Lev Vygotsky

By: Emily Camp

Biographical Information

Lev Vygotsky was born in Orsha, a part of the Russia that is now known as Belarus, on November 17, 1896, Vygotsky was a pioneer of psychology. He graduated from the Moscow State University in 1917, and also worked in many research facilities and educational establishments in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kharkov. His extensive research into cognitive development has lead his theory to be one of the most important of it’s kind. He believed that children’s thinking is affected by their social knowledge, which is communicated by either psychological (language, number, art) or technical (books, calculator) means. He is often criticized for being an idealist and for his overemphasis of the role of language in thinking. He wrote six major volumes. Though it may sound odd, Vygotsky rarely conducted research. He was interested in constructing the best possible theory on the transfer of knowledge. Vygotsky died at the young age of 37 in 1934 from Tuberculosis. His main work was translated to English in 1962. It had a major impact on psychological research in similar fields long after Vygotsky's death.

Major Publications

  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1974) The psychology of art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman., Eds.) (A. R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas & M. Cole [with J. V. Wertsch], Trans.) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky, Volume 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work published 1934.)

Awards

Vygotsky's writing wasn't translated to English until after he died; therefore, most praise for his work was not realized until after he had died.

What We Can Learn

Zone of Proximal Development - "the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers." - Vygotsky (1978)


"Learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function." - Vygotsky (1978)


"Language plays to critical roles in cognitive development:

1. It is the main means by which adults transmit information to children.

2. Language itself becomes a very powerful tool of intellectual adaptation."

- Vygotsky (1962)



Conclusion

Lev Vygotsky's work in psychology includes several key concepts such as psychological tools, mediation, internalization and the zone of proximal development. His work covered such diverse topics as the origin and the psychology of art, development of higher mental functions, philosophy of science and methodology of psychological research, the relation between learning and human development, concept formation, interrelation between language and thought development, play as a psychological phenomenon, the study of learning disabilities and abnormal human development,

Vygotsky's Developmental Theory: An Introduction (Davidson Films, Inc.)

Sources

  • McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1974) The psychology of art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman., Eds.) (A. R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas & M. Cole [with J. V. Wertsch], Trans.) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])