Lev Vygotsky 1930

On Psychological Systems

What I plan to report here grew out of our joint experimental work and represents a certain, not yet completed, attempt to theoretically interpret what was determined in quite a number of investigations. The main goal of these investigations was to draw together two lines of investigation – the genetic and the pathological one. Thus, this attempt (not formally, but according to its essence) can be regarded as an attempt to point out the new problems that emerge here. These emerge because we now compare a number of psychological problems which have thus far been investigated in the plane of the development of functions with the same problems stated in the plane of the loss of these functions and select what may have practical value for the investigations of our laboratory.

As what I plan to report surpasses in complexity the system of concepts with which we have operated thus far, I first want to repeat an explanation with which the majority of us are acquainted. When we were accused of complicating some extremely simple problems we always replied that we should rather be accused of the opposite, namely that we explained a problem of tremendous complexity in an extremely simplified manner. And now I will deal with a number of phenomena that we interpret as more or less understandable or primitive and try to make you understand that their complexity is greater than it seemed before.

I would like to remind you that this movement toward a more and more complex conception of the problems we study is not accidental, but follows from the specific viewpoint of our research. As you know, our basic viewpoint on the higher functions is that we place these functions in a different relation to the personality than the primitive psychological functions. When we say that man masters his behavior, directs it, then we are using more complex phenomena, such as personality, to explain simple things (voluntary attention or logical memory). We were accused of failing to take account of the concept of personality, which is present in every explanation of the psychological functions with which we are dealing. This is indeed true. And this is the way absolutely all scientific investigations are conducted. According to Goethe’s beautiful expression, we turn the problem into a postulate, i.e., we first formulate a hypothesis, which is then tested and verified in the process of experimental investigation.

I would like you to bear in mind that however primitive and simple we may have interpreted the higher psychological functions, we nevertheless resorted to some more complex, more integral concept of the personality. We attempted to explain such relatively simple functions as voluntary attention or logical memory from their relation to this integral personality. Hence it is understandable that as the work moved forward we had to fill that gap, to justify the hypothesis and gradually transform it into experimentally verified knowledge. We had to select elements from our investigations that would fill the gap between the genetically postulated personality that stands in a special relation to these functions and the relatively simple mechanism offered in our explanation.

In earlier investigations we already stumbled across the theme about which I plan to speak. When I called my talk “On psychological systems,” I was thinking of the complex connections that develop between different functions in the process of development and that dissolve or undergo pathological change in the process of dissolution.

When we studied thinking and speech in childhood we saw that the process of development of these functions does not amount to a change within each function. What is changed is chiefly the original link between these functions, the link which is characteristic of phylogenesis in the zoological plane and of child development in the earliest stage. This link and this relation do not remain the same in the further development of the child. Therefore, one of the fundamental ideas in the area of the development of thinking and speech is that there can be no fixed formula which determines the relationship between thinking and speech and which is suitable for all stages of development and forms of loss. In each stage of development and in each form of loss we see a unique and changing set of relations. My report is dedicated to this very theme. Its main (and extremely simple) idea is that in the process of development, and in the historical development of behavior in particular, it is not so much the functions which change (these we mistakenly studied before). Their structure and the system of their development remain the same. What is changed and modified are rather the relationships, the links between the functions. New constellations emerge which were unknown in the preceding stage. That is why intra-functional change is often not essential in the transition from one stage to another. It is inter-functional changes, the changes of inter-functional connections and the inter-functional structure which matter.

The development of such new flexible relationships between functions we will call a psychological system, giving it all the content that is usually attached to this, unfortunately, too broad concept.

A few words about the arrangement of my material. That the course of an investigation and the course of its exposition are often in opposition is well known. It would be easier for me to discuss all the material theoretically and not to speak about the investigations carried out in the laboratory. But I cannot do this as I do not yet have a general theoretical view that encompasses all the material and I would consider it a mistake to theorize prematurely. I will simply present a certain ladder of facts in a systematic manner, proceeding from below upwards. I confess beforehand that I am still unable to encompass the whole ladder of facts with a real theoretical conception and cannot yet logically arrange the facts and the links between them. By going from below upwards I only wish to show the tremendous material that has been gathered, material that is often encountered in other authors, and show its connection to the problems for the solution of which this material plays a primary role. I will, in particular, draw on the problems of aphasia and schizophrenia in pathology and the problem of adolescence in genetic psychology. Theoretical considerations I will allow myself to state in passing. It seems to me that at the present time we can do no more than that.


Allow me to begin with the most elementary functions with the relationships between sensory and motor processes. In contemporary psychology the problem of these relationships is stated in a completely new way. Whereas for the older psychology the problem was what kind of associations develop between them, for contemporary psychology the problem is the reverse: how does the division between them develop. Both theoretical considerations and experiments show that the sensorimotor system is an integral psychophysiological whole. This view is defended in particular by the Gestalt psychologists (Goldstein from the neurological viewpoint, Kohler, Koffka and others from the viewpoint of psychology). I cannot mention all considerations that are given in favor of this view. I will just say that, indeed, when we carefully study the experimental investigations dedicated to this problem, we see to what extent the motor and sensory processes represent an integral whole Thus, the ape’s motor solution of a problem is nothing other than a dynamic continuation of the same processes, of the same structure formed in the sensory field. You know the convincing attempt by Kohler and others to prove, in contrast to BŘhler’s opinion, that apes solve a task not in the intellectual, but in the sensory field. This is confirmed in Jaensch’s [1923] experiments, which proved that in eidetics the movement of a tool towards the goal is accomplished in the sensory field. Therefore, the sensory field is not fixed and a problem can be fully solved in the sensory field.

When you pay attention to this process you will see that the idea of a sensorimotor unity is fully confirmed as long as we restrict ourselves to zoological material, or when we are dealing with a very young child or adults in whom these processes are closest to the affective ones. But when we proceed further a striking change sets in. The unity of the sensorimotor processes, the link which makes the motor process a dynamic continuation of a structure established in the sensory field is destroyed: the motor system becomes relatively independent of the sensory processes and the sensory processes become disconnected from the direct motor impulses. Between them more complex relations develop. These considerations throw new light on Luria’s [1928a, b] experiments with the combined motor method. Most interesting is that the direct link between the motor and sensory impulses is restored as soon as the process returns to an affective form. When a person does not realize what he is doing and acts under the influence of an affective reaction, you may again infer his internal state and the character of his perception from his motor behavior. You can observe the return to a structure characteristic of early stages of development.

When an experimenter who conducts an experiment with an ape stands with his back toward some situation and facing the ape and does not see what the ape sees but merely sees its actions, he is able to infer what the experimental animal sees. This is exactly what Luria calls the combined motor method. By the character of the movements we may, as it were, infer the curve of the internal reactions. This characteristic of early stages of development. In the child the direct connections of motor and sensory processes very often dissolves. For the time being (and disregarding what follows) we may conclude that the motor and sensory processes acquire a relative (psychological) independence from each other (relative in sense that this unity, this direct connection which characterizes the first stage of development, ceased to exist). The results of the investigations of lower and higher forms of the motor system in twins (concerning the separation of hereditary factors and factors of cultural development) lead to the conclusion that, also from the viewpoint of differential psychology, the motor behavior of adults is, evidently, not characterized by its original constitution, but by those new connections, those new relationships which develop between the motor system and the other areas of the personality, the other functions.

Continuing this idea, I now come to perception. In the child perception acquires a certain independence. The child can, in contrast to the animal, contemplate a situation for some time and, knowing what has to be done, not act immediately. We will not discuss how this happens, but follow what happens with perception. We have seen that perception develops in the same way as do thinking and voluntary attention. What is happening here? As we said, some process of “in-growing” of methods takes place by means of which the child who perceives an object compares it with another object, etc. This investigation led us into a blind alley and other investigations have shown with full clarity that perception develops further by entering into a complex synthesis with other functions, particularly speech. This synthesis is so complex that in none of us, except in pathological cases, can all primary regularities of perception be distinguished. I will give a very simple example. When we investigate the perception of a picture, as did Stern [1927], we see that in relating the content of the picture the child mentions isolated objects. But when he acts out what is shown in the picture he renders the whole of the integral picture and does not touch upon the isolated parts. In Kohs’ experiments, where perception is investigated in more or less pure form, the child, and the deaf-mute in particular, constructs figures fully according to their structure, reproduces the corresponding drawing or a colored blot. But as soon as speech interferes in the designation of these cubes we first get a disorganized compound without structure: the child puts the cubes next to each other but does not order them into a structural whole.

In order to evoke pure perception in us, we must be put in certain artificial conditions, and this is the most difficult methodological task in experiments with adults. If it is necessary in an experiment to present the subject a meaningless figure and you do not just offer him an object but a geometrical figure as well, then to perception is added knowledge (for example, that it is a triangle). And in order to present not a thing but “material for vision,” as Kohler says, we must be shown a complex, confusing, and meaningless combination of things or an object with such maximal speed that only a visual impression is left of it. Under other conditions we cannot return to such immediate perception.

In aphasia, in serious forms of loss of intellectual functions and especially perception (observed, in particular, by Potzl [1928]), we see that perception becomes lo some extent again separated from that complex in which it proceeds in us. I cannot put this more simply and briefly other than by pointing out that the perception of contemporary man became essentially part of visual thinking, because when I perceive I at the same time see which object I perceive. The knowledge of the object comes simultaneously with perception and you know what efforts are necessary to separate the one from the other in the laboratory! Having separated itself from the motor system, perception continues to develop in a nonintrafunctional way: development takes place mainly because perception acquires new relationships with other functions, enters into complex combinations with new functions, and begins to act with them as some new united system which is rather difficult to subdivide and whose dissolution we can only observe in pathology.

When we proceed somewhat further, we will see that the original link which characterizes the relation between the functions dissolves and a new link develops. This is a general phenomenon which we encounter constantly and which wc do not notice because we do not pay attention to it. It is observed in our simplest experimental practice. 1 shall give two examples.

The first one regards absolutely every mediated process, for example, the memorization of words hy means of pictures. Already here we stumble upon the shift of functions. The child who memorizes a series of words by means of pictures docs not only rely on memory, but also on imagination and the ability to detect similarities and differences. The process of memorization, thus, does not depend on natural factors of memory, but on a number of new functions which take the place of immediate memorization. Both in the work of Leontiev (1931) and in the work of Zankov [1935] it was shown that the development of the general factors of memorization proceeds along different curves. We observe a reform of the natural functions, their substitution and the appearance of a complex alloy of thinking and memory which in empirical praxis received the name of logical memory.

Zankov’s experiments drew my attention to the following remarkable fact. It turned out that in mediated memorization it is thinking which is most important and that, viewed from the perspective of genetic and differential psychology, people do not differ according to the properties of their memory but according to the properties of their logical memory. This thinking is greatly different from thinking in the actual sense of the word. When you suggest to an adult that he memorize 50 words by means of cards, he will try to establish mental relations between the sign (the card) and that which he memorizes. This thinking does not at all correspond to the actual thinking of the person. It is absurd, the person is not interested in whether what he memorizes is correct or incorrect, plausible or not. When we memorize none of us ever thinks as he would while solving a problem. All basic- criteria, factors, links, characteristic of thinking as such are completely distorted in thinking aimed at memorization. Theoretically, such a change of all functions of thinking in memorizing would be expected in advance. It would be absurd if here we would stick to all the links and structures of thinking necessary for the solution of practical or theoretical problems. I repeat, not only memory changes when it marries, so to speak, thinking but thinking itself changes its functions and is no more the thinking we know from the study of logical operations. All structural connections, all relationships become changed, and this process of substitution of functions is the formation of a new system which I mentioned earlier.

When we go up one step and pay attention to the results of other investigations, we see still another regularity in the formation of new psychological systems. It brings us au courant and sheds light on the central question of my talk of today – the relationship of these new systems to the brain, to their physiological substrate.

When we studied the processes of the higher functions in children we came to the following staggering conclusion: each higher form of behavior enters the scene twice in its development – first as a collective form of behavior, as an inter- psychological function, then as an intra-psychological function, as a certain way of behaving. We do not notice this fact, because it is too commonplace and we are therefore blind to it. The most striking example is speech. Speech is at first a means of contact between the child and the surrounding people, but when the child begins to speak to himself, this can be regarded as the transference of a collective form of behavior into the practice of personal behavior.

According to the beautiful formula of one psychologist, speech is not only a means to understand others, but also a means to understand oneself.

Turning to contemporary experimental studies, we can establish that Piaget [1923, pp. 20/74-75] was the first to state and confirm the thesis that thinking in preschool children does not appear before the debate appears in their collective. Children do not think at all until they can argue and adduce arguments. Leaving aside a number of factors, I will mention one conclusion which these authors give and which I change somewhat after my own fashion, thinking, especially in the preschool age, appears as a transference of the situation of a debate inward, as a discussion with oneself. In the investigation of children’s play by Groos (1906) it was shown that the function of the children’s collective in the control of behavior and its submission to the rules of games influences the development of attention its well.

Hut the following is for us of singular interest: each higher function was thus originally shared between two persons. It was a reciprocal psychological process. One process took place in my brain, the other in the brain of the one with whom I have an argument: “That is my place” – “No, mine” – “I occupied it first.” The system of thinking is divided here between two children. The same in a dialogue: I speak – you understand me. Only later I begin to speak to myself. The child of preschool age fills hours on end with speech to himself. He develops new links, new relationships between functions, relationships that were not present in the original links between his functions.

This is of special, central significance for the mastery of one’s own behavior. The study of the genesis of these processes shows that each volitional process is originally a social, collective, inter-psychological process. This is connected with the fact that the child masters the attention of others or, the other way round, begins to apply to himself those means and forms of behavior that originally were collective. The mother draws the child’s attention to something. The child follows the instructions and pays attention to what she points out. Here we always have two separate functions. Then the child himself begins to direct his attention, himself plays the role of the mother vis-a-vis himself. He develops a complex system of functions that were originally shared. One person orders, the other carries out. Man orders and obeys himself.

Experimentally I have been able to establish analogous phenomena in a girl whom I am observing. From everyday observations they are known to anyone. The child begins to command herself: “One, two, three, go!” – just as the adults commanded her before, and then she carries out her own command. A union of those functions that were originally shared by two persons thus emerges in the process of psychological development. The social origin of higher mental functions is a very important fact.

It is also remarkable that signs, whose significance seems to us to be so great in the history of cultural development (as is demonstrated by the history of their development), originally form means of contact, means to act upon others. When we regard its real origin, each sign is a means of contact, and we might say more broadly that it is a means of contact between certain mental functions of a social character. Transferred to the self, it is also a means of combining functions in oneself, and we will be able to demonstrate that without the sign the brain and the original connections cannot form such complex relations as they can due to speech.

The means of social contact are thus also basic means for the formation of the complex psychological links that emerge when these functions become individual functions and grow into a personal style of behavior.

If we go up another step, we see yet another interesting case of the formation of such links. We usually observe them in the child, most of all in play (the experiments of Morozova), when the child changes the meaning of an object. I will try to elucidate this with a phylogenetic example.

When you take a book on primitive man, you stumble across examples of the following type. 1'he unique nature of primitive man’s thinking often resides not in the fact that the functions that we have arc not sufficiently developed, or that some function is not present, but these functions arc, from our viewpoint, arranged in another way. One of the striking examples is the observation by LÚvy-Bruhl [1922, p. 184] concerning the Kaffir to whom the missionary suggests that he send his son to the missionary school. The situation is very complex and difficult for the Kaffir and as he does not wish to dismiss this suggestion openly, he says: “I will dream about it.” Quite rightly, L6vy-Bruhl remarks that here we have a situation in which each of us would reply: “1 will think it over.” The Kaffir says: “I will dream about it.” For him the dream fulfills the same function as thinking does for us. It is worthwhile dwelling on this example, because the laws of dreaming are in themselves, evidently, the same for the Kaffir and for us.

We have no reason to assume that the human brain underwent an essential biological evolution in the course of human history. We have no reason to assume that the brain of primitive man differed from our brain, was an inferior brain, or had a biological structure different from ours. All biological investigations lead us to assume that biologically speaking the most primitive man we know deserves the full title of man. The biological evolution of man was finished before the beginning of his historical development. And it would be a flagrant mixing up of the concepts of biological evolution and historical development to try to explain the difference between our thinking and the thinking of primitive man by claiming that primitive man stands on another level of biological development. The laws of dreaming are the same everywhere, but the role which the dream fulfills is completely different and we will see that such a difference not only exists between, let us say, the Kaffir and us. The Roman believed in dreams as well, although he would not say in a difficult situation “I will dream about it,” – because he stood on another level of human development and would solve the matter, in the words of Tacitus, “with arms and reason and not like a woman through a dream.” The dream was a sign for him, an omen. The Roman did not begin something when he had had a bad dream about it. In the Roman, the dream had another structural connection with other functions.

Even if you turn to the Freudian neurotic, you again get a new relation to dreams. Extremely interesting is the remark of one of Freud’s critics that Freud’s discovery of the relation between the dream and sexual wishes, characteristic of the neurotic, is characteristic of the neurotic exactly “here and now.” For the neurotic the dream serves his sexual wishes, but this is no general law. It is a problem that is open to further investigation.

When you carry this still further, you see that dreams enter into completely new relations with a number of functions. This can also be observed with respect to quite a number of other processes. We see that thinking is at first, in the words of Spinoza [1677/1955, p. 187], the servant of the passions, but that man who has reason is the master of his passions.

The example of the dream of the Kaffir is much more than just a case of a dream. It is applicable to the formation of integral complex psychological systems.

I would like to draw your attention to one fundamental conclusion. It is remarkable that in the Kaffir the new system of behavior develops from certain ideological representations, from what LÚvy-Bruhl and other French sociologists and psychologists call collective representations about the dream. It was not the Kaffir himself who, in giving this answer, created such a system. This representation of the dream is part of the ideology of the tribe to which the Kaffir belongs. Such a relation toward dreams is characteristic of them. That is the way they solve complex questions of war, peace, etc. Here we have a psychological mechanism which directly developed from a certain ideological system, from a certain ideological meaning attached to some function. In quite a number of interesting American investigations, dedicated to half-primitive peoples, we see that as they begin to join in the European civilization and receive objects of European general use, they begin to lake interest in them and to value the possibilities they bring with them. These investigations show that primitive people initially have a negative opinion about the reading of books. After they have received several very simple agricultural tools and have seen the connection between the reading of books and practice, they began to evaluate the white men’s work differently.

The reappraisal of thinking and dreaming has no individual, but a social source. Now this interests us from yet another viewpoint. What we see here is that a new idea about dreaming emerges which was drawn by the person from the social environment in which he lives. We see how a new form of intra-individual behavior is created in such a system as the dream of the Kaffir.

We must note two points which we can use in our further argumentation. On the one hand, several new systems are not just linked with social signs but also with ideology and the meaning which some function acquires in the consciousness of people. On the other hand, new forms of behavior develop from the new content picked up by the person from the ideology of the surrounding environment.


When we go up yet another step in the study of those complex systems and relationships that are unknown in the early stages of development and develop relatively late, we arrive at a very complex system of changes of connections and the development of new ones. These changes take place on the path toward the development and formation of a new person in adolescence. Until now the shortcoming of our investigations was that we confined ourselves to early childhood and took little interest in adolescents. When I was faced with the necessity of studying the psychology of adolescence from the viewpoint of our investigations I was surprised at the extent to which this stage contrasts with childhood ... Here the essence of psychological development is not that the connections increase in number, but that they change.

The tremendous difficulty connected with the psychology of adolescence was caused by the investigation of the adolescent’s thinking. Indeed, there is little in the speech of the 14- to 16-year-old adolescent that changes in the sense of the appearance of fundamentally new forms compared to what a child of 12 years old has at his disposal. We do not notice anything that might explain what goes on in the adolescent’s thinking. Thus, memory and attention in adolescence hardly show anything new compared to school age. But when you take, in particular, the material worked upon by Leontiev (1931), then you will see that characteristic of the adolescent age is the transition of these functions inward. What is external in the area of logical memory, voluntary attention, and thinking in the school child becomes internal in the adolescent. Research confirms that here a new aspect emerges. We sec that the transition inward takes place because these external operations enter into a complex alloy and synthesis with a number of internal processes. Because of its internal logic the process cannot remain external. Its relation to all other functions becomes different, a new system is formed, strengthened and becomes internal.

I will give a very simple example. Memory and thinking in adolescence. We can notice (I simplify somewhat) the following interesting rearrangement here. You know what a colossal role memory plays in the thinking of the child before adolescence. For him to think means to a significant degree to rely on memory. C. BŘhler, the German investigator, especially studied children’s thinking when they solve some task and demonstrated that for children whose memory has fully developed to think means to remember concrete events. You remember Binet’s classic immortal example [1890, p. 602] from his study of two girls. When he asked what is an omnibus he got the answer: “It is for many ladies. There are soft seats. You have three horses, they run; you hear ‘din'” etc.

Now take adolescence. You will see that for the adolescent to remember means to think. Whereas the thinking of the pre-adolescent child rested on memory and to think meant to remember, for the adolescent memory rests mainly on thinking: to remember is first of all to search for what is needed in a certain logical order. This rearrangement of functions, the change of their relationships, the leading role of thinking in absolutely all functions as a result of which thinking turns out to be not just one function among a number of others, but a function which restructures and changes other psychological processes, we observe in adolescence.


Preserving the same order of exposition and proceeding from lower psycho logical systems to the formation of systems of an ever higher order, we arrive a I the systems which form the key to all processes of development and loss: concept formation, a function which fully ripens and takes shape first in adolescence.

We cannot now present a complete theory of the psychological development of the concept, and I will just say that in psychological investigation the concept is (and this is the final result of our research) a psychological system of the same type as those of which I have been speaking.

Until now empirical psychology attempted to found the function of concept formation on some particular function – abstraction, attention, the isolation of features of memory, or the elaboration of certain images – and proceeded from the logical notion that each higher function has its analogue, its representation on a lower plane: memory and logical memory, direct and voluntary attention. The concept was regarded as a modified, elaborated image that was liberated from all superfluous parts, as a sort of polished representation. Galton compared the mechanism of concepts with a collective photograph when a number of people are photographed on one plate – the common traits are emphasized, the accidental ones extinguish each other.

For formal logic the concept is the totality of features that have been selected and accentuated in their common aspects. For example, if we take the simplest concepts – Napoleon, Frenchman, European, man, animal, being, etc. – we get a series of more and more general concepts that are more and more impoverished in terms of the number of concrete features. The concept “Napoleon” is infinitely rich in concrete content. The concept “Frenchman” is already much poorer: not everything that applies to Napoleon applies to a Frenchman. The concept “man” is poorer still, etc. Formal logic considered the concept as the sum-total of features of the object taken from a group, as the totality of common features. The concept thus developed by impoverishing our knowledge of the object. Dialectical logic demonstrated that the concept is not such a formal schema. It is not the totality of features abstracted from the object. It yields much richer and more complete knowledge of the object.

Quite a number of psychological investigations, ours in particular, lead to a completely new statement of the problem of concept formation in psychology. The question as to how the concept, becoming ever more general, i.e., being applicable to an ever larger quantity of objects, becomes richer in content, and not poorer as formal logic thinks – this question receives an unexpected answer in the investigations. It is confirmed in the analysis of the development of concepts from the genetic viewpoint as compared to more primitive forms of our thinking. Research showed that when the subject solves a problem in which new concepts must be formed, the essence of the process that takes place resides in the establishment of connections. When the subject tries to find a number of other objects similar to a given object, he looks for connections between this object and the others. He does not, as in the collective photograph, move a number of features to the background. On the contrary, each attempt to solve the task consists of the formation of connections, and our knowledge of the object is enriched by the fact that we study it in connection with other objects.

I will give an example. Let us compare the direct image of a nine, for example, the figures on playing cards, and the number 9. The group of nine on playing cards is richer and more concrete than our concept “9,” but the concept “9” involves a number of judgments which are not in the nine on the playing card; “9” is not divisible by even numbers, is divisible by 3, is 32, and the square root of 81; we connect “9” with the series of whole numbers, etc. Hence it is clear that psychologically speaking the process of concept formation resides in the discovery of the connections of the given object with a number of others, in finding the real whole. That is why a mature concept involves the whole totality of its relations, its place in the world, so to speak. “9” is a specific point in the whole theory of numbers with the possibility of infinite development and infinite combination which are always subject to a general law. Two aspects draw our attention: first, the concept is not a collective photograph. It does not develop by rubbing out individual traits of the object. It is the knowledge of the object in its relations, in its connections. Second, the object in the concept is not a modified image but, as contemporary psychological investigations demonstrate, a predisposition for quite a number of judgments. “When a person says ‘mammal,’ asks one of the psychologists, what does it mean psychologically speaking?” It means that the person can develop an idea and in the final analysis that he has a world view, for to determine the place of a mammal in the animal world and the place of the animal world in nature means to have an integral world view.

We see that the concept is a system of judgments brought into a certain lawful connection: the whole essence is that when we operate with each separate concept, we arc operating with the system as a whole.

Piaget [1924] gave 12- to 13-year-old children problems in which they had to combine two features simultaneously – an animal having long ears and a short tail or short ears and a short tail. The child solves the problems having only one feature in the field of his attention. He cannot operate with the concept as a system. He masters all features that make up the concept, but all of them separately; he does not master the synthesis in which the concept acts as a unified system. In this sense, Lenin’s [1929/1978, p. 160] remark on Hegel is interesting. He says that even the simplest fact of generalisation implies a confidence in the lawfulness of the external world of which the subject has not yet become consciously aware. When we make a very simple generalization, we know the things not as existing in themselves, but in a lawful connection and subordinated to a certain law. It is impossible to explain the problem of concept formation now, a problem that is infinitely fascinating and of central importance for contemporary psychology.

Only in adolescence docs this function finally take shape. The child turns to thinking in concepts from another system of thinking, from the complex-like connections. We may ask ourselves: what distinguishes the child’s complex? First of all, the system of a complex is a system of ordered concrete connections and relationships to the object that rest mainly on memory. A concept is a system of judgments which involves a relation to the entire, broader system. Adolescence is the age when world view and personality take shape, when self-consciousness and coherent notions of the world develop. Thinking in concepts is at its basis. For us the whole experience of contemporary civilized mankind, the external world, the external reality and our internal reality are represented in a certain system of concepts. In concepts we find that unity of form and content which I mentioned above.

To think in concepts means to possess a certain ready-made system, a certain form of thinking which in no way predetermines the further content at which we arrive. Both Bergson and the materialist think in concepts, both use the same form of thinking, although they reach diametrically opposed conclusions.

It is exactly in adolescence that the formation of all the systems is finished. This will become more clear when we turn to what for the psychologist is in a certain sense the key to adolescence: the psychology of schizophrenia.

Busemann introduced a very interesting distinction in the psychology of adolescence. It concerns three types of connections that exist between psychological functions. The primary connections are hereditary. Nobody will deny that directly modifiable connections between certain functions exist. An example is, say, the constitutional system of relations between emotional and intellectual mechanisms. Another system of connections is formed. These are connections established in the process of the meeting of external and internal factors, those connections that are imposed by the environment. We know how we can foster impudence and brutality or sentimentality in the child. These are secondary connections. And, finally, we have the tertiary connections, which develop in adolescence and which really characterize the personality from the genetic and differential perspective. These connections develop on the basis of self-consciousness. The already mentioned mechanism of the “dream of the Kaffir” belongs to them. When we consciously connect this function with other functions so that they form a unified system of behavior, this is because we become conscious of our dream and our relation to it.

Busemann views a radical difference between the psychology of the child and the adolescent in the following: what characterizes the child is a limitation to the psychological plane of direct action. Characteristic of the adolescent is self-consciousness, the ability to view oneself from the outside, reflection, the capacity not only to think but also to consciously grasp the grounds for this thinking.

The problems of schizophrenia and adolescence were connected more than once: the term “dementia praecox” testifies to this tendency. And although in clinical terminology it lost its original meaning, even the most modern authors, like Kretschmer in Germany and Blonsky here, defend the idea that adolescence and schizophrenia form the key to each other. They do this on the basis of external similarity, for all the traits that characterize adolescence are observed in schizophrenia as well.

What is vaguely present in adolescence is carried to an extreme in pathology. Kretschmer (1924) says even more boldly that from the psychological perspective a tempestuous process of sexual maturation cannot be distinguished from a mild form of schizophrenia. Seen from the outside there is some truth to this, but it seems to me that the very statement of the problem and the conclusions that the authors arrive at are false. When we study the psychology of schizophrenia these conclusions are not vindicated.

In actual fact schizophrenia and adolescence arc inversely related. In schizophrenia wc observe the dissolution of those functions which arc formed in adolescence, and when they meet at a certain station their movement is in completely opposite directions. Psychologically speaking, schizophrenia presents an enigmatic picture and even in the works of the best contemporary clinicians we do not find the explanation of the mechanism of symptom formation. It is impossible to demonstrate how these symptoms develop. The debates between the clinicians are about what is dominating – the affective dullness or the diaschisis proposed by Bleuler (which gave rise to the name schizophrenia). However, the core of the matter is not so much in the changes of the intellectual and affective functions, but in the disturbance of the connections that exist.

Schizophrenia yields an enormous wealth of material for the theme about which I am speaking. I will try to present the most important material and show that all the diverse forms of schizophrenia spring from one source and have a certain internal process at their basis which may explain the mechanism of schizophrenia. The first thing that is lost in the schizophrenic is the function of concept formation. It is only later on that the oddities begin. The schizophrenic is characterized by affective dullness. In schizophrenics the relationship to their beloved wife, parents and children is changed. Classic is the description of dullness combined with irritability, the absence of any impulse combined with, as Bleuler [1911] correctly remarks, an unusually intensified affective life. When schizophrenia is accompanied by some other process, such as arteriosclerosis, the clinical picture changes acutely. The sclerosis does not enrich the emotions of the schizophrenic but only changes its main manifestations.

Together with the affective dullness and the impoverishment of emotional life we see that the schizophrenic’s thinking begins to be merely determined by his affects (as Storch [1922] notes). It is one and the same disturbance – a change in the relationships between intellectual and affective life. Blondel [1914] developed the clearest and most brilliant theory on the pathological changes of affective life.

The essence of this theory is approximately as follows. In the diseased psychological process which comes to the fore (especially when there is no feeble-mindedness), we first see a dissolution of the complex systems that were acquired as the result of collective life, the dissolution of the systems that developed last of all. Ideas, feelings – they all remain the same but lose the functions they fulfilled in the complex system. Thus, if for the Kaffir the dream acquires new relations with other % behaviors, then the original system will dissolve and the result will be disorder and unusual forms of behavior. In other words, the first thing we notice about psychological loss in the psychiatric clinic is the dissolution of those systems which, on the one hand, developed last and, on the other hand, were systems of a social origin.

This is particularly evident in schizophrenia, which is enigmatic in the sense that formally speaking the psychological functions are preserved: memory, orientation, perception, and attention do not show changes. Here orientation is preserved and when you cunningly question a patient who is hallucinating and claims that he is in a castle, then you will see that he very well knows where he really is. Characteristic of schizophrenia is that the formal functions as such are preserved but that the system dissolves. From this viewpoint, Blondel speaks of the schizophrenic’s affective disorder.

The thinking that the surrounding environment imposes together with a system of concepts also involves our feelings. We do not simply feel – a feeling is consciously grasped as jealousy, anger, an offense, or an insult. When we say that we despise a certain person, this expression changes these feelings, because they enter into some connection with our thinking. Something happens with us that is similar to what happens in memory when it becomes an internal part of the process of thinking and begins to be called logical memory. Just as it is impossible for us to decide where perception of a surface ends and understanding that it is a certain object begins (in perception the structural particularities of the perceptual field and understanding are synthesized and fused), exactly in the same way do we not experience pure jealousy in our affects. We are always consciously aware of the connections expressed in the concepts.

The basis of Spinoza’s theory is as follows. He was a determinist and, in contrast to the stoics, claimed that man has power over his affects, that the intellect may change the order and connections of the passions and bring them into accord with the order and connections that are given in the intellect. Spinoza expressed a correct genetic relationship. In the process of ontogenetic development the human emotions get connected with general sets both in what regards the individual’s self- consciousness and in what regards his knowledge of reality. My contempt for another person forms part of my appreciation of this person, of my understanding of him. And this is the complex synthesis in which our life proceeds. The historical development of affects or emotions resides mainly in the fact that the original connections become changed and that a new order and new connections develop.

We have said that, as Spinoza [1677/1955, p. 258] correctly said, the knowledge of our affect changes it and modifies it from a passive state to an active one. That I think about objects that exist outside myself does not change anything in them, but that I think about my affects, that I place them in other relationships to my intellect and other processes, changes much in my mental life. To put it more simply, our affects act in a complex system with our concepts and he who does not know that the jealousy of a man who is bound up by the Islamic concepts about women’s fidelity and of a man who is bound up by a system of opposite conceptions about women’s fidelity is different, does not understand that this feeling is historical, that it changes its essence in different ideological and psychological environments, although there undoubtedly remains a certain basic biological component on the basis of which this emotion develops.

Thus, complex emotions emerge only historically. They are combinations of relationships that develop under the conditions of historical life. In the process of development the emotions become fused. This conception we place at the basis of a theory that explains what goes on in the pathological dissolution of consciousness. Here these systems dissolve, which explains the schizophrenic’s affective dullness. When the schizophrenic says “Aren’t you ashamed, only a scoundrel acts that way,” he remains completely cold. For him this is not the greatest insult. His affects have become detached and act separately from the system. Characteristic of the schizophrenic is also the opposite relation: the affects begin to change his thinking. Ilis thinking is a thinking that serves emotional interests and needs.

To finish with schizophrenia, I want to say that in schizophrenia the functions that developed and formed a synthesis in adolescence dissolve. Here the complex systems dissolve, the affects return to their initial primitive state, lose their connection with thinking, and you will not be able to understand these affects by means of concepts. To a certain degree we return to a condition that exists in early stages of development when it is very difficult to elicit certain affects. To insult a young child is very easy, but to insult him by saying that decent people do not act like that is very difficult. Here the path is entirely different from ours. The same holds true for schizophrenia.

lb summarize all this, I would like to say the following. The study of systems and their fate turns out to be instructive not just for the development and formation of mental processes, but also for the processes of loss. This study explains the extremely interesting processes of dissolution which we observe in the psychiatric clinic and which ensue without the gross loss of some functions, such as the function of speech in aphasics. It explains why mild brain damage can cause gross disorders. It explains the paradox of psychology that tabes and organic changes of the whole brain result in insignificant psychological changes whereas schizophrenia and reactive psychosis result in a full disarray of the behavior of the adult person. The key to understanding lies in a conception of psychological systems which do not directly develop from the connections of functions caused by brain development, but from those systems of which we have been speaking. Such psychological symptoms of schizophrenia as affective dullness, intellectual dissolution, and irritability here find their only explanation, their structural coherence.

I would like to end with the following. One of the three cardinal characteristics of schizophrenia is the characterological change which resides in the isolation from the social environment. The schizophrenic becomes more and more isolated and in extreme cases autistic. All the systems we mentioned are systems of social origin. As we said above, they reside in the social relation to oneself. They are characterized by the transfer of collective relationships into the personality. The schizophrenic who loses social relations vis-a-vis the surrounding persons, loses social relations vis-a-vis himself. As one of the clinicians very aptly said without elevating it onto a theoretical level* the schizophrenic not only stops understanding others and talking to them, he stops communicating with himself through speech. The dissolution of the person’s socially acquired systems is another aspect of the loss of his external, inter-psychological relationships.


I will dwell on just two more issues.

The first is about the (for us) extremely important conclusion to be drawn from all that has been said about psychological systems and the brain. I have to reject the idea developed by Goldstein and Gelb that each higher psychological function has a direct physiological correlate in a function whose physiological structure is similar to its psychological structure. But first I will expound their idea. Goldstein and Gelb say that in the aphasic the function of thinking in concepts is disturbed, which corresponds to a basic physiological function. Already here Goldstein and Gelb contradict themselves, since they earlier in the same book claim that the aphasic returns to a system of thinking characteristic of primitive man. If one of the aphasic’s basic physiological functions is damaged and he regresses to that stage of thinking on which stands primitive man, then we must conclude that primitive man does not have that basic physiological function that we possess. That is, a new and basic function develops without a morphological change of the structure of the brain, a function which does not exist in primitive stages of development. What is the basis for the assumption that such a radical reform of the human brain took place in the course of a few thousand years? Already here Goldstein’s and Gclb’s theory stumbles upon an insurmountable difficulty. But there is also some truth to it. All complex psychological systems – both the dream of the Kaffir, the concept and the person’s self-consciousness – ultimately are products of a certain brain structure. Nothing can be isolated from the brain. The whole question is what it is in the brain which physiologically corresponds to thinking in concepts.

In order to explain its development in the brain it suffices to assume that the brain contains the conditions and possibilities for a combination of functions, a new synthesis, new systems which do not at all have to be structurally engraved beforehand. I think that all of contemporary neurology leads us to this assumption. More and more we see the infinite diversity and incompleteness of brain functions. It is much more correct to assume that the brain contains enormous possibilities for the development of new systems. This is the fundamental premise. It solves a question that is related to LÚvy-Bruhl’s work. In the latest discussion of the French philosophical society, Levy-Bruhl said that primitive man thinks in another way than we do. Does this mean that he has a different brain than we do? Or must we assume that in connection with the new function the brain changed biologically? Or that the spirit merely uses the brain as a tool, consequently, one tool-many uses, anti thus it is the spirit which develops and not the brain?

In actual fact, it seems to me that by introducing the concept of psychological system in the form we discussed, we get a splendid possibility of conceiving the real connections, the real complex relationships that exist.

To a certain degree this also holds true for one of the most difficult problems – the localization of higher psychological systems. So far they have been localized in two ways. The first viewpoint considered the brain as a homogeneous mass and rejected the idea that the different parts are not equivalent and play different roles in the formation of psychological functions. This viewpoint is manifestly untenable. Therefore, henceforth it was tried to deduce the functions from different brain parts, distinguishing, for example, a practical area, etc. The areas are mutually connected, and what we observe in mental processes is the joint activity of separate areas. This conception is undoubtedly more correct. What we have is a complex collaboration of a number of separate zones. The brain substrate of the mental processes are not isolated parts but complex systems of the whole brain apparatus. But the problem is the following: if this system is given in the very structure of the brain in advance, i.e., if it is fully determined by connections that exist in the brain between its various parts, then we must assume that those connections from which the concept develops are given beforehand in the structure of the brain. But if we assume that it is possible to have more complex systems which are not given in advance, a new perspective on this problem results.

Allow me to clarify this with an admittedly very rough schema. Forms of behavior that earlier were shared by two persons are now combined in the person: the order and its execution. Before they took place in two brains. One brain acted upon the other with, say, a word. When they are combined in one brain we get the following picture: point A in the brain cannot reach point B through a direct combination. It has no natural connection with it. The possible connections between different parts of the brain are established through the peripheral nervous system, from outside.

Proceeding from such ideas, we can understand a number of facts of pathology. These include, first of all, patients with a lesion of the brain systems who are not capable of doing something directly, but can carry it out when they tell themselves to do so. Such a clinically clear picture is observed in Parkinsonian patients. The Parkinsonian patient cannot take a step. But if you tell him to take a step or if you put a piece of paper on the floor, he will take this step. Everybody knows how well Parkinsonian patients walk on stairs and how badly on the level floor. In order to lead the patient to the laboratory, one has to spread out a number of pieces of paper on the floor. The patient wants to walk, but he cannot influence his motor system, this system is disturbed. Why can the Parkinsonian patient walk when pieces of paper are spread out on the floor? Here there are two explanations. One was given by Sapir . the Parkinsonian patient wants to raise his arm when you tell him to do so, but this impulse alone is insufficient. If you link this request with another (visual) impulse he will raise it. Flic supplementary impulse acts together with the main one. We can also imagine another picture. The system that allows him to raise his arm is now disturbed. But he can connect one point of his brain with another one via an external sign.

It seems to me that the second hypothesis about the locomotion of Parkinsonian patients is the correct one. The Parkinsonian patient establishes a connection between different points of his brain through a sign, influencing himself from the periphery. That this is so is confirmed by experiments on the exhaustibility of Parkinsonian patients. If it would be simply a matter of fully exhausting the Parkinsonian patient, then the effect of a supplementary stimulus would increase, or at any rate lie proportional to a rest, a recovery, and play the role of an external stimulus. ()nc of the Russian authors who first described Parkinsonian patients pointed out that most important for the patient are loud stimuli (a drum, music), but further investigations demonstrated that this is incorrect. I do not want to say that in Parkinsonian patients things proceed exactly like this. It suffices to conclude that it is m principle possible. That such a system is actually possible we can constantly observe in processes of dissolution.

Each of the systems I mentioned goes through three stages. First, an inter- psychological stage – I order, you execute. Then an extra-psychological stage – I begin to speak to myself. Then an intra-psychological stage – two points of the brain which are excited from outside have the tendency to work in a unified system and turn into an intracortical point.

Allow me to dwell briefly on the further destinies of these systems. I would like to point out that from the viewpoint of differential psychology I do not differ from you and you do not differ from me because I have somewhat better concentration than you. The essential and practically important characterological difference in the social life of people resides in the structures, relations and connections that exist in us between different points. What I want to say is that most important is not memory or attention per se, but the extent to which the person utilizes this memory, the role it fulfills. We have seen that for the Kaffir the dream may fulfill a central role. For us the dream is a parasite in psychological life which plays no essential role whatsoever. The same is true for thinking. How many idling fruitless minds, how many minds who think but are not at all involved in action! We all remember a situation in which we knew how to act, but acted differently. I want to point out that here we have three extremely important planes. The first plane is the social plane and the plane of social class psychology. We wish to compare I he worker and the bourgeois. The point is not, as was thought by Sombart [1913], that for the bourgeois the main thing is greediness, that a biological selection of greedy people takes place for whom miserliness and accumulation are most important. I assume that many workers are more stingy than a bourgeois. Essential is not that the social role can be deduced from the character, but that the social role creates a number of characterological connections. The social and social class type of the person are formed from the systems that are brought into the person from the outside. They are systems of social relationships between people, transferred into the personality. Professio graphic investigations of labor processes are based on this. Each profession requires a certain system of these connections. For the tram-driver, for example, it is indeed not so important to be more attentive than the ordinary person, but to utilize this attention correctly. It is important that his attention has a position which it may not have in, say, a writer, etc.

Finally, from a differential and characterological perspective we must make a fundamental distinction between primary characterological connections which yield certain proportions, for example, a schizoid or cycloid constitution, and connections that develop completely differently and which distinguish the honest person from the dishonest, the honest from the deceitful, the dreamer from the business person. These do not reside in the fact that I am less tidy than you, or more deceitful than you, but in the development of a system of relations between the different functions that develop in ontogenesis. Lewin correctly says that the formation of psychological systems coincides with the development of personality. In the highest eases of ethically very perfect human personalities with a very beautiful spiritual life we are dealing with the development of a system in which everything is connected to a single goal. In Spinoza you will find a theory (I am changing it somewhat) which says that the soul can achieve that all manifestations, all conditions relate to a single goal. A system with a single center may develop with a maximal integrity of human behavior. For Spinoza this single idea is the idea of god or nature. Psychologically this is not at all necessary. But a person can indeed not only bring separate functions into a system, but also create a single center for the whole system. Spinoza demonstrated this system in the philosophical plane. There are people whose life is a model of the subordination to a single goal and who proved in practice that this is possible. Psychology has the task of demonstrating that the development of such a unified system is scientifically possible.

I would like to end by pointing out once more that I have presented a ladder of facts which, although it is still incoherent, nevertheless goes from below upwards. I skipped almost all theoretical considerations. It seems to me that this viewpoint sheds light on our investigations and gives them their proper place. I do not have enough theoretical strength to combine all this. I presented a very big ladder, but as the idea that comprehends all this I proposed a general idea. Today I wanted to elucidate whether this main idea, which I nourished during a number of years but hesitated to express fully, is confirmed by the facts. And our next task is to clarify this in the most businesslike and detailed manner. Relying on the above- mentioned facts, I would like to express my fundamental conviction that the entire issue resides not just in the changes within the functions, but in the changes in the connections and in the infinitely diverse forms of development that develop from this. It resides in the development of new syntheses in a certain stage of development, new central functions and new forms of connections between them. We must take interest in systems and their fate. Systems and their fate – it seems to me that for us the alpha and omega of our next work must reside in these four words.