Re: Arievitch discussion

From: Robert Bracewell (
Date: Tue Jun 29 2004 - 14:52:57 PDT

Zenon Pylyshyn once said that learning was both the most studied and the
least understood topic in psychology, a comment which I think still
resonates today . Learning remains a heavily undertheorized area with
almost all of our constructs being quite metaphorical--consider both
"constructivism" and "internalization." As Arievitch points out, Galperin's
theorizing is welcome because he elaborates on what internalization
consists of, and, in fact he provides a model with his constructs of
orienting, execution, and checking for human action, which become
comprehension, associative passage, and attentional focus or awareness
(This model is presented much more explicitly in the issue of Soviet
Psychology published in honor of Galperin shortly after his death [1989,
vol. 27, no. 3]). Whether or not Galperin's approach survives, it at least
gives us something to work with.

And it seems to me that Arievitch is also correct in pointing out that we
need an integration of the contextualized social constructs and the
individual development constructs, and that, again, Galperin's
internalization theorizing and findings are promising for this problem.
(Another construct I would add to the repertoire would be Piaget's tertiary
circular reaction--that is, the repetition of an action with systematic
variation, which kicks in at about age one.)

And by way of adding support for Arievitch's call for an integrated view,
consider the following specification of how we represent things from Alan
Newell (you'll all agree about as hard-core a cognitive scientist as ever

 " The representation law: decode[encode(T)(encode(X))] = T(X), where X is
the original external situation and T is the external transformationŠ. The
original external situation is encoded into and internal situation. The
external transformation is also encoded into and internal transformation.
Then the internal transformation is applied to the internal situation to
obtain a new internal situation. Finally the new internal situation is
decoded to an external situation. Suppose that the resulting external
situation is the same as the situation produced by the external
transformation. Then the internal system--the encoding process, the
internal situation, the internal transformation, and the decoding
process--has successfully been used as a representation of the external
situation." (Unified theories of cognition, 1990, p. 59).

This certainly sounds compatible with Galperin's approach, with the
encodings parallel to orienting/comprehension, application of the
transformation parallel to execution/associative passage, and the
decoding/comparison parallel to checking/awareness. In fact, at the level
of abstract description seen in the texts from both, I would argue that
they are the same model but different terminology.

--Bob Bracewell
McGill University

Robert Bracewell
Associate Professor
McGill University
3700 McTavish Street
Montreal, Canada H3A 1Y2
email: Robert Bracewell <>
voice: 514-398-3443
fax: 514-398-6968

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