Theoretical Psychology:

Vygotskian Writings


Теоретическая психология

Выготскианские тексты


Theoretical Psychology:

Vygotskian Writings

Теоретическая психология

Выготскианские тексты

Theoretical Psychology:

Interview with Laszlo Garai

Towards a social psychology of personality: Development and current perspectives of a school of social psychology in Hungary*

Points of departure: Dilemmas of a Marxian psychology

Lines of orientation of research

Experimental designs

Crisis and social categorization

The paradigm of the relations of property

Research in progress


Marxian personality psychology


The Principle of Social Relations and the Principle of Activity**

The inconsistency of the concept of “social environment”

The theory of activity and the problem of social factors

Social relation and social categorization

Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom*

Two international congresses of psychology: headliner and crisis

Psychologists are human, too

The discovery of an alternative?

On the meaning and its brain

Philosophical considerations and brain models

The brain model of John Eccles.

The logic of natural sciences.

The brain model of John Szentagothai.

The functional system

Conceptions about organizations transcending individual organism

The theory of an object-oriented activity.

Gibson's ecological perception theory.

Territorial behavior.

Toward a theory of structures producing meanings

Derived theoretical features –

Производные теоретические очерки

Philosophical psychology

A dialogue about man, his gene pool and his eccentricity

Social psychology

Social identity: Cognitive dissonance or paradox?

The social relevance of a psychosocial identity

Economic psychology

Identity Economics

I. General Economic Psychology

II. Special Economic Psychology

The structure of the monograph

How outstanding am I?

The economic psychology of excellence

Measure of Outstanding Social Identity

Calculation and intuition.

The competitor's costs and profit

Psychology of socio-economic systems

Theses on Human Capital**

Determining economic activity  in a post-capitalist system

Is a rational socio-economic system possible?

Psychology of Bolshevik-type systems

The bureaucratic state governed by an illegal movement

Appearance and criticism

The personality cult genuinely and the socialism?


Charisma and appointment

Democratic centralism

A detour into social psychology

The unknown secret of a well-known organization

The Nomenklatura

And now?

The paradoxes of the Bolshevik-type psycho-social structure in economy

Research antecedents

Three classes

A peculiar commodity: the relation

Conveyor-belt to produce relations

Bolshevik-type self-discipline and the abstraction of perfect monopoly

Теоретическая психология

O психологическом стaтусе деятельности и социaльного отношения

Возможнaя причинa шумного успeхa  идeй Л. C. Выготского

Двa мeждунaродных конгрeссa по психологии: сeнсaция и кризис

Психолог – тожe чeловeк

Aртeфaкты в психологичeском экспeримeнтировaнии

Выготский: aльтeрнaтивa шизофрeнии психологии?

Цитировaннaя литeрaтурa

O значении и его мозговом аппарате

Философские соображения и модели мозга

Модель мозга Джона Экклса (Eccles).

Логика естествознания

Модель мозга Джона Сентаготаи (Szentagothai)

Функциональная система

Концепции формирований, превосходящих индивидуальный организм

Теория предметной деятельности.

Экологическая теория восприятия Гибсона.

Территориальное поведение.

Вaсилий Дaвыдов и судьбы нaшей теории

Диада Выготского и четвериада Рубинштейна










Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, vol. 50, no. 1, January–February 2012, pp. 50–64.

Interview with Laszlo Garai on the
Activity Theory of Alexis Leontiev and his own
Theory of Social Identity as referred to the
Meta-Theory of Lev Vygotsky

Academician V. Lektorsky, who has been the editor-in-chief of Voprosy filosofii, a journal of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, since 1987, and the new editor-in-chief who is replacing him just at this time, V. Pruzhinin, conducted a joint interview with the Hungarian scientist László Garai, a theoretical psychologist and researcher in problems of social and economic psychology.

Academician Lektorsky: Professor Garai, Your psychological research has always had a clearly expressed philosophical meaning. It is no accident that we have published your writings in our journal.1 Allow us to ask you a few questions, the answers to which may be of interest to readers of Voprosy filosofii.

You were influenced by the cultural-historical theory of L.S. Vygotsky and the psychological theory of activity of A.N. Leontiev. Today interest in the activity approach has been revived among both our psychologists and philosophers. Some link the activity approach to philosophical constructivism. What do you think about the prospects for the cultural-historical theory and the theory of activity in psychology and, more broadly, in the human sciences?

Professor Garai: These prospects stem from the fact that psychology, ever since it split off from philosophy in the nineteenth century, has investigated problems that are multiaspected. Rubinstein, for example, based on Marxism before it got violated, cited the aspect of activity, the aspect of objectness, the aspect of community, and the aspect of historicity. Psychology itself, however, was only interested in one of these aspects at a time. At first it was the object: how we sense it, how our memory imprints and retains it, etc. Then came new times, and behaviorism, with its exclusive interest in activity, became the mainstream of psychology. Behavior, after all, is activity; except it is a kind such that, in order to study it, the object does not exist. The object has been reduced to a single point, which is occupied by a stimulus rather than an object. And incidentally, when behaviorism found itself removed from its mainstream status, to which cognitivism had been assigned, the exclusive focus was again on the object, which was ostensibly reflected by the consciousness without the participation of any activity. So the theory of activity of Leontiev, Galperin, and Luria actually discovered for our science not activity as such, but activity mediated by an object, and, in turn, activity that mediates an object. Thus, instead of single-aspect psychologies, a psychology was invented that organically synthesizes two of the four Rubinstein aspects.

Of course, one might think that two instead of four is a step back. But the point is that Rubinstein derived from Marx’s writings not merely a methodology for an integrated psychology (“merely”—yet after all, he accomplished a great feat in doing this), and Leontiev and his associates worked out specific procedures for experiments that applied the theory of activity to various fields. Single-aspect psychologies had very narrow capabilities: within these frameworks it was not possible to explain even such phenomena as attention or memory, although attention and memory had been the oldest topics of the new science as it emerged in the 1860s. The psychologists of those years (and some to this day) applied the principle of reflection to both topics. According to this, if a contemplated object whose properties are reflected through sensation or perception is distinguished somehow from its space-time surroundings, this distinct image is reflected in attention. Memory, meanwhile, ostensibly reflects the association of objects with one another in space-time. So we psychologists began to truly understand attention when its single-aspect interpretation was replaced by the concept of the theory of activity on the orientational basis of activity.

The fate of the psychology of memory developed in a more unfortunate way, since the theory of activity was only able to rescue it to a lesser degree. For the simple reason that memory is unquestionably associated with the aspect of historicity, and today we already know that it is also intimately associated with the aspect of community, the theory of activity regarding this pair of aspects is not doing anything like the research that has been done regarding the first pair…

Pruzhinin: May I interrupt you? I would like you to focus on your original theory of identity. How does it tie in with this tradition?

Professor Garai: When I became acquainted with Leontiev’s theory of activity, I discovered a curious contradiction. Both community and historicity were predefined for the theory as a self-evident definition of everything that was investigated, but they themselves were never investigated as problems. The experiments of thee theory of activity always focus on the fact that a specific individual confronts a specific object. Needless to say, the latter has a background, and this cultural background, at least as long as the focus is on an individual child, is mediated for him by the company of another individual. But is that all there is to the aspect of historicity and the aspect of community? And even if it is, how are they related to each other?

In the late 1960s (when I was interning in Leontiev’s department, and immediately afterward was invited under a Keldysh grant to the Institute of the History of Natural Science and Technology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where I did research in the Scientific Discoveries Sector) I began to deal with these issues. Under Leontiev I did an experiment (the first social-psychological one in the history of the Psychology Division),2 in which it turned out that involuntary memory worked significantly more efficiently when it was supporting the activity of any of my coworkers, associates, or comrades in the joint activity than when it was providing an orientational foundation for my own activity.

By that time Henri Tajfel had already issued his appeal “for a more social socialGL1 psychology.” He pointed out to us that our test subject did not come to our laboratory out of a vacuum but as a representative of the place that he actually occupied in an actual social structure, and that society had been predefined for him, accordingly, not in the form of another isolated individual but in the structure off their relationship. There is likewise more to historicity than to the history of the objectification of production and the passive presence of that history in de-objectifying activity. Freud allowed us to understand that in the course of a biographical history there is often a reversion not only to stages of that individual history that were already traversed but also to archaic points in the generic history of humankind (see, e.g., the Oedipus complex). At the same time, Tajfel’s social psychology and Freud’s anthropological psychology, as I ventured to point out earlier, are mutually exclusive, just like behaviorism and cognitivism.

So I set myself the goal of copying the methodological feat of the creators of the synthesis that emerged from the theory of object-based activity, and in this manner to create a methodology on a parallel track for the synthesis of this other pair of psychologies. And then, out of this synthetic methodology, to work out procedures for research efforts and for applied psychological research, as Leontiev, Gal’perin, Luria, Davydov, and hence their coworkers, did in their time and for their scientific purposes.

 Social identity for us is different from how it is generally represented by the scientific and laymen’s idea regarding it. For these ideas, social identity is an internal cultural-biological certainty: whether I am a Hungarian or a Russian, Eastern Orthodox or Muslim, a man or a woman, a black person or a white one. Here social identity is depicted perhaps even as a cultural definition, but in any case as the same kind of definition as it is in nature to be a dog or a turtle, to be carbon or ammonium hydroxide: in any of these instances an internal property of the individual units will determine how each of them will react to random events in the environment. Nothing like this is found in our theory, for which social identity is determined not by people’s  property but by relationships.

Relationships like similarity and difference. I will show in a brief example what I mean:

Let us assume that we are living in Germany in the early 1930s; I am a German proletarian, so I am, without question, a carrier of the sociological  property or definition of a German, and equally so the  property of a proletarian. Can the social identity of a German or a proletarian be ascribed to me? This will depend on how my relationships with others evolve and how all of us interpret these relationships. Assume that Peter is also a German, but a bourgeois, and Paul is also a proletarian, but a Jew. Here we have shadings and similarities and differences both with Peter and with Paul. So then social categorization transforms these contradictory shadings into categorical unambiguousness. I categorically exaggerate my similarity to either Peter or Paul and, accordingly, my difference from the other, and what draws me together with the latter and would separate me from the former is simultaneously understated. So this categorization results in the identity of “workers of all countries,” or, in terms of our example, the identity of Germans who represent and, accordingly, represent to themselves ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer(a single people, a single empire, a single leader). From what is predetermined sociologically, the categorization produces social identity, and social categorization holds sway in the background of history, in this case in the background of the Führer’s accession with a Nazi dictatorship.

Pruzhinin: May I interrupt you with a question? This is what I’d like to ask you: you have written about the crisis in psychology in regard to its split into research, how should I put it, of a natural-scientific perhaps, and hermeneutic nature. Can we assume that this split is been overcome today? This is why I am asking: this question takes us back to Vygotsky. He has a work about the crisis in psychology, but his followers, as they evolved during the Soviet period, focused on activity, which they understood more as a material, labor-related kind. Does this provide a way out of the crisis? Did this emphasis precisely on the material, labor-related aspect of activity not lead to an even more vigorous confrontation between physiological psychology and, so to speak, hermeneutic psychology, which, incidentally, we have today. Tell us, how do you see it?

Professor Garai: Unfortunately, I can only agree with what was already implied in your question as an answer to it. This is indeed the case.

The point is that, as a faithful heir of enlightenment, I thought: if psychology is suffering from something, in this case from the fact that it is split into a natural hemi-science and a historical hemi-science, then as soon as a remedy for this illness is offered, the patient will grab at it with both hands. But I did not take into account that the psychologist is not predefined as an abstract being. He received a behaviorist education at a university, and his confrere was molded at another university as a cognitivist. They have lived half of their professional lives, and they did not wish to know about each other. It turns out that I was wrong to expect them to be happy at the news I am giving them that there is a possibility of becoming reunited under the umbrella of Vygotsky’s theory . . . Which to them means starting everything from scratch.

During the 1970s I revisited the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris on a business trip. At that time it had a sector on social psychology, and a young scientist was working in that sector who was a follower of Freudianism according to Lacan and Marxism according to Althusser. That is, to be more precise, he was on the staff of that institute’s sector since he had set up an interinstitute group of like-minded colleagues and he was doing his research work within this framework. Iswear by the midnight star, to use Lermontov’s words: all of them (eight to ten people) were brilliantly gifted, and the same must be said of the institute group (approximately the same number). I learned a great deal from them, in particular during an hours-long discussion after my paper. They had ordered up the paper about my aforementioned experiment, and they in turn granted my request: for the social psychologists to invite psychoanalysts as well, and for the latter to accept the invitation. Ultimately, the audience accepted from the report, as many people put it, “almost everything.” Each of the sides expressed puzzlement on only two points. One half of the audience “did not understand” why I had introduced the “infamous” unconscious into my experiment through involuntary memory, although I had to know that the unconscious was inaccessible for experimentation, since it, the unconscious, was nothing more than a myth. The other half of the audience was puzzled as to why the devil I needed the infamous procedure of experimentation when I had to know, as a marxien (don’t forget that in those days—the few years before 1968 and the few years after it—almost all intellectuals of more or less good quality in Europe were more or less followers of Marx and declared themselves and one another to be marxian/marxien,3 in order thereby to distinguish them from the Marxists in the manner of the agitprop departments of the central committees of Communist parties), that experimentation in the so-called social sciences served only to disguise the fact that they were not sciences but bourgeois ideology (sic!). And the two halves of the audience agreed that only when I mentioned the theory of activity, then they declared in full accord that, while retaining their entire friendship and fondness for Laszlo, they considered it impermissible in the last third of the twentieth century to bring into a scientific discussion the infamous “reflection” of so-called objective reality and the infamous conditioned-reflex response by means of behavior, which, they went on, for some reason I called activity.

I am exaggerating very little here.4 And at the same time I am not being ironic in the least when I say that while I was among these Parisian psychologists I got to know colleagues who were brilliantly gifted. They had simply reached the limit of the framework in which a psy­chologist cultivating his plot of partitioned psychology can think. Regarding the future of our science I am still optimistic, not because a third of a century has passed since the above-men­tioned incident. Time may not change anything. The same goes for space. Thirty years after that Paris affair I presented a paper in Moscow. The paper was about the same thing: how Vygotsky’s theory, in particular his idea of the equivalence between tools and  signs, contri­butes to the creation of a synthesis of psychologiesGL2, and the audience was recruited from adherents of activity theory. In Paris the psychoanalytic group was obviously thinking about me this way: since he’s a marxien, he’s also a freudien. And when they formulated for them­selves that I was pushing social psychology to them and, in addition, activity theory, one of them, but in front of everyone and on behalf of everyone, asked me point-blank: “Proprement parlant, qu’est-ce que tu veux de nous, Laszlo?” In Moscow, thirty years later, as soon as we moved on from my paper to comments from the audience, an attractive woman stood up and, with the consent of the rest of the audience, asked me point-blank: “What, strictly speaking, do you want from us, Mr. Garai?” Disregarding the stylistic difference in how I was addres­sed, the two questions were absolutely identical. And hence their motivations were as well.

If I am still optimistic about the future of our science, it is because psychology has been given not only an opportunity to get rid of its partitions. It has also been assigned the necessity of carrying out this historical scientific procedure.

The point is that if, just as for  Hamlet, “The time is out of joint” for us as well, then I should note that in this case it is not the Danish prince who is confronted by “cursed spite,” and “to set it right” psychology must act. Just take the example of international conflicts. They have traditionally been handled by states, and in order to cope with this task, while they have resorted from time to time to psychology, they did not need it: they maintained an army without it, they manifested their intelligence-gathering interest in the army of a potential or actual adversary without it, and they knew, basically, how to identify each soldier in terms of whether they belonged to our or to the enemy’s army. But how does one manage without psychology where potential wars, or wars that suddenly break out, are waged by suicide terrorists? By people who do not wear their fascist or American, Polish, Swedish or Tatar-Mongol uniforms, but dress like us, eat like us, live in the same cities as us, are students at the same universities, are viewers of the same television programs, travel in the same subways and the same planes as us—but for another purpose. How do we figure out that purpose, how do we foresee its implementation, how do we ensure the survival of our society without the assistance of psychology? But how can our science begin to solve this problem without being born? Without being born as a science. A synthetic science that is synthesized from its components.

Pruzhinin: Professor Garai, in connection with the question about the prospects for psychology another that is very relevant today comes up: about the status of applied psychological research. You are the founder of economic psychology in Hungary. I have a question in this regard about the specific nature of your theory in terms of its difference from decision theory. Applied topics in psychology assume certain general theoretical foundations. So what do you think is the general theoretical conceptual foundation today of psychology, of modern psychology? What performs the integrative functions today that were previously performed by so-called general psychology? Perhaps cultural-historical psychology?

Professor Garai: You are putting a very important question. As in the past,5 to this day I have no doubt that it is cultural-historical psychology that put forth a needed integrative idea when it made a case in favor of equivalence, or at least mutual causality, between tool and symbol. Tools are undoubtedly associated with man’s object-based activity. Symbols, meanwhile (if we advance along the path with Vygotsky from the famous knot in the handkerchief to language and speech), become historically embedded in structures, the paradigm of which is the structure of language; which in every act of communication reproduces this history. Aleksei Alekseevich Leontiev declared that such an act of communication is nothing other than a variation of acts of activity. Frankly, his views on this point were shared by nearly all the adherents of activity theory.

To a certain degree one can understand this approach. After all, what makes an utterance within communication similar to objectifying activity is the fact that the object-product also retains its activity history. But only in a condensed form. Subsequent activity initiated by a tool does not reproduce the activity’s prehistory that engendered this tool: a Paganini does not act at all like a Stradivarius. When we apply language in our speech, we behave, on the contrary, precisely this way: we imitate our ancestors who created the language with their verbal practice. True, while Paganini does not replicate Stradivari’s activity, later Stradivaris specifically emulated their brilliant predecessor. In doing so, however, they compressed the emulated activity as much as possible. Previous searches and delusions are not replicated. We exercise in various acts of activity and cram information about an object, but when we have already assimilated what we needed, we no longer insist on the prehistory of this knowledge. For rational reasons we condense it.

But when the issue concerns acts of activity or an exchange of symbols of various kinds of cultural structures, then, conversely, we actively resist condensing, which is so reasonable in object-based activity. When we interact in the field of cultural history, we reproduce with nearly eidetic precision all of history, we ritually replicate it, we play out the Passions of Christ with his crucifixion, death and the subsequent mourning and burial of Jesus’s body…

The treatment of ritual is the highest personification of man’s historicity. I will stipulate right off that we assign this importance not to reproduction of the ritual but to the treatment of this cultural legacy, which in addition to playing out the rituals includes their, so to speak, establishment, as well as, if that is the outcome, their rejection. This stipulation makes it possible to identify a highly important relationship: the treatment of ritual makes manageable the contacts that unite certain individuals into small or large groups, with certain groups demarcated from others. It is enough to realize that one variety of the treatment of ritual is the given of cultural history in which we see the most powerful means precisely of such social functioning, regarding which L. Wittgenstein, with good reason, came up with the term “language game.” In this connection it is interesting to cite a find by Margit Köcski, who has been my coauthor more than once. She was studying the social-psychological development of children’s speech, and while observing the development of the children we have in common she discovered that from the earliest age the children took a liking to language rituals: if, purely by a chance, a brief dialogue occurred between a child and some family member, the child insisted endlessly on playing out a repetition of the model. So I cannot agree with those who maintain that communication is nothing more than a variant of activity.

On the contrary, if we assume methodologically that there is mutual causality between tool and symbol, then psychology can look for Vygotsky’s dyad in every phenomenon, without exception, of the world under its purview.

Here is an example of what I mean. This example is not my find but comes from the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins. Somewhere he writes about ancient agriculture, the nature of which necessitated that the father cooperate with the son, but, he notes, it was not the nature of agriculture that necessitated that precisely the father and son cooperate rather than the mother’s brother and the sister’s son or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. So (and this is no longer Sahlins’s conclusion but mine) in the first necessity the tool aspect is manifested, while in the second necessity it is the aspect of the symbol. And these two aspects are predefined each time in their mutual causality in Vygotsky’s dyad.

And thus we have arrived at the other half of your multipart question: you asked me about the specific nature of the theory in economic psychology that I developed. Well, this theory was constructed entirely on Vygotsky’s dyad. The mainstream of economic psychology is interested exclusively, so to speak, in Sahlins’s first necessity: How do they cooperate there? No matter who cooperated with whom. To be fair, I must state right off that in the context of this necessity the mainstream is interested not only (and even not so much) in the technologi­cal aspect of the matter but in the financial aspect as well. During the 1990s a Nobel Prize was twice awarded to scientists who, it is true, were not developing economic psychology but economics, for the fact that they discovered the world of transaction costs. These are the costs by which I ensure that a potential collaborator, no matter who, cooperates not with just anybody, but specifically with me. In the world of transaction costs, money is the mediating factor, as it is in the market itself. So then, my theory in economic psychology asserts that, in addition to money, social identity can also be such a mediating factor. While money ensures that the cooperation is not just with anyone but with me, social identity ensures that the colla­borator will turn out to be not just anyone but precisely potential collaborators of my choo­sing. Figuratively speaking, I’ll put it in terms of the earlier, highly simplified example: I am counting on cooperating with Peter, since he is also a “German,” or, accordingly, with Paul, because he is also a “proletarian.” Here social identity acts like a twin to money. In the matter of mediating cooperation social identity and, accordingly, money can mutually buy out each other: our brother the “German”/“proletarian” may agree more eagerly to cooperate with me, and this way I can save a portion of the transaction costs—conversely, in order to circumvent the embargo imposed on cooperation with me, it may cost me quite a lot of extra money.”6

Lektorsky: You apply your original psychological theory of identity to many different worlds as an explanatory theory. Today a number of researchers, both internationally and in our country, maintain that the problem of identity, as it was understood in the past, has lost meaning, because modern man’s identity is being eroded. Some speak of multiple identities, while others even say that identity is disappearing altogether. What do you think in this regard?

Professor Garai: I do not believe the declarations that the concept of identity per se is ob­solete, and here is why. The first Nobel Prize in economics in our new century was awarded a scientific discovery according to which the market functions properly (i.e. by selecting the most profitable of all possible options) only to the extent that the social identity of the persons operating in the market is clearly designated for one another. Absent this condition, that is, if the market bears in mind only monetary relationships (at one pole, a commodity belonging to no matter whom; at the other, money belonging to no matter whom), such a market makes, contrary to expectation, a counterselection: it provides for the sale only of the lowest grade of commodity, while the highest grade of commodity drops out of the market.7

The problem is not that the concept of identity per se is obsolete but that its interpretation as a  property, and as one that is predefined, is out of date. Earlier we already discussed what factors prompted me to orient myself more in the direction of relationships rather than  property. These factors were mostly psychological. Now we can also take into account (I would even say: we cannot avoid taking into account) the testimony of economic scholars as well: the trio awarded the Nobel Prize, of a liberal persuasion, note with satisfaction that the functioning of the labor market depends relatively little on whether it is a black or a white person who is offering his services; on the contrary, they are disconcerted by their own observation that the functioning of the market depends heavily on whether it is a black person or someone indeterminate who is applying (e.g. on the phone)  for a job. Here is the difference: whether I am specifically a black or a white person is a matter of identity as  property; on the other hand, whether I am a black person or someone indeterminate, here the question concerns identity as relationship.  In point of fact, what is disappearing outright is not identity per se but ready-made, mass-produced identity as  property. And at that,  eroding identity (or multi-identity) is a starting point for the creative molding of identity as relationship. The less defined a predetermined identity is, the more it calls for categorization.

In 2003 I published the book Identity Economics,8 which examines how the macroworld of mass reproduction handles social categorization for social identity. Two years later I published another book, The Multiple Identities of József Attila9: A Study in the Psychology of Creativity, which examined the same thing in the microworld of creativity.

The macroworld of mass reproduction and the microworld of creativity are two worlds that are absolutely opposite to each other. To deal with both, and within a period of two years to boot, is probably a matter of either brilliance or cheating. I myself am convinced, without false modesty or justifying myself, that for such an accomplishment there is no need either to be a genius or to expose oneself as a cheater. Back in 1931 Kurt Lewin formulated his appeal to psychology to emulate physics, which had replaced its Aristotelian way of thinking, applying one theory to celestial bodies and another to earthly ones, a third to falling bodies, and a fourth to airborne ones, with the Galilean method, which brings its worlds to a common denominator of interpretation.

For a very long time psychology not only did not find but did not even look for this common denominator, it rather tended to push Lewin’s comment out of its scientific consciousness. That is why it came to a dead end (sometime between its 1966 Congress in Moscow and its 1976 Congress in Paris) and remained there for quite a while. Meanwhile, my study of such different worlds led me to the conclusion that social identity is that searched-for common denominator. Again, such a find does not require particular genius. It is enough to bear in mind that in the macroworld of mass reproduction the focus is on the mass reproduction of tools, while in the microworld of creativity it is on the creation of symbols.10

So Vygotsky’s dyad is clear.11 Embodying the entire legacy of Rubinstein’s tetrad: both the object with activity and the aspect of history with the aspect of society.


1. “Istoricheskii materialism i problema lichnosti,” Voprosy filosofii, 1968, No. 9, pp. 19-30.

“Eshche odin krizis v psikhologii! Vozmozhnaia prichina shumnogo uspekha idei L.S. Vygotskogo” (co-author: Margit Köcski), Voprosy filosofii, 1997, No. 4, pp. 86-96.

“Netipichny akademik,” Voprosy filosofii, 2005, No. 1, pp. 67-69.

2. “La regulation communicative de la relation sociale et le devenir conscient des contenus de mémoire.” In J. Janousek, ed., Experimental Social Psychology: Papers and Reports from the International Conference on Social Psychology (Institute of Psychology, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague, 1969).

3. Or at least marxisant (gravitating toward Marxism).

4. Cf. Chadwick-Jones, J. “The Debate Between Michel Plon and Morton Deutsch: Some Related Comments,” European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 6, Issue 1, pp. 129-137.

5. See “Eshche odin krizis v psikhologii! Vozmozhnaia prichina shumnogo uspekha idei L.S. Vygotskogo” (co-author: Margit Köcski), Voprosy filosofii, 1997, No. 4, pp. 86-96.

6. Economic psychology has worked out a special calculation for the reciprocal conversion of monetary costs and social identity (see Garai, L. “The Price of Excellence.” In Inquiries Into the Nature and Causes of Behavior. Proceedings of the XXIV Annual Colloquium of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology, 1999, pp. 750-759.

7. “Behavioral Macroeconomic and Macroeconomic Behavior.” Nobel Prize Lecture of George A. Akerlof (December 8, 2001). Another laureate in the same area showed that the impetus that can be observed nowadays toward second, third and more diplomas is attributable not to a desire for extra knowledge but to the forced signaling of social identity in the labor market.

8. Identity Economics: An Alternative Economic Psychology. Available at

9. Attila József was a great Hungarian poet (1905-1937). Cf. Garai, L. “The Case of Attila Jozsef: A Reply to Gustav Jahoda,” New Ideas in Psychology, 1988, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 213-217.

10. The just-mentioned Attila József, in addition to being a great poet, was also a brilliant theorist of cultural-historical social studies, and advanced a theory, in particular, that a creator, by creating a work of literary fiction, at the same time creates a new symbol and thereby re-creates the integrity of the language that he used.

11. In reality the formula of Vygotsky’s dyad is more complex than is presented here, since both of its factors are taken into account by Vygotsky together with, accordingly, their addendum:  the sign together with its meaning,  tool , that ultraperipheral organ of the organism with a central controlling, nervous apparatus. Thus, the dyad of sign and tool is supplemented by Vygotsky’s own dyad of meaning and its brain apparatus (see Garai, L. “O znachenii i ego mozgovom apparate,” Kul’turno-istoricheskaia psikhologiia, No. 2, 2010).

GL1. Sic! Not a typographical error!


Towards a social psychology of personality:
Development and current perspectives of a school of social psychology in Hungary*

Points of departure: Dilemmas of a Marxian psychology

In 1970 there was organized in the Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences a team-work with the scientific project of elaborating a psychological meta-theory that would be equally close to natural and to historical sciences.

The scientific program of the Department has its antecedents dating back to the 1960s. That period in Hungary was marked by a stabilization process of the socialist system combined with radical tendencies towards economic and social reforms.

Those rapid advances in society gave rise to many practical problems which, however, presupposed the answers to theoretical questions as well: What had the social reality of the preceding era been? What was the reformed society to be like? Does the direction of progress depend on free choice or on necessity independent of man?

Whether of a pragmatic, empirical, theoretical or axiological character, the ques­tions were not raised separately nor were they addressed to any specific area of intellec­tual life: answers to these unspoken but challenging questions, whatever their source, were commonly — sometimes publicly — expected to be provided by the "humanities".

No such body of integrated knowledge really existed. But within the individual disciplines, separately reawakening or even reviving in the 1960s, the necessity for an integration of knowledge was felt in order to cope with the questions of that period. Moreover, the possibility for an integration of knowledge existed. As concerns the humanities it emerged in the course of events which Lukács called the renaissance of Marxism. Through this process, first of all, a wider circle of readers in Hungary gained access to those classic works (Marx, 1953 and 1963) which provided a theoretical-methodological groundwork to transcend the antagonistic approaches of Naturwissenschaft (sciences of nature) versus Geisteswissenschaft (sciences of the mind) which had provoked a scientific cleavage. Marx surmounted the problem by taking production, instead of nature or mind, as his starting point (Lukacs, 1973), production being just as much determined by spatio-temporal dimensions as nature, and just as creative as mind.

Had it not been for such an integrative principle, the humanities could not have progressed, despite both the desire for integration and the need to solve current practical problems. Rather, such attempts would have remained trapped within the traditional boundaries of "Naturwissenschaft" or "Geisteswissenschaft", and would have been constrained forever to attempts to derive culture from human nature, or to trace everyday behavioral patterns back to man's mind. This would have perpetuated the split between "explanatory" and "descriptive" human sciences.

Thus in the I960s, when the need was more clearly felt in Hungarian society for the development "in Marxian terms" of various branches of the humanities, including psychology, it became more and more apparent that this need was identical with the one that urged psychology to make its findings available for integration by other disciplines, while itself developing the capacity to integrate research results from other disciplines.

The fact that there was a real need for a Marxian psychology, i. e. for a psychology capable of integration with the other humanities, is best demonstrated by the fact that there were representatives of other fields who attempted to anticipate the development of such a psychology as long as none had yet been elaborated (cf. e.g. Lukacs, 1963, vol. 2, Chapter 11).

However, the elaboration of a Marxian psychology could have of fered psychology much more than the mere possibility of integration with the rest of the humanities. Psychology is in a unique position, for the "bisecting line" of the humanities cuts across psychology and divides it into a 'scientific" (`Naturwissenschaft") and a "humanistic" ("Geisteswissenschaft") part, i.e. an "explanatory" and a "descriptive" psychology, the integration of which is in itself a longstanding problem. Now, Marx's anthropological approach, which surpasses the two antagonistic approaches by stressing the principle of production, is especially promising in view of curing psychology's innate schizophrenia.

To achieve integration, however, it will not suffice merely to add Marxian theses on the one hand, and psychological facts and interpretations on the other. In order to obtain a real degree of integration, the non-psychological, production-centered conceptual framework must be translated into terms appropriate for use in psychology. These new conceptual tools can then be used to interpret the available data and facts as well as to orientate further research.

Such was precisely the research strategy of the Vygotsky school which had its renaissance in the 1960s. It exercised a direct influence on the early phase of the work at the Department of Personality Psychology. Vygotsky's basic argument was that man in his activity utilizes as psychic tools signs that are psychic products of his previous activity. These signs constitute a special i.e. psychic category of "means of production" i.e. they are means which have been derived as a product of production. Later, especially during the decade of the school's renaissance, Vygotsky's colleagues (Leontiev, Galperin, Luriya, Elkonin and others) extended their investigations from the sector of human activity producing and using psychic signs to the whole of activity oriented to real objects and made the general proposition that the phylogenesis and the ontogenesis of psychism take place in object-oriented activity (Leontiev,1969).

However, the theory that was built around this general thesis contained a contradiction concerning the genesis of motivation. A motive was understood as an originally inner need objectified in some outer object, while the term object-oriented activity referred to a life process directed towards such a motivating object. But where then does a motive itself take its origin? It cannot be from activity itself since the latter, according to the theory, would already presuppose the existence of some motive. Hence if it is correct to argue that activity is organized by an originally inner need objectified as a motive, then there must be aÌ least one psychic factor which cannot originate in object-oriented activity.

It is this theoretical contradiction which the hypothesis of the specifically human fundamental need has been posited to resolvc, adopting the Marxian strategy of drawing on a production-centered conceptual framework (Garai, 1962a, b, c; 1966a, b; 1%9b; Eros and Garai, 1974). According to this hypothesis, a need, on either the human or the subhuman level, does not have to become objectified as motive in order to be able to organize an activity, since a need through the process of phylogenesis develops from the beginning as a need for object-oriented activity, evolving from those purely inner biological tendencies already given at the level of cells and directed towards the functions of nutrition, reproduction, the regeneration of injured living structurc and the isolation of intruding alien materials. This means that a need manifests itself as drive, inhibition, reward or punishment in various phases of such an object-oriented activity that has its structure determined according to the prevalent features of the given stage of phylogenesis (Garai, 1968, 1969b, pp. 119-134, and 160-168; Garai and Köcski,1975).

Thus, the human character of a fundamental need is determined by the structure of activity specific to the human level of phylogenesis. The activity characteristic of the hu­man species is work activity. The hypothesis of the specifically human fundamental need suggests that man, as a result of his phylogenetic development and an ontogenetic process of maturation, possesses a need for some kind of activity, composed on the model of the structure of work activity, that is, consisting of the following phases: (1) appropriation: turning products of others" past activities into means for the individual's future activity; (2) setting a new goal, which is an elaboration of tensions that appear between the already appropriated objects; (3) attaining the goal by producing some new object not existing previously; (4) alienation: a process that presents the product of the individual as a means to be used by others in their future activities (Garai, 1969b, pp. 178-200).

This hypothesis in itself presented a possibility of synthetizing various, sometimes contradictory psychological theories of motivation. For example, Lewin states that when a person has made a decision, the resulting intention will become a quasi-need for him and will maintain an inner tension until the decision has been carried out, regardless of whether it is kept in the focus of consciousness or not. Freud, on the other hand, speaks of "forgetting" certain intentions, i.e. purposefully expunging them from consciousness. Now, the hypothesis of the specifically human fundamental need explains that intentional actions have their speciaI ways of fitting into man's activity structure, and the fact of whether this adaptation happens to take place in a goal-fulfilling phase, or, on the contrary, in an alienating phase will determine whether the intention works according to Lewin's or to Freud's scheme. The hypothesis characterizes certain (mental) tactics, which were in part discovered empirically by social-psychological investigationsof cognitive dissonance and in part by clinical psychoanalytical study of defense mechanisms, as fictitious manifestations of the specifically human need.

However, at this point of the development of the theory it became clear that such a level of abstraction overlooked a very important aspect of motivation.

In our approach, the existence of a specifically human need was taken for granted as an anthropological fact, one which motivates every normal individual to perform the successive phases of activity discussed above, with no more variation than permitted by the given stage of ontogenesis (Garai,1969b, pp.134-142). However, it is often found that there is a considerable variation in the way in which certain social expectations, concerning one phase or another, are met by different individuals. Some may feel that the activity which conforms to expectations is incited by their own inner motivation, whereas others regard the same activity as the result of some external pressure. There are some whose inner attitude corresponds to external expectations, yet the attitude does not become a motive of b_ehaviour; finally, some do not at all, either in thought or in action, fulfill the given expectations.

Variation is even greater when the activities in question are not regulated by any explicit or implicit social expectations. Some people make scientific discoveries or produce technical inventions, others create works of art or lead a life that elevates them to acts of great moral value. They may attract followers who develop the discovery into a scientific school, the invention into an industrial enterprise, the work of art into culture, and the individual moraI deed into a mass movement. Some will still be found who retain their passive attitude towards historical processes until a social expectation becomes clearly formulated.

How is this variation to be explained? lt could seem natural to resort to a typological analysis to answer this question addressed to personality psychology. However, the approach which was adopted for the research program of the Department of Personality Psychology was essentially different. The methodological principle which led to rejecting the typological approach was found in Lewin (1935, pp. 41-90), who maintains that the modern, Galilean mode of thinking requires psychology to refrain from sorting the objects studied into different classes in which they would fall under different laws. The typological approach in psychology is a remnant of this abnegated “Aristotelian” way of thinking, which, in order to cover phenomena that are beyond the reach of the general psychological laws, designs other, independent laws instead of homogenizing “with respect to the validity of law” the world psychology investigates.

An important point to add to Lewin's concept of homogenization was elaborated within the framework of the specifically human need hypothesis: individual motives and social determinants were not opposed to each other as biological needs to be described by natural laws, and cultural norms to be described by laws of the mind. One pole, the need of the individual, was represented as directed towards an activity modeled after the structure of work, while the other pole, the social determinant, was shown as a tension in the historical process of production (Garai, 1969b, pp. 81-111).

Work and production are two aspects, one individual and one social, of the same process. The same homogenization principle was also applied to the above-mentioned problem of variation, and resulted in the interpretation that the different responses of different individuals to the tensions arising in the historical process of production depended on the positions occupied in the total social structure of the relations of production.

The specifically human need hypothesis made just such a statement of this interconnection. The task of a Marxian psychology to render the production-centered conceptual framework adaptable was not carried further by means of this approach than to where the fundamental theoretical work of the Vygotsky school extended. Its work was in fact limited to the aspect of production as work activity and left the problems of production as a relation of property unexplored. While expounding the specifically human need hypothesis, the related contiadiction of the theory can only be mentioned (cf. Garai b,1969).

Since the question here concerned the mediation between social determinants and individual motives, a Marxian and therefore production-centered psychological investigation of human motivation could not be carried further unless the verbally stated interconnection was also made conceptually adaptable for psychological purposes.

Lines of orientation of research

The first period of work was by necessity characterized by a broad range of extensive inquiry. This also followed from the deliberate way of organizing the team so as to include representatives of dif ferent areas of psychology, namely theoretical psychology (Garai, 1969a), developmentaly psychology (Járó, 1973, 1975a, b, c, d; Járó et al.,1975), social psychology (Garai,1969b), psychology of art (ErBs,1972,1973), and neuro-psychology (Keleti,1970; Köcski, 1969a, 1969b, 1971, 1972, 1974). The advantage of this composition was that the members of the team could combine their diverse stocks of knowledge in the study of the complex problematic of personality.

The orientation of the team started with seminars on readings of the literature in personality psychology in the strict sense. The typological approach being excluded from the team's range of interest for reasons presented above, attention was concentrated on dynamic theories of personality. The major part of Lewin's field theory and the following two of Freud's propositions were integrated into the team's principles of approach: (1) All the psychic and somatic manifestations of the individual should be taken as symbols and decoded with reference to the positions occupied in a system of relationships (which in Freud is the Oedipal triangle; see Garai and Köcski,1978, Köcski and Garai,1978); (2) Development is not something that merely happens to the individual, but a process to which the personality allocates much of its motivational energies either in an attempt to promote or to hinder that process in order to break up ot preserve the actual relationship structures.

The next phase in elaborating fundamentals was dominated by efforts to select a certain body of material from social psychology that could be integrated into personality psychology. As a consequence of Garai's study visit to France in 1971 and his participation in the general meeting and conference of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in 1972, the Department hecame acquainted with the theoretical and methodological critique which Western European social psychologists were applying to the American tradition of the discipline, as well as to their own pre-1968 work. This critique had a decisive influence on the views of the Department (cf. Garai, 1972c), due to a large extent to the eontrast with the background against which it was perceived, namely that of a general lack of critique characteristic of social psychology in Hungary at that time. It was especially at the first Hungarian Social Psychological Conference in 1972 that this contrast was quite clearly noticed by the Department, thus setting the tone of members" contributions to the conference where their "harsh" opinions inevitably roused general objection and resulted in their complete isolation.

Besides surveying different branches of psychology, the Department examined other approaches whicjZ could be integrated into a theory of personality psychology. Though this study was meant to concentrate the multifarious research orientations, it in fact extended the field of inquiry to areas outside psychology.

Work was directed first to embrace the approach of philosophical anthropology and other philosophical domains that had implications for the study of personality. An important point to add to the views of the Department was found in Sève's conception (1969) suggesting that the activity of personality depends on extrinsic motivation that can only be understood by virtue of those spatial and mainly temporal structures that are determined by the existing relationships of production. (For a critical analysis of Sève's book, see Erœs,1972). Studying Marx's Grundrisse and expounding its psychological implications resulted in the construction of a production-centered psychology of personality which was initially elaborated in economic-philosophical categories only. An examination of Kant's thoughts in the Critique of practical reason led to an investigation of the 1ogical patterns that organize the cognitions rationalizing a person's decisions. This work eventually led to awareness of the categorization paradox (Garai, 1976b).

In the search for theoretical synthesis, the Department examined the possibilities offered by mathematical systems theory. Attention was focused on the structure that characterizes the systems studied by this theory as opposed to that of cybernetic systems. These mathematical systems turned out to have special formal mechanisms which, unlike cybernetic feedback and information, provide for development and not for equilibrium in systems (Garai, 1971, 1973a). These mathematical systems turned out to have special formal mechanisms which, unlike cyberneúc feedback and information, provide for development and not for equilibrium in systems (Garai, 1971, 1973a). In their search for synthesis, the Department members also turned to philosophy of science and examined the way in which other sciences, especially physics and biology, had found the means to encourage processes of integration during periods of crisis. Further, concrete investigations were made to find out to what extent the different psychological theories, which are the most concerned with personality can be fitted together into one logical system. This work in particular and, in general the entire activity of the Department, was favourably influenced by a Marxian group of French psychologists (Pécheux, Plon, Poitou and others) whose critique of social psychology is based on Lacan's version of psychoanalysis.

These "meta-scientific" studies also had a direct bearing on one important area of the problematic which the Department was going to explore. It was postulated that in the objective process of the development of productive forces there emerge certain tasks which are in the spirit of the time with no one in particular being responsible for having formulated them; and these tasks, mediated by the specifically human fundamental need, have a motivating impact on persons occupying certain positions in the social structure. The hypothesis was put forward, together with an attempt to demonstrate it, in a paper analyzing Janos Bolyai's discovery of non-Euclidean geometry (Garai,1970). This paper, presented at the 13th International Congress on the History of Science, argued for the hy­pothesis by analyzing a remarkable fact: the two thousand year old geometrical problem had been solved at the beginning of the l9th century simultaneously but independently by the Hungarian mathematician J. Bolyai and the Russian mathematician Lobatchevski.

Experimental designs

Experimental work, started in 1971, was based on the theoretical-methodological team work presented above. At that time the underlying assumptions of the production-centered psychology of personality were as follows:

1) Development of personality takes place in the course of a process during which the person retains or changes his place in a social structure. Retaining or changing place does not happen gradually but passes through conflicts arising from time to time, obliging the person to make clear-cut decisions for either conservation or change.

2) Development of personality is an integral part of the process of historical progress where the social structure mentioned in paragraph (1) is either preserved or subjected to change. The conservation or change of the social structure is not gradual: it occurs in social crises in which clear-cut decisions are made for the conservation or revolutionary change of the structure.

3) Preservation or change of the individual's place within the social structure is not a mere result of external social intervention to move or maintain the individual. A person is motivated to change or retain his place by the specifically human fundamental need which is essentially a need for development. But this development itself is mediated by the series of acts of retaining or changing place within the social structure.

4) Conservation or change of the structure of society is not an outcome of what certain groups of individuals happen to want: it occurs by historical necessity, independent of any person's will. It is a necessity of economic nature which depends on the production of the means of production. In certain historical periods it is served by the conservation of the structure of the relations of production whereas in other periods by a radical change in those relations.

5) The process of development of personality and that of social progress are interconnected. When the individual decides whether he is to.preserve or to change his place in the social structure, this is at the same time a contribution to deciding whether the social structure should change or remain the same. Also, when historical events give rise to either stability or changes in the social structure, the positions that may be taken in it will stabilize or change accordingly. 6) The decision which in a given period a person makes concerning the question, arising in an historical context, of preserving or changing the social structure, is determined by that person's position in the social structure in question i.e. his class position.

The basic assumption for the experiments was that the selfdevelopment of the personality through erises and decisions can begrasped by analyzing behavior in conflict situations of decision.

Analysis was centred on two aspects of decision-making behavior: (1) What is it that the decision evokes or inhibits the memory of from among whatever has been stored and arranged into structures in memory throughout life? (2) What kind of a permanent mark does the decision produce, which may then prove decisive for the rest of the person's life?

As regards the first of these questions, experiments were conducted by Garai (1969a) with undergraduate students in Moscow. A replication of the experiment witha control group of Budapest undergraduates, using Hungarian versions of the experimental devices, produced evidence to support the original results, showing that in situations of decision, life history memories (personal memory) can act as determinants even without the person becoming aware of them. Moreover, only those memories become conscious that play a part in organizing the social relationships of the person through the decision.

In another experiment, high school pupils were given a passage of surrealist prose, that is the kind of literature in which the sentences are not connected to one another to form a story or a logical train of thought but seem to follow loosely, "making no sense", but still somehow holding together. The different groups were asked to retell the passage after havmg made various evaluative decisions concerning the téxt. These experiments reinforced the presupposition that recalling hidden structures of a text was markedly affected by the kind of value dimension — beautiful/ugly, tragic/idyllic, comic/elegiac or sublime/base — along which the decision was made.

For the second aspect of decision-making behavior, mentioned above, the presupposition was that the specifically human fundamental need becomes a motive by virtue of a decision alone. That is, choice is not determined by previously existing preferences and aversions but, on the contrary, the direction of the choice determin= ed by the fundamental need will shape the preferences and aversions which then consistently determine further activities. Since such a hypothesis finds ample support in the rich fund of empirical evidence gathered through experiments in the theory of cognitive dissonance, the Department did not look for renewed experimental proof of the existence of such an inverse relationship. Instead, the attempt was made to specify whether the relationship itself could be considered as a specifically human characteristic and to what extent it was justified to suppose that the relationship was present throughout phylogenesis but at the human level appeared with

essentially different qualitative features.

In order to settle this question, the members of the Department designed an experiment. It was expected that by observing the behavior of animals in a maze with one single crossing point, they could see if the first (random) choice at the crossing determined later preferences of direction or not. However, after the preparatory experiments to check various conditions of reinforcement, the work had to be suspended due to lack of suitable equipment.

After a relatively long time an experimental methodology using a modification of the game "Monopoly" was finally set forth as a tool of an essentially production-centered psychological approach to the problem of decision. The game itself was unknown to the subjects, high school pupils, and the only modification was the insertion in the instructions, comprising the smallest possible number of formal rules, of one saying that among the four subjects playing at one time the leader "plays as he likes while the rest should all play accordingly and consistently". The instructions identified the leader according to a criterion dependent on the progress of the game, and it characterized a player for a period of several steps. (The designation "leader" was not used). The steps in the first part of the game involve certain decisions simulating economic activities purchasing sites, building houses, etc. In the experiment, according to the instructions, the "leader" had the privilege of deciding what he was going to buy and on what terms. His power was limited only by the instruction to be "consistent", while the rest of the players" power depended on how they interpreted the deliberately vague instruction to play "according to what the leader does". All subjects had to give reasons for each of their decisions.

The experiment was designed to model the rationalization of decisions and to use the model in exploring to what extent it depends on the position of who decides, and on the actual phase of the game, whether the rationalization concerns this position and phase only or is claimed to cover all positions and the whole of the game. After testing in 1973, the method was ready for application.

Crisis and social categorization

By 1973, the Department of Personality Psychology had completed the process of formulating its theoretical assumptions and methodological ideas. Paradoxically, this resulted in a state of crisis.

Garai's visit to France in 1973 had a catalytic effect in recognizing the crisis itself. The visit had been planned to be a follow-up of the one two years earlier. At that time, in 1971, the associates of the Laboratory of Social Psychology of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes had taken much interest in the theoretical assumptions of the Hungarian team, and a suggestion had been made to test them in comparative studies to be underta­ken by the two scientifc institutions embedded in different social structures. ln 1973, however, when the experimental methodology based on "Monopoly" was proposed as a research tool, the associates of the Frenech Laboratory qualified the idea as a "typical ma­noeuvre of bourgeois ideology" and this was by no means only the opinion of Marxians.

The objection proved justifiable on the basis of the argument that follows. The totality-oriented assumptions of the theory are related to the question of whether a kind of social structure should survive or not, whereas the experimental method, by the very requirement of repeatability of the experiment, implies an a priori decision in favour of the survival of this structure (cf. Adorno et al, 1976) and it represents this pre-experimental, extra-scientific, ideological procedure as if it had become scientifcally verified by the experiment.

The Department had to face a dilemma: (1) Either one could go on with the further elaboration of a production-centered psychology which originally had been developed in order to answer the questions raised by the social praxis of the sixties. Such a psychological theory, however, cannot apply the traditional procedures of scientific verification but is, instead, obliged to find the justification of its approach in the social praxis of the seventies; (2) Or, one could return to purely psychological theories, geared to traditional procedures of verification.

During his stay in France, Garai was asked to prepare a contribution to a special issue of a UNESCO journal on the crises in psychology and psychiatry. In this article (Garai, 1973b), he attempted to delimit the areas of competence of pure psychology and psychotechnics (a field detached from political practice and ideological theory). It was found that, while psychology and psychotechnics are capable of dealing with the development of the various abilities and even with developing them, these disciplines are not competent in questions of needs.

In the light of this conclusion, the Department was faced by the alternative of either carrying on with the production-centered study of needs, thus giving up all expectations of psychological verification, or having recourse to purely psychological procedures, thus abandoning any illusion of apprehending the phenomena of needs and motivation.

In order to understand this grave situation better, it should be mentioned that the very reason for setting up the Department at the Institute of Psychology had been a desire to investigate the needs of personality, that is, human motivation.

In the first part of the crisis period, the activities at the Department bifurcated. One group investigated the possibilities of nonexperimental methods (questionnaires, sociometry) of pure and applied psychology. Another group examined ways of coneeptualizing in pure psychology in order to see which of the phenomena tackled in the period prior to the crisis (conflict, decision, rationalization, personal memory, etc.) could be deseribed by these means.

This period of work was characterized by mutual hostility and repeated exchange of derogatory opinions. Indeed, what happened at that time was that the points of identity and of difference in opinion which had always existed among the members of the Department became sharpened by the crisis and, losing all nuances were elaborated into downright, categorical identities or categorical differences. When, in search of new possibilities of conceptualization, the members eventually considered the uses to which the concept of social categorization might be put, this concept turned out to be suitable first, in a purely psychological non-production-centered approach for deseribing other crisis situations analogous to that within the Department. Following this discovery, "social categorization" became the central term of conceptualization.

Naturally, the concept underwent some modification of meaning in comparison to the way it has been used, following Tajfel, in the social psychological literature (cf. Garai, 1976). The most important difference was that the Department's works also contained reference to the type of social categorization which does not presuppose the conscious activity of the self since, on the contrary, it is even a precondition for the development of the consciously acting self (Köcski,1976). Consequently, social categorization is also recognizable at the sub-human level, mainly in the way certain individuals of a species occupy a part of the living space as their owñ territory and keep others of the same species away. It is considered to be a higher-order manifestation of social categorization when, within the category thus established, a structure develops in the assemblage in which a given position, e.g. that of flock leader, is steadily occupied by one individual to the exclusion of all others.

In both cases categorization is mediated by some kind of signalization. Along with a category forming within the population, or a narrow category within the broader one, there appears a set of signals (motor, vocal, postural, secretory, vaso-motor, pigmentary or still others) which signifies that the individual belongs to the category in question (cf. Köcski and Garai,1975).

Complementing the methods of developmental psychology (Járó,1975a), in which she had displayed such great expertise, Járó (1973), with the assistance of Veres, elaborated complex methods, combining various social psychological techniques, for use in field investigations related to the development of social abilities on thc one hand, and to the social factors of psychic development on the other. These methods seemed suitable for an initial approachnot production-centred, but purely psychological to the type of phenomena that had been in the foreground of the Department's interest in the earlier period.

It was in an atmosphere of prolonged crisis that the preparations for the European Conference on Social Psychology in 1974 at Visegrád were made. Prior to the Conferen­ce, the Department had discussed Garai's and Erös' papers. As a contribution to the themc "The social psychology of social change" which he had proposed placing on the agenda, Garai made an attempt to present thc production-centered theory under the tital "Is Social changc motivated?" (Garai, 1974). The subject chosen by Erós was a characteristic expression of the fundamental problem of thc Department, an interior problem, but one which all humanistic studies starting in the sixties and continuing in the seventieshad to face: what are critical qúestions about society destined to become, once they are integrated in social research based on thc methodological groundwork of "abstract empiricism" and "middle range theory". (See Erös, 1974, who illustrates this point in an analysis of The authoritarian personality).

The paradigm of the relations of property

According to one of the assumptions of the production-centered theory of personality (see above), social formations make progress through crises, in the course of which person·ality also develops.

At the lowest ebb of its crisis, the Department of Personality Psychology might have realized (which it did not, however, since this kind of realization is apt to take place only retrospectively) that it had made some progress in a purely psychological conceptualization social categorization and categorizational signification and in elaborating a purely psychological method, combining developmental and social psychological methods.

The crisis had not come to an end, however, as became explicit during the periodic thematic discussions held in the Department: none of the members wished to give up motivation research, nor to put up with the professional-ideological illusions which a purely psychological research on motivations would have imposed upon them.

The production-centered theory of personality considered the motivated development of personality in its relation to crisis and revolutionary transformations of social totality. At the same timc, the Department involved in a crisis of its own microsocial formation, undertook its transformation in a way which resulted in development. While running the field investigations which had been launched at that time (see below), the Department members were also confronted by microsocial forms in which as a rule they found that, if their accumulating crisis failed to erupt, development of the personality might stagnate or that an evolving but prolonged crisis might lead to self-destruction and ultimately to suicide, while the resolution of the crisis could bring about the development of the personality. It was thus with reference to microsocial forms that a hypothesis was set forth suggesting that the realization of these possibilities did not depend on what typological characteristics mediate as "inner conditions" the external effect of the "social environment" in a given person. The earlier conception was that the mediating positiòn was that "held by the person in the global social structure of the relations of production", in particular, with respect to belonging to the class of the propertied or the propertyless. It was vital for the prospects of a productioncentered study of personality that microsocial forms and the processes that take place within them should be deseribable by the paradigm of relations of property.

The model, whose possible application to microsocial relationships is being examined, shows the following relationship, revealed by Marx's production-centered philosophy of history historical materialism: possession of certain means of production ensures certain positions in the global social structure, positions permitting ruling this structure by political and ideological means; the aim of such a rule is essentially to maintain the very structure in which precisely the possession of the means of production is what reinforces the dominant position. This is a paradoxical formation, whose principle of organization is determined by those who occupy dominant positions and who in turn are determined to occupy dominant positions by the principle of organization itself. An investigation into the question of whether such paradoxical formations are to be found in microsocial relationshisp as well leads at first to the result that there are only paradoxical formations since this principle of organization proves in a first analysis to be that which serves to perform social categorizations which, then, is characterized by the categorization paradox (Garai, 1976b; 1977a; Erœs and Garai, 1978). This is so because the subject who performs the categorization belongs to the object he categorizes, and at the same time is only detached from it as a result of this categorization (as "we" or "I").

After closer investigation, it turned out that within all formations (groups, roles) which in social psychology have traditionally been regarded as possessing their given principles of organization, independently of the persons composing them, a dominant position exists which in fact determines the principles of organization. Thus, for example; the principle of organization of a role relationship like that between doctor and patient is determined from the position of the doctor: it is always here that is decided what the criteria are for being doctor or patient (Garai, 1975).

The perspectives of the motivated development of the personality are mediated by the position a person occupies in the structure analyzed by the paradigm of property relations during the given historical phase (consolidated, pre-crisis, in crisis, or consolidating after crisis) of the microsoeial formation (Járó, 1975a; Járó and Veres, 1976a and 1976b).

The possibilities offered by å paradigmatic approach to the relations of property resolved the dilemma of a "production-centered,

approach" vs. "concrete research" and also the crisis that stemmed from it.

Thus came to an end the period in the work of the Department of Personality Psy­chology during which its principal task had been to promote the assimilation of the non (or ñot mainly) psychological set of production-centered concepts into psychology. This effort had specifically concerned the problem areas not tackled by the Vygotsky school.

Research in progress

Within the framework of the Department, Járó, Keleti, Köcski and Veres have mainly been engaged in empirieal case investigations. They have made it possible to scrutinize systematically, and trace back to actual psychological phenomena, the abstract statements of the produetion-centered psychology of personality by making use, on the one hand, of the new features and conceptual tools of the theory (such as social categorization, the paradigm of property relations, self-qualifying paradoxes) and, on the other, by applying the methodological results and the experience gained in earlier empirical research, mostly in schools (Járó and Veres, 1976a). As a matter of fact, the goal set for empirical research had been, even previously, more comprehensive than simply planning and elaborating suitable technical-methodological devices. In order that the theory conceText Box: 1. Empirical and case studiesntrating on the laws of development could ultimately apply to any person and under the circumstances of any social formation, empirical research set as a goal to delineate the area of validity and to specify the need for supplementary conceptualization with respect to the phenomena outside that area.

The investigations made by this group are connected by a set of hypotheses concerning the concrete social and ìndividual criteria of the development of personality. Each of them focuses on different aspects and periods of development and reflects upon the generally formulated question: What are the conditions and events that permit us to state that a person develops?

The members of the group made a creative attempt to answer the question by a joint application of the principles of production-centered psychology so that they could refer to concrete individuals chosen as subjects. The starting point for their analysis was that according to the hypothesis of the specifically human fundamental need, the motivation for development the need for setting a goal is held to be valid for every individual under certain social conditions, this motivation being a supraindividual and extrapsychic factor. It was also postulated that the conditions of the force of the motivation can be described with the help of the property relations paradigm. Within the various social formations, one of these objective conditions is the position from which the goal of the common activity can be determined, and the other is the nature of the historical period, which determines whether the goal is set from the dominant position (stabilization) or whether there is a chance to determine the goals for the forces of the new order, formerly in a position of dependence (revolution).

The theoretical conclusion reached at this point by the empirical research group was that personality development is not a general human process, one of anthropological validity but is attained exclusively by those holding the positions which, at the time of the investigation, bear the historically mature tendencies of development. From this it follows that the objective factors making the development of the personality possible can be shown by analyzing the historical movement of the social formation providing the  framework of development, and the positions held within it.

The social categorization hypothesis is concerned with the subjective conditions of the development of personality. This hypothesis is not only an attempt to answer the philosophical question of how it is possible for man to experience as his own subjective free will what in fact is objectively, i.e. economically, necessary. At the same time it offers a theoretical possibility to investigate psychologically how a person in his concrete historicalsocial situation makes his decision concerning the alternatives of development emerging before him.

The hypothesis also provides the basis for a description of the semiotic devices and processes through which the person carries out his decision with reference to himself and to his environment. Decisions with respect to categorization may either stabilize the social system or provoke a crisis within it according to the concrete historical situation and the position occupied in the system of relationships.

The above ideas have been developed by Járó, thus summarizing the principles of a production-centered psychology in a unified model of development (Járó, 1975a). The central concept of the model is the episode of self-definition, which can either take in the historical moment in which the alternative of development appears or the structure of the social system of relationships (the dominant, mediating, dependent; and marginal positions). The episode of self definition is a historically and postionally structured situation of ehoice which will serve as a frame of reference for interpreting decisions about categorization (Járó and Veres, 1976a).

The production-centered model of ontogenesis necessarily had to face the criteria and range also of phenomena of "nondevelopment" while describing the periods of development and systems of relationships in the social forms serving as frames for ontogenesis dependence relations in stable periods and of the inner mechanism of personality (rationalization) (Járó, 1975a; Járó and Veres, 1976b).

The various empirical case studies under way in the Department permit analysis of different aspects of social categorization among the social formations actually canalizing development, thus bringing different stages of ontogenesis under investigation. The following themes are addressed:

1) Emergence of categorial signalization in the early phase of ontogenesis, in the course of the differentiation of "I" and "others" (Köcski, 1976, 1977; Garai and Köcski, 1976, I978; Köcski and Garai,1978).

2) Positional differences in the categorization of high-school pupils occupying various positions in the system of relationships within the class (Járó and Veres, 1975; Veres, Járó and Erós, 1975a; Járó and Veres,1976a,1976b; Veres,1976a).

3) Categorizational mediation of the change of social stratum in young workers coming to town from the country. Possibilities for intluencing the categorization by cultural means (Veres, 1975, 1976,1977a,1977b).

4) Deficient social and generational categorization as a cause of suicide in the period of growing up (Keleti,1976a,1976b).

Work on these themes has, of course, attained different levels of conceptualization and of exploration of facts. Currently, all the investigations conducted by members of this group are case studies or structurally oriented field research since earlier attempts at experiments failed and were abandoned.

Empirical work within the production-centered-psychological approach, whether carried out by recording observations in life situations as in a diary, or by interviews, questionnaires or unfinished stories, is always so designed as to isolate the episodes of self-definition from the natural flow of complex events, and to allow positional and semiotic analyses by comparing the signs used by the persons with the objective structure of the situation.

Recent field studies have used a production-centered psychological approach, not only as a device of cognition but of social praxis as well: our studies in a high sehool and in a workers" hostel introduced the method of social psychological and personality-psychological "catalysis" aiming at establishing the groups" self-reflection.

2. Theoretical-rnethodological research

Part of the work in the Department is done by independent methods of theory construction and methodological critique of theories, which is a type of tool that has also appeared in other sciences (physics, biology) at a given stage of their development.

The aim of this work is to develop a personality psychology independent of general psychology· (cf. Garai, 1968; 1969b, pp. 142-164; 1970). The task falls into two phases: (1) integrating the individual psychological (from psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, personality dynamics) with the social psychological stock of facts and inter­pretive materials that refer to personality; (2)establishing a synthesis of this independent personality psychology and general psychology. In both phases Lewin's principle of homogenization (see above) is instrumental. Work in the first of these phases is more advanced. The validity of some social psychological theories was tested and a synthesis of the theory of cognitive dissonance and that of social categorization has been arrived at (Garai, 1977a: 1977c; 1977d; Erös and Garai, 1978). As a result of the examination of the social psychological theory of conflicts and of the ideological critique directed against it (see the Deutsch/Plon debate in the European Journal of Social Psychology (1974), the conclusion was that one of the two parties opposed in a conflict will determine the structural frames within which the conflict can be "acted out", but the other party may depending on the historical state of the macro- or the micro-social formation extend the conflict from the level connected with its object (object-level) to the level of the structural framework that determines it (meta-level), positing his owvn principles of organization in opposition to the principle of organization fixed in the existing structure. Through the extension of the conflict to two levels, the formation enters a crisis for which only a radical solution is possible (Garai and Erœs,1976; Garai, 1977).

In a paper belonging to the second phase of this work, Garai (1978) showed that all attempts to understand the whole of mental activity in terms of brain functioning alone lead by necessity to leaving aside those phenomena which have their origin in social or personality factors (such as, for example, the meaning of environmental „stimuli”). At the same time, he pointed out that taking these phenomena into consideration leads to a sort of dualism. As a solution for this dilemma Garai suggested that the territorial mechanisms of supraindividual organization, rather than brain functioning, be regarded as the prime meehanism of these phenomena.

These theoretical activities were supported by a methodological critique of various social psychological and individual psychological theories. It primarily consisted in criticizing the conceptions of society and of personality implied by the different theories, within the framework of the history of ideas and of the critique of ideologies. The first systematic attempt in this direction was made by Erðs in his previously mentioned paper presented at the Visegrád conference (Erős, 1974). In his later studies (1975, 1976a, 1976b, 1977a, 1977b; see also Garai and Erös, 1976; Erós and Garai, 1978) he further developed this type of analysis, also making use of the complex historical material that he had collected during his stay in the United States (1976).

One crucial theme of the historical and ideological-critical studies was the rise of American social psychology and the process in its development by which it ceased to be a „social prophesy” committed to reforms, and became a sort of "social technology" a technique of mass manipulation (see Erós,1977b; Erós and Garai, 1978).

Another central question was related to critical social theory, born in the Europe of the thirties and oriented towards an empirical social psychology, as seen especially in the case of the Freudo-Marxists (Reich, Fromm) and the theorists of the Frankfurt Sehool (Adorno, Horkheimer). Two aspects of critical theory are to be noted here. First, because they are good examples of the consistent critique of the ideological preconceptions of psyehology as well as of the social sciences in general (see Adorno et al, I976, especially Adorno's writings), and second, because they demonstrate that the ideas of critical theory are themselves not free from certain lapses into ideological functions. This double aspect is best revealed in Adorno's and his associates" work, The Authoriturianpersonality, which is in some respects critical theorists" greatest achievement in social psychology. Nonetheless, the implicit contradictions of this work have furnished possibilities for its "positivist reinterpretation" and in this way for its adaptation to the main trends of American social psychology. (On the set of coñtradictions in this work and the process of reinterpretation, see Erœs,1977b).

Some preliminary results of research in progress in the Department of Personality Psychology were presented in 1977 at the session commemorating the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Institute of Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (see Erős,1978; Garai and Köcski,1978; Járó and Veres,1978).


1. The term, the humanities is traditionally used in Hungary (as well as in other Central European countries) to denote the historical and social sciences as opposed to the exact sciences.

2. Of the members of the Department, Garai took part in the work of the International Organizing Committee of the Conference, and Erős participated in the preparatory work.

Marxian personality psychology


A psychological meta-theory deriving its assumptions from Marx's materialist philosophy of history and applied to the historical development and social relations of personality. Its philosophical basis, historical materialism, unlike other materialist philosophies, takes neither nature nor the spirit as its principle. Its starting point is production, which is just as much defined by spatio-temporal dimensions as is nature. and just as creative as is mind.

S. Rubinstein (1959) derived four principles from this philosophy. These principles were to be applied both to a Marxian activity psychology and to personality psychology. They are:

(1) the principle of objectivity — mental phenomena refer to objects in the space-time of the material world;

(2) the principle of activity — mental dispositions develop in the activity they regulate;

(3) the principle of historicity — mental states bear the marks of their history; and

(4) the principle of sociality — mental characteristics are socially determined.

None of these principles, considered separately, is characteristic of a Marxian psychology. It is their combination which is specific to the psychological meta-theory derived from historical materialism. This combination is brought about by a specific interpretation of each principle:

l. Object is conceived as manufactured by an activity of man and, reciprocally, is claimed to be an “inorganic body” of man in producing together that activity (Marx: Economic and philosophical manuscripts).

2. Activity is pictured as a necessary everyday cycle of production and reproduction. The cycle is interrupted .occasionally by moments of free:creation of new values that are introduced to be reproduced by subsequent necessary everyday cycles of activity.

3. History is conceived as composed of autonomous human acts restricted by social laws. These social laws are actualized by the autonomous acts of others.

4. Society is pictured as based upon relations ot object appropriation and as establishing property relations (Marx: Grundrisse).

Rubinstein did not apply his four principles in their entirety. He considered the personality as an internal mediator of external determinants and as originating from other external determinants internalized in the past. According to his metaphor the personality of a man is his “socially determined nature”. This pattern is highly typical of allegedly Marxian personality psychologies. The personality psychology outlined by Rubinstein turned out to be an amalgam of a social cognitivism and a social behaviorism. It deseribes the emergence of a personality by the notion of socialization and the social functioning of a personality is described in terms of attitude. For the proximate but not identical central notion of set in Uznadse's theory, of social interaction, of communication. etc. None of these points alone is particularly characteristic of a Marxian approach.

In other cases the application of some of the above principles in isolation from others results in a kind of psychoanalytic personality theory. The central problem of a marxizing personality theory of psychoanalysis is the interdependence of the personalily structure and the structure of societv. For W. Reich the structure of a repressive society determines an authoritarian personality structure through sexual repression in family education. E. Fromm claims that it is the structure of a competitive socieiy based on private property that by frustrating a need for secure relationships with others, fixes the personality on a dependent level as “escaping from freedom”.

A. Jozsef states that the distortion ot the personalities of both the capitalist and the worker is determined by the fundamental distortion of the capitalist society. The society is both the subject and the object of both production (that is in the process of production reproduces itself) and socialization. On the other hand, the person as worker is only the subject of production and the object of the socialization, as opposed to the person as capitalist being only the subject of socialization and merely the object of the production. This produces neurotic personalities of either a mere social object with only technical intercourse and no orgasm or a mere social subject with only impotent libido.

In contrast to the above considerations for H. Marcuse it is not the structuce of an actually given social relation (e.g. between capitalists and workers in a capitalist society) that more or less distorts the structuce of a personality and still less does it depend on how repressive or liberal is that social relation. It is civilization which is opposed as such to Eros and transforms it by repression into aggression.

A group of followers of Lacan and Althusser (Bruno et al., 1973) hold that besides nature the only reality is discourse and its structure. There exists a strict distinction between the discourse of the subject and that of other while there are no principles regulating that distinction on the level of a meta-language. The meta-level relation of proper discourse and the personality distorted by it both are but an ideology. The ideology is the discourse produced by a dominating place in the discourse structure but this ideology presents itself either as corresponding to an objective reality or as a mere subjective belief system of individual selves that may be opposed by that of others.

It was in controversy with such theories as well as the humanistic philosophy (Garaudy) going back to the early Marx that Lucien Sève (1969) advanced his psychological meta-theory of personality. He rejected the basic thesis of the theories of Reich, Marcuse and so on sketched above,

That here is an alienation of the personality distorted by empirically given social relations from its intrinsic specifically human generic essence (Gattungswesen) given in advance of any social relations. Nevertheless he argued that there is an essence of human personality. It is neither intrinsic nor given in advance but is borne by the historically developed totality of production relation. Furthermore, it is neither generic nor intimately characteristic of a given individual but the totality of production relations of is in a special way addressed to each xxxnt the particularities (i.e. classes) of that totality. For example. the human essence that characterizes a worker in a capitalist society as a personality is defined by the relations in which his personal power is reproduced as a concrete use value producing abstract exchange value for the capitalist and, at the same time, as an abstract axchange value producing concrete use value for the worker himself.

L. Garai and his team (1979) tried to extend the validity of such a production-centered approach to those aspects of the historical development and social relationship of personality which are not directly connected with production as such.

For that purpose they adopted L. Vygotsky's idea (19xxx8) of analysing a mental context according to a paradigm derived from an economic context. Vygotsky's basic argument was that man utilizes as psychic tools signs that are psychic products of his previous activity and as such constitute a special (i. e. mental) category of means of production brought into being as products of production. A. Leontiev (1969) set out from a psychology describing man's activity as oriented to such an object taken both as a means and a product and attempted to derive from it a personality psychology that describes the agent of that activity with his characteristic hierarchy of motives.

Garai took personality psychology as independent of activity psychology which has a special mental context to be anzalysed according to a paradigm obtained from another economic context. i. e. that of class relations (Garai 1977). The main paradigmatic point of class relations is claimed to be the representation of the common law of different classes   by only one of them. Neither the detention of personality differences nor finding out general law xxs of the functioning of personalities is supposed to interest Marxian personality psychology. It investigates how during its development a personality establishes its differences and similarities according to or in contrast with a common pattern represented by someone with reference to whom the personality also has to distinguish or identify itself. At the beginning the elaboration of nuances of identities and differences of individuals with regard to a social situation into categorical identities and difierences (see SOCIAL CATEGORIZATION) is not presented by a series of conscious acts but takes place by means of an elaboration of physical entities such as sex, height or color as well as all kinds of body activity into signs. These entities unconsciously symbolize by the identities and differences of their structures. the simultaneously elaborated identities and differences of social structures (Kocski and Garai l97xxxxx). The emergence of the conscious self is then mediated by the confrontation between the personality's self-definition and general laws represented by others.

A further point to be stressed by a Marxian personality psychology is related to the economic fact that the part of the physical world produced by men as means of production may be expropriated by a class that becomes, by virtue of its property, the class representing the common pattern for all the classes. This has implications for personality development: (1) the above mental elaboration of physical entities into signs that mediate the unconscious mental elaboration of the personality's social world is pre-formed by the property relations of that social world; (2) so is the emergence of the conscious self since it is mediated by the confrontation of the personality's (unconscious) self definition with that property-related common pattern. Thus, it is stated that personality development in a socialization process depends upon the individual's privileged or under-privileged position with regard to the property relations interpreted either in a strict economic sense or paradigmatically. The main paradigmatic point of property relations is that the property-condition of occupying the position privileged to frame a law or pattern of socially approved personality is establlshed by that law itself (Garai 1977). Those in an under-privileged position can ensure their personality development only by introducing radical changes into their self-establishing social world.

Personality development is not conceived by Marxian personality psychology as a joint effect of biological maturation and a social shaping process which a passive individual would be submitted to. Instead, it is represented  as the result of an individual's activity organized according to the paradigm of the work activity: the need-motivated reproduction cycles are interrupted by life crises which may provoke creative inventions and these become patterns to be reproduced in renewed cycles by the force of a specifically human need for a need-free activity.

The production-centered meta-theory of Marxian personality psychology is the same as that applied in Marxian activity psychology. Hence there is a real possibility of basing an integrated psychology on this meta-theory  instead of reproducing the traditonal distinction between a “scientrflc” (Naturwissenschaftliche) and a “humanistic” (geisteswissenschaftliche) psychology.


Althusser, Louis 1969: Freud and Lacan. New left review 55. 4R-65.

Bruno, Pierre et al. 19ő3: La psychologie sociale: une utopie en crise. la N”ouvelle Critique /2. Ó 2- 7H: /4. 2 7 -2H.

Fromm. Erich 19/3: Marx's conccpt ó(man. New York: F. Ungar.

Carai, Laszló 19Ó Ó: Conflict and the ecnnomical paradigm. llialectic.s and humanism 2. 4T- 5H. et al. 1974: Towards a social psychology of personatity: Ilevelopment and current perspectives of a school of social psychology in Hungany. .Socialscienr.e information 18.1.13 Ó-6/.

Józset. Attila 19 i 2: Hegel. Marx. Freud. Action poétique 49. b8-75.

Köcski. Margit. and CGarai. Lásszló 147H: Les débuts de la catégorisation scocíiale et les manifesrations verbales. Une étude Iongitudinale. 1angage et société 4. 3-3⁄.

Leontiew, Alexei: Problems of mental development. Joint Publications Research Service, Washington, 1969

Marcuse. Herbert 14/2: »rcrsundcivílisaticrn. New York: Handom House.

Reich. Wilhelm 197l0: Thr musspsychology ó Nc,vw York: Simon and Schuster.

Rubinetein. Sergei 1959: Principles and ways of mental development [In Russian]. Moscow: Publisbing House of Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Lucien Seve: Marxisme et la théorie de la personnalité. Iaris: Editions Sociales.

Vygotsky. Lev, 1962: Thought and languagc. Cambridge: MtT Press 1978;: Mmd in society. The development óf higher psgcholoq, ical processes. Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press. 

The Principle of Social Relations and the Principle of Activity**

Discussion of whether external factors or internal genetic factors determine progress in a person's mental development runs like a red herring throughout the history of psychology.

In foreign, especially American, psychology of the '40s and '50s, when behaviorism reigned, it seemed that the environmentalists had finally carried the day. The mid-'60s, however, witnessed a revival of nativist ideas, which seeped through the logical "cracks" in the theory of learning. For example, Miller counted how many reinforcements would be necessary to shield all possible correct propositions 2-60 words long from grammatical errors. It was found that a person would need 103 reinforcements per second throughout his life to acquire, through training techniques, the competence to speak correctly in terms of grammar.'

Continuing in the same vein, Chomsky concluded that a person must acquire competence "on the basis of the finite and random experience associated with language to reproduce and understand an infinite number of new propositions" [34. P. 7]. This competence is a language acquisition device that itself is not acquired, but innate. 2

Chomsky's ideas spread rapidly, as did the ideas propounded somewhat later by Jensen [43], who found that the IQs of children were correlated so closely with the IQs of their parents that 80% of intelligence could be considered hereditary. Since this correlation is the same for blacks and for whites, the proponents of these ideas postulated that the 15%-20% difference in favor of whites found between the IQs of the two populations must be explained by differences in hereditary factors, not by different living and learning conditions.

The resurgence of nativism has not been as prominent in the specialized literature of the socialist countries. Nevertheless, a similar shift in emphasis is evident in the latest revival of the twofactor theory (see, for example, [18]; see also the critique of this theory by Luria [19]). This theory counterposes an innate biological factor not to external influences in general, but only to the external influences of the "social environment."

The inconsistency of the concept of “social environment”

In the scientific literature the "social environment" is interpreted either as a factor mediating the relationship between a person's internal and external worlds or as a special part of the external world. When it is seen as a mediating link, the "social environment" serves as a concrete vehicle of general sociocultural (in particular, speech) experience. The social environment viewed in this way is often identified with a person's "microclimate" (for the child this is the narrow circle of close adults), and serves as a model for the person, who becomes like it through imitation or other forms of social learning.

According to the postulates of general psychology, objects stand counterposed to the person. Their interaction, through which the person learns, can be mediated by another person, through his messages and instructions. If as a result of successful learning the messages and instructions of the teacher have been assimilated by the learner, the teacher can be excluded from the situation.

Child psychologists (W. Pryer, W. Stern) and linguists concerned with the learning of speech and language (A. I. Gvozdev [6]) have pointed out that sentences that cannot be acquired by a child without the intervention of an adult because their meaning changes in the very act of "assimilation" are also exceptions. These are turns of phrase containing what, in the Anglo-Saxon literature on linguistics, is called a shifter, or in French, a deictique (e.g., a personal pronoun). According to the observations of these authors, if a child learns these phrases or locutions in same way as he learns those that are based on the name objects, he will, for a time, apply the personal pronouns your, etc., to himself and, correspondingly, the first personal pronouns to other people. Some authors (A. I. Gvozdev and others) have observed that in addition to personal pronouns, are other key words that function in the same way: a child for example, use the expression Take! in a way that is contrary to its meaning, i.e., meaning give when he asks for an object.

In our opinion, such relations in a discursive situation are not the exception, but the rule.

Following French linguists and psycholinguists [28] (see their psychogenetic interpretation in Bruner [31]), we us term discourse to refer to a kind of communication in which the statements of each of the interlocutors are determined position they occupy in a social structure, not just by the o about which they are speaking. The primary function of the symbols used in discourse as such is not labeling objects, but categorizing people with respect to the particular social situation correspondingly, categorizing social situations with respect to the particular person.

The concept of discourse enables us to analyze speech sequences that would be absurd without it (for example, "This is mine?"-"No, it is mine."). Compare this, for instance, with meaningless sequences of a nondiscursive nature: "This is a table?"-"No, this is a table." In the first sequence, in contrast  to the second, the positions occupied by the interlocutors social structure must be taken into account. Hence, the other (teaching) person is not eliminated in the process of learning  speech even after it has been completed since he is the vehicle of that conjugate position that thereafter must be taken into account.

The concept of "social environment" is often used in the sense of a unique part of the external world, as in the terminology of behaviorism. This interpretation3 is fashionable in the literature and is gaining currency in our countries as although it suffers from an irreparable defect. To be sure, this defect is latent because by 'society" the totality of individuals is meant. In such a conception, a "particular person" (or at least a subjective factor) and "other people" representing his "objective" social environment can be distinguished from one another; we can then study how the person adapts to the social environment or how he manipulates it through social skills through social learning.

Such questions are common to all theories of learning regardless of whether it is objects interacting with an individual subject e as the elements in the environment or whether the latter are human beings.

However, this latent defect in interpreting the social environment as part of the external world immediately becomes patent as IS we begin to regard 'society" not as a totality of individuals but as a totality of relations among them (Marx). Then, even applied to the simplest relations (for example, of the type Is power over B"), the question of whether they are part of the internal or the external world of the particular person loses its g. If this is not taken into account and an attempt is made to situate social relations in either the internal world or the external world, we end up with a logical confusion of the type that , for example, from the following statement by Tajfel and co-authors: "Intergroup behavior is possible only if one first a the aspect of the social environment that is important icular relation, using any social criterion for demarcatfrom `them,' the in-group from the out-group" [51. P. 151.

According to the authors of this statement, social categorization is done by the "I" of the given person; and since the "I" is .y part of the group "we," which the above postulate situates in the environment, i.e., the external world, we find that the "I," being part of a part of its external environment, is outside itself (see L. Garai [41]).

Adhering to the concept "social environment" has hindered the potential development of contemporary currents in psychology, particularly the theory of social categorization discussed above (see [29,30,47,49,50,51,52] and, especially, [48], in which the latest achievements are summarized), which stresses not individuals, but the relations among them. These contemporary currents are attempting, whether they realize it or not, to offer a new approach to the old problem we have outlined above. We have indicated how nativism emerges from the inability of environmentalism to explain mental development (in particular, in the child's development of speech).4

Theories that define society as a totality of relations can help to rescue psychological interpretations from the closed circle of "nativism or environmentalism." These theories go beyond the general logic of opposites according to which all that is not present a priori in the individual organism comes from without and all that is not assimilated from the external environment necessarily is latent within. If a social relation is part of neither a person's internal nor external world, the mental product that results from such a relation cannot, in the strict sense, be attributed either to external factors (and learning) or to internal, genetic factors (and maturation).

Let us clarify this with an example. In socialization a child must adapt not to society in general, but to a specific social structure, let us say, to a two-child family. But the structure of a two-child family is created by the fact that the child became the second child in it. His existence and the concrete events of this existence define the concrete tasks of socialization. For example, the task of "defending oneself" against the jealousy of a brother two years older would not arise if the child himself did not provoke that jealousy (even if only by the fact of his very existence). But to be, for example, a second child, or to be a child of the same sex as the older sib, is neither an internal genetic property nor an external stimulus. Since an attainment in mental development can be determined by the very fact of being, for instance, a second child of the same sex as the first child in the family, it cannot be considered as being present from the outset or as being the result of acquisition.

The theory of activity and the problem of social factors

The "discovery" of the social relation did not first enable psychology to go beyond the logic common to nativism and environmentalism. This possibility also exists in the psychological theory of activity.

Activity, in the conception of A. N. Leont'ev [11-14] and P. Ya. Gal'perin [2,3], is not a function of some strictly internal mental or physiological mechanism, but a process organized by objects in the external environment. On the other hand, an object is not a source of strictly external, physical or cultural, influences on the organism: only that aspect of only that factor of the external world that may be included in the structure of an activity at a particular stage of phylogeny and ontogeny can function as an object.

Thus, object-related activity is not the manifestation of a priori internal genetic properties of the organism or an effect of external influences of the environment. Nor is it a "dialectic" unity of these two factors.

Leont'ev has written:

. . .The principal distinction underlying classic Cartesian-Lockean psychology, a distinction between the external world, the world of extension to which external material activity belongs, on the one hand, and the world of internal phenomena and processes of consciousness, on the other, must yield its place to another distinction: between objective reality and its idealized, transformed forms (verwandelte Formen), on the one hand, and, on the other, the activity of the subject, which includes both external and internal processes. But this means that the split of activity into two parts or aspects, presumed to belong to two completely different spheres, is eliminated. [14. Pp. 99-100]

Both possibilities of surmounting the logic common to both nativism and environmentalism were present in Vygotsky's theory [1] of the development of thought and language. He related the origin of thought to the development of object-related activity, but the origin of language to the development of social relations, demonstrating that these two genetic roots were independent of one another in phylogeny, but were mutually dependent on one another in ontogeny (for more details on this, see L. Garai [40. Pp. 112-42]). The representatives of Vygotsky's school went on successfully to develop the psychology of object-related activity, and its relationship to the psychology of social relations was assumed to be self-evident. 5

Thus, in developing the general theory of activity, Leont'ev stressed that the activity of a particular person is always part of a system of social relations and does not exist independently of those social relations. In society man does not simply find external conditions to which he must adapt his activity; social relations themselves contain the motives and the goals of human activity, its means, and its methods. Leont'ev pointed out:

Marx's discovery, a discovery that was radical for psychological theory, was that consciousness is not the manifestation of some cosmic capacity of the human brain. . .but the product of those special, i.e., social, relations into which people enter. . . Furthermore, the processes generated by those relations posit objects in the form of subjective images in the human brain, i.e., in the form of consciousness. [14. P. 31-Emphasis added.]

Leont'ev ascribed major importance to the circumstance that "a person's relation" to the objective world around him is mediated by his relations to people, in particular, the relations of the child to the world of objects is initially always mediated by the actions of an adult.

The possibilities of development of the higher mental functions of a human being are defined by the place, independent of him, he occupies in the system of social relations. Theoretical postulates regarding the significance of a person's involvement in social relations are generally accepted by Soviet psychologists, but these relations themselves have rarely been the object of specific psychological studies.

A considerable number of attempts have been made in the last decade to reconceptualize the social relation as a psychological problem that had to be resolved once and for all to overcome the barrier posed by the logic common to nativism and environmentalism. The key concept in these attempts for Soviet psychology has been the concept of communication.

This concept was first developed in the sphere of activity, i.e., it was conceptualized as a variety of object-related activity: "Communication, like all activity, is objective. The subject or object of the activity of communication is another person, a partner in joint activity" [15. P. 237].

But we must regard as somewhat exaggerated Leont'ev's assertion that 'soviet psychologists are agreed in their conception of communication as a type of activity" [10. P. 112]. This, in our view, is difficult to bring into accord with, say, the following statement by B. F. Lomov, quoted in the above-cited article by Leont'ev [10. P. 107] :

The actual material life-style of a person, which determines his mental makeup, is not totally exhausted by his object-related practical activity, which is only one aspect of the life-style or behavior of a person in the broad sense. Another aspect is communication as a specific form of interaction of a person with other people. [16. P. 18]

And further we read:

The concept of "activity" comprises only one aspect of man's social being: subject-object relations . . . but is the material life of a person, his being, completely and wholly defined by the system of subject-object relations? Evidently not. A person's social being includes not only his relations to the objective world (the natural world and the world created by mankind) but also his relation to people with whom he is in direct or mediated contact. . . In his individual development, a person acquires what mankind has accumulated not only in the process of activity but also in the process of communication, in which the system of subject-subject relations is formed, developed, and expressed. [17. Pp. 125-26Emphasis added.]

Thus, Lomov supports the position that communication is not a variety of activity, but exists parallel with it on an equal footing. The argument in this regard is interesting: social being is not exhausted by the system of subject-object relations, i.e., relations to the world of objects, but also includes relations of "this person" (to people) (persons other than "this person"), i.e., subject-subject relations. But is it valid to identify the object with things, but "this (individual) person" and other (individual) "people" with the subject? We think not.

Let us look at the definition given in the [Philosophical encyclopedia]: "Object-that which stands counterposed to the subject, toward which the object-related practical and cognitive activity of the latter is directed" [23. P. 123]. According to this definition, since it is not the world of objects, but "people" that stand counterposed to the subject, these people will also be an object toward which "the object-related practical and cognitive activity of the latter will be directed."

On the other hand, subject is defined as follows: 'subject-the vehicle of object-related practical activity and cognition (the individual or social group), a source of activeness directed toward the object" [23. P. 154]. According to this definition, "other people" can function as a subject with regard to "this person," but only when they, as a "social group," function together as a 'source of activeness directed toward the object."

But whether or not "other people" are counter-posed as an object to "this person" or form a general collective subject with him, the question of the subject may still merely be one of a "relative" concept. This means that in speaking about the subject, it is necessary to indicate the factor with regard to which the individual or social group alone can function as a subject. This may be an object that (according to the above definitions) is the target of the activity (object-related practical or cognitive) of the particular subject. The concept of communication fits completely into such a conceptualization since communication is not a fundamentally new factor in terms of activity.

There is also another way to conceptualize the concept of the subject, and it truly does go beyond (as Lomov requires) the categorical framework of the theory of activity, although this second possibility will require focusing on the 'subject-predicate" relation rather than on 'subject-object" interaction.

A predicate is what is ascribed to the subject in a logical statement. A property (in particular, a social property) characterizing the subject in itself (for example, "Ivan is Russian") may be ascribed; or a relation (in particular, a social relation) characterizing two or more subjects relative to one another (for example, "Ivan is subordinate to Andrei" or "Ivan thinks Andrei is Anna's husband") may be ascribed.

We should observe that the subject-predicate relation is an element of philosophical (logical), not psychological, conceptualization. This comment also applies to subject-object interaction. Nonetheless, we are familiar with such a psychological conceptualization of a philosophical theory (namely, the one we find in the works of Karl Marx) of subject-object interaction, which appears in the theory of object-related activity.

A research team working at the Institute of Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the '70s undertook the task of working out a psychological conceptualization of the philosophical theory (implicit in the works of Marx) of the 'subject-predicate" relation, and thus to devise a psychological theory of the development of the individual social relation, conceiving of it as a an extrapolation of activity theory in Vygotsky's conceptual system (for more details of this undertaking see [42]).

Let us attempt in general outline to show how a theory of the social relation that complements the theory of activity can help to overcome the flawed logic common to both nativism and environmentalism.

Social relation and social categorization

A social relation is frequently understood to be an emotional normative relation (or attitude) of "this person" (I, the self) to "other persons" and to material or intellectual objects pertaining to the person in some way (V. N. Myasishchev [20,21]). This conception is quite satisfactory within the framework of 'subject-object" interaction, but adds nothing to its psychological conceptualization (although this is sometimes claimed). On the contrary, an emotional normative attitude receives a scientific explanation (not simply a phenomenological description) only in the theory of activity, which conceptualizes 'subject-object" interaction in psychological terms (see Leont'ev's theory of personal sense).

Our understanding of a social relation, as we have pointed out above, is based not on 'subject-object interaction," but on a 'subject-predicate" relation. The relation is that of some predicate to some subject (or a subject to a predicate).

This definition does not mean, as may appear at first glance, that a relation is derivative from a logical operation in which the act of relating takes place. The act of relating a predicate to a subject or a subject to a predicate can take place not only in logical propositions (for example, "Ivan is subordinate to Andrei," etc.) but in any active or passive expression of the subject (e.g., in the fact that Ivan behaves as if he is subordinate to Andrei, and also in the fact that people treat Ivan as if he were subordinate to Andrei). At first glance it may appear that if we have the concepts "Ivan's behavior" and "dealing with Ivan," we come, in a roundabout way, to that activity (in which Ivan then figures either as a subject or an object) we rejected as an all-embracing principle. Actually, this is not so. The fact of being subordinate to someone is not a psychological, but a sociological, fact. This sociological relation may be expressed in an activity that, in terms of its psychological determinants, is independent of that relation. The relation itself acquires psychological significance only if it is subjected to a special psychological process called social categorization.

The prehistory of the concept of "social categorization" goes back, strictly speaking, to gestalt psychology, i.e., to the discovery that in some cases perception distorts a shape presented to our contemplation in such a way that we disregard it-for example, certain aberrations in some typical shape.

Later, Tajfel & Wilkes [52] found that perceptual distortion that disregards nuances takes place not just in the field of attraction of typical shapes: it can also be produced artificially when shapes differing in nuances are divided into two groups and each of these groups is marked by some symbol. If, for example, line segments increasing geometrically in length (i.e., uniformly for perception) are divided into two groups and the shorter are marked, say, by the letter A and the longer by the letter B, perception distorts the length of the segments so arranged, minimizing the differences between the length of lines belonging to the same group and exaggerating considerably the small difference between the longest of the short segments and the shortest of the long segments. This distortion of a perceptual image is, of course, not a conscious process, but takes place spontaneously if different symbols are applied to environmental factors to separate them into categories and hence combine them into different groups.

Social categorization takes place in this process in a spontaneous way, not by means of some conscious act of thought. It is a special case of the above-described act in which small differences, receptivity to which a person either minimizes or exaggerates, exist not between factors in the environment, but between factors constituting a system of which the person doing the active categorization is himself a part (see Garai [41]). Tajfel argues:

The substantial difference between judgments applied to physical and social stimuli lies in the fact that in the latter case, categorizations are often related to differences in values. . .This interaction between socially derivative value differentials, on the one hand, and the cognitive "mechanics" of categorization, on the other, becomes especially notable in all social divisions between "us" and "them," i.e., in all social categorizations in which distinctions are made between a person's own group and external groups that are compared with it. [49. P. 62]

Moreover, in social categorization specific symbols are used to allocate factors to different categories. In an original experiment [51], symbols with regard to which categorization of two groups was carried out were constructed by the subjects' arranging abstract pictures in order of their preference. They had initially been told that some pictures had been painted by Klee and others by Kandinsky. After this arranging, the experimenter described some of the randomly chosen subjects as "people preferring Klee" and others as "people preferring Kandinsky." Under the influence of such labels, which had no preliminary value for the subjects, the tendency to minimize the differences within the categories and to exaggerate differences between categories showed up both in perception and in the subjects' behavior.

Thus, by social category we mean a real similarity among socially important factors to which a mental aspect is attributed by application of some symbol of social categorization. At the same time, the difference between these factors and those to which other symbols are applied is accentuated.

Categorization of social situations in time

As we have seen, "socially important factors" may be different people participating in the same social situation. At the psychological level, the act of social categorization then stresses the real similarity or differences among these people in terms of the particular social situation.

But these factors are organized also in time: diverse social situations alternate in the biography of the same person.

If roles are ascribed in a specific scene to actors each of whom then performs his role in achieving his goals, these factors, taken together, characterize the specific social situation.

These four characteristics rarely vary all at the same time in a person's life activity, but neither remain they all collectively constant for a long time. A person deals with variations in some characteristics while other characteristics of a social situation persist unchanged through social categorization. Here, too, categorization takes place by some social situations' being combined through symbols, often themselves insignificant, into one category, diminishing or even eliminating for the mind the actual differences perceived among them and, at the same time, exaggerating to the categorical level their actual differences relative to other life situations.

In our opinion, personality, as part of the subject matter of psychology, is, in the mentally processed biography of the individual, manifested as a system of successive alterations in social situations. By dint of this processing, the personality is able to preserve its self-identity psychologically despite factual changes in some characteristics of these social situations. The same categorical process enables the personality to become psychologically different even when some characteristics of the social situation are in fact retained.

In his current life circumstances, a person finds all the characteristics of a situation objectively determined. For scenes and actors (when a situation has already been created), this is evidently more or less easily understood. But in terms of the goals of activity and role ascription, we are more inclined to consider them not as objectively given, since our everyday experience shows that each person voluntarily poses for himself his own goal (in the worst of cases, he fails to fulfill it); but actors can "negotiate" over role ascription (some may even refuse a role, foreseeing the hopelessness of any "transaction").

Despite the evidence of everyday experience, Freud [24,25] considered both the goal of activity and the distribution of roles in a social situation to be objectively determined. He believed that a person's sexual instinct (the libido) and, later, death instinct were objective (i.e., independent of consciousness) determinants of goals. Freud also thought that the distribution of roles in the Oedipus triangle was an objective determinant inasmuch as in this role ascription there could be no "negotiations" about who played the role of the father, the role of the mother, and the role of the son, respectively (this was rigorously controlled by the objective system of cultural prohibitions).

In our opinion, the discovery that the goal of activity and the distribution of roles in a social situation are objectively determined can be divorced from Freud's formulation of this discovery. An indication that this separation does not touch the essence of the discovery is that Freud himself made this distinction when he included the death instinct among his determinants of goals and transferred the level determining role distribution from the father to the superego. But this did not modify his position that the goal of activity and role distribution in a current situation are objectively determined by something. Freud's successors, from Adler [27] to Lacan [45], have at various times endeavored to redetermine this “something," leaving the assumption that it was an objective determinant untouched.

We should also point out that the notion that the "forces of production from without, and the instincts within," to use the words of the Hungarian poet and philosopher Attila Iozef, must also be ranked among the objective determinants of the goals of ractivity. Some of the latest programs stress that it is necessary to rank both "production relations" and the Oedipus triangle among the objective determinants of role distribution in a social situation (see [37]).

Thus, Freud thought that all the characteristic features of a social situation were objectively determined. Situations differ in nuances from one another with regard to these objectively determined characteristics. The subsequent mental processing of this de facto difference, given in nuances, raises its status to that of a categorical difference or reduces it to categorical similarity. This makes symbols applied to different situations different, and symbols applied to similar situations similar.

A psychological mechanism of the first is, for example, repression, which prevents the person from reproducing the content of consciousness or performing a behavioral act that is necessary for him in the current situation, but is part of a situation different from it: in this case, the inhibited manifestation designates a categorical difference among situations. Similar situations are, on the contrary, symbolized by a content of consciousness or an act of behavior elicited from the requisites of a similar situation by a mechanism of compulsive repetition, despite the goals of the current situation. Freud [24] described people for whom all human affairs always ended in the same way: do-gooders who always managed to offend the recipients of their bounty, however much they might differ from one another; others who many times throughout their lives extolled someone to themselves, and perhaps even publicly, as an authority, but soon rejected that authority themselves and replaced it with another; those in love, for whom all tender relations passed through the same phases, and always wound up the same way; etc.

Freud's discovery in this regard is ultimately that all of a person's physical displays and phenomena of consciousness should be interpreted as special symbols, and that the key to this interpretation is given in the similarities and differences between the present social situation and past social situations of the same person, who makes these similarities and differences categorical by means of such symbols. The social categorization of different people relative to the same social situation also takes place by means of such symbols.

In our view, the flaw in Freud's theory derives from his making this [symbolic] aspect an absolute. If this is disregarded, another aspect is also raised to the status of an absolute, namely, one in which physical manifestations function merely as activity, and the phenomena of consciousness are only the guiding substrate of this activity. Yet both display the already present properties of subject and object and do not create new ones by relating a predicate to the subject. To clarify the ontogeny of psychological structures, the significance of the first aspect must be taken into account (see Kocski & Garai [44] and, especially, Kocski's dissertation [7]), just as the role of the aspect of activity must be taken into account to explain the continued production of mental phenomena.

The flawed logic common to both nativism and environmentalism can be overcome only by a synthesis of the principle of activity and the principle of social relation. We must restore this synthesis as it exists in the works of Vygotsky. For this, it is important for investigation of the psychological problems of social relations to overcome their lag relative to investigation of the psychological problems of activity.


1. Jerome Bruner [32], citing this calculation, ironically notes that this figure may seem a little inflated, in which case one could choose a rate ten times less: 102 reinforcements per second.

2. N. Chomsky's theory of the innate basis of language was first clearly formulated in 1957 [33]. See also [35,36].

3. For the elaboration of the conceptual apparatus of social behaviorism, see G. H. Mead [46] and [8]. Especially interesting is his teaching that between the self and significant others there occurs symbolic interaction, that is, interpersonal communication. In this mutual flow of beliefs, the self is constituted, a conception that is often encountered in modern thinking about communication.

4. It is well known that early environmentalism (for example, early behaviorism), in its turn, stemmed from the inability of nativistic theories to explain the plasticity of animal behavior.

5. See the chapter "Relations of the personality-Self-evident or a problem?" in Garay [40. Pp. 142-59]. See also [4,5,22,38,42].


1. Vygotsky, L. S. [Thought and language]. Moscow and Leningrad, 1934. 324 pp.

2. Gal'perin, P. Ya. [Development of research in the formation of mental acts]. In [Psychological science in the USSR]. Moscow: APN RSFSR, 1959. Vol. 1, pp. 441-69.


3. Gal'perin, P. Ya. [Introduction to psychology]. Moscow: MGU, 1976. 150 pp.

4. Garai, L. [A historical materialist approach to the problem of specifically human needs]. Yop. Psikhol., 1966, No. 3, pp. 61-73.

5. Garai, L. [Historical materialism and the personality]. Yop. Filosof., 1969, No. 8, pp. 19-30.

6. Gvozdev, A. N. [Problems in the study of children's speech]. Moscow, 1961. 472 pp.

7. Kocski, M. [Position in a social situation and child mental development (A longitudinal study)]. Candidate's dissertation. Moscow: MGU, 1981. 200 pp.

8. Kon, I. S., & Shalin, D. I. [The world and the problem of the human self]. Yop. Filosof., 1969, No. 12, pp. 85-96.

9. Leont'ev, A. A. [The psychology of communication]. Tartu, 1974. 220 pp.

10. Leont'ev, A. N. [Communication as a topic of psychological study]. In [Methodological problems of social psychology]. Moscow: "Nauka" Publishers, 1975: Pp. 106-124.

11. Leont'ev, A. N. [Problems of mental development]. Moscow: "Mysl"' Publishers, 1965. 573 pp.

12. Leont'ev, A. N. [The problems of activity in psychology]. Yop. Filosof., 1972, No. 9, pp. 95-109.

13. Leont'ev, A. N. [Activity and consciousness]. Yop. Filosof., 1972, No. 12, pp. 129-40.

14. Leont'ev, A. N. [Activity. Consciousness. Personality]. Moscow: Politizdat, 1975. 304 pp.

15. Lisina, M. I. [Communication of children with adults in the first seven years of life]. In [Problems of general, developmental, and educational psychology]. Moscow, 1978. Pp. 237-53.

16. Lomov, B. F. [The present state and long-term prospects of development of psychology in the USSR in light of the decisions of the 24th Congress of the CPSU]. Yop. Psikhol., 1971, No. 5, pp. 3-19.

17. Lomov, B. F. [Communication as a problem of general psychology]. In [Methodological problems of social psychology]. Moscow, 1975. Pp. 124-36.

18. Lomov, B. F. [The relationship between the social and the biological as a methodological problem of psychology]. Yop. Filosof., 1976, No. 4, pp. 83-95.

19. Luria, A. R. [The place of psychology among the social and biological sciences]. Yop. Filosof., 1977, No. 9, pp. 68-76.

20. Myasishchev, V. M. [The personality and neuroses]. Moscow, 1960. 426 pp.

21. Myasishchev, V. M. [Fundamental problems in and current status of the psychology of human relations]. In [Psychological science in the USSR]. Moscow, 1960. Vol. 2, pp. 110-26.

22. Peteri, V. [Studies of the problems of the personality]. Yop. Filosof., 1971, No. 3, pp. 183-86.

Another crisis in the psychology:
A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom*

Deals with disintegration of the psychology to a science based on experimentation according to the positivistic methodology of natural sciences, and another one founded on interpretation according to the hermeneutic methodology of historical sciences. Considers the possibilities to reintegrate the psychology by a Vygotskian methodology that would deal with signs and tools as functionning within the same structure.

key words: hermeneutic vs positivistic methodology; historical vs natural sciences; Vygotsky, Leontiev; signs and tools

A psychologist in Hungary today does not necessarily want to be acknowledged for what he does as a scientist; actually, the number of those who fancy themselves artists or magicians is growing. On the other hand, those of us who make a point of our theoretical or practical work being of a scientific nature are willing to consider psychology a natural science. Indeed, how could something be scientific if not in the same way as physics, chemistry, biology are?

But how could it be thought otherwise, when in our university studies the foundations of our major are laid by anatomy, physiology, ethology, and we graduate without having had to learn a bit of sociology, linguistics, economics, or history as areas relevant to our special subject. True, some time earlier a subject called Cultural History and Anthropology was introduced in psychologist training at Budapest University, for example, but a more recent reform swept if out of the curriculum.

On the other hand, why on earth should we burden our special training with material seemingly belonging to general culture, if we are firmly convinced that psychology is a natural science — if a science at all. Or, why should we add to a study of such border areas of our science as psycho-physiology, psycho-physics, pharmaco-psychology, the study of such border-disciplines as economic psychology, political psychology, the social psychology of macro-systems in general, the psychology of history or philosophic psychology?

Now, this kind of reasoning in which the arguments mutually validate each other is not only known to be discussed in chapters on logical error in textbooks of logic. It is also evident that the vicious circle is the most unfailing means to get an idea fixed. It comes as no surprise then, that when some thirty years ago I studied the profession, my generation was trained the same in psychology as a natural science.

Two international congresses of psychology: headliner and crisis

This generation began after 1956, actually at the same time as the revival of Hungarian psychology, which had to be revived because in 50s the psychology was considered “an idealistic pseudo-science in the service of imperialistic interests”. Now, for our generation it was self-evident that once this stamp had been removed, we were eager to demonstrate that ours was just as genuine a science as were physics, chemistry or biology, that it studied as real a material system as those natural sciences, and that practical application of scientific knowledge in this domain was as profitable for society as in the rest of the natural sciences.

Thus, we were eager to see these expectations to be clearly substantiated by the 18th International Congress of Psychology held in Moscow in 1966. The congress whose weight was due to the prestige of the great generation of Soviet psychologists (Luria, Galperin, and congress chairman Leontiev) and the attendance of Piaget and Neal Miller who gave plenary lectures, and of Berlyne, Broadbent, Festinger, Fraisse, Grey Walter, Moreno, and Pribram, was clearly focused on brain research. By way of illustrating the expectations that dominated not only our consciousness but even, so to speak, our unconscious, we must mention three lectures that produced, as I remember it, the greatest sensation:

In his plenary lecture Neal Miller[1] reported of experiments in which the functioning of internal organs controlled by the vegetative nervous system had been modified, contrary to a long tradition, by instrumental conditional reflexes. For instance, in an experiment a water-supplying machine was started by the functioning of the salivary glands in one group of thirsty dogs, while in the another group of them the same device was started by the lack of saliva secretion. Thus, in the former group the animals learnt to salivate a lot, but — unlike in the classical experiments of Pavlov — not because water got into their mouths thereby activating the unconditional reflex of saliva secretion, but in order to get water in their mouths. In the latter group, the animals learnt in the same way to moderate their saliva secretion. Since at that time a great role in forming mentally controlled achievements was attributed to instrumental learning operating with the relation between ends and means, and not cause and effect, we listened to Miller's lecture as a forecast of an issue by which the functioning of internal organs controlled by the vegetative nervous system will turn into a mentally controlled performance.

Even greater a sensation was produced at the session chaired by Pribram by papers on what had been recorded by the special literature as the “learning transfer via cannibalism”. When planarians swallowed their fellows in which the experimenting psychologist had previously developed some conditional reflex, they acquired some of the knowledge of their mates in that the reflex at issue was easier (and the opposite reflex was harder) to develop in them than either in the original learner or in those cannibalistic specimens which had swallowed their untrained fellows (they being the control group for testing the original experiment).

The third headliner of the congress reported an experiment dealing with a topic for the social sciences by way of a natural science. It could be considered a natural antecedent of the social power relations in which, in a group of animals, interaction among certain individuals results in selection of a leader of that group. Delgado implanted a microelectrode in the brain of such a leader and, by means of that electrode, was able to control the targeted area's tone that produced just that force necessary for behaviour that ensured leadership. Then one of those subordinated to the leader was taught how to handle a wave-emitting gadget by means of which an impulse could be transmitted to the implanted electrode and, by changing the leader's cerebral tone, tame the leader's behaviour. The whole audience probably aggreed in 1966 in Moscow with this paper's conclusion about the possibility of changing the social order of an entire group — and not just of animals. Most of those who attended the Congress became convinced that the natural sciences could thus direct humanity, as Delgado put it in his monograph's title, Toward a psycho-civilized society.[2]

In such an atmosphere of the Moscow congress it was then no wonder that in his lecture (which became a real social happening of the congress) Moreno declared that attracting and repelling, likes and dislikes were similar to the tendencies manifest in chemical double decomposition,  and that by optimizing those relations' micro-structure the macro-structure of society would be harmonized.

In any case, on behalf of several participants of the International Congress of Psychology in Moscow, I can safely declare that we returned home in genuine euphoria, and that this elation had an intellectual cast: our certainty that psychology was on the right track, the track that had earlier seen running the trains of physics, chemistry or biology and of many other branches of natural science from which psychology differed, if at all, only in the greater degree of complexity of its subject-matter. To quote Pribram, who expressed this feeling of euphoria in his closing address: “It was a truly historic congress. I am confident that future generations, when talking of this event, will declare that here in Moscow we were witnesses to psychology having developed fully as an experimental science.”[3]

In light of this, it indeed came as a surprise that, ten years later, another international congress, the 21st, was opened by Paul Fraisse in Paris with an address whose first sentence was: The field of psychology is in a state of crisis.”

The ten years separating the two congresses had been devoted to professional work dominated both in research, teaching and applied areas of psychology by the certainty we carried away from Moscow. And now we listened to the Congress president stating: “The crisis is more than a paroxysm of growth, however, because it is theory that is really at stake. We are in fact in the midst of a scientific revolution and in Kuhn's terminology, we are working our way toward a new paradigm.”[4] Fraisse claimed the search for the new paradigm was progressing in a direction in which behaviour would be but the raw material of research, man becoming its real subject.

Doubts whether the positivistic method of natural science is suitable for comprehensive study of man are not new. Known are the considerations which prompted Dilthey, for example, to oppose a geisteswissenschaftliche to a naturwissenschaftliche psychology. One of the crucially important considerations was expressed by Dilthey as follows: “The first precondition for a possible Geisteswissenschaft is that I myself am a historical being, that the person who researches  history is identical with the one who makes it.”[5]

I assign fundamental importance to this consideration because, for example, Gadamer derives from it that the experience of the social world cannot be converted into a science by the inductive method of natural sciences[6].

Psychologists are human, too

The condition under which the inductive method of natural science can be applied to an object is that it be separable from the subject who conducts the examination. But if Dilthey is right, the object of historical research is not an object of this kind.

An ornithologist can study birds with an inductive method because he is not a bird himself: no matter what — correct or incorrect — statements he makes about birds, They will never change a single characteristic of any bird. Radically different is the situation in which “the person who researches history is identical with the one who makes it.” When under such circumstances the one who researches history makes some statement about those who make history, it can no longer be claimed that this does not change any characteristic of any history-maker, for there does exist one (i.e. the researcher of history, who is, at the same time, a history-maker) who has one characteristic (i.e. making or not making a statement about history-makers), that has thus been changed.

Of course, the researcher of history does not include himself in the object of research; and if this is a methodologically conscious reservation, not a result of the researcher's ignorance, it is a justified pocedure. But this is not the cas in the natural sciences, in which it is not a question of interpretation whether the ornithologist, for instance, belongs to the class of the studied birds or not. Here, on the other hand, we have at issue a science in which the frames of the inductive elaboration of experiences are always determined by interpretation.

That psychology is in some way related to such interpretative sciences as well as to the natural sciences, that is what is claimed by Dilthey (and since then by many other theoreticians). This link is claimed not to be a secondary or accessory one. As a matter of fact, Dilthey's above cited consideration is effective even if its conclusion is turned around: it may be claimed not only that those who research history are identical with the ones who make it, but also that history-makers are at the same time  history-investigators. For the object of psychology is man in reciprocal interaction with others (and not just with the natural environment); man who, on the one hand, makes history with each of his steps whose precedents he keeps a record of and, on the other, researches history at the same time, in that he does not react to the steps of others as to any natural “stimulus” to which a preliminary learning process has conditioned the response, but by interpreting them in light of the precedents of their prehistory, the traditions of their interactions.

According to the description by the Palo Alto school[7], interaction between A and B can be schematized as follows:

A's message to B contains a metacommunicative instruction on how to interpret it;

B perceives the instruction by interpreting the message, thus the instruction affects the interpretation depending on the interpretation itself; B's response also contains a meta-communicative instruction on how to interpret it, e. g., how to sever those moments that are to be ascribed to the circumstances of the interaction from those for which B assumes responsibility;

A, for his part, perceives this instruction by interpreting B's message, but when interpreting the message, he will be influenced not only by this message mediated by his interpretation, but also by the prehistory of the current stage of their interaction: that A remembers what his former message was in his interpretation — this complex of co‑effective factors will then determine A's counterreply;

B will again react to it according to a similarly complex set of factors, but perceiving the new message will also depend on the interpretation of rules created by the prehistory of the interaction: If this is your answer to my reply, then that will be mine to yours, etc.

Thus the interaction by which those involved in it make history implies in each of its steps an interpretative manπuvering by which they research history.

The ultimate stake of this manπuvering is to define what functions each of us shall fulfil within our interaction: Am I, for instance, the principal of the on-going process or merely its agent? When in marriage therapy the wife tells the therapist she cannot help raising her voice in despair whenever her husband comes home late at night as drunk as a fish, and the husband tells the therapist that he cannot help drinking a glass or two in his despair when his wife keeps shouting at him at the top of her voice — then both of them interpret their interaction as if both of them were but its agent. In another sort of competition, both parties interpret themselves as the principal of the interaction: at an ironic point in their book Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson illustrate this by interpreting the manπuvering of the experimental white rat which might express the events of the experiment this thus: “I have successfully conditioned the experimenting psychologist to give me something to eat whenever I push the pedal.”

This bit of irony derives its earnestness derived from the fact that according to the philosophy of the Palo Alto school a sort of game is played between experimenter and experimentee in which the psychologist is a player just as the experimental subject is, though the former tries to describe this latter as a natural scientist describes his object. When doing so, the experimenter as well as the experimentee do interpret the events and thereby manπuver for managing to turn the other into the object of the processes to be induced in the experiment.

“How hypnotist and subject manπuver each other?” — Haley asks in the title of a chapter of one of his books[8], describing actually not only the hypnotizer's manπuvering but in more general terms games psychologists (be they psychoanalysts or practitioners of, say, short-psychotherapy) play with their patients.

One may argue that the psychotherapist is involved in the state of affairs he is dealing with by practically interfering with it, while the research psychologist, contrary to him, merely observes matters with a purely theoretical interest from the outside. However, Haley's description of the psychotherapist's attitude is weirdly similar to how one could describe that of the research[ing] psychologist's on the basis of one's experiences:

According to Haley's arguing, the theories of hypnosis focuses on the individual, though this phenomenon is entirely linked to the relation. When Messmer evoked the hypnotic trance by means of his magnets it was quite comprehensible that the theory meant to explain the effect of the magnetism upon humans and didn't bother itself too much about the relation of the patients to Messmer. But later when suggestion got into the focus of the research work, one would have supposed the moment had come for a shift toward an investigation into the relations between those giving and those receiving suggestions. But the subject of research kept being the individual and suggestion was depicted the same way as the magnet used to be: like a thing in itself influencing the individual, independently of his relations.

Thus the same is true for the research psychologist. When in 1966 (note that it is the same year in which the psychology as a natural science celebrated its apotheosis at the Moscow International Congress) Rosenthal was publishing his psychological experiments whose object was the psychological experiment itself, it could no longer be denied that in the behavioral sciences a considerable part of the facts produced in the style of natural scientific experiments were laboratory artifacts.[9] What this is due to are the implications discussed by Haley in the above quoted passage: when the psychologist thinks he as the subject of experimentation is manipulating the object of experimentation in the way a natural scientist does, he is, instead, involved in a game in which both players — the experimenter as well as the experimentee — interpret the events and thereby manπuver for managing to turn the other into the object of the processes to be induced in the experiment.

When the psychologist succeeds, the rest of the experiment may well be like a natural scientific investigation, and the produced research result may accordingly have a degree of reliability. Newertheless, the manπuvering phase does differentiate a research of this kind from a natural science investigation that succeeds in experimentation without such a preparatory, interpretative phase.

For a long time psychology failed to notice the necessity of this manπuvering, interpretative preparation; this feature justifies the critical revision of psychology's experimental results achieved without such methodological reflection.

At the beginning of his book Rosenthal gives a long list of cases in which both scholars of natural and of behavioural sciences fall victim to psychosocial issues operating on them, when e. g. they fail to recognize facts that contradict their hypotheses, or fancy the perception with a greater certainty of the happening of the factual event they expect whereas in reality it only occurs with a certain degree of probability. Another group of the cases of distortion listed by Rosenthal include the misinterpretation of correctly observed facts, and in some cases distortion derives from some intention propelled by this or that motive (ambition, colleague's jealousy, assistant's over-zeal, etc.).[10]

However, what may happen to a researcher in psychology is not only what he has in common with the natural science researcher when they lack submitting themselves to the impact of his object of research. Actually, the research psychologist may also (unconsciously but actively) submit his study object to his own influence, and may then observe that object only as operating under that influence.

This feature markedly distinguishes psychology from natural sciences in which it would be absurd to suppose any similar responsivness of the observed object. Unlike a human being, a celestial or earthly body doesn't change its speed or acceleration depending on the sex, age, skin colour or religion of the scientist it encounters. An observed natural process does not react, even unconsciously, to the observer's reactions to that process but an observed mental process does. It would hardly happen that, say, a double decomposition would be stronger or weaker depending on the extent to which the acid and base chosen as its medium would want involuntarily to further the scholar's cause, or contrarily, to foil his expectations; or on the extent to which they would like to act in the experiment similarly or differently from the way the scholar would presumably act in their place; or again, on the extent to which the acid, for example, would want to pass itself off as the base.

On the other hand, we know from Rosenthal's book that such and similar distortions are quite “natural” when behaviour is the studied object. Thus, we must realize how far from a truly natural science experiment a psychological experiment is.

Since the time when, with the spread of psychosocial experimentation, the research psychologist was forced to deal consciously with these special methodological problems, it has been noted that an ever-growing part of the peculiar tricks of experimentation are related to the preparatory phase. These are, specifically, the techniques of manπuvering by means of which the experiment leader manages to subject individuals to his experiment. It is beyond the scope of this paper to explicate how alien to the methodological logic of research in natural sciences is, for example, the social psychology's routine methodological trick of employing confederates of the experimenter. Whereas in the natural sciences the research techniques is ment to separate the subject of the investigation from its object,[11] that trick in social psychology aims to incorporate the subject in the object — via participation of the confederates in the experiment as if they were among its real subjects. Just imagine the methodological absurdity in natural sciences of, for example, a bacteriologist placing his assistant in the bacterium culture under the microscope.[12]

Does anybody know whether Fraisse, in opening the Paris Congress made the above-quoted statement concerning the new crisis in psychology and the need to shift its paradigm from studying behaviour to investigating man, was aware of the complications linked to the fact that the psychologist is human too?

As a matter of fact, if psychology fails to investigate its object — be it man or behaviour — according to the norms of natural science, it does not follow that psychological research cannot be scientific: it is perhaps scientific by the norms of some other science. That is why it is unfortunate if a psychologist finishes his professional training without learning that the procedural pattern of historical science, linguistic science, literary science, legal science or any other “moral” science might apply to examination of certain questions in psychology just as that of the natural sciences applies to other questions. And it is unfortunate if, consequently, he has no chance of learning that from these two half-sciences the construct of a unified logic of psychology cannot be built by having the logic of one half be denied by the logic of the other.

A well known procedure in this denial is when psychology conceds that beside studying the individual in relation to his natural environment, he must also be examined as faced with his social environment. The moment history is postulated as a social environment, the assumption is tacitly made that the world of history is as external to the person as the world of nature. Thus, it is assumed that the same positivitstic method of investigation can be applied to both system of reference as equally separated from man.[13]

On the other hand, it would not be more fortunate if the matrix were imposed upon psychology, cultivated as a natural science, by the logic of the new tendencies of historical sciences: within such a matrix no insights of that scientific psychology concerning links between mental phenomena, on the one hand, and the survival strategies of the living organism, on the other, would survive.

The discovery of an alternative?

Now, there is some evidence that world psychology has left behind the phase in which it tried to prove its integrity through the logical imperialism of one or the other hemi-science and has become receptive to alternative attempts aimed at harmonizing the logics of the two half-sciences.

One such attempt is Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory. “It is neither a wholly natural scientific, biological psychology interested only in the emerging events and their causes, nor is it a wholly cultural, hermeneutic venture concerned exclusively with the interpretation of meanings and with motives of human deeds,” one can read in New Ideas in Psychology,[14] in a study that discovered, 55 years after Vygotsky's death, his new ideas in psychology.

Last year an international Vygotsky society was set up[15], and on this occasion, Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit organized a Vygotsky forum whose participants sought an explanation to the fact that (while in his native country Vygotsky fell victim to the past-erasing rage) this scholar is becoming fashionable among the academic scholars of psychology in Western Europe and especially the United States. The extent to which it is so is even embarrassing, inasmuch as, for instance, in just one year four international conferences have highlighted Vygotsky's work without mentioning each other, and on one of these conferences the participants set up another international Vygotsky society practically simultaneously with the Amsterdam move, two, in this case, being somehow less, than one.

Anyhow, at the Amsterdam forum it was generally admitted that the somewhat latish move of spotting Vygotsky and bringing him into fashion seem to be related to what the J. Shotter's above cited paper calls our attention to: that Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory carries the promise of a synthesis between the two psychological hemi-sciences by studying the factors of mental life as signs and tools at the same time.

The logical implications of such a theoretical construction for combining two hemi-psychologies could be summarized as follows:

The tool fits into the natural determination series of psychosomatic interaction between organism and environment. Instead of becoming the object of a direct activity, such a tool gets integrated like a prosthesis in the acting system which directly perceives and manipulates its environment through this tool as if through a transparent medium.[16] The activity directed at the object is unambiguously determined by the nature of the system integrating the prosthesis into itself and that of its environment, all independently of the tool.

The sign, by contrast, is the direct object of an activity that is concerned with its interpretation. The sign mediates between the parties only depending on how each of those parties interprets it in an interaction referred to the background of their common or different cultures.[17]

For the Vygotsky theory, mediating factors of this latter kind are tools at the same time, as well as the former type mediating factors are also signs.

Much as the Vygotsky school had implications of a synthesis the logic of natural sciences and that of historical sciences it could not avoid the fate of a psychology of that historical period: that of its “hemispheres” that was liable to the first logic got elaborated with Leontiev's activity theory[18]. Leontiev considered the sign as tools, i. e. as completely transparent when it operates as mediating factor. No interpretation is needed, according to his theory, for decoding sign's meaning since it is objectively given in the activity structure as relation between its ends and means. Though Leontiev made a clear distinction between meaning and personal sense, he did not consider any necessity of interpretation for the latter either, the personal sense being equally taken as objectively given in the structure of activity as a relation between its ends and motives.

On the other hand, however Leontiev applied entirely the logic of natural sciences to the psychology his doctrine is an integral part of a theory whose outlook was formulated by Vygotsky in the following words:

“The mental nature of man represents a totality of social relations transferred inside the person, into his functioning. Higher mental functions (e.g., word function) earlier used to be distributed between people, then became the functioning of the person himself. Earlier, psychologists tried to trace social factors back to individual ones. They studied individual reactions found in laboratories and then tried to find how persons' reaction changed in a collective setting. Contrary to Piaget we assume that the development proceeds not towards socialization but towards the transformation of social relations in mental functions. Earlier, it used to be supposed that the individual has a function in a finished, semi-finished or embryonic form, and in the community it gets developed, combined, increased, enriched or, just the opposite, inhibited, repressed, etc. Nowadays, we may substantiate the assumption that, as regards higher mental functions, it is just the very reverse. Functions originally merge in the community, in the form of children's relations, then become persons' mental functions. In particular, earlier it was held that each child is competent to think, argue, demonstrate, substantiate his assumption; the collision of such thinkings allegedly generates discussion. But matters stand differently. The investigations proved that discussions generate thinking.”[19]

Activity in Vygotsky's theory treats its object as is explained also in psychology by the logic of natural sciences, but the subject of the activity is formed by a social game whose rules cannot be understood unless another logic, that of historical sciences is adopted by this science.[20]

The international Vygotsky boom seems to be motivated by psychology's “unconscious desire” to recover his unity without being compelled to sacrifice for it either the insights developed by psychology as a natural science, or those whose development was that long obstructed by such a science.


[1] Physical Control of the mind: Toward a psycho-civilized society (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, Evanston and London, 1969).

[2] XXIe Congress International de Psychology - XXIst International Congress of Psychology: Acts/Proceedings. Prises Universitaire de France. Paris, 1978.

[3] Dilthey, W.: Gesammelte Schriften. VII. p. 278.

[4] Gadamer, H.-G.: Wahrheit und Methode. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen, 1975.

[5] Sluzki, C. E. and Ransom, D. C. (eds.), 1976: DOUBLE BIND: The foundation of the communicational approach to the family (Grune & Stratton. New York, London, San Francisco).

[6] Winkin, Y. (ed.):  La nouvelle communication (Seuil, Paris, 1981).

[7] Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J. H. and Jackson, D. D.: Pragmatics of human communication: A study of interactional pattern, pathologies and paradoxes (W. W. Norton, New York, 1967).

[8] Rosenthal, R.: Experimenter effects in behavioural research. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1966. (Enlarged edition: Irvington Publisher, Inc., New York, 1976

[9] Rosenthal, R. and Rosnow R. L. (eds.): Artifact in behavioural research. Academic Press, New York, 1969.

[10] Rosenthal, R. and Jacobson, L.: Pygmalion in the classroom. Holt, Rihenhart and Winston, New York, 1968.

[11] Aronson, E. and Linder, D.: Gain and loss of esteem as determinants  of interpersonal attractiveness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 1965. 156-172.

[12] Garai, L., Erös, F., Járó, K. Köcski, M. and Veres, S.: Towards a Social Psychology of Personality: Development and Current Perspectives of a School of Social Psychology in Hungary. Social Science Information. 1979/1. pp.137-166.

[13] Lukacs, G.: Zur Ontologie des gesellschaftlichen Seins. Die Arbeit. Luchterhand, Neuwied Darmstadt, 1973.

[14] Marx, K.: Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1944. In: Fromm, E., Marx' concept of man. F. Ungar, New York, 1963.

[15] Marx, K.: Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen _conomie (English translation: London, 1973)

[16] Rubinstein. S.: Principles and ways of mental development [In Russian]. Moscow: Publishing House of Soviet Academy of Sciences, 1959.

[17] G[arai], L.: Marxian Personality Psychology. In: Harré-Lamb (eds.), The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychology, Basil Blackwell Publisher. 364-366.

[18] Eros, F.: Personality Dynamics and Social Existence, by L. Garai. European Journal of Social Psychology. 4/3. [1974]. 369-379.

[19] Shotter, J.: Vygotsky's psychology: Joint activity in a developmental zone. New Ideas in Psychology. Vol.7(1989), No.2.

[20] Leontiew, Alexei: Problems of mental development. Joint Publications Research Service, Washington, 1969.

[21] Garai, L.: A psychosocial essay on identity [in Hungarian]. T-Twins Editor. Budapest, 1993. 231 pp.

[22] Garai, L. and Kocski, M.: On the mental status of activity and social relation: To the question of continuity between the theories of Vygotsky and Leontiev [in Russian]. Psikhologitchesky Zhurnal, 11:5. (1990) 17-26.




Vygotskian implications:

On the meaning and its brain*



Abstract: About a basic dilemma of Vygotsky's theory: How superior mental phenomena may be trea­ted as functionning of both brain structures and meaning structures at the sa­me time while latters are of an inter-individual character as opposed to the intra-individual character of the formers. Arguments are derived from various sources (Vygotsky school's theory of functional organs, Gibson's ecological theory of perception, ethology's empirical data about territorial behaviour of populations and Szentágothai's model of organizing neuronal modules) for transcending mainstream considerations based exclusively on individual organism both by going beyond the individual (toward a supra-individual structure) and beyond the organism (toward an extra-organismic one). The paper presents for the K. Popper's “World 3’ a possible monistic interpretation that derives not merely meanings but their logical structures as well from the functioning of supra-individual economic structures instead of that of the individual's brain structures. A keynote paper I had originally presented at the International Conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Lev Vygotsky ("The Cultural-Historical Approach: Progress in Human Sciences and education"; Moscow,  21–24 October, 1996) and subseqently adapted for a publication.

key words: Vygotsky; brain; meaning; functional organs; brain models: Szentagothai vs Eccles; transcending individual organism; K. Popper's “World 3’


Once Vygotsky said that “psychoanalysis has no conscious theoretical system, but, the same manner as that character of Molière, without suspecting the thing in all his life spoke in prose, Freud the scientist did produce a system: by introducing a new term, making it consistent with his other terms, describing a new fact, reaching a new conclusion – he went on building at the same time, inch by inch his system”[i].

The same has to be said on Vygotsky himself with this difference that he has not, like Freud, 83 but 38 years for adjusting the elements of his the­ory in­to a system. This fact, together with that other that since his death the psy­cho­logical science had almost twice as many years for “de­scri­bing new facts, rea­ching new conclusions”, must motivate us for exa­mi­ning against the back­ground of these facts and conclusions how different cons­tituents of his theory and implications of such constituents may be brought into harmony.

Vygotsky in his writings of 1930s time and again argues, in particular, for the most important role of meaning (znachenie), sense field (smyslovoie polie) in transformation of the perception and the activity into a specifically human dealing with objects and, consequently, in producing superior performances as compared with inferior ones.[ii]

Another thesis of Vygotsky postulates that the localization of supe­rior functions in brain structures must be as important a scientific question as that of inferior functions. Therefore he considers worth praising brain researchers for introducing meaning-like concepts into the brain research.[iii]

Now, on one hand, the brain is an intraindividual extrapsychic mechanism that may well be linked with the intraindividual psychic phenomena the general psychology normally studies, but, on the other hand, meaning must be considered an  interindividual phenomenon.

Vygotsky was completely aware of this interindividual character of mea­ning that he linked to the speach and interpreted as being at the sa­me time ob­ob­shchenie and obshchenie[iv]. However, the question is, how this in­ter­in­di­vi­dual psy­chic phenomenon can be linked to that intraindividual extrapsychic mechanism.

Philosophical considerations and brain models

To what extent is it difficult to put these two points together is to be seen on the instance of Karl Popper's philosophical theory as applied in John Eccles' brain research.[v]

In the Karl Popper's ontology the world of meanings and of the logic struc­ture of their interrelations has been considered as an intersubjective, in­ter­in­di­vidual world that is completely detached from the subjective world of our indi­vi­dual conscious experiences. This latter has been conceived by Pop­per as equally detached from the complete material world. The material world (including the human brain and man-made objects) is considered in that ontology as a World 1, paralleled with the World 2 of conscious phe­no­me­na (including in addition to direct environmental and intraorganizational ex­pe­riences memories, thoughts, and even the self, as the subject of all these ex­periences) and the World 3 of meanings interacting with those other worlds.

When investigating about the ontological status of the “World 3”, Karl Pop­per pointed out that it includes together with contents of mea­nings also the forms of their interrelations. This latters are considered by Popper to be pre-eminently “World 3” entities. He conceded that meanings may be em­bo­died in such “World 1” objects that come to exist as ob­jec­tivations of human ac­ti­vi­ty; but as regards logical, mathematical or other interrelations he preclu­des such a possibility, insisting that they exist nowhere but in the “World 3”.

Not even in the “World 2”, contrary to a rather widespread error in psy­cho­logical thought: such relations cannot be reduced to processes of individual con­sciousness or to their products stored in individual memory. It is why the sub­jective consciousness of an individual may investigate upon them, find cont­ra­dictions and look for their solution, i.e., have the same activity with them as with “World 1” objects that are self-evidently detached from that consciously subjective world.

Now, at the Sixteenth World Congress of Philosophy[vi], at a specially organized by philosophers, brain researchers, and psychologists symposium on interrelation between brain and experiences, whether conscious or unconscious, Eccles had the opportunity of presenting his brain model correlated with Popper's philosophical model of those three interacting worlds. And Popper's co-author labelled his theory dualist interactionalism: the “World 3” had been completely missing from it. It is worth seeing his arguing in some details: Eccles (and in their jointly written book Popper as well) rejects the theory of epiphenomenalism, according to which there is nothing but a reciprocal influence between the brain and the external world and if in the meantime some phenomena of awareness and self-awareness happen to arise, this would allegedly be nothing but an epiphenomenon that would have no effect whatever on the reciprocating process. On the contrary, Eccles claimes that the self-reliant “World 2” of awareness and self-awareness itself establishes a reciprocating relationship with the “World 1” of the brain (for its part, interacting with the external reality) – hence the designation “dualist interactionalism.” Now, if in the meantime some phenomena of a “World 3” of interraleted to each other meanings happen to arise, this would, Eccles suggests, be nothing but an epiphenomenon that would have no effect whatever on that reciprocating process between “World 2” and “World 1”. Epiphenomenalism survived; it merely moved up one level within the system of interconnections.

From the point of view of this “World 3” epiphenomenalism, it is worth­while to look at the arguments that prompted Eccles to reject a “World 2”-related epiphenomenalism. The argument originated with Pop­per, who, in his chapters of the book they jointly wrote, pointed out that:

“From a Darwinian point of view, we must consider the survival value of mental processes... Darwinists must look at “soul" – i.e., mental processes and our ability to form mental actions and reactions as a bodily organ that developed under the pressure of natural selection... The Darwinist point of view must be this: consciousness and, in general, mental processes must be viewed (and, if possible, explained) as the results of development in the course of natural selection.[vii]

“World 2”'s phenomena develop in tandem with the increase in the brain's complexity, Eccles speculated at the World Congress of Philosophy; and yet, according to the theory of evolution only those structures and processes develop in the course of natural selection that contribute significantly to survival. If “World 2” is impotent, then the theory of evolution cannot explain its development.

As a matter of fact, we must consider exactly the same logic as applicable also to the “World 3” of interindividual phenomena.

In his presentation, Eccles (staying within the first two “Worlds”) summarized what was known of the brain's fine-grained mechanisms at the time of the World Congress of Philosophy: what we know of the location of nerve cells, and of their connection with each other. He pointed out that the mechanism revealed by brain research is not adapted for transforming physical stimuli put in from the environment into mental phenomena manifesting themselves at the output of the system (in purposeful behavior, speech). Consequently, we must assume either that conscious phenomena do not exist even at the output of the central nervous system; or that they already exist at its input. And the first assumption is rejected by Eccles on the basis of the above Darwinian considerations.

Therefore, Eccles's final conclusion at the World Congress of Philo­so­phy was that “the self conscious mind” a priori exists as a “World 2”, and that a part of the cortex's operating units (of the 2 million modules, each one respectively constructed of some 5,000 nerve cells[viii]) form a “liai­son brain”[ix] that serves as a window from the “World 1” to the “World 2”.

Theoretical conclusions of Eccles (and of most other brain researchers) are supported by a logic that all natural sciences inherited from classic mechanics. “From earlier theories we have taken over the idea of corpuscles, together with the scientific vocabulary based on it” – pointed out the Nobel-prize winner Schrödinger, adding: “This concept is not correct. It constantly prompts our thinking to seek explanations that obviously make no sense at all. Its thought structure contains elements that do not exist in real corpuscles.” Of all natural sciences, it was physics that first deviated from this logic, when, following its series of crises around the turn of the century, it presented the concept that “everything – absolutely everyting – is corpuscle and field at the same time. All matter has its continuous structure, represented by a field, as well as its discrete structure, represented by a corpuscle.”[x]

Returning to our problem, here the “explanations that obviously ma­ke no sense at all”, search for which is prompted by the corpuscle-orien­ted lo­gic of our thinking, are related to the question: How does the state of a spa­ti­ally delimited individual body influences the states of other bo­dies that are detached from the former – a neuron other nerve cells, a mo­dule of neu­rons other modules, a precise part of the nervous system its other parts, or the integer nervous system other bodily organs? Now, the ans­wer made out by a “corpuscular logic” is that spatially defined bodies on­ly in­ter­act to the extent that they enter into spatial contact along their circumferences.

It was this very logic that has always been applied, in particular, for un­derstanding meaning although for such a logic this latter has always re­mai­ned enig­matic. Since the controversy between Platon and Antisthenis it has been hard to settle whether meaning is located within the spatially de­li­mi­ted bodies of individual things, or it exists as an idea detached from eve­ry one at them. It is still more hard to say whether, while an indi­vi­dual or­ga­nism gets into contact with an external individual object, meaning will or will not be transferred into the organism from the thing (where, as it has just been pointed out, one was unable to say whether meaning was inherent).

Finally, it is the least possible at all to decide whether meaning has a mental impact only when it finds its way into an individual organism. “Corpuscular logic” tries to cope with meaning by transforming it into familiarity: as if meaning would have been transferred from the thing into the organism and by now fixed in one of its parts that is, in principle, identifiable as responsable for the memory of this organism. On the other hand, one may not a priori discard the possibility that meaning may have a mental impact even when detached from all individual organisms being located in a supraindividual system of language, culture etc. (just the same way as it “in itself” is perhaps detached from all individual things).

If “corpuscular logic” does take into consideration this latter possibility, nevertheless it imposes its own terms upon the facts. First of all, it represents language as a store of particular corpuscules (i. e. a priori given labels), that would carry meanings (also supposed to be given a priori) the way real things would be expected by the “corpuscular logic” to do. Again, such a logic may only conceive the way meaning carried by a linguistic label becomes a psychic factor if that linguistic label, being contacted by an individual, turns from external into internal factor: finds, through some coding process, a corpuscular vehicle located in a theoretically well identifiable locus in the individual body. According such a logic, without getting into an, at least, indirect connection with the individual body the fact that language includes meanings would be psychologically just as irrelevant as is that other fact of things being given in this individual body's environmentbefore setting up their contact.


The reason for which Eccles has not dealt with such (and any other) kind of “World 3” problems and the one for which he made the above statement about the brain's structure being not adapted for transforming physical stimuli put in from the environment into mental phenomena manifesting themselves at the output of the brain, relies on the same “corpuscular logic”.


While this logic forced Eccles to search after answers to questions which, according to Schrödinger's reasoning, are incorrectly put, J. Szentagothai reached entirely different theoretical conclusions when starting from the same facts (discovered in part by Eccles' research). Although the model he proposed for the structure and operation of the cerebral cortex acknowledges the cortex to be “a wonderfully precise neurological machine with a genetically defined "set of wires",” he admits that “superimposed on this is an... intermittent and mutually symmetrical (quasi-random) system of connections.”[xi] According to the first part of this description, therefore, the cortex has a corpuscle-type structure; the second part, however, reveals a structure similar to one of a field: states are defined in it, but the constellation of corpuscles realizing each of these states gets organized only afterwards, as a “dynamic pattern” of a quasi-random system of connections.

What Szentagothai suggests is this: Even though we cannot consider the brain's precisely wired structure as a mechanism whose operation would yield a mental phenomenon, such a result can indeed be produced by a brain that we view as a dynamic pattern emerging in the course of its operation.

The functional system

In order to explain the formation of dynamic patterns, we should explain how pieces, none of which in themselves produce a dynamic pattern, can create an organ whose function leads to the appearance of that pattern, even though the connection of those pieces cannot be ensured by a “precise and genetically determined system of wiring”. Szentagothai provides an impressive description which deals, however, with phenoma alone, without really explaining the formation itself of superstructures. He illustrates his point with the stereoscopic perception of paired images used by B. Julesz[xii]. Respectively, before the right and left eyes of his experimental subjects, Julesz placed scatterings of dots. One of these was randomly generated by computer; another was derived from the first set, now assumed to be a collection of points belonging to a three-dimensional configuration, visible to the left eye; and yet another was composed of dots belonging to the same configuration visible to the right eye. When viewing with both eyes, it took about 8 seconds to transform the random scatterings into an orderly three-dimensional image. Szentagothai considers it the fact of a dynamic pattern' emerging that “anyone who formed if only once (!!) such a pattern, i.e., envisioned their three-dimensional form, may revisualize these shapes within a fraction of a second even after months, without knowing which of the once-seen patterns he will be shown. In other words, if one's brain even once arranged two entirely meaningless scatterings into the sole possible orderly pattern, [...] then it may re-create this within a few moments.”[xiii]

At the opposite end from describing the phenomenon, we find cybernetic speculations on the mechanism. These indicate formal preconditions for organizing a functional system. It is about the organization of such a superstructure that not only performs a new functionning that would represent by its integrity something more than just a sum of functionning of partial structures: the new organization imposes even to these very partial structures a deviation from their original functionning. According to Anokhin's formal analysis[xiv], any functional system must be made up of constructs whose operation fits the following sequence: afferent synthesis of stimuli entering the system; making a decision on the basis of this synthesis; storing the decision thus made; instruction to act; reporting back on the outcome of action; pairing the report with the already stored decision; and, if necessary, correction in accordance with the result of the comparison.

By Anokhin's analysis and other similar cybernetic arguments, such functions' are posited as developing their own organs which target some external factor in the system's environment in such a way as to synchronize its own state with the state of that target.

In the course of synchronization, changes occur in the system's state, too, and one of those changes, possibly the most important may well be the development of that very integer superstructure, made up of partial structures whose operation, even when summed up, could not alter the factor of environment to the extent required for synchronization. In other words, altering the factor of environmental factor at issue will be achieved by the newly organized functional system.

On the other hand, organizing the functional system will be the performance of that environmental factor: untill this latter emerges, requiring the operation of a superstructure that existes at that moment only in its partial structures, the components of this future superstructure has remained in their unintegrated arrangements, ready for various uses, but unsuitable for functioning in a critical manner.

If we consider the organization and the operation of a functional system as the sequences of the same performance, then we can say about this performance that its organ is an integer superstructure to which both the system that is actually operating and the enviromental factors that formerly organized the system out of its partial structures do belong.

From taking into consideration a superstructure that contains both a system and certain factors of its environment we may be inhibited by “the idea of corpuscles that we have taken over from earlier theories and the scientifc vocabulary based on it,” concerning which I have already cited Schrödinger's criticism. The “thought structure containing elements that do not exist in real corpuscles” suggests for a system that its parts are made a priori operational by their spatial connection, and for a factor of environment that it can perform any operation relevant to the system only after having established with it a spatial connection.

This evidence is contradicted by the revelation that the structures' spatial connection ("their precise wiring") does not in itself turn them into an operational unit, but this functional system (as the Szentagothai's model suggests it and shows by the Julesz' demonstration) must first emerge as a “dynamic pattern” from random connections built on that precise wiring. If this is the case, however, then it would not be absurd to suppose that a functional system can be organized from random relationships that are built only partly on spatial connection.

Such a random relationship exists between all levels of biological organizations and their respective environment. If we do follow Schrödinger in rejecting the logic that would distinguish between a corpuscle considered relevant to a precise function and others that would be considered as being merely its conditions if a connection gets established with them, then we may conceive those structures of allegedly different kind as one superstructure. Thus, for example, when a cell group for its functionning needs a precise tone distribution between cells, then a second cell group that would regulate that tone distribution would not be considered by such a logic to be an external circumstance, but describes the whole functionning as a function of a superstructure that includes both the cell group whose tone is regulated and the cell group performing the regulation.

Such a logic, however, must face the contingency that for the superstructure that is now described as the very organ of the function at issue similar observations can be made. Szentagothai points out for moduls constructed from neurons, “we cannot exclude the possibility that these "superstructures" of neighboring, or conventionally connected, neuron networks gives rise to newer "super-superstructures" of a higher hierarchy.”[xv] The same interrelation must be established for all levels of biological organizations.

However, what actually has always happened untill now was that at one point or another this logic yielded, in further interpretation, to the logic that does distinguish a corpuscle allegedly relevant to the function at issue and those supposed to influence the process according to whether or not they get in connection with the “appropriate" body. Already the interrelations of the central nervous system and the periphery were often interpreted according to the traditional  thinking: according to it, the functionning of the central nervous system would be influenced by the periphery as far as stimuli from the latter would be put in by a “precise wiring”, and then this central system (even if it is conceived according to the new logic) would influence the periphery by stimuli put out. In other cases, the logical shift occurs in the interpretation of the interaction between the nervous system as a whole and the organs it regulates. But anyhow it takes place not later then at the moment of focusing scientific interest on the interaction between the individual organism and its environment.

It occurred that for the psychology the basic system of reference in scientific observation has been fixed on the level of individual organism. For biology such a stage has been but transitory which once replaced description in terms of cells only to yield (or share), just in the present period, its position to a molecular biology, on the one hand, and to a population biology, on the other.

Psychology's fixation to the individual organism as reference must be due to its philosophical heritage. It was psychology enframed by philosophy that stated that consciousness refers, on one hand, to an object reflected by it and, on the other, to the individual subject of that consciousness. This philosophical legacy was combined with the new orientation of a psychology emancipating itself from the philosophy by means of turning to the biology, which, at the time just happened to be engaged in describing phenomena at the organism level.

Thus, the Self, the individual subject of consciousness has assumed a material substratum in the individual organism. At the same time, another potential heritage from the philosophy, the one given in doctrine about a supraindividual Spirit, was lost for the psychology, because of a lack of appropriate biological frame of reference.

Yet, if meaning is indeed an interindividual mental phenomenon, as it has been observed above, it must have something to do with issues of a sup­ra­in­dividual Spirit. Thus, conclusions of Popper about a “World 3” might be avoi­ded only in such a way that would be similar to that of Szent­agothai's rea­soning about “World 2” issues referred to functional “super-superstructures”.

Only this time the functional “super-superstructures” have to transcend the individual organism.

Conceptions about organizations transcending individual organism

Now I am going to present scientific essays at conceiving functional organizations that transcend individual organism and may be referred to mental phenomena.


The Anokhin's description of the functional system relies, after all, exclusively on structures within the body; environmental structures are considered only as sources of afferentation and reafferentation.

The activity theory of Leont'iev, Luria, Zaporozhets and others transcends this model. It considers functions whose organ is composed not only of the sections of the central nervous system but also of the most various (nervous, somatic, vegetative) structures of the entire individual body; and inasmuch as psychic functions are concerned the individual's object-oriented activity is considered that must be organized by its tools. Since this theory (as a Vygotskian one) has claimed that those tools are, at the same time, signs, i.e. entities historically produced by a culture, this conception enables the theory to refer the human mind to two frames simultaneously: by considering it as one produced by the functionning of both individual brain structures and inter-individual cultural structures.

But if we have a theory about the same functionning of, on one hand, internal and, on the other, external structures, it implies a theory about a functionning of the same superstructure composed of both structures inside of an individual organism and the ones outside of it, inside of its environment. According to such a theory when the function organizing its organ is an object-oriented activity, the structure thus produced does transcend the individual organism.[xvi]

When comparing this theory with his earlier position, Gibson describes the change in his view this way: “[...] at the time, I based my explanation of vision on the retinal image; now, on the other hand, my starting point is what I call an ambient optic array. My present conviction is that we must approach the problem of perception in an ecological way.”[xvii] This change was brought about because he realized that vision could not be explained by the manner in which proximate stimuli affect the retina, since perception could remain constant even if the stimuli change. Gibson analyzes four instances in which perception remains unchanged in spite of varying stimuli: (1) change in lighting, (2) relocation on the part of observer, (3) changes in the sampling of the ambient optic array, and (4) a permanence prevailing in the face of local changes.[xviii]

The Gibson school do not accept either the explanation offered by the Gestalt psychology, since that theory holds out (as an alternative to the retinal image changing in response to the environment's proximate stimuli) a form appearing on a frontal flat surface (a wallboard, screen, or sheet of paper placed opposite the observer), which an individual corrects in accordance with innate pregnant patterns. Gibson does make the difference between such an abstract geometric space in which alone do such forms exist and a natural environment in which representatives of a given species find themselves nestled.

Gibson's conclusion is that one is not able to explain the meaningful perception by an animal of its environment if considering only how (e.g., nervous system) structures given within that animal's individual body effect that psychic performance without taking into consideration how the structures of the environment afford that performance. Any psychic performance is determined by the mutual compatibility between affordances and effectivities. According to the definition by Gibson, “the affordance of anything is a specific combination of the properties of its substance and its surfaces taken with reference to an animal”[xix]. This definition got completed with the one given by Turvey & Shaw to what they consider as a twin concept within the Gibsonian theory: “The effectivity of any living thing is a specific combination of the functions of its tissues and organs taken with reference to an environment”[xx]

The authors add to these twin definitions that animal with its effectivity struc­ture and environment with its affordance structure are totally symmet­ri­cal fac­tors of psychic performances: “By this conception an [...] envi­ron­ment is de­fi­ned as a set of affordances or an affordance structure [... and] an ani­mal is de­fined as a set of effectivities or an effectivity structure [...]. An eco­niche is an af­fordance description of Environment in reference to a par­­ticular spe­cies; a spe­cies is an effectivity description of Life in reference to a par­ti­cular eco­ni­che. And we may schematize the affordance and effec­ti­vity con­ceptions in the following way, in accordance with the compatibility logic:

An environmental event or situation X affords an activity Y to an animal Z if and only if certain mutual compatibility relations between X and Z obtain [...].

An animal Z can effect an activity Y on an environmental event or situation X if and only if certain mutual compatibility relations between X and Z obtain [...].”[xxi]

Ethology use this term to describe a series of events by which a part of an animal or human population demarcates a part of its environment and gets, reciprocally, demarcated by it. This behavior by marking with some sign the part in question of the environment turns it into a territory, while those performing this behavior expose themselves to some marking that turns  the part in question of the population a well-identified group. From that moment on that demarcated territory and this demarcated group are ordered to each other by the territorial behavior: the individuals thus marked cannot leave the territory they marked for more than a well defined distance and/or time period, and outsiders cannot approach it closer than a critical distance. If the latter do so, they provoke a fighting activity in those defending their territory.

As far as the territory is already demarcated by the group and the group by the territory, staying inside or outside the borderline of a territory and, similarly, belonging or not to a given group elicits categorically different disposition in an individual for a precise (e.g., fighting or mating) activity.

Such a change in being disposed or indisposed to perform a precise activity in accordance with the actual state of territorial organization is well demonstrated by the fighting behavior of the stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) preparing to mate. The power relations of fighting change according to whether the individual fish is inside or outside its own territory when involved in fighting. According to Konrad Lorenz's observations, the combativeness of a stickleback is in inverse relationship with the given distance between him and his nest; in his own nest, he is a fierce fighter, but the farther he swims away from his headquarter, the less he is motivated to attack. When two male stickleback meets, we can qite accurately predict the outcome of their fight: the fish that is farther from his nest is the one that will take flight, Lorenz claims, addig that near to his own nest even the smalest can dispose of the largest enemy.

One could (though traditionally does not) put it in Gibsonian terms and say that the territorial behavior intervenes in the distribution of affordances to the environment and in that of effectivities to the animal population. The key factor of such a redistribution is a marking activity, an imposition of signs upon a part of the environment transformed by this means into a territory and, parallelly, upon a part of the animal population transformed by this means into a group.

Signs when attached not to a part of an environment but to that of a po­pu­lation may the same way change the disposition of performing a precise acti­vi­ty as territorial signs do. E.g., male individuals of certain species mark by a par­ti­cular biochemical substance the female during mating so as to indispose other males from mating with that female, even if impregnation was not effective. Likewise, the issue of a fighting may impose postural signs upon winners and loosers and the display of such a posture may determine a rather lasting hierarchical organization without being challenged by newer behavioral trials.

Thus, neither the group which effects the demarcation of a territory nor this territory which affords the demarcation of that group is prefabricated, both are produced by the territorial behavior. In my conception the direct product of affordances and effectivities would not be, as Gibsonians claim, activities but functional “super-superstructures” that do transcend individual organism.

Toward a theory of structures producing meanings

Such kind of combining the above three theoretical discoveries – about an object-oriented functionning, the mutually coordinated affordance and effectivity structures, and territorial organization of groups – would enable us to discern a structure that could be the organ of dealing with meanings. Yet, such a synthesis would be by no means an easy theoretical performance, considering that

1. territorial behavior as conceived by ethology has nothing to do with a historico-cultural dimension;

2. object-oriented activity as conceived by Leont'iev's activity theory has not either much to do with a territorial and group dimension[xxii];

3. for the ecological framework of perception neither a historical nor a social dimension is conceived by the Gibsonians.

However, such a synthesis cannot be spared if we are to deal with meanings because this latter's historico-cultural dimension and socio-territorial dimension are equally essential.

Vygotsky emphasised the necessity to reckon with the social aspect of meaning because he considered meaning to be (to put it in terms of his above cited juxtaposition) not only obobshchenie (generalization) but obshchenie (communication) as well. It was ment that this latter represents the interindividual dimension against that earlier supposed to be an intraindividual performance.

We do know the argument of Vygotsky for intraindividual perfor­man­ces being developped from interindividual ones. In this sense (in terms re­fer­red to the ZPD) generalization, too, would have to have its psychosocial origin.

However, at the present time it is known that the social dimension of this performance is still more essential:

Recent observations about the ontogenesis of human consciousness support the assumption on semantic values being originated from social categorization[xxiii]. It turned out that a child can earlier elaborate some shades of similarities and differences into categorical similarity between certain factors and their categorical difference from others if he himself is one of these factors than in case all those factors are but objects given in the child's environment. Early social categorization does not take place as a conscious act of thinking: it is mediated by an unconscious process of semiosis in which the child's diffuse vocal, motor, postural, vaso-motor or other somatic manifestations get shaped as signifiers that are attached to parallelly shaped social categories as their signified factors so that similar factors should be symbolized by similar, and different ones by different signifiers.

The social categories thus created represent similarities or differences not simply between individuals as such. The individuals are dealt with as occupying definite positions in one or another of social structures transcending individual organism; those structures are organized along objects that get assigned to certain individuals while detached from others in a kind of territorial behavior. With reference to this territorial behavior, the child identifies him/herself with some individuals and, at the same time, categorically distinguishes from others. Based on social categories thus created and on the mental operations with them there emerges the logical apparatus that enables the child to structure the same way the external topological space of objects correlated with that social space and, hence, to perform operations with the meanings of those objects.[xxiv]

The more organic role an atribute of an object plays in acts of social categorization, the earlier a child will learn to logically deal with their attribute.

Thus for instance, an 18-20 month old child is capable of distributing similar objects among him/her and others, and then distinguishing each of them on the attribute of their belonging to one person or to another. The same child is unable to differentiate or identify objects on the attribute of their colours before the age of three (or even, according to some authors, 4 or 5).

Piaget's classic investigations have resulted that it is not until a child has spent some years in school that s/he acquires the skill to handle abstract quantitative relations like equal, greater or smaller length, capacity etc., undisturbed by corolary attributes. However, Doise, Mugny and Perret-Clermont[xxv] have recorded similar performances at pre-school ages, having modified the original conditions of the experiment by connecting the quantitative relations in question to the organization of social relations among children. For example, the children were led to discover the constantly equal quantity of liquids in differently shaped receptacles by having the task to distribute the liquid – that happened to be very appreciated by children – among themselves in equal portions.[xxvi]

In a field experiment with my own daughter she presented at 4;8 a rather complicated performance of projection of a three-dimensional geometrical structure onto a plane and then transforming that projection. The child was sitting in a bus that passed on the embankment under a bridge through a tunnel made to avoid level-crossing of the bridge and the embankment. Her three-year-old sister exclaimed: "Hey, what a long tunnel!", upon which the elder girl declared with a contempt that "it would have been long if we hade gone like this" (she used her hand to mark the direction perpendicular to the way the bus was running, that actually was not the direction of the tunnel but that of the bridge), "but then", she went on, "we should have destroyed the tunnel". The mother of the children were staying that time abroad and, a couple of day later, the elder girl was “writing a letter” to her, i.e., informing her in various drawings about what happened in the family during the mother's absance. So I asked the girl to “draw how we passed through that tunnel” and, thus, she made a drawing of the vertical cross-section of the tunnel and represented the path of our bus in it by a point. Then, following another instruction of the same style, she drew once more the same cross-section with an imaginary path through which the bus would have destroyed the tunnel. The high achievement in this experiment was due to the fact that the girl was transforming the structure of a space in which she herself was included in a certain position.

These considerations may give a new look at a feature at which Karl Popper pointed out. When investigating about the ontological status of a “World 3” Popper, though conceded the existence of such “World 1” objects that come to existe as objectivations of human activity and, as such, embody entities belonging to “World 3”, he considered, however, these factors by no means exhausting the “World 3” that includes with contents of meanings their form, too. Logical and, among them, for instance mathematical relations do not exist embodied in “World 1” things and processes, nor can their existence be traced back, consequently, to (e.g., brain) structures and their functioning within individual organisms. What is more important, contradicting a rather widespread error in psychological thought: neither can such relations be reduced to processes of individual consciousness nor to their products stored in individual memory.

What is, then, the ontological status of these forms, that makes it pos­si­ble, e. g., for the subjective consciousness of an individual to make dis­cove­ries upon them like finding contradictions that must have existed the­re (where? – that is a crucial question for Popper) proceeding any awa­reness of them and, after identifying them as problems, to find out their solutions.

Now, in this paper two assumptions has been advanced that would enable us to accept Popper's question without accepting his answer to it: the first, about links between operations with logical categories, meanings, on one hand, and formation of social categories, social identities, on the other; and the second, about this psy­chic performance being based on an extra-psychic super-structure transcending individual organism (by shifting both from the organism to a structure incorporating also environmental factors and from the individual to a supraindividual formation).

As far as these two assumptions do stand we may derive logical structures and operations from real social structures and operations[xxvii] inside that organization transcending individual organism.

The interindividual character at issue of these structures and operations might by no means be reduced to those referred in Vygotsky’s texts to the ZPD. These structures and operations must not be established with (e.g., adult) per­sons who would necesserily be more advanced in their development in order to get the child developped: interaction between children may as well develop each of them as the one which an adult does. On the other hand, the interindividual structures and operations do not necesserily disappear after the intraindividual faculty has developped.

We started from a contradiction between various ideas of Lev Vygotsky’s theory and by solving that we arrived to another contradiction.

Yet, contradictions are considered within the philosophical framework of Vygotsky’s theory the main motive of further development of a system, are not they?




















* The author is Research Adviser, Institute for Psychology, The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O.B. 398, H-1394 Budapest, Hungary. Fax: (361) 34-20-514. E-mail:






















[1] Vygotsky: Istoricheskii smysl psikhologicheskogo krizisa (1927). Sobranie sochinenii, t. 1. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1982; p. 333.






















[2] Controversial points of this conception (see P. Gal'perin: Stages in the development of mental acts. In: Michael Cole and Irving Maltzman [eds]: A handbook of contemporary soviet psychology. New-York-London: Basic Books, 1969; pp. 249-273) being indifferent for the context of this paper, this does not deal with them.






















[3] “[...] reasearchers have been compelled by force of facts [...] to introduce new psychologic concepts (the doctrine of Goldstein on categorial thinking, that of H. Head on symbolic function, of O. Poetzl on categorization of the perception etc.)” Vygotsky: Psikhologia i uchenie o lokalizatsii psikhicheskikh funktsii (1934). Op. cit., p. 169.





















 Generalization and communication (or, to put it in terms of Vygotsky's paronomasia: having something in common and making something common).

 Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles: The Self and its Brain. Springer International, 1977.

 See Section papers from the Sixteenth World Congress of Philosophy (27 August — 2 September 1978. Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany.

 Popper & Eccles: Op. cit., p. 72. This is in spite of the fact that the Darwinian Huxley wrote: “Mind would relate to the machinery of the body as a simple by-product of the latter's operation, which is no more capable of modifying said operation than the sound of steam-whistle, accompanying the operation of a locomotive is able to influence the engine's operation." T.H. Huxley, Method and results. Collected essays. Vol. 1. Macmillan, 1898.

 Cf. J. Szentagothai & M. A. Arbib: Conceptual Models of Neuronal Organization. Yvonne M. Homsy Editor, 1974.

 According to Eccles, the most important parts of the “liaison brain" are the Brodmann regions No. 39 and 40, and the lobus praefrontalis in the dominant hemisphere.

 E. Schrödinger: Was ist ein Naturgesetz? München—Wien: R. Oldenbourg. 1962.

 Szentagothai: An integral brain theory: Utopia or reality? [in Hungarian]. Magyar Tudomany (New Series), 1979, 24.; p. 601

 B. Julesz, The foundation of Cyclopean perception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

 Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 614.

 P. K. Anokhin, Fiziologiia i kibernetika [Physiology and cybernernetics — in Russian]. In Filosofskie voprosy kibernetiki [Philosophical problems of cybernetics]. Moscow, 1961.

 Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 615.

 For the practical application of such an implied theory see A. R. Luria: Restoration of brain functions after war trauma. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1964.

 J. J. Gibson: The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston etc.: Houghton Mifflin Co; 1979

 Ibid., pp. 310—311.

 Gibson, J. J., 1977: The theory of Affordances. In: R. E. Shaw and J. Bransford (eds), Perceiving, Acting and Knowing - Toward an Ecological Psychology. Hillsdale N. J., Lawrence Erlbaum Associatrs; pp. 67.

 M. T. Turvey and R. Shaw: The Primacy of Perceiving: An Ecological Reformulation of Perception for Understanding Memory. In: Lars-Göran Nielsson, Perspectives on Memory Research. Essays in Honour of Uppsala University's 500th Anniversary; 1977. Pp. 205—206.


 About the necessity and modalities of complementing the activity theory of Leont'iev with a theory representing this psychosocial dimension, see:

L. Garai, 1969: Social relationship: A self-evident feature or a problem? A chapter of the monograph  Personality dynamics and social existence [in Hungarian]. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó [Academic Press], pp. 142—159

L. Garai, F. Eros, K. Jaro, M. Kocski and S. Veres, 1979: Towards a Social Psychology of Personality: Development and Current Perspectives of a School of Social Psychology in Hungary. Social Sciences Information. 18/1. pp. 137-166.

L. Garai and M. Kocski, l989: The principle of social relations and the principle of activity. Soviet Psychology. 4. pp. 50-69. (A substantially enlarged Russian version: O psikhologicheskom statyse dieiatel'nosti i sotsial'nogo otnoseniia. K voprosu o preiemstvennosti mezhdu teoriami Leont'ieva i Vygotskogo. [On the mental status of activity an social relation: To the question of continuity between the theories of Vygotsky and Leont'iev]. Psikhologicheskii Zhurnal, 11:5. [1990] pp. 17-26.

L. Garai and M. Kocski, 1991.: Positivist and hermeneutic principles in Psychology: Activity and social categorisation Studies in Soviet Thought. 42. 123-135. (A German version: Positivistische und hermeneutische Prinzipien in der Psychologie: Tätigkeit und gesellschaftliche Kategorisierung (Über die Frage von Kontinuität und Diskontinuität zwischen Vygotskij und Leont'iev. Europäische Zeitschrift für Semiotische Studien. 1991. Vol. 3 [1-2]. 1-15.)

L. Garai and M. Kocski, l997: Ieshchio odin krizis v psikhologii! Vozmozhnaia prichina shumnogo uspiekha idei L. S. Vygotskogo [Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom] Voprosy filosofii. 4. 86–96.

 For this issue see especially:

L. Garai: A psychosocial essay on identity [in Hungarian]. T-Twins Editor. Budapest, 1993. 231 p.

L. Garai and M. Kocski: About the link between social categorization and identity formation [in Hungarian]. In.: F. Eros (ed.): Identity and difference: Essays on the identity and the prejudice. Budapest: Scientia Humana. 1996. 72-95;

M. Kocski: About the genesis of individuality [in Hungarian]. In: F. Eros (ed): Ibidem; pp. 129-161.

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Position in the Social Situation and Child's Mental Development. A longitudinal study (non-published academic thesis; in Russian). Moscow State University.

 On these elaboration processes see some more detalis in

M. Kocski and L. Garai, 1978: Les débuts de la catégorisation sociale et les manifestations verbales. Une étude longitudinale. Langage et Société. 4. 3-30.

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Pozitsiia v sotsial’noi situatsii I psikhicheskoie razvitie rebionka [Position in the Social Situation and Child's Mental Development. A longitudinal study] (non-published academic thesis). Moscow State University.

 Social interaction and the development of cognitive operations, European Journal of Social Psychology, 1975, 5, pp. 367-383.

 For more details see Doise and Mugny: Le développement social de l'intelligence. InterÉditions, Paris, 1981.

 On the XIII. International Congress of the History of Science (Moscow, 1971) I made an attempt in an invited lecture to analize how the social structure of Europe of late XVIII. century made the greatest mathematicians of that age (such as  d'Alembert, Carnot, Fourier, Gauss, Lagrange, Lambert, Laplace, Monge, Saccheri, Schweikart, Taurinus and, last but not least, Bolyai senior) discover at the same time that something was wrong about the logical structure of Euclidean geometry; and how the social  operating in the most undeveloped Hungary and Russia made Bolyai junior and Lobatchevsky discover at the same time (historically speaking: it was the 3rd November, 1823 for the Hungarian, and the 24th February, 1826 for the Russian geometer) what was wrong about the logical operation of all those exalted precursors spending almost a century to try to deduce the Postulate V from four other Postulates, instead of, what Bolyai junior and Lobatchevsky did, going without the Postulate V at all (cf. L. Garai: Hypothesis on the Motivation of Scientific Creativity. XIII International Congress of the History of Science. USSR, Moscow, August 18-24, 1971. "Nauka" Publishing House. M., 224-233.).

In another investigation I applied the same method of paralleled structural analysis to the oeuvre of the greatest Hungerian poet Attila Jozsef (The case of Attila Jozsef: A reply to Gustav Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988], pp. 213-217)












Derived theoretical features –

Производные теоретические очерки





Philosophical psychology



A dialogue about man, his gene pool and eccentricity


Man: May I be the first to speak?

Scientist: Certainly.

Man: To avoid a misunderstanding, notably that the author may have deliberately used a logical implication by casting me in the role of man and both of you in that of the scholars. I think that this simply means that the author does not know or to be more polite, cannot use the logical rules of classification. He may have meant to imply that I am merely a man while you are scholarly a men. Now I think the excellent poet and philosopher Attila Jozsef said of this very "merely a man" in one of his poems: "man is not yet great, but fancies he is, and so he is eccentric."                          

If you scholars allow me to use such non-scientific terms, my generation, those born between 1933 and 1937 have incorporated in their genes like an overdose of radiation what the eccentricity of imagined greatness meant. But what did Attila Jozsef build his optimism on that made him say: "man is not yet great"? Can we believe him when he also says in another poem: "I have faith, for, unlike our forefathers, we get no longer impaled.?"

If so, those who outlived him by a let alone seven years can no more share his faith, and those who may have seen their trust revived by the historical changes of a later period must have gained new experiences from the terrorism against the background of forced calm in the 70s as well as from the resurrection of certain practices, if not in Europe, in certain parts of the world, which historical memory buried in its deepest layers together with impaling: in Cambodia mountains have been constructed out of human heads, in Iran women have been ordered to veil their faces with blackÉ

My question, then, is whether science has any grounds other than the assurance of changing historical experience to persuade me that man, though not yet great, is going to be one day? That his eccentricities are similar to those of a three year old's first defiant phase when he is able to do something alone and thus wants to do everything alone in order to learn a lot of things; or to the adolescent who tests himself with his eccentricities to see if he is personally accompanied by Attila J—zsef's "mind and love"?

Scientist: Attila Jozseflike so many other artists expresses the desires and anxieties of many of us, probably far better than the relevant branch of natural science called psychology ever could. But from the aspect of objective truth art must not be taken seriously. However captivating the poet's image expressing the lightness of the summer atmosphere may be: "with silver gayness the birch-tree shakes a whiff of windÉ". From a scientific viewpoint it is an absurd statement as normally the wind shakes the tree and not vice versa. Well, similar is the case with the poetic image referring to the greatness of man.

Contrary to what Attila Jozsef would suggest if he offered what he does as science and not as poetry, the truth is that, should I presume that "man is great", I have no reason to add he is "already great" for he has  been of the sa­me dimension    for over    a hundred   thousand years;  similarly, if my subjec­tive opinion  is that "man is not great", I may not add as an objective prediction   that he is "not yet  great", for we have no reason whatever to believe  that he will change his dimension for the next hundred thousand years either.

Man: I no longer understand   a word of this. Does this mean that natural   science has made a new Copernican about-turn discovering that the course man has taken from the stone axe to the cybernetic automaton so that we might believe that  he would proceed along the same line, well, that this course is just as much an illusion of our everyday consciousness as is the one  that  the sun seems to revolve around the earth? Will  you enlighten me, please?

Scientist: I am afraid  I misunderstood you. For a  split second I had the impression that you were  talking about the greatness and eccentricity of man and not of technology.

Man: Indeed, does not man create technology?

Scientist: The more I reflect on this  puzzling question, the more readily I have to acknowledge that it cannot be otherwise.

Man: Can technology which is developing at such an accelerated rate have been created by man who has  remained unchanged for the last hundred  thousand years and seems likely to remain so for the next hundred   thousand?

Scientist: Look, it is the philosopher  you have to ask about the logical links between various things. As for me, I have only put my facts down  on this round table. And if you place your facts next to mine on the table, I will acknowledge that there is more than one fact placed on the round table of knowledge. Just as one my assume that there must be more than one thing existing side by side in the sphere of the universe.

Philosopher: If the fact of which your knowledge or belief in has just been revealed  to us does exist in the universe.

Scientist: Do you doubt it? That becomes a philosopher. But I can prove what I have posited, notably that man's most important traits have not changed significantly since the Homo sapiens came into being.

Philosopher: I am curious to hear how you will verify this less weighty part of your former statement.

Scientist: Well, then. The clearest way for the traits of the human species to change during the course of history and for these changes to accumulate in a given direction is to have each individual  hand down to their offspring the qualities they have acquired during their individual existence. This would mean that one  generation could grow up standing on the shoulders of the previous one, so to speak, and man would keep growing visibly greater as regards many of his valuable traits. We know now, however, that acquired qualities are not inherited. Another way to accumulate the valuable qualities of the representatives of the human species at the expense of the worthless ones would be through the mechanism of selection. What the selection would need to be able to ensure this bias towards valuable qualities is that during the subsequent millenia the conditions of existence should consistently allow /or should allow more and more/ that the chance to reproduce for specimens with worthless qualities  it should be optimum. Now, if you look at history from this aspect you will find that it fails to create the conditions for selection of this kind, and fails increasingly to do so.Firstly, it levels off the differences between the conditions of existence by organizing on a social scale protection from natural catastrophes /e.g. epidemics/ or other dangers which are harmful to man, which would more likely hit those individuals who lack the valuable qualities necessary for survival. Secondly, should there be some unequal distribution of the conditions of existence within the levelling-off tendency, the value judgement concerning this differentiation would still change from one historical period to the next, and beside, the historical periods with their relatively constant system of values prevail for an every shortening length of time, whereas, artificial selection needs more time to accumulate the highly evaluated  qualities in man's genes than a mere lifetime which is given in the most recent age, or the 150-200 years that was the duration of the bourgeois value system or for that matter, the one and a half millenia of the feudal system   of values.

Philosopher: Is it wrong for man to be able to enforce the values of equality and freedom he has chosen himself? For example, that of equality in levelling off the conditions  of existence, and that of freedom of refusing to tolerate for an ever shorter time that the system of values chosen by his forefather   should dominate him?

Scientist: If I exercise the right of the onlooker to applaud or boo the "performance" staged by nature on the basis of nature's "script", then I must say that quite the contrary, I do rather like that things are happening to man as they are. All I wanted to point out is that the price to pay for this is that man who undergoing these things is born today with exactly the same qualities as, say, a hundred thousand years ago.

Man: And in a hundred thousand years' time? Or a thousand? Or at least a hundred? To be quite frank the latter dimension interests me far more.

Philosopher: Indeed, the weightier part of your statement – that man won't be greater in the future either – is still to be explained.

Scientist: I think it follows  logically from what we said of his history so far. Yet there is something we have overlooked: mutation. Mutation is a sud­den du­rable change in the genetic material in response to an external stimu­lus? When it occurs at random, in a natural way, it is nearly always an adverse mo­dification and thee low viability of the mutant luckily kills it befo­re it can reproduce itself. Very rarely, however, a modification may take pla­ce re­sulting in a mutant that is more viable under the altered conditions of exis­tence than the normal specimens  of the species. In this case,  the mu­tant  begins to multiply, thereby laying the foundations of the evolution of a new species. As a matter of fact, it was mutation among the primates that pro­duced man himself with his new specific properties: his faculties of thin­king, speaking, social organization and work. Subsequent mutations in man ha­ve mostly been determinal with a very few that have worked. I only left the­se unmentioned because they made man simply more various but not "greater".

But if in future – and as things stand today it will be in the foreseeable future – man has to bring about pre-planned mutations in an artificial way, he will have an instrument to develop such traits for himself that will really make him "greater".

Man: This explanation does not lack spirit, and may also require love /after all, the new qualities have to be reproduced/, yet I don't think this is what Attila Jozsefhad in mind when he declared that "man is not yet great".

Scientist: That's right. This is why I said that  man as Attila Jozsefexplains him won't change his dimension for another hundred thousand years either.

Philosopher: It was the logical consistency of your whole train of thought that fascinated me most, /while you modestly denied being competent in the question of the logical connection of phenomena/. For a man who has been begotten by natural chance and delivered to life by natural necessity will also in future be forced to copy the accidentally produced patterns of the mutant faculties of thinking, speaking, socialization and work – this logical.

Scientist: Not at all. In future, just as he did in the past, man will also act out the reproduced and reproducible patterns, that is, he will think, speak organize society and, last but not least, work.

Man: Through which everything under the sun may change, mayn't it, except man himself.

Scientist: What man actually passes down to the next generation is a loose form that is filled in by a wide variety of contents by the environment. So man as the joint result of these two factors – inheritance and environmental effect – is more readily seen as something highly changeable. If you add that due to recessive inheritance not only the environmentally produced contents of the individual but also the inherited patterns may differ from those of the immediate ancestors', one can admit that natural science is really hard put to demonstrate from beneath all these secondary components that which has preserved unchanged the essence of Homo sapiens ever since the species began.

Philosopher: Your reasoning has enthralled me with the elegance of its logic itself is only a form, consequently, it applies that it can be filled in with a wide variety of contents: false and true alike. You, for one, have filled it in with false – or erratic – content, to keep to the polite traditions of round table conferences.

Scientist: If you would kindly explain this is detail, I should be only too happy to learn from it.

Philosopher: You have doubled my enthusiasm!

Your reasoning fascinated me first and foremost with the elegance with which you consistently separated man's essence from what it is manifest in, as well as the qualities of the whole human species from those of individuals.Your consistency in differentiating these twice two things has been so impressive that I would not be surprised to be interrupted by you warning me that it was a single differentiation you made: by pointing out the essence of man in its abstract purity you separated the constant qualities of the human species from the individual variants at the same time, and by demonstrating how the environmental stimuli, recessive inheritance and occasional accidental mutations affect the qualities of man, you marked off the human appearances from the essence that is manifest in man. From the human essence that is, which is then just as identical with the stable qualities of the human species as is its manifestation with the individual variants. These two correspondences are so obvious that mere mention of them makes the text redundant.

Why I have nonetheless brought up this pair of truths is because they belong to the false truisms of everyday consciousness that may totally mislead science.

Man: Totally – if this is not only one of the superlatives that intellectuals are prone to use than it must mean that the right orientation tends towards the diametrical opposite of this pair of correspondences. In other words: man's essence should be identical with the individual traits,while the stable qualities of the species are mere appearances. It is an odd assumption.

Philosopher: Well, mine, if you like, is even stranger.I am convinced that man's essence is identical with his individual acts, while the so-called "quality"is none other than the way the individual act appears in his ideological consciousness.

Scientist: In order for us to be able to evaluate this really peculiar statement, let me make sure that I understood it properly: what you say is said, isn't it, of the qualities of the individual in the spirit of such social psychological theories as cognitive dissonance and attribution theory which claim that personality traits as such do not exist but are the instruments of consciousness for the subsequent evalution of the individual act with the halo of which  consciousness adduces rational causes for an act. If this is so, I can understand your statement even though I can't accept it. But if you think, which is totally absurd assumption and I only mention it to prevent any subsequent misunderstanding – well, if you should think that even those qualities of Homo sapiens the genetic carriers of which inherent in every normal human being and which are slowly becoming know to us, are also mere products of our consciousness with the help of which we "explain away" as it were our acts, wellÉ

Philosopher: God forbid that I should deny such traits of Homo sapiens as the specific build of the male and female organisms. Neither would I question that X /by which I do not mean a chromosome but a specific though unspecified individual/ does have traits,for example the pattern of the skin on his fingertips by which he can be differentiated from all the other specimens of Homo sapiens and at the same time he can be identified with himself from the time of his birth /or even earlier/ to his death /or later/. Finally I maintain that in addition to such universal and such individual traits man has some other existent traits capable of objective investigation with the help of the instruments of natural science, which characterize many individuals in the same way but differentiate them from other groups of individuals within the species, I mean traits like blood group or skin colour. Now, if I were decide whether any of the above kinds of qualities   are essential or superficial, I would be at loss: the assumption that claims that man's essence is being "a two-legged, featherless animal" appears just as nonsensical to me as the one that claims to find the essence of X's personality in the curves of his fingerprint. It would be too easy to demonstrate my ideas with theories that operate not with universal or individual traits, but with particular ones such as skin colour.

Basically different is the case with traits in connection with which the question of essence and appearance can be raised adequately. These traits are always the inner disposition of outward behaviour, the formulation of which gives the answer to the question: Why did X do what he did?                


Social psychology

Social identity: Cognitive dissonance or paradox?


Abstract - Cognitive dissonance is considered as emerging between the social identity of persons and that of their acts. An analysis is made of the paradoxical consequences of a double bind: Those who are A are supposed not to do B and are also supposed not to think that those who are A would be allowed to do B. The Cohen-Rosenberg controversy is presented here, revised on this basis, and illustrated by the two authors’ experiments. It is claimed that the psychosocial aspect of social identity is complemented by its socioeconomic aspect. Indeed, the valuation of an identity is always a judgment of the extent to which this model should be reproduced. The more tolerant or the more ruthless manner of imposing value models of social identity is determined by socioeconomic factors On the other hand, the socioeconomic positions may be specified by psychosocial factors. The psychoeconomic connection in social identity is accentuated in post-capitalist societies, turning human faculties and needs into factors to be produced and reproduced by the economic system.

Some social psychologists consider that the question of social identity “is nothing but that of modes of organization for a given individual of his representations of himself and of the group to which he belongs” (Zavalloni, 1973, p. 245). For others (see, for example, Sarbin & Allen, 1969) it is what the individual does from his position in the social structure that defines his identity, rather than what he thinks about it when comparing himself to his group.

These latter could argue that one has a social identity of, for example, a working person when he regularly carries out an activity in working and in claiming the remuneration for it, rather than because of a representation that he has of himself or others have of him. And, similarly, it is not being considered as a hedonist person that identifies someone socially as such, but his acting freely and in eventually assuming the necessary pecuniary sacrifice for it.

But what about the identity of someone who works (for example, whitewashing a fence) and assumes a sacrifice for this activity! Or the identity of that other who acts freely (in playing, for example, football) and claims the remuneration for this very activity?

Although these questions sound absurd, however, we know the story

(imaginary, but too real) of Tom Sawyer who led his playmates to pay in order to

have the pleaswe to whitewash a fence. Now, was the social identity of these

children that of a working person when, on that hot Saturday afternoon, bathing

in the river would have been a much more attractive activity?

And we know, too, of the famous Hungarian football captain of the team of the “belle epoque” to whom people credit the saying “Good pay, good play, bad pay, bad play”. Does this mean that this sportsman had the social identity of a hedonist player when, at a time of austere amateurism, he claimed a remuneration in proportion to the work carried out?

Looking for indicators of social identity, one may start by preferring acts to representations. But one soon realizes that it is the representation of an act rather than the act itself that is the matter here, since one cannot identify socially a person committing an act without identifying socially the act committed by this person. Is whitewashing a fence necessarily work, and playing football a pleasure? Yet, the act of a representation here may be the act itself in question.

If one plays football and is paid for this activity, the cognitions referring to these two facts will be in dissonance that is considered by cognitive dissonance theoyv responsible for creating in the individual’s mind a tension that is more or less painful and that can be reduced only by modifying one of the cognitions to the point where it becomes consistent with the other, for example, by modifying the social identity of the activity in order to present it as work. It is the same for the case where one accomplishes a job in whitewashing the fence and lets oneself be led at the same time to pay for doing this activity.

This supposition has been tested repeatedly in laboratory experiments. Deci (1975) gave riddles to students to solve, one group being paid for this activity while another was not. During breaks, those not paid could not resist going on with the puzzle solving, while those paid rested after their work. In another experiment, nursery school children lost their interest in toy A when promised to be “rewarded” for playing with it by permission to play with toy B, and vice versa.

At this point, the question arises concerning the nature of the cognitive field which determines that two cognitions are consistent or dissonant. In this classic form of the cognitive dissonance theory, Festinger (1957) did not raise this question, proposing simply that the dissonance between cognitions A and B emerges if A implies psychologically non-B. Later, he specified the conditions necessary for creating dissonance between two cognitions: “Whenever one has an information or a belief that, taken alone, ought to push one not to commit an act, this information or belief is dissonant with the fact that one has actually committed this act” (Festinger, 1963, p. 18).

But, how can an idea incite one to commit an act? What does “implies psychologically” mean ? To take a classic example, if one thinks that all human beings are mortal and that Socrates is a human being, one finds oneself brought by these two ideas to have yet a third one: Socrates is mortal. If, in spite of this incitement, one thinks that Socrates is immortal, this produces a cognitive dissonance that has the form of a logical error. But he who works and at the same time pays for the pleasure of working commits no logical error, and neither does someone who plays and is paid for playing.

Strictly speaking, in this case of a paid player (as opposed to the person paying/07 the pleasure of working) there should not be any cognitive dissonance, according to the above Festinger formula. If one has the information or the belief of being paid for play, one should not be pushed at all by this to not do the activity. We shall examine this curious matter later on.

To bring us nearer to an answer, Aronson reformulated the theory (Aronson & Mettee, 1968; Nel et al., 1969; Aronson et al., 1975; Aronson, 1976). According to his suggestions, the information or belief which would push me not to commit an act is the cognition of my social identity incomjxtible with such an act. Aronson takes into consideration more general dimensions of social identity, such as reuson and honesty.

If I have the cognition A, “One makes me pay for work done by myself’, and the cognition B, “I bring about this activity”, it is not necessary that A psychologically implies non-B. It is therefore not necessary that a cognitive dissonance emerge between A and B. On the contrary, if I hold the cognition A, “I am a reasonable person”, and the cognition B, “I work and, more, I pay to work”, then the dissonance becomes inevitable, since a person whose identity is described by A cannot commit an act the corresponding identity of which is defined by B.

According to the idea that cognitive dissonance can emerge between the definition of the social identity of the act and that of its author has been revealed as very important in explaining certain apparent irregularities of this phenomenon. In the beginning, one supposed, for example, that to believe X and to say non-X was susceptible in itself to introducing the dissonance. However, to explain this statement sufficiently in everyday life, the reward or punishment dimension has been mentioned: getting the former or avoiding the latter would provide an external justification compensating for the tension of the dissonance.

Lacking such a justification, the tension would tend to be reduced by bringing the afflicted subject to believe what he said. This hypothesis (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959) has been confirmed by many experiments dealing with forced comfiliance for a contra-attitudinal advocacy. When the reward or punishment received in these experiments is just enough to force the subject to plead against his attitudes, he is pushed to believe what he said. But when the punishment or reward is larger, the tendency of the sub:ject to believe what he said is weakened. However, there are as many experiments that disprove this hypothesis demonstrating that the liability of the subjects to adjust their beliefs to their words is directly proportional to the importance of the reward or punishment in question.

Now, neither an inverse nor a direct proportionality between the amount of the reward or punishment and the tendency to adapt the thought to the word is given, first, for the simple reason that one may not feel at all the necessity of co-ordinating one’s thought and one’s words. Once again, it is not between a cognition A, “I believe X”, and a cognition B, “I say non-%‘, that the cognitive dissonance manifests itself, but between the cognition A, “I am honest”, and the cognition B, “While believing X, I lead others to believe non-X”. It is for this reason, in experiments during which the experimental manipulations prevented the subject from defining his social identity in conformity with A (see, for example, Aronson 8r Mettee, 1968) or that of his act in conformity with B (Nel et al., 1969), that the “normal” display of cognitive dissonance is then perturbed.

Being among the most general dimensions of social identity, honesty and reason are still socially concrete. “To be reasonable” amounts to this: “To choose the most advantageous alternative”. And “to be honest” amounts to “not to prevent others from choosing, in conformity with established rules, their most advantageous alternative”. This means, in the last analysis, that honesty and reason turn out to be characteristics of the middle class in a capitalistic society. (Without examining this statement in more detail let us only consider intuitively the difference between such a “reason” or “honesty,” on the one hand, and that of Brutus or of a Petrograd proletarian in 1917.)

Now, if it is true that the cognitions “I believe X” and “I say, convincingly, non- X” demonstrate a cognitive dissonance only because a cognition defines their relation for the acting person by socially defining this person, it is also true that the dissonance between the cognitions defining the social identity of the act on the one side (“In believing X I lead others to believe non-X”) and that of the acting person on the other side (“I am honest”) exists only by a supplementary cognition defining, so to speak, the social identity of the social identity itself (“Honest people do not lead others into error”).

Thus, the complete formula for cognitive dissonance is as follows:

1. I am A;

2. I do B;

3. A does not do B,

where A is any social category and B is any relevant social act. “Any” means that the formula can convey even contents as concrete as this:

1. I am an authentic Moslem;

2. I drink wine;

3. An authentic Moslem does not drink wine.

For all kinds of concrete incarnations of the above three-piece formula, there exist three types of reducing cognitive dissonance adjusted to each of the above items, respectively, and re-defining social identity.

Type 1~ Realize that one is no more (or that one has never been) A. I am no longer an authentic Moslem since I drank wine. I am not honest because I pleaded, to convince others, that the police had their reasons to have penetrated the university campus and to have killed four supposed demonstrators, at the same time being convinced that no reason could exist for such disgrace (Cohen, 1962). The cognitive consistency is recovered, but at the price of losing social identity, a price too high for the counterpart, such that one pays only at exceptional moments of individual and/or social identity crisis.

Type 2. Reinterpret B. This is the sphere par excellence for reducing cognitive dissonance. It wasn’t wine, but vodka that I drank, consequently, I can still consider myself an authentic Moslem. It wasn’t work I did, but an amusement, so I can keep considering myself reasonable when I paid to have the pleasure of whitewashing the fence, or honest in being remunerated for playing football, since it wasn’t for play, but labour. And it is the same for honesty in a situation of arguments contrary to attitudes: if I believe what I say, then I do not mislead others in error by intention, consequently, I can maintain my identity of an honest person.

Actually, relations at this point are more complicated. Besides conditions concerning the form, honesty, and in the same way, reason or any other social quality, also has criteria related to the content. For honesty, formal criteria are given if one does not say what one does not think. The question of content criteria still remains as to whether this very thought is compatible with honesty.

In this context, we have to re-examine the famous controversy between Cohen (1962) and Rosenberg (1965). Cohen invited his subjects to justify the murderous intervention of the police force during a demonstration on the Yale Campus. As far as honesty is implicated, this social identity of a person is lost in any case, since he starts pleading justification of the intervention, either because of a form of bringing other people to believe something important that is not believed by the person himself, or by the content of really holding such a belief.

Thus, for this experience, there is no possibility of reducing a cognitive dissonance referred precisely to this social identity.

On the other hand, the form of arguing against one’s own convictions is incompatible with the social identity of a reasonable person as well, while this time the same content (an advocacy for police intervention) is not particularly inconsistent with that identity. Now, it is exactly for the cognitive dissonance referred to the social identity of a reasonable person that it holds true that the more the reward is guaranteed or the punishment prevented by this very act, the more the pains of a cognitive dissonance are compensated. If one advocates against his own beliefs one runs a risk of losing his identity of a reasonable person, but to do so for an ample reward or for an escape from a painful punishment is just the strategy depicting somebody as really reasonable. Thus, it is by no means surprising that Cohen found an inverse ratio between the size of reward/punishment, on the one hand, and the willingness of someone, driven by a cognitive dissonance, to adjust his beliefs to his words, on the other.

As to Rosenberg’s experiment, the above two factors were related to each other quite differently. This time, subjects had been invited to advocate very unpopular arrangements of the University authorities concerning the University’s football team. As to the honesty matter, this time it has the same form condition: to believe whatever is said. However, as regards the content conditions, nobody is prevented from being an honest person only because he does believe, in conformity with what he has said, that a University’s football team could be restricted by authorities (while in Cohen’s experiment everybody was prevented from it by the content of his belief about the National Guard’s murderous act).

Thus, in this experiment, there does exist the possibility of reducing the dissonance between two cognitions - “I am an honest person” and “1 believe X while having others believe non-X” - by the modification of this latter cognition.

We should remember that the greater the dissonance is, the more powerful is the drive to perform these modifications. That is the point where the reward/punishment matter intervenes. As far as the identity of a reasonable person is concerned (as in Cohen’s experiment) the former serves as a direct index of the latter: the more profitable the freely chosen act turns out to be the more reasonable the person manifests himself by this choice. Now, the opposite is true when the dissonance concerns the identity of an honest person: the more profitable a dishonest act is the more dishonest it is. For this reason, the better paid Rosenberg’s honest subjects were (as opposed to Cohen’s reasonable subjects), the greater was their experienced cognitive dissonance and, for this reason, their willingness to adjust their beliefs to the statements they had previously made.

That was what Rosenberg actually found: he started his experiment in order to falsify cognitive dissonance theory and re-establish the explanation of facts by behaviorism. It is highly symptomatic that the whole cognitive dissonance theory, being interested exclusively in the formal aspect of its phenomena, tried to parry the conclusions of his experiment. If, however, contents of social identity are taken into consideration, Rosenberg’s attempted falsification turns out to be a powerful verification of this theory.

It is the same fixation of this theory (originating from that of Lewin which in turn derives from that of “Gestalt”) on mere form that may be held responsible for the way in which it treats the above three-piece formula in type 3. It is at this point that it would be the most promising to attack, since it is this cognition in the three-piece formula which is undermined the most directly by cognitive dissonance. This is the case because, in spite of what this form pretends, there appears an A (namely me, I who am A) who does do B. Why consider that an orthodox Moslem does not drink wine if there is one (me) who does do it? If it is about the natural identity of objects one has no reticence in proceeding this way:

While having the belief (3) “The glasses of a given set do not break”, the evidence

(1) “This concrete glass belongs to that given set”, and the empirical experience

(2) “This concrete glass is broken”, one can be brought to adjust his belief (3)

rather than his evidence (1) to his experience (2).

It is therefore surprising that cognitive dissonance theory does not take into consideration this way of reducing the dissonance. Why not reduce.dissonance of, for example, a dishonest act by concluding that “Some honest people do lead others into error”. It is as if the cognitive psychologist said “Those who deliberately deceive others are in fact dishonest people”, or “He who acts against his own interest is really unreasonable”. Actually, it is not said, to the degree that this implication seems evident. Still, the same theory argued since the beginning with empirically observed data of subjects who neglect the most real facts of nature (such as, for example, a connection between lung cancer and the use of tobacco, or a danger of earthquakes in the area where one lives). Would the facts of social identity be more real than those of nature and, at that, of such a life importance?

Far from that, the facts of nature cannot be modified by cognitions: to go back to the preceding example, to class or not class an object among glasses of a set to notice or not notice that it breaks, modifies in no way the fact of belonging or not belonging to the glasses of this set nor that of being or not being fragile. On the contrary, it is true, as formulated by Georg Lukacs (1976), that consciousness has an ontoloRca1 .statu.s in the society, meaning for our present study that cognitions that ref’lect facts of social identity are also facts of this identity.

Thus, one carries out actions, among them socially relevant ones such as deceiving others or revealing the truth to them, drinking or not drinking wine, etc. At the same time, one may happen to think about what has been done and its social meaning, but those acts of thinking are themselves acts, too, and as such they may, like any other act, be relevant for one’s social identity. Namely, bringing an action against item 3 of cognitive dissonance is an act of thinking that is the most relevant for this matter. Thinking one may commit dishonest acts and still deserve honour is another dishonest act. Can someone who drinks wine consider himself an authentic Moslem? Certainly not, since he does something that is prohibited by Islam. Next, may someone who still considers him as an authentic Moslem be considered as an authentic Moslem. Certainly not, since he thinks something that makes nothing of the sacred interdicts of Islam.

To be fixed, the criterion of belonging to a category of social identity must be set at two levels at the same time: one of socially relevant facts and another meta-level of representations of these facts that are also socially relevant facts.

Let us go back to the above three-piece formula for cognitive dissonance. We have seen that item 2 introduces an ambiguity in identity representation. From item 3 I can conclude that “I am not A since I do B” (being given that A does not do B). At the same time, from item 1, I can conclude that “A can do B since I do B” (being given that I am A). This ambiguity could introduce arbitrariness into the definition of social identity which would be from now on a matter of consideration.

Let us consider, for example the following statement of Tajfel (1981): “We shall adopt a concept of ‘group’ identical to the definition of ‘nation’ proposed by the historian Emerson (1960) when he wrote: ‘The simplest statement that can be made about a nation is that it is a body of people who feel that they are a nation; and it may be that when all the hive-spun analysis is concluded this will be the ultimate statement as well’ (p. 102).” (pp. 229-230).

What is particularly appreciated by Tajfel in this “definition” is that by it, “members of a national group are considered as such when they categorize themselves with a high degree of consensus in the appropriate manner, and are consensually categorized in the same manner by others. His statement is essentially a social psychological one: it is not concerned with the historical, political, social, and economic events which may have led to the social consensus now defining who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. But there is no doubt that these events were crucial in the establishment of the nature of this consensus, and equally true that the consensus, once established, represents those social psychological aspects of social reality which interact with the social, political and economic events determining the present and the future fate of the group and of its relations with other groups” (Ibid).

However, it is undecided whether such a type of social, political and economic events incites someone to draw a conclusion from item 3 or, on the contrary, from item 1. Let us suppose that events in a population are marked for a long historical period by cooperation. For this reason will a group be formed (being given the principle according to which those helping each other are at one with each other)? Or,for the same remon will there be formed a large consensus about the mutual dependency producing mutual hate (being given the experience shared by everyone of a frustration by the impossibility of going without others)?

Now, if one would venture to reduce dissonance by type 3, this would make the dissonance reappear at a meta-level:


4. I think that A can do B;

5. A does not think that A can do B.

The attempts to reduce the meta-level cognitive dissonance (that is superimposed upon the one represented in the formula given earlier by the modification of each of the cognitions would produce a very particular configuration.

For the configuration concerning item 1, we saw above that modification signifies the definition of one’s social identity. The superimposition of this second three-piece formula on the first adds a constraint to that of abandoning one’s identity because of what one does: the constraint to abandon it because of what one thinks. I must recognize that I am no longer an authentic Moslem because I drank wine, but if in spite of it I claim identity of an authentic Moslem it means I consider violable the inviolable principles of Islam that imposes upon me a second constraint to give up my authentic Moslem identity. In the same way, while having committed a dishonest act, one can only claim the identity of an honest person if he is, in accordance with this dishonest thought, dishonest. It is this very double bind (cf. Watzlawick et al., 1967) that brings those who are subjected to it to an identity crisis ending eventually in a modification of the represented identity.

If, furthermore, it was item 4 that one tried to modify, we would regain item 3 and the original dissonance founded on it. Finally, the modification of item 5 would bring us to an infinite regression: to think act B compatible with the social category A, then to think that act of thought compatible with membership in this category, then to think the same thing of the second act of thought, etc.

This double bind is that of an ideology. For as far as it is concerned, the arbitrariness described above cannot exist any more. The induction from a fact can only proceed toward the definition of social identity as if their relationship was also given as a fact. (Let us remember what was said above: “Those who deliberately deceive others are Zn fact dishonest people”; or “He who acts against his own interest is really unreasonable”.)

True enough, here it is the real social identity that is concerned, in the sense that it is independent of judgments (“true” or “false”) concerning this identity. However, the reality of social identity is different from the facts of natural identity. The way in which nature treats natural identity can be observed by ethological phenomena, such as the proximity or distance keeping behavior of animals (Hall, 1969). The critical distance depends, besides the present activity, on what one could call the natural social identity of fellows. Animals, in the conditions associated with a certain type of activity (feeding, mating, migration, fighting, etc.) let themselves be approached or seek the proximity of a certain category of equals while at the same time keeping a distance from those who do not belong to this category. Supraindividual formations of this nature are organized and made possible by a system of signals produced by individuals.

However, the criterion by which they signify individuals belonging to social categories arises from the genetic program of the species. Thus, once established, categorial limits will be respected unanimously by each individual of the population, independently of each individual’s categorial belonging.

On the contrary, the criteria of the social identity of man are imposed only upon those who set a value on that identity (on the beginning of the definition of social identity, see Kocski & Garai, 1978). Thus, if it seems evident to us that someone who uses illegitimate means to keep others from taking into account their own legitimate interests is dishonest, this is by no means a reflection of natural criteria of belonging to the category of honest people. It is merely the proof of our intention to belong to that category: to be honest one must think in a precise way about what one must do to be honest. On the other hand, if we simply take notice of the criteria of a Moslem identity without finding it evident that a wine drinker cannot have it, it is one proof that we have no intention of identifying ourselves as Moslems.

The social relevance of a psychosocial identity

The claim to have a given social identity imposes the criterion of considering certain criteria as indispensable for belonging to this category, with such evidence that is not contested even by those who lack these criteria. This can be illustrated by t,he phenomenon of the sinner’s remorse. A sinner is someone lacking acts that serve as criteria of belonging to a social category valued ideologically and, for this reason, finding himself excluded by those who legitimately belong there. The sinner, smitten with remorse, excludes himself and by doing so, together with authentic representatives of this category, shows that he belongs to it, too. Sinners who repent are highly valorized by ideological categories because it is this paradox of their social identity that perhaps best distinguishes social identity from natural identity (in which, let us remember, none can show his belonging to a category without producing what is considered as its signs).

So far, the matter in question is about really lacking acts that are the criteria of a claimed social identity and, consequently, finding himself enclosed in a paradoxical dilemma: whether to claim the social identity in question and, in this way, add to a lack on the object level another on the meta-level’(i.e. add to acting inadequately thinking inadequately on that act), or, to punish by excluding himself from the community of that social identity and, thus, redeem the lack at the object level by this fervour at the meta-level.

Another type of paradox of social categorization, quite different from the previous one as to its structure, is that of confession of non-committed crimes. The whole generation of people committed to the left-wing cause has made efforts to find out the horrific secret of social psychological drives of those accusees of the Moscow (see Medvediev, 1972), Budapest (Savarius [Szasz], 1963) and Prague trials (London, 1976) who displayed compliance with the violent demand of confessing merely imagina9 acts of high treason supposedly committed against the Communist Party in order to display their intransigent devotion to this party. The matter is that the very act of insisting on not having done anything against the Party would constitute the act itself against the Party, as far as the Party is identified with the directives issued by its leaders and when these latter prescribe precisely the confession of non committed acts against the Party. (For other aspects of paradoxes of social identity see Garai, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1985; Garai & Eros, 1976; Garai et al., 1979.)

With the paradoxical definition of social identity, social reproduction is at stake. In each society there exist cultural (both technical and moral) models of well defined social identity with a high reproduction rate, while differently identified models have a more or less lower chance to dispose of material conditions of their reproduction. There exists a correspondence between the socio-economic identity defined by the distribution of these materzal conditions of social reproduction between social categories, on the one hand, and the psychosocial identity defining the attribution of more or less value to sociul categories, on the other.

Socio-economic identity endows psycho-social identity with an energetic aspect defining to what extent social categories in a given historical period of a given society are or are not able to tolerate each other’s existence or being included in a given (familial, f riendly, club, work etc.) setting, individual cases . of belonging to both categories, etc. On the other hand, the psycho-social identity endows the socio-economic one with an informational aspect that defines what kind of social (economic, national, religious, cultural etc.) categories are included in and excluded from the disposition of material means of reproduction.

Now, this two-way determination becomes accessible for investigation as far as the two level organization of relations and its paradoxes are taken into consideration. Thus, for example, investigations about intergroup relations (such as the Bogardus survey), taking into consideration only the object level of really existing, socio-economically created interaction of groups, had almost no psycho-social character. When Sheriff (1966) got interested in the matter of this latter character he created artificially this aspect by means of an experimental manipulation of such formal components of the meta-level as co-operation and competition. On the contrary, Tajfel (1981, pp. 228-253 and 268-287) discovered that the real social context imposes upon an experiment not only an object level of the real socio-economic membership groups of its subjects, but also a meta-level of their willingness to establish psycho-social groups of any kind and categorically exaggerate the internal similarities and external differences of both the pre-existing and the newly established groups.

The same is true for the opposite form of the above relations. There is probably not much possibility of demonstrating that a psycho-socially founded category becomes a socio-economically relevant one (claiming, for example, that such-and-such psycho-social group becomes the dominant class). Nevertheless, we know the investigation of Voslensky (1980) about the Nomenklatura. The Nomenklatura is a set of key positions interrelated with each other in the social structure of “really existing socialism” and a set of people who can exclusively occupy these positions. Now, the author provides the richest picture of a psycho-social game regulating the matter of who occupies which position, and he succeeds in outlining how this game regulates the socio-economic structure of a society because both the latter’s object level and its meta-level are concerned with a paradox introduced by the former. The nature of this paradox is as follows:

Those in more central positions subsequently define the rules of the game according to which they are previously elected, or members are subsequently elected for more central positions entitling them to define previously the rules of this game. In such a system social identity once defined by psycho-social means is reproduced according to socio-economic ends.

But taking into account the paradoxical structure of social identity we may advance toward a psycho-economic theory comprehending both psycho-social definition and socio-economic reproduction of patterns of social identity.*


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Economic psychology


Identity Economics

An Alternative Economic Psychology

               [In Hungarian]

               Tas Editor, 2006. 294 pp.




               The antecedents of this monograph are four editions of the one entitled Foundation of an Economic Psychology that has been published [in Hun­­garian] by the Hungarian Economic Society in 1990 and reprinted (in 1992) for teaching purposes by the Budapest Economic University. Its second, redacted edition has been published by the Attila Jozsef University (General Economic Psychology, 1996 [reprinted: 1997]). The third, enlarged and redacted edition: Attila Jozsef University Press, 1997 [reprinted: 1997]. The fourth edition: The human potential as capital: An approach by the economic psychology. “Aula” Economic University Press, 1998 [reprinted: 1999, 2000, 2001; an illegal reprint misentitled The human capital as potential: 2002]).

               The mainstream psychology is based on a methodological individualism. The proposed monograph presents an alternative to that academism by approaching economic psychology (as well as some features of political psychology, socio-psycho-linguistics etc.) from the aspect of social interaction and social identity, as linked both to micro- and to macroeconomic issues.

I. General Economic Psychology

               The economic psychology is claimed by the monograph to have emerged as a science about psycho­logic phe­no­mena turned into economic factors during a his­torical period labeled as second modernization and facing the necessity of producing human re­sour­ces at the cost of con­suming material resources.

               The first chapter The Economic Psychology Approach presents an axiomatic model of the economic man and so­me contemporary reason for which the real economic activity does not corres­pond to that model. The psychology of behaviorism that corresponds to the “economic man’ model and three alternative psychologies (that of cog­ni­ti­ve psycho­logy, of psycho-analysis and the social psycho­logy) are presented in so­me de­tails. They are comparatively examined in their capacity to explain mar­ket and organizational economic activity of men. The problem of needs of an “eco­no­mic man” is evoked and a theory of specifically human basic need is pro­po­sed as a solution to that problem; the structure of the hypothesized need cor­res­ponds to that of a specifically human activity defined along both technical and social criteria.

               The second chapter Mediating Economic Transactions: The Psycho-Social Identity makes a distinction between two kinds of psycho­lo­gic phe­nomena turned into economic factors: technical dispositions of maste­ring things' attributes and social dispositions of mastering persons' relations. It sta­tes that unlike the material production depending only on technical attributes of both producing and produced factors, the modern human production is de­ter­mi­ned also by the factors' social relations. These latters are dealt in terms of psy­cho­social identity that is presented as the key-con­cept of the economic psychology.

               Psychosocial identity is considered to be produced by an elaboration of not at­tributes (whether psychological characteristics of a person or socio­lo­gi­cal charac­teristics of his status) but relations. This elaboration is the so­cial ca­tegorization. It is from the early child­hood on mediated by an un­con­scious pro­cess of semiosis in which the child's dif­fu­se vocal, motor, postural, va­so-mo­tor or other somatic, as well as developing be­havioral, verbal, intel­lec­tual and af­fective manifestations get sha­ped as signifying factors that are at­ta­ched to si­multaneously shaped social categories as their sig­nified factors so that si­mi­lar identity factors should be symbolized by simi­lar, and diffe­rent ones by dif­ferent symbols. In grown-up people this mecha­nism is a po­wer­ful one for di­verting their eco­no­mic behavior from the rationality norms of eco­no­mic man: this behavior's acts get a symbolic va­lue and, thus, their des­tiny is strongly influenced by that of social identity they symbolize. At the sa­­me ti­me, objects of the economic behavior get allocated, according to a ter­rito­rial mechanism, to one or another social category (whether it is repre­sen­ted by a large or small group or just one per­son); the possession enables ow­ner(s) to and, respectively, disables others from well-defined economic activities.


II. Special Economic Psychology

               The second volume is a sample of application of the general economic psychology’s above findings to various issues of both market and organization behavior.

               The third chapter Managing Material and Human Resources deals with the economic psychology of manufacturing and purchasing goods, marketing and financing activity, management and development transactions, organizational and socializational behavior. Information management and knowledge economy are dealt with in more details, as approached by economic psychology. In contrast to economics, econo­mic psy­cho­logy does not consider information management as a merely control pro­cess but as one of the real processes in that system; on the other hand, in contrast to psy­cho­lo­gy, the economic psychology considers the knowledge economy a social and not an individual performan­ce, the monograph ar­gues. While the social iden­ti­ty is considered to be the main fac­tor me­dia­ting bet­ween individual and social matters, as well as between cont­rol and real processes, it is argued that at the same time it creates a new duality: between information and knowledge, on one hand, identity itself and the deed investing someone with that identity. This duality becomes consummate in that of contemporary universities with their bifurcation of the knowledge supply and the diploma supply.

               The fourth chapter Managing Human Resources: The Second Moderniza­tion”. The modernization is defined as a generalized tendency of artificial inter­ven­tion by the socio-economic system into na­tural processes in order to manufacture conditions that are necessary for its own functioning. Du­ring a first period, in the 18-19th century the modernization meant, on one hand, manufac­tu­ring the material fac­tors the system depended on, and, on the other, making the system independent of the human pheno­me­na that had not been produced by itself. However, from the end of the 19th century onwards the actual so­cio-economic sys­tem's running has no longer been indepen­dent of the faculties and needs effective in the popu­lation, hence a second modernization imposed upon the socio-economic sys­tem the necessity of manufacturing (and not only exploiting) human (and not only material) conditions of its functioning.

               This necessity is analyzed in terms of human capital invested either by one of the interes­ted parties (whether the one supplying the human poten­tial or the one demanding it) or the state. Possession relations of human ca­pital are analyzed in details, sin­ce the ca­pital invested by the state into the for­ma­tion of a per­son's po­tential will be organically integrated in his bo­dy and mind, and will be insepa­ra­ble from the physical and mental faculties that we­re origi­nal­ly gi­ven to him.

               In the aspect of manufacturing human conditions are investigated the tota­li­ta­rian sta­tes. They are clai­med to di­rect­ly apply the stra­­tegies of the 19-century lar­ge scale material pro­­ces­sing in­dus­t­ry in establishing a lar­ge scale hu­man pro­ces­­sing industry in 20th cen­tu­ry. It deals with that human condition, too, that is repre­sen­ted by the social identity marked by either competition or monopoly, a perfect (i.e. e., not dis­tur­bed by any monopoly) competition being as important a condition for a market economic sys­tem as is a perfect (i.e. e., not disturbed by any competition) monopoly for a planned economic organization.

               Paradoxical consequences of such a hu­man pro­ces­­sing industry are evoked. When the relations of either competition or monopoly are concerned, the intact juxtaposition of both of them without any bias is nothing but their competition. On the other hand, when either the competition gets eradicated from a socio-economic system (conside­ring the necessities of a planned organization, as is the case for the Bolshevik type totalitarian sta­te), or the monopoly gets extirpated (in order to fit the needs of a market, as in case of a Fascist, a national-socialist kind totalitarian sta­te), the manufactured product is straight a monopoly.

               However, the main difference between two types of totali­ta­rian sta­tes is dealt with in terms of difference between is­sues of that human processing in­dustry: those of a fascist type are claimed to establish a large scale industry for peo­ples attributes, while in Bol­she­vik type totalitarian societies their relations, too, get manufactured.

               The fifth chapter The Bolshevik-Type Version of the Second Modernization. Bolshevik type societies, instead of being investigated from either an ideological or a politological aspect, are approached, too, by the economic psychology. For such an approach, both structure and functioning of those societies are tested from the point of view of a human capital economy within the frame of the second modernization.

               The second modernization’s basic dilemma is presented: the mo­re high­ly qualified human po­tential is involved the larger and lar­ger amount of capital is required for its manufacturing – and, at the same ti­me, the lar­ger and larger autonomy is required for that human potential's run­ning. As far as the required capital is ensured by the involvement of the Sta­te the autonomy turns out to be in short supply, but if the aspect of the au­to­nomy makes the state get out from the human business by charging the costs of human de­velop­ment to the individual's account then capital will be scarce.

               Therefore the organizing principle of these societies are not only bureaucracy setting social power to the office a person incidentally occupies but also charisma that sets it directly to the person as referred to his record. Being originated from 20th century's radical anti-bureaucratic (illegal) mass movements, the charisma provides not only a leader but the whole headquarter of the revolutionary movement and even the whole party as its vanguard with a social power independently from anyone’s office. On the other hand, as far as this collective charisma is concerned, in Bolshevik-type structures the person gets (and loses) his glamour by being invested with (and, resp., dismissed from) a charisma just like with (from) an office: in order to get the social identity that is independent from any appointment one has to be appointed. This procedure of bureaucratically appointing someone to a collective charisma gets institutionalized in the Nomenklatura that links to each other the status of the functionary and the identity of the commissar. Such features of the Bolshevik type social structures, together with a self-establishing machinery of the de­mocratic centralism for the identity of those belonging to the Bolshevik type Party are claimed by the monograph to be psycho-economic devices for keeping in operation a peculiar processing industry whose final mass-pro­duct was, for a totalitarian state supplying the capital needed, a rather peculiar version of the autonomy needed: the complicity of the system's victims. Both the functioning and crash of the Bolshevik type system are analyzed from the point of view of a paradoxical self-establishing psychosocial effect (as opposed to a self-undermining paradoxical effect of the fascist type tota­li­ta­rian sta­tes' functioning).

               Treating the Bolshevik-type organiza­tions’ structural dualism (that used to be best known as a state and party leadership”) leads on to the closing sixth

               chapter From the Post-Bolshevik Structures toward an Information-Processing Large-Scale Industry”. The Bolshevik-ty­pe twin-fea­tures are compared to the twin-structures of the information-processing (e.g., to the dua­lity of the information's bearer and its place value). The Bolshevik-type structure that is made up of con­cen­tric circles is studied as an information processing device in which in­formation may tra­vel exclu­si­vely in centripetal and centrifugal directions whi­le its path is strictly blocked between the neighbo­ring but separate peripheral units of each ring (e.g. the primary party organizations). In such a struc­ture the center has a perfect control over the totality of the output informations; hence, this cen­ter is enabled to provide 1., the perfect protection of data; 2., the total control of addres­sees and 3., a virtual periphery set up around any of the concentric rings which can at any moment be sub­stituted by the center for the real one (it is the function of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984).

               In this closing chapter of the monograph psycho-economical conditions of an in­for­mation eco­nomics are analyzed. The econo­mic psy­cho­logy

               in contrast to economics, does not consider infor­mation processing as a merely control pro­cess but as one of the real processes in that system; and

               in contrast to psy­cho­lo­gy, it considers in­for­ma­tion processing a social and not an individual per­for­man­ce,

               the monograph ar­gues. Psy­cho-economical peculiarities of in­for­ma­tion’s property relations, as well as ap­propriation and alienation ope­ra­tions are analyzed within modern information management. The social iden­ti­ty pro­cessed by social categorization is considered the main fac­tor me­dia­ting bet­ween social and individual issues, as well as between cont­rol and real processes.

               A new general tendency of materializing that so­cial cate­go­rization in societies' new splitting in an elite and a mass is criti­cal­ly analyzed as a kind of a radical settling of the second modernization’s basic dilemma: this time both the capital required for manufacturing a high­ly qualified human po­tential and the autonomy that is required for its run­ning get focu­sed on the si­de of the elite, while on the side of the mass there is both factor's lack. This asymmetry of identities within organization is paralleled by the monograph to markets with asymmetric information (Akerlof–Spence–Stiglitz).

The structure of the monograph

1.      The Economic Psycho-Sociology Approach

1.1.   Modeling Economic Behavior

1.1.1.      The Market Behavior

1.1.2.      The Organization Behavior

1.1.  The Apport of the Psychology

1.1.1.  Behaviorism

1.1.2.      Cognitivism

1.1.3.      Social psychology

1.2.4.  Psychoanalysis

1.2.5.  A Synthesis: Is It Possible? 

2.  Mediating Economic Transactions: The Social Identity

2.1.The Antecedents of Social Identity in Ethology: The Territorial and the Signifying Behavior

2.1.1.      The Human Specificity of Social Identity

2.2.Elaborating Social Identity

2.2.1.      Substantial and Formal Identity Status Features      Similarity and Differences      Competition and Ranking

2.2.2.      Social Categorization Social Categorization of the Social Identity Disposed vs. Indisposed by the Identity Taboo

2.2.3.      Social Categorization and Social Listing and Relations“An”-type Identity and “The”-type Identity

2.3.Elaborating the Economic Identity

2.3.1.      The Paradoxical Nature of Economic Behavior

2.3.2.      Property Rights and Identity and Competence and Networking Capital

2.3.3.      Economic Psychology of Outstanding So­cial Identity Value of Outstanding So­cial Identity (VOSI)'s costs and profits: Converting Money into VOSI and vice cersa      Investing into VOSI      Return from VOSI      Asymmetric Market and Outstanding So­cial Identity VOSI in Human Resource Management

3. .  Managing Human Resources: The Second Modernization

3.1.    The Modernization: Manufacturing Resources

3.1.1.      The First Periode of  Modernization: Manufacturing Material Resources and Independency from Human Resources

3.1.2.      The Second Modernization: Manufacturing Human Resources

3.2.    A Plant for the Large Scale Manufacturing of Human Resources: the Totalitarian State

3.3.    The Human Potential as Capital

3.3.1.      Investing and Profiting

3.3.2.      Three Principal Questions of Human Capital Should Be the Investor in Human Capital Profits from Running the Human Capital? is the Owner of the Human Potential?

3.4.    A Rather Strange Manufactured Product:  The Relation

4.          The Bolshevik-Type Version of  The Second Modernization

4.1.    (Bolshevik (= Majority): A Relational Identity

4.2.    Manufacturing Substantial vs Formal Identity

4.3.    The Bureaucratic State Governed by an Illegal Movement: Soviet-Type societies and Bolshevik-Type Parties

4.3.1.      Office and Charisma Collective Charisma and Commissary Nomenklatura

4.3.2.      A Large Scale Manufacturing of  Relations crushed it down?

5.          A Dilemma for the Post-Socialist Period’s Economy: Knowledge-Based or Identity-Based?

5.1.    Manufacturing Knowledge and Skill

5.2.    Manufacturing Identity and Qualification

5.3.    Know-How or Diploma?

5.3.1.      Distant Teaching  and Diploma Mills


               Key words: social identity; social categorization; identity markers; document;
Behaviorism vs. Cognitive Psychology; Psychoanalysis vs. Social Psychology; psychosocial relations vs. attributes
mar­ket behavior vs. organizational economic behavior; money vs. social status;
second modernization; human resources processing; human capital;
Bolshevik type vs. fascist type totalitarian societies; infor­mation management


               Chapters of the monograph and some further texts related to its topics and available in non-Hungarian

               To the first chapter:  The Economic Psychology Approach

               Problems of specifically human needs.

               French version: Recherches Internatio­na­les: Psychologie. 1966/9. (51). 42-60.

               Russian version: Voprosy Psikhologii. 1966/3. 61-73.

               Spanish version In: A. Luria, A. Massucco Costa, R. Zazzo and B. Teplov: Problemá­tica científica de la psicología actual. Editorial Orbelus. Buenos Aires, 1968. 63-85)

               Interpretation of needs in foreign language psychology and the question of moti­ves of a scientific activity [in Russian]. In: M. Iaroshevsky (ed.): Problems of the scientific creativity in the contempora­ry psychology, "Nauka" Publi­sher [Publi­shing house of the Soviet Academy of Sciences]. Moscow, 1971. 224-233.

               Hypothesis on the Motivation of Scientific Creativity. XIII International Cong­ress of the History of Science. USSR, Moscow, August 18-24, 1971. "Nau­ka" Publisher [Publishing house of the Soviet Academy of Sciences], Moscow, 1971. 224-233.

               An invited lecture to the Congress' symposium "On the personality of the scientist in the history of science". Applying the theory presented by the Personality dynamics to the analysis of parallel discoveries of Bolyai and Lobachevsky it argues for the individual creative idea being determined by the social history even in the most abstract mathematics.

               Strength and Weakness of Psychological Science. International Social Scien­ce Journal. 25. (1973). 447-460. French version: La puissance et l'impuissance de la science psychologi­que. Revue Interna­tionale des Sciences Sociales. 25 (1973). 491-504.

               The destiny of the contemporary psychological science is considered by the paper on the background of the socio-economic system's necessity of manufacturing (and not only exploiting) human (and not only material) conditions of its functioning (second modernization hypothesis). A technological application of this science (in cultivating skills) is compared to its ideological application (in cultivating attitudes).

               Conflict and the Economic Paradigm. Dialectics and Humanism. 2. (1977). 47-58.

               Class conflicts are represented at two levels simultaneously: at an object-level about the distribution of resources and at a meta-level about the rules of dealing with conflicts of object-level. The paper argues for all macro- and micro-social conflicts in the society being constructed according to this paradigm.

               Marx' Social Theory and the Concept of Man in Social Psychology. (Co-author: Ferenc Eros) Studia Psychologica. 20/1. (1978). 5-10.

               Towards a Social Psychology of Personality: Development and Current Perspec­ti­ves of a School of Social Psychology in Hungary (Co-authors: F. Eros, K. Ja­ro, M. Kocski and S. Veres). So­cial Science Information. 18/1. (1979). 137-166.

               Report on the research work of the authors' team in '70s in the Institute for Psychology of Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Main arguments of a production-centered meta-theory as opposed to the both naturalistic and spiritualistic one and of a theory elaborated by that team in a Vygotskian frame of reference.

               Paradoxes of the social categorization [in French]. Recherches de Psychologie Sociale. 3. (1981). 131-141. (Comments of R. Pagès: Recherches de Psychologie Sociale. 3. [1981]. 143-151)

               Marxian Personality Psychology. In: Harré-Lamb (eds.): The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychology. Basil Blackwell Publisher. 1983. 364-366.

               Toward a psycho-economic theory of social identity [in French]. Recherches Sociologiques. 1984. 313-335.

               Social Identity: Cognitive Dissonance or Paradox? New Ideas in Psychology. 4:3. (1986) 311-322. (Comments: G. Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988] 211-212. Reply: The case of Attila József: A reply to Gustav Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988] 213-217.

               Determining economic activity in a post-capitalist system. Journal of Economic Psychology. 8. [1987] 77-90.)

               Contends that the main tendency of (both planned and market) post-capitalist system is considered to be the production of personal (and not only material) conditions of func­tioning of that system. That includes not only production of technical disposition to master things but also that of social disposition to master (or, at least, be superior to) other per­sons. These are as important organizing factors for an economic system producing its per­sonal conditions as are value in use and value in exchange for the one producing its mate­rial conditions. Typical cases are cited when the economic activity is not determined by the pri­ce of the item produced by it, but, rather, by the social identity of the producing person.

               To the psychology of economic rationality. In: Understanding economic behavior. 12th An­nual Collo­quium of IAREP, the International Association for Re­search in Economic Psy­cholo­gy. Handelhøjskolen I Århus, 1987. Vol. I. 29-41.

               Argues for the impossibility of deriving rationality criteria from substantionally given human needs. Instead, it proposes a Lewin-type formal approach to the structure of human activity whose ends, whatever they are, become quasi-need and determine the value of other objects becoming means or barriers, depending on their position in that field. For the specifically human activity taking into consideration a further factor structuring the field is proposed: taboos. Thus, the formal rationality criterion is: gaining ends in spite of barriers that are surmounted by means got in spite of taboos.

               Why bureaucratic control over economy is not that rational? Paper presented to the 13th Annual Colloquium of IAREP [International Association for Research in Economic Psychology] (Louvain, 1988).

               While production of material resources is determined only by technical attributes of both producing and produced factors, effects of production by a modern socio-economic system of its personal resources depends on those factors social relations as well. Bureaucracy is considered as a power of mastering the production of personal resources through the institutionalization of these relations. 

               Foundation of an economic psychology. In: T. Tyszka and P. Gasparsky [eds]: Ho­mo Oeconomicus: Presuppositions & Facts. Procee­dings of the 14th IAREP Annual Colloquium. International Association for Research in Eco­nomic Psychology. September 24-27, 1989. Kazimierz Dolny, Poland. 333-346.

               Claims that the "human nature" in various socio-economic systems is different: 1. In a strict market economy it is close to the one described by the notion of "homo oeconomicus" and scientifically investigated by a behaviorist psychology: in any choice situation the individual chooses what s/he has preferred the most. 2. In an economic system shifting from the strict market toward a mixed economy the agents' "nature" comes much closer to what the cognitivistic psychology considers as such: the individual starts to prefer what s/he has previously chosen. 3. In a strictly planned economy the human content expressed by the economic behavior corresponds to the description by the psychoanalysis: individuals instead of consciously making choices unconsciously consent to being chosen by a supra-individual system that is hold by the "father" but interiorized by the super-ego of the "sons". 4. Finally, for an economic system that is shifting from this strict planning toward a mixed economy instead of agents' "nature" we have their "culture" described by the social psychology: there turns out not to be any valid possibility of establishing an order of preference among them.

               Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom (co-author: M. Kocski). Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 33:1. [1994] 82-94.Full text. Italian version: Ancora una crisi nella psicologia: una possibile spiegazione per il "boom" di Vygotskij. Studi di Psicologia dell'Educazione. 1994/1-2-3. 141-150. Enlarged Russian version: Voprosy Filosofii. 1997/4. 86-96. – Full text

               Vygotskian implications: On the meaning and its brain. A keynote paper. In: Mezhdunarodnaia konferentsiia "Kul'turno-istorichesky podkhod: Razvitiie gumanitarnykh nauk I obrazovaniia". Proceedings. Rossiiskaia Akademiia obrazovaniia i Rossiisky Gosudarstvenny gumanitarny universitet. Moskva, 21-24 oktiabria 1996. No. 3. Full text. Russian version: In: Subject, Cognition, Activity: Dedicated to V. A. Lektorsky’s 70th anniversary. Moscow: Canon+, 2002. 590-612.

               Vassily Davydov and vicissitudes of our theory [in Russian]. Bulletin of the International Association "Developmental Education". 5. 20-26. – Full text

               To the second chapter:  Mediating Economic Transactions – The Psycho-Social Identity

               Conflict and the Economic Paradigm. Dialectics and Humanism. 2. (1977). 47-58.

               Class conflicts are represented at two levels simultaneously: at an object-level about the distribution of resources and at a meta-level about the rules of dealing with conflicts of object-level. The paper argues for all macro- and micro-social conflicts in the society being constructed according to this paradigm.

               Paradoxes of the social categorization [in French]. Recherches de Psychologie Sociale. 3. (1981). 131-141. (Comments of R. Pagès: Recherches de Psychologie Sociale. 3. [1981]. 143-151)

               Toward a psycho-economic theory of social identity [in French]. Recherches Sociologiques. 1984. 313-335.

               Social Identity: Cognitive Dissonance or Paradox? New Ideas in Psychology. 4:3. (1986) 311-322. Comments: G. Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988] 211-212. Reply: The case of Attila József: A reply to Gustav Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988] 213-217.

               On the cognitive dissonance as emerging between the social identity of persons and that of their acts. Paradoxical consequences of the two identities' double bind are analyzed: without doing A no one may pretend to the identity B and without being subjected to this law no one may pretend to the identity B either.

               The principle of social relations and the principle of activity (co-author: M. Köcski). Soviet Psychology. 1989/4. 50-69.

               The brain and the mechanism of psychosocial phenomena. Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 1994/6. 71-91.

               An attempt at the solution of dilemma: How psychosocial phenomena being of an inter-individual character may have their organ while the brain has an intra-individual character. The paper argues for mainstream considerations based exclusively on individual organism being transcended both by going beyond the individual (toward a supra-individual structure) and beyond the organism (toward an extra-organismic one). Author derives his arguments from various sources: Vygotsky school's theory of functional organs, Gibson's ecological theory of perception, ethology's empirical data about territorial behavior of populations and Szentágothai's model of organizing neuronal modules. The paper presents for the K. Popper's "World 3' a possible monistic interpretation that derives meanings from the functioning of supra-individual economic structures instead of the individual's brain structures. An enlarged version of the full text

               The price of excellence. Inquiries into the Nature and Causes of Behavior. Proceedings of the XXIV. Annual Colloquium of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology. Belgirate, 1999. 750-759. – Full text

               To the third chapter:  Managing Material and Human Resources

               Hypothesis on the Motivation of Scientific Creativity. XIII International Cong­ress of the History of Science. USSR, Moscow, August 18-24, 1971. "Nau­ka" Publisher [Publishing house of the Soviet Academy of Sciences], Moscow, 1971. 224-233.

               Interpretation of needs in foreign language psychology and the question of moti­ves of a scientific activity [in Russian]. In: M. Iaroshevsky (ed.): Problems of the scientific creativity in the contempora­ry psychology, "Nauka" Publi­sher [Publishing house of the Soviet Acad. of Sciences]. Moscow, 1971. 224-233.

               Towards an economic psychology of consumption. Trends in world economy, 70. Con­sump­tion and development: economic, social and technical aspects. (1992) 35-43.

               The paper argues for the main motive of the purchase being not of biologic (i.e. referred to a need satisfaction) but of social (signifying social identity) character. This latter represents not only ends for the purchase but means as well that legitimates, together with the payment, the claim for an article, and especially on a seller's market.

               To the fourth chapter: Managing Human Resources: The Second Modernization

               Determining economic activity in a post-capitalist system. Journal of Economic Psychology. 8. [1987] 77-90.)

               Contends that the main tendency of (both planned and market) post-capitalist system is considered to be the production of personal (and not only material) conditions of functioning of that system. That includes not only production of technical disposition to master things but also that of social disposition to master (or, at least, be superior to) other persons. These are as important organizing factors for an economic system producing its personal conditions as are value in use and value in exchange for the one producing its material conditions. Typical cases are cited when the economic activity is not determined by the price of the item produced by it, but, rather, by the social identity of the person producing it.

               To the fifth chapter: The Bolshevik-Type Version of the Second Modernization

               Why bureaucratic control over economy is not that rational? Paper presented to the 13th Annual Colloquium of IAREP [International Association for Research in Economic Psychology] (Louvain, 1988).

               While production of material resources is determined only by technical attributes of both producing and produced factors, effects of production by a modern socio-economic system of its personal resources depends on those factors social relations as well. Bureaucracy is considered as a power of mastering the production of personal resources through the institutionalization of these relations. 

               The Bureaucratic State Governed by an Illegal Movement: Soviet-Type societies and Bolshevik-Type Parties. Political Psychology. 10:1. (1991) 165-179.

               Soviet type societies evolve the universe of their ideological appearances in relation not to matter as in a capitalist society (according to Marx: reification) but to persons. Traditional Marxian criticism of such an ideology claims persons in Soviet type societies to be but per­sonifications of positions in a bureaucratic structure. The paper argues that the organizing principle of these societies is not bureaucracy but charisma originated from 20th century's radical anti-bureaucratic mass movements. The social power that is set not to the positions persons occupy but to persons directly gets provided in those societies' structures not only to a charismatic leader but to the whole headquarter, the whole party as a van of the revolutionary movement and even the whole revolutionary movement. The paper analyzes the paradoxical structure of that collective charisma: the person gets (and loses) his glamour that is independent from his office by being invested with (and, resp., dismissed from) it just like with (from) an office. Democratic centralism is described as the principle of such a paradoxical organization where the "Centrum" gets its social power by being put in its charisma by a "Demos" being put in its one by that social power. The connection of such a paradoxical structure with the mass-production of social relations is analyzed.

               The Bolshevik-type psycho-economic system: An essay on a paradoxical psy­cho­logic structure in economy. Paper presented to joint meeting of IAREP [International Association for Research in Economic Psychology] and SASE [Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics]. (Stockholm, 1991).

               About the political system's shift in Hungary: Considerations of a social psychologist [in Russian]. Vengersky Meridian. 1991/1. 69-79.

               The Bolshevik-type psycho-economic system: An essay on a paradoxical psychologic structure in economy [in Russian]. PolIs 1993/1. 72-76.

               To the sixth chapter

               About the notion of information in the research on living systems [in Russian]. In: Philosophical questions of biology. "Nauka" Publisher [Publishing house of the Soviet Academy of Sciences], Moscow. 1973.

               Theses on Human Capital. Full text



How outstanding am I?

A measure for social comparison within organizations*

Prof. Laszlo Garai DSc.
Dept of Economic Psychology, University of Szeged, Hungary

Dr. Margit K. Köcski CSc
Research Team InfIdent
University of Debrecen, Hungary




Abstract. In modern (whether small, large and nation-wide or global) organizations man has a prime interest in bearing an outstanding social identity based on a favourably se­lected status. The more excellent is one's social identity, the greater his/her chance to ob­tain, at a definite cost, an economic benefit (access to a scarce resource or to an advantageous trans­action). Both money and an outstanding social status are required for an economic chance.

This paper deals with a calculation device for converting the values of these media­ting fac­tors into each other: the measure of outstanding so­cial identity (MOSI). It ap­plies the sa­me logic by which the information theory calculates the value of the news about an oc­cur­rence that might have been expected with a well-defina­ble probability. The proba­bi­lity at is­sue for calculating values of outstanding social identity (VOSI) is the one to be estima­ted in advance for getting an outstanding status in the organiza­tion and for this p proba­bility the value is calculated as the logarithm of the invert of p. This device for calcu­la­ting the VOSI enables complementary calculation of, e.g., additionnning, averaging etc. values.

The MOSI is presented in the paper, among other use, as applied to optimize human resources management.



How outstanding am I?

A measure for social comparison within organizations*

Prof. Laszlo Garai DSc.
Dept of Economic Psychology, University of Szeged, Hungary

Dr. Margit K. Köcski CSc
Research Team InfIdent
University of Debrecen, Hungary

The economic psychology of excellence

In the 1950s and 1960s economists, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers described, independently of each other and using different terms, the phenomenon of craving for status. They claimed that this motivation might become just as much a passion for man in the modern age as the craving for money used to be for those living in the 17-19th centuries, in that period of classical capitalist formation.

The change is also manifest in the fact that while the former passion prompted to the accumulation of money, the latter one may well encourage the spending of money not even earned, but borrowed. The latter, however, does not bring pleasure through the consumption of the goods in line with their utility value, but through the fact that the goods acquired, or the money spent on them, symbolize status. For a time it was customary to describe this period as the period of a consumer society, and to speak (with a degree of social criticism and ideological disapproval) of the craving for status symbols and conspicuous consumption. In connection with this, it was emphasized that in his consumption man was being guided less and less by the rational goal of achieving the greatest possible joy for the lowest possible cost, or the highest possible profit by the smallest possible inconvenience, and more and more by what was required by his position in society. One's guiding criteria for purchasing were instead based on what was required by his/her position in society. It seems that the 20th century man had an important interest in acquiring a somehow excellent social identity based on a favourably selected status.

When individuals, groups, states, and groups of states spend money on kee­ping up their social status and their identity within that status their motive for this is not an aristo­cra­tic or snob­bish zeal. Instead, it may be rather rational: the endeavour to be among those with access to scarce resources, or to be enabled to participate in some kind of advan­tageous transaction.[21] The more advantageous the status of a candidate in society among those competing for a transaction, and the more excellent his social identity in regard to others, the lower the transaction costs will be for him/her. For this reason it might make sense to spend money (or, in more general terms, invest money, goods, time, chance  to take on the venture) on increasing excellence. The only question is, how much money etc. is reasonable to be spent on how important an increase in the exellence of one’s identity.

The present study tends to contribute to giving this question a possibly exact answer.


If money spent symbolizes status, then it could be that the acquisition of money grips modern man not because of his earlier passion for chasing it, but because acquired money can also symbolize status. Activity is motivated primarily not by the difference perceptible between costs and profits, but increasingly by the difference between our net income and that of others