Higher mental functions
An attempt to identify truly human activities led LS Vygodsky to the conclusion that one of such specifically human species is the connection between the use of tools and speech. The use of guns in this case is understood as the ability to apply some part of the environment to solve emerging problems. Accordingly, speech refers to symbols and signs used by people to communicate with each other.
Actively used tools, as you know, not only people, but also animals. Moreover, in addition to primates, it is successfully done by dogs, cats, crows and other fauna. In this case only people speak. Therefore, Vygotsky attached special importance to the ability of the child to use tools, abilities to master and use speech, along with the abilities of the child.
The ways of developing the ability to use tools and to have a speech in a child are relatively independent. Despite this, when he takes possession of both these abilities, something almost magical happens. Using a gun and a child who has mastered speech rises to a completely different level of mental functioning. This is the level of functioning of higher mental functions, only people can achieve it.
In his empirical studies, LS Vygodsky devoted much attention to studying the abilities of children to solve various problems as their speech develops. He believed that the ability of non-talking children to solve problems is largely similar to the similar abilities of chimpanzees. But since children master speech, they leave the lower world of primates and enter a world of higher mental functioning.
Speech is so important, in the first place, because it gives rise to a completely new level of mental functioning. Words are internal elements (symbols and signs) that denote objects of the external world, with their help, children can think about objects in the absence of these objects themselves. Children who do not speak, like chimpanzees, can think about objects only by influencing them directly. Through speech, children mentally operate objects that do not exist, they are able to make plans for the future or, remembering the past, admit mistakes or be proud of what they have done in the past.
L. S. Vygodsky noted that the child attracts speech to help with the use of guns when, after unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem on his own, he turns to external help. Naturally, to get this help, he must verbally describe the problem. This process LS Vygodsky called interpersonal function of speech. As children learn to talk with others, they are able to talk to themselves. What happens is what is called the internalization of speech. LS Vygodsky denoted this also as an intrapersonal function of speech.
According to Vygotsky, the speech arises initially as a form of collective behavior, as an instrument of cooperation with other people, and only then it becomes an individual intrapersonal one. From now on, it begins to perform an intelligent function.
Distinctive features of higher mental functions, according to Vygotsky, are: mediation, awareness, arbitrariness, system. It is of fundamental importance that Vygotsky emphasizes the assertion that higher mental functions are formed during life in the process of mastering special means developed in the course of the historical development of society.
The relationship between learning and development
Child development, according to LS Vygodsky, is not subject to biological, and socio-historical laws. The development of the psyche occurs through the appropriation of historically developed forms and methods of activity by the child. Therefore, the main driving force of development in a person is learning. This thesis of LS Vygodsky, better known in another wording - "... education leads to development", is one of the most striking practical consequences of his theory. The influence of this idea on the domestic theory of teaching and educational practice is difficult to overestimate.
Thanks to training, internal development processes are put in motion, but at the same time, according to LS Vygodsky, training is not identical to development. To explain the nature of the interaction between learning and development, the concepts of "current development zone" and the "near development zone".
& quot; Current Development Zone & quot; - conditionally indicates the level of results that a child is able to achieve independently, without the help of adults or more experienced peers. This is what the child owns at the moment, is found when testing his abilities or achievements.
& quot; Current Development Zone & quot; - conditionally designates what the child is potentially able to achieve with the help of others (adults or more experienced peers). We have already noted that children turn to the elders when they can not solve a problem themselves. With the help of others, they often manage to do what they are potentially capable of, but can not cope on their own. Since this implies interaction between people, LS Vygodsky called this increase in the ability of the interppsychic process.
The difference between what the children do themselves, and what they do with someone's help, or the interval between the actual and potential levels of development, LS Vygodsky called the "zone of proximal development". The wider the zone in a child, the better it is prepared to move to higher levels of development. The fact that today is a zone of proximal development, tomorrow will be a zone of actual development.
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