A.R. Luria. Cognitive Development Its Cultural and Social Foundations 1974
First Published: 1974;
Source: Cognitive Development Its Cultural and Social Foundations;
Publisher: Harvard University Press 1976;
Translated: Martin Lopez-Morillas & Lynn Solotaroff;
Transcription/Markup: Nate Schmolze;
Proofread: Andy Blunden, September 2003;
Online Version: Psychology and Marxism Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2000.
This work has been reproduced in accordance to § 108 of U.S. copyright law (Title 17, p. 16). This distribution is made in accordance to the requirements under § 108: (1) without the purpose of any commercial advantage; (2) in a collection that is open to the public; and (3) includes a notice of copyright of the reproduced work.
It seems surprising that the science of psychology has avoided the idea that many mental processes are social and historical in origin, or that important manifestations of human consciousness have been directly shaped by the basic practices of human activity and the actual forms of culture.
Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, psychology tried to view itself as an independent science aspiring to an objective analysis of the physiological mechanisms involved in behavior. At various points in its development, psychology distinguished several basic mechanisms behind mental processes. During the middle of the nineteenth century, attention was focused on the principles of association, which were supposed to make up the whole fabric of human mental life. Toward the second half of the century, some investigators turned their attention to more complex mental phenomena. Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of psychology as a natural science, called these mental events “active apperceptions.” At the turn of the century, most psychologists assumed that these mental “acts” and “functions” underlay all forms of thinking and willing. The Wurzburg school exemplified this new trend in psychology.
But scientific psychology soon proved itself inadequate to the task of investigating every facet of active mental life. Consequently, one branch of psychology set itself up as an independent discipline concerned with more complex mental phenomena; this new school was closely linked to the neo-Kantian idealism supported by Cassirer's “philosophy of symbolic forms.”
The breakaway of the study of complex mental processes provoked a strong reaction among the psychologists in the natural-science tradition. During the first decade of the twentieth century, both Gestalt psychology in Germany and behaviorism in the United States took on the scientific study of the most complex and integral forms of mental activity as well as the more elementary ones. Gestalt psychology, largely restricting itself to the established natural-science psychology, tried to do away with the atomism and associationism typical of traditional psychology, and to discover the integral structural laws found most clearly in perception and perhaps in other psychological processes. American behaviorism saw a way out of the difficulties in traditional psychology by refusing to study the subjective world and by trying to find natural-science laws of integral behavior. This approach rested on a behavioral analysis developed by physiologists studying higher nervous processes.
During this course, however, of psychology's attempt to make itself an exact science, it has looked for laws of mental activity “within the organism”. It has regarded association, or apperception, the structural nature of perception, or conditioned reflexes underlying behavior as either natural or unchanging properties of the organism (physiological psychology) or as manifestations or intrinsic properties of the mind (idealistic psychology). The notion that the intrinsic properties and laws of mental activity remain unchanging has also led to attempts to set up a positivist social psychology and sociology based on the premise that social activities display mental properties operating within individuals. Wundt devoted the second half of his life to his multi-volume Volkerpsychologie (Folk Psychology), in which he attempted to decipher social phenomena such as religion, myths, morals, and law from the viewpoint of the psychology of the individual human being. For Wundt, these aspects of social behavior displayed the same natural laws of individual association and apperception. The numerous attempts to find the instincts of the individual at the bottom of all social phenomena (beginning with McDougall and continuing on to the modern neo-Freudians and ethologists who regard war as the result of innate aggressive impulses in the individual) have only continued this trend.
We cannot doubt that scientific psychology made considerable progress during the past century and contributed greatly to our knowledge of mental activity. Nonetheless, it has generally ignored the social origin of higher mental processes. The patterns it describes turn out to be the same for animals and for human beings, for humans of different cultures and different historical eras, and for elementary mental processes and complex forms of mental activity.
Moreover, the laws of logical thought, active remembering, selective attention, and acts of the will in general, which form the basis for the most complex and characteristic higher forms of human mental activity, successfully resisted causal interpretation, and thus remained beyond the forefront of the progression of scientific thought.
It was not by accident that Bergson spoke of the laws of “memory of the spirit” in addition to the natural laws of “memory of the body,” while neo-Kantian philosophers distinguished (in addition to the laws of association that could be analyzed by natural science) laws of “symbolic forms” which functioned as manifestations of the “spiritual world” and had neither an origin nor a theory: they could be described but not accounted for. Despite objective progress, therefore, a major field of knowledge remained divorced from causal explanations, and could not be studied in any meaningful way. This situation called for decisive steps to reexamine the basic approaches to mental activity in order to make psychology a truly scientific discipline decisively rejecting any kind of dualism and thus opening the way for a causal analysis of even the most complex mental phenomena. This reexamination implied the abandonment of subjectivism in psychology and the treatment of human consciousness as a product of social history.
The Sociohistorical Evolution of the Mind
The first attempts to approach human mental processes as the products of evolution were taken in the second half of the nineteenth century by Charles Darwin and his successor Herbert Spencer. These scientists attempted to trace the ways in which complex forms of mental activity develop and how forms of biological adaptation environmental conditions become more complex through the evolutionary process. The evolutionary approach, which was quite valid for a comparative study of mental development in the animal world, found itself in something of a blind alley when it tried to study evolution of human mental activity. Notions about individual development reproducing the development of the species (the “biogenetic law” or the “law of recapitulation”), which became widespread in their day, clearly produced little and yielded only superficial and reactionary conclusions, for example that the thought processes of primitive peoples closely resemble those of children (Tylor, 1874) and indicate the “racial inferiority” of backward people.
As early as the beginning of the present century, Durkheim assumed that the basic processes of the mind are not manifestations of the spirit's inner life or the result of natural evolution, but rather originated in society (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963). Durkheim's ideas formed the basis for a number of other studies, in which the French psychologist Pierre Janet and others played a prominent part.
Janet proposed that complex forms of memory, as well as complex ideas of space, time, and number, had their source in the concrete history of society rather than in any intrinsic categories of spiritual life. In Janet's opinion, uncontrolled remembering and return to the past, which Bergson regarded as the most typical manifestation of the “memory of the spirit,” have their roots in the storage and transfer of information in primitive society, in particular, in “messenger” activity, a function of a particular individual in primitive societies – someone who used special mnemonic techniques.
Classical idealistic psychology regarded notions of space and time as irreducible products of consciousness. But with considerable justification the French psychologists asserted that the basic conceptual categories of space originated not in biology but in society, going back to the spatial arrangement of the primitive nomad camp. The Frenchmen reasoned similarly in their search for the origin of the concept of time in the conditions of primitive society and its means for reckoning time. They also looked for a similar explanation of the origin of the concept of number.
The French school of sociology, however, had one major shortcoming that invalidated its theories. It refused to interpret the influence of society on the individual mind as the influence of the socioeconomic system and the actual forms of social activity on individual consciousness. Unlike the approach of historical materialism, the French school considered this process only as an interaction between “collective representations” or “social consciousness” and individual consciousness, all the while paying no attention to particular social systems, histories, or practices. By approaching the relations between labor and production as individual activities, Durkheim regarded society as the sphere of collective representations and convictions shaping the mental life of the individual. Such was the point of departure for Durkheim's subsequent work, as well as that of the entire French school of sociology (Biondel, 1922, Durkheim and Mauss, 1963; and others).
The French school thus side-tracked both particular forms of work and the economic conditions forming the basis of all social life. It described the formation of the individual mind as a purely spiritual event occurring in isolation from concrete practice and the particular conditions of its physical milieu. For this reason, the French school's attempts to trace the distinctive features of the human mind at various stages of historical development led to conclusions that held back the creation of a truly materialistic psychology.
The work of Lucien Levy-Bruhl (1930), a representative of the French school, was highly influential. From his assumption that human thinking in a primitive culture is produced by “collective representations” predominant in the society, Levy-Bruhl concluded that primitive thought follows its own laws: it is “prelogical,” loosely organized, and operates by the “law of participation.” Thus he believed that primitive thought was magical, reflecting the belief systems and primitive magic rather than the practical relations between human beings and reality.
Levy-Bruhl was the first to point out the qualitative features of primitive thought and the first to treat logical processes as products of historical development. He had a great influence on psychologists in the 1920s who tried to go beyond simplistic notions about the mind as a by-product of natural selection and to understand human consciousness as a product of sociohistorical development. Their analysis, however, cut off human thought in its earlier stages of historical development from actual activity and cognitive processes, which were then treated as the result of beliefs; if primitive people really did think according to the laws set forth by Levy-Bruhl, they would scarcely have survived for a single day.
The opponents of Levi Bruhl relied on experimental data (Rivers, 1926; Leroy, 1927), and allied themselves with anthropologists and linguists such as George Boas (1911). In challenging Levy-Bruhl's findings, they proposed that the intellectual apparatus of humans in primitive cultures was fundamentally identical to that of more advanced people. They even suggested that his own findings indicate that people living in primitive conditions think in accordance with the same logical laws that we ourselves do. The only basic difference in thinking is that they generalize the facts of the external world into different categories from those we are accustomed to use (Rivers, 1926). Their thinking reflects neither racial inferiority nor differences in beliefs. It becomes intelligible to us, however, only if we understand the people's actual living conditions and the language they use (Boas, 1911). This was the approach to human mental processes at the time that our work began.
The research reported here, undertaken forty years ago under Vygotsky’s initiative and in the context of unprecedented social and cultural change, took the view that higher cognitive activities remain sociohistorical in nature, and that the structure of mental activity – not just the specific content but also the general forms basic to all cognitive processes – change in the course of historical development. For this reason our research remains valuable even today.
Soviet Psychology, using the notion of consciousness as “conscious existence” (das bewusste Sein) as a starting point, has rejected the view that consciousness represents an “intrinsic property of mental life,” invariably present in every mental state and independent of historical development. In line with Marx and Lenin, Soviet psychology maintains that consciousness is the highest form of reflection of reality; it is, moreover, not given in advance, unchanging and passive, but shaped by activity and used by human beings to orient themselves to their environment, not only in adapting to conditions but in restructuring them.
It has become a basic principle of materialistic psychology that mental processes depend on active life forms in an appropriate environment. Such a psychology also assumes that human action changes the environment so that human mental life is a product of continually new activities manifest in social practice.
The way in which the historically established forms of human mental life correlate with reality has come to depend more and more on complex social practices. The tools that human beings in society use to manipulate that environment, as well as the products of previous generations which help shape the mind of the growing child, also affect these mental forms. In his development, the child's first social relations and his first exposure to a linguistic system (of special significance) determine the forms of his mental activity. All these environmental factors are decisive for the sociohistorical development of consciousness. New motives for action appear under extremely complex patterns of social practice. Thus are created new problems, new modes of behavior, new methods of taking in information, and new systems of reflecting reality.
From the outset, the social forms of human life begin to determine human mental development. Consider the development of conscious activity in children. From birth on, children live in a world of things social labor has created: products of history. They learn to communicate with others around them and develop relationships with things through the help of adults. Children assimilate languages ready-made product of sociohistorical development – and use it to analyze, generalize, and encode experience. They name things, denoting them with expressions established earlier in human history, and thus assign things to certain categories and acquire knowledge. Once a child calls something a “watch” (chasy), he immediately incorporates it into a system of things related to time (chas); once he calls a moving object a “steamship” (parovoz), he automatically isolates its defining properties - motion (vozit') by means of “steam” (par). Language, which mediates human perception, results in extremely complex operations: the analysis and synthesis of incoming information, the perceptual ordering of the world, and the encoding of impressions into systems. Thus words – the basic linguistic units – carry not only meaning but also the fundamental units of consciousness reflecting the external world.
But the world of particular objects and verbal meanings that humans receive from earlier generations organizes not just perception and memory (thus ensuring the assimilation of experiences common to all humankind); it also establishes some important conditions for later, more complex developments in consciousness. Men can deal even with “absent” objects, and so “duplicate the world,” through words, which maintain the system of meanings whether or not the person is directly experiencing the objects the words, refer to. Hence a new source of productive imagination arises: it can reproduce objects as well as reorder their relationships and thus serve as the basis for highly complex creative processes. Men use a complex system of syntactical relations among the individual words in sentences, and are then able to formulate complex relationships among entities, and to generate and transmit thoughts and opinions. Because of the hierarchical system of individual sentences, of which verbal and logical constructions are a typical example, humans have at their disposal a powerful objective tool that permits them not only to reflect individual objects or situations but also to create objective logical codes. Such codes enable a person to go beyond direct experience and to draw conclusions that have the same objectivity as the data of direct sensory experience. In other words, social history has established the system of language and logical codes that permit men to make the leap from the sensory to the rational; for the founders of materialistic philosophy, this transition was as important as that from non-living to living matter.
Human consciousness thus ceases to be an “intrinsic quality of the human spirit” with no history or intractability to causal analysis. We begin to understand it as the highest form of reflection of reality that sociohistorical development creates: a system of objectively existing agents gives birth to it and causal historical analysis makes it accessible to us.
The views expressed here are important not merely because they deal with human consciousness as a product of social history and point the way to a scientific historical analysis; they are also important because they deal with the process of broadening the limits of consciousness and of creating codes as a result of human social life. Moreover, some mental processes cannot develop apart from the appropriate forms of social life. This last observation is decisive for psychology and has opened up new and unforeseen prospects.
In learning complex activities with objects, undergoing correction of their own behavior through social relations, and in mastering complex linguistic systems, children are invariably led to develop new motives and forms of conscious activity, and to pose new problems. The child replaces his earlier manipulative games with others involving new roles and plots. There then appear socially conditioned rules for these games and these become rules for behavior.
Under the influence of adult speech, the child distinguishes and fixes on behavioral goals; he rethinks relationships between things; he thinks up new forms of child-adult relations; he reevaluates the behavior of others and then his own; he develops new emotional responses and affective categories which through language become generalized emotions and character traits. This entire complex process, which is closely related to the incorporation of language into the child's mental life, results in a radical reorganization of the thinking that provides for the reflection of reality and the very processes of human activity.
The very young child perceiving an unfamiliar object does not name it; he uses different mental processes from an adolescent who has mastered language and thus analyzes incoming information with the aid of verbal meanings. A child who develops habits by drawing conclusions from immediate personal experience uses different mental devices from an adolescent who mediates each behavioral act through norms established by social experience. The direct impressions that dominate the young child give way in the adolescent to the omnipresent abstractions and generalizations of external and internal speech.
In his analysis of the fundamental developmental changes in mental processes (changes expressing successive forms of reflection of reality), Vygotsky observed that although the young child thinks by remembering, an adolescent remembers by thinking. Thus the formation of complex forms of the reflection of reality and activity goes hand in hand with radical changes in the mental processes that affect these forms of reflection and underlie activity. Vygotsky called this thesis the semantic and system structure of consciousness.
Now the psychologist can not only describe the different and changing forms of conscious life of both the child and the adult; he can also analyze changes in the structure of those mental processes underlying mental activity at different stages of development and discover the hitherto unsuspected changes in their “interfunctional relationships.” He can thus trace the historical development of mental systems.
In the early years of Soviet psychology, investigators paid most attention to changes in the mental development of children. In the past half century brilliant discoveries have drastically altered the basic theoretical concepts of psychology: Vygotsky's description of the development of word meanings; Leontiev's analysis of developmental changes in the child's organization of reality; Zaporozhets' (1960) description of the formation of complex voluntary actions; and Galperin's (1957) and Elkonin's (1960) investigations of the formation of internalized “mental actions.” In spite of these profound shifts and recent alterations in its profile, psychology has barely begun to study the specific sociohistorical shaping of mental processes. We still do not know whether changes in sociohistorical structures or changes in the nature of social practice result only in broadened experience, acquisition of new habits and knowledge, literacy, and so forth, or whether they result in radical reorganization of mental processes, changes at the structural level of mental activity, and the formation of new mental systems. Proof of the latter would be of fundamental significance for psychology as a science of social history.
Psychology has made few attempts to deal with this problem, partly because of the infrequency of occasions when an investigator can observe how the restructuring of social systems has brought about rapidly changing forms of social life and rapidly shifting forms of consciousness; partly because many students of “backward” peoples have tried – either consciously or unconsciously – to justify the existing inequalities.
Our research took place during a period of rapid and fundamental reorganization of social structures. Hence we could observe the sociohistorical shaping of mental processes, and thus could close up a major gap in the science of psychology.
The Research Situation
The aim of our research – an analysis of the sociohistorical shaping of mental processes – determined the choice of the conditions for obtaining the best results. These conditions existed at the beginning of the 1930s in remote parts of the Soviet Union. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, these regions witnessed a radical restructuring of their socio-economic system and culture.
Before the revolution, the people of Uzbekistan lived in a backward economy based mainly on the raising of cotton. The kishiak (village) dwellers displayed remnants of a once-high culture together with virtually complete illiteracy, and also showed the pronounced influence of the Islamic religion.
When the socialist revolution eliminated dominance and submission as class relations, people oppressed one day enjoyed a free existence the next. And for the first time, they experienced responsibility for their own future. Uzbekistan became a republic with collective agricultural production; industry also began to develop. The appearance of a new economic system brought with it new forms of social activity: the collective evaluation of work plans, the recognition and correction of shortcomings, and the allocation of economic functions. Naturally the socioeconomic life of these regions underwent a complete transformation. The radical changes in social class structure were accompanied by new cultural shifts.
The extensive network of schools opened up in outlying areas that had been virtually 100 percent illiterate for centuries. Despite their short-term nature, the literacy programs familiarized large numbers of adults with the elements of modern technology. Adults in school took time-out from their everyday activities and began to master elements of simple but “theoretical” pursuits. In acquiring the rudiments of reading and writing, people had to break down spoken language into its constituents and encode it in a system of symbols. They mastered the concept of number, which had been used only in practical activities, but now became an abstract entity to be learned for its own sake. As a result, people became acquainted not only with new fields of knowledge but also with new motives for action.
Many other specialized short-term courses were introduced, most importantly in preschool education and elementary agronomy. These Programs, which accepted people with no formal education whatever, were significant not simply because of the training they provided but also because of the restructuring of the students' consciousness, taking them beyond immediate practical concerns, expanding their outlook on the world, and bringing them into theoretical spheres of activity.
Secondary schools and technical institutes were then created (a few at first, then more) where young people received more advanced education, beginning with the fundamentals of modern culture and science. The influence of Islam began to disappear; for centuries it had held back the development of independent thought through subjecting people to religious dogma and rigid behavioral standards. All these circumstances created the basis for profound changes in ideology and psychological outlook. Thus the time and place of our research did indeed meet the requirements of our task.
For a work-site, we selected remote villages of Uzbekistan and also a few in the mountainous regions of Kirghizia. The ancient high culture of Uzbekistan is still preserved in the magnificent architecture at Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khorezm. Also noteworthy were the outstanding scientific and poetic achievements associated with such figures as Ulug-Bek, a mathematician and astronomer who left behind a remarkable observatory near Samarkand, the philosopher Al-Bir-uni, the physician Ali-ibn-Sinna (Avicenna), the poets Saadi, Nizami, and others.
As is typical of a feudal society, however, the people remained illiterate and lived in villages, depending completely on the wealthy landowners and powerful feudal lords. The completely unregulated individualistic economy centered on agriculture – mainly cotton-growing – and horticulture. Animal husbandry prevailed in the mountainous regions of Kirghizia adjacent to Uzbekistan; cattle-raising families would stay in the mountain pasturelands for many months.
Adherence to the religious leaders' advice was required for any major undertaking. The Islamic religion helped to maintain women's lack of rights. For centuries the women had to remain within the ich-kari (women's quarters), could leave only if covered by a veil, and would have only a small circle of contacts. Naturally enough, these regions of the Soviet Union were undergoing especially profound socioeconomic and cultural changes. The period we observed included the beginnings of collectivization and other radical socioeconomic changes as well as the emancipation of women. Because the period studied was one of transition, we were able to make our study to some extent comparative. Thus we could observe both underdeveloped illiterate groups (living in villages) and groups already involved in modern life, experiencing the first influences of the social realignment.
None of the various population groups observed had in effect received any higher education. Even so, they differed markedly in their practical activities, modes of communication, and cultural outlooks.
Our subjects comprised the following groups:
Only the final three groups had experienced the conditions necessary for any radical psychological change. There now existed new motives for action, and also new forms of access to a technological culture and mastery of mechanisms such as literacy and other new forms of knowledge. The transition to a socialist economy brought along new forms of social relations and, with them, new life principles. The first two groups were much less exposed to the conditions for any such fundamental shifts.
We supposed that, for the first two groups, we would find a clear predominance of those forms of cognition that come from immediate graphic-functional practice, whereas the other subjects would display more mediated thinking. At the same time we expected that the communication requirements of people doing planned, collectivized farming would have some definite impact on their thinking.
Through a comparison of the mental processes of these groups, we assumed that we could observe the changes caused by cultural and socioeconomic realignment.
Adequate research methods had to include more than simple observation; ours approached a full-fledged experimental inquiry. But such a study inevitably encountered a number of difficulties. A short-term psychological experiment might have proved feasible in the laboratory where we could have adequately prepared subjects – but highly problematic under field conditions. If newcomers to the villages posed the subjects unusual problems, unrelated to their habitual activities, they might naturally become perplexed or suspicious, since they were unacquainted with us and of course unaware of our motives. The administration of isolated “tests,” therefore, could yield data that misrepresented the subjects' actual capabilities. As in any fieldwork with people, then, we emphasized preliminary contact with the population; we tried to establish friendly relations so that the experimental run-throughs seemed natural and unaggressive. Hence we were careful never to conduct hasty or unprepared presentations of the test materials.
As a rule our experimental sessions began with long conversations (sometimes repeated) with the subjects in the relaxed atmosphere of a tea house – where the villagers spent most of their free time – or in camps in the fields and mountain pastures around the evening campfire. These talks were frequently held in groups; even in interviews with one person alone, the experimenter and the other subjects formed a group of two or three, listening attentively and sometimes offering remarks. The talk often took the form of an exchange of opinion between the participants, and two or three subjects might solve a particular problem simultaneously, each proposing an answer. Only gradually did the experimenters introduce the prepared tasks, which resembled the “riddles” familiar to the population and thus seemed like a natural extension of the conversation.
Once a problem had been posed, the experimenters went beyond merely recording the answer and always conducted a “clinical” conversation or experiment. A subject's response stimulated further questions or debate; as a result the subject came up with a new answer without interrupting the free-flowing interchange.
To reduce complications in the free discussion (conducted in Uzbek), the experimenter left the actual recording of the results to an assistant who usually placed himself near the discussion group and took care to avoid drawing anyone else's attention. Material was taken down continuously, and only later was a clean copy made and the data processed. This laborious procedure required half a day for a brief session, but it was the only one adequate under the field conditions.
A further requirement for naturalness in the experimental conditions concerned the content of the tasks presented to the subjects. It would have been foolish to give them problems they would have regarded as pointless. Tests developed and validated in other cultures repeatedly produced experimental failures and invalidated our proposed study. Thus we used no standard psychometric tests, and we worked only with specially developed tests that the subjects found meaningful and open to several solutions, each indicating some aspect of cognitive activity. For example, generalization studies could be so contrived that the solution could be either graphic-functional and situational, or abstract and categorical. A subject could solve deductive reasoning problems either by using his available practical experience or by transferring them to a new situation going beyond his experience. The openness of the problems to several solutions permitted a qualitative analysis of the resultant data.
We also introduced some learning tasks in the experiment. By offering to help subjects in certain ways, we tried to show them how, and how much, they could use this assistance in solving a given problem and in proceeding to solve others.
Our experiments could succeed only if they adequately reflected the major differences in the thinking of people at different stages of sociohistorical development, and could thus reveal a pattern or syndrome. The essential features of mental processes depend on the way they reflect reality; therefore a particular form of mental activity should correspond to a particular level of reflection.
We hypothesized that people with a primarily graphical reflection of reality would show a different system of mental process from people with a predominantly abstract, verbal, and logical approach to reality. Any changes in the encoding process should invariable show up in the organization of the mental processes behind these activities. In our studies, the subjects could solve the problems either on a concrete, graphic-functional level or on an abstract, verbal, and logical one.
We began with some basic perceptual processes, namely the linguistic encoding of the most salient sensory material. After this introductory stage, we studied the subjects' performance on abstraction and generalization, specifically the comparison, discrimination, and grouping (or classification) of objects – the most fundamental process and a determinant of all the remaining stages.
We assumed that the subjects would be unable to group objects – or even to pick out their abstract features – according to abstract semantic categories. We had every reason to assume that the subjects would recreate graphic-functional situations, and that they would replace dominant abstract meanings with situations involving concrete practical experience. We also had reason to suppose that word meanings would differ markedly (since words are the basic tools of thought), and that experiments in the discovery of word meanings would also reveal large differences in the content of consciousness and in the structure of mental processes. If we reasoned correctly, we could state that our subjects had specific features not only in their systems for encoding perceptual reality, but also in their thought processes themselves. We believed that the system of verbal and logical modes of problem solving and inference would differentiate between our groups of subjects; thinking adequate for practical, graphic-functional experience might serve less well for changing to verbal and logical operations. Therefore we had to study how our subjects perceived logical assumptions and what specific assumptions (graphic-functional or verbal and logical) they used to draw conclusions from them. Our next stage, then, was a psychological analysis of the use of syllogisms whose premises did or did not belong to the system of graphic-functional experience. This stage led to the investigation of reasoning and the psychological analysis of discursive processes, best studied in problem solving. Here we needed to examine how reasoning processes took place, whether they were part of the subjects' direct practical experience, and what changes they underwent when reasoning went beyond graphic functional practice and into the realm of theoretical or formalized thought. Observation of this type of mental process should uncover some of our subjects' characteristic features of cognitive activity.
The next stage was a study of imaginative processes, the removal of oneself from immediate perception and operation on a purely symbolic, verbal, and logical level. Our material was differences between reproductive and constructive imagination. We assumed that our subjects' capacity for creating abstractions from immediate, graphic-functional experience would be limited and confined to their immediate practice. If we showed this in our subjects, we would obtain another valuable characteristic of practical consciousness whose chief features we were looking for.
The last stage in this sequence was the study of self-analysis and self-consciousness. We hoped to reject the Cartesian notion of the primacy of self consciousness, with a secondary rank accorded to the perception of the external world and other people. We assumed the reverse: the perception of oneself results from the clear perception of others and the processes of self-perception are shaped through social activity, which presupposes collaboration with others and an analysis of their behavioral patterns. Thus the final aim of our investigation was the study of how self-consciousness is shaped in the course of human social activity.
This plan provided the basic schema for our comparative study and permitted us to achieve our basic aim: a statement of the fundamental psychological shifts that had occurred in human consciousness during a vigorous revolutionary realignment of social history – the rapid up-rooting of a class society and a cultural upheaval creating hitherto unimagined perspectives for social development.