Re: Motives and goals: Leont'ev, Axel and Bakhtin

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Thu Feb 05 2004 - 06:20:25 PST

A little more on emotions (and as it happened, imitation), as I delve
into other's work.

According to A.A Leontiev, two different types of emotional tension are
at work. The first is a "purely emotional" element; the other
"operational". I like these constructs when thinking about students in
learning activities.

I'll quote AAL on this:

"Purely emotional tension arises when, in assessing a given stressful
situation, one finds that there is a real or imagined incompatibility
between one's motives, plans, possibilities, capacities, etc., and the
demands of that situation, most frequently, when the aims and motives
of the activity do not coincide. Thus the student sitting his [sic]
examination will be, as a rule, in a state of emotional tension.
Operational tension is connected with the necessity of carrying out a
particular activity: it allows a person to 'settle into' that activity,
and always leads to the best possible performance. A driver in the rush
hour, a pilot at landing, a teacher in his [sic] classroom - they all
experience a state of operational tension. This is why there is not and
cannot be one single answer to the question of how the emotional factor
influences teaching/learning or any other activity. It depends on a
whole range of conditions [listed in 4 categories]".

I was delighted to read that, back in 1981 when AAL was pulling
together applied (pedaogical) Russian psychology that he noted the use
of role playing as a means of lowering emotional tension thresholds.
This links very nicely with a previous discussion here on LSV and
imitation. In concrete terms, I find role playing offers an
operationally significant level of emotional tension (given favourable
conditions) that influence learners' performance in language learning
activities. That is, an individual learner "senses" the learning
activity as close enough to her/his immediate aims; as being free from
negatively charged factors; as being in accord with historical
experiences of a similar kind (as AAL calls this, positive affective
traces); and as being in keeping with the learner's own conception of
her/his personality.

Rather than tap away endlessly, I'd like to propose that these are
worthy conditions for meaningful imitation in activity settings. The
affective/emotive and volitional factors can be both constraints and
affordances for creative learning activity.

Still waving,


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