L. S. Vygotsky. The History of the Development of the Higher Mental Functions. Chapter 3.
We have already said that the first and second form of our research is an analysis of higher forms of behavior; but the situation in modern psychology is such that before we can begin to analyze the problem, we have the problem of the analysis itself.
In modern psychology, as a result of the crisis that affects its very foundation, a change in its methodological bases is occurring right before our eyes. In this respect, a situation arose in psychology that more developed sciences do not experience. When we speak of chemical analysis, everyone clearly understands what we have in mind. But the situation is entirely different for psychological analysis. The concept itself of psychological analysis has an exceptional variety of meanings; it includes determinations that sometimes have nothing in common with each other arid sometimes are diametrically opposed to each other. Thus, in the last ten years, the concept of psychological analysis as a basic movement in descriptive psychology has experienced extensive development. Descriptive psychology has sometimes been called analytical, and in this way its concept was contrasted with the concept of modern scientific psychology. Actually the analytical method was close to the phenomenological method and for this reason the problem of psychological research was reduced to dividing the complex structure of experiences or direct data of consciousness into their component elements. According to this understanding, analysis coincided with breaking down experiences and, in essence, opposing this concept to the concept of explanatory psychology.
In a somewhat different sense, analysis dominates traditional psychology, where it is usually called associative. Actually, it was based on an atomistic conception of what higher processes consist of and summarizing certain separate elements; the task of research was again reduced to presenting higher processes in a certain way as a sum of associated simpler elements. In fact, this was the psychology of elements and, although it dealt with somewhat different problems, including explanation of phenomena, nevertheless even here a close tie existed between this understanding of analysis and the dominance of the phenomenological point of view in psychology. K. Lewin noted that, as a rule, the basis for such understanding is the opinion that higher mental processes are more complex or compounded and include a larger number of elements and their combinations than do the lower mental processes. Researchers attempted to break down complex processes into the independent processes comprising them and their associative ties. The dominance of the atomistic point of view led, in turn, to emphasizing the purely phenomenological problem which, as Lewin noted, in itself undoubtedly was of significant importance, but concealed a deeper causal-dynamic problem in the old psychology.
Thus, analysis in these two basic forms with which the old psychology was familiar was either opposed to explanation (in descriptive psychology) or actually led exclusively to describing and breaking down experiences and was incapable of disclosing the causal-dynamic connection and relation of any complex processes.
The development of modern psychology changed even the meaning of analysis in a radical way. The trend toward studying processes as wholes, toward disclosing structures that are the basis of psychological phenomena is the opposite of the old analysis, which is based on an atomistic conception of the mind. We are justified in thinking that the great difference in structural psychology is the reaction to the psychology of elements and to the place that the analysis of elements occupied in theory. The new psychology itself is consciously opposed to the psychology of elements, and its most essential characteristic is that it is the psychology of whole processes.
On the one hand, the extensive development of behavioral psychology in all its forms is undoubtedly a reaction to the dominance of purely phenomenological trends in the old psychology. In some-types of behavioral psychology, attempts were made to move from descriptive to explanatory analysis. Thus, if we wanted to summarize the course of the current state of this problem, we would have to say that the two positions that were represented in the old psychology, and from which the new is decisively distancing itself, resulted in a split between the two basic trends in the new psychology.
On the other hand, some psychological trends are developing before our eyes that are attempting to include explanatory analysis at the base of the psychological method. Such, for example, are certain trends in behavioral psychology that in essence preserved the atomistic character of the old psychology and consider all higher processes as sums or chains of more elementary processes or reactions. For example, Gestalt psychology, which constitutes a substantial trend in contemporary psychology, emphasizing the significance of the whole and its unique properties, rejects analysis of this whole and in this way is forced to remain within the limits of descriptive psychology. In recent years, many psychological trends of a synthetic character are attempting to split the two types.
Also before our eyes, a new understanding of psychological analysis is developing. The first, most clear theory of this new form of analysis originated with M. Ya. Basov, who tried to unite two lines of research in structural analysis – the line of analysis and the line of the holistic approach to the personality. The attempt to unite analysis and the holistic approach distinguishes Basov’s method advantageously from the other two trends which usually follow one of the points of view indicated. We see this, on the one hand, following the example of extreme behaviorism, which from the correct premise “all depends on the reflex” reaches the erroneous conclusion “everything is reflex.” On the other hand, we see the same thing in the example of contemporary holistic psychology which sees a universal property in structure, which accepts whole mental processes as the starting point, and in this way, taking the other extreme line, never finds a way to analysis and genetic study and therefore never finds a way to construct a scientific base for the development of behavior.
We believe it is necessary to consider somewhat more closely the new form of psychological analysis of which the method of research we use is a further development. Basov isolates the real, objective element of which this process consists and then differentiates them. He believes these phenomena to be independent, having an independent existence, but he looks for their component parts only to ascertain that each of the parts retains the properties of the whole. Thus, in an analysis of water, the molecule H20 will be an objectively real element of water although it is infinitely small in size, but homogeneous in composition. For this reason, particles of water must, according to this separation, be considered essential d elements of the formation being considered.
Structural analysis has to do with such real, objectively essential elements and sees as its task not only to isolate these elements, but also to explain the connections and relations that exist between them and to determine the structure of the form and the type of activity that arise from the dynamic combination of these elements.
Recently, even holistic psychology is coming to the same conclusion. Thus, H. Volkelt notes that a very basic trait of contemporary psychological research is that it is directed toward the study of the whole. However, problems of analysis persist here to the same degree as formerly and, in general, must persist as long as psychology continues to exist. Volkelt distinguishes two lines of such analysis. The first may be called holistic analysis, which keeps in view the holistic character of the object being studied, and the second, elemental analysis, the essence of which consists of isolating and studying separate elements. Thus far in psychology, specifically the second form has been dominant. Many think that the new psychology rejects analysis in general. Actually, it only changes the significance and tasks of analysis; it has in mind analysis in its original sense.
Naturally, the very meaning of analysis must be radically changed. Its principal task is not to break down the psychological whole into parts or even into pieces, but to isolate certain traits and instances in each psychological whole that have retained the pre-eminent importance of the whole. We see here a completely clear expression of the idea of uniting the structural and analytical approaches in psychology. It is easy to see, however, that avoiding one of the errors of the old psychology, specifically atomism, the new analysis falls into another and actually has nothing in common with explaining, with disclosing the real connections and relations that form the given phenomenon. This analysis, as Volkelt says, is based on a descriptive isolation of holistic properties of a process since any description always isolates certain specific traits, places them in the forefront, and attempts to comprehend them.
We can see, therefore, that the elimination of the errors of the old psychology is actually still far from complete, and many theories, wanting to avoid the atomism of the old psychology, fall into a pattern of purely descriptive research. This is the fate of the structural theory.
There is another group of psychologists who, wanting to go beyond the limits of purely descriptive psychology, come to an atomistic conception of behavior. However, before our eyes, a base is being laid for the first foundations of a synthetic, uniting concept of the first and second theories. Before our eyes, analysis in psychology is changing its character. Actually, behind the various forms of interpretation and application of analysis are hidden various conceptions of the psychological factor. It is not difficult to see that the conception of analysis in descriptive psychology is directly linked to the basic principle of this psychology, specifically, to the teaching on the impossibility of a natural-science explanation for mental processes. In the same way, analysis in the psychology of elements is linked to a certain interpretation of psychological fact, specifically, with the teaching that all higher processes arise by way of associative combination of a series of elementary processes.
Psychological theory changes the conception of analysis depending on the general main approach to psychological problems. Behind one application of analysis or another lies a certain conception of the fact being analyzed. This is why, together with a change in the bases of the methodological approach to psychological research, of necessity, the very character of psychological analysis changes We note three specific points on which analysis of higher forms of behavior is based and which serves as the basis for our research. The first point leads us to distinguishing between analyzing things and analyzing process. Thus far, psychological analysis almost always treated the process being analyzed as if it were a specific thing. Mental formations were understood as a certain stable and solid fact, and the problem of analysis essentially was reduced to breaking it down into separate parts. This is why in this psychological analysis, the logic of solid bodies has been dominant thus far. The mental process was studied and analyzed, in the expression of K. Koffka, primarily as a mosaic of hard and unchanging parts.
Analysis of things should be opposed to the analysis of process, which actually leads to a dynamic unfolding of the main points that form the historical course of a given process. In this sense, we are brought to a new understanding of analysis not by experimental, but by genetic psychology. Should we want to indicate the most important change that genetic psychology introduces into general psychology, we would have to admit, together with H. Werner, that this change leads to introducing the genetic point of view into experimental psychology. The mental process itself, whether we speak of the development of speech or volition, is a process that undergoes certain changes before our eyes. Development may be limited, as for example, in normal perceptions, to several seconds in all, or even to a part of a second. It may, as in complex processes of thinking, stretch over many days or weeks. It is possible to trace this development under certain conditions. Werner gives an example of how the genetic point of view can be applied to experimental research. Due to this, we are able experimentally, in the laboratory, to elicit a certain development that is a process that has long since been completed for modern man.
We said above that the method we use may be called an experimental-genetic method in the sense that it artificially elicits and creates a genetic process of mental development. Now we may say that the basic problem of the dynamic analysis that we have in mind is also contained in this. If we replace analysis of things with analysis of process, then the basic problem for consideration naturally becomes the genetic restoration of all the instances of development of the given process. Here, the principal task of analysis is restoring the process to its initial stage or, in other words, converting a thing into a process. This kind of experiment attempts to dissolve every congealed and petrified psychological form and to convert it into a moving, flowing flood of separate instances that replace one another. In short, the problem of such an analysis can be reduced to taking each higher form of behavior not as a thing, but as a process and putting it in motion so as to proceed not from a thing and its parts, but from a process to its separate instances.
The second point on which our understanding of analysis depends consists in opposing descriptive and explanatory problems of analysis. We have seen that the concept of analysis in the old psychology coincided essentially with the concept of describing as opposed to the problem of explaining phenomena. Moreover, the real task of analysis in any science is specifically to disclose the real causal-dynamic relations and connections that lie at the base of any phenomenon. Thus, in essence, analysis is a scientific explanation of the phenomenon being studied, and not just a description of it from the phenomenal aspect. In this respect, the separation of the two points of view of mental processes which Lewin is introducing into contemporary psychology seems extremely important to us. In its time, this kind of separation actually raised all the biological sciences to a higher level, or more precisely, this separation turned them from simple empirical description of phenomena into sciences in the true sense of the word, in other words, into an explanatory study of phenomena.
As Lewin correctly notes, in their time, all sciences made this transition from a descriptive to an explanatory approach, which is now the most basic characteristic of the crisis that psychology is experiencing. Historical study shows that an attempt to limit analysis to purely descriptive tasks is not a specific distinction of psychology. In old works on biology, statements were made that biology, in contrast to physics, can be, in the main, only a descriptive science. Today, everyone admits that this view was not justifiable.
Some ask, is not this transition from description to explanation a process of maturation typical for all sciences? Many sciences could see their unique features in the descriptive character of research. Dilthey defines the task of descriptive psychology in just this way. The transition from the descriptive to the explanatory concept is accomplished not by way of a simple replacement of some concepts by others. Extending the descriptive definition may also include transition to a certain genetic connection, and as development occurs, the science becomes explanatory. Lewin cites many basic biological concepts that made the transition from the category of description to explanation by extending and supplementing their content with genetic connections.
As we see it, this is the way science actually matures.
In essence, before Darwin, biology was a purely descriptive science that was based on a descriptive analysis of external properties of organisms without knowing their origin and, consequently, explaining their formation. The theory of botany, for example, placed plants into specific groups according to the form of leaves, flowers, according to their phenotypic properties. It developed, however, that one and the same plant may have a different external appearance depending on whether it grows at high or low altitudes. Thus, one and the same organism, depending on various external conditions, displays very important external differences and conversely: organisms very different in origin found in similar external conditions acquire a certain external resemblance, but in essence, remain different phenomena according to their nature.
For biology, overcoming the descriptive phenotypic point of view was connected with Darwin’s discovery. The origin of species, which he discovered, laid the foundation for a completely new classification of organisms according to a completely new type of formation of scientific traits, which Lewin calls conditional-genetic in contrast to the phenomenological type based on external manifestations. A phenomenon is defined not on the basis of its external appearance, but on the basis of its real origin. The difference between these two points of view can be explained with any biological example. Thus, from the point of view of external traits, a whale is undoubtedly closer to fish than to mammals, but according to its biological nature, it is closer to the cow and to the deer than to the pike or the shark.
Phenomenological or descriptive analysis takes a given phenomenon as it is in its external manifestation and proceeds from the naive assumption that there is a coincidence between the external appearance or manifestation of matter and the real, actual, causal-dynamic connection that underlies it. Conditional-genetic analysis proceeds from disclosing real connections that are hidden behind the external manifestation of any process. The latter analysis asks about origination and disappearance, about reasons and conditions, and about all those real relations that are the basis of any phenomenon. In this sense, we could, following Lewin, move to a psychology of separating pheno- and genotypic points of view. Under genetic consideration of the problem, we will understand disclosure of its genesis, its causal- dynamic bases. Under phenotypic consideration, we will understand analysis that is based on directly presented traits and external manifestations of the object.
Wc could cite not a few examples in psychology that exhibit serious errors that are due to confusing these two points of view. In research on the development of speech, we will have the opportunity to consider two basic examples of this type. Thus, from the external, descriptive aspect, the first manifestation of speech similar to that of an adult appears in a child at the age of approximately one and a half years, and on the basis of this similarity, serious researchers such as W. Stern reach the conclusion that even at this age, the child recognizes the relation between the sign and the meaning, that is, he closes in on phenomena that from the genetic point of view, as we shall see later, have nothing in common with each other.
A phenomenon such as egocentric speech, which is not similar externally to internal speech and differs from it in a most fundamental way, as our research shows, must be close to internal speech from the genetic aspect.
We are coming to the basic point that Lewin makes: two phenotypic single or complex processes may seem to be causally-dynamically extremely different and conversely – two processes that are extremely close from the causal-dynamic aspect may seem different from the phenotypic aspect. We can find such phenomena at every step, and we shall see that a whole series of positions and achievements established by the old psychology appears in a completely new light when we make the transition from phenotypic to genetic consideration.
Thus, the basis for the phenotypic point of view is a combining of processes that is based on external resemblance or similarities. Marx said the same thing in a most general form, confirming that “if the form of manifestation and the essence of things coincided directly, then all of science would be superfluous” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 25, Chap. II, p. 384). Actually, if the thing were the same phenotypically as it is genotypically, that is, if external manifestations of the thing as they are seen every day actually expressed the true relations of the thing, then science would be completely superfluous and simple observation, simple everyday experience, simple recording of facts would fully replace scientific analysis. Everything we might perceive directly would comprise the subject of our scientific knowledge.
Actually, psychology teaches us at every step that two actions may proceed similarly from the external aspect, but may differ profoundly from each other in genesis, in essence, and in their nature. In such cases, special means of scientific analysis are required to disclose the internal differences that lie behind external similarity. In such cases, scientific analysis is also required, that is, knowing how to disclose the internal essence that lies behind the external appearance of the process, its nature, its genesis. The whole difficulty of scientific analysis consists in that the essence of things, that is, their true, real relation, does not coincide directly with the form of their external manifestations; for this reason, processes must be analyzed, and through analysis, the true relation that lies at the base of these processes, behind the external form of their manifestation, must be disclosed.
Analysis also has the task of disclosing these relations. Genuine scientific psychological analysis differs in a radical way from subjective, introspective analysis, which by its nature cannot go beyond the limits of pure description. In our sense, analysis is possible only as objective analysis; for this reason, it seeks to disclose not what the observed fact seems to us, but what it actually is. We are interested, for example, not in the direct experience of free will, which introspective analysis shows us, but in that real connection and relation of the external and the internal that lie at the base of this higher form of behavior.
In this way, we see that psychological analysis as we understand it stands in direct opposition to the analytical method in the old sense of that word. If the old analysis saw itself as opposed to explanation, then the new is a basic means for scientific explanation. If the old remained mainly within the limits of phenomenological study, then the new has as its task the disclosure of the real causal- dynamic relations. But in psychology, the explanation itself becomes possible to the extent that the new point of view does not ignore external manifestations of things, does not limit itself exclusively to genetic considerations, but of necessity includes both scientific explanation and external manifestations and the traits of the process being studied. It does this through the conditional-genetic approach.
In this way, analysis does not limit itself to only the genetic point of view, but of necessity considers the given process as a certain circle of possibilities that only with a certain complex of conditions or in a certain situation results in the formation of a certain phenotype. Thus, the new point of view does not eliminate, does not put aside the explanation of phenotypic features of the process, but places them m a subordinate position with respect to their actual genesis.
Finally, the third basic point consists of the fact that in psychology, we often are confronted with processes that have already become solidified, that is, passed through a very long historical development and were converted into a kind of fossil. Behavioral fossils most often are found in the so-called automatic or mechanical mental processes. These processes, which as a result of long functioning are perfected in the millionth repetition, become automatic and lose their initial appearance, and in their external form indicate nothing about their internal nature; they seemingly lose all traits of their genesis. Due to this kind of automatization, they create enormous difficulties for psychological analysis.
We will provide a very simple example that shows essentially how different processes acquire an external resemblance due to this kind of automatization. Let us take two processes that are called voluntary and involuntary attention in traditional psychology. Genetically, the indicated processes differ profoundly; moreover, in experimental psychology, the fact that is represented in the law of E. Titchener can be considered an established fact: voluntary attention, once it is aroused, functions like involuntary attention. According to the author’s expression, secondary attention continuously turns into primary. Because of this, a higher degree of complex relations develops which at first glance leads to occluding the basic genetic connections and relations that control the development of any mental process. Describing both forms of attention and contrasting one with the other with great sharpness, Titchener said that there is still, however, a third stage in the development of attention; it consists in nothing other than a return to the first stage.
Thus, the last, higher stage in the development of any process exhibits a purely phenotypic similarity to the first or lower stage, and in the phenotypic approach, we consequently lose the possibility of distinguishing the higher form from the lower. For this reason, the researcher is confronted with the same basic problem of which we spoke above – converting thing into movement, fossil into process. We have no other way of studying this higher, third stage in the development of attention and comprehending all of its profound uniqueness, in contrast to the first except by a dynamic unfolding of the process, except by indicating its genesis. Consequently, what must interest us is not the finished result, not the sum or product of development, but the very process of genesis or establishment of the higher form caught in a living aspect. For this, the researcher must very frequently transform the automatic, mechanical, fossilized character of the higher form and turn its historical development back, experimentally return the form that we are interested in to its initial moments in order to make it possible to trace the process of its genesis. But as we have already said, this is what the problem of dynamic analysis involves.
We can summarize what has been said above on problems of psychological analysis in this way and enumerate in a single sentence all three determining points
that form its base: analysis of process, not thing, analysis that discloses the real causal-dynamic connection and relation, but does not break up the external traits of the process and is, consequently, an explanatory, not a descriptive analysis, and, finally, genetic analysis, which turns to the initial point and reestablishes all processes of development of any form that is a psychological fossil in the given form. All three points taken together are based on the new understanding of the higher psychological form that is neither purely a mental formation, as descriptive psychology assumes, nor a simple sum of elementary processes as associative psychology believes, but a qualitatively unique form, a truly new form that appears in the developmental process.
Three points that make it possible to contrast with full clarity the new psychological analysis with the old may be found in a study of any complex or higher form of behavior. We will move on along the same path on which we started, specifically, the path of contrasting, since it is the easiest way to disclose the basic and essential trait of the new studies of the basic or radical changes in all of the genesis, origin, and structure of the higher form of behavior. For this reason, in order to move from a methodological consideration to concrete analysis that allows disclosure of the general form of the law that is the basis for the higher form of behavior, we will stop and consider experimental analysis of a complex mental reaction. This research is advantageous in many respects. First, it has a long history and consequently allows a very clear contrast to be made between the new forms of analysis and the old. Second, with respect to special conditions of the psychological experiment, such research permits a formulation in a very pure and abstract form of two basic points to which the analysis of all higher forms of behavior leads.
If we approach the analysis of a complex reaction in the way in which it was developed in the old psychology, we will easily find, in a most classical and finished form, the three distinguishing traits whose negation was the starting point of our research. First, the analysis is based on what N. Ach calls graphic schematism and which may actually be called analysis of the thing. Nowhere does the atomistic character of the psychology of elements, its logic of solid bodies, its attempt to consider mental processes as a mosaic of solid and unchanging things, its conception that what is higher is simply cumulative – nowhere does all this appear with such clarity, with such truly graphic schematism as in the most developed chapter of the old psychology, in experimental analysis of the complex reaction.
If we turn to the problem of how this psychology represents the genesis of a higher or complex form of reaction, we see that it represents the process that interests us in an elementary and simplified way at a higher level. According to that teaching, the higher reaction differs from the simple one most of all in the increased complexity of the stimuli presented. If we usually have one stimulus in a simple reaction, then in a complex reaction there are usually several stimuli. Most often, the complex reaction is characterized by the fact that instead of a single impression, the subject is affected by a series of stimuli. From these complicated stimuli, another point necessarily develops, specifically, a complication of mental processes that are the basis of the reaction. But most essential is the fact that complicating the internal aspect of the reaction is analogous to complicating the stimuli.
It is easy to be convinced of this if we turn to the usual formulas that are used for experimental analysis of a complex reaction. Thus, the reaction of making a distinction arises if the subject, before he reacts to the stimuli presented, has to make a distinction between two or more stimuli. In this case, we can compute the exact time of making the distinction according to the simple formula P = p + Pi, where P is the time of the complex reaction of making the distinction, Pi is the time of the simple reaction, and p is the exact time of making the distinction.
In the same way, further complications bring us to constructing the reaction of selection. Where the subject is confronted with making a choice from among various movements, we have a further complication of the reaction that consists of the fact that the instant of making the distinction and the instant of selection is added and for that reason, the classical formula of the second reaction can be expressed in the form P = Pi + p + B, where B is the exact time of selection, and P is the time of reaction or of making the distinction.
If we disclose the conception of a complex reaction that was the basis of these formulas, it is easy to note that, in essence, it may be formulated as follows: the reaction of making a distinction is a simple reaction plus making the distinction; the reaction of selection is a simple reaction plus making the distinction plus selection. Thus the higher is constructed as a sum of elementary processes that underlie the purely arithmetical summation. Actually, if we are justified in defining making a distinction and selection by simply subtracting the simple reaction from the complex reaction, then, by the same token, we maintain that the complex reaction is a simple reaction plus a new added element because all subtraction is nothing other than a conversion of addition, and if we would want to present the same formulas in their initial form, then we would have to replace them with a sum of the elements entering into them.
True, in experimental psychology, the problem of the almost complete inconsistency of the operation of subtracting higher forms from lower forms has been addressed a number of times. Thus, Titchener established that a complex reaction is not made up piecemeal from simple reactions, that differentiation and recognition reactions are not sensory reactions to which the time for differentiation and the time for recognition are added. The selection reaction is not a differentiation reaction to which the selection time is added. In other words, differentiation time must not be arrived at by subtracting sensory reaction time from differentiation reaction time. Selection time must not be obtained by subtracting the differentiation reaction time from the selection reaction time.
This is done frequently in textbooks: differentiation time, recognition time, and selection time are indicated, but actually, the position that forms their base cannot be considered correct, as if the reaction is a chain of separate processes to which one may arbitrarily add or from which one may arbitrarily subtract separate links. The reaction is a single process which, with a certain degree of habit, depends as a whole on the links of instruction. Perhaps it may develop that in an associative reaction one may resort to subtraction, that we may be able to determine, with a high degree of reliability, the time required for association by subtracting the time of simple sensory reaction from the time of simple association reaction, but facts indicate otherwise. Instruction which determines association controls the whole course of recognition, and for this reason the two reactions specified are not comparable.
The basic experimentally established fact that completely overturns the classical formulas given above for analysis of a complex reaction by simple arithmetical computation of separate elements is Titchener’s establishment of the position that the time of carefully preparing the selection reaction may be equal to the time of the simple sensory reaction. We know that the basic law of a complex reaction established in classical psychology is an exactly opposite position. Specifically, the old experiments established that the time for a complex reaction exceeds the time for a simple reaction and the time for a complex reaction increases in direct proportion to the number of stimuli among which a differentiation must be made and the number of reactive movements from among which a choice must be made. New experiments demonstrate that these laws do not always hold, that an adequately consequently, when its concrete size is computed, (he analytical formuln given above must result in absurdity. This formula will show that the selection time is equal to zero and in this way will disclose the factual, basic inconsistency of this conception of a complex reaction.
The impossibility of this kind of analysis based on arithmetical subtraction was disclosed by many other researchers as well. Here we will not begin a consideration of all the objections that were raised against such an operation from various aspects; we will only indicate that Ach came to this conclusion in his research. With solid basis, he indicates that the inconsistency of this operation is evident, among other things, in the following: as a result of similar subtractions, some researchers obtained negative numbers. Like Ach, we think that the old psychology also made this same error when it applied the same understanding to higher processes. Thus, L. Quetlet assumes that if we subtract the time required for explaining, translating ^ to a different language, and naming the word, we obtain the exact time of translation. Thus, from this point of view, even the higher processes of understanding speech are combined with each other by simple summation and may be isolated and analyzed by simple subtraction. If understanding a word and naming it is subtracted from the translation of a given word to a foreign language, we will have in an exact form the process that is the basis of translating from one language to another. It is indeed difficult to imagine a more mechanistic understanding of complex and higher forms of behavior.
The second feature of the teaching on reactions as it was developed in the old psychology is ascribing primary importance to purely descriptive analysis. If the first, classical stage in the development of this teaching was characterized by analysis of things instead of analysis of process, then the new point of view, as represented by Titchener, Ach, and others who understood the inconsistency of earlier views, limits itself to purely descriptive, introspective analysis of reactions. The only difference is that a mechanistic analysis of stimuli is replaced by an introspective analysis of experience. Description of external relations is replaced by description of internal experiences, but in both cases, the phenotypic approach to the object itself is preserved.
E. Titchener notes that all the instructions that refer to the first type of selection reaction can actually be quite different. And it is even doubtful, he continues, if even one of these instructions elicits an authentic process of selection. Unfortunately, in this area, researchers were more occupied with determining reaction time than with analyzing the reaction processes themselves. For this reason, the data from psychological analysis are often sparse. Introspective analysis had already shown that, practically speaking, the processes of selection actually have no place in the selection reaction. We may consider the fact as fully established that, from the psychological aspect, the selection reaction does not include processes of selection to any degree and for this reason it serves as a splendid example of how the external appearance of any process may fail completely to coincide with its actual psychological nature. Ach said that in this reaction we cannot speak of selection. All the processes from the psychological aspect occur in such a way that no place remains for selection. The same idea was formulated by Titchener: we must firmly keep in mind that the terms used for a complex reaction (simple reaction, differentiation reaction, selection reaction) are only conditional. Differentiation and selection refer to external conditions of an experiment and only to that. Titchener’s assumption is that in the differentiation reaction, we do not differentiate, and in the selection reaction, we can originate operations, but we do not select reactions. The terms were assigned by way of a theoretical construct during the
analysis was still a matter for the future. These terms and certain others have become obsolete together with their time. For this reason, observers must take these terms for reactions simply as indicators of certain historical forms of experiments and not as real discovered psychological facts.
Thus we see that in the mechanical analysis of classical psychology, real relations that are the basis for processes of complex reactions were replaced by the relations that existed between stimuli. This was the common manifestation of intellectualism in psychology that attempted to disclose the nature of the mental process by making the conditions of the experiment itself logical.
And so this process, which from the external aspect is selection, actually yields no basis for any talk of selection. In this sense, analysis of introspective psychology was a step forward in comparison with the old analysis, but it did not take us very far. It was, as has been said, a purely descriptive analysis of experience which, with scrupulous precision transmits the experiences of the subject during reacting, but inasmuch as experience is not in itself the whole process of reacting, or even its main basis, but comprises only one aspect of the process and itself requires explanation, then it is natural that self-observation is often in no condition to give even a correct description, let alone an explanation of the subjective aspect of the reaction. This is the reason for the substantial discrepancies in the descriptions of one and the same process by various authors. Even this analysis could not present a real causal-dynamic explanation of the process itself since it necessarily requires rejecting the phenotypic point of view and replacing it with the genetic point of view.
Jhe third feature consists of the fact that the old psychology approached the study of the process of a complex reaction in its finished and dead form. Titchener said that the attention of researchers was directed toward the time of reaction and not toward the process of preparation and content of the reaction. Due to this, a historical precedent was set for considering reaction without its psychological preparation. We remember that a well-prepared selection reaction occurs as rapidly as a simple reaction. The whole attention of the old psychology was directed toward studying the process of the complex reaction in its automatized form, that is, when the process of development was already concluded. We might say that psychology began to study the complex reaction post mortem. It never could capture it in a living form; it set it up in test experiments and in this way, the interesting instance of setting up and establishing the connections of the reaction, the instant of its genesis was thrown away and the study began only after the reaction was established, its development concluded, and it was presented in its finished form, made automatic and completely identical under different conditions.
Many researchers usually rejected the first experiments, that is, that period in which the process of establishing the reaction itself actually occurred. Titchener recommended rejecting the first two experiments of each series during which the process of formation of the reaction occurs. Other researchers usually rejected the first experiment when it differed sharply in reaction time from subsequent experiments. Many researchers indicate that in complex experimental conditions, especially in selection reactions, they rejected all initial sittings in their studies.
It is not hard to see that the basic approach of the old psychology, which studied a complex reaction in a dead form, as a finished thing, after the process of its development was concluded, is evident in the technical practice of discarding the first stages of establishment of the selection reaction and then studying it. This is why understanding reaction as a certain developing process was foreign to these psychologists; this is why they frequently were misled by the external similarity between complex and simple reactions.
Once again we call attention to the fact that a carefully prepared selection reaction may take the same time as a simple reaction. We will connect this fact with the circumstance that we noted earlier in a general form when we said that in the process of development, the higher forms often resemble the lower in external characteristics. We could enumerate a number of psychological differences of complex reactions beginning with the ordinary reflex, but we will point out only one; as we know, a complex reaction takes longer than a reflex. However, Wundt had already established that reaction time can be decreased as the reaction is repeated, and as a result of this the reaction time drops to the time of the ordinary reflex.
As a general rule, we might say that all principal differences between reaction and reflex are also most clearly evident specifically at the beginning of the process of reaction formation and, as the reaction is repeated, they recede more and more. Differences in the one form and the other of behavior must be sought in their genetic analysis, that is, in the way they are generated, in their real conditionality. As it is repeated, a reaction has a tendency toward minimizing its difference from a reflex and conversely toward effacing it. As it is repeated, a reaction has a tendency to be converted to a simpler reflex. Test experiments prescribed by experimental methodology, which sometimes took whole sittings which were then disregarded, led to a situation in which the beginning of the study of the developmental process was finished and the researchers were dealing with established, mechanical reactions that lost the genetic differences between them and a reflex and acquired a phenotypic similarity with it. In other words, reaction in the psychological experiment was studied after it went through some of the process of dying off and was converted into a congealed form.
By describing the basic points in traditional analysis of a complex reaction, we determined at the same time, from a negative aspect, it is true, the principal problems that confront us. Obviously, the problem of dynamic analysis is to capture the process of genesis of the reaction.
The center of gravity of our interest shifts and moves to a new place. Experiments during which there is an establishment of a reaction and which were rejected by the old researchers are of central interest for us, for dynamic analysis, since to explain any thing means to explain its real genesis, its causal-dynamic connection and relation to other processes that determine its development. Consequently, the problem of analysis consists of returning the reaction to the initial moment, to conditions of its closure and in this way, to grasp by objective research the whole process as a whole and not just its external or internal aspect. Conversely, the reaction that is already established, being repeated stereotypically, is of no interest to us except as a finished form, a means of establishing the end point toward which development of this process leads.
We are interested in the instants of genesis, establishment, and closure of the reaction and the dynamic unfolding of the whole process of its development. We need to see the complex reaction. For this, in the experiment, we must convert the automatic form of the reaction into a living process and again turn the thing from which it arose into movement. If this defines the problem that confronts us from the formal aspect, then from the aspect of content of our research a problem arises. As we have said above, previous studies carried out critical disruptive work on the old teaching about the mental reaction of selection. They demonstrated that in the selection reaction, there can be no mention of selection, that at the base of such a conception of a complex reaction, there is a purely intellectualistic conception
that replaces the psychological connection and relation between processes by logical relations between elements of the external condition of the problem. Moreover, this logical formula of the complex reaction was supplemented by analysis of experiences observed by the subject in the process of reaction. These researchers attempted to replace the logical relation of things with the phenomenological relations of experiences. But they did pose one problem in all its clarity: in the selection reaction, they said, we carry out the most various operations, but we do not select. The question then is, what does actually occur in the selection reaction? If we take even the best representation of the subject’s experiences as Ach or Titchener present them in a systematic form, we see that they do not go beyond pure description, that they cannot explain for us the selection reaction from the causal-dynamic aspect. Consequently, we might have framed the basic question that confronts us as follows: what is the real causal-dynamic nature of a complex reaction?
If we turn to experiments with complex reactions, it is easy to see that they usually differ in one general trait among the various researchers. The general trait consists in the absurdity of the connections that occur in the process of the experiment between separate stimuli and the reactions. In the arbitrariness and absurdity of the connections that are at the base of the reactions, many researchers saw the most essential trait of the given experiment. The subject was presented with a series of stimuli to which he had to react with various movements; here, neither the connection itself between the stimuli and the movements nor the order of presentation of the stimuli and the movements made sense to the subject.
The subjects could react to any stimulus with any movement with equal success. The principally mechanical combination of any stimuli with any reactions places this experiment in the same order with classical studies of remembering by using meaningless syllables.
True, isolated attempts were made to move from meaningless connections to selection reactions with sensible connections. For example, in MŘnsterberg’s experiments, the subject was asked to react with a certain finger of one hand to five various acoustic stimuli, and each time the signal of the reaction was a simple count from one to five and the order of the reactions on a keyboard of an electric key coincided with the natural order of the count. With the word one, the subject had to raise the thumb, with two, the index finger, etc. F. Merkel studied the selection reaction with visual stimuli in a similar way.
So we see that there are two different processes through which the selection reaction is established. In one case, it is established simply by mechanical connection of the stimulus and the reaction, the major factor of which is repetition. Although none of the researchers considered the analysis of test experiments in detail, that is, the process itself of the formation of the selection reaction, nevertheless there is a firm basis for assuming that repetition of the instruction or presenting it in written form and repeated reading of it together with repeated experiments are the main means for establishing the required connections. The simplest way of putting this would be to say that the reaction is learned by the subject in the same way that he learns two meaningless syllables. In the second case, we are dealing with a process of a different order where the connection between the stimulus and the reaction of comprehension and, therefore, the difficulty of learning drops out at the outset. But in this case, we are dealing with the use of connections that are already established. In other words, this experiment in psychology may be considered an explanation or a mechanical method of adjusting connections or using connections that are already there, but in the course of our research, what interests us is the process of comprehending, the process itself of making adjustments and establishing connections that are the basis of the selection reaction.
From the very beginning, we set ourselves the problem of finding what distinguishes a complex form of reaction from a simple form, from a reflex. For this, we had to resort to two basic techniques which we ordinarily use. First, we faced the problem of impeding the reaction in order to prevent automatic suspension of closure of the connection, which would evade observation in this case. As we have already said, we saw the real task of the analysis to be the full dynamic unfolding of all the instances of the given process, but this always requires a certain slowing down of its progress and is best when the rate of the process is impeded. Second, in keeping with all of our methodology, we had to actually give the subject the external means with which he could solve the problem presented to him. Attempting to use an objectivizing method of research, in this case, we had to link the established connection to an external activity. Before doing this, we introduced the first complicating feature into the experiments on selection reaction before we placed the means for its mastery into the hands of the subject. The complication consisted of our eliminating trial experiments and proceeding directly to the basic research with the subject. The instruction provided for a reaction with different fingers to five or more various stimuli. We were interested only in seeing how the subject would conduct himself if he did not know how to deal with the problem. Without going into detail, in the most general form, we can say that the behavior of the subject always exhibited one and the same character. When the subject reacted mistakenly or found himself in difficulty, not knowing with which movement he should respond to the given stimulus, in each case, he looked for the required connection; this was expressed either in questions addressed to the experimenter as to how he should react or to remembering, either external or internal. We can say that in cases where the problem was beyond the powers of the subject, the difficulty lay in remembering and reproducing the instruction.
The second step of our experiment was the introduction into the situation of materials which the subject could use to create his own connection.
First of all, let us consider experiments with a two-and-a-half-year-old child since in these experiments both forms of the selection reaction were completely visible and occurred almost in parallel. Showing the child various stimuli, we told him to raise the right hand in one case and the left, in the other (for example, he was to raise his right hand when he was shown a pencil, and the left when he was shown a watch). This reaction was established immediately and usually proceeded normally, often with a long delay. In cases of error or not knowing which hand to raise, there was a seeking of the correct connection, which was evident in two basic forms. The child either asked the experimenter or reminded himself audibly or silently or, finally, made tentative movements expecting confirmation from the experimenter. This last is of most interest to us since in the very character of its progress it differs profoundly from reaction in the true meaning of that word. Frequently in these cases, the hand was not raised to the usual height, only initial movements were made, and the child’s whole behavior had the character of cautious testing. If we leave aside the case of seeking a connection, we could say that in the child, the selection reaction with two stimuli very often proceeded along the completely usual type of establishing an ordinary connection.
With the same child, we set up a selection reaction in a different way. Instead of repeating the instruction or response to trials, we placed some objects at the child’s right and left side; the child could easily connect these with a corresponding stimulus. In our example, on the right side, we placed a sheet of paper that was intended to remind the child that he must react to a pencil with his right hand; on the left, we placed a thermometer which was to remind the child that he must react to a watch with his left hand. This kind of reaction proceeded without error, but the child’s whole behavior changed substantially in this case.
It must be said that the connection between stimuli-objects and stimuli-means was extremely simple and accessible to the child; sometimes we alluded to the connection and sometimes we established it ourselves, and sometimes in the course of a series of experiments, we left the child to notice it himself. This latter was not successful, but in the first two cases, the child very easily used the connection. Our main interest was in comparing both components of the selection reaction. If the first corresponds to establishing a direct connection between the stimulus and the reaction, then the second has a mediating character. There is no direct connection between the stimulus and the reaction. The child must find this connection each time; he finds it with the help of the external stimulus-means that reminds him of the required connection.
In this case, the child’s activity proceeds as if in two manifestations. The whole process of the selection reaction is clearly made up of two basic phases. Immediately after perceiving the stimulus, the required connection is set up and only after that is the corresponding reaction carried out. In looking at the pencil, the child now looks at the paper and only then does he react with his right hand.
From the experiment described, we moved on to an experiment with older children. We were interested in observing how both forms of the selection reaction develop and, the main thing, we were interested in finding the form with which the child himself creates the appropriate connection without the help of an adult. Experiments with older children were organized as follows. The child was presented with a series of stimuli and instruction requiring that he react by raising and lowering various fingers of the right and left hands. As a stimulus, we used words, drawings, colored figures, colored lights, etc. In no cases was there a sensible connection between the stimuli and the reaction.
During the experiment, the child’s fingers were on the keyboard of a toy piano or a multiple electrical key. Together with each key in a special wooden apparatus, we placed various pictures or cards with words printed on them. Older preschool children and children in the early grades (younger pupils), convinced usually of the impossibility of carrying out the instruction by simply remembering it, turned to the auxiliary stimuli which they used as devices for remembering the instruction, placing them under the appropriate key and connecting them with the corresponding stimulus. In this way, a kind of reified outward extension of the instruction was created, external paths from the stimuli to the reactions were created, and the child was given the means to remember and reproduce the instruction. Here, the reaction again divided quite clearly into two phases: in the first, there was the seeking of a corresponding stimulus-device; in the second, the reaction directly followed the finding of the stimulus.
Without going into a detailed analysis of the experiment, we will turn at once to a generalized schematic consideration of what occurred in this ease. In our diagram (Fig. 2) two arbitrary points, A and B are presented; a connection must be established between these points. The uniqueness of the experiment consists of the fact that there is no connection at present and we are investigating the nature of its formation. Stimulus A elicits a reaction that consists in finding stimulus X, which in turn acts on point B. Thus, the connection between points A and B is not direct, but mediated. This is what the uniqueness of the selection reaction and all higher forms of behavior consist of.
We will consider the triangle separately. If we compare the one method and the other for forming connections between the two points, then we will see that the relation between one form and the other may be visually expressed with our schematic triangle. With a neutral formation of a connection, a direct conditioned- reflex connection is established between the two points A and B. With a mediated establishment of the connection, instead of one, two other connections are established that lead to the same result, but in different ways. The triangle clarifies for us the relation that exists between the higher form of behavior and the elementary processes of which it is comprised. We formulate this relation in the most general aspect, saying that all higher forms of behavior can always be divided completely and without any remainder into the natural, elementary neuromental processes that make it up, just as the work of any machine can, in the last analysis, be reduced to a definite system of physicochemical processes. For this reason, the first task of scientific studies when they approach any cultural form of behavior is to give an analysis of the form and disclose its component parts. An analysis of behavior always leads to one and the same result, specifically, it demonstrates that there is no complex, higher apparatus of cultural behavior which would not consist in the final analysis of several primary elementary processes of behavior.
We have found that in the child, one associative connection is replaced by two others. Each of the connections taken separately is the same conditioned-reflex process of closure in the cerebral cortex as the direct associative connection. New is the fact that one connection is replaced by two others; new is the construction or combination of nerve connections; new is the direction of the specific process of closure of the connection with a sign; what is new are not the elements, but the structure of the whole process of the reaction.
The relations that exist between the higher and lower forms of behavior do not represent anything special, peculiar only to the given form. More likely, we are dealing with more general problems of relations of higher and lower forms that may be applied to all of psychology and are directly connected with more general methodological positions. The unconditional striving, so widespread at present, to cast out of the dictionary of psychology the very concept of elementary processes, including association, seems unjustified to us. Kretschmer said that the indispensability of the concept of association is demonstrated not only in the teaching about agnosia and apraxia, but also in treating many more complicated problems in psychology, for example, the psychology of children’s thinking, incipient thinking, and the flow of ideas. The theory of a construction of higher mental life without an associative understructure is completely unthinkable according to Kretschmer.
In this sense, H. H°ffding admitted in his time the relation that exists between the process of thinking and the law of association. He said: in the true sense, thinking has no means and forms that are not already present during the involuntary course of a representation. The circumstance that association of the representation becomes the subject of special interest and of conscious selection cannot, however, change the laws of association of the representation. It is just as impossible to free thinking, as understood in the true sense, from these laws as it is impossible for us to eliminate the laws of its internal nature from an artificial machine. But the psychological law, just like the physiological law, can be directed to serve our purposes.
In another place, H°ffding returns to the idea in considering will. He says that involuntary activity forms the basis and content of voluntary activity. Will never creates, but always only changes and selects. The course of remembering and representation is subject to certain laws. When we deliberately recall or dismiss certain representations, we do this according to exactly the same laws, exactly in the same way as we can see them, change them, and make them serve our purposes according to laws of their external nature. According to H°ffding, if we need to delay or dismiss a representation, we can do this indirectly according to the laws of forgetting. It seems to us that in the given case, the relation between higher and lower forms may be best expressed by admitting what in dialectics is usually termed sublation. We can say that the lower, elementary processes and patterns that direct them represent a removed category. Hegel indicates that we must remember the dual meaning of the German expression aufhebung. In this word, we understand, first, “removal,” “rejection,” and, according to this, we say that the laws are revoked, “cancelled,” but the same word also means “preserved,” and we say that we will “save” something. The dual meaning of the term “remove” is usually translated well into Russian by the word skhoronit’ [to bury], which also has a positive and a negative sense – destruction and preservation.
Using this work, we could say that the elementary processes and the patterns that govern them are buried in the higher form of behavior, that is, they appear in it in a subordinate and cryptic form. Precisely this circumstance makes many researchers see analysis and breaking down higher forms into parts and reducing them completely to a series of elementary processes as the basic task of scientific research. Actually, this is only one aspect of scientific research that helps establish the connection and pattern of the appearance of any higher form from a lower form. In this sense, analysis contains a real relief from the metaphysical method of thinking that considers higher and lower forms as different fossilized essences not connected with each other and not being converted from the one to the other.
Analysis shows that the lower form is the basis and content of the higher form, that the higher form appears only at a certain stage of development and in turn itself continuously passes into the lower form. However, the problem is not limited to this, since if we should want to limit ourselves exclusively to analysis or reducing the higher form to the lower, we would never be able to develop an adequate representation of all the specific features of the higher form and those patterns to which they are subordinate. Here, psychology is no exception among the rest of the areas of scientific knowledge. Movement and use of matter – this is changing things. Engels objects to the attempts to reduce everything to mechanical movement, to reducing all other properties of matter to this and, in this way, blurring the specific character of other forms of movement.
This does not in the least imply rejection of the fact that each of the higher forms of movement is always connected in an essential way with real and mechanical, external or molecular movement just as the higher form of movement is actually impossible to produce without a change in temperature, or a change in organic life is impossible without mechanical, molecular, chemical, thermic, electrical, etc. changes. But the presence of secondary forms in each case does not exhaust the essence of the main form. Engels wrote: “Undoubtedly, in experimentation, we sometimes ‘reduce’ thinking to molecular and chemical movement in the brain, but docs this really exhaust the essence of thinking?” (K. Marx, E Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 20, p. 563).
The need to study the main form together with the secondary forms, the claim that the essence of thinking cannot be exhausted by the lower forms that comprise its base, are nevertheless a basis for claiming the following. If we understand movement in the broadest sense as a change in things, we may say that thinking is movement. “Movement considered in the most general sense of the word, that is, understood as a method of existence of matter, as an attribute internally inherent in matter, includes in itself all changes and processes that occur in the universe beginning with simple displacement and ending with thinking. It is understood that a study of the nature of movement must be derived from its lower, simpler forms and we would have to learn to understand them before we could produce anything to explain its higher and more complex forms” (ibid., p. 391). We might transfer this general position pertaining in the same way to all areas of scientific knowledge, especially to the problem in which we are interested, and say that the relation between lower and higher processes in the selection reaction is similar also. No higher form of behavior is possible without lower forms, but the presence of lower or secondary forms does not exhaust the essence of the main form.
The task of our research also is to determine what the essence of the main form is. But the next chapter must provide the answer to this.