Would Vygotsky agree that young children are essentially egocentric?
I think Vygotsky would disagree with Piaget when the latter suggests that young children are essentially egocentric. First, Vygotsky’s work was often opposed to Piaget (Miller, 2002, p370), so it was clear that Vygotsky had a negative opinion of Piaget’s work.
More importantly, in Vygotsky’s theory “…the mind is inherently social…” (Miller, 2002, p373). He would suggest that egocentrism implies inward thinking only, and that the cultural and social aspects of cognition which he observed would run counter to this intuition. When observing cognition, according to Vygotsky, it is essentially impossible to distinguish between internal motivation and external social influences.
An example of this is in the interplay between a mother and a child on page 374 of Miller’s work. The mother is directing the child through a difficult cognitive task, and it is clear from the exchange that the young child’s cognition is strongly influenced by his mother’s attention. In fact, the task would be impossible for the child without his mother’s support.
Vygotsky would disagree with the statement because of his belief in how the development of cognition can be observed (Miller, 2002, p378). A child’s current state is not examined by looking at one moment, but instead by observing the child’s change through an activity. In this case “process is more important than activity” (Miller, 2002, p378). These changing states can only be measured in the context of the activity, utilizing social tools.
Finally, Egocentrism presumes that a child is looking at a process from only his or her own point of view (Piaget, 1948). Vygotsky might suggest instead that the child is observing everything from the presumed perspective of his or her parent’s point of view. Apparent egocentrism, as in the example of Piaget’s famous three mountain’s experiment, is the result of a lack of appropriate language to adequately describe the situation out of the context of their parent’s guidance.
Miller, P. H. (2002). Theories of Developmental Psychology, 4th Ed. (pp. 367-396; Vygotsky’s Socio-Cultural Approach). New York: Worth.
Piaget, J., Inhelder, B. (1948/1956) The child’s conception of space. London: Routledge and Paul Kegan