Russian Psychological Issues
JournalsTopicsAuthorsEditor's Choice About PsyJournals.ruContact Us

  Previous issue (2017. Vol. 13, no. 4)

Web of Science PsycINFO (American Psychological Society) EBSCO Academic Search International database Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory DOAJ ERIH PLUS Higher Attestation Commission Russian Science Citation Index VINITI Database RAS

Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935


Started in 2005

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal

Affiliated ISCAR


Michael Tomasello versus Alexei Leontiev: A Dialogue in Time

Fedorovich E.Y., Ph.D. in Psychology, senior researcher, Department of General Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia,
Sokolova E.E., Ph.D. in Psychology, Associate professor at the General Psychology Department at the Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia,
The article provides an overview and critical analysis — from the point of view of activity theory of A.N. Leontiev’s scientific school and, more broadly, from the standpoint of cultural and activity psychology — of the latest comparative psychological studies of "joint activity" mechanisms in humans and in apes performed by Michael Tomasello and his colleagues and co-authors. These studies have convincingly proven the fundamental differences between cooperation in animals and collaboration in humans, which confirms many provisions of the psychological activity theory developed in the 1930s. Yet, the comparative analysis of the researches by Tomasello’s group and Leontiev’s scientific school provided in the article reveals that in spite of the seemingly similar results obtained in these studies, their interpretation varies considerably. Unlike M. Tomasello, A.N. Leontiev and his disciples (D.B. Elkonin, A.V. Zaporozhets and others) always claimed that "predisposition" of individuals towards collaboration emerged as a result of their labor activity which required coordinating various actions of individual participants who therefore fulfilled rather social than biological purposes.

Keywords: M. Tomasello, A.N. Leontiev, D.B. Elkonin, cooperation, collaboration, comparative psychology, apes, labor activity, cultural and activity psychology

Column: The Problem Of Development


For Reference

  1. Leont'ev A.A. Vozniknovenie i pervonachal'noe razvitie yazyka [The emergence and initial development of language]. Moscow: Publ. AN SSSR, 1963. 139 p.
  2. Leont'ev A.N. Genezis deyatel'nosti [The genesis of activity]. In Leont’ev A.N. Stanovlenie psikhologii deyatel'nosti: Rannie raboty [ The formation of activity psychology: Early works]. Moscow: Smysl, 2003, pp. 373—385.
  3. Leont'ev A.N. Ocherk razvitiya psikhiki [Study of development of the mind]. Moscow: Voennyi Pedagogicheskii Institut Sovetskoi Armii, 1947. 120 p.
  4. Leont'ev A.N. Razvitie pamyati [The development of memory]. In Leont'ev A.N. Stanovlenie psikhologii deyatel'nosti: Rannie raboty [ The formation of activity psychology: Early works]. Moscow: Smysl, 2003, pp. 27—198.
  5. Neverovich Ya.Z. Motivy trudovoi deyatel'nosti rebenka doshkol'nogo vozrasta [The motivation of labour activity of preschool children]. In Zaporozhets A.V. (eds.), Izvestiya APN RSFSR, no. 64. Voprosy razvitiya psikhiki detei doshkol'nogo vozrasta [ Proceedings of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, no. 64. The development of the psyche of children of preschool age]. Moscow: Publ. APN RSFSR, 1955, pp. 128— 149.
  6. Slavina L.S. O razvitii motivov igrovoi deyatel'nosti v doshkol'nom vozraste [The development of the motivation of play activity in preschool age]. Izvestiya APN RSFSR [Proceedings of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic]. Moscow— Leningrad: Publ. Akademii Pedagogicheskikh nauk RSFSR, 1948, no. 14, pp. 11—29.
  7. Sokolova E.E., Fedorovich E.Yu. Govorit' — eshche ne znachit byt' chelovekom: kriticheskii analiz sovremennykh issledovanii yazyka zhivotnykh v svete idei L.S.Vygotskogo [«Speaking does not mean being a human»: critical analysis of current studies of the “animal language” in accordance with L.S. Vygotsky’s ideas]. Natsional'nyi psikhologicheskii zhurnal [National Psychological Journal], 2016, no. 3 (23), pp. 8—19.
  8. Sokolova E.E., Fedorovich E.Yu. K probleme kul'tury u zhivotnykh: kriticheskii analiz sovremennykh issledovanii s pozitsii psikhologii deyatel'nosti shkoly A.N. Leont'eva [On the Problem of “Culture” in Animals: Critical Analysis of Modern Researches from the Point of View of Activity Theory of A.N. Leontiev’s Scientific School]. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya [ Cultural-Historical Psychology], 2016, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 14—23. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  9. Tomasello M. Istoki chelovecheskogo obshcheniya [Origins of human communication]. Moscow: Yazyki slavyanskikh kul'tur, 2011. 328 p. (In Russ.).
  10. Fedorovich E. Yu. Sotsial'no-kognitivnye sposobnosti antropoidov: evolyutsionnye predposylki nravstvennykh osnov sotrudnichestva u lyudei (obzor issledovanii poslednikh 10 let) [Socio-cognitive abilities of anthropoids: the evolutionary background of the moral foundations of cooperation in humans (a review of studies over the last 10 years)]. Voprosy prikladnoi primatologii. Mezhvedomstvennyi sbornik nauchnykh i nauchno-metodicheskikh trudov [Issues of applied Primatology. The interdepartmental collection of scientific and scientific-methodical works]. Moscow: Moskovskii zoopark: OOO «Sam Poligrafist», 2015, no. 2, pp. 33—48.
  11. El'konin D.B. Zametki o razvitii predmetnykh deistvii v rannem detstve [Notes on the development of object-oriented actions in early childhood]. In El'konin D.B. Izbrannye psikhologicheskie trudy [ The selected psychological works]. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1989, pp. 130—141.
  12. El'konin D.B. Psikhologiya igry [Psychology of play]. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1978. 304 p.
  13. Yakobson S.G., Shchur V.G. Psikhologicheskie mekhanizmy usvoeniya det'mi eticheskikh norm [Psychological mechanisms of ethical norms assimilation in children]. Psikhologicheskie problemy nravstvennogo vospitaniya detei: Sbornik nauchnykh trudov [Psychological issues of moral education in children: Collection of scientific works]. Moscow: NII obshchei pedagogiki APN SSSR, 1977, pp. 59—108.
  14. Yasnitskii A. «Orudie i znak v razvitii rebenka»: samaya izvestnaya rabota L.S.Vygotskogo, kotoruyu on nikogda ne pisal [Elektronnyi resurs] ["Tool and sign in child development": the most famous work of L. S. Vygotsky, which he never have written]. URL:'n'znak.pdf (Accessed 18.12.2017).
  15. Boesch C. Joint cooperative hunting among wild chimpanzees: taking natural observations seriously. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2005. Vol. 28, pp. 692—693. doi:10.1017/S0140525X05230121
  16. Bullinger A., Melis A., Tomasello M. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) prefer individual over cooperative strategies toward goals. Animal Behaviour, 2011. Vol. 82, pp. 1135—1141. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.08.008
  17. Bullinger A., Wyman E., Melis A., Tomasello M. Coordination of Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in a Stag Hunt Game. International Journal of Primatology, 2011. Vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 1296—1310. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1973
  18. Byrne R., Whiten A. Machiavellian intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  19. Duguid S., Wyman E, Bullinger A., Herfurth-Majstorovic K., Tomasello M. Coordination strategies of chimpanzees and human children in a Stag Hut game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2014. Vol. 281, no. 1796, p. 20141973. URL: (Accessed 18.12.2017). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1973
  20. Fletcher G., Warneken F, Tomasello M. Differences in cognitive processes underlying the collaborative activities of children and chimpanzees. Cognitive Development, 2012. Vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 136—153. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev. 2012.02.003
  21. Hamann K., Warneken F., Greenberg J., Tomasello M. Collaboration encourages equal sharing in children but not in chimpanzees. Nature, 2011. Vol. 476, no. 7360, pp. 328—331. doi: 10.1038/nature10278
  22. Hamann K., Warneken F., Tomasello M. Children’s developing commitments to joint goals. Child Development, 2012. Vol. 83, no. 1, pp. 137—145. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01695.x
  23. Kaminski J., Call J., Tomasello M. Body orientation and face orientation: two factors controlling apes’ begging behavior from humans. Animal Cognition, 2004. Vol. 7, pp. 216—223. doi:10.1007/s10071-004-0214-2
  24. Leavens D., Russell J., Hopkins W. Intentionality as measured in the persistence and elaboration of communication by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Child Development, 2005. Vol. 76, no. 1, pp. 291—306. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00845.x
  25. Liebal K., Vaish A., Haun D., Tomasello M. Does Sympathy Motivate Prosocial Behaviour in Great Apes? PLoS ONE, 2014. Vol. 9(1): 10.1371/annotation/1fe9c2b8-84dd-44c4-a4ba-b62e0460b513. URL: (Accessed 18.12.2017).
  26. Liszkowski U., Carpenter M., Striano T., Tomasello M. 12- and 18-montholds point to provide information for others. Journal of Cognition and Development, 2006. Vol. 7, pp. 173—187. doi:10.1207/s15327647jcd0702_2
  27. Melis A., Hare B., Tomasello M. Chimpanzees recruit the best collaborators. Science, 2006. Vol. 311 (5765), pp. 1297—1300. doi:10.1126/science.1123007
  28. Melis A., Hare B., Tomasello M. Engineering cooperation in chimpanzees: Tolerance constraints on cooperation. Animal Behaviour, 2006. Vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 275— 286. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2005.09.018
  29. Melis A., Schneider A.-C., Tomasello M. Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, share food in the same way after collaborative and individual food acquisition. Animal Behaviour, 2011. Vol. 82, pp. 485—493. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.024
  30. Melis A., Tomasello M. Chimpanzees' (Pan troglodytes) strategic helping in a collaborative task. Biology Letters, 2013. Vol. 9, p. 20130009. URL: rsbl.2013.0009 (Accessed 18.12.2017).
  31. Moll H., Tomasello M. Cooperation and human cognition: The Vygotskian intelligence hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2007. Vol. 362, pp. 639—648. doi:10.1098/ rstb.2006.2000
  32. Rekers Y., Haun, D.B.M., Tomasello M. Children, but not chimpanzees, prefer to collaborate. Current Biology, 2011. Vol. 21, pp. 1756—1758. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.066
  33. Tomasello M. Why don't apes point? In Enfield N.J., Levinson S.C. (eds). Roots of Human Sociality: Culture, cognition and interaction. Oxford, New York: Berg, 2006, pp. 506—524.
  34. Tomasello M. Why we cooperate. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
  35. Tomasello M., Carpenter M. Shared intentionality. Developmental Science, 2007. Vol. 10, pp. 121—125. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00573.x
  36. Tomasello M., Carpenter M., Call J., Behne T., Moll H. Understanding and sharing intentions: the origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2005. Vol. 28, pp. 675—735. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X05000129
  37. Tomasello M., Melis A., Tennie C., Wyman E., Herrmann E. Two Key Steps in the Evolution of Human Cooperation: The Interdependence Hypothesis. Current Anthropology, 2012. Vol. 53, no. 6, pp. 673—692. doi: 10.1086/668207
  38. Waal de F., Suchak M. Prosocial primates: selfish and unselfish motivations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2010. Vol. 365, no. 1553, pp. 2711—2722. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0119
  39. Warneken F. Young children proactively remedy unnoticed accidents. Cognition, 2013. Vol. 126, pp. 101—108. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.09.011
  40. Warneken F., Chen F., Tomasello M. Cooperative Activities in Young Children and Chimpanzees. Child Development, 2006. Vol. 77, no. 3, pp. 640—663. doi:10.1111/ j.1467-8624.2006.00895.x
  41. Warneken F., Hare B., Melis A., Hanus D., Tomasello M. Spontaneous altruism by chimpanzees and young children. PLoS Biology, 2007. Vol. 5, p. e184. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.0050184
  42. Warneken F., Lohse K., Melis A.P., Tomasello M. Young children share the spoils after collaboration. Psychological Science, 2011. Vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 267—273. doi:10.1177/0956797610395392
  43. Warneken F., Tomasello M. Altruistic helping in human infants and young chimpanzees. Science, 2006. Vol. 311, pp. 1301—1303. doi: 10.1126/science.1121448
  44. Warneken F., Tomasello M. Varieties of altruism in children and chimpanzees. Trends of Cognitive Science, 2009. Vol. 13, pp. 397—402. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.06.008
comments powered by Disqus
About PsyJournals.ruLaureate of the XIV National psychological contest «Golden Psyche» at the results of 2012

© 1997–2018 Portal of Russian Psychological Publications. All rights reserved in Russian

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

Catalogue of academic journals in psychology & education MSUPE NEW!

RSS Psyjournals at facebook Psyjournals at Twitter Psyjournals at Youtube Яндекс.Метрика