Introduction
For a quick 4-minute introductory video tour to Vygotsky and his ideas, click this link.


Lev Vygotsky, Soviet Psychologist vygotsky.jpg

  • Biographical sketch
    • Born 1896 (same year as Piaget) to a Russian Jewish family
    • Earned a law degree from Moscow University
    • Strong interest in language/literature (evident in later work on cog development)
    • Developmental theory sprung from working with children with disabilities and intellectual delay to fulfill their potential
    • Gained position at Institute of Psychology in Moscow in 1924 where he began his work in psychology
    • Major Publications: Published over 180 works, the most important of these being Thought and Language(1934) - translated into English in 1962
    • Ostracized and blacklisted in early 1930s by the Communist party
    • Writings were banned by the Soviet government from 1936 - 1956
    • Died in 1934 of tuberculosis at age 37, after only 10 years of professional work in psychology
    • One of "Big 3" developmental theorists (along with Freud & Piaget)
    • Freud = biological forces, Piaget = interaction between biology and environment, Vygotsky = Cultural contributions

Background and Assumptions of Theory
Vygotsky began his work on a 'new psychology' with colleagues Luria and Leontiev. They aimed to create a new psychology based on 300px-Russian_Revolution_of_1917.jpgMarxist principles fit for the new socialist state following the Russian Revolution. Some have posed that the social upheaval of the times is exactly what spurred Vygotsky and colleagues new mode of thinking about development.The ideals held by socialist Russia influence Vygotsky in that he viewed each individual person as being responsible for the progression of the society at large. He also aimed to erase illiteracy that was rampant in Russian society.

Vygotsky developed three core ideas in psychology that stemmed from and furthered Marx and Engels' socialist views. These were as follows:
  • Humans transform themselves through labor and labor's tools. In translating this to developmental psychology;
  • Certain psychological tools influence social situations and settings. An example of these tools included language and its influence on action;
  • social interaction in human development is extremely important.

Secondly, Vygotsky believed the socialist view of shared goods was parallel to the idea of 'socially shared cognition.' Vygotsky applied this view to human development in that he thought the adult collective had a responsibility for sharing their knowledge with less cognitively advanced humans in society (e.g., children). Lastly, he incorporated the idea of dialectical change. This is the idea that humans are constantly changing. In essence, this idea was the concept of 'development.' Often, changing psychological structures through development come into conflict with each other, and cognitive development occurs by resolving these conflicts. This idea was somewhat reminiscent of Piaget's idea of equilibration.