Evolution of Galperin's Notions of Means, Tools and Tool- Mediated Operations in Humans and Animals

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Abstract

The paper analyses Piotr Galperin's notions of means, tools and tool mediated operations in humans and animals that he used in his PhD thesis in 1935. The author argues that these notions are insufficient in terms of constructing a clear, consistent theoretical description of the transition from quasi tools of animals to human tools. The new approach suggested by the author employs an extended system of bipolar theoretical constructs of activity psychology, such as 'tool — sign', 'object — means', 'instrumental meaning — purpose of things', as well as some derivative notions like 'instrumental act', 'tool-mediated operation', 'tool means' and other. These constructs and notions embrace the following ideas: Lev Vygotsky's ideas on the role of language signs in the production and use of human tools; Aleksei N. Leontiev's notions of the emergence of operations and acts and their differences in animals and humans; Oleg Tikhomirov's concept of 'operational meanings'; and the ideas of Vladimir Zinchenko and Boris Meshcheryakov on the role of 'aggregate' and joint human activity in the formation and development of human consciousness. This current work expands Galperin's ideas in that it complements his criterion by which human tools can be distinguished from quasi tools of animals according to their use with a criterion related to the means and meaning of the social production of tools in humans (i.e. through joint activity, mostly for others) and the individual production of quasi tools in animals (through individual activity and mostly for individual purposes).

General Information

Keywords: mental functions in animals, human consciousness, tool, means, instrumental act, tool-mediated and sign-mediated operations

Journal rubric: Memorable Dates

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Bespalov B.I. Evolution of Galperin's Notions of Means, Tools and Tool- Mediated Operations in Humans and Animals. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2012. Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 55–66. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)

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Information About the Authors

Boris I. Bespalov, PhD in Psychology, senior researcher at the Department of Work and Engineering Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, e-mail: bespalovb@mail.ru

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