Associative Complex

The associative complex is an emergent concept in which one object forms the nucleus, to which diverse objects are associated by a different point of likeness in every case.


Vygotsky analysed 5 types of complexive thinking in his experimental studies of concept formation in children, and the associative complex is one of the paths of development of emergent concepts of this type. In Vygotsky’s words:

“because it is based on an associative connection between an object that is included in the complex and any of the features that the child notices in the object that acts as the complex’s nucleus. Around this nucleus, the child can build an entire complex composed of the most varied objects. Some objects may be included in the complex because they are the same colour as the nucleus. Others may be included on the basis of similarity in form, dimension, or any other distinguishing feature that the child notices” (LSVCW v. 1, p. 137).

While the child is able maintain a representation of an object so as to recognise others resembling it in some way, the child is unable to isolate, retain and apply a stable representation of any one feature. Nonetheless, this form of activity exhibits the basic capacities required for the development of stable complexes.


Vygotsky, L. S. (1934). An Experimental Study of Concept Development, Chapter 5 of Thinking and Speech, in LSVCW, v. 1, pp. 121–166

-- AndyBlunden - 14 Nov 2013


Topic revision: r5 - 19 Nov 2013, AndyBlunden

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