Inicio > Psicología marxista > «Introducing cultural historical theory: main concepts and principles of genetic research methodology»: Nikolai Veresov

«Introducing cultural historical theory: main concepts and principles of genetic research methodology»: Nikolai Veresov

This paper explores two main topics. First, it presents main concepts and principles of culturalhistorical theory (CHT) in relation to development. Second, it describes principles of the genetic research methodology, which are derived from the CHT framework. In other words, I will try to provide a systemic overview of Vygotsky’s psychological theory in order to answer two questions: (1) what is culturalhistorical theory about and (2) what does it mean to make an experimental psychological study meeting requirements of culturalhis torical theory*.

Keywords: culturalhistorical theory, genetic research methodology.

Development of human mind: subject matter of cultural historical theory

Undoubtedly, Vygotsky’s culturalhistorical theory has the higher mental functions of human beings as its principle object of study. However, this object is not simple and should be clarified. The distinction between the lower mental functions, equal in animals and human beings (such as sensations, representations, perception etc.) and the higher specifically human mental functions (abstract thinking, logical memory, voluntary attention, etc.) was originally introduced to scientific psychology by W. Wundt. He propounded that the higher functions could not be studied in experimental psychology, but by the historical analysis of various cultural products (folk tales, customs, rituals and so on). Vygotsky’s theory took an opposite approach — the higher mental functions (human mind) should become the subjectmatter of scientific experimental psychology. Psychology should create a new methodology of experimental research, and new theoretical instruments (concepts and principles).

Vygotsky explained that higher mental functions which have already matured (the «fruits of development») are closed for direct investigation by traditional experimental methods. Even more, when a function becomes ingrown, i. e., when it «moves within», an extremely complex transformation of that function’s structure takes place, and its entire construction becomes indiscernible. Galperin explained «when functions are developed they «recede into the depths» and are covered by phenomena of a completely different appearance, structure, and nature» [1, p. 26]. A new, different kind of methodology, a genetic approach, is required to investigate this circumstance. In this situation, traditional, classical, quantitative methods are not valid and must be replaced by qualitative ones. «To understand the mental function means to restore both theoretically and experimentally the whole process of its development in phylo and ontogenesis» [2].

The onesidedness and erroneousness of the traditional view (emphasis mine — NV) …on higher mental functions consist primarily and mainly in an inability to look at these facts as facts of historical development, in the onesided consideration of them as natural process es and formations, in merging and not distinguishing the natural and the cultural, the essential and the historical, the biological and the social in the mental development…; in short — in an incorrect basic understanding of the nature of the phenomena being studied… Putting it more simply, with this state of the matter, the very process of development of complex and higher forms of behaviour remained unexplained and unre alised methodologically [12, p. 2].

«Development» is the key word here. «Fruits» (results, products) of development become accessible for the analysis through the theoretical and experimental reconstruction of the whole process of development. For Vygotsky, the subject matter of the theory was not the «higher mental functions» as they are, but the very process of their development. Cultural$historical theory was the theory of the origin and development of higher mental functions.

Accordingly, every concept and principle of cultural historical theory refers to a certain aspect of the complex process of development of the higher mental functions. The role, place, and interrelationships of all the concepts and principles within the theory become clear in terms of the origins and development of the higher mental functions.

Artículo Completo

* I thank all the participants of ISCAR Summer School for their patience and attention. I am grateful to Steve Gabosch for his valuable help in the preparation of the final version of this paper.

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