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The social character of psychological phenomena has never been easy to comprehend. Despite the fact that an intricate set of social relations forms our most intimate thoughts, feelings, and actions, we believe that psychology originates inside our body, in genes, hormones, the brain, and free will. Perhaps this asocial view stems from the alienated nature of most societies which makes individual activity appear to be estranged from social relations. One might have thought that the emergence of scientific psychology would have disclosed the social character of activity which naive experience had overlooked. Unfortunately, a century and a half of psychological science has failed to comprehend the elusive social character of psychological phenomena. Psychological science has evidently been subjugated by the mystifying ideology of society.

This book aims to comprehend the social character of psychological functioning. I argue that psychological functions are quintessentially social in nature and that this social character must be comprehended if psychological knowledge and practice are to advance. The social nature of psychological phenomena consists in the fact that they are constructed by individuals in the process of social interaction, they depend upon properties of social interaction, one of their primary purposes is facilitating social interaction, and they embody the specific character of historically bound social relations.

This viewpoint is known as sociohistorical psychology. lt was articulated most profoundly and comprehensively by the Russian psychologists Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria during the 1920's and 1930's. Unfortunately, their work has remained marginal in the Soviet Union and in the West, unable to penetrate into mainstream psychological science. The present book attempts to demonstrate that soclohistorical psychology is a valid view of psychological phenomena which can redirect psychological science toward fruitful future development.

While psychologists occasionally touch on the social character of psychological phenomena, they fail to fully comprehend it or appreciate its centrality. One reason for this failure is that psychological phenomena are intellectually fractured into separate faculties and components. This fragmentation relegates social character to being one component of one or another faculty. Social character is thereby prevented from being central to all psychological functions. In other words, the asocial view of psychology is supported by an atomistic view.

Appreciating the social character of psychology therefore requires replacing this atomistic view with an integral conception of all psychological phenomena as having a common social basis and character. Such an integral, comprehensive conception constitutes a paradigm. I hope to demonstrate that employing sociohistorical psychology as a paradigm will provide a coherent understanding of diverse psychological functions including cognition, perception, emotions, memory, language, personality, and psychological dysfunction. Furthermore, the paradigmatic use of sociohistorical psychology will advance the discipline of psychology to a more profound comprehension of its subject matter and a more effective application of this knowledge to practice.

A work of this scope cannot be written without substantial help from other people. Among the many individuals who have contributed in numerous ways I would like to express special appreciation to the following for their invaluable assistance: Roy D'Andrade, Michael Cole, James Wertsch, Norris Minick, Theodore Sarbin, Solomon Asch, Bill Livant, Bud Andersen, Gus Bagakis, Phil & Elaine German, Bernard Ratner, Tom Langehaug, David Bakhurst, Derek Edwards, Mark Kaplan, Josh Weinstein, Susan Frances, Kim McCreery, and Bob Robbins.

I am especially indebted to Edith Gold, John Mandes, and Lumei Hui for their painstaking editorial assistance.


Table of Contents

Preface Table of Contents Preface Introduction Chapter 1 Human Psychology's General Features The mediated nature of human psychology The interdependence of consciousness and sociality Rudimentary consciousness and sociality of animals Human consciousness and sociality A social model of psychology The interdependence of consciousness, sociality, and tool use Chapter 2 Psychology's Concrete Social Character The social constitution and variability of content Color perception Auditory perception Olfactory perception Size constancy Spatial perception Conceptual categorization Emotions Needs The social constitution and variability of form Decontextualized vs. contextualized mental processes Time sense Color perception and conceptualization Shape perception and conceptualization Logic Measurement and quantification Memory Personhood The social basis of abstraction Variation of mental processes along other dimensions Chapter 3 Psychological Universals, True and False The relation between general and concrete psychological features False psychological universals Chapter 4 The Development of Psychology in the Individual The transition from infantile reflexes to social psychological phenomena Culture and socialization The non-mechanical character of socialization Capacity and performance The social psychology of genius Chapter 5 Psychology's Functional Autonomy From Biology Genes and psychology Sense receptors and psychology Hormones and psychology sexuality aggression emotions The cortex and psychology Chapter 6 Madness Definition of Madness Sociohistorical analysis of Madness Causes of Madness anomalous disruptive events immigration unemployment mediating events normative, enduring social situations gender role poverty socioeconomic practices psychiatric practices Symptoms cultural variations variations fashioned from psychiatric concepts social class variations gender variations Treatment therapy Nonsocial analyses of Madness Causes the diathesis-stress model attachment theory humanistic psychology Symptoms Treatment, therapy behavior modification biomedical treatment humanistic therapy Conclusion Political Aspects of Psychological Doctrines
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