Alexander Vladimirovich Zaporozhets: life and creative work (from sensory action to emotional)

General Information

Keywords: A.V. Zaporozhets, L.S. Vygotsky, action, voluntary action, personality

Journal rubric: Memorable Dates

For citation: Zinchenko V.P. Alexander Vladimirovich Zaporozhets: life and creative work (from sensory action to emotional). Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2006. Vol. 2, no. 5 (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)

A Part of Article

The article describes the main periods of life of A.V. Zaporozhetc (1905—1981) including his theatre past as an actor of the Ukrainian theatre named after A.S. Kurbas where he first got interested in psychology, namely to a stage action and stage emotions that later had become the core of his scientific activity.

The first study he conducted during the Kharkov period of his work (1933—1941) was dedicated to the investigation of children’s aesthetic perceptions of literary creations, illustrations to fairytales and theatre performances. Alongside with them he studied the general questions of perception and the contours of his future theory of perceptual actions were also being designed at that time. He also introduced the concept of sensory action at that time. He distinctly framed the statement that the way of acting is a living representation of the object and set a difference between simple and complex actions. In 1941 A. Zaporozhetc published the data obtained in cooperation with V. Asnin concerning the palm skin’s sensibility to the rays of visible spectrum. This study was later used by A.Leont’ev in formulating his hypothesis about psyche’s emergence. In 1930-s A. Zaporozhetc carried out a number of investigations connected with the development of child’s thinking. He coined the term “intellectual action” and described it as a two-act one. Thinking takes place in the first act while the development of its means occurs in the second one.

During the Second World War he worked in the rehabilitation hospital where he examined soldiers with wounded thoracic limbs and focused on investigation of voluntary movements and acts. At that very period he fell under the influence of N. Bernstein’s ideas. According to N. Bernstein the movement is reactive in nature. A. Zaporozhetc added the notion of “perceptibility” to this feature. In the middle of 50-s in the study by M.Lisina carried out within the framework of this idea and under his supervision it was proved that perceptibility of a movement is an indispensable condition of its controllability. Only after the subjects learnt to sense their vascular reactions they could control them.

Then A.V. Zaporozhetc has addressed to the problem of “an internal picture“, or the internal form of movement which contents include an image of a situation and those actions which in this situation should or can be executed. He has included an image of a situation and an image of an action, i.e. a kind of perceptive substance in a biodynamic substance of movement. In the process of his researches of movements and actions they were filled with cognitive properties and functions. It, eventually, allowed him to conclude that action is clever by itself and not because it is supervised by the external or internal intellect. From the problem of subjectivity of actions A.V. Zaporozhetc turned to the problem of personal attitudes and sets, to the problem of “ a motor activity and personality “the discussion of which became the final part of his book “Development of voluntary movements“ (M.: Izdatel’stvo APS of RSFSR, 1960). Through the whole book he carried the idea that it was necessary to turn down the understanding of alive movement as a mechanical spatial transposition of a body but turn to its consideration as the complex motor act realizing a certain (and integral) relation of the individual to the object, to the reality, to other people. Not less important is the idea that the process of new actions mastering (instead of object mastering by means of actions and activities) represents original enrichment of the subject, the development of not only his/her operational techniques, but also of his/her personality, truly human being. In essence, this book should be treated as the contribution to the decision of eternal problems of psychology: freedom of will and free action.

When studying emotional sphere A.V. Zaporozhetc was guided by L.S. Vygotsky’s statement that the essence and sources of an origin of the most deep and intimate in the person consisted in his external sensual — object related activity, his interrelations with other people, in the products of culture created by the society including works of art, treasures of art.

In his study of emotions A.V. Zaporozhetc has applied the central for the cultural — historical psychology principles to exteriorization and mediation. Specifically human emotions are mediated with social measures, standards of value. In childhood communicating with people around the child acquires corresponding norms and standards. Analyzing emotions he used the same logics as in the analysis of perception where he spoke about the mastering of socially framed sensory standards becoming the operational units of perception. No doubt that exteriorization is an initially social process implicitly including such forms of activity as joint action, communicative activity (obshcheniye), joint-shared activity and so forth.

Having turned to the problem of emotions, A.V. Zaporozhetc voluntarily or not started to fall outside the limits of cultural — historical psychology, understanding that it is not omnipotent. With all his reticence he felt the pressure of natural impulses and passions. He had a feeling that the human nature will bring into life its mysterious surprises to the cultural — historic psychology. That was the source of his interest to degrees of freedom of human motility and intelligence, understanding of the necessity to master them as well as to liberate them from tool stamps; his attention to internal system of thoughts and experiences of a person; his interest to a voluntary and free action; to the spontaneity of development without replacing it with training and shaping as limiting the one. This is the reason of his protests against simplified and naive finite treatments of child development and the expressed care for its amplification. At last, this is the source of his constant and unsatisfied interest to the affective sphere of the person in general.

A.V. Zaporozhetc agreed with L.S. Vygotsky who regarded emotions as the internal psychological mechanism of interrelations between thinking and sensual — object-related activity of the individual who is not a passive contemplator of the reality, but the one who reacts at it with partiality. The “between” he mentioned is a something which can get power both above thinking, and above activity. From this point of view “emotional experience“ is not a glimpse of the individual’s states, but is a something that was perceived and cognized by the individual and also lived through and experienced. It is an individual’s vital experience of successes and failures, victories and defeats, which a person is attaining as a personality, while joining multiform relations with the object-related world and the surroundings.

Based on his researches and probably his own life experience A.V. Zaporozhetc has concluded, that “Feelings are a nucleus of the person, an organ of his individuality“. A nucleus of his own personality was undoubtedly his feelings well disguised behind his external quiet coolness. Such conclusion does not belittle his mind and will. His feelings were really the supreme ones, they were clever and effective. He understood the absolute value of human feelings and tried to remove them behind the limits of behavior and activity pragmatism.

Information About the Authors

Vladimir P. Zinchenko, Doctor of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences (PI RAS), Moscow, Russia



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