Mechanisms of Development - The Driving Forces of Development
‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍Dialectical Change/Dialectics
Vygotsky focused on change and its mechanisms more than the outcome or level of performance of the child. For Vygotsky, development follows a dialectical process of thesis (one idea or phenomenon), antithesis (an opposing idea or phenomenon), and synthesis (resolution, which produces a higher-level concept or more advanced functioning). ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍Thus, conflict and resolution play a major role in development.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ Conflict can occur between developing psychological structures, currently held concepts and new ones, children and their environment, nature and nurture, and a host of other opposing ideas, phenomena, forces, or events.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ Dialectical process often occurs when children interact with adults/more advanced peers, play, or use technological or psychological tools.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ While much of Vygotsky's work focused on the developmental processes of children, his emphasis on the dialectical process applies across the lifespan. Thus, the concepts of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis are just as relevant to adolescents and adults as they are to children.
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‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍Developmental Processes Across the Lifespan/Connections Between Early and Later Development‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍
Given that Vygotsky's focus was on the fluid process of development, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how distinct aspects of early development directly translate into later aspects of development. However, the connections between private and inner speech as well as the links between spontaneous and scientific concepts give two of the more clear-cut examples of development across the lifespan.

Private Speech and Inner Speech
Speech and thought are at first independent. Babbling and other such sounds are speech without thought. Vygotsky thought that they began to merge at around age 2. Children learn that objects have names, and thus they use words as symbols. At around age 3, after children learn to talk, speech between people splits into communicative speech to others and private speech. In private speech, children talk aloud to themselves in a running dialogue to think through a problem and plan their actions. Private speech increases when young children attempt to solve more difficult tasks. While overt private speech declines during the school-age years, even adults may use it when faced with challenging tasks (e.g., filling out income tax forms).


‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍A 4.5 year old girl demonstrating private speech‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍

By approximately age 7, private speech becomes inner speech. Children can now silently "think in words," though inner speech is more abbreviated, idiosyncratic, and fragmented than spoken language. Just as they once used language only to influence others, they now use private and inner speech to influence themselves.

In some respects, the young girl in the above video can thus be seen as demonstrating a pre-synthesis stage in the transition from private speech to inner speech. At her current developmental level, she utilizes private speech to think aloud. As she continues to interact with adults and advanced peers and further develops her problem-solving abilities, her recognition of others "thinking silently" (antithesis) may come into conflict with her use of private speech (thesis), and ultimately result in the development of inner speech (synthesis).

Spontaneous and Scientific Concepts
Spontaneous concepts are intuitive, concrete concepts based on everyday experience that children begin to form prior to their school years. Scientific concepts involve logical concepts that children can use consciously and deliberately because they are‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ "distanced" from them. Children enter into this type of thinking with their teachers at school and subsequently ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍internalize it. Scientific concepts handed down by teachers meet children's intuitive concepts halfway and become intertwined with them. For example, when teachers introduce the abstract notion(scientific concept) of social class conflict, children use their concrete personal knowledge (spontaneous concept) of poor and rich people to assimilate the new concept.

As intuitive concepts are transformed into scientific concepts, they are decontextualized - taken from the child's concrete experience into a context-free formal system.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ Children become conscious of these concepts and skills and consequently can voluntarily make use of them in a variety of contexts‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍. Thus, after assimilating the concept of social class conflict, children are better able to conceptualize the complex context and social interactions underlying some of the historical events/wars/revolutions they may read about in some of their later classes. If children fail to internalize scientific concepts, their knowledge and understanding of the world is limited to their concrete, everyday, personal experiences.