The sociocultural perspective seeks to understand why people act as they do based on the influences of their social and cultural group memberships. According to the concept, people are largely influenced by authority figures in their particular societies. Lev S. Vygotksy did pioneering work in the development of this theoretical framework after the Russian Revolution of 1917. He believed that an individual’s thoughts and behaviors can be traced to interactions with other people within their society.

Child Development

Vygotsky held in his theory that children’s learning is influenced by their cultures and societies. For example, preliterate societies may remember by tying knots on a string or developing an oral tradition of story-telling. Vygotsky believed that children learn more through interacting with a mentor who gives verbal instructions than learning alone. He called the mentor the "More Knowledgeable Other," and the space in which a child cannot complete a task alone the "Zone of Proximal Development."

Education

Teachers make use of these theories by grouping students of different ability levels so that more competent students can push less competent students to work within their zone of proximal development and learn new ideas. Teachers also provide support for students until they can handle a task on their own.

Social and Cultural Research

The sociocultural perspective theory provides researchers with a basis from which they can ask and explain how a person’s membership in a certain group affects self-esteem, for example. Other research questions might include how a person’s behavior is affected by where the person lives, or why a person of a particular religious group acts in a certain way.