Collection Complex

The collection complex is an emergent concept in which the subject associates ‘complete sets’ of objects, often based on some activity where the objects complement one another .


Vygotsky analysed 5 types of complexive thinking in his experimental studies of concept formation in children, and the collection complex is one of the paths of development of emergent concepts of this type. In Vygotsky’s words:
“Here, the various concrete objects are united in accordance with a single feature, namely, on the basis of reciprocal supplementation. These objects form a unified whole consisting of heterogeneous, though supplementary, parts. ...
“The most frequent form of generalization of concrete impressions that the child’s concrete experience teaches him is a set of mutually supplementary objects that are functionally or practically important and unified. Sets such as the cup, saucer and spoon, or the fork, knife, spoon and plate, or sets of clothing are good examples of the kinds of complex-collections that the child encounters in his daily life (LSVCW v. 1, p. 138-9).

and Vygotsky was able to reproduce this kind of complex in the ‘double stimulation’ experiment:

"Under experimental conditions, the child selects objects to match the model that differ from it in colour, form, size of some other feature. However, the child’s selection of these objects is neither chaotic nor accidental. Objects are selected in accordance with features that differentiate them from the model (LSVCW v. 1, p. 138).

So the child endeavours to collect together a complete set of all the colours or all the shapes, and so on, like ‘mummy bear, daddy bear and little baby bear’.

It is important to note that while the other forms of complexive thinking, objects are associated by means of like features, the collection complex unites objects according to differing features. This is not indicative of instability in the isolation and recognition of features, however. The effort to synthesise complete sets indicates an awareness of more general relations and may use some practical situation as the nucleus for synthesis of the complex, for example, uniting knife, fork and plate, as found on the dinner table.


Vygotsky, L. S. (1934a). 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: r2 - 14 Nov 2013, AndyBlunden

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