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An Investigation of Subjectness and Its Manifestations in Human Mental Development

Department: Institute of Educational Studies
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Human mental development is the object of the present research.

The subject of the research is subjectness in the process of human mental development.

The purpose of this research is to investigate the role of subjectness in human mental development. This involves solving the following objectives:

1. To analyse theories and approaches to studying subjectness as a key determinant of personality activity and its manifestations in human mental development.

2. To design the conceptual schema and operational model of subjectness indicators in development of subject’s abilities and human mental development.

3. To develop the experimental program of subjectness investigation and its role in developing subject’s abilities (aim and objectives setting, hypotheses putting, theory and methodology choosing, tests and technique assigning, base stage of experiment planning, and main qualitative and quantitative characteristics of sample indicating).

4. To conduct the experiment of subjectness investigation and its role in developing the abilities of activity subject and in mental development of human being.

5. To analyze the data.

6. To elaborate the instructions to develop the abilities of activity subject based on forming of its qualities.

Empirical Base of the Research

The experiment was conducted at the National Research University Higher School of Economics with students from different departments (the Psychology Department, the Philosophy Department, and the Philology Department) and with Moscow students (9th, 10th, and 11th grades), aged 14-22. A total of 271 individuals participated in the study.

The present study's data indicated the following results:

1. The concepts of ‘subject’ and ‘subjectness’ have been analyzed in theory, and the working definitions of these concepts have been indicated. The subject is understood to be an active beginning that regulates and determines its own activity (vital activity). The subjectness is the characteristic of a human being that is the totality of the personality properties and qualities that determine that person’s activity and direction, and ensure the achievement of the subjective goal and the satisfaction of the subject's actual needs. Thus, the level of development of subjectness depends on the level of development of these characteristics.

2. A theoretical analysis was conducted regarding subjectness's role in the process of human mental development. It was determined that subjectness, which manifests itself in human mental development during learning activity, is characterized by a symptom complex that includes: motives, attitudes, beliefs, level of reflection, level of intellectual development, and level of self-control and volitional control of behavior.

3. The conceptual schema of subjectness as a functional system was developed. It includes the following components:

  • Needs, motives (the basic component of the subjectness system triggering the subject’s activity);
  • Emotional complexes (sets of emotional reactions that are typical for the subject, feelings end experiences, relationship stereotypes that occur in certain conditions);
  • Motivational complexes (systems of persistent motives that direct the subject to a certain activity);
  • Attitudes, beliefs, cognitive maps (a system of human presentations about oneself and the world that is shaped by past experience);
  • Goal (an image of a result);
  • Reflection on activity and behavior;
  • Will (a subject’s volitional qualities, the ability to voluntarily regulate current activity and behavior);
  • Actual abilities (the physiological and intellectual qualities of a subject that are relevant at the moment);
  • Result (experienced by the subject as the state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of initial needs and the state of achieving the initial goals of an activity or behavior).

4.     An operational model of subjectness was developed that manifests itself in human mental development. It is represented by the following components:

  • Needs in cognition and self-development, adjacent needs that are presupposed mental development as the mean of desired results achievement;
  • Emotional complexes that refer to a person’s self-relation and processes of self-development, tolerance to frustration;
  • Attitudes and beliefs in relation to itself, world, possibilities of self-development and self-fulfilment;
  • Motivational complexes connected with the orientation to self-development, self-fulfilment and life achievements;
  • Presence of goal and result’s image of self-development;
  • Subject’s reflection of itself in processes that are connected with the development of own abilities, self-fulfilment;
  • Subject’s volitional qualities connected with the stability in task-solving;
  • Actual level of intellectual development and development of cognitive abilities;
  • Result (assessment of performance, self-appraisal of different aspects of success in life, life satisfaction, indicators of intellectual development).

5. The proposed model of subjectness, which manifests itself in human mental development, was verified by the developed experimental program. In keeping with the goal and objectives of the research, the techniques for studying subjectness were chosen. Among them were T. Elers’ questionnaire that examines the motivation to succeed; the Self-Actualization Test; the Will Self-Assessment Technique (N. N. Obozov); the Volitional Self-Regulation Technique (A. V. Zver’kova and E. V. Eideman); the Basic Beliefs Scale; the Technique for Studying the Self; a test studying reflections on acts, activities, and actions; Intelligence Tests (logical continuation, the expulsion of unnecessary things, the compound analogy of E. A. Korobkova; the proportion of proverbs, metaphors, and phrases of E. V. Zeigarnik); the author’s self-assessment scales of efficacy and satisfaction with the results of one's own activity and behavior. Grades received in main school subjects, such as literature, Russian, a foreign language, history, and mathematics, are used as indicators of student mental development.

6. To ensure the reliability of the research results, we refined and re-tested  the methodology used to study reflection study that was developed during a previous stage of the present research. To exclude and do an additional analysis of subjectively distorted results, the ‘lie scale’ was included.

7. Experimental research on subjectness, which manifests itself in human mental development, was conducted. A total of 271 individuals took part in the study. Among them were students of different departments of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (Psychology Department, Philosophy Department, and Philology Department) and Moscow students (9th, 10th, and 11th grades), aged 14-22. The research confirmed that the subjectness model developed is valid: the specifics of subjective qualities influence an individual's processes of mental development and the results of the activities he or she has implemented. We compiled subjective profiles of people who have high and low levels of satisfaction regarding the results of their own intellectual activity.

8. The instructions to develop the abilities of activity subject based on forming of subject’s qualities have been elaborated. Among them are the forming positive motivational complexes (value orientations to self-development, self-fulfillment, life achievements, etc); developing affective tolerance; forming positive attitudes in relation to itself, world, own possibilities; raising obvious educational and life goals; developing volitional qualities; forming constructive reflection, developing concomitant cognitive abilities to activity.

Recommendations for Implementation

The results of the research could be used by teachers and psychologist-practitioners to solve tasks related to developing intellectual abilities and professional competencies in the sphere of school, university, and professional education, when organizing remedial and developmental work, doing vocational counseling, and consulting in different spheres of social practice. The results could be used in educational systems of different levels and types.

Field of Application

The experimental data could be used to design mental development techniques, programs of advanced training, and training courses for developing professional and personal competencies.

The results could be useful for researchers who are interesting in mental development and the formation of subjectness.


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