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Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget

6. Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about some key concepts within Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development. First, we discuss Vygotsky’s suggestion that all higher cognitive processes are first developed interpersonally, through social interaction, before they become internalised. Secondly, we think about the ‘zone of proximal development’ which describes the gap between a child’s current development and their potential understanding after interaction with a more expert other. Finally, we examine the influence of Vygotsky’s ideas on other areas of psychology, for instance, the relationship between the ‘zone of proximal development’ and the concept of ‘scaffolding’ in educational psychology.


In this course, Dr Richard O’Connor (University of Hull) discusses different ideas within the field of cognitive development that go beyond the work of Jean Piaget. In module one, we introduce the violation-of-expectation looking time method as a research method which has revolutionised our understanding of infant cognition since the 1980s. We then look at a classic violation-of-expectation study by Baillargeon et al. (1985) in module two, before moving on to an evaluation of this research method in module three. Module four introduces an alternative set of ideas to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development which focuses on the role of social interactions and culture. The final two modules look at the socio-cultural theory of cognitive development proposed by Piaget’s contemporary Lev Vygotsky, focusing on the distinction between ‘elementary’ and ‘higher’ mental functions in module five and key concepts such as the ‘zone of proximal development’ in module six.


Dr Richard O'Connor is a cognitive developmental psychologist with research interests in cognition from infancy through to adulthood.

Particular areas of interest include theory of mind, representation of objects and actions, and word learning.

Dr O'Connor joined the University of Hull in August 2016, after completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge and teaching positions at Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford.

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APA style

O'Connor, R. (2019, December 16). Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget - Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Connor, Richard. "Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget – Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Dec 2019,

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