According to Piaget and Vygotsky, private speech is the act of communicating with oneself for the purposes of self-guidance and self-regulation. Private speech is normally characteristic of children aged from two to seven. Piaget argued that the notion of private speech represents a developmental dead-end, in contrast to his views, Vygotsky maintained that private speech is “a revolution in development which is triggered when preverbal thought and pre-intellectual language come together to create fundamentally new forms of mental functioning” (Fernyhough & Fradley, 2005 p. 1).
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Piaget argued that development precedes learning claiming that we interpret the world through mental schemas, allowing us to make sense of our environment. Vygotsky agrees that learning happens by interaction with our environment; however, contrary to Piaget’s notion, Vygotsky argues that learning precedes development (McLeod, 2014). He believed that the present state of development is enhanced when one is presented with new tasks that lie beyond our reach of abilities. The gap between children’s pre-existing development and what they can accomplish with the help of others is called the zone of proximal development.
Vygotsky argues that accurate instructions raise our abilities through the zone of proximal development. Learning occurs within the zone of proximal development and precedes intellectual development (Lloyd & Fernyhough, 1998). Piaget’s theory focuses mainly on states of development and mental schema, Vygotsky focuses on how instruction and society at large may affect the learning process.
The question whether adults use private speech needs to be answered by examining Vygotsky’s classification of the language into three forms: the first one being social speech used to communicate with others, the second one private speech, which is characteristic of children from the age of three, although the private speech diminishes and dies out by the time children start school (McLeod, 2014). The private speech becomes inaudible and turns into a silent inner speech characteristic of the adults.
Based on this speech classification, we may assume that private speech, as explained by Vygotsky, is not used by adults. Adults do tend to speak to themselves, although this private speech may not be compared with the one that is characteristic of children when they speak to themselves audibly for the purposes of self-regulation or self-guidance. This having been said, it would be incorrect to entirely rule out the elements of private speech exhibited by adults. At times, adults may be observed speaking to themselves; it is most often attributed to directions and guidance that they give to themselves. In this case, we may assume that adults do sometimes resort to private speech for the same purposes as children.
The question of whether I used private speech is rather interesting. Most often, I employ private speech when I need to memorize a new piece of vocabulary, and enunciating the word out loud may enhance the memorizing process. I also use a private speech from time to time when I edit the papers that I have written by reading the text out loud. It appears that the words read aloud sink in better, as compared to the text read to yourself. The use of private speech helps greatly when I need to work out a mathematical problem or a calculation in my head. Saying the numbers aloud seems to be more effective than silent inner speech.
The phenomenon of private speech appears to be gaining increased popularity among phycologists. The ideas and studies put forward by Piaget and Vygotsky provide fertile ground for research in this area.
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Fernyhough, C., & Fradley, E. (2005). Private speech on an executive task: Relations with task difficulty and task performance. Cognitive Development, 20(2005), 103–120. Web.
Lloyd, P., & Fernyhough, C. (1998). Lev Vygotsky: Critical Assessments. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. Web.
McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Web.