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  • Cited by 18
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2014
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Book description

The field of cultural-historical psychology originated in the work of Lev Vygotsky and the Vygotsky Circle in the Soviet Union more than eighty years ago, and has now established a powerful research tradition in Russia and the West. The Cambridge Handbook of Cultural-Historical Psychology is the first volume to systematically present cultural-historical psychology as an integrative/holistic developmental science of mind, brain, and culture. Its main focus is the inseparable unity of the historically evolving human mind, brain, and culture, and the ways to understand it. The contributors are major international experts in the field, and include authors of major works on Lev Vygotsky, direct collaborators and associates of Alexander Luria, and renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks. The Handbook will be of interest to students and scholars in the fields of psychology, education, humanities and neuroscience.


‘What a wide-ranging view of the comprehensive subject of mind-culture-neurology! It serves a real purpose both pedagogically and in the scholarly sense.’

Jerome Bruner - Professor Emeritus, New York University

‘Anyone interested in the ideas of Vygotsky and his legacies will find this book a rich source of information and inspiration.’

Mike Cole - Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego

‘Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was among the most seminal psychologists of the twentieth century. This excellent volume is a fitting tribute to Vygotsky and a testimony to the fact that his theory of ‘cultural-historical psychology’ is alive and well and continues to influence many strands of psychology worldwide.’

Elkhonon Goldberg - author of The Executive Brain, The Wisdom Paradox, and The New Executive Brain

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Page 1 of 2

  • 6 - Encountering the border
    pp 148-174
  • Vygotsky’s zona blizhaishego razvitia and its implications for theories of development
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    Lev Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology is a "grand theory" that attempts to provide a unifying approach for the discipline of psychology. This chapter introduces Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology without oversimplifying the theoretical ideas but at the same time making his sometimes complex ideas accessible. Vygotsky traces the development of various forms of speech from external social speech through to internal private speech to show how humans develop the ability to master themselves, to control and regulate their own mental functions. The significance of Vygotsky's psychological tools is that they provide a bridge between the development of human culture and the cultural development of the human child. According to Vygotsky, the potential concept is a "pre-intellectual formation arising very early in the development of thinking". Vygotsky identified different structures or kinds of generalization that arise during the course of development of concepts.
  • 7 - Developmental education
    pp 177-202
  • View abstract


    Consciousness is one of the most "inconvenient" objects of psychological research. This chapter outlines the basic challenges for a theory of consciousness in order to suggest a direction in which contemporary psychology may develop and discusses the scope of these challenges. It provides a reconstruction of Lev Vygotsky's conception of consciousness in its evolution throughout his scholarly life. The chapter gives the main definitions of consciousness in Vygotsky's works. It describes the different ideas on consciousness in the general context of Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory. The chapter presents a critical analysis of the theory of consciousness from the perspective of its own "zone of proximal development" and its contemporary relevance. The analysis of Vygotsky's theory of consciousness shows that the perspectives of this theory are enormous, but they remain mere perspectives to date because the theory is still at the initial stage of its development.
  • 9 - The “magic of signs”
    pp 217-244
  • Developmental trajectory of cultural mediation
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    Lev Vygotsky proposed that psychology should go beyond immediate experiences; psychology is about processes hidden from direct observation. In Vygotskian cultural-historical psychology scientific activity is understood as study of the world that is based simultaneously on method and methodology. The aim of cultural-historical psychology is to describe directly non-observable psychological structures that underlie manifest behavior. This chapter contains several examples to prove that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the sensory world and reality and even less so between sensory-based and semiotic representations. It discusses one example that follows from application of methodological principles of the cultural-historical approach at the relatively local level of theory-building. Cultural-historical psychology is structural-systemic. Finally, the chapter discusses the two issues at a more local level, that of internalization and that of lexical assumption. Structural-systemic cultural-historical methodology rejects the unidirectional '(cultural) environment-determines-mind' account of the development of mind.
  • 10 - Inner form as a notion migrating from West to East
    pp 247-271
  • Acknowledging the Humboldtian tradition in cultural-historical psychology
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    This chapter traces the origins of the idea in Lev Vygotsky's thought in the early 1930s. The notion of zona blizhaishego razvitia ZBR had great promise for developmental psychology and education. For Vygotsky, the use of the ZBR concept was descriptive rather than explanatory. Vygotsky perceived the process of imitation as the mechanism of development. Vygotsky developed the idea of heterochronic emergence of different psychological functions. It is interesting that the origin of the notion of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) can be found in Henri Bergson's thinking. The ZBR-in the form of the ZPD-is assumed to exist as an entity among other psychological functions (e.g. cognitive characteristics). Its focus on the dynamic process of emergence has become translated into a static depiction of some process of teaching and learning-usually with the focus on the relevance of the "more experienced" partner in the educational interaction.
  • 12 - Luria and Vygotsky
    pp 295-312
  • Challenges to current developmental research
  • View abstract


    The notion of "developmental education" or the image of "education that leads development", as any other notion, has discriminative power only until it allows us to see something that otherwise would remain unnoticed. This chapter explores the levels of micro- and macro-analysis of the interrelation between learning, instruction, and development and interprets the development (of higher psychological functions) with the help of a conceptual toolkit of cultural-historical theory as simultaneous transition. It provides macro-analysis of developmental education on the scale of the system of education and discusses the types of interaction or pedagogical facilitation that every educational system uses in order to provoke and support children's independence in mastering and using various cultural tools. The type of interaction that is predominant in each specific system of education determines its developmental affordances and its limitations at the same time.
  • 13 - There can be no culturalhistorical psychology without neuropsychology. And vice versa
    pp 315-349
  • View abstract


    This chapter examines the powerful role of cultural mediation in human development. It reviews Lev Vygotsky's thinking on the topic of cultural mediation, including its hallmark achievements and also aspects that require further elaboration. The chapter presents arguments for a developmental account of cultural mediation and discusses its potential to demystify the power of signs to greatly enhance human psychological abilities. It summarizes that the contemporary research continues to struggle with the question about the unique role that signs might play in the operations of the human mind. Many scholars outside the cultural-historical framework make advances in answering this question but leave substantial gaps in their resulting conceptions. Finally, the chapter outlines the developmental continuum of emerging mediational means of growing complexity. The approach developed by Vygotsky can be used to advance a dialectial perspective on the link between the human mind and the world of culture.
  • 15 - Cultural-historical theory and cultural neuropsychology today
    pp 378-400
  • View abstract


    This chapter presents the ideas and notions that formed cultural-historical psychology. It first introduces Humboldt's theory of language, itself embedded in the philosophy of language of German Romanticism. Describing the nature of language, According to Humboldt, a concept is generated by tearing it off from the "moving mass of ideas". A first "migration" of the Humboldtian inner form is seen in his pupil Heymann Steinthal, whose psychologization of Humboldt's philosophy of language and of the inner form was important for its survival, foremost in Eastern Europe. After this brief look at Steinthal, the chapter discusses the adoption of Humboldt-Steinthal by Potebnia, transferring also the notion of inner form to the East. The last part of the chapter is devoted to Vygotsky, a critical reader of Potebnia, who nevertheless stayed within the tradition opened by Humboldt's language philosophy.
  • 16 - Cultural-historical psychotherapy
    pp 403-422
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    Lev Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory emphasizes the role of historical and social contexts in psychological development. Vygotsky's interpretation of the development of pointing has been rediscovered in the current studies of social referencing in infants. The relationship between higher and lower mental functions in Vygotsky's theory was not strictly determined. Vygotsky's concept of lower mental functions (LMFs) shows the limitations of the infants' precocious abilities: the lack of conscious awareness, language mediation, executive ability, and systemic coordination. At the same time, the discoveries of infants' precocious abilities challenge Vygotsky's theory of LMFs and his general understanding of what cognitive development is. The purpose for future research is to evaluate the original Vygotsky-Luria model of Executive function (EF) as social skill of "tool mediated" self-regulation derived from interactive activities, and to examine it in relation to the contemporary accounts of executive functioning.

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