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The origin and development of higher mental functions

The foundation of modern domestic age psychology is the formulated by L.S. Vygotsky (1896-1934) fundamental ideas and the system of basic concepts. In the 1920–1930s he developed the foundations of the cultural - historical theory of the development of the psyche. Although Vygotsky did not have time to create a complete theory, but the general understanding of mental development in childhood, contained in the works of the scientist, was later substantially developed, specified and clarified in the works of A.N. Leontiev, A.R. Luria, A.V. Zaporozhets, D.B. Elkonin, L.I. Bozovic, M.I. Lisina and other representatives of the Vygotsky school.

The main provisions of the cultural-historical approach are set out in the works of Vygotsky: "The Problem of the Cultural Development of a Child" (1928), "The Instrumental Method in Psychology" (1930), "An Instrument and a Sign in the Development of a Child" (1930), "History of the Development of Higher Mental Functions" (1930-1931), in the most famous book of the scientist "Thinking and Speech" (1933 - 1934) and in a number of others.

Analyzing the causes of the crisis of psychology as a science in the first decades of the 20th century, L.S. Vygotsky discovered that in all contemporary concepts for the development of the psyche he implemented an approach that he called “biologizing” or “naturalistic” 1.

Biologizing interpretation identifies, puts in one row the psychological development of the animal and the development of the child. Describing the traditional point of view on mental development (belonging to associative and behavioral psychology), Vygotsky identifies three main points:

- the study of higher mental functions from the components of their natural processes;

- the reduction of higher and complex processes to elementary;

- ignoring the specific features and patterns of cultural development of behavior.

He called this approach to the study of higher mental processes "atomistic", pointing to its fundamental inadequacy. Criticizing the traditional approach, Vygotsky wrote that "the very concept of developing higher mental functions is alien to child psychology," that it "limits the concept of mental development of a child to a single biological development of elementary functions that directly depends on the maturation of the brain as a function of organic maturation of the child."

L.S. Vygotsky argued that a different, not biological, understanding of the development of man’s higher mental functions was needed. He did not simply point out the importance of the social environment for the development of the child, but sought to identify the specific mechanism of this influence.

Vygotsky singled out lower, elementary mental functions (the phase of natural development) and higher mental functions (the phase of "cultural" development). The hypothesis put forward by Vygotsky proposed a new solution to the problem of the correlation of mental functions — elementary and higher. The main difference between the two is the level of arbitrariness, i.e. natural mental processes are not amenable to regulation by the person, and people can consciously control the higher mental functions (VPF). Vygotsky came to the conclusion that conscious regulation is associated with the mediated nature of the HMF.

The most convincing model of mediated activity, which characterizes the manifestation and realization of higher mental functions, is “the situation of Buridan's ass”. This classical situation of uncertainty, or a problem situation (the choice between two equal opportunities), interests Vygotsky primarily in terms of the means that allow you to transform (solve) the situation that has arisen. Man cast lots

According to Vygotsky, it represents the means by which a person transforms and resolves a given situation.

Between the stimulus and the reaction of the person (both behavioral and mental) there is an additional connection through the mediating link - the stimulus-means, or sign.

Signs (or incentives-means) are mental tools that, unlike work tools, change not the physical world, but the consciousness of the subject operating with them. A sign is any conventional symbol that has a specific meaning. Unlike the stimulus medium, which can be invented by the person himself (for example, a knot on a scarf or a wand instead of a thermometer), the signs are not invented by children, but are acquired by them in communication with adults.
A universal sign is the word. The mechanism of change in the psyche of the child, which leads to the emergence of higher mental functions specific to a person, is the mechanism of interiorization and (rotation) of signs as a means of regulating mental activity.

Interiorization is a fundamental law of the development of higher mental functions in phylogenesis and ontogenesis. This is Vygotsky’s hypotheses about the origin and nature of higher mental functions. Higher mental functions of a child arise initially as a form of collective behavior, as a form of cooperation with other people and only later by internalization do they become actually individual functions, or, as Vygotsky wrote: “Every function in a child’s cultural development appears on the scene twice, in two plans, first social, then psychological, first among people, as an interpsychic category, then inside the child as an intrapsychic category ”1.

For example, if we talk about voluntary attention as a higher mental function, then the sequence of stages of its formation is as follows: first, an adult in communication attracts and directs the attention of the child; Gradually, the child himself assimilates the pointing gesture and the word - the rotation takes place, the internalization of the ways of organizing someone else's and own attention. Speech is also: initially acting as an external means of communication between people, it goes through an intermediate stage (egocentric speech), begins to perform an intellectual function, and gradually becomes an internal, internalized mental function. Thus, the sign appears first in the external plane, in terms of communication, and then goes into the internal plane, the plane of consciousness.

The problems of interiorization in the same years were developed by the French sociological school. Some forms of social consciousness (E. Durkheim) are grafted onto the initially existing and originally asocial individual consciousness or elements of external social activity and social cooperation (P. Jean) are introduced into it - this is the idea of ​​the French psychological school. For Vygotsky, consciousness develops only in the process of interiorization — there is no initially asocial consciousness either phylogenetically or ontogenetically. In the process of interiorization, the human consciousness is formed, such human mental processes as logical thinking, will, and speech arise. The interiorization of signs is the mechanism that forms the psyche of children.

In the general concept of “development of higher mental functions”, Vygotsky includes two groups of phenomena, which together form the process of “developing higher forms of child behavior”:

- the processes of mastering language, writing, counting, drawing as external means of cultural development and thinking,

- development processes of special higher mental functions (voluntary attention, logical memory, concepts, etc.).

Distinctive signs of higher mental functions: mediation, arbitrariness, systematic; are formed in vivo; are formed by interiorizing the samples.

Highlighting the two historical stages of human development, biological (evolutionary) and cultural (historical) development, Vygotsky believes that it is important to distinguish and peculiarly oppose them as two types of development and in ontogenesis. Under the conditions of ontogenetic development, both these lines - biological and cultural - are in a complex interaction, merged, actually form a single, albeit complex process. As AM Matiushkin emphasized, for Vygotsky “the main problem and subject of research is to understand the“ interlacing ”of two types of processes, to trace their specific originality at each stage of development, to reveal the age and individually typological picture of development at each stage and in relation to each higher mental function. The difficulty for Vygotsky is not to trace and understand a separate process of cultural development, but to understand its features in the complex interweaving of processes. ”
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The origin and development of higher mental functions

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