Olga decided to be a psychologist rather early and professional activities of her parents had greatly influenced this choice. Yet a schoolgirl, Olga accompanied her father to various psychological conferences, where she god inspired by the spirit of scientific research. Olga’s deliberate scientific education had begun when she entered Moscow State University’s faculty of psychology, where she had a chance to attend courses led by brilliant Russian psychologists – A.V. Zaporozhets, A.N. Leontyev, A.R. Luriya, P.Y. Galperin, D.B. Elkonin and others.
It was the time when Olga first turned her professional attention to child psychology. Having studied works of L.A.Venger, she started to do research under his scientific guidance. The problem, that got Olga interested, was development of general image-thinking forms of preschoolers’ cognition, and schematized notions in particular. This problem constituted the basis of her Ph.D. thesis. During her research, Olga had succeeded to show that preschoolers are able to reflect reality through schematized images (in which reality is represented in its most substantial aspects, rather than in all its diversity, important for coping with particular class of tasks). These works had defined major lines of the laboratory’s future research.
In accordance with L.S. Vygotsky’s theory, psychological development of a child rests on mastering system of tools defined by culture. Olga believed that these tools must be represented by existing external objects that reflect certain peculiarities of some given situation. L.V. Venger suggested a theory in which he had described the basics of visual modeling used for solving various cognitive tasks. Those visual models were used as forms of generalized reality, which allowed working out a program for their intentional formation. Olga got actively involved in research process on ways to build such program, believing that the L.A. Venger’s theory of cognitive development must be supplemented with processes of creativity in order to be complete. Olga’s significant contribution was her success in presenting visual model as a way of building an image that promotes preschooler’s creative activity.
Olga’s researches were dedicated to processes of imagination development. While L.A. Venger proceeded along the path of folding reality’s diversity into a schematized image, Olga went counter to it – from schematized image to rich imagery of imagination. One of the examples of this approach is the system of child’s imagination development activities proposed by Olga Diachenko that had become psychology’s classics. Researches of Olga and her laboratory colleagues leaded by L.A. Venger made possible creation of an integral program for complete cognitive development of preschoolers. They created, for the first time in the history of science, a technology that used definite mechanisms to form various aspects of child’s cognitive abilities. This program, called "Razvitie" ("Development"), had turned to be highly effective: over 3000 preschool educational establishments still use it in their educational process. For this outstanding achievement the authors of this program were awarded Russian Governmental Prize in 1997.
The L.A. Venger’ laboratory was the first in the country to start purposeful support of gifted preschool children by creation of "Odarenniy rebenok" ("Gifted child") program aimed at senior preschoolers. Parallel to creation of these programs, Olga was taking active part in development of preschool children’s psychological development diagnostic methods which allowed discerning gifted children starting at the age of five. Results of research on education of gifted children based on observation had proved effectiveness and advisability of educational work in groups for gifted preschoolers.
The experience of educational work with preschoolers lead to problem definition on individual peculiarities of preschoolers’ cognitive development, which was successfully solved in the series of research work conducted under Olga’s scientific guidance. It had been proved that children’s preferences for coping with certain types of tasks are formed at preschool age.
The major challenge of Olga’s scientific work in her last years was the nature of regulation types in preschoolers’ cognitive development. In her collaborative research with N.E. Veraksa the existence of various forms of regulation of cognitive activity was stated and proved.