Dual stimulation

Dual stimulation refers to the process by which human beings control their own psychological functioning (memory, will, perception, attention) by using signs as auxiliary stimuli, associated with the immediate field of perception, which moderate and direct the response to the immediate (or ‘first’) stimulus. The expression often refers to an experimental method in which auxiliary stimuli are presented to an experimental subject to assist in completing a difficult task.


The experimental method of dual stimulation and the corresponding approach to psychological investigation and human development was originated by Vygotsky and is closely connected to his idea of Mediation and artefact-mediated Action in particular. However, the idea has its roots in Hegel’s principle expressed in his Logic as follows:

“There is nothing, nothing in heaven, or in nature or in mind or anywhere else which does not equally contain both immediacy and mediation.”

In other words, dual stimulation is not just an experimental method, but a ubiquitous part of the human condition: human beings have created an entire world of signs and tools which intervene between humans and Nature, and regulate our interaction with Nature. Vygotsky acknowledged Hegel’s contribution:

“With full justification, Hegel used the concept of mediation in its most general meaning, seeing in it the most characteristic property of mind. ... man acts on behaviour through signs, that is, stimuli, letting them act according to their own psychological nature” (Research Method, p. 61-2).


Vygotsky used the concept of dual stimulation in the design of a number of experiments using the Genetic Method, that is, in which he was able to foster the development of a psychological function in a subject while observing and controlling it by means of the presentation of stimuli-means (auxiliary stimuli).

See Chapter 5 of Thinking and Speech, in which nonsense words on blocks are offered to a child-subject who has to develop a concept to organise the blocks into sets.

In the two chapters in The Vygotsky Reader mentioned below, the experimenter offers cards for a subject to use as mnemonic tools to successfully complete a memorisation task. Vygotsky also refers to using a knot in a handkerchief as a reminder (Tool and sign ...), tossing a coin to make a decision (Genesis ...) or counting to three to summon the will to do something (Lecture 6).


The problem of cultural development of the child, Vygotsky Reader, pp. 57ff. http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1929/cultural_development.htm

Tool and sign in the development of the child, Vygotsky Reader, pp. 99ff http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1934/tool-symbol.htm

Vygotsky, L. S. (1930). The Instrumental Method in Psychology, LSVCW v. 3, pp. 85-89. http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1930/instrumental.htm

Vygotsky, L. S. (1931). Research Method. The history of the development of the higher mental functions, Chapter 2, LSVCW v. 4, pp. 27-82. http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1931/research-method.htm

Vygotsky, L. S. (1931). The genesis of the higher mental functions. The history of the development of the higher mental functions, Chapter 5, LSVCW v. 4, pp. 97-120. http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1931/higher-mental-functions.htm

Vygotsky, L. S. (1934). Lectures on psychology, Lecture 6: The problem of will and its development in childhood. LSVCW v. 1. pp 351-358

Vygotsky, L. S. (1934). Thinking and Speech. LSVCW v. 1. pp. 39-288 http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/words/Thinking-and-Speech.pdf

Hegel (1812). With what must science begin? http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hl/hlbegin.htm#0092


-- AndyBlunden - 06 Oct 2014
Topic revision: r2 - 27 Nov 2014, AndyBlunden

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