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Turner, A. (1990). Lev Vygotsky and Higher Mental Functions. Contemp. Psychoanal., 26:41-45.
(1990). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:41-45
Lev Vygotsky and Higher Mental Functions
LEV SEMENOVICH VYGOTSKY is now recognized in the Soviet Union and the United States as perhaps the most influential thinker in the last century of Soviet Psychology. Unfortunately, English translations of his writings have been scarce. This situation is being rectified by the current publication of his collected works in English, and we will soon be able to appreciate more fully this thinker, whose ideas provided a paradigmatic framework for research into the development of the higher mental functions.
Born in 1896, Vygotsky made his greatest contributions to psychology between the years 1924 and 1934, from the age of 28 until his death from tuberculosis at the age of 38. He attended the University in Moscow, graduating with a law degree, while studying history and philosophy at an independent university. In 1917 Vygotsky returned to his native Gomel, where he lectured on various subjects and organized a psychology laboratory at the Gomel Teacher's College. While there, he worked with children with various handicaps, including mental retardation. Through confronting the problems inherent in work with such children, he began to develop his ideas about the relationship between conditioned reflexes and consciousbehavior and the relevance of language to these processes. After Vygotsky gave a lecture at a Psychoneurological Congress in Leningrad in 1924, K. N. Kornilov, the newly appointed director of the Psychological Institute in Moscow, invited Vygotsky to join him there.
In Moscow, Vygotsky met his future colleagues, A. R. Luria and A. N. Leont'ev, and organized the Laboratory of Psychology for Abnormal Childhood, later called the Scientific Research Institute of Defectology. It was here that he and Luria conducted research investigating Vygotsky's theories of internalization and the "zone of proximal development." This is described in Luria's autobiographical