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

Laszló Garai and Margit Kocski
Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest

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 manœuver each other?" – Haley asks in the title of a chapter of one of his books [8], describing actually not only the hypnotizer's manœuvering 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.

Recently 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.














[*] Journal of Russian and East-European Psychology. 33:1. (1995) 82-94. The pre-published text of an evening paper of the 3rd Activity Theory Congress (Moscow, 1995).













[1] Proceedings of the 18th international congress of psychology in Moscow (4-11 April, 1966). Moscow, 1969 (in Russian).












[2] Physical Control of the mind: Toward a psycho-civilized society (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, Evanston and London, 1969). This subsequently published monograph included among others the experiments presented by Delgado at the congress.














[3] Proceedings of the 18th international congress of psychology in Moscow (4-11 April, 1966). Moscow, 1969; p. 185 (in Russian). My italics – L.G.














[4] XXIe Congress International de Psychology/XXIst International Congress of Psychology: Acts/Proceedings. Prises Universitaire de France. Paris, 1978. p. 63.














[5] W. Dilthey: Gesammelte Schriften. VII. p. 278.












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













[7] The most representative studies of the school's double-bind theory are collected in a volume by C.E. Sluzki and D.C. Ransom (eds.), 1976: DOUBLE BIND: The foundation of the communicational approach to the family (Grune & Stratton. New York, London, San Francisco). For a good summary of the theory, see the introductory study Presentation generale by Y. Winkin in the compendium he edited under the title La nouvelle communication (containing French translations) (Seuil, Paris, 1981).














[8] J. Haley, 1963: Strategies of Psychotherapy. Grune & Stratton, N.Y.













[9] Experimenter effects in behavioural research. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1966. (Enlarged edition: Irvington Publisher, Inc., New York, 1976 – referred to subsequently). See also: R. Rosenthal and R.L. Rosnow (eds.): Artifact in behavioural research. Academic Press, New York, 1969; as well as R. Rosenthal and L. Jacobson: Pygmalion in the classroom. Holt, Rihenhart and Winston, New York, 1968, in regard to its connections with the topic of the present discussion.














[10] Rosenthal: Experimenter effects in behavioural research, pp.3-37.













[11] In classical psychological examinations this end was furthered by the trick provided by the use of the detective mirror with the help of which the psychologist observed the subject without the latter being able to notice that he was observed.














[12] To be able to judge for himself whether the point in question is real experimentation that would be conform to the norm of natural sciences, I kindly refer the interested reader to Aronson and Linder's description of a procedure they applied masterfully when the actual subject of their experiment was made to believe he was the experimenter's assistant charged to observe the behaviour of another person whom he believed to be the subject of the experiment while actually this latter was the assistant (E. Aronson and D. Linder: Gain and loss of esteem as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 1965. 156-172.














[13] To judge whether a psychology taking into account such "social scientific" implications, too, differs from a psychology taking itself clearly for a natural science, it is worth casting a second glance at Delgado's above-described experiment which eventually aims at handling of issues of power that is anyhow a subject for social sciences .














[14] John Shotter: Vygotsky's psychology: Joint activity in a developmental zone. NIP. Vol.7(1989), No.2, p.185.














[15] The society labelled by the initial-word ISCRAT was set up as the International Standing Congress for Research in Activity Theory by the participants of the 1st International Congress on Activity Theory staged in West-Berlin in 1986. That was transformed into a regular international society in Amsterdam under the name International Society for Cultural Research in Activity Theory, and the three international congresses on activity theory (1986, Berlin; l990, Lahti; l995, Moscow) has been organized under its auspices.














[16] E. g., a blind man do not perceives his stick but through his stick the unevenness of the ground; and a child having learnt to eat with a spoon puts not the spoon itself in his mouth but the soup with the help of the spoon that may not even be noticed.













[17] The interpretative manœuvering taking place in an interaction there have been presented above. For giving an idea about the paradigm that operates when parties in the game interpret the series of moves by unconsciously referred the mediating tools as signs to the background of their common or different cultures consider the following sample of visual patterns that may be interpreted as English words or as French words with completely different meanings: ail (garlic), allure (walk), bail (renting), bale (chaff), but (aim), cane (hen-duck), champ (field), damage (beating with beetle), dauber (drub), enter (graft), fane (faded leaf), if (yew), lac (lake), laid (ugly) main (hand), manger (eat), natter (braid), on (one), pain (braid), rate (spleen), rave (turnip), sable (sand), tape (stroke), verger (orchard), vide (empty). When interpreting the tools as signs the parties – unconsciously – define themselves and each other in terms of their social identities (I dealt with these issues in more details in my book published recently in Hungarian: A psychosocial essay on identity. T-Twins Editor. Budapest, 1993. 231 pp.














[18] Leontiev: Izbrannyie psikhologicheskiie proizvedeniia [Selected psychologic papers]. Moscow: Pedagogika,1983.

I myself, too, used to do my theoretical research within the framework of the Leontiev's activity theory (see F. Eros: Personality Dynamics and Social Existence, by L. Garai. European Journal of Social Psychology. 4/3 [1974]. 369-379)














[19] Vigotszkij: History of higher mental functions’ development (in Russian). Sobraniie sochinenii. Tom tretii: Prolemy razvitiia psikhiki. Moscow: Pedagogika. 1983. pp. 146-147.














[20] In the 70s there was organized under my direction in the Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences a workshop whose objective was to study this second, non-Leontievian aspect of Vygotsky's mental world. The research team gave a report of the interrupted research in the periodical of the International Social Sciences Council.

It is not relevant here to discuss the outcome of our theoretical work and how the result fitted in the frames of the ambivalence of Vygotsky's theory, complementing Leontiev's Activity Theory. The interested reader can turn for further informations to the listing of publications in theoretical psychology and, eventually, to the Russian version of the present paper.