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Cultural-historical psychology (also called the school of Vygotsky, sociocultural psychology, socio-historical psychology, activity theory, cultural psychology, cultural historical activity theory, and social development theory) is a psychological theory formed by Lev Vygotsky in the late 1920s, and further developed by his students and followers in Eastern Europe and worldwide. This theory focuses on how aspects of culture, such as values, beliefs, customs and skills, are transmitted from one generation to the next. According to Vygotsky, social interaction, especially involvement with knowledgeable community or family members, helps children to acquire the thought processes and behaviours specific to their culture or society. The changes or growth that children experience as a result of these interactions differs greatly between cultures; this variance allows children to become competent in tasks important or necessary in their particular society.
Emergence of the school
Cultural-historical psychology emerged in response to Cartesian dualism as a deliberate attempt to establish a new paradigm in psychological research that would overcome the narrow objectivism of behaviorism (John B. Watson) and subjectivism of the introspective psychology of Wundt, James, and others. Furthermore, it emerged just when the Silver Age, or Renaissance, of the Russian culture was in decline. It focuses on human development for making genetic claims regarding the function of the mind during activity. These claims could be part of, or a basis for, a return to the unity of human sciences.
Another major characteristic of cultural-historical psychology was its integration of various approaches and methods used to consolidate knowledge about humanity.
Vygotsky and his associates postulate a non-adaptive character and the mechanisms of higher psychical (mental) functional development. The members of Vygotsky's school believed that the main goal of psychological inquiry was an objective study of human consciousness, and assigned the role of cultural mediation and cultural mediators as word, sign (Vygotsky), symbol, and myth (Losev, V. Zinchenko) in the development of higher psychological functions, development of personality and phenomenology.
Human beings who are different in terms of cultural beliefs are also different from each other psychologically.
A basic distinguishing feature of cultural-historical psychology is that
the species-specific characteristic of human beings is their need and ability to inhabit an environment transformed by the activity of prior members of their species. Such transformations and the mechanism of the transfer of these transformations from one generation to the next are the result of the ability/proclivity of human beings to create and use artifacts - aspects of the material world that are taken up into human action as modes of coordinating with the physical and social environment.
—M. Cole , 
Vygotsky and his associates postulate in principle non-adaptive character and the mechanisms of higher psychical (mental) functions development. Defining the main goal of psychological inquiry as an objective study of human consciousness, the members of Vygotsky's school investigate the role of cultural mediation and such cultural mediators as word, sign (Vygotsky), symbol, myth (Losev, V. Zinchenko) in the development of human higher psychical functions, development of personality and its "top-most' phenomenology.
Some of Vygotsky´s students who took up and developed his approach to psychology include Aleksey Leontyev (sometimes also spelled A.N. Leontev) and A.R. Luria in the Soviet Union, and Klaus Holzkamp in Germany. Holzkamp developed his own approach to cultural-historical psychology which he termed "critical psychology" mainly based on Leontev´s work, also making use of Merleau-Ponty´s Phenomenology
- Constructivism (learning theory)
- Critical psychology
- Cultural mediation
- Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC)
- Leading activity
- Social development theory
- Zone of proximal development
- Зинченко В. П. (1993). Культурно-историческая психология: опыт амплификации. Вопросы психологии, 1993, N 4.
- Культурно-историческая психология, [Cultural-historical psychology], International psychological journal (in Russian)
- Lev Vygotsky Archive at marxists.org
- A.N. Leontev Archive at marxists.org
- A.R Luria Archive at marxists.org
- de:Kulturhistorische Schule
- fi:Kulttuurihistoriallinen psykologia
- ru:Культурно-историческая психология
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