Vygotsky. History of the development of the Higher Mental Functions.
Our studies were always conducted along an analytical path. We tried to isolate and trace the line of cultural development of separate mental functions, separate forms of behavior connected, on the one hand, with mastery of external means (speech, arithmetic, writing) and on the other, with internal changes in memory, attention, abstract thinking, formation of concepts.
The chapter on will disclosed the general root from which all other forms of behavior spring. But synthesis must necessarily follow analysis. Since the course of exposition never coincides directly with the course of research, we first presented the general theoretical positions to which the study of separate functions led us, which we considered in three chapters. Their purpose was to explain the analysis, structures, and genesis of cultural behavior.
In the synthesizing section, we attempted to gather general conclusions that the history of cultural development supported with respect to rearing and the methodology of school training. Then we tried to elucidate the problem of cultural age connected with the range of cultural development and with a method of measuring it.
Finally, we come to the last task, the subject of this chapter, which consists of an attempt to present a plan or picture of the whole cultural development of the child, to review the cultural development of the child as a whole in its changes with age. We must note that at the present state of our knowledge and our research, the synthesizing chapter can be written only in draft form. In presenting the cultural development of each separate function, we used factual material and separate studies and observations. Now we come to projecting the further course of research. Only a detailed accumulation of primary factual material, followed by empirical and theoretical generalizations that show partial patterns and place them within ever broader laws, can lead to a complete resolution of our problem.
As we have said, at present our studies do not give an adequate basis for this. However, even now we can try to draw a schematic of cultural development as a whole and illuminate in an age cross-section the more important points of the perspective that is opening up in connection with the facts presented earlier. We do this, first, because only facts taken in perspective can be finally understood and evaluated in all their significance. Second, because without a conclusive synthesis, even in a schematic form, many facts would be deprived of unity, would be disconnected and would lose much scientific significance.
An attempt to cover cultural development synthetically must be based on the following basic positions.
First: in content, the process of cultural development may be characterized as development of the personality and world view of the child. These concepts are insufficiently determined and precise scientific terms. They are being introduced into child studies almost for the first time. Perhaps in the course of further studies, they may be rejected entirely or replaced by other concepts, but even if they remain with the approximate meaning which we are now trying to ascribe to them, their content must be made more precise, determined and rigorously separated from similar concepts. At present, we are introducing them for preliminary orientation as general concepts that encompass two very important aspects of the cultural development of the child.
Personality as understood here has a narrower sense than in the usual sense of the word. We will not include here all the traits of individuality that distinguish it from a number of other individualities, that make up its uniqueness or relate it to one specific type or another. We are inclined to put an equals sign between the child’s personality and his cultural development. Thus, the personality is a social concept; it encompasses what is supernatural and historical in humanity. It is not innate, but arises as a result of cultural development because “personality” is a historical concept. It encompasses unity of behavior that is marked by the trait of mastery (see the chapter on will). In this sense, the correlate of personality will be the relation of primitive and higher reactions, and in this plan, the concept we introduced coincides with the concept that Kretschmer is establishing in the area of psychopathology.
As world view, we are also not inclined to understand any logical, well-thought-out views of the world and its more important parts, developed in a deliberate system. We are inclined to use this word also in a synthesizing sense corresponding to personality in a subjective plan. World view is that which characterizes a person’s behavior as a whole, the cultural relation of the child to the external world. In this sense, an animal does not have a world view, and in the same sense, a child does not have a world view at the moment of birth. During the first years of life, sometimes right up to the time of sexual maturity, the child does not have a world view in the real sense of the word. Frequently this is more likely to be world action rather than world view. Thus, we imbue the term “world view” with a purely objective meaning of a method of relating to the world that the child has.
We must make two more stipulations: first, the course of our research differs from a study of the course of natural development. Natural development goes forward not as development and change in separate parts that results in the formation of a total change of the whole. More likely, conversely, not one function of those considered above, whether it be speech or memory, develops at all independently and separately from others; in the process of close interaction, all aspects of mental life develop, advancing and supporting each other in every way. Personality develops as a whole, and only arbitrarily, only for purposes of scientific analysis can we abstract one aspect or another of its development. This is clear from what has been said above. The very character of cultural development, in contrast to natural development, brings about what neither memory nor attention can turn into processes of general cultural behavior if taken as such and left to themselves at any level of natural development at which they might be. Only when the personality masters one form of behavior or another does it bring them to a higher level.
Thus, as in the area of organic development, the whole, in the expression of Aristotle, preceded its parts, the parts themselves and their action, that is, organs and functions, change depending on a change in the whole. In precisely the same way, the smallest step in the area of cultural development of any function assumes development of the personality if only in the most embryonic forms. The essence of cultural development, as we have seen, consists of man mastering processes of his own behavior, but an indispensable prerequisite for mastery is the formation of personality and for this reason, development of one function or another is always a derivative of development of the personality as a whole and is determined by it.
From this point of view, we see that in our research on the development of personality and a world view, we accumulated significant material that must be collected and presented as a whole. If it is true, as we have said above, that the development of each separate function is a derivative of the development of personality as a whole, then it must follow that in tracing the development of each separate function, we will trace the development of personality. Personality was present as if invisibly and participated in the process of mastering one’s own reactions; we touched on this above.
Second and most important: we wrote not a single chapter that does not extend multiple threads into subsequent chapters. If we looked at the work as a whole, as they say from the height of a bird’s flight, there would appear before us the very complex and confused threads that connect and interweave all the chapters together. Thus, speech, that principal means for developing personality, leads us to the basic form of mnemotechnical memory; it becomes clear only in the light of the pointing function of signs of attention. The word is a direct tool for the formation of concepts. Speech appears as the basic means of thinking and is connected with the development of the gesture, the picture, play, and writing. Attention also provides a real basis without which the development of concepts would be obscure, and we would never take up writing the history of personality and world view of the child if these intricately interwoven threads were not already noted in the whole preceding presentation.
Third: with the current state of our knowledge we have a serious lack of important points for resolving the problem posed. Thus, we could say nothing about the very important connecting link between organic life and life of the personality, a link that lies in the cultural development of human emotions and desires. We could trace the development of social and cultural needs only conditionally and briefly in studying the development of motives.
Let us move on to an ontogenetic consideration of cultural development as a whole.
The newborn is probably the most primitive being that a person can be. Neither people at a low level of development, nor idiots who have almost no cultural development, nor deaf-mute children, nor an older child, let alone an adult, ever reach in their organic functions the stage of pure naturalness that characterizes the newborn. The newborn is a natural being in the full and precise sense of that word. For this reason, in the first period of the child’s life it is easier than ever to observe natural forms of reactions. If certain primary forms of cultured behavior are apparent here, then they still have a semi-organic character and are coupled with an elementary reaction of the child to the human voice, to the appearance of an adult or other small children.
In this period, most significant from the point of view of cultural development, the most important turning point, is the instant when the child uses his first tools. As systematic observations and experiments have shown, this aspect of natural thinking, independent of words, of which we spoke above, is observed in children at nine months. Specifically then the first complex mechanical and sensory-motor connections are formed.
Preliminary intentions to do something with the aid of some object have been observed in a child as young as six months. At nine months, complex connections appear more definitely. When, after several attempts, the child cannot use his hand to get a toy that has fallen, he throws another toy after the first. We note that Kohler’s monkeys and older children acted the same way when they failed in their attempts to get a ball lying beyond a net.
But a child of ten months very often picks up a rattle that has fallen by its attached string, an operation that is impossible for an adult dog, as Kohler’s experiments have shown. The child already comprehends certain mechanical connections. This period of instrumental thinking (“Werkzeugdenken”) Bühler proposed to call the chimpanzee-like age. We observed how a child at ten months tugged at an adult by the hanging end of his belt or used another object to move an object that was not accessible. Researchers are absolutely correct when they say that with the use of a tool, a completely new period begins for the child. The principal change that occurs in the child is the following: at ten months, the child can use a string to get an object and remains at this level of thinking, independently of speech, till he is a year old.
So we have before us a child whose behavior has developed along all three stages: instincts, conditioned reflexes, and simple forms of thinking. Establishing the fact that natural thinking is present in a one-year-old is a major achievement of modern experimental psychology. It shows that the genetic roots of thinking and speech do not coincide and that there is nothing more instructive than tracing month after month the development of reactions, thinking, and prattling in the child. But we will forget that we have before us the natural roots of thinking and speech. Tracing the one and the other over the months, we see that in the child, there is no direct connection between the one and the other. The decisive significance of the transition to tools consists also of the fact that this moment is the turning point in the development of basic forms of adaptation of the child to the environment.
Jennings indicates that the reactions of an organism represent not simply a disordered mass, but a system determined by the organization of the given being. An amoeba, he says, cannot swim like an infusorian, and the latter has no organs for flight. Man has a system of acts that limits the forms of his behavior; but in contrast to other beings, man extends the range of his actions with the help of tools. Man’s brain plays a decisive role; among his organs, of decisive significance for implementing this are the hand, the eye, and the ear. The range of their activity is limitless owing to the use of tools. The natural inventory of this system of actions is possible for the human child beginning at the age of early use of tools.
We will note that even here, it seems to us, researchers gave insufficient consideration to the natural character of the child’s behavior. Following Hans Driesch, they tried to reduce behavior to elementary units, considering these to be not the simple reflexes that in pure, isolated form appear in the newborn infant as rarely as in the adult, but actions whose criteria, according to Driesch, are that the actions are determined by individual experience of a living being. For this reason, in determining actions, researchers introduced behavior that was actually or seemingly goal-directed.
As these researchers say, an action is behavior directed toward definite success regardless if the striving is conscious or unconscious and regardless of what kind of success is intended. This point of view, like the whole teleological position, seems spurious to us in the sense that for expressing a well-known objective fact or relation, specifically a functional relation, the term “goal-directedness,” pertinent to earlier stages, is used essentially subjectively and genetically. Also, the boundary for determining actual primary goal-directed actions when they first appear in the child is lost. Both thinking and speech of the child in this period are manifested in a natural form. Speech does not at all serve intended or consciously set goals, but appears as a simple activity of the child manifested in prattling, cries, and other expressive sounds. But the most decisive turn occurs in the sphere of activity of the child at the moment when he first begins to produce simple social reactions on the basis of speech. Social reactions absent in the first months of life begin with a cry inspired by the cry of another child, proceed to a glance at an adult, a calm smile after being spoken to, a cry when the adult leaves the child, and then a grasping of the adult and looking at another small child.
In just six months, the child develops the reaction of prattling to call the attention of an adult and responds with prattling in response to the words of the adult, stretching out his arms to him, etc. Calling the adult’s attention by movement, by tugging at his clothing in order to get his attention develops only at nine months. At ten months, the child can show the adult objects and at eleven months, he is capable of organized play and activity, getting the attention of another child by prattling, etc. Prattling very early begins to fulfill the elementary function of calling attention, but these means are still primitive and essentially do not differ from those we find in animals.
Thus, ascribing a social function to speech (calling attention) and extending beyond the limits of natural organology through the use of tools are two very important instances that in the first year of life prepare for important changes that are the basis for further cultural development.
If we should want to connect the common factors with what we know of the cultural development of separate functions, we would have to say that this whole period is a transitional period from the natural to the cultural life of the child. Every action of the child during this time has a mixed animal-human, natural-historical, primitive-cultural, or organic-personal character. We arbitrarily termed the transitional stage in the development of the child the magical stage. Actually, according to Piaget, who developed the most elegant and serious theory of the first year of life, the world view of the child at this level of development may best be described as magical.
Piaget proceeds from this simple form of child behavior that is most characteristic for the first year of life, which Baldwin called a chain reaction. It lies at the base of motor experience of the infant and is the point of departure for all adaptation of a child of this age. The child’s hands make random movements and if he gets any interesting result from this, the infant repeats the movement endlessly. This is how he begins to suck his thumb, grasp objects, pound on the table, etc. The chain reaction is exploitation of chance.
Motor adaptation is continued in memory. As we know, memory in small children, beginning at the end of the first year, is different. Piaget observed that a child uses one and the same element of a chain reaction to affect the world that surrounds him. A researcher observed that at eight months, a child will rise, then drop with his whole body in order to move something that he sees at a distance. A somewhat older child screws up his eyes, looking at a lamp cord in order to light the lamp. The child does not distinguish which changes occur as a result of his own reactions and those that occur independently of him.
In his words, Piaget’s hypothesis states that all movements carried out by the infant in the environment and all movements subsequently coinciding with his efforts will be perceived as the same until the resistance of objects or people brings the child to separating several actual centers in the world; put more simply, to separating his “I” from other objects.
We believe that Piaget’s idea is quite correct that in the newborn there is not even the most primitive presence of “I” – the personality and world view – that is, relation to the external world and to others. The one and the other for him is therefore indivisible and he senses the chain reaction when he moves his arms in order to make a sound and when he squints at the lamp in order to light it. If we were to ascribe to the child an innate consciousness of his “I,” says Piaget, then we could not at all understand why he begins to imitate others nor why he makes such strange movements in order to interact with the external world. We could say even more simply that the child experiences closure of an ordinary conditioned reflex to external actions that randomly coincide with some reaction of his. But, says Piaget, if some want to limit all of psychology to conditioned reflexes, then we must ask: what is the meaning of the circumstance that the child uses the same devices to affect things and himself?
This seems to us to be the most clear indicator that formation of personality has actually not occurred in the child and that it is still completely merged with his world view as exhibited in his actions. Piaget correctly terms the undifferentiated stage of personality and world view as a paradoxical state of solipsism (not in the philosophical sense, but to indicate the fact that the child is, on the one hand, completely at the mercy of external things and on the other, that for him, external things are not at all distinct from the processes that are taking place in his own body).
If we recall what we have said about separate functions, we will see everywhere this transitional or magical phase that is characterized by the lack of differentiation of the personal and the external, objective world. The different, natural memory of the child when he acquires important information on the qualities and states of the external world, the natural maturing of one dominant after another, the stage of forming concepts that, as Piaget correctly says, consists of distributing all objects acting on the child according to patterns of the five basic organs of perception – these are the characteristic traits of this stage.
We shall consider two important examples that characterize it. The first is memory. Despite the exceptional strength of child memory, impressions of the first year of life are never retained and are not maintained for the duration of the subsequent life of the child. Why we do not remember anything about the first year or in general about the very early years of our life is a puzzling fact that has not yet been explained in psychology, but cannot, of course, be simply reduced to the fact that it happened a long time ago. In recent psychology we have two basic explanations for this fact. One was proposed by Freud, the other by Watson. Freud proposes that memories of early childhood are forced from consciousness because they refer to an organization of the child’s behavior completely different from all the rest of his life. Watson identifies Freud’s unconscious with non-speech behavior and explains this fact by saying that early impressions are accumulated without the participation of speech. Memory for Watson is the result of the verbal aspect of behavior.
Watson’s explanation seems to us highly probable. From it, we can conclude that the first year of life in the development of the child is a kind of prehistorical epoch about which we remember nothing as we remember nothing of the prehistoric epoch of humanity that left no writing. Our speech is, in this way, a kind of unique writing of our past. In any case, the basic fact that we remember nothing about the first year of our life together with the other fact, specifically, the memory of the past as a basis for consciousness of our personality, allows us to say that the first year of life in a certain sense relates to later life just as development in utero relates to subsequent life. It is the second, seemingly prehistoric epoch in the cultural development of the child. The example in the area of development of concepts shows once again the extent to which the natural character of the epoch under consideration is connected with the absence of speech when, for the child, objects are divided into objects to recognize, to grasp, etc., that is, they are sorted according to different sensory patterns.
In this way, in the plan proposed by Piaget, we see a kind of analogy to our concepts of natural behavior. We see how mistaken is the view according to which the child begins with recognition of single objects and only through generalizing from these comes to a concept. Actually, the child, like an animal, begins with the most general patterns; for him the five groups of things indicated exist and are not differentiated individually, but are perceived by him in accordance with the assimilation pattern. If the child could put his concept of things into words, he would need a total of five words and with these, he could convey the whole diversity of the world he knew.
It is interesting to note that the affective theory of the origin of language also projects a total of several basic words for conveying separate meanings realized by humanity in prehistoric times.
As Volkelt says, the pyramid of concepts is constructed simultaneously from two ends – from the specific and from the general. We could go even further and say that judging by the behavior of the child, before the age of one year, the pyramid of concepts is built specifically from nondifferentiation of the particular; the child goes from the general to the particular, gradually isolating ever smaller groups and the single object is evidently isolated later. This corresponds with what we know about the basic property of nervous activity, specifically about the radiation of nervous excitation that always results in the formation of generalized conditioned reflexes. Only later, as a result of differentiation, never happening instantly, does the child begin to isolate and distinguish objects.
Thus, natural speech, natural memory, logical development of the dominant, and assimilation of a pattern instead of concepts – this is what characterizes the infant. The transition to tools, to socialized speech, marks the turning points that are the basis for further cultural development, but in themselves, they still belong to the natural period in the history of humanity. Speaking in the language of comparative psychology, they do not differ very much from the same forms of behavior in animals. The lack of differentiation of the personality and world view, merged into a single magical action, points to the transitional stage of cultural development. The correction that we must make in Piaget’s theory consists of the fact that socialized speech and the use of tools are instances that drive a wedge that splits off this magical stage. Adaptation to the natural world and to the social world begins to branch here into two separate lines. Finally, the fact of absence of memory in our first years, which we have already noted, is evidence that at this time the personality of the child has not yet formed and the means have not been created that it would use to manifest itself in external and internal actions.
The next epoch in the development of the child is characterized by two basic changes that have a decisive significance for subsequent development.
The first change is organic and consists of the fact that the child learns how to walk. From this follow a radical change in his adaptation to space, an extension of his control of things, a freeing of his hands from the function of moving around, and an abundance of things that the child can now manipulate and control. Another change is cultural and consists in mastering speech. We have already indicated that this most important instance in the development of the child is accomplished as follows if we consider it schematically. At first, grasping movements dominate. Unsuccessful movements result in the stretched out hand remaining extended toward the desired object; the pointing gesture develops from this, the first precursor of human speech. Its function is to indicate, to call attention. This may be done directly by holding out the object itself or perhaps by indicating an object. The child extends his arms toward an object before the age of one year; during the second year, it is a pointing gesture. All speech of the child develops through gestures, and in this way what takes place here is a kind of roundabout and zigzag development of speech.
Contrary to what Meumann expected, the first words serve not an affective-expressive function, but an indicating function. They replace or accompany the pointing gesture. Audible speech develops slowly and gradually and together with it, the basic apparatus develops for connecting with those nearby and affecting others.
In the chapter on thinking, we showed that mastering speech leads to a reorganization of all the features of the child’s thinking, memory, and other functions. Speech becomes the universal means for affecting the world. At this point, a new and unique form of the child’s world view develops. Since the child acts on external things through adults, a shorter path between words and objects develops. Let us recall how in the experiments of Kohler and Buhler when a child could not get an object lying behind a net, he began to throw pillows, a belt and other objects at it.
Now the child proceeds in the same way with words, and it is interesting to note that this feature is retained in the adult (swearing at inanimate things with which the adult cannot cope). It is most interesting that the child tries to affect things through words. Thus, in the experiments of M. Ya. Basov, the child turns to a toy, asking it to drop down. The child retains such a merging of affecting people and affecting things for a long time, but it differs greatly from the situation that obtained during the first year of life. Affecting people and affecting things proceed along different lines. The child has mastered the tool and the sign, at least the principle of their use, and applies each as appropriate.
The decisive moment in the development of the child’s personality in this period is his recognition of his “I.” As we know, the child initially calls himself by his own name and acquires the personal pronoun with some difficulty. Baldwin correctly noted that the concept of “I” develops in the child from his concept of others. The concept “personality” is thus a social, reflected concept constructed on the basis of the fact that the child applies to himself the devices of adaptation that he applies with respect to others. This is why we can say that in us personality is social. For us, this conclusion is not at all unexpected: even in analyzing each separate function, we have seen that the child’s mastery of one process of behavior or another is formed from the example of how an adult masters it. We have already seen, for example, that initially, adults direct the attention of the child to one thing or another and the child assimilates only those devices and means with which this was done. The same thing happens with speech. Initially, it fulfills the function of intercourse with others, then it becomes internal speech based on intercourse with himself. The personal name is frequently elicited in response to a question, as Delacroix correctly indicates, when children are asked: “Who wants this, who has this?” The personal pronoun, like the personal name of the child, is a pointing gesture to himself.
J. Fichte wanted to celebrate the baptism of his son on the day that he began to say “I.” But, of course, the appearance of this pronoun says just as little about the appearance of the recognition of personality as the pointing gesture says about the objective meaning of a word. This can be seen very clearly in French in which there are two separate particles for expressing “I”: “I” in the self-contained sense of the word replacing the noun (moi) and “I” as a pronoun used only with the verb (je). Delacroix proposes that in the child, “I” in the meaning of the noun precedes the “I” that appears only as a grammatical element.
We know of a deaf-mute child who spoke freely from the age of seven, but only at the age of twelve started to used the personal pronoun. Before that, regardless of special schooling, he used his name instead of the word “I,” for example: “Oleg has a father.”
In this connection, Stern’s statement is interesting: in first-born children, the child’s own name frequently precedes the personal pronoun, but in second and later children, the pronoun, “I” appears simultaneously with the name and not just as a grammatical element. It is difficult to find confirmation of the fact that the personality of the child at this stage is constructed according to social example and that the child makes the transition to recognizing the “I” just as others do in indicating themselves with the word.
The next typical stage in the development of the child’s world view we believe to be the age of play as a special form of child behavior, exceptionally interesting especially from this point of view. In play, the child, ascribing new meaning to toys and things, imagining himself to be a captain, a soldier, a horse, has, of course, gone beyond the magical stage when he did not differentiate between psychological and physical relations. Now, for him, a stick representing a horse is not a horse, he is under no illusion. As we tried to show above, this new (illusory) meaning often is not an arbitrary symbolic designation. The stick is no more a horse nor a sign of a horse, for example, than is a picture or a word. It is interesting to note that in the child’s play, a picture or drawing rarely replace an unavailable object. Gettser noted such cases, but nevertheless, we are inclined to consider them extremely rare; they are the exception rather than the rule.
The relation between objects and the meaning ascribed to them in a given case is very unique and corresponds to the stage of the child’s world view that he has now attained. As has been said, for him, the stick is neither an illusion nor a symbol.
We tried to show above that this meaning develops from gestures, that is, from that same common root from which the child’s speech develops and from which the whole natural history of the development of the sign begins. The unsuccessful grasping that becomes extinct in the animal as goals are unattained, begins to fulfill a new function in man owing to his social environment and is, in essence, the true source of all of his cultural forms of behavior. It is primarily a plea for help, for attention, and consequently, is the first going beyond the boundaries of the personality, that is, a primitive cooperation in the psychological sense of the word. We tried to show that the stick acquires its meaning for the child owing to the gesture, movement, dramatization.
Psychologists, guided by what the child himself said, were susceptible to illusion. They saw only the ready result or product of a certain process, but did not detect the process itself, which is that the initial meaning is inherent in the imitative gesture, the pointing of the child, riding the stick, etc. Something is required to serve as an object for full implementation of the gesture, and the meaning that this something acquires is essentially a secondary, derived meaning based on the primary meaning of the gesture.
In this way, we see that the child at the stage of play very unstably localizes his personality and his world view. He can be somebody else just as easily as he can be himself, just as every thing can assume any appearance, but it is remarkable that with the general lability, the instability of the child’s “I” and of the things surrounding him within each game, the child distinguishes not magically, but logically between treatment of things and treatment of people. It is remarkable that the child at this stage of development does not confuse activity in play with serious activity. He isolates the one and the other in separate spheres and he moves easily from the meaning of one sphere to the meaning of the other, never confusing them. This means that he already has control of both spheres.
Only at school age does the child first exhibit a firmer, stable form of personality and world view. As Piaget has shown, the child of school age is also a much more socialized and a much more individualized being. What externally seems to us to be a contradiction is actually two aspects of one and the same process, and we believe that there can be no weightier evidence for the social origin of the child’s personality than the fact that only with an increase, an intensifying and differentiating of social experience does the personality of the child grow, become formed and mature.
A very important basis for this change is the formation of internal speech that now becomes the child’s main tool for thinking. If at the stage of play, the child thinks and acts in a mixed way and thinking of some activity embodied in signs, moves directly to dramatization, that is, to a factual carrying out of the activity, then the thinking and action of the school-age child are more or less separated from each other. In play, we see a unique form of using signs: for the child, the process of play itself, that is, the use of signs itself, is still closely linked with entering into the meaning of these signs, into imaginary activity; in this case, the child uses the sign not as a means, but as a goal in itself.
The situation changes decisively when the child reaches school age. Here his thinking and action are sharply divided.
Piaget proposed that explanation of all the features of the school age can be derived from two laws. The first he calls the law of the shift or displacement. The essence of this is that the features in behavior of the child and his adaptation to the external world that were observed in preschool years in the sphere of action now shift, are displaced and transferred to the plane of thinking.
Syncretic thinking and using it to explain visible phenomena, characteristic for the child’s perception at the early stage of development, now appear in the form of verbal syncretism, examples of which Piaget presents in his experiments. This law can be formulated thus: the child of school age lives in a sphere of direct perception and action.
The second law, which Piaget calls the law of recognizing difficulty, was established by Claparède. The gist of the law is that the child is conscious of his operation only to the extent of his unsuccessful adaptation, and for this reason if for a child of preschool age impulsive, direct, unconscious reactive activity is characteristic in general, then for the school-age child, an essentially different situation obtains. This child is already conscious of his actions, and he plans them through speech and can give an account of them; he has already isolated the higher form of intellectual imitation that we termed a concept, which can be connected to what the child isolates through internal speech as a kind of extract of things and their relations. But what is most important has not yet happened to the child, namely, consciousness of his own processes of thinking. The child does not take account of them, he does not react to them and often he does not control them. They flow with him just as actions flowed previously, that is, in a purely reactive way. Only gradually, only with the passage of years does the child learn to control the course of his thoughts and just as he earlier controlled the course of his actions, he begins to regulate and select them. Piaget correctly notes that regulating thought processes is a voluntary act, an act of selection, to the same extent as a moral action.
Not without reason does Thorndike compare reflection with arithmetic based on selection of required associations, with selection in a conflict of motives, as this process occurs in real life. Only by the age of twelve, that is, by the end of elementary school does the child completely overcome egocentric logic and move on to mastering his thought processes.
The age of sexual maturity has usually been designated as the age at which two major changes in the life of the youngster are completed.
It is said that this is the age of discovering one’s “I,” of forming the personality on the one hand, and, on the other, the age of forming a world view. No matter how complex the relations these two moments might have with respect to the basic transformation that is taking place in adolescence, that is, to the processes of sexual maturity, there is no doubt that in the area of cultural development, they are central moments, with greatest significance for everything that is characteristic of this age.
For this reason, Spranger is fully justified in calling the transition age the age of growing into culture. When they say that the adolescent discovers his internal world with its possibilities, establishes his relative independence from external activity, then, from the point of view of what we know about the cultural development of the child, this may be designated as mastery of the internal world. Not without reason, the external correlate of this event is the development of a life plan as a certain system of adaptation that is first realized by the adolescent. Thus, this age crowns and completes the whole process of cultural development of the child.
We have already indicated that we are forced here to limit ourselves to a cursory and schematic review of childhood ages, since research at its present stage cannot yet give a complete and differentiated picture of the age features of mental development.