Towards a Cultural-Historical Theory of Motivation: Pierre Janet's Conception of Levels in Human Actions



The article describes one of the first concepts of the historical development of behavior and the human psyche — «psychology of the action» by Pierre Janet. The main aim was to reconstruct the levels of motivation of human action in the Janet's concept, i.e. selection of the specific motivational processes and stable motivational formations, which arise at different stages of human behavior and contribute to the action's motivational regulation of a modern adult. Based on the Janet works the author examines four basic levels of behavior and motivational processes. The «low» level — actions are managed by the needs and reflexes; the «interim» — the verbal commands are added; the «medium» — the simple and thought over beliefs appear, as well as stable basic interests, «Self», social comparison, evaluation and self-assessment, etc; and the «high» level — different ideas are added, reflection of own ideas and beliefs from different perspectives, critique, arbitrary effort, etc. This conception of human behavior developed by Pierre Janet is regarded as one of the important preconditions for the construction of cultural-historical theory of motivation.

General Information

Keywords: P. Janet concept, psychology of action, human motivational processes, cultural-historical approach.

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Patyaeva E.Y. Towards a Cultural-Historical Theory of Motivation: Pierre Janet's Conception of Levels in Human Actions. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2011. Vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 49–62. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Ekaterina Y. Patyaeva, PhD in Psychology, Senior Lecturer, Department of Personality Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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