Psychology - A Study Of Mental Life
by Robert S. Woodworth
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Development of Voluntary Control

The child's actions are at first impulsive but not voluntary in the full sense, since obviously he cannot imagine and intend an act till he has had experience of that act, and he must usually have experienced doing the act himself before he can effectively imagine it. At least, this is true of the simpler movements; compound movements, made up of familiar elements, may be first observed in other persons and then voluntarily imitated. The child's process of acquiring voluntary control over a movement is illustrated by the story of how the baby learned to put his hand in his mouth. He first made this movement in the course of "aimless" throwing of his arms about, liked the sensation of the hand in the mouth, tried apparently to get it there again, and in the course of a few days was able to put it there at will. The child's "aimless" movements at the start were probably impulsive, but they were not directed towards any preconceived end. Then, having observed a desirable result of one movement, he worked towards that result by trial and error, till finally he had the necessary movement so closely linked to the thought of the result as to follow directly upon the thought.

Once brought under voluntary control, a movement becomes with further repetition habitual and mechanical, and no longer voluntary or even impulsive. Thus the voluntary {527} performance of an act intervenes between the native or instinctive doing of it and the later habitual doing of it. Blowing out a match affords another example of this course of events. A child can of course blow out, instinctively, when he has the natural stimulus for strong expiration, but he cannot at will blow at the lighted match. Being prompted and shown, he comes by degrees to be able to blow out the match; during the learning stage he has to try, and the act is voluntary; but with further practice it becomes involuntary, though it may still be executed as part of a larger voluntary act, such as preventing a burning match from setting fire to something on which it has fallen.

A complex act, or series of movements, may be voluntary as a whole, being directed towards some preconceived result, while the single movements that constitute the series are mechanical, their particular results no longer being thought of separately. This is well illustrated by the instances of typewriting, speaking, and signing the name, mentioned a moment ago. With practice, the interest in a performance goes more and more to the final result and deserts the elements of the act.

It is during the organization of reactions that they require attention and must be thought of before being executed. Organization goes on and on, a thoroughly organized reaction being later combined with others into a still bigger act. New demands constantly made upon the individual prevent him, however well organized, from ever reaching the condition of a wholly automatic machine. Will, in the sense of action aimed at the accomplishment of foreseen results, stays with him to the end.

Ideomotor Action

Involuntary movement is not always "sensorimotor", which means directly aroused by a sensory stimulus; oftener {528} it is "ideomotor", or directly aroused by an idea or thought. It may be so aroused and still be involuntary. We think of a certain result and our muscles produce this result, though we did not really mean to do this act ourselves. The thought arouses the movement because it has previously been linked with the movement. A thought which has previously served as the stimulus to an act will tend to have this effect again, unless inhibited by some contrary stimulus. There is no need of a definite consent to the act, provided there is nothing present to inhibit it.

Good examples of ideomotor action can be observed among the audience at an athletic contest. You are watching one of your team do the pole vault, for instance, and are so much absorbed in his performance and so desirous for him to succeed that you identify yourself with him to a degree. He is rising to clear the high bar, and the thought of his clearing it, monopolizing your mind and leaving no room for the inhibitory thought that the performer is down there in the field and you up here in the stand, causes you to make an incipient leg movement as if you yourself were vaulting.

Voluntary action, in the fullest sense, occurs when you realize the situation and are definitely conscious of yourself, that is to say, when you differentiate yourself clearly out of the total situation, and not only imagine some change to be made, but think of that change as to be produced by you, without at the same time having any contrary thought to inhibit actual execution.

Conflict and Decision

It appears that in our "digging" we have now struck another vein, for here we have the fact of one tendency running contrary to another and inhibiting it. Conflict of desires and the consequent necessity of choosing between {529} them, is thus brought vividly to our attention. Every one would at once agree that "will" and "choice" belong closely together. The most distinctly voluntary acts occur when two alternatives are thought of, and one of them is chosen.

Organized as we are by nature, that is to say, on a large scale, but incompletely—environed as we are, with multitudinous stimuli constantly playing on us and arousing contrary tendencies—we cannot hope to escape conflict of motives and the necessity of making decisions. Every decision made, every conflict resolved, is a step in the further organization of the individual. It may be a step in a good direction, or in a bad direction, but it is a step in organizing the individual's reaction-tendencies into what we call his character—the more or less organized sum total of his native and acquired tendencies to reaction, with emphasis on those reactions that affect his life and social relations in a broad way.

The lowest animals, having few reaction tendencies, and being responsive to only a narrow environment, show little sign of internal conflict, and when it does occur it is resolved very simply by the advantage going to one of the opposing tendencies, with perhaps a shift later to the other, in the way described in our earlier consideration of attention. [Footnote: See p. 251.] This type of decision is fundamental. In the behavior of higher animals, we sometimes detect signs of a longer-persisting conflict, as between curiosity and fear, when a wild creature seems poised between his inclination to approach and examine a strange object and his inclination to run away, veering now towards the one and now towards the other alternative, and unable, as it seems, to reach a decision.

Conflict between the enterprising tendency to explore, manipulate or somehow launch forth into the new, and the negative tendencies of fear, inertia, shyness, etc., is {530} something that recurs again and again in human experience, as illustrated by making up your mind to get up in the morning, or to plunge into the cold water, or to speak up and have your say in a general conversation. There is a hesitancy in such cases, due to a positive and a negative tendency. The conflict may be resolved in favor of the negative tendency by simple prolongation of the hesitation till the occasion for action has passed, or it may be resolved in favor of the positive tendency when this is strong enough for an instant to enable the individual to commit himself to the enterprise, after which he usually stays committed. The positive motive must for an instant be stronger than the negative, in order to get action.

A somewhat different type of conflict, which may be called vacillation, occurs when two positive tendencies are aroused that are inconsistent with each other, so that gratification of the one entails renunciation of the other. Old Buridan's celebrated problem of the ass, placed equally distant from two equally attractive bundles of hay, and whether he would starve to death from the exact balance of the two opposing tendencies, is a sort of parable to fit this case. Probably the poor ass did not starve—unless he richly deserved his name—but he may conceivably have ended the very uncomfortable state of vacillation by running away altogether, as a human being, who is really more subject to vacillation than any other creature, is sometimes so much disturbed at having to decide between two invitations for the same day as to decline both, and go fishing. Vacillation is certainly a very unpleasant state of mind. We want action, or else we want peace, but vacillation gives us neither. In spite of its irksomeness, we seem sometimes almost powerless to end it, because as soon as we have about decided on the one alternative, what we shall miss by not choosing the other comes vividly to mind, and swings the pendulum its way.


However it comes about that a decision is reached, it usually is reached, and the curious fact then is that it usually sticks. A student may vacillate long between the apparently equal attractions of two colleges, but when he finally decides on one, the advantages of the other lose their hold on him. Now he is all for one and not at all for the other. Having identified himself with one college, he has completely altered the balance of attractions, his self-assertion now going wholly on the side of the chosen college, and even leading him to pick flaws in the other as if to reinforce his decision. In other words, he "rationalizes", justifies, and fortifies his decision, once he has reached it. Some people, indeed, are abnormally subject to vacillation and seem never to accept their own decisions as final, but normally there are strong influences tending to maintain a decision, once it is made: the unpleasantness of the state of vacillation and relief at having escaped from it; the satisfaction of having a definite course of action; and self-assertion, because we have decided, and now this course of action is ours. During vacillation, neither of the alternatives was identified with ourselves, but now we have decided and are not going to be so weak as to change. X is our college now and anything you say against it you say against us. Thus the person who has decided defends himself energetically against reopening the question.

The state of indecision and the state of decision seem thus fairly well understood, but the process of passing from the one to the other is often obscure. It differs from one case to another. In one case we find the rational process of deliberation, in which each alternative is weighed and the decision awarded to the one that promises best. This is essentially a work of imagination: you imagine that you have adopted the one alternative, and see how it suits you, then you do the same with the other alternative. You think each {532} alternative through to see how satisfactory it will be, balance one against the other, and choose accordingly. This is ideal, but often impracticable, since we have not the time for full deliberation, or since we cannot trust imagination to give us a correct picture, or since we have no common measure by aid of which to balance off different sorts of satisfaction. Even when practicable, the deliberate way of reaching a decision is likely to seem irksome, because of the delay involved and the natural propensity for impulsive action. Perhaps the most common process is a sort of partial deliberation, the two alternatives appealing to us by turns till at some moment one makes a strong enough appeal to secure action.

Sometimes there is a deadlock, and then we either give up deciding for the moment, and, sleeping over the matter, find when we next take it up that one alternative has lost its momentary attractiveness and the other has the field; or else, feeling the irksomeness and humiliation, almost, of being unable to make up our mind, we say, "Any decision is better than none; here goes, then; this is what I will do", so breaking the deadlock by what seems like an arbitrary toss-up.

At other times, without such a distinct "act of will", and without any observable change in the attractiveness of either alternative, we simply find, after awhile, that a decision has emerged, and that we now know what we are going to do. What has happened in us to bring about the decision we cannot see, but here we are with a decision made and perhaps with the act already performed. The two alternatives remain theoretically equal, but one has somehow got hold of us, while the other has lapsed.

Then there is the case where we "see the better, but follow the worse", or are in great danger of so doing. The "worse" is usually something that appeals to the {533} "old Adam" in us, something that strongly arouses a primitive instinctive response; while the "better" is a nobler, more dutiful, or more prudent course. The lower motive being the stronger, how can it ever be that the higher motive gets the decision? Well, the fight is not just a contest between these two. Other motives are drawn into the fray, the whole man is drawn in, and it is a question which side is the stronger. Fear of ridicule or criticism, sense of duty, self-respect, ambition, ideals of oneself, concern for the welfare of another person, loyalty to a social group, may be ranged on the side of the "weaker" motive and give it the advantage over the stronger.

What becomes of the rejected motives? If unimportant and s superficial, they simply lapse into an inactive state and are gradually forgotten, perhaps recurring to mind once in a while with a faint tinge of regret, since after all we should have liked to gratify them. "As a boy, I wanted to be a sailor; well, I would rather like to try it for once." When a motive is deeply rooted in our nature, it cannot be so easily eliminated. Sometimes it is simply deferred and remains dormant, content to bide its time; "there will be time enough for that later on". Sometimes it is disguised and then gratified, as when an apparently courteous deed contains an element of spite. Sometimes it is afforded a substitute gratification, as when the boastful boy, after having his "conceit taken out of him" by his mates, boasts of his school, profession, town or country. This is often called "sublimation". Sometimes, though denied, it remains insistent, and "defense mechanisms" have to be devised to keep it down; the "sour grapes" mechanism is an example, which may be used not only when the "grapes" are physically out of reach but also when for any reason we decide to leave them alone.

The psychoanalytic school lays great stress on {534} "suppressed" desires, holding that they become unconscious while still remaining active, and that they find gratification symbolically in dreams, and at times break into waking life in a disturbing way.

The most adequate way of handling rejected motives is to cooerdinate them with other, accepted motives—to harness them into teams and put them to work. This cannot always be done; for example, if a young woman has two attractive suitors, she might find difficulty in harnessing them together, and will have to say good-by to one, at least. But when the boastful boy becomes a loyal and enthusiastic member of a school, his self-assertive motive is harnessed up with social motives into a very effective team. Probably a tendency can only be "sublimated" by being thus combined and cooerdinated with other strong tendencies.

These various ways of handling a rejected motive could be nicely illustrated from the case of the sex instinct. It so happens, partly because modern economic and educational conditions enforce a delay in marriage—and in part simply because there are so many attractive people in the world—that the cravings of sex must often be denied. What becomes of them? Of course the sex instinct is too deep-seated to be eradicated or permanently to lapse into a dormant state. But the fascination for particular individuals may so lapse or be forgotten. Certain people we remember, once in a while, with half-humorous and certainly not very poignant regret. Deferring the whole matter till the time is ripe works well with many a youth or maiden. Combined with social interests, the sex motive finds sublimated satisfaction in a great variety of amusements, as well as in business associations between the sexes. Introduce a nice young lady into an officeful of men, and the atmosphere changes, often for the better,—which means, certainly, that the sex motive of these men, combined with ordinary business {535} motives, is finding a sublimated satisfaction. The sex motive thus enters into a great variety of human affairs. "Defense mechanisms" are common in combating unacceptable erotic impulses; the sour grapes mechanism sometimes takes the extreme form of a hatred of the other sex; but a very good and useful device of this general sort is to throw oneself into some quite different type of activity, as the young man may successfully work off his steam in athletics. This is not sublimation, in any proper use of that term, for athletic sport does not gratify the sex tendency in the least, but it gratifies other tendencies and so gratifies the individual. It is the individual that must be satisfied, rather than any specified one of his tendencies. As regards cooerdination, the fact was illustrated just above that this method would not always work; but sometimes it works immensely well. Here is a young person (either sex), in the twenties, with insistent sex impulses, tempted to yield to the fascination of some mediocre representative of the other sex. Such a low-level attachment, however, militates against self-respect, work, ambition, social sense. Where is the "cooerdination"? It has to be found; some worthy mate will harness all these tendencies, stimulating and gratifying sex attraction, self-respect, ambition, and others besides, and cooerdinating them all into the complex and decidedly high-grade sentiment of love.

Obstruction and Effort

The term "will" is used to designate the response to external obstruction as well as the response to internal conflict. In fact, nothing is so characteristically "will" as the overcoming of resistance that checks progress towards a desired result. As "decision" is the response to internal conflict of tendencies, so "effort" is the response to external {536} resistance encountered in executing a desire that has been adopted. The obstruction may be purely physical, as the underbrush that impedes your progress through the woods; or it may be another person's will running counter to yours; or it may be of the nature of distraction of attention from the end in view.

The resistance may also be internal, and consist in your own lack of skill in executing your intentions, or in the disturbing effect of some desire which, though rejected, has not gone to sleep but still pulls you another way than the way you have decided to go.

In all these cases, the individual is moving towards a certain goal, but encounters obstruction; and his response is effort, or increased energy put into his movement towards the goal. So long as the tendency towards a goal finds smooth going, there is not the same determination that appears as soon as an obstruction is encountered. The "will", in common usage, will not brook resistance—the "indomitable will".

Now effort and determination, in our chapter on the native impulses, were put under the head of the assertive or masterful tendency; and it does seem that "will", in this sense, is almost the same thing as the instinct of self-assertion. Certainly, in the case of adults, an obstruction puts the individual "on his mettle", and superimposes the mastery motive upon whatever motive it may have been that originally prompted the action.

The mastery motive came clearly to light in an experiment designed to investigate "will action". The subject of the experiment was first given a long course of training in responding to certain stimulus words by other certain words that were constantly paired with them; and when his habits of response were thus well fixed, his task was changed so that now he must respond to any word or syllable by any {537} other that rhymed with it. A series of stimuli now began with words for which no specific response habit had been formed, and to these the subject reacted with no great difficulty. But then, unexpectedly, he got a stimulus word to which he had a fixed habit of response, and before he could catch himself he had made the habitual response, and so failed to give a rhyme as he had intended. This check sometimes made him really angry, and at least it brought him up to attention with a feeling which he expressed in the words, "I can and will do this thing". He was thus put on his guard, gave closer attention to what he was doing, and was usually able to overcome the counter tendency of habit and do what he meant to do. Some subjects, who adapted themselves readily and fully to the rhyming task, i.e., who got up a good "mental set" for this sort of reaction, made few errors and did not experience this feeling of effort and determination; for them the effort was unnecessary; but the average person needed the extra energy in order to overcome the resistances and accomplish his intentions.

Other good instances of effort are found in the overcoming of distraction, described under the head of attention, [Footnote: See p. 259.] and in the work of the beginner at any job. When the beginner has passed the first cautious, exploratory stage of learning, he begins to "put on steam". He pounds the typewriter, if that is what he is learning, spells the words aloud, and in other ways betrays the great effort he is making.

Ask a child just learning to write why he grasps the pencil so tightly, why he bends so closely over the desk, why he purses his lips, knits his brow, and twists his foot around the leg of his chair, and he might answer, very truly, that it is because he cannot do this job easily and has to try hard. All these unnecessary muscular movements and tensions {538} show the access of energy that has been liberated in his brain by the obstruction encountered.

Any learner, once he has mastered the difficulties of the task, reaches an easy-running stage in which effort is no longer required, unless for making a record or in some way surpassing himself. With reference to effort, then, we may speak of three stages of practice: the initial, exploratory stage, the awkward and effortful stage, and the skilled and free-running stage. These are identical with the three stages in the development of attention to a subject, which were described [Footnote: See p.258] as the stage of spontaneous attention or curiosity; the stage of forced attention, or effortful attention, controlled by such motives as fear or self-assertion; and the final stage of objective interest and absorption in the subject, which is evidently the same as the free-running condition.

Effort is not a good in itself; it is an unpleasant condition; but it is a natural response to difficulty and is often necessary in order to get the individual into the free-running condition which is both efficient and pleasant. It is often required to get the individual out of the easy-going condition into the free-running condition, which is something entirely different. In free-running action there may be even more energy expended than in effortful action, but it is better directed and produces no strains and jolts.

Intelligence, in the sense of adaptability and "seeing the point", may often take the place of effort. Consider the way two different people react to a sticking door: the one puts in more strength and forces it, the other by a deft thrust to the side opens it without much extra force. You can't say absolutely which mode of attack is better, for your stubborn one may waste his strength on an obstruction that really cannot be forced, while your clever one may waste his {539} time on a door that needs only a bit of a push. Persistence plus adaptability is what efficient activity demands.

Thought and Action

"Men of thought" and "men of action" are sometimes contrasted—which is hardly fair to either, since the great man of action must have the imagination to conceive a plan, and must know exactly what he is aiming to accomplish, while the great thinker must be persistent in thinking and must get into action by way of writing or somehow making his thoughts count in the world. But we do find men who are impatient of thought and want to get into action at once, even without knowing just what they are about, and other men who seem quite contented to think and plan, without any definite intention of ever putting their plans into execution. The former type, the impulsive individual, is not difficult to understand, his behavior fits in so well with the primitive trial-and-error sort of activity; but the mere thinker seems an anomaly, in view of the general psychological principle that thought tends toward motor action.

In accounting for the inactive thinker, we have to remember, first, that some inhibition of immediate action is often necessary, in order to have time to think the matter over; this prudent attitude becomes a habit with some individuals. Besides, there are the negative motives of fear, shyness and laziness that tend to deter from the actual execution of a plan. Hamlet's "conscience" that makes "cowards of us all", so that "the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment . . . lose the name of action" turns out, if we look a few lines further back, to be the "dread of something" unknown, that "puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of". {540} Fear—fear of unforeseen consequences, fear of committing ourselves, fear of ridicule—is one great inhibiter of action, and inertia is another, since it is much less strenuous to sit in the armchair and plan than to get out and put the plan into effect. Besides this, some people who are good at planning come to take so much pride and satisfaction in the thinking part of an enterprise that they do not feel the need for action. Moreover, you can "plan" in a large way, without bothering about details, but once you start to execute your plan you encounter details and preliminaries which are apt to rob the enterprise of its zest. Here is where persistence and effort are needed.

Abulia—"no will"—is an abnormal degree of lack of zest for action. Along with it go timidity and lack of social force, proneness to rumination and daydreaming, and often a feeling of being compelled to perform useless acts, such as doing everything three times or continual washing of the hands. Abulia is not just a comfortable laziness, but is attended by a sense of humiliation and inferiority. It shows itself in excessive hesitation and vacillation and in failure to accomplish anything of consequence. Sometimes the subject expends much effort, but fails to direct the effort towards the execution of his purposes. Some authorities have ascribed abulia to inertia or "low mental tension", some to an overdose of fear and caution, some to the paralyzing effect of suppressed desires still living in the "unconscious". Mild degrees of it, such as are not uncommon, seem sometimes to be due to the hiatus that is bound to exist between the end one has in view and the means one must take to start towards that end. One has zest for reaching the goal, but not for the preliminaries.

An author, whose case was studied because he was accomplishing so little, was found to follow a daily program about as follows. He would get up in the morning full of {541} confidence that this was going to be a good day, with much progress made in his book. Before starting to write, however, he must first have his breakfast, and then a little fresh air, just to prepare himself for energetic work. On returning from his walk, he thought it best to rest for a few moments, and then one or two other little matters seemed to demand attention; by the time these were done, the morning was so far gone that there was no time for a really good effort, so he optimistically postponed the writing till the afternoon, when the same sort of thing happened, and the great performance had to be put over till the next day. This man did better under a regime prescribed by his medical adviser, who commanded him to write for two hours immediately after rising, and make this his day's work—no more and no less than two hours. The definiteness of this task prevented dawdling.

Other writers have noted a curious tendency to "fight shy" of the passage actually being written and let the thoughts move ahead and plan out the later passages. Sometimes it is necessary to trick yourself if you are to get anything done; you say, "I can't write this properly just now; I'll just sketch out a preliminary draft"—on which understanding you may be able to write, whereas you could not if you thought you were writing "for keeps"; but when you have got well started and warmed to the task, you may find your work good enough to keep, after all. Judging by these mild cases, abulia may be due partly to distaste for the details of actual performance, and partly to a dread of committing oneself to anything that has the stamp of finality.

Securing Action

No chapter in psychology offers more in the way of practical applications than this chapter on the will—if we only {542} knew more on the subject! How to get action, either from yourself, or from others if you are responsible for their action, is a big practical problem. A few hints on the matter are suggested by what precedes.

How to get action from yourself—how to liberate your latent energies and accomplish what you are capable of accomplishing. A definite purpose is the first requirement; without that one merely drifts, with no persistency and no great energy. The goal should be something that appeals vitally to you, and something which you can attain; not too distant a goal; or, if the ultimate goal is distant, there must be mileposts along the way which you can take as more immediate goals; for a goal that can be reached by immediate action enlists more present effort. The student puts more energy into his study when the examination is close at hand; and, although this is regrettable, it reveals a fact in human nature that can be utilized in the management of yourself or others. A well defined and clearly visible goal is a much better energy-releaser than vague "good intentions".

The more clearly you can see and measure your approach towards the goal, the more action; thus it has been found in many different lines that the "practice curve method" of training gives quicker and better results than ordinary drill. In the practice curve [Footnote: See p. 321.] you have a picture of your progress; you are encouraged by seeing how far you have advanced, and stimulated to surpass your past record, and thus your immediate goal is made very definite. You cannot do so well when you simply "do your best" as when you set out to reach a certain level, high enough to tax your powers without being quite out of reach. You cannot jump so high in the empty air as you can to clear a bar; and, to secure your very best endeavor, the bar must not be so low {543} that you can clear it easily, nor so high that you cannot clear it at all.

The goal should be heartily adopted as your goal, which is to say that the self-assertive motive should be harnessed into service. The importance of this motive in securing action is seen in the strong effect of competition to arouse great activity. The runner cannot make as good speed when running "against time" as when competing directly, neck to neck, with other runners. Hence, to get full action from yourself, find worthy competitors. And for the same reason, accept responsibility. This puts you on your mettle. To shun competition and responsibility is characteristic of abulia. Other strong motives, such as the economic motive or the sex motive (seen in the energetic work of a young man whose goal is marriage to a certain young woman) can also be enlisted in many cases. But, for the best results, there should be, in addition to these extraneous motives, a genuine interest in the work itself.

Do not say, "I will try". Say, "I will do it". The time for trying, or effort, is when obstruction is actually encountered. You cannot really try then, unless you are already fully determined to reach the goal.

Getting action from other people is the business of parents, teachers, bosses, officers, and to some extent of every one who wishes to influence another. In war, the problem of "morale" is as important as the problem of equipment, and it was so recognized by all the armies engaged in the Great War. Each side sought to keep the morale of its own soldiers at a high level, and to depress the morale of the enemy. Good morale means more than willingness for duty; it means "pep", or positive zest for action. Some of the means used to promote morale were the following. The soldier must believe in the justness of his cause; that is, he must make victory his own goal, and be {544} whole-hearted in this resolve. He must believe in the coming success of his side. He must be brought to attach himself firmly to the social group of which he forms a part. He must be so absorbed in the activities of this group as to forget, in large measure, his own private concerns. Not only must he be enthusiastic for cause and country, but he must be strong for his division, regiment and company. Much depends on the officers that directly command him. He must have confidence in them, see that they know their business, and that they are looking out for the welfare of their men as well as expecting much from them. Competition between companies, regiments, and arms of the service was a strong force tending towards rapid progress in training and good service in the field. Interest in the actual technical work that was being done, and seeing that one's immediate group was accomplishing something towards the winning of the war was a powerful spur, while a sense of the uselessness of the work in hand strongly depressed the morale of a group. "Nothing succeeds like success"; morale was at its best when the army was advancing and seemingly nearing the goal. Morale was also wonderfully good when the enemy was advancing, provided your side was holding well with a good prospect of bringing the enemy to a halt and baffling his offensive. On the other hand, nothing was so hard on morale as the failure of an ambitious offensive of one's own side; the sense of futility and hopelessness then reached its maximum—except, of course, for the case of obviously approaching defeat. The conditions of trench warfare imposed a strain on morale: no progress, in spite of the danger and hardship, no chance to get at the enemy or do anything positive.

The manager of an industrial enterprise has the same problem of morale to meet. It is his business to get action from people who come into the enterprise as servants. The {545} main difficulty with the master-servant relation is that the servant has so little play for his own self-assertion. The master sets the goal, and the servant has submissively to accept it. This is not his enterprise, and therefore he is likely to show little "pep" in his work. He can be driven to a certain extent by fear and economic want; but better results, and the best social condition generally, can be expected from such management as enlists the individual's own will. He must be made to feel that the enterprise is his, after all. He must feel that he is fairly treated, and that he receives a just share of the proceeds. He must be interested in the purposes of the concern and in the operations on which he is engaged. Best of all, perhaps, some responsibility and initiative must be delegated to him. When the master, not contented with setting the main goal, insists on bossing every detail, continually interfering in the servant's work, the servant has the least possible chance of adopting the job as his own. But where the master is able, in the first place, to show the servant the objective need and value of the goal, and to leave the initiative in respect to ways and means to the servant, looking to him for results, the servant often responds by throwing himself into the enterprise as if it were his own—as, indeed, it properly is in such a case.

"Initiative"—that high-grade trait that is so much in demand—seems to be partly a matter of imagination and partly of will. It demands inventiveness in seeing what can be done, zest for action, and an independent and masterful spirit.

The physician who treats "nervous" or neurotic cases has this problem of getting action from his patients. Strange as it may seem, these cases, while bemoaning their unfortunate condition, cling to it as if it had its compensations, and do not wholeheartedly will to get well. They have {546} slumped into the attitude of invalidism, and need reorientation towards the goal of health and accomplishment. How to bring this about is the great problem. Much depends here on the personality of the physician, and different physicians (as well as mental healers outside the medical profession) employ different technique with more or less of success. The first necessity is to win the patient's confidence; after that, some use persuasion, some suggestion, some psychoanalysis, some (non-medical practitioners) use metaphysical doctrines designed to lead the patient to "hitch his wagon to a star". On the intellectual side, these methods agree in giving the patient a new perspective, in which weakness, ill health and maladaptation are seen to be small, insignificant and unnecessary, and health and achievement desirable and according to the nature of things; while on the side of impulse they probably come together in appealing to the masterful and self-assertive tendency, either by putting the subject on his mettle, or by leading him to partake of the determined, masterful attitude of the physician, or by making him feel that he is one with the great forces of the universe. Methods that psychologically are very similar to these are employed by the clergyman in dealing with morally flabby or maladjusted individuals; and the courts are beginning to approach the delinquent from the same angle. All the facts seem to indicate that the way to get action is to have a goal that "fires the imagination" and enlists the masterful tendencies of human nature.

The Influence of Suggestion

Can the will of one person be controlled by that of another, through hypnotism or any similar practice? This question is often asked anxiously by those who fear that crime or misconduct willed by one person may be passively executed by another.


Hypnosis is a sleeplike and passive state that is nevertheless attentive and concentrated. It appears as if the subject were awake at just one point, namely at the point of relation with the hypnotizer. To stimuli from other sources, external or internal, he is inaccessible. His field of activity is narrowed down to a point, though at that point he may be intensely active.

The depth of the hypnotic state varies from shallow to profound. Comparatively few individuals can be deeply hypnotized, but many can be got into a mild receptive state, in which they accept the suggestions of the hypnotizer more readily than in the fully awaking state. The waking person is alert, suspicious, assertive, while the hypnotized subject is passive and submissive. The subject's cooeperation is necessary, in general, in order to bring on the hypnotic state, whether shallow or deep.

The means of inducing hypnosis are many and varied, but they all consist in shoving aside extraneous thoughts and stimuli, and getting the subject into a quiet, receptive attitude, with attention sharply focussed upon the operator.

When the subject is in this state, the "suggestions" of the operator are accepted with less criticism and resistance than in the fully waking state. In deep hypnosis, gross illusions and even hallucinations can be produced. The operator hands the subject a bottle of ammonia, with the assurance that it is the perfume of roses, and the subject smells of it with every appearance of enjoyment. The operator points to what he says is a statue of Apollo in the corner, and the subject apparently sees one there.

Loss of sensation can also be suggested and accepted. Being assured that his hand has lost its sensation and cannot feel a pin prick, the subject allows his hand to be pricked with no sign of pain. Paralysis of the arm or leg can be similarly suggested and accepted.


Acts may be suggested and performed. The subject is handed a cardboard sword with the assurance that that is a sword, and directed to attack some person present, which he does with the appearance of serious intent.

Now, however, let the subject be given a real sword with the same command as before. Result—the subject wakes up! This suggestion was too much; it aroused dormant tendencies, broadened out the field of activity, and so produced the waking condition. A suggestion that runs counter to the subject's organized character and tendencies cannot get by without arousing them and so awakening the subject. Consequently, there does not seem to be much real danger of crimes being performed by innocent persons under hypnosis.

In mild hypnosis, the above striking phenomena are not produced, but suggestions of curative value may be conveyed, and so taken to heart that they produce real results. The drowsy state of a child just falling to sleep can be similarly utilized for implanting suggestions of value. One little boy had a nervous twitching of the face that was very annoying. His father, just as the child was dropping off to sleep, conveyed the suggestion that the child didn't like this twitching; and this suggestion, repeated night after night, in a few days caused the twitching almost wholly to disappear.

Suggestion often succeeds in a waking state. In a certain test for "suggestibility", the task is set of copying a series of lines. The first line is short, the second longer, the third longer still, the rest all of the same length, but the more suggestible individual keeps on making each succeeding line longer. There are, however, various tests for suggestibility, and an individual who succumbs to one does not necessarily succumb to another, so that it may be doubted whether we should baldly speak of one individual as more suggestible than another.


Suggestion may be exerted by a person, or by the circumstances. If by a person, the more "prestige" he enjoys in the estimation of the subject, the greater his power of suggestion. A prestige person is one to whom you are submissive. A child is so dependent on older people, and so much accustomed to "being told", that he is specially susceptible to prestige suggestion.

Suggestion exerted by the circumstances is about the same as what is often called "auto-suggestion" or "self-suggestion". A man falls and hurts his hip, and, finding his leg difficult to move, conceives that it is paralyzed, and may continue paralyzed for some time.

"Counter-suggestion" applies to cases where a suggestion produces the result contrary to what is suggested. You suggest to a person that he should do a certain thing, and immediately he is set against that act, though, left to himself, he would have performed it. Or, you advance a certain opinion and at once your hearer takes the other side of the question. Quite often skilful counter-suggestion can secure action, from children or adults, which could not be had by positive suggestion or direct command.

If suggestion succeeds by arousing the submissive tendency, counter-suggestion succeeds by arousing the assertive tendency. Suggestion works when it gets response without awakening the resistance which might be expected, and counter-suggestion when it arouses so much resistance that the suggestion itself does not have the influence which might be expected. In terms of stimulus and response, suggestion works when a particular stimulus (what is suggested) arouses response without other stimuli being able to contribute to the response; and counter-suggestion works when a stimulus (what is suggested, again) is itself prevented from contributing to the response. In counter-suggestion, response to the suggestion itself is inhibited, and in positive {550} suggestion response to other stimuli is inhibited. Both involve narrowness of response, and are opposed to what we commonly speak of as "good judgment", the taking of all relevant stimuli into account, and letting the response be aroused by the combination.



1. Outline the chapter.

2. Which of the previous chapters have the closest contacts with the present chapter?

3. How does the popular conception of hypnotism differ from the scientific?

4. List 8 acts performed during the day, and arrange them in order from the most involuntary to the most voluntary.

5. Analyze a complex performance so as to show what in it is voluntary and what involuntary.

6. Mention an instance of practice changing a voluntary performance into an involuntary, and one of practice changing an involuntary performance into a voluntary.

7. If an individual is influenced by two opposing motives, must he act according to the stronger of the two?

8. Illustrate, in the case of anger, several ways of dealing with a rejected motive. i.e., in what different ways can anger be controlled?

9. How would you represent purpose in neural terms? How does it compare with "mental set"?


On the importance of self-assertion (and of submission) in will, and on the relation of conduct to impulse and to reasoning, see McDougall's Social Psychology, Chapter IX, on "Volition", and Supplementary Chapter I, on "Theories of Action".

For a practical study of the question, how to secure action, see Walter Dill Scott's Increasing Human Efficiency in Business, 1911.

On hypnotism, see Albert Moll's Hypnotism, translated by A. F. Hopkirk; or James's Chapter XXVII in his Principles of Psychology, 1890.





People differ not only in intelligence and efficiency, but in an intangible something referred to as "personality". If your acquaintance is applying for a certain position, and has named you as one of his references, you will be asked by the appointing officer to tell what you know of the candidate's experience, his knowledge and skill in the field where he desires a position, his character and habits, and his personality; and in replying you state, if you conscientiously can, that the candidate has a pleasing and forceful personality, that he gets on well with superiors, equals and inferiors, is cooeperative, energetic, ambitious without being selfish, clean, modest, brave, self-reliant, cheerful, optimistic, equal-tempered; and you perhaps include here traits that might also be classed under the head of "character", as honesty, truthfulness, industry, reliability, and traits that might be classed under physique, as good appearance and carriage, commanding presence, a "strong face", and even neatness and good taste in dress. Here we have an array of traits that are of great importance to the individual's success in his work, in his social relationships and in his family life; and it is a proof of how much remains to be accomplished in psychology that we cannot as yet present anything like a real scientific analysis of personality, nor show on what elementary factors it depends.


Factors in Personality

If we do attempt some sort of analysis, we have first to notice that personality depends in part on physique. In ordinary life, mental and physical traits are not sharply distinguished, and probably they cannot be distinguished except in the abstract. The mere size of a person affects his attitude towards other people and their attitude towards him—and it is in such social relations that personality most clearly stands out. His size affects the individual's behavior in subtle ways, since the big fellow dominates others easily just by virtue of his size, and so tends to be good-humored, while the little fellow is apt to be strenuous and self-assertive. Muscular development and "looks" also have their effect on personality.

Another factor might, by a sort of play on words, be called chemique. This corresponds to what is often called temperament, a very obscure matter psychologically. We speak of one as having an excitable temperament, a jovial or a sour temperament. "Disposition" is another word used in connection with such traits. The ancients attempted to relate the "four temperaments" to the four great "humors" or fluids of the body. Thus the "sanguine" individual was one with a surplus of blood, the "choleric" had a surplus of bile, the "phlegmatic" a surplus of phlegm, and the "melancholic" a surplus of black bile or spleen; and any individual's temperament resulted from the balance of these four. Sometimes a fifth temperament, the nervous, was admitted, dependent on the "nerve fluid".

This particular chemical derivation of temperament is, of course, out of date, being based on very imperfect knowledge of physiology; but it still remains possible that chemical substances carried around in the body fluids have much to do with the sort of trait that we think of under {554} the head of temperament. Only that to-day, with some knowledge regarding the internal secretions of the "endocrine glands", we should be inclined to connect temperament with them, rather than with blood, bile, etc. Take, for example, the secretion of the adrenal glands, that we found to be poured out during fear and anger and to have so much to do with the bodily condition of readiness for violent action and probably also with the "stirred-up" emotional state. What is more likely than that individuals differ in the strength of their adrenal secretion or in the readiness with which the glands are aroused to pour it out into the circulation? The excitable individual might be one with over-active adrenals. And in the same way the strenuous individual might be one with an unusually active thyroid gland, since there certainly seems to be some connection between this gland and the tendency to great activity. There are several other glands that possibly affect behavior in somewhat similar ways, so that it is not improbable, though still rather hypothetical, that chemical substances, produced in these glands, and carried by the blood to the brain and muscles, have much to do with the elusive traits that we class under temperament and personality.

Once more, consider the instincts in relation to personality. Undoubtedly these instinctive tendencies differ in strength in different individuals. One is more gregarious than another, and this is an important element in his personality. One is more assertive and masterful than another, one is more "motherly" than another, more responsive by tender and protective behavior to the presence of children or others who need help. One is more prone to laugh than another, and the "sense of humor" is admitted to be an important element in personality. And so on through the list; so that personality can be partially analyzed in terms of instinct.


Has intelligence anything to do with personality? It certainly has, in many ways. One who is slow in learning adapts himself poorly to other persons and remains out of touch with his social environment. "Tact" depends partly on instinctive liking for society, no doubt, but partly on the ability to perceive what others want, and on the imagination to put yourself in their place. High principles require the ability to reason things out and see them in perspective. Statistical studies of the rulers of Europe, for a period of several centuries, show that on the whole those with higher intelligence were also of better character and personality. Criminals, taken as a whole, average rather low in intelligence; and it may even be doubted whether the clever, scheming rascal, who defrauds widows of their money, or trains feeble-minded boys to pick pockets for him, has, after all, the brains of the man who can easily see how such schemes could be worked but decides against them himself because he sees something better worth doing.

A sense of inferiority, either physical or mental, is apt to affect the personality unfavorably. It does not necessarily produce humble behavior; far from that, it often leads to a nervous assertiveness. An apparently disdainful individual is often really shy and unsure of himself. Put a man where he can see he is equal to his job and at the same time is accomplishing something worth while, and you often see considerable improvement in his personality.

The Self

In a broad, objective sense, the self is the individual, but in a more subjective sense the self is what the individual knows about himself, how he conceives himself, how he feels about himself, what he plans and wishes for himself. It is reasonable to suppose that the newly born infant does not {556} distinguish himself from other objects. Perhaps his foot, as he sees it, seems simply an object among others, like a toy; but he soon learns to connect the visual appearance with the cutaneous and kinesthetic sensations from the foot, and these sensations, along with the organic, always retain in large measure the subjective quality of belonging to the self, whereas sights, sounds, odors and tastes seem to belong to objects distinct from the self.

If we ask how the child comes to make the distinction between the self and the not-self, we have to call to mind the assertiveness that manifests itself very early in the child's behavior—how he resists being pushed and pulled about, struggles against being held, and in many ways, more and more complex as he develops, shows that he has a "will of his own". It is in resisting and overcoming external things that he comes to distinguish himself from them.

Not only external things, but other persons particularly, have to be encountered and resisted by the child; and often, too, he has to submit to them, after a struggle. Probably he distinguishes between himself and other people even more sharply than between himself and inanimate things. Ask any one to tell you what he knows about himself, and he will begin to tell you how he differs from others. Thus the individual's conception of himself is largely a product of his social experience.

The self is first known as wish or will, and probably that always remains the core of any one's conception of himself. That is to say, I think of myself first of all as wishing, aiming, purposing, resisting, striving, competing. But I may come to know myself more objectively. By dint of experience I know something of my limitations. I know I am not muscular enough to do this, nor mathematical enough to do that, nor artistic enough to do the other. In this progressive age, some children even know their own IQ. We {557} have frequent occasion to measure ourselves against others, or against tasks, and lay some of the lessons to heart. Though most of us are probably inclined to overrate ourselves, many will be found to give a pretty exact estimate of themselves. It is surprising that this should be so, in view of the tendency to believe what one wishes, and of the deep-seated desire for superiority or at least against inferiority. It shows that, after all, there is a good deal of fidelity to fact in our make-up.

The word "self-assertion", which has been used more or less throughout the book as a name for the native tendency to resist, persist, master, dominate, display oneself and seek social recognition, can now be seen to be not entirely a good word for the purpose. It seems to imply that the self-assertive individual is necessarily conscious of the self. From what has just been said, it can be seen that this would be putting the cart before the horse. The self-assertive impulse precedes, consciousness of self follows and depends on self-assertion. A true estimate of oneself and one's limitations arises from self-assertion plus experience of failure and the necessity of giving up and submitting.

Self-assertion is not identical with selfishness. Selfishness aims to get, self-assertion to do. Selfish behavior is, however, often dictated by self-assertion, as when a person wishes to get and have, in order to be able to show by his possessions what a great man he is. But sometimes self-assertion squelches selfishness, leading a person to renounce present gain without hope of later gain in compensation, just because he sees in such renunciation the best chance for mastery and proving himself "the captain of his soul".

The "expansion of the self" is an interesting and significant phenomenon. The individual comes to call things, persons, social groups, ideas and principles by the name {558} "mine". Now what is mine is part of me. My self-feeling attaches to my dog; I am proud of that dog, brag of his exploits, am cast down if I see him outclassed; and it is the same way with my house, my son, my town, my country. We spoke of this sort of thing before, under the name of "sublimation of the self-assertive impulse", and we said then that the sublimation was made possible by the combination of this impulse with some other interest. My dog is not entirely myself; he is a dog, and I am interested in him as a dog; I am interested in other dogs, and like to watch their antics. But this particular dog means more than another to me because he is mine; I have expanded myself to include him. In general, the self is expanded to take in objects that are interesting in themselves, but which become doubly interesting by being appropriated and identified in some measure with oneself.

Integration and Disintegration of the Personality

Though the individual is always in one sense a unit, there is a sense in which he needs to achieve unity. His various native tendencies and interests do not always pull together, and in fact some necessarily pull against others. So that we sometimes say of a person that he is behaving so differently from usual that we should not know he was the same person. We may speak of one person as being well integrated, meaning that he is always himself, his various tendencies being so cooerdinated as to work reasonably well together; whereas of another we speak as poorly integrated, unstable, an uncertain quantity. Integration is achieved partly by selection from among conflicting impulses, partly by cooerdination, partly by judicious treatment of those impulses that are denied; as was partly explained in the last chapter.


The self, expanding socially, may expand in more than one direction, with the result that the individual has in a sense two or more selves, one for his business, one for his home; and it may happen that the instincts and interests dominating the individual in these two relations are quite different, so that a man who is hard and grasping in business is kind and generous to his wife and children. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" gives an extreme picture of such lack of integration, a picture rather fanciful than drawn from real life.

But we do find in real life cases of dissociation of the personality, also called cases of double or multiple personality. The individual passes from one state to another, behaving very differently in the two states, and usually unable to remember in the primary or more lasting state what he has done in the secondary state. In the secondary state he remembers what he did in the primary state, but is apt to speak of it as if done by another person. In many cases, the primary state seems limited and hampered, as if the individual were not his complete self, while the secondary state is a sort of complement to the first, but decidedly imperfect in itself. Thus in the primary state the individual may be excessively quiet, while in the secondary state he is excessively mischievous. It is much as if some of his reaction-tendencies were forcibly kept apart from the rest, so that when they did become aroused to activity, the remainder of the individual went to sleep. The individual seems to function in fractions, and never as a whole.

Often the secondary state likes to have a name for itself and to be considered as a secondary personality, as if two persons were inhabiting the same body—a very forced conception. The secondary personality will even assert that it stays awake in the background and watches the primary personality when the latter is active, spying on it without {560} that personality being aware of it. Thus two fractions of the individual would be functioning at the same time, but still not working together as a unit.

This claim of the secondary personality has been experimentally checked up by Dr. Morton Prince, in the following way. He was able to cause his subject, a young woman, to pass from the primary to the secondary state and back again, by a procedure resembling hypnotism. While she was in the secondary state, he told her that she (the secondary personality) was to solve an arithmetical problem, the general nature of which he described to her then and there, while the actual numbers were not shown till she was put back in the primary state. He then put her into the primary state for a few moments, and placed the numbers unobtrusively before her, without the primary personality seeming to notice them. Put back now into the secondary state, she instantly shouted out the answer to the problem, and asserted that she (the secondary personality) had had the answer ready for some time, and had been impatiently waiting to be brought back and announce it. This is at least prima facie evidence in favor of Dr. Prince's view, that two separate fractions of the individual were both functioning consciously at the same time.

It is weird business, however interpreted, and raises the question whether anything of the same sort, only milder in degree, occurs in ordinary experience. Here is one somewhat similar fact that we are all familiar with: we have two matters in hand at the same time, very different in their emotional tone, one perhaps a worrisome matter of business, the other an interesting personal matter; and the shift from one to the other feels almost like changing personalities. Also, while busy with one, we may sometimes feel the other stirring, just barely awake and dimly conscious.

Also, is not something like this true?—A person, very {561} conscientious in the performance of his duties, always doing what he is told, feels stirrings of a carefree, independent spirit, as if some sides of his nature were not finding expression, and in little ways he gives it expression, not exactly by taking a "moral holiday" [Footnote: This is one of William James's expressive phrases.] or going on a spree of some sort, but by venting his impulses just an instant at a time, so that he scarcely remembers it later, and in such little ways that other people, also, are scarcely aware of It. He has a "secondary personality", only it is little developed, and it has its little place in the conscious life, instead of being dissociated.

In the cases of true dissociation, there was often a violent emotional shock that started the cleavage. One celebrated case started at 8 years of age, when the subject, a little girl, was thrown to the floor by a drunken father angered by finding the child asleep in his bed. From that moment, it would seem that the frolicsome side of childish behavior was banished from the main personality, and could get into action only when the main personality relaxed its control and became dormant; so that thereafter the child alternated between two states, one very quiet, industrious and conscientious, the other vivacious and mischievous; and the main personality never remembered what was done in this secondary, mischievous state. In such cases, it would appear that the cleavage resulted from a violent thrusting out from the main personality of tendencies inconsistent with the dominant (here serious) attitude of that personality.

The Unconscious, or, the Subconscious Mind

Here at last, it may strike the reader, we have come to the core of the whole subject of psychology; for many readers will undoubtedly have been attracted by the statements {562} sometimes made, to the effect that the "unconscious" represents the deeper and more significant part of mental life, and that psychologists who confine their attention mostly to the conscious activities are treating their subject in a very partial and superficial manner. There is a sort of fascination about the notion of a subconscious mind, and yet it will be noticed that psychologists, as a rule, are inclined to be wary and critical in dealing with it. Let as take up in order the various sorts of unconscious mental processes.

In the first place, retention is unconscious. The host of memories that a person possesses and can recall under suitable conditions is carried about with him in an unconscious condition. But there need be no special mystery about this, nor is it just to speak about memories being "preserved in the unconscious". The fact simply is that retention is a resting condition, whereas consciousness is an active condition. Retention is a matter of brain structure, neurone connections, neural mechanisms ready for action when the proper stimulus reaches them but remaining inactive till the stimulus comes. An idea is like a motor reaction, to the extent that it is a reaction; and we retain ideas in the same way that we retain learned motor reactions. Now no one would think of saying that a learned motor reaction was retained in the unconscious. The motor reaction is not present at all, until it is aroused; the neuro-muscular mechanism for executing the reaction is present, but needs a stimulus to make it active and give the reaction. In the same way, an idea is not present in the individual except when it is activated, but its neural mechanism is present, and unconscious just because it is inactive.

Unconscious inactivity is therefore no great problem. But there is such a thing as unconscious activity. Two sorts of such activity are well known. First, there are the {563} purely "physiological" processes of digestion, liver and kidney secretion, etc. We are quite reconciled to these being unconscious, and this is not the sort of unconscious activity that gives us that fascinatingly uncanny feeling. Second, there are the "secondarily automatic" processes, once conscious, now almost or quite unconscious through the effect of frequent repetition.

Such unconscious activities occur as side-activities, carried on while something else occupies attention, or as part-activities that go on while attention is directed to the total performance of which they are parts. In either case, the automatism may be motor or perceptive, and the degree of consciousness may range from moderate down to zero. [Footnote: See pp. 265-267.]

For example, the letters of your name you write almost unconsciously, while fully conscious of writing your name. When you are reading, the letters are only dimly conscious, and even the words are only moderately conscious, while the whole performance of reading is highly conscious. These are instances of unconscious (or dimly conscious) part-activities. Unconscious side-activities are illustrated by holding your books firmly but unconsciously under your arm, while absorbed in conversation, by drumming with your fingers while puzzling over a problem, and by looking at your watch and reading the time, but so nearly unconsciously that the next instant you have to look again. In all such cases, the unconscious or barely conscious activity has been made easy by previous practice, and there is no special fascination about it, except such as comes through the use of that awesome word, "unconscious".

But now for the real "subconscious mind". You try to recall a familiar name, but are stuck; you drop the matter, and "let your subconscious mind work"; and, sure enough, after a few minutes you have the name. Or, you are all {564} tangled up in a difficult problem; you let the subconscious mind work on it overnight, and next morning it is perfectly clear. Just here it is that psychology begins to take issue with the popular idea. The popular interpretation is that work has been done on the problem during the interval when it was out of consciousness—unconscious mental work of a high order. But is it necessary to suppose that any work has been done on the problem during the interval?

The difficulty, when you first attacked the problem, arose from false clues which, once they got you, held you by virtue of their "recency value". [Footnote: See pp. 390-391.] The matter laid aside, these false clues lost their recency value with lapse of time, so that when you took the matter up again you were free from their interference and had a good chance to go straight towards the goal.

It is the same with motor acts. On a certain day, a baseball pitcher falls into an inefficient way of handling the ball, and, try as he may, cannot recover his usual form. He has to give up for that day, but after a rest is as good as ever. Shall we say that his subconscious mind has been practising pitching during the rest interval? It is much more likely that here, as in the preceding case, the value of a fresh start lies in freshness, in rest and the consequent disappearance of interferences, rather than in any work that has been done during the interval of rest.

Next, consider the "co-conscious" as Morton Prince has well named the presence and activity of the secondary personality along with the primary, as in his experiment described above. Here it seems that two streams of consciousness were flowing along side by side within the same individual. There is the activity of the main personality, and there is the activity of the secondary personality, going on at the same time without the knowledge of the main {565} personality. This is a way of reading the facts, rather than a simple statement of fact, but at least it is a reasonable interpretation, and worthy of consideration.

Unconscious Wishes and Motives

Schopenhauer wrote much of the "will to live", which was, in his view, as unconscious as it was fundamental, and only secondarily gave rise to the conscious life of sensations and ideas. Bergson's "elan vital" has much the same meaning. In a sense, the will to live is the fountain of all our wishes; in another sense, it is the sum total of them all; and in another sense, it is an abstraction, the concrete facts consisting in the various particular wishes and tendencies of living creatures. The will to live is not simply the will to stay alive; it is the will to live with all that that includes. Life is activity, and to live means, for any species, to engage in the full activity possible for that species.

The will to live is in a sense unconscious, since it is seldom present simply in that bald, abstract form. But since life is activity, any will to act is the will to live in a special form, so that we may perfectly well say that the will to live is always conscious whenever there is any conscious impulse or purpose.

In this simple statement we may find the key to all unconscious motives, disregarding the case of dissociation and split personality. If you analyze your motives for doing a certain act and formulate them in good set terms, then you have to admit that this motive was unconscious before, or only dimly conscious, since it was not formulated, it was not isolated, it was not present in the precise form you have now given it. Yet it was there, implicated in the total conscious activity. It was not unconscious in the sense of being active in a different, unconscious realm. The realm in which it was active was that of conscious activity, and it formed an {566} unanalyzed part of that activity. It was there in the same way that overtones are present in perceiving the tone quality of a particular instrument; the overtones are not separately heard and may be very difficult to analyze, yet all the time they are playing an important part in the conscious perception.

In the same way, we may not "realize" that we are helping our friend as a way of dominating over him, but think, so far as we stop to think, that our motive is pure helpfulness. Later, analyzing our motives, we may separate out the masterful tendency, which was present all the time and consciously present, but so bound up with the other motive of helpfulness that it did not attract attention to itself. Now if our psychology makes us cynics, and leads us to ascribe the whole motivation of the helpful act to the mastery impulse, and therefore to regard this as working in the unconscious, we are fully as far from the truth as when we uncritically assumed that helpfulness was the only motive operating.

For man, to live means a vast range of activity—more than can possibly be performed by any single individual. We wish to do a thousand things that we never can do. We are constantly forced to limit the field of our activity. Physical incapacity, mental incapacity, limitations of our environment, conflict between one wish and another of our own, opposition from other people, and mere lack of time, compel us to give up many of our wishes. Innumerable wishes must be laid aside, and some, resisting, have to be forcibly suppressed. Renunciation is the order of the day, from childhood up to the age when weakness and weariness supervene upon the zest for action, and the will to live fades out into readiness to die.

What becomes of the suppressed wishes, we have already briefly considered. [Footnote: See p. 533.] We have noticed Freud's conception {567} that they live on "in the unconscious". Nothing ever learned, he would say, can ever be forgotten, and no wish ever aroused can ever be quieted, except by being gratified either directly or through some substitute response. Each one of us, according to this view, carries around inside of him enough explosive material to blow to bits the whole social structure in which he lives. It is the suppressed sex wishes, and spite wishes growing out of thwarted sex wishes, that mostly constitute the unconscious.

These unconscious wishes, according to Freud, motivate our dreams, our queer and apparently accidental actions, such as slips of the tongue and other "mistakes", the yet queerer and much more serious "neurotic symptoms" that appear in some people, and even a vast deal of our serious endeavor in life. All the great springs of action are sought in the unconscious. The biologist, consciously, is driven by his desire to know the world of plants and animals, but what really motivates him, on this view, is his childish sex curiosity, thwarted, driven back upon itself, and finding a substitute outlet in biological study. And so, in one way or another, with every one of us.

All this seems to depart pretty far from sober reality, and especially from proved fact. It involves a very forced interpretation of child life, an interpretation that could never have arisen from a direct study of children, but which has seemed useful in the psychoanalysis of maladjusted adults. It is a far cry from the facts that Freud seeks to explain, to the conception of the infantile unconscious with which he endeavors to explain them.

Freud's conception of life and its tendencies is much too narrow. There is not half enough room in his scheme of things for life as it is willed and lived. There is not room in it even for all the instincts, nor for the "native likes and dislikes"; and there is still less room for the will to live, in {568} the sense of the zest for all forms of activity, each for its own sake as a form of vital activity. Any scheme of motivation, which traces all behavior back to a few formulated wishes, is much too abstract, as was illustrated just above in the case of the helpful act.

Freud is apparently guilty of yet another error, in supposing that any specific wish, ungratified, lives on as the same, identical, precise wish. A very simple instance will make clear the point of this criticism. Suppose that the first time you definitely mastered the fact that "3 times 7 are 21", it was in a certain schoolroom, with a certain teacher and a certain group of schoolfellows. You were perhaps animated at that moment by the desire to secure the approval of that teacher and to shine before those schoolfellows. Does it follow, then, that every time you now make use of that bit of the multiplication table, you are "unconsciously" gratifying that wish of long ago? To believe that would be to neglect all that we have learned of "shortcircuiting" and of the "substitute stimulus" generally. [Footnote: See p. 338.] That wish of long ago played its part in linking the response to the stimulus, but the linkage became so close that that precise wish was no longer required. The same response has been made a thousand times since, with other wishes in the game, and when the response is made to-day, a new wish is in the game. It is the same with the biologist. Suppose, for the sake of argument, what probably is true in only a fraction of the cases, that the biologist's first interest in making any minute study of animals arose from sex curiosity. As soon, however, as he engaged in any real study of animals, substitute stimuli entered and got attached to his exploring responses; and to suppose that that identical wish of long ago is still subconsciously active, whenever the biologist takes his microscope in hand, is to throw out all {569} these substitute stimuli and their attachments to many new responses, and to see in a very complex activity only one little element.

In making use of the conception of the unconscious to assist us in interpreting human conduct, we are thus exposed to two errors. First, finding a motive which was not analyzed out by the individual, and which was only vaguely and implicitly conscious, and formulating that motive in an explicit way, we are then liable to the error of supposing that the motive must have been explicitly present, not indeed in consciousness but in the unconscious; whereas the whole truth is exhausted when we say that it was consciously but only implicitly present—active, but not active all alone. Second, having traced out how a certain act was learned, we are apt to suppose that its history is repeated whenever it is performed afresh—that the wishes and ideas that were essential to its original performance must be unconsciously present whenever it is once more performed—neglecting thus the fact that what is retained and renewed consists of responses, rather than experiences. What is renewed when a learned act is performed is not the history of the act, but the act itself. In a new situation, the act is part of a new performance, and its motivation is to some degree new.

Though his theories are open to criticism, Freud has made important contributions to the study of personality. The same can be said of other schools of psycho-pathology. Jung and Adler deserve mention as representing varieties of psychoanalysis that differ more or less radically from that of Freud. Outside of the psychoanalytic school altogether, Janet and Morton Prince have added much to psychological knowledge from their studies of dissociated and maladjusted personalities. In endeavoring to assist the maladjusted individual, all these schools have much in common, since they all seek to bring to his attention elements in his personality {570} of which he is not clearly aware. Clear consciousness of implicit or dissociated elements in one's personality often proves to be a step towards a firmer organization of the personality and towards a better adjustment to the conditions of life.



1. Outline the chapter.

2. Mention some personal traits that appear when the individual is dealing with inanimate things, and some that only appear in dealing with other persons.

3. Construct a "rating scale" for the trait of independence, as follows. Think of some one who is extremely independent, and call him A; of some one who is at the opposite extreme and call him E; of some one standing halfway, and call him C; and fill in the positions B and D with other persons standing between A and C and between C and E, in this matter of independence. You now have a sort of measuring rod, with the five persons A, B, C, D and E marking degrees of the trait. To rate any other individual, consider where he belongs on this scale—whether even with A, with B, etc.

4. How does the embarrassing "self-consciousness" of one who is speaking in public differ from simple consciousness of self?

5. Consider what was conscious and what unconscious in the following case of "shell shock": A sharpshooter had a certain peekhole in the front of the trench through which he was accustomed to take aim at the enemy. The enemy evidently spotted him, for bullets began to strike close by as soon as ever he got up to shoot. He stood this for a time, and then suddenly lost the sight of his right eye, which he used in aiming.

6. Explain the difference between unconscious action of the dissociated type and of the implicit type.


For attempts to utilize psychological methods in the study of personality, see F. L. Wells, Mental Adjustments, 1917; also Chapter 11 in Watson's Psychology, 1919.

Much interesting psychological material, along with a good deal of philosophical discussion, is contained in James's chapter on the "Consciousness of Self" in Vol. I of his Principles of Psychology, 1890.

For a discussion of the unconscious, see the symposium on Subconscious Phenomena, 1910, participated in by Muensterberg, Ribot, Janet, Jastrow, Hart and Prince.

On dissociation, see Morton Prince's Dissociation of a Personality.

For Freud's doctrine of the unconscious, see his Psychopathology of Everyday Life, translated by Brill.


Abulia, 499, 539-541, 545-546

Accessory sense-apparatus, 192-196, 200

Acquired reactions, 89-90, 94, 99-102, 112-114, 144, 247, 296-829, 399

Adaptation, of attention, 247, 260; negative, 302-303, 310, 312; sensory, 224-225, 447

Adjustment, 72, 78-79, 131, 178, 382, 385, 420, 430, 431, 433

Adler, 569

Adrenal glands, 123-124, 554

Advantage, factors of, 245-248, 259, 382; law of, 256

Aggressive behavior, 160-161, 164-165

After-images, 226-227, 451-452

Ambiguous figures, 253-254, 425

Analysis, of motives, 565-566, 569; of sensations, 197, 201, 203, 205-206, 211-212, 230, 233

Anger, 118, 122-123, 125-126, 131-132, 158-159, 163, 300-301, 429-430

Animal behavior, 8-9, 14, 39-40, 76-79, 93-94, 97, 105-107, 109-111, 116, 121-122, 141, 145, 147, 148, 156, 159, 160, 298, 302-311, 313-314, 317-320, 436, 463-464

Aphasia, 57-60, 62, 428

Appetite, 125, 126

Applied psychology, 3-4

Apraxia, 57, 63-64, 428

Aptitudes, 101, 288-289, 291, 293

Area, auditory, 50, 59-60, 62; motor, 50-57; olfactory, 62-63; somesthetic, 50, 62-63; speech, 58-60, 62; visual, 50, 53, 62-63

Aristotle, 394, 454

Art, 182-183, 512-516

Assertiveness, see Self-assertion

Association, 366; by contiguity, 395-398, 405; free, 376-381; by similarity, 395-396, 405-408, 519; laws of, 389-417; controlled, 381-385, 413-414, 417

Association fibers, 56, 416-417, 424

Atrophy through disuse, 349, 390, 415

Attachment of stimulus and response, 25, 34-35, 53-54, 84, 92, 112, 135, 139, 298-301, 303, 311, 338, 372, 377-379, 390, 392, 394, 399-412, 414-417, 433

Attention, 244-269, 381, 421, 433

Attitude of attention, 249; of thought, 249, 464

Autistic thinking, 508-510

Automatism, 26, 328, 338, 383-384, 433, 525, 563

Autonomic nerves, 124-125

Auto-suggestion, 549

Avoiding reaction, 24-25, 142-144, 305, 310

Axon, 31-38, 51-52, 56, 61, 64, 189-192

Baldwin, 243

Basilar membrane, 196, 234-235

Behavior psychology, 1, 8-9, 18, 21

Bergson, 565

Betts, 388

Big, appeal of the, 515-516

Binet, 272-273

Binet tests, 272-275

Binocular, rivalry, 253-254; vision, 442-443

Biology, 5; liking for, 182

Black, a sensation, 218, 223-224

Blends, 197-199, 202-203, 205-206, 219-220, 232, 301, 424, 500

Bloomfield, 104

Boasting, 169, 495

Book, W. F., 325

Brain, 14-15, 28-30, 49-66, 292-293; stem, 29-330, 32, 33, 50

Brown, Warner, 449

Bryan, 321

Cajal, 51, 61, 239

Callosum, 56, 62

Cannon, 136

Carr, 314

Caution, 156, 511

"Censor," 505-506

Central neurone, 37-39

Cerebellum, 29-30, 35, 50, 65

Cerebrum, 29-30, 50-64, 292-293

Character, 529, 555

Child, behavior, 91-92, 94-97, 100-101, 138, 141, 143-144, 147, 150-159, 162-168, 297-298, 300-301, 303-304, 313-314, 319, 357-358, 434-435, 437, 445, 481-483, 485-487, 490, 501, 504, 506, 526-527

Choice, 528-535

Cochlea, 192, 195-196, 234-235

Co-conscious, 564

Collecting instinct, 141

Color, liking for, 183; circle, 207; cone, 209; pyramid, 209; sense, 204-228; theories, 220-224; tone, 206-207, 213-215; triangle, 217; zones, 211-212; mixing, 214-217

Color-blindness, 209-211

Colored hearing, 376

Combination, 80, 135, 140, 148, 260-261, 299, 301, 306-308, 311, 323-326, 334, 479, 519; law of, 263-264, 398-417, 431-432, 468

Comparative method, 14-15

Comparison, 466-467

Compensatory movements, 236-238

Complementary colors, 216-217, 227-228

"Complexes," 381

Conditioned reflex, 303-304, 312, 401-402

Cones, 191, 226

Consciousness, 7-8; of animals, 8-9; degrees of, 172, 265-267, 338, 383-384

Constant error, 447-448

Constitution, native, 91, 92, 98, 271, 289-292

Constructiveness, 154, 482

Contentment, 156-157

Contiguity, association by, 395-398, 405

Contrast, visual, 227-228

Control, 55, 257, 298, 320, 335-336, 348, 381-385, 413-414, 417, 484, 511

Cooerdination, 30, 37-39, 41, 55-59, 66, 260-261, 299, 410-412, 534-535

Correlation method, 14-16, 283-285

Cortex, 50, 52, 56-63, 293, 414, 423

Counter-suggestion, 549

Cramming, 342, 346

Criteria of instinct, 92, 97, 138

Criticism, 499-500, 503, 505, 508-512, 547

Crying, 144

Curiosity, 154-157, 181, 244, 258

Curve, of distribution, 280; of forgetting, 350, 390; of learning or practice, 307, 316, 321, 325, 390

Cutaneous senses, 197-201, 224, 440, 451

Dallenbach, 362

Daring, 489, 518-519

Darwin, 127, 136

Davenport, 104

Day dreams, 493-499

Decision, 528-535

Defense mechanisms, 533, 535

Defensive reactions, 24-26, 142-144, 159-160, 162-164, 310

Delayed reaction, 76-77, 429

Delusion, 509

Dendrites, 31-32, 34-35, 51, 61, 190, 414

Detachment of response from stimulus, 299, 302, 310, 328

Determining tendency, 72, 380-385

Dewey, 480

Differential psychology, 3, 12, 180, 210, 271, 272, 274, 279-280, 286, 291-292, 368-370, 374, 548

Digestion, 121-123, 125

Discord, 232

Discovery, 421, 462

Discrimination, 435-437

Disgust, 127, 312

Dissociation, 559-561

Distraction, 259-260, 356-356

Distribution of intelligence, 274-275, 279-281

Dizziness, 238

Domination, 165

Dot figure, 252

Doubt, 472-473

Drainage, 269

Dreams, 499-508

Ear, 191-192, 195-196, 236-238

Ebbinghaus, 350, 365

Economy of effort, 151; in memorizing, 338-346, 353

Effect, law of, 391-393, 413

Effort, 127, 162, 259-260, 534, 539

Egocentric response, 380

Elementary, feelings, 173, 184-185; sensations, 197-198, 201, 203, 211-212, 216-220, 233-234

Elimination in learning, 306, 308-309, 310, 314, 327

Emotion, 118-136, 137-169, 173, 299-301, 345, 355, 361, 381, 513-514, 554, 661

Empathy, 491, 516-516

Emulation, 165-166

End-brush of an axon, 33-36, 38, 61

Endocrine glands, 122-123, 554

Energy, conservation of, 40; dammed-up, 82-84, 301, 309, 393; released, 535-546; stored, 40-41, 46

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