Differences and similarities between the Evolutionary Theory of Piaget and Vygotsky

Differences and similarities between the Evolutionary Theory of Piaget and Vygotsky


  • 1 Main differences between the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky
  • 2 Main similarities between the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky
  • 3 Some common misunderstandings about the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky

Main differences between the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky

- Piaget gives more attention to the child's interaction with the physical environment, while Vygotsky emphasizes the importance of social interaction.

- Vygotsky attaches greater importance to the social and cultural context.

- For Piaget, intelligence has biological roots (tendency of living beings to adapt to the environment; biological does not mean predetermined), while for Vygotsky these roots are social.

- The development to which Piaget refers is a natural, spontaneous development (from the middle-person interaction), while Vygotsky refers to a development that is not possible without the help of the adult.

- Piaget understands development as an internal and individual process. Vygotsky understands it as a social (interpersonal) process.

- For Piaget, cognitive progress goes from the individual to the social and by Vygotsky from the social to the individual.

- For Piaget, social interaction favors cognitive development. For Vygotsky, development takes shape through social interaction.

- In Vygotsky's theory the role of the adult or guardian is more relevant.

- Piaget presents a theory of universal stages, while Vygotsky's theory is not a theory of stadiums.

- Piaget presents a more linear and unidirectional vision of development, while Vygotsky subscribes to a more discontinuous and multidirectional vision of development.

- According Piaget learning is subordinated to development, while for Vygotsky learning is the engine of development, understanding that between learning and development there is a two-way relationship and reciprocal influence.

- Piaget presents a vision of cognitive development as a process of global and general changes. (Piaget presents a homogenous vision of cognitive development - the progress that occurs at a given time affects the way of reasoning in any field of knowledge

- Vygotsky understands that, although there are general changes, there is specific development progress in the different fields of knowledge. His vision of cognition is not so homogeneous. Vygotsky's vision is more nuanced in this regard).

- Piaget places the end of cognitive development in adolescence. Vygotsky understands development as a process that does not have such a definite goal or specific time limits.

- They grant a specific weight and a different role to language.

- Vygotsky, unlike Piaget, gives the signs (numerical system, oral language, written language ...) a crucial role in cognitive development.

Main similarities between the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky

- Study the process of psychological development.

- They focus on cognitive aspects (related to knowledge) of development.

- Both authors give great importance to the interaction with the environment. (Piaget gives more attention to the interaction with the physical environment, while Vygotsky focuses on the interaction with the social environment.)

- They use research methods applicable in natural contexts (home, school ...).

- Both make a constructivist approach to knowledge (Clarification: in the sense that they understand that knowledge is not a copy of reality, but a construction of the individual. constructivism social in the case of Vygotsky).

- They share an active vision of the developing human being.

- They are nonnatural authors (for them there are no innate knowledge) or pose a genetic determinism.

- Address the relationships between development and learning.

Some common misunderstandings about the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky

- Piaget Y Vygotsky propose stage theories. Phase, period, stage, stage ... are not synonymous terms although it may seem so. Only some theories of evolutionary psychology propose stages (Piaget is the most remarkable case). Vygotsky, for example, does not believe in the existence of stages of development. Nor do the systemic and ecological perspectives speak of stadiums. Stadium is a term with strong theoretical connotations. Karmiloff-Smith, for example, speaks of "phases", which is different, because it involves another theoretical approach, another way of understanding development. "Stadium" and "phase" are terms that involve different theoretical commitments, different ways of understanding development. We will say that they are explanatory concepts. In evolutionary psychology, what we do always find are references at age intervals when changes are described. We speak then of stages or periods in a more descriptive sense, which does not entail theoretical commitment on the conceptualization of development. (I know this can overwhelm you now, but we'll see it…).

- Do not. Vygotsky's theory focuses more on the adult person. He actually reflected a lot on issues of child development and education.

- The stadiums proposed by Piaget are very specific in terms of age limit. In the Piaget's theory the sequence of stages is set as fixed and universal, but the chronology (age) can vary greatly from one child to another.

- Both trace the organic evolution of psychological processes. We cannot say that they explain the organic evolution, but the psychological one. They recognize the importance of organic factors, but do not focus on them.

- Piaget gives great importance to maturation. Organic maturation is a factor to consider, but not the only one nor the most relevant for him.

- Piaget and Vygotsky give special importance to genetic factors. Relative importance yes, but not especially. Piaget and Vygotsky admit the incidence of genetic factors (like everyone in Evolutionary Psychology, once the extreme type environmentalism has been overcome behaviorism from Watson), but not in a deterministic sense.

- Piaget and Vygotsky adopt a genetic perspective in Psychology. This means that they consider that the best way to study human psyche is not to study only the final state (adult?), But to study the origins, the processes of formation and transformation of psychism, that is, the genesis of psychism (hence the expressions genetic perspective, genetic psychology -applicable Piaget and Vygotsky- or the denomination of genetic theory that Piaget's theory receives). To adopt a genetic perspective is that, to study the genesis, formation and evolution of psychological processes, is not to give special importance to the genetic factor.

- The influence of biology in the Piaget's theory is seen in that it applies the biological model of adaptation (Every living organism tends to adapt to the environment, to maintain a balance with it, so it has the possibility of self-regulation) to intelligence (intelligence is adaptation and is based on the general mechanisms of biological adaptation - assimilation and accommodation-). The influence of biology on Piaget's theory goes through, not because of an emphasis on genetic factors, which I repeat, does not.

- Piaget attaches little importance to external factors. In Piaget's theory, interaction with the environment is key. The development is the result of the subject-medium interaction. What is certain is that it puts the emphasis on interaction with the physical environment.

- The main similarity between Piaget and Vygotsky is that they consider that the social environment has a great importance in the development of any person. Yes, but with qualifications. For Piaget, social interactions contribute to cognitive development. Cognitive development follows an unalterable and universal course (guided by internal mechanisms of assimilation, accommodation and balance) and social experience is another factor to explain evolutionary changes (not the most important, nor the most elaborate and integrated in the proposal Piagetian of development). For Vygotsky, development takes shape in social interactions, it does not exist outside of social experience and culture, it is a social and cultural process in essence.

- Piaget is within cognitive psychology. Piaget is located within the "cognitive psychology". The Cognitive Psychology It is the psychology of Information Processing, a very different theoretical approach that we will also see in the subject.

- The theory of Piaget is within the genetic cognitive and Vygotsky's in the social cognitive. Vygotsky's theory is also genetic, which means that it addresses the origin and formation of cognition, of knowledge.

- Yes, in a broad sense yes, to a social constructivism. It is Piaget who most clearly defines his theory as "constructivist" and who raises constructivism as an alternative way to innatism and environmentalism.

- Do not. Piaget's approach is very different from behaviorism (environmentalism). Vygotsky's theory also moved far from behaviorism.

- Vygotsky understands that language qualitatively influences the nature of thought. Piaget believes that language is a process subordinated to cognition. Language helps thought to be faster, more flexible and away from the here and now, but it does not transform it.

- Do not. Language plays a very important role in its explanation of development. We cannot speak of language and development as two different things and establish an order between them.

- Do not. Learning is subordinated to development, it depends on it. This should be nuanced a lot. In fact he says that the development process is independent of the learning processes. When Piaget considers the relations between development and learning, he understands development as an endogenous process (of internal changes) in the construction of operative structures (roughly, operative structures are the organization of representational schemes, understood as patterns of mental action or internal on reality) and learning as an exogenous process (knowledge acquisition). Understand that development is a process that is not influenced by learning. The acquisition of knowledge does not modify the internal course of cognitive development. Development, but that is prerequisite for learning. The evolutionary level (remember that it is not the same as the maturation level - organic evolution) of the person determines what he can learn or what he cannot learn. This is Piaget's approach. Another thing is that, Piaget's constructivist vision of knowledge or intelligence, has been developed by other authors (for example Coll in our country) to account for learning specific content. This elaboration is what is known as the constructivist vision of learning. The vision of learning as an exogenous process is transformed into a vision of learning as a process that follows the principles and mechanisms that Piaget had proposed for intelligence (construction of schemes, structures, assimilation, accommodation, adaptation, balance ...).

- For Piaget the protagonist of the development is the child and for Vygotsky it is the person who interacts with the child. It is true that Piaget understands development as a fundamentally individual process, based on internal mechanisms (not forgetting that it occurs thanks to interaction with the environment) and that Vygotsky understands development as a social process, but that does not mean that Vygotsky does not Give prominence to the child. Conceptualize the developing person as an active organism, actively involved in the enculturalization process, not as an organism simply reactive to the environment or social influences.

- According to Piaget, the individual accommodates the new knowledge.

- It is common to misuse the term "accommodate" in reference to Piaget's theory. It is incorrect to say that new knowledge is accommodated. These assimilate. The accommodation experienced by previous cognitive schemes, the cognitive structure already existing in the subject.

- Vygotsky is associated with constructivism. The behavioral theory is from Piaget. Both attach great importance to language. In Vygotsky's theory, first language and then development. Piaget considers learning as another factor in development. Piaget believes that the development and learning They are very related.


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