Re: [xmca] motive/project

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Dec 17 2008 - 13:03:23 PST

On p. 124-125 of Thinking and Speech (Minick trans), LSV attacks the idea of the "determining tendency" which seems, to my eyes at least, completely identical to the Leontiev construct of motive. His criticism is that the "goal" of a particular experimental task (he has in mind the work of Uznadze) is identical for the child and for the adult, so the goal/motive cannot explain the very different ways they conceptualize the task and carry it out.
He doesn't stop there. On p. 126 he says "We cannot satisfactorily explain labour by saying that it is called to life by the goals and tasks with which man is faced." After all, a lot of these goals and tasks are things we share with animals. "Labor must be explained in terms of the tools and the application of means without which it could not arise."
(There's a somewhat better translation of this passage in van der Veer and Valsiner's "Vygotsky Reader", Chapter 9, p. 207. Curiously, in the next paragraph, Minick has Vygotsky saying that this criticism is born out by the investigation discussed below, i.e. the Sakharov blocks, while van der Veer and Valsiner have him saying that this is born out by "investigations which we are not going to discuss here".)
It's understandable why Vygotsky would want to distance himself a bit from the idea of the "determining tendency". Ach was a student of Kulpe's, and like a lot of the Wurzburgers he basically believed in controlled introspection. He apparently thought that we can distinguish between "desire" and "volition", and that the latter was qualitatively superior (Lewin said it was a quantitative difference only).
In 1933 (that is, two years after LSV's criticism was published in his "Pedology of the Adolescent" but still one year before it was published in "thinking and Speech") Ach presented a paper in which German loyalty to the Fuhrer is considered a kind of determining tendency (Vygotsky criticizes this in "Fascism in Psychoneurology", in the Vygotsky Reader, p. 328).

In my own work, we often find that children respond very differently to some verbs than to others. For example, we find that despite the stress laid on helpfully providing foreigners with directions in our textbook, children are not very inclinded to construct free role plays around "Go straight and turn right at the corner". On the other hand, they very much like to say "I like/I don't like..." and will go on for many many minutes in this vein.
For this reason, Yongho Kim and I found it quite useful to distinguish between "play" and "task". "Play" was concerned with roles (constituting imaginary situations) and rules (which are often constitutive of the role "winner" and "loser"). But tasks are often concerned with adultish determining tendencies (finding the way, buying things in a store, doing market-like surveys). We found that the latter required a LOT more motivation from the teacher.
Article on this forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Linguistics!
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education


xmca mailing list
Received on Wed Dec 17 13:04:51 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jan 06 2009 - 13:39:39 PST