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Lev Vygotsky: biography of the famous Russian psychologist

Lev Vygotsky: biography of the famous Russian psychologist

November 27, 2021

Lev Vygotsky is a key author in the psychology of development and education , although he also made important contributions in the field of neuropsychology and founded the historical-cultural psychological approach. His theory and his work are framed in the context of the revolution of the proletariat that took place in Russia and in which he participated directly.

In this article we will discuss the biography and the main ideas and contributions of Vygotsky to psychology and other social sciences. We will focus its relationship with the development of evolutionary and educational psychology, although we will also mention its influence in other disciplines.


  • Recommended article: "The sociocultural theory of Lev Vygotsky"

Biography of Lev Vygotsky

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was born in 1896 in Orsha, Belarus, although he was raised in the city of Gomel. At that time the country was part of the Russian Empire, which was still ruled by a Tsar, although the revolutionary movement that would give way to the emergence of the Soviet Union would soon flourish. As a young man Vygotsky wanted to be a literary critic.

In 1913 he began studying law at the Moscow University ; the educational rank he could access was limited because he came from a Jewish family. He graduated 4 years later and returned to his hometown; there he began to teach psychology and logic. In 1917 the October Revolution took place and Vygotsky became involved in political activity.


Some time later, in 1924, Vygotsky became famous after impressing the community of Russian experimental psychology with a discourse on neuropsychology. From then on he worked as a researcher and as a professor at the Institute of Experimental Psychology in Moscow.

During this period of his life Vygotsky was a prolific author as well as an important instructor in the field of psychology . However, in 1926 he lost his job because of tuberculosis; He died of this disease in 1934, when he was only 37 years old, leaving behind a broad theoretical legacy that was collected by Aleksandr Luria and others.

Among the most outstanding works of this author are "Educational Psychology", "The mind in society", "The historical significance of the crisis of psychology", "The development of higher psychological processes", "Psychology of art" and "Thought and speech", his most influential book, which was published after his death.


Main ideas of his theory

Vygotsky's professional life was mainly focused on the development during childhood , in the psychology of development and in educational philosophy. However, his ideas were also relevant to fields such as philosophy and methodology of science, the study of higher mental functions or the interaction between human beings.

According to Vygotsky, people develop our repertoire of behavior during childhood from the interaction with other people in the environment. In this sense, the weight of culture is very relevant, which explains the internalization of a series of behaviors, habits, knowledge, norms or specific attitudes that we observe in those around us.

Thus, for example, he defined thought as an internal language and affirmed that it is acquired from exposure to the speech of other people. This internal language would fulfill the function of regulating one's behavior, especially during childhood , and during the early stages of development it would manifest in the child's external speech towards himself.

Vygotsky also gave great importance to the socializing functions of the game. This author argued that children internalize cultural norms, social roles or interpersonal skills through play. In addition, the use of symbols and imagination is very relevant in the acquisition of abstract thinking.

The main differences of Vygotsky's ideas with the approaches of Jean Piaget, the other fundamental theorist of the time, include the absence of stages of development, the focus on the language and the role of adults in learning or the emphasis on individuality, in interpersonal interaction and in the role of the sociocultural context.

Contributions to psychology

Vygotsky is considered one of the most influential authors in many of the branches of current psychology, although during his time he did not get as much recognition as Piaget, Skinner or Pavlov worldwide until decades after his death.This has been attributed both to his connection with the Soviet Communist Party and his premature death.

One aspect of Vygotsky's theory that has generated particular interest is the concept of the zone of proximal development, key in learning. This term refers to the distance between the behaviors that a child can perform by himself and what he is capable of doing with the help of other people with a greater mastery of a specific aspect.

Vygotsky called "scaffolding" the process by which an adult helps a child to carry out a certain task . As the child gains more knowledge or skills, educators should proportionally increase the difficulty of the exercises so that they continue to take advantage of the zone of proximal development.

The emergence of the historical-cultural psychological approach, which had the objective of determining the relationships between culture, mind and brain in a specific spatial and temporal context, is also attributed to the influence of Vygotsky, as well as that of Aleksandr Luria and other close collaborators.


Vygotsky's Social Cultural Theory -CHILD DEVELOPMENT & PEDAGOGY (November 2021).


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