The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Sociocultural Perspective

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Psychology is one of the newest sciences. Because it is the science of the mind and behavior, it is also less concrete than some of the other sciences. Over the years, social scientists have developed theories or perspectives based off of their observations, research, and the perspectives of other scientists. Although there is some overlap, each of the major perspectives of psychology is unique. As a result, they each have strengths and weaknesses and explain psychology in a different way. One theory, the sociocultural perspective, is exactly what its name suggests. It’s the idea that the society and groups that an individual belongs to are what influences development, thoughts, and behavior. The sociocultural perspective was pioneered by a Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, in the 1920’s (John-Steiner, 1998). Vygotsky stressed the idea that children learn through what he called guided participation (Sigelman, 2009). His theory was that children develop through interactions with parents, teachers, and other knowledgeable members of the culture and are given tools to adopt the group’s way of thinking.
One of the strengths of this perspective is that it recognizes the relationship between cognitive development and the social, cultural, and historical context that an individual is a part of (Sigelman, 2009). This explains the differences between cultures throughout history. This is an important concept because we all notice the differences between each person’s ways of thinking. Although we can attribute this to other factors, we can recognize more similarities in people of similar social and cultural backgrounds and more differences in those with drastically different backgrounds. Vygotsky points out that one of the ways that a group shapes the way their children think and problem solve is by giving them the tools of their culture (Sigelman, 2009). Language is one of the most recognizable tools but some tools are more subtle. For example, technology is a tool in western society that less industrialized societies aren’t exposed to. An individual that has grown up with complete access to all the latest technology is going to think differently than an individual that has never seen any form of technology. Overall, some behaviors and ways of thinking can only be caused by exposer to specific social and cultural contexts, as this perspective explains.
A second strength of the sociocultural perspective is the emphasis on the role of adults in childhood cognitive development through guided participation. Vygotsky introduced the idea that children learn in a zone of proximal development. Meaning the distance between what an individual can do alone and what they can do with guidance and assistance from a capable member of society (Mcleod, 2010). Any skills outside the zone would be already mastered or still too difficult to attempt alone. “To Vygotsky, learning in collaboration with more knowledgeable companions drives cognitive...

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