), had never been published. the second was a translation of a monoghraph entitled The History o Five years ago, at the urging of Vygotsky's student Alexander Luria, we agreed to edit a collection of Vygotsky's essays which would reflect the general theoretical enterprise of which the study of the relationship between thought and language was one important aspect. Luria made available to us rough translations of two of Vygotsky's works. The first, "Tool and Symbol in Children's Development" (1930), had never been published. the second was a translation of a monoghraph entitled The History of the Development of Higher Psychological Functions, which appeared in the second volume of Vygotsky's writings published in Moscow in 1960. A cursory study of these essays quickly convinced us that the scope of Vygotsky's work reached considerably beyond Thought and Language. Furthermore, we came to believe that the image of Vygotsky as a sort of early neobehaviorist of cognitive development--an impression held by many of our colleagues--was strongly belied by these two works. We have constructed the first four chapters of this volume from "Tool and Symbol." The fifth chapter summarizes the major theoretical and methodological points made in "Tool and Symbol" and applies them to the classic problem in cognitive psychology, the nature of choice reaction. this chapter was taken from section 3 of The History of the Development of Higher Psychological Functions. Chapters 6 and 8 (learning and development, and the developmental precursors of writng) are from a posthumously published collection of essays entitled Mental Development of Children and the Process of Learning (1935). Chapter 7, on play, is based on a lecture delivered at the Leningrad pedagogical Institute in 1933 and published in Voprosi Psikhologii (Problems of Psychology) in 1966.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Mind in Society is a heavily edited collection of Vygotsky’s work, mapping out his attempt to “develop a Marxist theory of human intellectual functioning” (1). Contrary to behaviorists and strict stimulus-response psychologists, Vygotsky sees the development of “higher psychological processes,” which he insists again and again are unique to humans, as historically produced and the result of dialectical exchange between individual and society, culture and biology. The psychological experiments ou Mind in Society is a heavily edited collection of Vygotsky’s work, mapping out his attempt to “develop a Marxist theory of human intellectual functioning” (1). Contrary to behaviorists and strict stimulus-response psychologists, Vygotsky sees the development of “higher psychological processes,” which he insists again and again are unique to humans, as historically produced and the result of dialectical exchange between individual and society, culture and biology. The psychological experiments outlined in the book focus especially on the development of children’s use of language and speech, which Vygotsky—again using dialectical terms—positions as allowing children “to be both the subjects and objects of their own behavior” (26). Because of his focus on processes of development and dialectical methods, Vygotsky is interested in studying behavioral forms “historically … in the process of change.... To encompass in research the process of a given thing’s development in all its phases and changes … fundamentally means to discover its nature, its essence” (65). Shifting away from methodology itself, the book’s second half focuses on the implications of Vygotsky’s methodology for education. Particularly emphasized is the “zone of proximal development” (85), which Vygotsky defines as “the distance between the [child’s] actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving” in collaboration with adults or peers (86). Consistent with his notion of development as a dialectical process, Vygotsky sees a child’s learning indicated not purely by individual capacities but by the child’s emerging abilities as revealed in collaboration and interaction with others.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    This is some pretty steep stuff. I don't have much of a background in psychology but read this book for a grad level Theory of Learning class. I found this book hard to read because I am not familiar with many of the pscyh concepts Vygotsky discusses. It is also translated from Russian which makes me wonder what may have been lost in translation. For each topic the author discusses and explains, he gives a thorough explanation of the theorists and schools of thought that preceded his writing. Aft This is some pretty steep stuff. I don't have much of a background in psychology but read this book for a grad level Theory of Learning class. I found this book hard to read because I am not familiar with many of the pscyh concepts Vygotsky discusses. It is also translated from Russian which makes me wonder what may have been lost in translation. For each topic the author discusses and explains, he gives a thorough explanation of the theorists and schools of thought that preceded his writing. After which he explains why they are incorrect and he posits his own theories. Basically the the first part of the book (chapters 1-5) were dense and didn't get much out of them. Here is where there was alot of talk about historical psychology. Basically this book says the following: -Development and learning are socioculturally based -development comes from dialectic conflict (Marxists psychology) -Zone of proximal development; basically that people test at their actual level of development but he or she can function at a higher level with cooperative help of some kind. the space between the two levels is the ZPD This book is recommended only for those really interested in Psychology. If you are interested in education there is great value here, but start at chapter 6 where Vygotsky applies his theory to learning. Unless you're up for a challenge it would be better to seek a secondary source.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Although the editors' Marxist take on everything felt forced, the theories of Vygotsky himself still seem fresh and relevant. I have always tried to keep in mind the zone of proximal development when teaching, but this book also extends to the role of play and children's understanding in general. One section I loved was about how children create rules for play: "...He described a case where two sisters, aged five and seven, said to each other, "Let's play sisters."...In life the child behaves w Although the editors' Marxist take on everything felt forced, the theories of Vygotsky himself still seem fresh and relevant. I have always tried to keep in mind the zone of proximal development when teaching, but this book also extends to the role of play and children's understanding in general. One section I loved was about how children create rules for play: "...He described a case where two sisters, aged five and seven, said to each other, "Let's play sisters."...In life the child behaves without thinking that she is her sister's sister. In the game of sisters playing at "sisters," however, they are both concerned with displaying their sisterhood..." When Heather and I played sisters we always called each other "sis" even though we never used that word in real life; now I know why!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The foundation of the sociocultural theory rests on Vygotsky's work. Understanding learning through the idea of mediated actions through the use of tools and signs and taking in the broader social, cultural, and historical contexts is central to the theory. I'm still working to wrap my brain around it,but I like what I've learned so far! The foundation of the sociocultural theory rests on Vygotsky's work. Understanding learning through the idea of mediated actions through the use of tools and signs and taking in the broader social, cultural, and historical contexts is central to the theory. I'm still working to wrap my brain around it,but I like what I've learned so far!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    fascinating... i imagine this would be of interest for windsor house school types. Vygotsky describes an entirely different way of approaching learning -- to learn mathematics, students are first taught to think like a mathematician: e.g. numbers are not for counting; the basic "unit" is a measure. This makes binomial equations easy (even for me!) e.g. history is not taught as isolated facts; movements are presented as contextually rich events. etc. Sometimes the stuff I have to read is actually fascinating... i imagine this would be of interest for windsor house school types. Vygotsky describes an entirely different way of approaching learning -- to learn mathematics, students are first taught to think like a mathematician: e.g. numbers are not for counting; the basic "unit" is a measure. This makes binomial equations easy (even for me!) e.g. history is not taught as isolated facts; movements are presented as contextually rich events. etc. Sometimes the stuff I have to read is actually = to what I *want* to read. YAY!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    It’s hard not to look at this as sloppy research from outdated psychology [in the introduction, Cole and Scribner remind us that “the style of experimentation in these essays represents” a difference in the understanding of an experiment (11).], but the zone of proximal development is a very important concept that I think has been supported by more recent studies. Not to give anything away, but Carroll seems to be using this when she talks about scaffolding college students’ work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ted Graham

    A quintessiential read for anyone interested in childhood development. Vygotsky's principles still make a profound impact today and if you're going to try and enter into debates on the subject it is well worth reading the original (or as close as you can get without reading Russian). I found plenty of links to concepts of modern educational physchology and child developpment that are often cited (and misrepresented) to this day. A quintessiential read for anyone interested in childhood development. Vygotsky's principles still make a profound impact today and if you're going to try and enter into debates on the subject it is well worth reading the original (or as close as you can get without reading Russian). I found plenty of links to concepts of modern educational physchology and child developpment that are often cited (and misrepresented) to this day.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Diz

    This book edits together writings by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. The first part of the book went over my head a bit, but the section on education (pp. 79-119) was very interesting. I particularly liked his ideas on the role of play in education. Play basically plays an important role in improving children' abilities. This book edits together writings by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. The first part of the book went over my head a bit, but the section on education (pp. 79-119) was very interesting. I particularly liked his ideas on the role of play in education. Play basically plays an important role in improving children' abilities.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is a collection of translated "essays" written by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Interesting read regarding sociocultural theories of learning. Reading can seem somewhat disconnected at times as it's a complied collection of Vygotsky's writings. But, nonetheless, still very informative. This is a collection of translated "essays" written by the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Interesting read regarding sociocultural theories of learning. Reading can seem somewhat disconnected at times as it's a complied collection of Vygotsky's writings. But, nonetheless, still very informative.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lilly Irani

    Totally weird soviet psych developmental theories from the 1920s and 30s, kernels of which have gone on to be incredibly productive and influential in educational theory, sociology, and anthropology. For advancement readings.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sterling

    Lev Vygotsky is known for introducing the Zone of Proximal Development and for being an early influencer of sociocultural learning theory. This book contains a collection of his writings and is a good starting point to learn more about sociocultural learning.

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