Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition.
Every function in the child’s cultural
development appears twice
irst, on the social level, and later, on the individual level
First, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies
equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher
functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.
A second aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development depends
upon the “zone of proximal development” (ZPD)
(ZPD): a level of development attained when children engage in social behavior. Full development of the
ZPD depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance
or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.
Vygotsky’s theory was an attempt to explain consciousness as the end product of socialization.
For example, in the learning of language, our first utterances with peers or adults are for the purpose
of communication but once mastered they become internalized and allow “inner speech”.
This is a general theory of cognitive development. Most of the original work was done in the context of
language learning in children (Vygotsky, 1962), although later applications of the framework have been
broader (see Wertsch, 1985).
Role of Social Interaction in Cognitive Development
The Social Development Theory (SDT) mainly asserts that social interaction has a vital role in the
cognitive development process.
Vygotsky's theory opposes that of Jean Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory because Piaget explains
that a person undergoes development first before he achieves learning, whereas Vygotsky argues that
social learning comes first before development.
Vygotsky states that the cultural development of a child is firstly on the social level called
interpsychological, and secondly on the individual or personal level called intrapsychological.
The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)
The MKO is any person who has a higher level of ability or understanding than the learner in terms of
the task, process or concept at hand. Normally, when we think of an MKO we refer to an older adult, a
teacher or an expert.
Vygotsky's theory differs from that of Piaget in a number of important ways:
Vygotsky places more emphasis on culture affecting cognitive development
This contradicts Piaget's view of universal stages and content of development (Vygotsky does not refer to stages in the way that Piaget does).
Vygotsky places considerably more emphasis on social factors contributing to cognitive
Piaget maintains that cognitive development stems largely from independent explorations in which children construct knowledge of their own
Vygotsky places more (and different) emphasis on the role of language in cognitive development.
According to Piaget, language depends on thought for its development (i.e., thought comes before language).
According to Vygotsky adults are an important source of cognitive development.
Piaget emphasizes the importance of peers as peer interaction promotes social perspective taking.