In respect to the educational environment, Vygotsky brought essential contributions to the following topics: perception, volition, development and learning. Next, we will present the main ideas related to these aspects.
Vygotsky did not make experiments on perception, but what he realized was a critical study of the works concerning this topic. This revision is very important as it helps us understand his works and his particular Structuralist tendency. In Vygotsky’s time, there was an atmosphere of opposition between the representatives of the new psychology and the supporters of the old one, at least in regard to the subject of perception. The psychology of association – the old trend – interpreted perception as a set of sensations. Structuralist psychology came to contrast it, as it struggled to demonstrate the integral structural formation of people’s physical life by the means of perception. The basic idea of the Structuralist approach in psychology is that physical life does not consist in individual sensations and ideas that connect one to another, but in individual integral formations, called structures, images or “gestalts”.
Volkelt showed that the structural character of perception can be demonstrated from the earliest stages of child development. This structural characteristic is primary. The main characteristic of perception is orthoscopy (the fact that we can see objects correctly, in terms of shape, color and size), and, according to Helmholtz, this feature emerges during the development. An important aspect of perception is related to senses; looking at a drop of ink spread on a piece of paper, some people perceived the shape of a dog, a cloud, a cow or some other object (Rorschach research); only mentally disabled children couldn’t find any meaning to that drop of ink.
This background was the environment in which Vygotsky’s new ideas emerged, related to his educational proposal and particular approach to the matter of perception.