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The Relation Between Environment and Psychological Development: Unpacking Vygotsky’s Influential Concept of Perezhivanie

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-10-18, 06:50 authored by Ngo Cong-LemNgo Cong-Lem

In recent decades, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (VST) has become particularly influential in the fields of education and educational psychology. Perezhivanie is an important concept in VST that stipulates a relative influence of environment on a person’s psychological development depending on their age or stage of development. However, perezhivanie has been differentially interpreted and applied in previous literature to suit the purposes of domain-specific research. The lack of a comprehensive theoretical understanding of the concept can undermine research findings and their implications for educational practices. Drawing on a content analysis of Vygotsky’s key texts on perezhivanie, this paper provides a much-needed theoretical discussion that unpacks comprehensively the theoretical content of perezhivanie and the methodological principles guiding its application. The findings revealed that conceptually, perezhivanie can be defined as: (a) a theoretical relation between an individual and their environment, (b) an abstract experience of or attitude towards a life situation and (c) a concrete lived experience of an event within that situation. Four major discernible components of an individual’s perezhivanie include the environmental factor, personal characteristics mobilised, refraction prism and psychological influences. Five key methodological principles were conceived to assist the employment of perezhivanie in educational/psychological research: (1) utilising a perezhivanie as a unit of analysis, (2) analysing perezhivanie at different levels, (3) accounting for the perspective of the individual involved, (4) constructing the refraction prism and (5) determining the major personal characteristics mobilised in the perezhivanie. Implications for educational and research practices are then discussed.


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