Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

"Great Ideas" in Russian Psychology: Personality Impact on Psychophysiological Functions and Causal Approach to Self-Determination

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

"Great Ideas" in Russian Psychology: Personality Impact on Psychophysiological Functions and Causal Approach to Self-Determination

Article excerpt

Russian psychology has introduced into the world science at least two great ideas: the conditioned reflex (I.P. Pavlov) and the zone of proximal development (L.S. Vygotsky). These concepts were formulated before "iron curtain" fell at the end of 1920-es and so they have become part of the world science. Since then Russian science dropped out from the view of western colleagues for many decades. Now it is challenged to rejoin the international mainstream. Are we in a position to contribute or should Russian psychology be treated as a "developing" area of the international science, having no theoretical background of its' own?

Nowadays psychological science is faced with a boom of facts and figures so it is becoming more and more evident that it is the "great ideas" that matter, concepts which bring reason and logic into the chaos of facts. To be introduced into the world science as an original theoretical trend, it is necessary to come up with original concepts and ideas. Are there any ideas in Russian psychological tradition that can be of interest for the international community?

Behind the iron curtain psychological science was developing. The ideas of Vygotsky and Pavlov inspired new theoretical reasoning and empirical research alongside with ideas still unknown to the international community. Considering "great ideas" in Russian psychology we can mark three types of their relevance to international science:

* Concepts initially integrated into the world science, like Pavlov' and Vygotsky', which were afterwards explicated and developed in different ways in Russia and in the West. Analysis of these developments can promote new understanding in important spheres.

* Concepts mainly unknown for the broad international scientific community but which can be understood as contrapuntal to well known theories. A good example of this kind is Russian evolutionary psychology. Oxford University Press issued a book in 2002: "Infant Chimpanzee and Human Child: A Classic 1935 Comparative Study of Ape Emotions and Intelligence" - that is a paperback of the classic work by N.N. Ladygina-Kots. The fact that it has been returned to the scientific community after a long time obscurity is the evidence of true recognition of Ladygina-Kots's and her colleagues' contribution to the international science. Her works pioneered the new section in psychology - evolutionary psychology. As a Darwinist, she emphasized the evolutionary nature of human cognition and emotion likewise modern Western evolutionary psychologists do. However, as a true representative of Russian psychological tradition she was much concerned with the dialectics of human nature and, therefore, highlighted fundamental differences between animals and human beings alongside with similarities. Her approach radically differs from the approach being developed in modern western science. She always insisted that an ape is in no way human, absolutely not human, rather than not absolutely human. This opposition makes her works particularly valuable for contemporary Western specialists and Oxford republication of her classic monograph acknowledges her contribution.

* Concepts still unknown for the broad scientific community, which might be a «zone of proximal development» for the international science. Among these personality impact on psycho-physiological functions and causal approach to self-determination should be named - key concept for Russian psychological tradition.

The concept of self-determination appeared in Western theories in 1980-es and since then it has been developed in the context of teleological humanitarian approach, viewed as an intrinsic quality of human being, which can explain human behavior itself beyond explanation. In Russian science the concept of self-determination dates back to 1934, when it was defined by Rubinstein as "sub'ekt"[1]. Self-determination of ontogenesis of psycho physiological functions resulting from confluence of ontogenesis and social development was explicated by Russian scientists. …

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