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The Psychology of Preschool Children

Elkonin, D. B., Zaporozhets, A. V.

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ISBN 10: 0262740117 / ISBN 13: 9780262740111
Published by The MIT Press, 1974
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Psychology of Preschool Children

Publisher: The MIT Press

Publication Date: 1974

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Good

About this title


The book provides a double service: it gives Western psychologists access to the extensive work done in the Soviet Union, using and approach substantially different from our own, and it brings Soviet developmental psychology into the perspective of Western theories of development—on which it comments extensively.

These studies of the perceptual processes of children from birth to age seven cover a number of important developments: sensation and perception, attention, memory, speech, thinking, imagination, and movement and formation of motor habits. The theoretical ideas that guide the experiments are those of L. S. Vygotsky and his former colleagues and students—now leading psychologists in the U.S.S.R.—Leontiev, Luria, Zaporozhets, and Elkonin. In discerning motivational causes, the Soviet approach differs sharply from that of Western European and American psychologists, who assert that either psychological development is the result of the realization or maturing of inborn abilities, or it moves along a path of adaptation to the surrounding environment. "The fact is," note the editors, "that cognitive processes do not form and develop in and of themselves, but as individual exploratory acts comprising an indispensable organic part of this or that integral activity of the child...and fulfilling in it orienting and regulating functions."

Theories rooted in the dialectic materialism of Marx and Engels assert that the child's physical and psychic development is shaped by his interaction with society. In this man-mediated environment, language becomes the principal means of interaction between child and adult, and preschool training is crucially important as the child begins to structure his own behavior. Experiments devised to focus the child's attention on differentiated aspects of his environment often succeed in enhancing his competence in diverse areas such as auditory discrimination, visual perception, language usage, thought processes, and imaginative play. The complex process of mastering social experience requires his participation in certain activities at each stage of development: for an infant, the manipulation of objects; for a preschool child, games; and for a school-age child, learning combined with various types of mutually useful tasks.

Throughout, authors of these studies examine the work of Piaget, Isaacs, Russell, Buhler, Lashley, the "Gestalt" psychologists, and others—criticizing in particular Piaget's failure to recognize the social basis for what he terms "egocentric speech."


"This translation by J. Shybut and S. Simon of the 1964 book entitled, Psikhologiya Detey Doshkolnogo Vozrasta, makes available to a wider audience a major publication in Russian. Discussion is devoted to the development of sensation and perception, attention, memory, speech, thinking, imagination, movement, and motor habits in children. These chapters are based on extensive systematic research which is derived from some ideas rather different from the American view seen in Carmichael and Mussen. Development is viewed as occurring in an active organism who is guided by social experience, i.e., interaction with 'the socializing adult.' Language is the basis of communication between the child and adult; thus language controls the child's behavior, and thinking is closely related. To find emphasis then on training children from an early age is not surprising. Enthusiasts for Piagetian and Gestalt ideas, for example, may find critical analysis of these views surprising."
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