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Unformatted text preview: ychological tools (Cole, 1985; Thomas, 2000; Wertsch, 1990). In its
elementary form, memory would involve the automatic formation of an
association between two events that have occurred together, such as the cat who
associates the sound of the can opener with food.. In its elementary form,
attention would involve some automatic change in how attention is focused. For
example, both people and many animals will react automatically to an unexpected
loud noise by looking in the direction of the noise.
Higher mental functions are unique to humans, and although they
develop out of the elementary functions, they differ from them in several ways.
Higher mental functions are under the control of the person, social in origin, and
are assisted by psychological tools (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1990). Memory as 27 a higher mental function would involve elaborative activities such as connecting
two events through the use of psychological tools such as analogies or
mnemonics. Attention as a higher mental function would involve deliberate
regulation of attention, as when we make conscious choices about where to focus
attention based on prior knowledge.
Vygotsky’s General Law of Cultural Development
Vygotsky’s general law of cognitive development is that any higher
mental function exists first on a social level before it occurs within the person as a
psychological process (Vygotsky, 1981). Vygostsky described this as the
transition from the intermental to the intramental plane (Wink & Putney, 2002),
and the gradual development of higher mental functions from social interactions
is internalization (Duveen, 1997). For example, our ability to think critically
would originate in social interactions such as Socratic questioning or debate.
From these interactions, we would internalize psychological tools such as the
ability to understand different points of view or the ability to critique claims made
in an advertisement.
The Vygotskian view of the role of egocentric speech provides another
important example of how mental functions originate in social interactions
(Emerson, 1997; Wertsch, 1990). Children’s first experience with speech is as a
means to socially interact with others, but around age three, egocentric speech
makes its first appearance. Egocentric speech is when children are talking aloud, 28 but they are talking to themselves (Feldman, 2000). Vygotsky believed that
children used egocentric speech to guide and regulate their problem solving.
Support for his position was provided by the observation that the amount of
egocentric speech tends to increase as problem difficulty increases for young
children. (Berk, 1985; Duncan, 1991; Schimmoeller, 1998).
Around age seven, egocentric speech pretty much disappears, although
even older children and adults will talk aloud occasionally while solving some
problems. However, Vygotsky believed that self-talk did not really disappear, but
instead became internalized as inner speech or self-regulation. Egocentric speech
represented the middle ground be...
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- Spring '08