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Piaget and Vygotsky Synthesis Essay

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Updated: Jun 3rd, 2019

Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky are one of the most influential scientists in the field of the developmental psychology. Piaget and Vygotsky’s approaches to the cognitive development of children are of extreme significance even nowadays. In the following paper, the theories of both scholars will be evaluated and compared from the perspective of their similarities and differences.

The article under analysis entitled “Piaget and Vygotsky: Many resemblances, and a crucial difference” was written by Orlando Lourenco in 2012. The author provides readers with the evaluation of Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories. Lourenco emphasizes the fact that despite many similarities, there are crucial differences between both approaches.

The author divides the article into four parts. First, he dwells on the commonly known differences between approaches. Second, Lourenco investigates the resemblances. In the third part, the author introduces previously unnoticed differences between approaches. In the last part of the paper, he summarizes the findings.

Lev Vygotsky’s theory is known as the sociocultural theory of the cognitive development. Thus, the scientist supports the idea that society and culture influence child’s development significantly.

According to Vygotsky, the individual develops in the social interactions with the help of particular tools and signs (Lourenco, 2012). Jean Piaget’s theory represents the constructivist approach to the acquisition of knowledge and skills. The primary emphasis is laid on the individual. Thus, the child develops knowledge individually through the discovery.

Lourenco identifies seven primary similarities between two theories. The first one is the developmental perspective. Thus, both theorists pay attention to the fact that psychological processes should be analyzed from the developmental standpoint. This view is used by Vygotsky in the examination of symbolic operation while Piaget employs it for the evaluation of mental and formal operations. The second similarity refers to the dialectical approach.

This approach presupposes that the constant contact between dissimilar but mutually depending processes is necessary for psychological development. Piaget uses the dialectic method for the analysis of processes of assimilation and accommodation. Vygotsky does the same to processes internalization and externalization (Lourenco, 2012). The third resemblance is that both scientists support the idea of non-reductionism of human conscience and cognitive abilities.

Piaget and Vygotsky share the opinion that the notion of intelligence cannot be merely explained by reflexes, for instance. The non-dualist view in relation to the social or physical context and the individual is the next common opinion. It means that individual and the particular context are interconnected and should not be treated separately. The next resemblance concerns the role of action. Both Piaget and Vygotsky agree that action is essential for understanding the particular phenomenon.

The sixth similarity is the superiority of processes. Scholars share the opinion that the external expression of development is not so important than the processes that comprise its basis. The investigation of the internal processes is essential for the proper evaluation of any phenomenon. The last similarity is the significant role of transformational modifications or qualitative changes. The example of qualitative change can be the occurrence of formal operation after the concrete operations (Lourenco, 2012).

The author of the article states that there are noteworthy differences in both theories. Lourenco investigates that core dissimilarity between theories lays in scientists’ understanding of the individual’s development. Piaget’s individual is autonomous, which means that no external aspects, such as society, do not influence the development.

Vygotsky supports the idea of the heteronomous individual that relies on the fact that the development is directly connected to external factors. Because of this finding, Lourenco concludes that five differences emerge from the diverse understanding of individual’s nature. The first one refers to dissimilar opinions about the source of the motor of development and knowledge. As far as Vygotsky supports the idea of a heteronomy, he considers that the motor of development and knowledge are influenced by social and cultural context.

Piaget’s notion of autonomy is supported by the consideration that the source of knowledge and motor of development is formed due to the instinctive uninfluenced processes (Lourenco, 2012). The second dissimilarity refers to the role of social interactions as sources of learning. Vygotsky believes that authority is significant for the development.

The child has to reach the same level of capability demonstrated by parents or other individuals. Piaget’s lays the emphasis on the idea of mutual respect and persuasion that promote the development. The social relations should be peer-based for the efficient development. The methods for studying developmental changes used by scientists also differ. Natural settings were the best option for Piaget’s observations while Vygotsky preferred the situation when adults were involved.

The next difference is the type of knowledge that should be acquired. The necessary knowledge is essential for Piaget’s theory as far as it is the direct sign of autonomy. According to Lourenco (2012), the formation of scientific concepts (true knowledge) is significant for Vygotsky because it is obtained in the process of growing in society. Finally, Vygotsky’ ideas are based on guidance and instruction while Piaget’s — on invention and construction.

The better understanding of these theories is essential for having an insight into the problems of developmental psychology. Besides, Lourenco presents these ideas from the different perspective, laying particular emphasis on differences rather than on similarities. Such an approach assists in the proper evaluation of the theory and creates the ground for further implications.


Lourenco, O. (2012). Piaget and Vygotsky: Many resemblances, and a crucial difference. New Ideas in Psychology, 30(3), 281-295.

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