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Looking at "me" again

urbrainondrugs's picture

I like the idea that Eden expresses in an earlier thread, How much of “me” is my choice?” It reminded me of something I read about child development. There are many theories on child mental development. Of these theories there is one theory by a man named Lev Semenovich Vygotsky. His theory illustrates development as being largely influenced and shaped by the culture and society that a child is living within or exposed to. Vygotsky views development as a process of inevitable acculturation.

The first few years in child development are precultural, but at 2 years of age, a child will begin to learn semiotic tools it will need to develop. At 2 years a child will begin to grasp language and symbolic thinking. With these tools a child will develop higher consciousness and take in the world through the onslaught that is verbal society. This means that a child’s exposure to language will cause acculturation and the child will assign meaning to words and concepts as they are used and viewed within the society he is living in. These concepts become concrete ideas and allow the child to build upon that foundation with other things that he experiences. No matter what the activity, when children observe the world about them, they will learn and develop values that will later determine his thoughts and actions. Such values are learned unconsciously and can be as little as the usage of the word “cup” and the actions associated with the word cup: “we share cups, we clean up after ourselves when we spill, we must be careful not to break cups.” This type of development allows younger minds to be guided by more knowledgeable individuals.

The Vygotskian theory stops once an individual has reached the point of acculturation because throughout adulthood we will always carry these learned social values and cultural attitudes with us, even if they are unconscious. For example, if you grew up associating broccoli to words that meant disgusting or foul, you would always feel a slight sense of disgust when you came across some broccoli. However, this is only if one stays within the mindset of a child. While acculturation does come as a product of our environments, we can raise our consciousness above types of prejudices and learn to like broccoli. We are able to restructure our beliefs with internal speech. We can apply this to more serious topics such as racial prejudice, rather than the ingestion of vegetation.

This brings me back to Eden’s thread: “Take someone who gets addicted to things really easily. That person could fight their tendency toward addiction and not ever actually be addicted to anything, but does that change the fact that he or she has that character trait? You can’t change your genes, but you have the ability to act against your natural tendencies from them…” This is true. However, rather than looking at it from a biological/physical point of view, I wished to look at it from a psychological point of view, considering action instead of genes. I think it is interesting that we can trace the origins of our actions through our childhood development. These acculturated social and societal values are our “natural tendencies” or genes for action. However because we have higher consciousness and reasoning ability once we have reached adulthood we can change our or mediate our actions in spite of these unconscious prejudices.