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Further development of landmark operations

We described the structure and genetic roots of the child’s iconic operations. However, it would be wrong to think that mediation with the help of known external signs is an eternal form of higher mental functions; careful genetic analysis convinces us of the opposite and makes us think that this form of behavior is only a known stage in the history of mental development, which grows from primitive systems and involves a transition to further steps to much more complex psychological formations.

Already the observations on the development of mediated memorization, which we have cited above, point to an extremely peculiar fact: if at first mediated operations proceeded exclusively with the help of external signs, then in the later stages of development, external mediation ceases to be the only operation by which higher psychological mechanisms are solved them tasks. Experience shows that here not only the forms of using signs change, but the very structure of the operation also changes radically. In the most essential, we can express this change if we say that from the externally mediated, it becomes internally mediated. This is expressed in the fact that the child begins to memorize the material offered to him by the method described by us above, but only does not resort to the help of external signs, which from this moment become unnecessary to him.

The whole operation of indirect memorization now proceeds as a purely internal process, in the appearance of which it cannot be said that it differs in anything from the original form of direct memorization. Judging only by external data, it may seem that the child simply began to remember more, better, somehow improved and developed his memory and, most importantly, returned to the method of direct memorization from which our experiment pushed him. But the return back is only apparent: development, as often happens, does not move here in a circle, but in a spiral, returning to the passed point on a higher basis.

This withdrawal of operations inside, this internalization of higher mental functions associated with new changes in their structure, we call the process of rotation, having in mind mainly the following: the fact that higher mental functions are built initially as external forms of behavior and are based on an external sign, to what extent it is not accidental, but, on the contrary, determined by the very psychological nature of a higher function, which, as we said above, does not arise as a direct continuation of elementary processes, but is a social way of behavior, applied to oneself.

The transfer of social modes of behavior into the system of individual forms of adaptation is not at all a purely mechanical transfer; it is not performed automatically, but is associated with a change in the structure and function of the entire operation and is a special stage in the development of higher forms of behavior. Transferred into the sphere of individual behavior, complex forms of cooperation begin to function according to the laws of that primitive whole, the organic part of which they now make up. Between the position that higher mental functions (the use of signs is an integral part) arise in the process of cooperation and social interaction, and the position that these functions develop from primitive roots on the basis of lower, or elementary, functions, i.e. between the Sociogenesis of higher functions and their natural history, there is a genetic, not a logical contradiction. The transition from a collective form of behavior to an individual initially reduces the level of the whole operation, since it is included in the system of primitive functions, taking on qualities common to all functions of this level. Social forms of behavior are more complex, and their development goes ahead of the child; becoming individual, they decline and begin to function according to simpler laws. For example, egocentric speech as a structure is lower than ordinary speech, but as a stage in the development of thinking it is higher than the social speech of a child of the same age, therefore, perhaps Piaget sees it as the forerunner of socialized speech, and not as a form, derivative of it.

Thus, we come to the conclusion that each higher mental function inevitably in the beginning has the character of external activity. At first, the sign is, as a rule, an external auxiliary stimulus, an external means of autostimulation. This is due to two reasons: firstly, the roots of such an operation lie in collective forms of behavior that always belong to the sphere of external activity, and secondly, this is due to the primitive laws of the individual sphere of behavior that are not yet isolated from external activity are not isolated from direct perception and external action, for example, the practical thinking of the child.

The fact of “internalizing” significant operations was experimentally traced in two situations: in mass experiments with children of different ages and in individual experiments — through prolonged experimentation with one child. For this purpose, in our laboratory, Leontyev’s work carried out a large number of children from the age of 7 to teenagers through direct and indirect memorization. The change in the number of elements filled in both cases is two lines that reveal the dynamics of symbolic operations throughout the entire process of child development. The figure shows the line of development of direct and indirect memorization at different ages.

A number of points are immediately evident: both lines are not randomly located, but reveal a known pattern. It is clear that the line of direct memorization is located below the line of memorization of the mediated, both of them show a certain tendency of growth. However, the growth is uneven in individual segments of children's development: if up to 10-11 years of age, external-mediated memorization grows especially sharply, from which the lower line is noticeably behind, then it is during this period that a turning point occurs, and in older school age the growth of external-mediated memory is especially dynamic. In pace, it surpasses the line of development of external-mediated operations.

An analysis of this scheme, which we called a conditionally parallelogram of development and which remains stable in all experiments, shows that it is caused by forms that play a paramount role in the development of higher mental processes in a child. If for the first stage of development it was characteristic that the child was able to mediate his memory only by resorting to known external methods (hence the sharp growth of the upper line), leaving memorization not based on external signs in a significant, immediate, almost mechanical retention in memory, then the second stage of development is a sharp jump: external sign operations as a whole reach the limit, but now the child begins to rebuild the internal process of memorization that is not based on external signs; the natural process is mediated, the child begins to apply well-known internal methods - and a sharp increase in the lower curve indicates a fracture.

In the development of internal indirect operations, the phase of application of external signs plays a decisive role.
The child goes to internal sign processes because he went through the phase when these processes were outside. A series of individual experiments convince us of this: by measuring the coefficient of natural memory in a child, we carry out experiments with external memory for some time, and then again check operations that are not based on the use of external signs. The results show that even in an experiment with a mentally retarded child, there is first a significant increase in externally mediated and then direct memorization, which after an intermediate series of experiments gives a 2-3 times better effect, transferring, as the analysis shows, the techniques of an external symbolic operation to internal processes .

In the described operations, we are present in a two-way process: on the one hand, the natural process undergoes deep restructuring, turning into a bypass, mediated act, on the other, and the sign operation itself changes, ceasing to be external and being processed into complex internal psychological systems. The double change is also symbolized in our scheme by a fracture of both curves, coinciding at one point and indicating the internal dependence of these processes. We are here during a process of the greatest psychological importance: what was an external operation with a sign, a well-known cultural method of mastering oneself from the outside, turns into a new intrapsychological layer, gives rise to a new psychological system that is incomparably higher in composition and cultural-psychological in genesis.

The process of rotation of cultural forms of behavior that we just stopped at is associated with profound changes in the activity of the most important mental functions, with a radical restructuring of mental activity based on symbolic operations. On the one hand, natural mental processes, as we see them in animals, cease to exist in their pure form, being included in a system of behavior reorganized on a cultural and psychological basis in a new whole. This new whole necessarily includes the former elementary functions, which, however, continue to exist in them in the removed form, acting already according to new laws that are characteristic of the whole system that has arisen.

On the other hand, the operation of the use of an external sign is sharply rebuilt. Being a decisive, important operation in a young child, it is replaced here by substantially different forms; the internally mediated process begins to use completely new connections and new techniques, unlike those that were characteristic of the external sign operation. The process experiences changes here, similar to those observed during the transition of the child from external to internal speech. As a result of the process of rotation of cultural and psychological operations, we get a new structure, a new function of previously applied techniques and a completely new composition of complex mental processes. It would be extremely primitive to think that further restructuring of higher mental processes under the influence of the use of the sign occurs on the basis of transferring the entire finished sign operation inside; it would be just as wrong to assume that in the developed system of higher mental processes there is a simple superstructure of the higher floor over the lower and the simultaneous existence of two relatively independent forms of behavior - natural and indirect. In fact, as a result of the rotation of the cultural operation, we get a qualitatively new plexus of systems that sharply distinguish human psychology from the elementary functions of animal behavior. These complex plexuses remain unexplored, and we can now point out only a few key points characteristic of them.

During rotation, i.e., when a function is transferred inward, a complex restructuring of its entire structure occurs. The essential points of perestroika are, as the experiment shows, the following: 1) substitution of functions; 2) a change in natural functions (elementary processes that form the basis for a higher function and form part of it); 3) the emergence of new psychological functional systems (or system functions), which assume the role in the general structure of behavior, which is carried out before that by separate functions.

Briefly, we could explain these three points, internally related to each other, on the changes that occur during rotation in higher memory functions. Even in the simplest forms of indirect memorization, the fact of the replacement of a function is manifested with complete obviousness. A. Binet did not in vain call the mnemonics of storing a number of numbers a model of numerical memory. The experiment shows that in such memorization, the decisive factor is not the power of memory or the level of its development, but the activity of combining, building structures, discretion of relationships, thinking in a broad sense and other processes that replace memory and determine the structure of this activity. When the activity goes inside, the very substitution of functions leads to verbalization of memory and, therefore, to memorization with the help of concepts. Due to the replacement of the function, the elementary process of memorization is shifted from the place that it originally occupied, but is not yet separated from the new operation, but uses its central position in the entire psychological structure and takes a new position in relation to the whole new system of jointly acting functions. Entering this new system, it begins to function in accordance with the laws of that whole of which it is now a part.

As a result of all the changes, the new memory function (which has now become an internal indirect process) only in name is similar to the elementary process of memorization; in its internal essence, this is a new specific entity that has its own laws.
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