L. S. Vygotsky. The History of Development of Higher Mental Functions. Chapter 4
The conception of psychological analysis that we tried to develop in the preceding chapter leads us to a new representation relative to the mental process as a whole and its nature. The most substantial change that occurred in psychology recently is that an analytical approach to the mental process was replaced by a holistic or structural approach. The most influential representatives of modern psychology advanced the holistic point of view and placed it at the base of all psychology. The essence of the new point of view is that the significance of the whole, which has its own specific properties and determines the properties and functions of the parts that constitute it, is foremost. In contrast to the old psychology, which represented the process of the formation of a complex form of behavior as a process of mechanical summation of separate elements, the new psychology places at its center the study of the whole and such of its properties as cannot be deduced from the sum of the parts. The new point of view has accumulated much experimental evidence that confirms its correctness.
For dialectical thinking, there is nothing new in the position that the whole does not arise mechanically by means of a sum of separate parts, but has specifically unique properties and qualities which cannot be deduced from a simple combining of the qualities of the parts.
In the history of the cultural development of the child, we find the concept of a twofold structure. First, this concept arose at the very beginning of the history of cultural development of the child and formed the initial moment of the point of origin of the whole process; second, the process of cultural development itself must be understood as a change in the basic original structure and the development of new structures on its base that are characterized by a new relation of the parts. We will term the first structures primitive; this is a natural psychological whole that depends mainly on the biological features of the mind. The second, arising in the process of cultural development, we will term higher structures since they represent a genetically more complex and higher form of behavior.
The main feature of primitive structures is that the reaction of a subject and all stimuli are at the same level and belong to one and the same dynamic complex which, as research demonstrates, has an extremely clear affective tinge. Many authors see the major capacity of the mind in the primacy of the whole over the parts, in the holistic character of primitive forms of child behavior, tinged affectively. The traditional representation that the whole is comprised of parts is disproved here, and researchers demonstrate experimentally that the whole, perception and action, not differentiating separate parts, is genetically primary, most elementary and simple. The whole and the parts develop in parallel and together with each other. Depending on this, many authors assume that the problems of psychological study changed radically, especially where explaining higher forms of behavior is concerned.
In contrast to Wundt, who seemed to believe that to explain higher forms, the existence of creative syntheses that unite separate elements into new qualitatively unique processes must be assumed, Werner advanced another point of view stating that not creative syntheses, but creative analysis is the real path to the formation of higher forms of behavior. New whole processes do not come from elements of a complex mind, but, on the contrary, they come from the breakdown of the dynamic whole, which from the very beginning exists as a whole, and the parts and connections and their interrelations that are developing among them on the basis of this whole must be brought forward and understood. Psychology must proceed from living unities and, through analysis, make a transition to lower unities.
However, primitive structures, for which such a merging into a single complex of the whole situation and reaction to it is characteristic, are only a point of departure. Moving on from it, a disruption and reconstruction of the primitive structure and a transition to a higher type begins. The attempt to apply the meaning of the new principle to ever newer areas of psychology begins to attach a universal significance to the concept of structure. This concept, metaphysical in essence, begins to signify something indivisible that comprises an eternal law of nature. Not in vain does Volkelt, speaking of their primary structures as the most important feature of the primitive mind of the child, call them “perpetually childlike.” Actually, research shows that the “perpetual child” is as instantaneous, ephemeral, self-obliterating, and transitional to a higher form as all other forms of primitive behavior.
New structures that we contrast with lower or primitive structures differ mainly in that direct fusion of stimuli and reactions into a single complex seems to be disrupted. If we analyze thoroughly the unique forms of behavior that we had the opportunity to observe in the selection reaction, then we cannot help but note that in behavior, a seeming stratification of a primitive structure is occurring in this case. Between the stimulus to which behavior is directed and the person’s reaction, a new intermediate member intervenes and the whole operation assumes the character of a mediated act. In connection with this, analysis develops a new point of view of the relation that exists between the behavioral act and external phenomena. We can distinguish clearly two orders of stimuli of which some are stimuli-objects and others, stimuli-means; each of these stimuli according to its relations uniquely determines and directs behavior. The uniqueness of the new structure is the presence in it of stimuli of both orders.
In our experiments, we were able to observe how the very structure of the whole process changes depending on a change in the position of the middle stimulus (sign) – the very structure of the whole process changes in behavior. Using words as a means of remembering was enough to make all the processes connected with remembering the instruction assume a single direction. But if only the words were replaced by meaningless geometrical figures, then the whole process took a different direction. Because of simpler experiments that were carried out, we believe it is possible to assume the following as a general rule: in the higher structure, the sign and methods of its use are the functional, determining whole or focus of the whole process.
Just as the use of one tool or another dictates the whole system of a work operation, the character of the sign used is the base on which the construction of the rest of the process depends. The same fundamental relation that lies at the base of the higher structure is the special form of organization of the whole process which consists of the process being constructed by involving certain artificial stimuli in the situation as signs. Thus, the functionally different role of two stimuli and their connection with each other serves as a base of the connections and relations that form the process itself.
The process of involving secondary stimuli in a situation which then acquires a certain functional meaning may be observed most easily in experiments when the child first makes the transition from a direct operation to using a sign. In our experimental studies, we placed the child in a situation in which he was presented with a problem of remembering, comparing, or selecting something. If the problem did not exceed the natural capacity of the child, he dealt with it directly or with the primitive method. In these cases, the structure of his behavior resembled completely the diagram drawn by Volkelt. The essential characteristic of the diagram is that the reaction itself constitutes a part of the situation and is inescapably included in the structure of the situation itself as a whole. This dominant whole of which Volkelt speaks predetermines the direction of the child’s grasping movement. But the situation in our experiments was almost never like that. The problem confronting the child usually exceeded his capacity and seemed too difficult to solve with this kind of primitive method. At the same time, beside the child, there usually was some object that was completely neutral in relation to the whole situation, and in this case, under certain conditions, when the child was confronted by a problem he could not solve, we could observe how the neutral stimuli stopped being neutral and were drawn into the behavioral process, acquiring the function of a sign.
We could place this process in parallel with the process described by Köhler. As we know, the simian that once had the sense to use a stick as a tool began later to use as tools any objects that were somewhat outwardly similar to a stick. Köhler said that if we assume that a stick that caught the eye acquired a certain functional significance for certain situations and that this significance was extended to all other objects, whatever kind they may be, then we come directly to the one and only view that coincides with the observed behavior of animals.
We could say that when an obstacle arises, the neutral stimulus acquires the function of a sign and from that time, the structure of the operation takes on an essentially different aspect.
In this way, we make a transition to the other side of the problem closely connected with it. As we know, in organic nature, structure and function are very closely connected. They are a unit and mutually explain each other. Morphological and physiological phenomena, form and function, depend on each other. In the most general form, we could define the direction in which structure is changed: it is changed in the direction of greater differentiation of parts. The higher structure differs from the lower most of all in that it is a differentiated whole in which the separate parts fulfill different functions and in which a combination of the parts into a whole process occurs on a base of functional double connections and interrelations between functions. Werner cites the words of Goethe, who said that the difference between lower and higher organism consists in the greater differentiation in the higher. The more developed an organism is, the less similar are its parts to one another. In the one case, the whole and the parts are more or less similar to each other; in the other, the whole differs substantially from the parts. The more similar the parts are to each other, the less they are subordinate one to another. Subordination signifies a more complex relation of the parts of an organism. In this connection, Werner sees the very essence of the process of development in progressive differentiation and centralization connected with it.
As applied to structure, we could say that it is specifically differentiation of the primitive whole and clear separation of the two layers (stimulus-sign and stimulus-object) that are the mark of the higher structure. But differentiation has another aspect that consists in the entire operation as a whole acquiring a new character and significance. We could not describe the new significance of the whole operation any better than to say that it represents a mastery of the behavioral process itself.
Actually, if we compare the diagram of the selection reaction as we drew it in the preceding chapter with the diagram that Volkelt provides, we can see that the most important difference of the one from the other lies in the character of the determination of the behavior as a whole. In the second case, the activity of the organism is determined by the total complex of the whole situation, the logic of the structure, and in the first case, man himself creates the connection and ways for his reacting; he reconstructs the natural structure; with the help of signs, he subordinates to his will processes of his own behavior.
The fact that traditional psychology did not at all note this phenomenon which we call mastery of one’s own behavior seems surprising to us. In attempts to explain the fact of “will,” psychology resorted to miracle, to intervention of a spiritual factor in the course of neural processes and, in this way, tried to explain the effect along the line of greatest resistance, as James had done, for example, in developing the teaching on the creative character of will.
But even in the psychology of recent times, which has begun gradually to introduce the concept of mastery of one’s own behavior into the system of psychological concepts, there is still neither the necessary clarity in the concept itself nor an adequate evaluation of its true significance. Lewin is justified in noting that phenomena of mastery of one’s own behavior have not yet appeared in all clarity in the psychology of the will. Conversely, in pedagogy, problems of mastery of one’s own behavior have for a long time been considered as basic problems of education. In contemporary education, the will replaced the position of deliberate action. In place of external discipline, in place of compulsory training, independent mastery of behavior is promoted which does not propose suppressing the natural inclinations of the child, but has in mind his mastery of his own actions.
In this connection, obedience and good intentions are relegated to the background and the problem of mastery of oneself is moved to the forefront. This problem actually has much greater significance, since we have in mind the intention that controls the child’s behavior. Moving the problem of intention to the background in relation to the problem of self mastery appears in the problem of obedience of the very small child. The child must learn obedience through self mastery. Self mastery is not constructed on obedience and intention, but, conversely, obedience and intention develop from self mastery. Analogous changes with which we are familiar from the pedagogy of the will are indispensable to the basic problem of the psychology of the will.
Together with an act of intention or decision, even more strongly must the problem of mastery of behavior be brought to the forefront in connection with the causal-dynamic problem of the will. However, regardless of ascribing such a central significance to the mastery of behavior, we do not find in Lewin any kind of clear determination or even a study of this process. Not once does Lewin return to it, and, as a result of research, arrives at distinguishing two basic forms of behavior. Since this distinction coincides closely with the distinction between the primitive and the higher structure which is where we begin, we will consider Lewin’s remarks in somewhat greater detail.
With him, in the interests of a purer scientific formation of concepts, we agree to give up the term “will,” and in its place to introduce the term “dependent actions and independent actions,” or actions arising directly from forces within the situation itself. The latter seem to us to be especially important. According to Lewin, it is understood that controlled actions also are subject to determining forces of the general situation, but with this type of action, man usually does not feel that he is involved with his whole personality in that situation; to a certain degree, he remains outside the situation and owing to this, he holds the action itself firmly in hand. Delimitation of the psychological systems in this case is different from what it is in a simple action due to the greater independence or greater dominance of the system “I.”
Regardless of this confused formulation of the whole problem, Lewin still arrives at establishing the fact that the formation of such ties, made with the help of an auxiliary action, is a feature of adult cultured man or, as we could say in other words, it is the product of cultural development. Lewin indicates that the basic problem arises relative to whether “any intentions” can be formed. In itself, most remarkable is the fact that man has exceptional freedom in the sense of intentional implementation of any action, even senseless action. This freedom is characteristic for civilized man. It is present in the child and probably in primitive peoples to a much lesser degree and, in all probability, distinguishes man from animals closest to him much more than his superior intellect. The difference, consequently, is reduced to the possibility of man’s mastery of his own behavior.
In contrast to Lewin, we attempt to provide for the concept of mastery of one’s own behavior a completely clear and precisely determined content. We proceed from the fact that the processes of behavior represent the same kind of natural processes subject to the laws of nature as all other processes. Neither is man, subjecting processes of nature to his will and intervening in the course of these processes, an exception in his own behavior. But a basic and very important question arises: how should he represent the mastery of his own behavior to himself?
Two basic facts were known to the old psychology. On the one hand, it recognized a hierarchical relation of higher and lower centers by which some processes regulate the course of others; on the other hand, psychology, coming to a spiritualistic interpretation of the problem of will, advanced the idea that mental forces act on the brain and through it on the whole body.
The structure we have in mind differs substantially from both the first and the second case. The differences are that we bring forward the problem of means by which behavior is mastered. Just as mastery of one process or another in nature, mastery of one’s own behavior assumes not a change in basic laws that control these phenomena, but subjection to them. We know that the basic law of behavior is the law of stimulus-response; for this reason, we cannot master our behavior in any other way except through appropriate stimulation. The key to mastery of behavior is mastery of stimuli. Thus, mastery of behavior is a mediated process that is always accomplished through certain auxiliary stimuli. We tried to disclose the role of stimuli-signs in our experiments on the selection reaction.
Recently in child psychology, the idea of studying specific features of human behavior has been advanced a number of times. Thus, M. Ya. Basov advanced the concept of man as an active agent in the environment, contrasting his behavior with the passive form of adaptation typical of animals. This author maintains that as a subject for psychology, we have before us an organism as an agent in his environment and the activity he exhibits in interaction with his environment in various forms and processes of behavior.
However, even Basov, who came closest to the problem of the specific in human behavior, did not delimit in his research any distinctly active and passive form of adaptation.
We might summarize what our comparative consideration of higher and lower forms of behavior leads to and say: the unity of all the processes that constitute the higher form is formed on the basis of two instances: first, the unity of the problem confronting man, and second, as we have already said, the means that dictate the whole structure of the process of behavior.
As an example that will make it possible to distinguish clearly the features of the higher and lower forms and simultaneously disclose the major instances of this difference, we can use the primitive and cultured structure of children’s speech.
As we know, the first word pronounced by the child is a whole sentence in meaning. And even more, it is sometimes complex speech. Thus, the external form of development of speech as it develops from the phenotypic aspect is deceptive. Actually, if we are to believe external consideration, we would have to conclude that the child is at first pronouncing separate sounds, then separate words, and later begins to unite the words in two’s and three’s and makes the transition to a simple sentence which later develops into a complex sentence and into a whole system of sentences.
This external picture, as we have already said, is deceptive. Research has shown definitively that the primary or original form of children’s speech is a complex, affective and undifferentiated structure. When the child pronounces the first “Ma,” Stern says, this word cannot be translated into the language of adults with the one word “Mama,” but must be translated by a whole sentence such as “Mama, put me on the chair,” etc. We will add that by no means is only the word “Ma” itself taken separately deserving of such an extended translation, but the entire situation as a whole: the child who wants to be placed on a chair, the toy which he wants to get by this operation, his unsuccessful attempt, the approaching proximity of the mother who is watching his behavior, and finally, his first exclamation – all of this, merged into a single whole complex could have been fully represented by Volkelt’s diagram.
Let us compare this primitive undifferentiated structure with the structure of speech of this child at age three when he expresses the same desire in the developed form of a simple sentence. We ask, how is the new structure different from the earlier structure? We see that the new structure is differentiated. Here, the single word “Ma” is converted into four separate words of which each precisely indicates and signifies an object of action that constitutes the corresponding operation and grammatical relations that convey the relation between real objects.
Thus, the differentiation and subordination of separate members of the common whole distinguish the development of this speech structure from the primitive structure with which we compare it. But its most essential difference is that it does not represent action directed toward a situation. In contrast to the initial cry that is an integral part in the merged complex of the situation, the present speech of the child has lost the direct connection with action on objects. It is now only an influence on another person. And so these functions of influence on behavior which are divided here between two persons, between the child and the mother, are united in a single whole in the complex structure of behavior. The child begins to apply to himself those forms of behavior that adults usually apply to him, and this is the key to the fact of mastery of one’s own behavior, the fact that interests us.
It still remains for us to elucidate the problem touched on earlier relative to what kind of distinguishing traits set the given structure apart from the more general type of structures that we, together with Köhler, could term detour structures. By this term, Köhler understands an operation that develops when attaining a goal by direct means is obstructed. Köhler has in mind two basic concrete forms in which such detour structures appear. The first are detours in the literal sense of the word when some physical barrier in the form of a road block stands between an animal and his goal and the animal moves toward the goal bypassing the obstacle in a roundabout way. The second concrete form consists in using tools, which, in a figurative sense, may also be termed detours or roundabout ways: when the animal cannot master something directly, cannot get it with his hand, the animal moves it closer with a developed operation and, as if in a roundabout way, attains his goal.
Of course, the structure we are considering belongs to a number of similar detours. However, there is a substantial difference that compels us to consider it as a structure of a special kind. The difference is in the direction of the whole activity and in the character of the detours. While a tool or a real detour is directed toward a change of something in the external situation, the function of a sign consists most of all in changing something in the reaction or in the behavior of man himself. The sign changes nothing in the object itself, it only gives a new direction or reconstructs the mental operation.
Thus, a tool directed outward and a sign directed inward fulfill technically different mental functions. Depending on this, the very character of the detours differs in an essential way. In the first case, we have certain objective detours consisting of material bodies; in the second case, detours of mental operations. These circumstances simultaneously indicate similarities and differences between the structures we are considering and the structures of detours.
What has been said allows us to approach still another essential problem. At present, we may consider as completely elucidated the formerly debatable question of the need to isolate a third step in the development of behavior, that is, to place intellectual reactions in a separate class on the basis of genetic, functional, and structural traits that preclude considering these reactions simply as complex habits. If we assume, with Bühler, that the indicated acts retain the character of “trials,” then the trials themselves acquire a completely different character. They no longer have to do directly with the object; they have to do with the internal aspect of the process, becoming exceptionally complex and in this case indicating a new step in the development of behavior. Of course, this new step cannot be considered as being cut off from the preceding second step.
The connection between the two steps is the same as it is over the whole extent of development. The lower forms are not destroyed, but are incorporated into the higher and continue to exist in it as a subordinate instance. For this reason we believe that relative to the three steps in the development of behavior proposed by Bühler, Koffka is justified in saying that areas of behavior must not be considered as fixed, congealed, separated from one another by an impassable wall. They must rather be understood as forms of behavior special in structural and functional relation that are found in an exceptionally complex dependence on each other and that are included in various relations in one and the same process of behavior.
In this case, we are interested in another question, opposite in a certain sense to the question we have just been considering. For us, speaking of three steps in the development of behavior is undoubtedly the very first requisite of the researcher. But we will take the question further: can we limit ourselves to the three steps indicated and do we not make the same mistake in this way that Bühler tried to avoid when he separated the second and third steps, does not this teaching contain a further simplification of higher forms of behavior, and does not the present state of our science oblige us to speak of still another, in this case, a fourth step in the development of behavior that characterizes the higher forms of behavior in man?
Introducing the concept of a third step, Bühler maintains that it is necessary to reduce to a common denominator both the higher forms of human thinking and the more primitive forms with which we became familiar in the child and in the chimpanzee, and that, theoretically, their bases are identical. The problem of science is completely legitimate: to understand what is common, what unites higher and lower forms, since the seed of higher forms is contained in the lower. But it is exactly the reduction to a common denominator of higher and primitive forms of behavior that is the gross mistake based on an inadequate study of them, on the study only of the latter.
Actually, if we capture only what is identical in the higher and lower forms of behavior, we will do only half the job. In this case, we will never be able to describe adequately the higher forms with the whole specific quality that makes them what they in fact are. For this reason, the common denominator that Bühler sees in purposeful behavior accomplished with an object without repeated trials still does not disclose what is essential in higher forms, what they contain.
We will say outright: three steps in the development of behavior exhaust diagrammatically all the variety of forms of behavior in the animal world; in human behavior, they disclose what is identical with the behavior of animals; for this reason, the three-step diagram encompasses, more or less fully, only the common course of biological development of behavior. But it lacks what is the most essential, specifically, those unique forms of mental development that distinguish man. And if we want to be consistent in carrying out the trend that we termed the trend toward humanizing psychology, if we want separate out the human, and only the human, in the development of the child, we must go beyond the bounds of the diagram.
Actually, the common denominator assumes that all difference between the unique forms of human and animal behavior is removed. The fact that man builds new forms of action first mentally and on paper, stages battles on maps, works on mental models, in other words, everything that in human behavior is connected with the use of artificial means of thinking, with social development of behavior, and specifically, with the use of signs, is left beyond the bounds of the diagram. For this reason, together with the three-step diagram, we must isolate a special, new step in the development of behavior constructed above it, a step which may incorrectly be called a fourth step, since it stands in a somewhat different relation to the third than the third does to the second, but in any case, it would be more correct, moving from ordinal to cardinal numbers, to speak not of three, but of four steps in the development of behavior.
A fact of no small importance hides behind this position. We have only to recall how many arguments were caused by the discovery and recognition of the third step in the development of behavior to understand the enormous significance that adding a fourth step will have for all the prospects of genetic psychology.
As we know, recognizing intellectual reactions as a special class of reactions raised objections from two sides. Some found the introduction of a new concept to be superfluous and tried to demonstrate that intellectual reactions contain nothing basically new in comparison with habit, that they may be fully and completely adequately described in terms of the formation of conditioned reactions, that all behavior may be wholly exhausted with the two-step diagram that differentiated innate and acquired reactions.
Supporters of this view expressed misgivings that together with recognizing a third step which was still inadequately studied and insufficiently clear, the metaphysical and speculative concept would once again be introduced into psychology, that behind the new terms, once again the road would be paved for a purely spiritualistic interpretation, that an anthropomorphic transfer of human methods of behavior to animals might once again fatally pervert all of the genetic perspectives of psychology. We note incidentally that the misgivings were to a certain degree justified. However, this does not seem to us to be evidence to any degree that its authors are right; from the position that any thing can serve as an object of abuse, it does not follow that the thing should not be used.
If adherents of the view under consideration assumed introducing a third step to be superfluous and criticized the new concept from below, from the aspect of biology, then it met with no less bitter attacks from the top, from the aspect of subjective psychology, which feared that with the introduction of the new concept the rights of the human intellect would be depreciated, that, as with Darwin, the divine nature of man would again be genetically linked to the chimpanzee. Psychologists of the Wurzburg school, being occupied with the study of thinking and considering it as a purely mental act, declared that contemporary psychology is again on the path to Platonic ideas. For this idealistic thinking, Köhler’s discovery was a cruel blow showing as it did the root of human thinking in the primitive use of tools by the chimpanzee.
For us, this developing situation seems characteristic to a high degree since the discovery of the third step in the development of behavior evoked bitter attacks both from above and from below.
An analogous situation is also created when we attempt to introduce further complexity into psychology and speak not of three, but of four basic steps in the development of behavior. This is the basic and principal problem of all genetic psychology, and we must expect in advance that the new diagram will meet bitter opposition both from the aspect of biological psychology, which tries to reduce human thinking based on the use of signs and primitive thinking of the chimpanzee to a common denominator, as well as from the aspect of spiritualistic psychology, which must again see in the new diagram an attempt to expose higher forms of behavior and present them as natural and historical formations and in this way encroach again on Platonic ideas.
We can find comfort only in the fact that the criticism from above and the criticism from below cancel each other out, neutralize each other, in the fact that complication of the simple, initial diagram alone seems not to be justified, and in the fact that it will be accepted by others as an unnatural simplification.
Actually, we admit that in our new attempt, there is also more likely to be the danger of simplification and of extraordinary complication since only the first steps have been taken. Undoubtedly, consciously and unconsciously, we simplify the problem when we try to present it in a schematic form and again reduce to one denominator all that we conditionally designate as higher behavior. Undoubtedly, further research within human behavior will be able to distinguish the newer and newer epochs and steps when our attempts will also seem methodologically not final; they will actually seem a simplification of the problem and a reduction of heterogeneous things to one common denominator. But at present, we are speaking of gaining a new concept for science. We are speaking of moving psychology out of its biological captivity and into the area of historical human psychology.
Thus, our initial position is the recognition of the new, fourth step in the development of behavior. We have already said that it would be incorrect to call it a fourth step, and there is a basis for this. The new step is not built over the preceding three in exactly the same way that the preceding steps are built on one another. It signifies a change in the very type and direction in the development of behavior and it corresponds to the historical type of development of humanity. It is true that when we consider its relation to the first three steps, which we can call natural steps in the development of behavior, this relation seems similar to the one we have already mentioned. And here we note the unique geology in the development of genetically available layers in behavior. Similarly to the way in which instincts are not eliminated but merged with conditioned reflexes or in which habits continue to exist in an intellectual reaction, natural functions continue to exist within the cultural.
As we have seen from our analysis, every higher form of behavior is disclosed directly as a certain aggregate of lower, elementary, natural processes. Culture creates nothing, it only uses what is given by nature, modifies it, and places it at the service of man. If we use the terminology of the old psychology, analogously to intellect, we could term the fourth step in the development of behavior the will because specifically in the chapter on will, the old psychology occupied itself most of all with the study of those real foundations of higher forms of behavior that are the subject of our research.
It would be a mistake to think that, together with spiritualistic representations of the will, those real unquestionable phenomena and forms of behavior that the old psychology interpreted erroneously and sometimes described must also be discarded. With this in mind, Høffding said that involuntary activity forms a basis and content of voluntary activity. Nowhere does the will create, but it always only changes and selects. He said that the will intervenes in the course of other mental processes only according to the same laws that are present in the processes themselves. Thus, the old psychology had every basis for also distinguishing not only voluntary and involuntary activity but also voluntary and involuntary memory and voluntary and involuntary flow of ideas; Høffding also maintained that the action of the will is not primary in evoking appropriate ideas. He said that the will provides the first push and bores through, but when the opening is made, then the stream of water must pass through under its own force and then it remains for us only to compare what we are seeking with what has been established.
Thinking in the true sense, formation of concepts, judgment and conclusions are based on the intervention of will in a representation. But just as these words carry so many meanings that they do not give a clear representation of the basic relation between the fourth step of behavior and other steps, we prefer to use a different term for this new area of development of which we continue to speak. Using Bühler’s comparison, we could say that we have noted yet another area of development which, in contrast to the first three, is not subject to the biological laws of the formula of selection. In it, selection ceases to be the main law of social adaptation and in this area of behavior all neutral forms of behavior have already been socialized. Admitting a conditional comparison, we might say that the new area relates to the other three areas as the process of historical development of humanity on the whole relates to biological evolution.
In preceding chapters, we have already noted the uniqueness of this area of development. Now it remains for us to consider briefly the character itself of development.
We must say that in contemporary psychology the very concept of cultural development has not been assimilated. Even now many psychologists are inclined to consider facts of cultural changes in our behavior from their natural aspect and think of them as facts of habit formation or as intellectual reactions directed toward a cultural content. Psychology is deficient with respect to understanding the independence and specific pattern in the movement of forms of behavior. Moreover, studies show that the structure of higher forms of behavior does not remain unchanged; it has its internal history that includes it in the whole history of the development of behavior as a whole. Cultural devices of behavior do not appear simply as external habit; they comprise an inalienable part of the personality itself, rooted in its new relations and creating their completely new system.
Considering the changes to which the new mode of behavior is subjected, we can in every case disclose with precision all the traits of development in the true sense of the word. This development, of course, is profoundly unique in comparison with organic development. Its uniqueness has thus far hindered psychologists from identifying these processes as a special type of development, seeing in them a completely new plan in the history of behavior. A. Binet discovered the fact that remembering based on signs leads to augmenting the function, that a mnemotechnique may attain better results than the most outstanding natural memory. This phenomenon Binet termed simulation of outstanding memory. As we know, by this he wished to express the idea that every mental operation may be simulated, that is, replaced by other operations that lead to the same results, but by a completely different path.
Binet’s determination can scarcely be termed fortunate. It indicates correctly that in externally similar operations, some of them, in essence, simulated others. If Binet’s designation had in view only the uniqueness of the second type of development of memory, one could not argue with him, but if it contains the idea that simulation, that is, deception, is occurring here, it leads to error. This practical point of view is prompted by the specific conditions of an appearance on a stage and for this reason is inclined toward illusion. It is, more likely, the point of view of a court investigator than of a psychologist. But, of course, as Binet also recognizes, such simulation is not illusion. Each of us has his own type of mnemotechnique, and mnemotechnique, in the author’s opinion, should be taught in schools together with mental arithmetic. The author would not want to say that the art of simulation should be taught in schools.
Designating the type of development we are considering as fictive, that is, leading only to a fiction of organic development, seems to us just as inappropriate. Here again the negative aspect of the matter is correctly expressed, specifically, that in cultural development, the concept of function at a higher step, promoting its activity, is based not on organic, but on functional development, that is, on the development of the device itself.
However, the latter term hides the basic truth that in this case there is not a fictive, but a real development of a special type that governs special patterns. For this reason, we prefer to speak of cultural development of behavior as distinct from natural or biological development.
We now move to the problem of elucidating the genesis of cultural forms of behavior. We will present a short outline of this process as it was noted in our experimental studies. We shall try to show that cultural development of the child proceeds, if we can believe the artificial conditions of the experiment, through i'our basic stages or phases sequentially replacing each other and arising one from another. Taken as a whole, these stages describe the circle of cultural development of any mental function. Data obtained by nonexperimental means fully coincide with the pattern noted, beautifully fall in with it, expanding in it their own sense and then hypothetical elucidation.
We shall trace briefly the four stages of cultural development of the child since they sequentially replace each other in the process of a simple experiment. It is understood that the phases identified in the cultural development of the child are no more than an abstract outline that must be filled in with concrete content in subsequent chapters of the history of the cultural development of the child. Now, however, we believe it is necessary to dwell on one basic general problem; without this a transition from the abstract outline to a concrete history of separate mental functions would be impossible.
We would like to say that this outline, which we developed in the process of experimental study, cannot, of course, be considered as reflecting accurately the real process of development in all its complexity. In the best case, having unfolded a certain form of behavior as a process, it helps to note, in a condensed form, the more important instances of cultural development and to find their relation to each other. But it would be a major mistake to consider our diagrammatic representation, developed on the basis of the artificial conditions of an experiment, as something more than only an outline. The greatest difficulty in genetic analysis consists precisely in using experimentally elicited and artificially organized processes of behavior to penetrate into how the real, natural process of development occurs.
In other words, the enormous problem of transferring the experimental outline to real life always opens up before genetic research. If the experiment discloses for us a sequence of patterns or any specific type, we can never be limited by this and must ask ourselves how the process being studied occurs under conditions of actual real life, what replaces the hand of the experimenter who deliberately evoked the process in the laboratory. One of the most important supports in transferring the experimental outline into reality are the data obtained nonexperimentally. We have already indicated that we see in these data a valid confirmation of the correctness of our outline.
However, this is not everything. In true research, it is still necessary to trace the path along which the cultural forms of behavior develop. Here again the basic difficulty consists in overcoming the traditional prejudice closely linked with intellectualism which still continues its cryptic dominance in child psychology. The basis of the intellectualistic view of the process of development is the assumption that development occurs like a logical operation. To the question as to how conscious use of speech develops in the child, the intellectualistic theory replies that the child discovers the meaning of speech. It attempts to substitute a simple logical operation for the complex process of development, not noting that such an approach involves an enormous difficulty because it assumes as given that which requires explanation.
We tried to show the insupportability of this point of view using the development of speech as an example. Actually, it would be impossible to find a more striking example of the fact that cultural development is not a simple logical operation.
We are not at all inclined to reject the fact that in the process of cultural development, intellect, thinking, invention, and discovery in the true sense of the word play an enormous role. But the problem in genetic research is not to explain the origin of new forms of behavior through discovery, but, on the contrary, to demonstrate genetically the rise of this development itself, of the role we must ascribe to it in the process of the child’s behavior, and of other factors that promote its appearance and action.
The role of the intellect in development is most easily elucidated if we point out another prejudice that is just as firmly rooted in psychology as the first. If Stern tried to explain the development of a child’s speech as discovery, then contemporary reflexology wants to present this process exclusively as a process of developing a habit without indicating that it is singling out speech from the remaining mass of habits. It stands to reason that the process of speech development includes the development of a motor habit and that all the patterns present in the formation of a simple conditioned reflex can undoubtedly be found in the development of speech also. But this only means that all the natural, innate functions are found in speech and that we are still far from an adequate description of the process itself.
Thus, we must overcome both the intellectualistic view that takes culture out of the activity of the human intellect and the mechanistic view that considers the higher form of behavior exclusively from the point of view of its functional mechanism. Overcoming the one error and the other leads us directly to the point where we can conditionally identify the natural history of signs. The natural history of signs tells us that the cultural forms of behavior have natural roots in natural forms, that they are tied to them by a thousand threads, that they arise in no other way than on the base of the natural forms. Where researchers thus far saw either simple discovery or a simple process of the formation of a habit, a true study discloses a complex process of development.
We would like to promote to the first rank the significance of one of the basic paths of cultural development of the child, which we might call by the generally accepted word imitation. It may seem that in speaking of imitation as of ore of the basic paths of cultural development of the child, we are returning again to the prejudices of which we have just spoken. A supporter of the habit theory may say that imitation is, of course, a mechanical transfer from one already developed form of behavior to another, that it is a process of habit formation, and we know it very well from animal development. Against such a view, we could point to the break that occurs in contemporary psychology of imitation.
Actually, psychology thus far has no intellectually clear idea of the process of imitation. As a matter of fact, it seems that processes of imitation are much more complex than it would seem at first glance. Thus, it would seem that the aptitude for imitation is strictly limited in different animals and people so that, summarizing the new position of psychology in this area, we might say: the circle of available imitation coincides with the circle of the actual developmental possibilities of the animal.
For example, it was pointed out long ago that the development of speech in the child cannot be explained by the fact that he imitates the adult. It is true that an animal hears the sounds of a human voice and with a certain structure of the vocal apparatus, it can imitate it, but we all know from experiments on domestic animals how limited is the circle of their imitation of man. A dog, the most domesticated animal with almost unlimited possibilities of training, does not in any way imitate motions of human behavior, and not one researcher has yet established that any but instinctive imitation was possible here.
We must again voice a reservation: we do not want to say that imitation does not play a decisive role in the development of a child’s speech. We want to say quite the opposite: imitation is one of the basic paths in cultural development of the child in general. We would only like to note that imitation cannot explain the development of speech and that imitation itself requires explanation. Köhler, considering the reproaches that might be raised against ascribing intelligent behavior to a chimpanzee, dwells especially on the problem of imitation. The question arises: could not the chimpanzee in certain experiments see similar solutions reached by man and could he not simply imitate man’s action? Köhler says that this objection might be a strong reproach if we assume the existence of simple imitation without any intelligent participation, a mechanical transfer of the behavior of one man to another. There is no doubt that such a purely reflex imitation exists; however, we must establish its true boundary.
If we assume that imitation of another kind is occurring here, not simple mechanical transferring from one to another, but connected with a certain understanding of the situation, then that in itself gives a new interpretation to the really intelligent behavior of animals. Actually no one has ever observed that complex actions could at once be reproduced by simple reflex imitation. The process of imitation itself assumes a certain understanding of the significance of the action of another. Actually, the child who can understand, cannot imitate a writing adult. Animal psychology confirms that the matter of imitation in animals is in the same situation. Studies by American authors showed, in contrast to the results of E. Thorndike, that imitation, although with difficulty and limited in scope, does occur in higher vertebrates. This discovery coincides with the assumption that imitation itself is a complex process that requires preliminary understanding.
To anyone who was engaged in animal research, Köhler could say in his own words: if an animal that sees a problem solved can actually by imitation arrive at the solution as he could not before, we would have to give that animal the highest mark. Unfortunately, we come across such cases very rarely in chimpanzees, and what is most important, only when a suitable situation and solution of it are within approximately the same boundaries that exist in the chimpanzee and are related to his spontaneous actions. Simple imitation is found in chimpanzees as it is in man, that is, when behavior produced by imitation is already common and understandable. Köhler assumes that the conditions are the same for imitation in higher animals and in man; man cannot simply imitate if he does not understand the process or the course of ideas well enough.
We would like to limit Köhler’s position only to the area of natural imitation. As far as special or higher forms of imitation are concerned, we are inclined to say that they follow the same path of cultural development as all other functions. Specifically, Köhler says that under natural conditions, the chimpanzee is capable of imitating human behavior and he sees evidence in this for the intelligence of its behavior. Köhler stressed that, as a rule, the chimpanzee does not imitate human behavior. This is incorrect. There are cases in which even the greatest skeptic would have to admit that the chimpanzee imitates new methods of action not only similar to his own, but also those of man.
We could express this new evaluation of imitation another way by saying that imitation is possible only to the extent and in those forms in which it is accompanied by understanding. It is easy to see what enormous significance imitation acquires as a method of research that makes it possible to establish the limit and level of actions accessible to the intellect of the animal and the child. Roughly speaking, by testing the limits of possible imitation, we test the limits of the intellect of the given animal. For this reason, imitation is an exceptionally convenient methodological device for research, particularly in the genetic area. If we want to learn how much a given intellect has matured for one function or another, we can test this by means of imitation, and we consider an experiment with imitation that we developed to be one of the basic forms of the genetic experiment: a child is present when another solves a suitable problem, then he solves the same problem himself.
These considerations compel us to reject the opinion that reduces the essence of imitation to the simple formation of habits and to recognize imitation as a substantial factor in the development of higher forms of human behavior.