Lev Vygotsky

Cultural-historical psychologist, leader of Vygotsky circle


  • Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was born in Western Russia (Belorussia) in 1896
  • Graduated with a law degree at Moscow University
  • First big research project was in 1925 with his Psychology of Art
  • Pursued a career as a psychologist working with Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev, together they began the Vygotskian approach to psychology
  • After his death of tuberculosis in 1934, his ideas were repudiated by the government; however, his ideas were kept alive by his students

His Theory

In Vygotsky's theory he says that development depends on social interactions that people have with one another and tools that culture provides to help form their own view of the world. Vygotsky said that there are 3 cultural tools that are passed from one to another.

  • Imitative learning, where one person tries to imitate or copy another
  • Instructed learning which involves remembering the instructions of the teacher and then using these instructions to self-regulate
  • Collaborative learning, which involves a group of peers who strive to understand each other and work together to learn a specific skill
Vygotsky has other key points in his theory which include the more knowledgeable other (MKO) the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).


Vygotsky's Theory has a lot to do with a child's developmental process. The three key theories he came up with all play role within each other in some way. With the More Knowledge Other theory he is saying that in order for a child to develop their intellect they need someone or something else that has more knowledge then them to teach them new things. This is constantly affecting children in the form of caregivers, teachers, books, games, etc. With Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, you see this theory affecting kids all the time. When a teacher works with a child on a task they help them just enough until they figure out how to do it, then the child has developed that skill. And his last key theory that social interactions influence cognitive development basically explains it's self. Basically in order for a child to develop that mental idea or process they need social interactions that will encourage them first.

Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development

Vygotsky's Research

Vygotsky also conducted extensive research into play. He discovered that play serves a key role in learning and that children often learn concepts based upon make-believe play. Play can take on symbolic meaning, such as when a child tells an adult that a stick is actually a snake. He argued that cultural norms, rules for behavior, and social skills are frequently learned through play. Consequently, play is an important activity that enables children to learn to modulate and control their own behavior.

Interesting Facts

  • Vygotsky was virtually unknown in the Western world until the first translations of his writings appeared in English
  • In 1924, Vygotsky received an invitation to work as a psychologist at Moscow University under the Marxist Konstantin Kornilov
  • His views on mental testing led to the new field of dynamic assessment
  • his criticism of existing theories about the localization of mental functions in the brain was used to create the new discipline of psychoneurology

Works Cited

"Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky." Psychology History. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016

"Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)." Lev Vygotsky Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

"Lev Vygotsky." Vygotsky. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

"Sign in - Google Accounts." Sign in - Google Accounts. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

"Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development." YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.