The Fourth Congress of the International Society for Cultural
Research and Activity Theory, ISCRAT 1998
Activity Theory and Cultural Historical Approaches to Social Practice.

Aarhus University, Denmark, June 7-11, 1998.

Session: Psycholinguistics and psychology (Chairman A.A.Leontjev)


Timo Järvilehto and Nikolai Veresov

Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Oulu, Finland


Relation between consciousness, co-operation and communication is examined from the point of view of systemic psychology regarding man and environment as one unitary system (Järvilehto, 1994). In contrast to traditional two system's approach separating organism and environment, systemic psychology offers the possibility to understand the relations of these three concepts through evolution of consciousness in co-operation of organism-environment systems. According to the systemic psychology consciousness developed in relation to common result of organisation of organism-environment systems. Such a system is created by communication; thus language, for example, is not a means of information transmission, but the way to produce common organisation. Consciousness is the characteristic of the structure of the common organisation created through communication; it is not an "inner" property of the individual. Consciousness is not only something general, but also every individual has his personal consciousness. This personal consciousness means the personal participance of the individual in the results of common action. The different individual aspects are culminating in the common result and the common results widen the action possibilities and consciousness of individuals. Therefore, the development of personal consciousness is in direct relation to the possibility of the individual to use the common results in the own action.

The relation between consciousness and communication may be examined by considering different forms of co-operation. Common results may be achieved at least in three types of organisations:

1."Totalitarian" organisation based on fixed specialisation. Co-operation is not directed towards any specific result, but the common result appears if the individuals rigidly fit together. Consciousness exists here only in its general form; no personal consciousness may develop.

2. "Corporative" organisation based on relative specialisation of participants and communication, but the common result is pre-set by goals or laws formed earlier. Main type of communication consists of orders. Personal consciousness is present, but the organisation does not allow its development, because the formation of common result involves resistance by the participants and it is not authentically shared by the participants.

3. "Communicative" organisation based on unspecialized individuals who may flexibly take the roles of the others. The common result is not predetermined, but achieved through communication in the process of fitting together the organisations of the individuals in an optimal way. The result is new and even surprising; something in which visions of all individuals join together. Main type of communication is dialogue. This organisation is the basis for the development of consciousness, because participants learn through common results new aspects of the world. In this organisation the personal consciousness is approaching the general consciousness.

The three forms of co-operation presuppose different kinds of communication reflected in the language. Thus development of consciousness and forms of co-operation may be analysed by studying the linguistic forms typical in the community.

Reference: Järvilehto, T. (1994) Man and his environment. Essentials of systemic psychology. Oulu: Pohjoinen, 224 p. (In Finnish).