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Basic rules for the development of higher mental functions

The general provisions underlying the historical theory of higher mental functions developed by us allow us to draw some conclusions related to the most important rules that govern the development process we are interested in.

1. The history of the development of each of the higher mental functions is not a direct continuation and further improvement of the corresponding elementary function, but assumes a fundamental change in the direction of development and further movement of the process in a completely new plan; each higher mental function is, therefore, a specific neoplasm.

In terms of phylogenesis, the disclosure of this situation presents no difficulties, since the biological formation and the historical formation of any function are so sharply delimited from each other and so clearly belong to heterogeneous forms of evolution that they represent two processes in a pure and isolated form. In ontogenesis, both lines of development are intricately woven and therefore have repeatedly misled the researcher, merging into an indistinguishable whole for the observer, as a result of which the illusion has always occurred that the higher processes are simply a continuation and development of the lower ones. We will give only one factual consideration confirming our position on the material of the most complex mental operations: we will dwell on the development of the account and arithmetic processes.

A number of psychological studies have established the view that the arithmetical operations of a child are from the very beginning a complex symbolic activity and grow out of the elementary forms of operations with quantities through continuous development.

The experiments conducted in our laboratory (Kuchurin, N. A. Menchinskaya) convincingly show that direct, gradual improvement of elementary processes is out of the question here and that a change in the forms of counting operations is a profound qualitative change in the mental processes involved in them. Observations showed: if at the beginning of development, the operation with quantities is reduced only to the direct perception of certain sets and numerical groups and the child does not count at all, but perceives the quantity, then further development is characterized by breaking this direct form and replacing it with another process, where a number of mediated auxiliary signs are involved , and in particular, such as dissecting speech, the use of fingers and other ancillary objects, which take the child to the process of recalculation. The further development of counting operations is again associated with radical reorganizations of the mental functions taking part in them, and the numeration with the help of complex counting systems again represents a qualitatively special psychological neoplasm.

We come to the conclusion that the development of the account is reduced to the participation in it of basic mental functions, the transition from preschool to school arithmetic is not a simple, continuous process, but the process of overcoming the primary elementary patterns and replacing them with new, more complex ones. Let us show this with a concrete example.

If for a small child the process of counting is entirely determined by the perception of the form, then in the future this relationship is reversed and the very perception of the form is determined by the dismembering tasks of the score. In our experiments, we gave a small child to recount the shape of a cross laid out of cones. As a result, we invariably got an error: the child, who perceives this figure as an integral system of the cross, recounted the middle element, which is included in both intersecting systems, twice. Only much later did he move to another type of process; the perception from the very beginning was determined by the objectives of the account and was divided into three separate groups of elements, which were recalculated sequentially. In this process, we cannot fail to see the change of two psychological behaviors with emancipation from the direct connection of the sensory and motor fields and with the processing of perceptions by complex psychological attitudes.

All these studies convincingly show that evolutionism in studying the development of children's behavior should give way to more adequate ideas that take into account the completely peculiar, dialectical nature of the process of formation of new mental forms.

2. Higher mental functions are not built on, as a second floor, over elementary processes, but represent new psychological systems, including a complex interweaving of elementary functions, which, being included in the new system, themselves begin to act according to new laws; each higher mental function represents, therefore, a unity of a higher order, determined mainly by a peculiar combination of a number of more elementary functions in a new whole.

This position, which is crucial in the study of education and the structure of higher mental functions, has already been traced in our experiments with the reorganization of perception when speech is turned on and more broadly on the mutual and deep change of functions during the formation of a complex psychological system “speech is a practical intellectual operation” .
In these cases, we did observe the formation of complex psychological systems with new functional relationships between individual members of the system and the corresponding changes in the functions themselves. If the perception associated with speech begins to function not according to the laws of the sensory field, but according to the laws organized by the attention system, if the encounter of a symbolic operation with the use of an instrument gives new forms of mediated mastering of an object with preliminary organization of its own behavior, then we have to talk about some common the law of mental development and education of higher mental functions.

In a series of psychological studies, we came to the conclusion that both the most primitive and the most complex of the higher mental functions undergo such a restructuring; The psychological study of imitation carried out in our laboratory (L.I. Bozhovich and L.S. Slavina) showed that the primitive forms of the reflecting mechanical imitation, being included in the system of symbolic operations, form a new whole, begin to be built under completely new laws and receive a different function. In other experiments devoted to the psychological study of the formation of concepts according to the method developed by Sakharov, our employees Kotelova and Pashkovskaya showed that on the higher floors of mental processes, the inclusion of complex speech functions is associated with the creation of completely new forms of categorical behavior that had not been observed before.

3. With the disintegration of higher mental functions, with painful processes, the connection between symbolic and natural functions is destroyed, as a result of which a series of natural processes split off, which begin to act according to primitive laws, as more or less independent psychological structures. Thus, the decay of higher mental functions is a process that, on the qualitative side, is the opposite of their construction.

It is probably difficult to imagine more clearly the general disintegration of higher mental functions in violation of speech symbolism than in aphasia. The lesion of speech is accompanied here and loss (or significant violation) of sign operations; However, this fallout does not occur as an isolated monosympt, but entails a general and profound disruption in the activities of all higher mental systems. In special series of studies, we could establish that aphasic, in which the highest sign operations fall, in practical actions is completely subordinated to the elementary laws of the optical field. In another series, we experimentally established abrupt changes characteristic of aphasic activity, which returns to the primitive inseparability of the sensory and motor spheres: direct motor manifestation of impulses with the inability to delay its action and form a delayed time intention, the inability to transform by moving attention once the image , complete inability in reasoning and action to distract from meaningful and familiar structures; a return to the primitive forms of reflecting imitation - these are the deepest consequences that are associated with the defeat of higher symbolic systems.

Studies of aphasia show with extreme convincingness that the higher mental functions do not exist simply near or above the lower ones; in fact, the higher functions penetrate so much into the lower ones and so reform all, even the deepest layers of behavior, that their decay associated with the detachment of the lower processes in their elementary forms radically changes the entire structure of behavior, throwing it back to the most primitive, “paleopsychological” type activities.
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Basic rules for the development of higher mental functions

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