The Development of Memory: A Study of Lev Vygotsky
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By Nick Thompson
Born in 1896 in Orsha in Byelorussia (Belarus) Grew up in Gomel Graduated valedictorian from the gymnasium in 1913 Graduated from Moscow University in 1917 Profoundly affected by the Bolshevik Revolution Taught in Gomel from 1917-1923 Taught in Leningrad, Moscow and Kharkov from 1924-1934 Died in 1934 of tuberculosis Influenced by Marx and Engels Founder of the Sociohistorical School of Psychology
History is a dialectical process, a series of conflicts and resolutions. New forces of production (e.g., new ways of manufacturing) come into conflict with the existing social system and a new social system is installed. (Crain, Theories of Development) The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (The Communist Manifesto)
According to Engels, our ancestors became capable of tool use when they came down from the trees and began living on level ground. This new mode of life enabled them to develop an upright posture, which freed the hands for the production of stone implements. Once people began making tools, their minds expanded. (Crain) Human capacities, as Engels said, have changed as a result of historical development—especially technological development. (Crain)
The most important moment in the course of intellectual development, which gives birth to the purely human forms of practical and abstract intelligence, occurs when speech and practical activity, two previously completely independent lines of development, converge. Although children’s use of tools during their preverbal period is comparable to that of apes, as soon as speech and the use of signs are incorporated into any action, the action becomes transformed and organized along entirely new lines. The specifically human use of tools is thus realized, going beyond the more limited use of tools possible among the higher animals. (Vygotsky, Mind in Society)
Human babies are basically monkeys. Speech unlocks the child’s ability to develop in a fashion that we would consider normal for human beings.
Tool- an implement, esp. one held in the hand, as a hammer, saw, or file, for performing or facilitating mechanical operations. (dictionary.com)
Psychological tools, or signs, are tools that exist inside the mind. Very similar to Piaget’s Schema. Examples- Speech, Language, Writing and Mathematics
The most important for Vygotsky is Speech. Humans think in dialogue.
Auxiliary Stimulus (Developed by the human mind)
Internalization- The progressive transfer from external social activity mediated by signs to internal control. (Dixon-Krauss)
Egocentric Speech- children talking to themselves aloud (Crain). First noted by Piaget, who thought it reflected a child’s egocentrism.
Piaget- egocentric speech simply dies out.
Vygotsky- egocentric speech is a tool that becomes internalized into human thought.
Memory Aids are devices used to help you remember past events. They are tools according to Vygotsky. Examples- notched sticks,
knots in a rope
Internalization leads to the development of psychological memory aids. Example- A waiter
remembers an order without writing it down
The researchers asked the children a series of 18 questions, with 7 questions about the color of an object. A second round of questions were asked, this time disallowing the use of two colors or repeating the same color twice. This was repeated a third time, but the children were given colored cards (tools) to help them remember which colors they used.
Number of Subjects
Errors (avg) Task 2
Errors (avg) Task 3
Preschool children ignore external memory aids. As children get older and progress through school, they begin to use external memory aids more effectively. They have not begun to internalize the memory aids. During adolescence, the children begin to internalize memory aids. By adulthood, people have well developed internal memory aids.
Educational advances have come a long way in the long way in the last 80 years. Surely the educational tools used in the classroom today are much more advanced than they were way back in the 1920s. If the sociohistorical theory of the dialectic is true, then children of this generation should be internalizing memory aids quicker than they were in the past.
This study will attempt to prove Vygotsky’s theory of sociohistorical progress correct. Children today will be more capable of remembering using internal psychological tools than the children in Leontiev’s study.
7 children (1 boy and 6 girls) Age range: 10 and 11 years old Each child was taken out into the hall for approximately 10 minutes to answer a series of questions. 3 sets of questions were used, each 18 questions long. 7 questions regarding color were included in each set. The first set of questions was asked. Two rules were then added. The child could not say the colors yellow and green and could not use the same color twice. The child was asked another set of 18 questions. The child was then asked to evaluate him/herself at the end and also state the rules of the game. The child was then presented a set of eight colored cards (white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, orange and purple) and told various examples of how to use the cards. The rules were altered slightly. Instead of yellow and green, the two forbidden colors were blue and red. The child still was not allowed to say the same color twice. The child was asked the third set of 18 questions. Again, he/she was asked to evaluate him/herself at the end and also state the rules of the game.
Errors in Task 2
Errors in Task 3
The averages apparently show that today’s kids are getting quicker at internalizing memory aids. But super smart Katrina was distorting the results. A look at the median reveals a different picture. Today’s kids seem to progress at the same pace as yesterday’s.
Children’s abilities to use memory aids develop at the same average rate naturally no matter what is taught in the classroom. The tools developed by educators to develop children’s abilities to internalize memory aids have not progressed very far in 80 years (the dialectic is incorrect?).
Vygotsky was WRONG!
Sample more children
Have a better gender distribution
Familiarize myself with the children beforehand so they wouldn’t be so nervous Introduce other tools to see if Task 3 results would change
"Through others we become ourselves." — Lev S. Vygotsky