The Evolution of Developmental Psychology Throughout History in France and Russia
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MAY, C. J. (2002). The Evolution of Developmental Psychology Throughout History in France and Russia. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Evolution of Developmental Psychology Throughout History in France and Russia

Sponsored by: GLORIA MARMOLEJO (

The Evolution of DevelopmentalPsychology throughout history in France and RussiaThu Danh, Carmen May, Karie Strauss, Kimberly Miller, and Gloria MarmolejoWinona State University-Rochester Center

AbstractAdvances in developmental psychology flourished throughout the course of French and Russian history. Such advances stemmed from early philosophies, regarding growth, mental, and emotional development. The progress made by French and Russian philosophers and psychologists exerted a strong influence on improvements in the study of developmental psychology worldwide. In addition, many of the ideas and theories continue to influence developmental psychology today.

The Evolution of DevelopmentalPsychology throughout history in France and RussiaFrench Developmental PsychologyOne of the earliest French philosophical contributors to developmental psychology was Jean Jacques Rousseau. His most significant contribution to developmental psychology was the concept of stages of growth. According to Rousseau, five natural stages of growth existed. The five stages included: birth to five years old, five to twelve years, twelve to fifteen years, and twenty years and older (Smith, 1983). Additionally, Rousseau formed ideas about the process of developing physical and mental capabilities. He strongly believed that physical and mental capabilities were formulated through self-expression, learning from experience, and nature, and freedom of the individual to obey his natural impulses (Smith, 1983). In addition to Rousseauís ideas, French philosopher and neurologist, Wallon was a significant figure in developmental psychology. Wallonís theory was prominent primarily during the 1940ís. His ideas focused firmly on the genetic aspect of development. According to Sexton and Misiak (1992), Wallon was one of the first to apply the genetic method to development. Additionally, he contributed vast information to the understanding of emotional development. Wallon stressed that a childís primary relationships are based on emotions. As a result, he asserted that emotions were not initially abnormal behaviors (Sexton & Misiak, 1992). Following the early French philosophy of developmental psychology, a variety of French psychologists began to study intellectual and cognitive aspects of development. Alfred Binet was one of the most influential psychologists in the study of intellectual testing and development of children. At the time Binet rose in popularity, the ideals of French psychology focused on the understanding of the diseased mind (Robinson, 1995). Thus, Binet advocated the beliefs of French psychology at the time. According to Robinson (1995), Binet was interested in the dynamics of mind, its development, disorders, and practical functions (324). In essence, such subjects may have led to the creation of an intelligence test, which is used primarily to identify mental retardation in children. Similar to previous philosophers and psychologists, he applied a psychogenetic approach to the study of intelligence. Another French psychologist, who worked closely with Binet was Theodore Simon. Simon was known best for his collaboration with Binet to revise Binetís original intelligence test. In contrast to Binet and Simon, Jean Piaget formulated a theory emphasizing the cognitive advances during development. Previous psychologists emphasized the limitations of children; however, Piaget elucidated the strengths of the vast cognitive abilities of infants (Boden, 1979). This belief ultimately led to the expansion of the field of developmental psychology. Consequently, Piaget is often considered one on the most influential child psychologists of the twentieth century (Hunt, 1993). His theory is based primarily on the basis of biological influences. Piaget stressed that development is based on biological capabilities and their interaction with the environment (Boden, 1979). As a result of Piagetís ideas, he developed four major stages of development through which all children progress at varying ages. The stages included sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations. The sensorimotor stage lasts from birth to 18 months. During this stage, motor skills, perceptions, and sensations are emphasized. Next, the preoperational stage occurs from 18 months to seven years and is characterized by advances in symbolic thought, language, and an egocentric view. Next, the concrete operations stage, which occurs between ages seven and eleven, involves advances in conservation and basic concepts. Finally, the last stage of development, formal operations, occurs from age eleven to adulthood. During this stage, abstract thinking and logical reasoning skills are formulated (Hunt, 1993).Russian Developmental PsychologyNatives in Russia overcame many whirlwinds to accomplish the type of Psychology system that exists today. Slowly, but efficiently, Russia built a very strong and powerful school that accepted and studied all the aspects of human behavior (American Psychology, 1974). There are many psychologists that contributed many great accomplishments to Russian psychology.In 1929, the USSR Academy of Sciences formed a program to provide advanced graduate studies that lead to a degree, which is roughly comparable to the United States PhD. The first psychological journal was not formed until 1955. In 1968, the decree of Council of Minister of the USSR permitted awarding psychologist to receive higher degrees in the field of psychology. One major event that placed Psychology in the Russian world was that of forming an Institute of Psychology in December 1971 (1974). This was only one of the many struggles and stepping stones in forming a developed school. The institute was to include, not only psychology, but other studies such as physiology and mathematics. With the variety of studies, the main focus was on the research that the institute provided. The Russians believed that Psychological research should contribute an approach to problems involving the role of the individuals in a subjective manner. Other problems that the Russian Psychologists anticipated on working on was social groups-productivity workers, sociopolitical, cultural processes, education, personality, law ethics, and aesthetics (1974).The Soviet psychologists have two sources of interest in the mental growth of children. One of these interests is the psychology of sense organs and comparative psychology along with the mental development of children. This theory is one that shows evidence for a materialistic-evolutionist theory of the mind. Also, an intensive study of child development has been a result from a Soviet concern with educational matters. The interest arose in child development when other aspects were being looked at, for example: the need of pedagogical practice, improvement of the education system and the genetic approach of studying the human mind. A labor school that was established in 1919 ensured that the development of children would prepare them for work and life in a social society. Blonskiy believed in focusing on the attention towards a child and the understanding of their development to successfully solve this study. Blonskiy wrote that one can understand scientific psychology through studying the genetic aspects of psychology (Brozek, 1972). Vygotsky also agreed with Blonskiy that analyzing the history of behavior and psychology in general contributes to the understanding of genetic psycholgy. In deciding whether maturation and upbringing, qualitative and quantitative, social and natural factors had some kind of correlation, Blonskiy believed in both innate and social demands. Brozek (1972) says, "Inborn tendencies are not only utilized in this process, but are also inhibited and sublimated under the influence of social demands. The personality develops by adapting to the social environment" (243). This all adds up to the Ďegoí. It is then developed in the child through cooperation and communication with adults. It also depends on the childís social environment and personal upbringing. In understanding mental development, a child always lives in the present and develops everything that leads to an adultís intellectuality, which is why itís hard to find no correlations between socialist and nature upbringing (1972). Concentrating on the social factors, Blonskiy believes that school directs a child to develop new ways and forms of thinking. Childrenís thinking process develops an influence in a studentís memory, language, and emotions. As they master their school subjects, they use their thinking process to progress from abstract thinking to better observation, coming up with conclusions, and reasoning (1972).Rubinshteyn developed a theses stating that a childís mental development is determined by his/her activities that are formed by observing adults work, play, and study and also by the relations that one may have with his/her surroundings. Like Blonskiy, Rubinshteyn believes that a childís mental development is inflicted by his/her upbringing and instructions. The instruction aspect can easily have variations in its affect due to the process of education and coaching. He also emphasizes that the mental development is shaped by many other aspects that the child may encounter during his/her growth (1972). Rubinshteyn emphasized the processes of analysis of syntheses in the course of problem solving. Rubinshteyn (1958, 1960) saw thought as a process of analysis of properties of an object and their interrelations in addition to process of synthesis of the detached elements. The use of acquired knowledge is not a mere act of reproductive memory when solving a problem. An analysis of both the problem and the previous knowledge, and their correlation by synthesis are all requirements for the solution. The formation of these processes are intrinsically connected to the development of thought. He disagrees with two contrary theories in which the first stages of thought, the child handles concrete material better than abstract. He also argued against the opposite view that abstract tasks were easier for the child. Rubinshteyn also believed that concrete things could be approached in an abstract fashion. Many propositions have been made underlying the intensive study of child development; one of them from Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1956, 1960) who formulated an idea on the social nature of the childís mind and a role of instruction and communication with an adult for his mental growth. Vygotsky believed that the psychological development of a child included aspects of biology and social conditions. Although environment factors play a major part in the development, the social environment also plays a major part in it as well. Adaptation includes counteraction against elements in the environment, and the interrelations between the child and his/her environment, which are regulated through upbringings. Upbringing is determined by society, culture, tradition, morals, and ideals (1972). Development and Education Instruction and Education are of supreme importance in a childís mental growth, which has been agreed to with all Soviet psychologists. Preparation for future work along with instructions for play period should begin during the play period (Ananíev 1957, 1965). Therefore, both self-care and simple actions should be introduced in kindergarten. The mental processes of children take their shape on the basis of certain properties of the brain. The environment represents a source of the childís development rather than a condition of development. A child has to act on the human nature of surrounding objects in a human manner in order to realize the human nature of them. Two major factors of a childís mental growth are activity and communication (Leontíev, 1959). A fairly well illustrated investigation conducted by Luria viewed the relationship between the biological and social aspects of a childís mental growth. Luria did a comparison between mono and bizygotic twins and their development of elementary visual memory of remembering of words with or without the aid of corresponding pictures. Each pair of twins was presented with nine geometrical figures, which they were asked to recognize out of 25 figures in all. The differences between bizygotic twins among pre-school aged children were greater than the differences between monozygotic twins of the same age. The same significant result was seen in the school-aged children. In a different set of experiments, subjects were to recall 15 heard words. The same results show, but were not as significant for each age. Luria concluded that this was due to an increase in environmental influences. In a third set of experiments, participants were to remember 15 words accompanied by pictures. The results show there was no significant difference in the pre-school aged children, although there was a decrease coefficiency in the school-aged children. This had meant that there was no relevant difference between mono and bizygotic twins. Luria concluded that with age, new and complex mental processes develop (OíConnor, 155). Two Methods of Study Two experimental methods of studying the child have appeared in Russian Psychology: cross-sectional and the longitudinal study. The cross-sectional study is a comparative study in which a specific mental process in various age groups is used. Leontíev (1951) and Zinchenko (1961) used the cross-sectional study in their studies on memory development. A Russian psychologist by the name of Elíkonin argued that the source of development could not be reached by using this method of study. Elíkonin advocated the longitudinal study, which consisted of one child or a group of children to be investigated over a long period of time. He argued that the formation of mental processes and personality traits would be better acquainted with the longitudinal study. Also, this study can monitor age and individual differences. Bozhovich (1961), a Russian psychologist stated that the longitudinal study is only useful in the final stage of research on personality psychology. Elíkonin realized that his longitudinal study would be very time consuming and limited to only one group of people or one person. Bozhovichís theory led Elíkonin to combine cross-sectional studies with the longitudinal method.Types of Activity A proposition of the Soviet child psychology is that the child goes through different types of activity. There are three types of activity: play, study, and work. The most important is the activity of play. Play is presented in the pre-school aged children usually age 3-7 with most of the studies concerned with ages 3-5. This age is considered the time when personalityís basic aspects take shape. The pre-school period is that period when the child discovers the surrounding human reality (Leontíev, 1959b). The game with roles and rules is the main activity of the pre-school age. The activity play enables a child to imagine certain situations and also to engage in independent play; play without adult participation. The children ages 3-4 perceive games as imitating adults. Elíkonin describes the evolution of play as passing from games in which adult actions upon objects help the main role, the games that produce relations between adults, and then finally to games consisting of submission to certain rules. Russian psychology has a strong tendency to believe that childís drawings, their play, and the way they understand stories represents strong elements of realism. The richer a life experience for a child, the child then has a greater ability to discern real from unreal. While children are engaged in play, they feel attracted to toys belonging to others, but during the course of playing roles, children subordinate these temptations to the aim of the game.The Growth of Intellectual Operations Leontíev proposed that the child must pass through four different stages in order for the formation of the intellectual operations that make the assimilation of human knowledge possible. First, the adult must create concrete extreme actions because they can be demonstrated and also correct a childís performance. Then the external actions pass to a verbal plane, in which the child can be guided by verbal instruction. Third, the attempt to solving a problem is done by speaking aloud. Lastly, problem solving becomes a mental act of thinking. These stages are thought of a general scheme of the development of mental operations. Kabanova-Meller (1962) accepted that the development of thought is linked to the transition from external to internal actions. She showed that schoolchildren reproduce knowledge through this proposition. Activity is merely a matter of reproduced acquired knowledge instead of developing new mental operations. The passing of knowledge on how to act, and the fostering of the ability to make use of this knowledge has been seen as a formation of an intellectual approach. Bogoyavlenskii (1957, 1962), another Soviet interested in the formation of logical thinking in schoolchildren, believes it is necessary to develop corresponding methods of intellectual operations for problem-solving because not all types of instruction lead to mental growth. Similar to Bogoyavlenskii, Menchinskaya (1959) is also interested in the development of intellectual skills that are neither specific to a certain kind of activity, nor particular knowledge. The central aspect of a childís mental growth is assumed to be represented by the intellectual skills; their formation is dependent on three conditions: 1) getting acquainted with the rule that is being put into practice; 2) the practice of corresponding actions; and 3) self control of logical procedures. Menchinskaya later concluded that the development of intellectual operations and the formation of correct concepts should generally be made in two stages: 1) the emphasis on essential elements of the material studied and 2) practical items avoided (164). Despite some different ideas between Shevarev and Samarin, they do share the idea that the establishment of an association between two or more elements is the central factor of thought. They also believed the purpose of education should be the organization of associative connections. Shevarev concluded from his research (1959) that certain general associations are basic to the process of problem solving. Samarin (1962) believed association is a general concept of psychology and it should be the basis for any mental activity studies. The formation of associations from elementary local ones to complex systems, which include elements from most of the various fields of knowledge, is what the development of thought depends on.The Development of Voluntary Movements The sources of Russian interest in the development of voluntary actions comes from Sechenovís undated work in which motor development was ascribed a supreme role in the childís mental growth. Zaporozhets (1960, 1964) emphasized the considerable growth of a childís tendency to play, the occurrence of his own wishes, his attempt to take part in adult activities, and the demands adults are beginning to take on children. An attempt was made to present a childís mental growth as the internalization of external acts. There have been three main directions in Zaporozhetsí study: 1) the role of imitation; 2) the development of orienting activity; and 3) the role of language. The main way of development voluntary actions in children is through imitation. During play, a childís ability to imitate is developed by the childís identification with a certain person or profession, the improvement of his capacity to observe, and the refinement of an action taken as a model. According to Zaporozhets, the childís ability to get in a voluntary and efficient manner is dependent upon the development of orientation to the task with which the child has to cope. The following is a description of the four stages in the Zaporozhets school of thought: 1) disorganized reactions which can be produced by a stimulus. Following this stage, fixation of what has been revealed of the required movement may be present. 2) Orienting reactions begin to form a system; orientation to one stimulus stimulated the next reaction. During this stage, the acceptor of effect (provides that basis for the imagination of a specific situation), is formed. 3) There is an increase in the role held by visual orientation in accompanying the movement of the hand with the help of vision, tactile-kinaesthetic associations begin to form. Also, the development of the sensorial orientation is accompanied by the formation of verbal association. 4) Mental orientation on the level of silent speech substitutes verbal reactions. Orienting movements are reduced to essentials. Poddyakov (1959, 1960) distinguished three forms of orienting behavior in which finding have been provided from differences in orienting reactions. The first consists of concrete and effective actions. The second, orienting reactions were reduced to certain imitative movements. The third, orienting took place on a mental plane and limited to visual examination of the situation. He also noticed that there was a direct relation between investigatory activity and the given task. Language also played a leading role in the development of the childís voluntary activities, which has been agreed by all authors. They also emphasize the role held by language in the organization of motor responses, its contribution to the childís growing knowledge and to his increased self- control. One major study for Russian psychologists is the connection between concrete abstract ideas in the development of thinking.


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Last Edited 12/12/2002 4:57:30 PM
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