But this impression was strongly heightened by the behaviour of the family and of the child during the study which I carried on in the three weeks following. The mother, the twelve-year-old sister Gladys, and Beulah herself were most willing to agree to anything which would make the test difficult, and they themselves asked to have everything tried with no member of the family in the room. Beulah was quite happy to show her art under unaccustomed conditions like having her eyes covered with thick bandages. When inadvertently some one turned a card so that she could see it, she was the first to break out into childish laughter at her having seen it. In short, everything indicated such perfect sincerity, and the most careful examination yielded so absolutely no trace of intentional fraud, that I can vouch for the honesty of the intentions of all concerned in the experiments carried on so far.
If fraud and humbug may certainly be excluded, the wiseacres will say that the results must then have been a matter of chance coincidence. No one can deny that chance may sometimes bring surprising results. Dreams of far-distant accidents come true, and yet no one who considers those millions of dreams which do not come true and which therefore remain disregarded will acknowledge any prophetic power in sleep. It may happen, if you are asked to call a name or a figure of which another man is thinking, that you will strike the right one. Moreover, recent experiments have shown that there is much natural uniformity in the thoughts of men. Certain figures or names or things more readily rush to the mind than others. Hence the chances that two persons will be thinking of the same figure are much larger than would appear from the mere calculation of probabilities. Yet even if we make the largest possible concession to happy coincidences, there cannot remain the slightest doubt that the experiments carried on under standard conditions yielded results the correctness of which endlessly surpasses any possible accidental outcome. We may take a typical illustration: I drew cards which she could not possibly see, while they were shown to the mother and sister sitting next to me, Beulah sitting on the other side of the room. The first was a nine of hearts; she said nine of hearts. The next was six of clubs, to which she said first six of spades; when told it was not spades, she answered clubs. The next was two of diamonds; her first figure was four; when told that it was wrong, she corrected herself two, and added diamonds. The next was nine of clubs, which she gave correctly; seven of spades, she said at first seven of diamonds, then spades; jack of spades, she gave correctly at once, and so on.
One other series: We had little cardboard squares on each of which was a large single letter. I drew any three, put them into the cover of a box, and while the mother, Gladys, and I were looking at the three letters, Beulah, sitting beside us, looked at the ceiling. The first were R-T-O. She said R-T-I. When told it was wrong, she added O. The next were S-U-T; she gave S-U, and then wrongly R P Q, and finally T. The next were N-A-R; she gave G N-A-S R. The following D-W-O she gave D-W, but could not find the last letter. It is evident that every one of the cards gave her fifty-two chances, and not more than one in fifty-two would have been correct if it were only guessing, and as to the letters, not more than one among twenty-six would have been chosen correctly by chance. The given example demonstrates that of five cards she gave three correctly, two half correctly, and those two mistakes were rectified after the first wrong guess. The second experiment demanded from her four times three letters. Of these twelve letters, six were right at the first guess and five after one or two wrong trials. Taking only this little list of card and letter experiments together, we can say that the probabilities are only one to many billions that such a result would ever come by chance.
Yet such correctness was not exceptional. On the contrary, I have no series performed under these conditions which did not yield as favourable an outcome as this. Some were even much more startling. Once she gave six cards in succession correctly. It was no different with word experiments. The printed word at which the sister and I looked was stall; she spelled E S-T-O A-R I L-L. And when the word was steam, she spelled L S-N K T-O A E-A-M; when it was glass, S G-L-R A-S. Whenever a letter was wrong, she was told so and was allowed a second or a third choice, but never more than three. It is evident from these three illustrations that she gave the right letter in the first place six times, and that the right letter was her second choice four times, and her third choice three times, while no letter was missed in three choices. Cases of this type again could never occur by mere chance. The number of successful strokes in this last experiment might be belittled by the claim that the last letters of the word were guessed when the first letters had been found. But this was not the case. First, even such a guess would have been chance. The word might have been grave instead of grass, or star instead of stall. What is much more important, however, is that a large number of other cases proved that she was not aware of the words at all, but spelled the letters without reference to their forming a word. Once I wrote Chicago on a pad. The mother and sister gazed at the word, and Beulah spelled correctly C-H-I-C-A-G, but made eight wrong efforts before she found the closing O. In other cases, she did not notice that the word was completed, and was trying to fish up still other letters from her mind. Everything showed that the word as a word did not come to her mind, but only the single letters. I leave entirely out of consideration the marvels of mind-reading which were secured by the judge and the minister, the male and female newspaper reporters, before I took charge of the study of the case. I rely only on what I saw and of which I took exact notes. I wrote down every wrong letter and every wrong figure, and base my calculation only on this entirely reliable material. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge it as a fact beyond doubt that such results as I got regularly could never possibly have been secured by mere coincidence and chance. As chance and fraud are thus equally out of the question, we are obliged to seek for another explanation.
There is one explanation which offers itself most readily: We saw that in order to succeed, some one around her, preferably the mother and sister, who stand nearest to her heart, have to know the words or the cards. Those visual images must be in some one's mind, and she has the unusual power of being able to read what is in the minds of those others. Such an explanation even seems to some a very modest claim, almost a kind of critical and skeptical view. The judge and the minister, for instance, in accepting this idea of her mind-reading, felt conservative, as through it they disclaimed any belief in mysterious clairvoyance and telepathic powers. In the newspaper stories, where the mysteries grew with the geographical distance from Rhode Island, Beulah was said to be able to tell names or dates or facts which no one present knew. It was asserted that she could give the dates on the coins which any one had in his pocket without the possessor himself knowing them, or that she could give a word in a book on which some one was holding his finger without reading it. No wonder that the public felt sure that she could just as well discover secrets which no one knows and be aware of far-distant happenings. It is only one step from this to the belief in a prophetic foresight of what is to come. For most unthinking people, mind-reading leads in this fashion over to the whole world of mysticism. In sharp contrast to such vagaries, the critical observers like the judge and the minister insisted that there was no trace of such prophetic gifts or of such telepathic wonders to be found, and that everything resolves itself simply into mere mind-reading. Some one in the neighbourhood must have the idea in mind and must fixedly think of it. Only then will it arise in Beulah's consciousness.
But have we really a right to speak of mind-reading itself as if it were such a simple process, perhaps unusual, but not surprising, something like a slightly abnormal state? If we look at it from the standpoint of the scientist, we should say, on the contrary, that there is a very sharp boundary line which separates mind-reading from all the experiences which the scientific psychologist knows. The psychologist has no difficulty in understanding mental diseases like hysteria or abnormal states like hypnotism, or any other unusual variation of mental life. The same principles by which he explains the ordinary life of the mind are sufficient to give account of all the strange and rare occurrences. But when he comes to mind-reading, an entirely new point of view is chosen. It would mean a complete break with everything which science has found in the mental world. The psychologist has never discovered a mental content which was not the effect or the after-effect of the stimulation of the senses. No man born blind has ever by his own powers brought the colour sensations to his mind, and no communication from without was ever traced which was not carried over the path of the senses. The world which is in the mind of my friend, in order to reach my mind, must stimulate his brain, and that brain excitement must lead to the contraction of his mouth muscles, and that must stir the air waves which reach my ear drum, and the excitement must be carried from my ear to the brain, where the mental ideas arise. No abnormal states like hypnotism change in the least this procedure. But if we fancy that the mere mental idea in one man can start the same idea in another, we lack every possible means to connect such a wonder with anything which the scientist so far acknowledges.
To be sure, every sincere scholar devoted to truth has to yield to the actual facts. We cannot stubbornly say that the facts do not exist because they do not harmonize with what is known so far. The psychologist would not necessarily be at the end of his wit if the developments of to-morrow proved that mind-reading in Beulah Miller's case, or in any other case, is a fact beyond doubt. He might argue that all previous knowledge was based on a wrong idea and that, for instance, other processes go on in the brain, which can be transmitted from organism to organism like wireless telegraphic waves without the perception of the senses. If these other processes were conceived as the foundation of mental images, the scientific psychological scholar of the future might possibly work out a consistent theory and all the previously known facts might then be translated into the language of the new science. Whether in this or a similar way we should ever come to really satisfactory results, no one can foresee, but at least it is certain that this would involve a complete giving up of everything which scientists have so far held to be right. Certainly in the history of civilization great revolutions in science have happened. The astronomers had to begin almost anew; why cannot the psychologists turn around and acknowledge that they have been entirely wrong so far and that they must begin once more at the beginning and rewrite all which they have so far taken to be truth?
Certainly the psychologists are no cowards. They would not hesitate to declare their mental bankruptcy if the progress of truth demanded it. But at least we must be entirely clear that this is indeed the situation and that no step on the track of mind-reading can be taken without giving up everything which we have so far held to be true. And it is evident that such a radical break with the whole past of human science can be considered only if every other effort for explanation fails, and if it seems really impossible to understand the facts in the light of all which science has already accomplished. If Beulah Miller's little hands are to set the torch to the whole pile of our knowledge, we ought first to be perfectly sure that there is really nothing worth saving. We cannot accept the theory of the apostles of mind-reading until we know surely that Beulah Miller can receive communications which cannot possibly be explained with the means of science.
Now we all know one kind of mind-reading which looks very astounding and yet which there is no difficulty at all in explaining. It is a favourite performance on the stage, and not seldom tried as a parlour game. I refer to the kind of mind-reading in which one person thinks of a hidden coin, and the other holds his wrist and is then able to find the secreted object. There is no mystery in such apparent transmission of the idea, because it is the result of small unintentional movements of the arm. The one who thinks hard of the corner of the room in which the coin is placed cannot help giving small impulses in that direction. He himself is not aware of these faint movements, but the man who has a fine sense of touch becomes conscious of these motions in the wrist which his fingers grasp, and under the guidance of these slight movements he is led to the particular place. Some persons express their thought of places more easily than others and are therefore better fitted for the game, and we find still greater differences in the sensitiveness of different persons. Not every one can play the game as well as a trained stage performer, who may have an extreme refinement of touch and may notice even the least movements in the wrist which others would not feel at all. Such an explanation is not an arbitrary theory. We can easily show with delicate instruments in the psychological laboratory that every one in thinking of a special direction soon begins to move his hand toward it without knowing anything of these slight movements. The instruments allow the reading of such impulses where the mere feeling of the hand would hardly show any signs. A very neat form of the same type is often seen on the stage when the performer is to read a series of numbers in the mind of some one who thinks intensely of the figures. Some one in the audience thinks of the number fifty-seven. The performer asks him to think of the first figure, then he grasps his hand and counts slowly from zero to nine. After that he asks him to think of the second figure, and counts once more. Immediately after he will announce rightly the two digits. Again there is no mystery in it. He knows that the man who thinks of the figure five will make a slight involuntary movement when the five is reached in counting, and the same movement will occur at the seven in the second counting. If he is very well trained, he will not need the touching of the hand; he will perform the same experiment with figures without any actual contact whatever. It will be sufficient to see the man who is thinking of a figure while he himself is counting. As soon as the dangerous digit is reached, the man will give some unintentional sign. Perhaps his breathing will become a degree deeper, or stop for a moment, his eyelids may make a reflex movement, his fingers may contract a bit. This remains entirely unnoticed by any one in the audience, but the professional mind-reader has heightened his sensibility so much that none of these involuntary signs escapes him. Yet from the standpoint of science his seeing these subtle signs is on principle no different from our ordinary seeing when a man points his finger in some direction.
But the experience of the scientist goes still farther. In the cases of this parlour trick and the stage performance the one who claims to read the mind of the other is more or less clearly aware of those unintended signs. He feels those slight movement impulses, which he follows. But we know from experiences of very different kind that such signs may make an impression on the senses and influence the man, and yet may not really come to consciousness. Even those who play the game of mind-reading in the parlour and who are led by the arm movements to find the hidden coin will often say with perfect sincerity that they do not feel any movements in the wrist which they touch. This is indeed quite possible. Those slight shocks which come to their finger tips reach their brains and control their movements without producing a conscious impression. They are led in the right direction without knowing what is leading them. The physician finds the most extreme cases of such happenings with some types of his hysteric patients. They may not hear what is said to them or see what is shown to them, and yet it makes an impression on them and works on their minds, and they may be able later to bring it to their memory and it may guide their actions, but on account of their disease those impressions do not really reach their conscious minds.
We find the same lack of seeing or hearing or feeling in many cases of hypnotism. But it is not necessary to go to such extreme happenings. All of us can remember experiences when impressions reached our eyes or ears and yet were not noticed at the time, although they guided our actions. We may have been on the street in deep thought or in an interesting conversation so that we were not giving any attention whatever to the way, and yet every step was taken correctly under the guidance of our eyes. We saw the street, although we were not conscious of seeing it. We do not hear a clock ticking in our room when we are working, and yet if the clock suddenly stops we notice it. This indicates that the ticking of the clock reached us somehow and had an effect on us in spite of our not being conscious of it. The scientists are still debating whether it is best to say that these not conscious processes are going on in our subconscious mind or whether they are simply brain processes. For all practical purposes, this makes no difference. We may say that our brain gets an impression through our eyes when we see the street, or through our ears when we hear the clock, or we may say that our subconscious mind receives these messages of eye and ear. In neither case does the scientist find anything mysterious or supernatural.
I am convinced that all the experiences with Beulah Miller may ultimately be understood through those two principles. She has unusual gifts and her performances are extremely interesting, but I think everything can be explained through her subconscious noticing of unintended signs. Where no signs are given which reach her senses, she cannot read any one's mind. But the signs which she receives are not noticed by her consciously. She is not really aware of them; they go to her brain or to her subconscious mind and work from there on her conscious mind.
What speaks in favour of such a skeptical view? I mention at first one fact which was absolutely proved by my experiments—namely, that Beulah Miller's successes turn into complete failures as soon as neither the mother nor the sister is present in the room. All the experiments which I have conducted in which I alone, or I together with the minister and the judge, thought of words or cards or letters or numbers did not yield better results than any one would get by mere guessing. In one series, for instance, in which we all three made the greatest effort to concentrate our minds on written figures, she knew the first number correctly only in two out of fourteen cases. In another series of twelve letters she did not know a single one at the first trial. Sometimes when she showed splendid results with her sister Gladys present, everything stopped the very moment the sister left the room. Sometimes Beulah knew the first half of a word while Gladys stood still in the same room, and could not get the second half of the word when Gladys in the meantime had stepped from the little parlour to the kitchen. Beulah was helpless even when a wooden door was between her and the member of her family. She herself did not know that it made such a difference, but the records leave no doubt. I may at once add here another argument. The good results stop entirely when Beulah is blindfolded. Even when both her mother and sister were sitting quite near her, her mind-reading became pure guesswork when her eyes were covered with a scarf. Again, she liked to make the experiment under this condition and was not aware that her knowledge failed her when she did not see her mother or sister. Her delight in being blindfolded spoke very clearly for her naive sincerity, but her failure indicated no less clearly that she must be dependent upon unintentional signs for her success.
Let me say at once that some of the observers would probably object to my statement that the presence of the family was needed and that she had to be in such direct connection with them. The newspapers told wonderful stories of her success with strangers, and even the judge and the minister felt certain that they had seen splendid results under most difficult conditions. Yet I have to stick to what I observed myself. It may be objected—and it is well known that this is the pet objection of the spiritualists against the criticism of scholars—that the results come well only when the child is in full sympathy with those present and that I may have disturbed her. But this was not the case. I evidently did not disturb her, inasmuch as we saw that the experiments which I made with her when the sister or the mother was present were most satisfactory. Moreover, she was evidently very much at ease with me when we had become more acquainted, and just those entirely negative results were mostly received on a morning when I had fulfilled the dearest wishes of the two children, a watch for the one and a ring for the other, besides all the candy with which my pockets were regularly stuffed. She was in the happiest frame of mind and most willing to do her best. But if I rely exclusively on my own observation, it is not only because I suppose that the experiments yielded just as good results as those of other observers. It is rather because I know how difficult it is to give reliable accounts from mere memory and to make experiments without long training in experimental methods. All those publicly reported experiments had been made without any actual exact records, and, moreover, by persons who overlooked the most evident sources of error. As a matter of course, I took notes of everything which happened, and treated the case with the same carefulness with which I am accustomed to carry on the experiments in the Harvard Psychological Laboratory.
To give some illustrations of sources of error, I may mention that the earlier observers were convinced that Beulah could not see slight movements of the persons in the room when she was looking fixedly at the ceiling, or that she could not notice the movements of the sister or the mother when she was staring straight into the eyes of the experimenter. Any psychologist, on the contrary, would say that that would be a most favourable condition for watching small signs. He knows that while we fixate a point with the centre of our eye we are most sensitive to slight movement impressions on the side parts of our eye, and that this sensitiveness is often abnormally heightened. Just when the child is looking steadily into our face or to the ceiling, the outside parts of her sensitive retina may bring to her the visible unintentional signs from her sister or mother. The untrained observer is also usually unaware how easily he helps by suggestive movements or utterances to the other observers. When Beulah gave a six instead of a nine, one of our friends whispered that she may have seen it upside down in her mind, or when she gave a zero instead of a six that it looked similar. In short, they keep helping without knowing it. Very characteristic is the habit of unintentionally using phrases which begin with the letters of which they are thinking. The letter in their minds forces them to speak words which begin with it. If they start at a C, we hear "Come, Beulah," if at a T, "Try, Beulah," if at an S, "See, Beulah." It is very hard to protect ourselves against such unintended and unnoticed helps. It is still more difficult to keep the failures in mind. The eager expectancy of hearing the right letter or number from the lips of the child gives such a strong emphasis to the right results that the wrong ones slip from the mind of the hearer. The right figure may be only the third or the fourth guess of the child, but if then the whole admiring chorus around say emphatically at this fourth trial that this is quite right, those three wrong efforts which preceded fade away from the memory. I may acknowledge for myself that I was mostly inclined to believe that the number of the correct answers had been greater than they actually were according to my exact records. For all these reasons I had the very best right to disregard the reports of all those who relied on their amateur art of experimenting and on their mere memory account.
What kind of signs could be in question? It may seem to outsiders that the most wonderful system of signs would be needed for every content of one mind to be communicated to another. But here again we must first reduce the exaggerated claims to the simpler reality. When Beulah makes card experiments, the whole words jack, queen, king, spade, club, heart, diamond, come to her mind, but when she makes word experiments, never under any circumstances does a real word come to her consciousness, but only single letters. Why is this? If king and queen can be transmitted from mind to mind, why not dog and cat? Yet when the mother thinks of dog, it is always only first D, and after a while O, and finally G which creeps into her mind. This difference seems to me most characteristic, because it indicates very clearly that the whole performance is possible only when the communicated content belongs to a small list which can be easily counted. There are only three face cards, only four suites, only ten numbers, and only twenty-six letters, but there are ten thousand words and more. It is easy to connect every one of the ten numbers or every one of the twenty-six letters with a particular sign, but it would be impossible to have a sign for every one of the ten thousand words. Yet if we had to do with real mind-reading, it ought to make no difference whether we transmit the letter D or the word dog. This fact that she can recognize words only by slow spelling, while the faces and the suites of the cards and the names of the numbers come as full words, seems to me to point most clearly to the whole key of the situation. Anything which cannot be brought into such a simple number series, for instance, a colour impression, can never be transmitted. If the mother looks at the ace of diamonds, Beulah says that she sees the red of the diamond before her in her mind, but if the mother looks at the picture of a blue lake, this blue impression can never arise in Beulah's mind, but only the letters B-L-U-E.
Moreover, I observed that for Beulah the letters of the alphabet were indeed connected with numbers, as in seeking a letter she has a habit of going through the alphabet and at the same time moving one finger after another. Thus she feels each letter as having a definite place in her series of finger movements, and the finger movements themselves are often counted by her, so that each letter is finally connected with a special number. This, indeed, reduces the situation to rather a simple scheme. She succeeds only if her mother or sister is present and if her eyes are open, and she succeeds only with material which can be easily counted. A very short system of simple signs would thus be entirely sufficient to communicate everything which her mind-reading brings to her. As to the particular signs, I do not yet feel sure. It would probably take months of careful examination before I should find them out, just as in Germany it has taken months for scholars to discover the unintentional signs which the owner of a trick horse made, from which the horse was apparently able to calculate. I have no time to carry on such an investigation in this case, the more as I do not see that any new insight could be gained by it.
Once I noticed distinctly how in the card experiments the mother without her own knowledge made seven movements with her foot when she thought of the figure seven. That gave me the idea that the signs might be given by very slight knocking on the floor which Beulah's oversensitive skin might notice. What speaks against such a view is that the results stop when she is blindfolded. Yet in this connection I may mention another aspect. It is quite possible that the covering of her eyes may destroy her power, and that nevertheless she may receive her signs chiefly not through the eyes, but through touch and ear. It may be that she needs her eyes open because the seeing of the members of the family may heighten by a kind of autosuggestion her sensitiveness for the perception of the slight signs. I have no doubt that this kind of autosuggestion plays a large role in her mind. She can read a card much better when she is allowed to touch with her fingers the rear of the card. She herself believes that she receives the knowledge through her finger tips. In reality it is, of course, a stimulus by which she becomes more suggestible and by which accordingly her sensitiveness to the slight signs which her mother and sister give her becomes increased. We must, however, never forget that these signs, whatever they may be, are not only unintentional on the part of her family, but also not consciously perceived by Beulah. If she stares at the ceiling, and her mother, without knowing it, makes seven slight foot movements, Beulah gets through the side parts of her eye a nerve impression, but she does not think of the foot. This nerve impression, as we saw, works on the subconscious mind, or on the brain, and the idea of seven then arises in her conscious mind like a picture which she can see.
Such a system of signs, completely unknown to those who give them and to her who receives them, cannot have been built up in a short while. But we heard how it originated. At first Beulah recognized the queen in the hands of her sister and mother, when they were playing "Old Maid." There are many who have so much power to recognize the small signs. But when they began to make experiments with cards, probably definite family habits developed; there was much occasion to treat each card individually, to link some involuntary movement with the face cards and some with each suite, and slowly to carry this system over to letters. They all agree that Beulah recognizes some frequent letters much more easily than the rare letters. What the observers have now found was the result of two years' training with mother and sister. Yet all this became possible only because Beulah evidently has this unusual, supernormal sensitiveness together with this abnormal power to receive the signs without their coming at once to consciousness. Her mental makeup in this respect constantly reminds the psychologist of the traits of a hysteric woman.
We have to add only one important point. Some startling results have surely been gained by another method. The same sensitiveness which makes Beulah able to receive signs which others do not notice, evidently makes her able to catch words spoken in a low voice within a certain distance, while she is not consciously giving her attention to them. She picks up bits of conversation which she overhears and which settle in her subconscious mind, until they later come to her consciousness in a way for which she cannot account. All were startled when at the end of our first day together I took a bill in my closed hand and asked her what I had there, and she at once replied a "ten-dollar bill," while they all agreed that the child had never seen a ten-dollar bill before. This result surprised the minister and the judge greatly, and only later did I remember that I had whispered to the judge in the next room, with the door open, that I should ask her to tell the figures on a ten-dollar bill. In the same way the greatest sensation must be explained, which the experiments before my arrival yielded. The New York lady who came with the minister's family and others to the house was overwhelmed when Beulah spelled her name, which, as the affidavit said, was not known to any one else present. This affidavit was as a matter of course given according to the best knowledge of all concerned. Yet when later I came to Warren, one of the participants who told me the incident strengthened it by adding that he was the more surprised when the child spelled the name correctly with a K at the end, as he had understood that it was spelled with a T. In other words, some of those present did know the name, and the lady had evidently either been introduced or addressed by some one, and this had slipped from their minds because Beulah was not in the room. But she was probably in the other room and caught it in her subconscious mind. At her first debut before the minister, too, by her same abnormal sensitiveness she probably heard when he told the mother that he had a glass of honey in his pocket. In short, the two actions of her subconscious mind, or of her brain, always go together, her noticing of family signs from her mother and sister and her catching of spoken words from strangers, both under conditions under which ordinary persons would neither see nor hear them. We have therefore nothing mysterious, nothing supernatural before us, but an extremely interesting case of an abnormal mental development, and this unusual power working in a mind which is entirely naive and sincere.
How long will this naivete and sincerity last? This is no psychological, but a social problem. Since the newspapers have taken hold of the case, every mail brings heaps of letters from all corners of the country. Some of them bring invitations to give performances, but they are not the most dangerous ones. Most of the letters urge the child to use her mysterious, supernatural powers for trivial or pathetic ends in the interest of the writers. Sometimes she is to locate a lost trunk, or a mislaid pocketbook; sometimes she is to prophesy whether a voyage will go smoothly or whether a business venture will succeed; sometimes she is to read in her mind where a runaway child may be found; and almost always money promises are connected with such requests. The mother, who has not much education but who is a splendid, right-minded country woman with the very best intentions for the true good of her children, has ignored all this silly invasion. She showed me a whole teacupful of two-cent stamps for replies which she had collected from Beulah's correspondence. But I ask again, how long will it last? If Beulah closes her eyes and some chance letters come to her mind, and she forms a word from them and sends it as a reply to the anxious mother who is seeking her child, she will soon discover that it is easy to gather money in a world which wants to be deceived. She is followed by the most tempting invitations to live in metropolitan houses where sensational experiments can be performed with her. The naive mother is still impressed when a New York woman applies the well-known tricks and assures her that the child reminds her so much of her own little dead niece that she ought to come to her New York house. It is a pity how the community forces sensationalism, commercialism, and finally humbug and fraud on a naive little country girl who ought to be left alone with her pet lamb in her mother's kitchen. Her gift is extremely interesting to the psychologist, and if it is not misused by those who try to pump spiritualistic superstitions into her little mind or to force automatic writing on her it will be harmless and no cause for hysteric developments. But surely her art is entirely useless for any practical purpose. She cannot know anything which others do not know beforehand. Clairvoyant powers or prophetic gifts are not hers, and above all her mind-reading is a natural process. The edifice of science will not be shaken by the powers of my little Rhode Island friend.
Yet the most important part is not the fate of the individual child, but the behaviour of this nation-wide public which chases her into the swamps of fraud. No one can decide and settle whether the party of superstition forms the majority or the minority. If all the silent voters were sincere, they probably would carry the vote for telepathy. But in any case, such a party exists, and it does not care in the least that scientific investigations clear up a case which threatens to bring our world of thought into chaotic disorder. A world of mental trickery and mystery, a world which by its very principle could never be understood, is to them instinctively more welcome than a world of scientific order. There cannot be a more fundamental contrast between men who are to form a social unit than this radical difference of attitude toward the world of experience. Compared with this deepest split in the community, all its other social questions seem temporary and superficial.
THE MIND OF THE JURYMAN
Every lawyer knows some good stories about some wild juries he has known, which made him shiver and doubt whether a dozen laymen ever can see a legal point. But every newspaper reader, too, remembers an abundance of cases in which the decision of the jury startled him by its absurdity. Who does not recall sensational acquittals in which sympathy for the defendant or prejudice against the plaintiff carried away the feelings of the twelve good men and true? For them are the unwritten laws, for them the mingling of justice with race hatreds or with gallantry. And even in the heart of New York a judge recently said to a chauffeur who had killed a child and had been acquitted: "Now go and get drunk again; then this jury will allow you to run over as many children as you like."
Yet whatever the temperament of the jury and its legal insight, we may sharply separate its ideas of deserved punishment from that far more important aspect of its function, the weighing of evidence. The juries may be whimsical in their decisions, they may be lenient in their acquittals or over-rigid in their verdicts of guilty, but that is quite in keeping with the democratic spirit of the institution. The Teutonic nations did not want the abstract law of the scholarly judges; they want the pulse-beat of life throbbing in the court decisions, and what may be a wilful ignoring of the law of the jurists may be a heartfelt expression of the popular sentiment. Better to have some statutes riddled by the illogical verdicts than legal decisions severed from the sense of justice which is living in the soul of the nation. But while a rush into prejudice or a hasty overriding of law may draw attention to some exceptional verdicts, in the overwhelming mass of jury decisions nothing is aimed at but a real clearing up of the facts. The evidence is submitted, and while the lawyers may have wrangled as to what is evidence and what is not, and while they may have tried, by their presentation of the witnesses on their own side and by their cross-examinations, to throw light on some parts of the evidence and shadow on some others, the jurymen are simply to seek the truth when all the evidence has been submitted. And mostly they do not forget that they will live up to their duty best the more they suppress in their own hearts the question whether they like or dislike the truth that comes to light. Whoever weighs the social significance of the jury system ought not to be guided by the few stray cases in which the emotional response obscures the truth, but all praise and blame and every scrutiny of the institution ought to be confined essentially to the ability of the jurymen to live up to their chief responsibility, the sober finding of the true facts.
It cannot be denied that much criticism has been directed against the whole jury system in America as well as in Europe by legal scholars as well as by laymen on account of the prevailing doubt whether the traditional form is really furthering the clearing up of the hidden truth. Where the evidence is so perfectly clear that every one by himself feels from the start exactly like all the others, the cooeperation of the twelve men cannot do any harm, but it cannot do any particular good either. Such cases do not demand the special interest of the social reformer. His doubts and fears come up only when difference of opinion exists, and the discussion and the repeated votes overcome the divergence of opinion. The skeptics claim that the system as such may easily be instrumental for suppressing the truth and bringing the erroneous opinion to victory. In earlier times a frequent objection was that lack of higher education made men unfit to weigh correctly the facts in a complicated situation. But this kind of arguing has been given up for a long while. The famous French lawyer who, whenever he had a weak case, made use of his right to challenge jurymen by systematically excluding all persons of higher education, certainly blundered in this respect, according to the views of to-day. Those best informed within and without the legal science agree that the verdicts of straightforward people with public-school education are in the long run neither better nor worse than those of men with college schooling or professional training. A jury of artisans and farmers understands and looks into a mass of neutral material as well as a jury of bankers and doctors, or at least its final verdict has an equal chance to hit the truth.
But the critics say that it is not the lack of general or logical training of the single individual which obstructs the path of justice. The trouble lies rather in the mutual influence of the twelve men. The more persons work together, the less, they say, every single man can reach his highest level. They become a mass with mass consciousness, a kind of crowd in which each one becomes oversuggestible. Each one thinks less reliably, less intelligently, and less impartially than he would by himself alone. We know how men in a crowd do indeed lose some of the best features of their individuality. A crowd may be thrown into a panic, may rush into any foolish, violent action, may lynch and plunder, or a crowd may be stirred to a pitch of enthusiasm, may be roused to heroic deeds or to wonderful generosity, but whether the outcome be wretched or splendid, in any case it is the product of persons who have been entirely changed. In the midst of the panic or in the midst of the heroic enthusiasm no one has kept his own characteristic mental features. The individual no longer judges for himself; he is carried away, his own heart reverberates with the feelings of the whole crowd. The mass consciousness is not an adding up, a mere summation, of the individual minds, but the creation of something entirely new. Such a crowd may be pushed into any paths, chance leaders may use or misuse its increased suggestibility for any ends. No one can foresee whether this heaping up of men will bring good or bad results. Certainly the individual level of the crowd will always be below the level of its best members. And is not a jury necessarily such a group with a mass consciousness of its own? Every individual is melted into the total, has lost his independent power of judging, and becomes influenced through his heightened suggestibility and social feeling by any chance pressure which may push toward error as often as toward truth.
But if such arguments are brought into play, it is evident that it is no longer a legal question, but a psychological one. The psychologist alone deals scientifically with the problem of mutual mental influence and with the reenforcing or awakening of mental energies by social cooeperation. He should accordingly investigate the question with his own methods and deal with it from the standpoint of the scientist. This means he is not simply to form an opinion from general vague impressions and to talk about it as about a question of politics, where any man may have his personal idea or fancy, but to discover the facts by definite experiments. The modern student of mental life is accustomed to the methods of the laboratory. He wants to see exact figures by which the essential facts come into sharp relief. But let us understand clearly what such an experiment means. When the psychologist goes to work in his laboratory, his aim is to study those thoughts and emotions and feelings and deeds which move our social world. But his aim is not simply to imitate or to repeat the social scenes of the community. He must simplify them and bring them down to the most elementary situations, in which only the characteristic mental actions are left. Is this not the way in which the experimenters proceed in every field? The physicist or the chemist does not study the great events as they occur in nature on a large scale and with bewildering complexity of conditions, but he brings down every special fact which interests him to a neat, miniature copy on his laboratory table. There he mixes a few chemical solutions in his retorts and his test-tubes, or produces the rays or sparks or currents with his subtle laboratory instruments, and he feels sure that whatever he finds there must hold true everywhere in the gigantic universe. If the waters move in a certain way in the little tank on his table, he knows that they must move according to the same laws in the midst of the ocean. In this spirit the psychologist arranges his experiments too. He does not carry them on in the turmoil of social life, but prepares artificial situations in which the persons will show the laws of mental behaviour. An experiment on memory or attention or imagination or feeling may bring out in a few minutes mental facts which the ordinary observer would discover only if he were to watch the behaviour and life attitudes of the man for years. Everything depends upon the degree with which the characteristic mental states are brought into play under experimental conditions. The great advantage of the experimental method is, here as everywhere, that everything can be varied and changed at will and that the conditions and the effects can be exactly measured.
If we apply these principles to the question of the jury, the task is clear. We want to find out whether the cooeperation, the discussion, and the repeated voting of a number of individuals are helping or hindering them in the effort to judge correctly upon a complex situation. We must therefore artificially create a situation which brings into action the judgment, the discussion, and the vote, but if we are loyal to the idea of experimenting we must keep the experiment free from all those features of a real jury deliberation which have nothing to do with the mental action itself. Moreover, it is evident that the situations to be judged must allow a definite knowledge as to the objective truth. The experimenter must know which verdict of his voters corresponds to the real facts. Secondly, the situation must be difficult in order that a real doubt may prevail. If all the voters were on one side from the start, no discussion would be needed. Thirdly, it must be a rather complex situation in order that the judgment may be influenced by a number of motives. Only in this case will it be possible for the discussion to point out factors which the other party may have overlooked, thus giving a chance for changes of mind. All these demands must be fulfilled if the experiment is really to picture the jury function. But it would be utterly superfluous and would make the exact measurement impossible if the material on which the judgment is to be based were of the same kind of which the evidence in the courtroom is composed. The trial by jury in an actual criminal case may involve many picturesque and interesting details, but the mental act of judging is no different when the most trivial objects are chosen.
I settled on the following simple device: I used sheets of dark gray cardboard. On each were pasted white paper dots of different form and in an irregular order. Each card had between ninety-two and a hundred and eight such white dots of different sizes. The task was to compare the number of spots on one card with the number of spots on another. Perhaps I held up a card with a hundred and four dots above, and below one with ninety-eight. Then the subjects of the experiment had to decide whether the upper card had more dots or fewer dots or an equal number compared with the lower one. I made the first set of experiments with eighteen Harvard students. I took more than the twelve men who form a jury in order to reenforce the possible effect, but did not wish to exceed the number greatly, so that the character of the discussion might be similar to that in a jury. A much larger number would have made the discussion too formal or too unruly. The eighteen men sat around a long table and were first allowed to look for half a minute at the two big cards, each forming his judgment independently. Then at a signal every one had to write down whether the number of dots on the upper card was larger, equal, or smaller. Immediately after that they had to indicate by a show of hands how many had voted for each of the three possibilities. After that a discussion began. Indeed, the two cards offered plenty of points for earnest and vivid discussion. During the exchange of opinion in which those who had voted larger tried to convince the party of the smaller, and vice versa, they were always able to look at the cards and to refer to them, pointing to the various parts. One showed how the distances on the one card appeared larger, and another pointed out how the spots were clustered in a certain region, a third how the dots were smaller in some parts, a fourth spoke about the optical illusions, a fifth about certain impressions resulting from the narrowness of the margin, and a sixth about the effect of certain irregularities in the distribution. In short, very different aspects were considered and very different factors emphasized. The discussion was sometimes quite excited, three or four men speaking at the same time. After exactly five minutes of talking the vote was repeated, again at first being written and then being taken by show of hands. A second five minutes' exchange of opinion followed with a new effort to convince the dissenters. After this period the third and last vote was taken. This experiment was carried out with a variety of cards with smaller or larger difference of numbers, but the difference always enough to allow an uncertainty of judgment. Here, indeed, we had repeated all the essential conditions of the jury vote and discussion, and the mental state was characteristically similar to that of the jurymen.
The very full accounts which the participants in the experiment wrote down the following day indicated clearly that we had a true imitation of the mental process in spite of the striking simplicity of our conditions. One man, for instance, described his inner experience as follows: "I think the experiment involves factors quite comparable to those that determine the verdict of a jury. The cards with their spots are the evidence pro and con which each juryman has before him to interpret. Each person's decision on the number is his interpretation of the situation. The arguments, too, seem quite comparable to the arguments of the jury. Both consist in pointing out factors of the situation that have been overlooked and in showing how different interpretations may be possible." Another man writes: "In the experiment it seemed that one man judged by one criterion and another by another, such as distribution, size of spots, vacant spaces, or counting along one edge. Discussion often brought immediate attention to other criterions than those he used in his first judgment, and these often outweighed the original. Similarly, different jurymen would base their opinion on different aspects of the case, and discussion would tend to draw their attention to other aspects. The experiment also illustrated the relative weight given to the opinion of different fellow-jurymen. I found that the statements of a few of the older men who have had more extensive psychological experience weighed more with me than those of the others. Suggestion did not seem to be much of a factor. A man is rather on his mettle, and ready to defend his original impression, until he finds that it is hopeless." Again, another writes: "To me the experiment seemed fairly comparable to the real situation. As in an actual trial, the full truth was not available, but certain evidence was presented to all for interpretation. As to the nature of the discussion itself, I think there was the same mingling of suggestion and real argument that is to be found in a jury discussion." Another says: "The discussion influenced me by suggesting other methods of analysis. For instance, comparison of the amount of open space in two cards, comparison of the number of dots along the edges, estimation in diagonal lines, were methods mentioned in the discussion which I used in forming my own judgments. It does not seem to me that in my own case direct suggestion had any appreciable effect. I was conscious of a tendency toward contrasuggestibility. There was a half submerged feeling that it would be good sport to stick it out for the losing side. The lack of any unusual amount of suggestion and the presence of the influences of analysis and detailed comparison seem to me to show that the tests were in fact fairly comparable to situations in a jury room." To be sure, there were a few who were strongly impressed by the evident differences between the rich material of an actual trial and the meagre content of our tests: there the actions of living men, here the space relations of little spots. But they evidently did not sufficiently realize that the forming of such number judgments was not at all a question of mere perception; that on the contrary many considerations were involved; most men felt the similarity from the start.
What were the results of this first group of experiments? Our interest must evidently be centred on the question of how many judgments were correct at the first vote before any discussion and any show of hands were influencing the minds of the men, and how many were correct at the last vote after the two periods of discussion and after taking cognizance of the two preceding votes. If I sum up all the results, the outcome is that 52 per cent. of the first votes were correct and 78 per cent. of the final votes were correct. The discussion of the successive votes had therefore led to an improvement of 26 per cent. of all votes. Or, as the correct votes were at first 52 per cent., their number is increased by one half. May we not say that this demonstrates in exact figures that the confidence in the jury system is justified? And may it not be added that, in view of the widespread prejudices, the result is almost surprising? Here we had men of high intelligence who were completely able to take account of every possible aspect of the situation. They had time to do so, they had training to do so, and every foregoing experiment ought to have stimulated them to do so in the following ones. Yet their judgment was right in only 52 per cent. of the cases until they heard the opinions of the others and saw how they voted. The mere seeing of the vote, however, cannot have been decisive, because 48 per cent., that is, practically half of the votes, were at first incorrect. The wrong votes might have had as much suggestive influence on those who voted rightly as the right votes on those on the wrong side. If, nevertheless, the change was so strongly in the right direction, the result must clearly have come from the discussion.
But I am not at the end of my story. I made exactly the same experiments also with a class of advanced female university students. When I started, my aim was not to examine the differences of men and women, but only to have ampler material, and I confined my work to students in psychological classes, because I was anxious to get the best possible scientific analysis of the inner experiences. I had no prejudice in favour of or against women as members of the jury, any more than my experiments were guided by a desire to defend or to attack the jury system. I was only anxious to clear up the facts. The women students had exactly the same opportunities for seeing the cards and the votes and for exchanging opinions. The discussions, while carried on for the same length of time, were on the whole less animated. There was less desire to convince and more restraint, but the record, which was taken in shorthand, showed nearly the same variety of arguments which the men had brought forward. Everything agreed exactly with the experiments with the men, and the only difference was in the results. The first vote of all experiments with the women showed a slightly smaller number of right judgments. The women had 45 per cent. correct judgments, as against the 52 per cent. of the men. I should not put any emphasis on this difference. It may be said that the men had more training in scientific observations and the task was therefore slightly easier for them than for most of the women. I should say that, all taken together, men and women showed an equal ability in immediate judgment, as with both groups about half of the first judgments were correct. The fact that with the men 2 per cent. more, with the women 5 per cent. less, than half were right would not mean much. But the situation is entirely different with the second figure. We saw that for the men the discussion secured an increase from 52 per cent. to 78 per cent.; with the women the increase is not a single per cent. The first votes were 45 per cent. right, and the last votes were 45 per cent. right. In other words, they had not learned anything from discussion.
It would not be quite correct if we were to draw from that the conclusion that the women did not change their minds at all. If we examine the number of cases in which in the course of the first, second, and third votes in any of the experiments some change occurred, we find changes in 40 per cent. of all judgments of the men and 19 per cent. of all judgments of the women. This does not mean that a change in a particular case necessarily made the last vote different from the first; we not seldom had a case where, for instance, the first vote was larger, the second equal, and the third again larger. And as a matter of course, where a change between the first and the last occurred, it was not always a change in the right direction. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the votes always covered three possibilities, and not only two. It was therefore possible for the first vote to be wrong, and then for a change to occur to another wrong vote. The 19 per cent. changes in the decisions of the women contained accordingly as many cases in which right was turned into wrong as in which wrong was turned into right, while with the men the changes to the right had an overweight of 26 per cent. The self-analysis of the women indicated clearly the reason for their mental stubbornness. They heard the arguments, but they were so fully under the autosuggestion of their first decision that they fancied that they had known all that before, and that they had discounted the arguments of their opponents in the first vote. The cobbler has to stick to his last; the psychologist has to be satisfied with analyzing the mental processes, but it is not his concern to mingle in politics. He must leave it to others to decide whether it will really be a gain if the jury box is filled with individuals whose minds are unable to profit from discussion and who return to their first idea, however much is argued from the other side. It is evident that this tendency of the female mind must be advantageous for many social purposes. The woman remains loyal to her instinctive opinion. Hence we have no right to say that the one type of mind is in general better than the other. We may say only that they are different, and that this difference makes the men fit and the women unfit for the particular task which society requires from the jurymen.
Practical experience seems to affirm this experimental result on many sides. The public of the east is still too little aware of this new and yet powerful influence in the far west, where the jury box is accessible to women. There is no need to point to extreme cases. Any average trial may illustrate the situation. I have before me the reports of the latest murder trial at Seattle, the case of Peter Miller. The case was unusual only in that the defendant had been studying criminal law during his incarceration in jail, and addressed the jury himself on his own behalf in an argument that is said to have lasted nine hours. The jury was out quite a long time. Eleven were for acquittal, one woman was against it. The next day the papers brought out long interviews with her in which she explained the situation. She characterized her general standing in this way: "I am a dressmaker, and go out every day, six days in the week. I read the classified ads and glance at the headlines, but I don't have much time to waste on anything else." But her attitude in the jury room was very similar. She says: "I was sure of my opinion. I didn't try to change anybody else's opinion. I just kept my own. They argued a good deal and asked me if the fact that eleven of twelve had been convinced by the same evidence of Peter Miller's innocence didn't shake my faith in my own judgment. Well, it didn't. We were out twenty-four hours. I borrowed a pair of knitting needles from one of the jurors, and I sat there and knitted most of the time." The State of Washington will now have to have a new trial, as the jury could not agree. There will probably still be many hung juries because some dressmaker borrows a pair of knitting needles from one of the jurors, knits most of the time, and lets the others argue, as she is sure of her own opinion. The naive epigram of this model juror, "I didn't try to change anybody else's opinion; I just kept my own," illuminates the whole situation. This is no contrast to the popular idea that woman easily changes her mind. She changes it, but others cannot change it.
In order to make quite sure that the discussion and not the seeing of the vote is responsible for the marked improvement in the case of men, I carried on some further experiments in which the voting alone was involved. To bring this mental process to strongest expression, I went far beyond the small circle which was needed for the informal exchange of opinion, and operated instead with my large class of psychological students in Harvard. I have there four hundred and sixty students, and accordingly had to use much larger cards with large dots. I showed to them any two cards twice. There was an interval of twenty seconds between the first and the second exposures, and each time they looked at the cards for three seconds. In one half of the experiments that interval was not filled at all; in the other half a quick show of hands was arranged so that every one could see how many on the first impression judged the upper card as having more or an equal number or fewer dots than the lower. After the second exposure every one had to write down his final result. The pairs of cards which were exposed when the show of hands was made were the same as those which were shown without any one knowing how the other men judged. We calculated the results on the basis of four hundred reports. They showed that the total number of right judgments in the cases without showing hands was 60 per cent. correct; in those with show of hands about 65 per cent. A hundred and twenty men had turned from the right to the wrong—that is, had more incorrect judgments when they saw how the other men voted than when they were left to themselves.
It is true that those who turned from worse to better by seeing the vote of the others were in a slight majority, bringing the total vote 5 per cent. upward, but this difference is so small that it could just as well be explained by the mere fact that this act of public voting reenforced the attention and improved a little the total vote through this stimulation of the social consciousness. It is not surprising that the mere seeing of the votes in such cases has such a small effect, incomparable with that of a real discussion in which new vistas are opened, inasmuch as in 40 per cent. of the cases the majority was evidently on the wrong side from the start. Those who are swept away by the majority would therefore in 40 per cent. of the cases be carried to the wrong side. I went still further and examined by psychological methods the degree of suggestibility of those four hundred participants in the experiment, and the results showed that the fifty most suggestible men profited from the seeing of the vote of the majority no more than the fifty least suggestible ones. In both cases there was an increase of about 5 per cent. correct judgments. I drew also from this the conclusion that the show of hands was ineffective as a direct influence toward correctness, and that it had only the slight indirect value of forcing the men to concentrate their attention better on those cards. All results, therefore, point in the same direction: it is really the argument which brings a cooeperating group nearer to the truth, and not the seeing how the other men vote. Hence the psychologist has every reason to be satisfied with the jury system as long as the women are kept out of it.
EFFICIENCY ON THE FARM
We city people who are feeding on city-made public opinion forget that we are in the minority, and that the interests of the fifty millions of the rural population are fundamental for the welfare of the whole nation. Moreover, the life of the city itself is most intimately intertwined with the work on the farm; banking and railroading, industrial enterprises and commercial life, are dependent upon the farmers' credit and the farmers' prosperity. The nation is beginning to understand that it would be a calamity indeed if the tempting attractiveness of the city should drain off still more the human material from the village and from the field. The cry "back to the land" goes through the whole world, and this means more than a camping tour in the holidays and some magazine numbers of Country Life in America by the fireplace. Its meaning ought to be that every nation which wants to remain healthy and strong must take care that the obvious advantages of metropolitan life are balanced by the joys and gains of the villager who lacks the shop windows and the exciting turmoil.
Certainly the devices of the city inventor, the telephone and the motor car and a thousand other gifts of the last generation, have overcome much of the loneliness, and the persistent efforts of the states to secure better roads and better schools in the country have enriched and multiplied the values of rural life. Yet the most direct aid is, after all, that which increases the efficiency of farming itself. In this respect, too, we feel the rapid progress throughout the country. The improvements in method which the scientific efforts of all nations have secured are eagerly distributed to the remotest corners. The agents of the governmental Bureau of Agriculture, the agricultural county demonstrators, the rapidly spreading agricultural schools, take care that the farmer's "commonsense" with its backwardness and narrowness be replaced by an insight which results from scientific experiment and exact calculation. Agricultural science, based on physics and chemistry, on botany and zooelogy, has made wonderful strides during the last few decades. It must be confessed that the self-complaisance of the farmer and the power of tradition have offered not a little resistance to the practical application of the knowledge which the agricultural experiments establish, and the blending of the well-known conservative attitude of the farmer with a certain carelessness and deficiency in education has kept the production of the American farm still far below the yielding power which the present status of knowledge would allow. Other nations, more trained in hard labour and painstaking economy and accustomed to most careful rotation of crops, obtain a much richer harvest from the acre, even where the nature of the soil is poor. But the longing of the farmer for the best methods is rapidly growing, too, and in many a state he shows a splendid eagerness to try new ways, to develop new plans, and to progress with the advance of science.
In such an age it seems fair to ask whether the circle of sciences which are made contributory to the efficiency of the agriculturist has been drawn large enough. It is, of course, most important for every farmer to know the soil and whatever may grow on it and feed on it. All the new discoveries as to the power of phosphates to increase the crop or as to the part which protozoa play in the inhibition of fertility, or the influence of parasites on the enemies of the crops and the numberless naturalistic details of this type, are certainly most important. Yet does it not look as if in all the operations which the worker on the land has to perform everything is carefully considered by science, and only the chief thing left out, the worker and his work? He is earnestly advised as to every detail in the order of nature: he learns by what chemical substances to improve the soil, what seeds are to be used, and when they are to be planted, what breeds of animals to raise and how to feed them. But no scientific interest has thrown light on his own activity in planting the seed and gathering the harvest, in picking the fruit and caring for the stock.
No doubt, the agent of some trust has recommended to him the newest machines; but their help still belongs, after all, to the part of outer nature. They are physical apparatus, and even if the farmer uses nowadays dynamite to loosen the soil, all this new-fashioned power yet remains scientific usage of the knowledge of nature. But behind all this physical and chemical material in which and through which the farmer and his men are working stand the farmer himself with his intelligence, and his men themselves with their lack of intelligence. This human factor, this bundle of ideas and volitions and feelings and judgments, must ultimately be the centre of the whole process. There is no machine which can do its best if it is wrongly used, no tool which can be effective if it is not set to work by an industrious will. The human mind has to keep in motion that whole great mechanism of farm life. It is the farmer's foresight and insight which plough and plant and fill the barns. For a long while the average farmer thought about nature, too, that he could know all he needed, if he applied his homemade knowledge. That time has passed, and even he relies on the meteorology telegram of the scientific bureaus rather than on the weather rules of his grandfather. But when it comes to the mental processes which enter into the agricultural work, he would think it queer to consult science. He would not even be aware that there is anything to know. The soil and the seed and even the plough and the harvester are objects about which you can learn. But the attention with which the man is to do his work, the memory, the perception, the ideas which make themselves felt, the emotions and the will which control the whole work, would never be objects about which he would seek new knowledge; they are no problems for him, they are taken for granted.
Yet we have to-day a full-fledged science which does deal with these mental processes. Psychology speaks about real things as much as chemistry, and the laws of mental life may be relied on now more safely than the laws of meteorology. It seems unnatural that those who have the interests of agriculture at heart should turn the attention of the farmer exclusively to the results of the material sciences and ignore completely the thorough, scientific interest in the processes of the mind. To be sure, until recently we had the same shortcoming in industrial enterprises of the factories. Manufacturer and workingman looked as if hypnotized at the machines, forgetting that those wheels of steel were not the only working powers under the factory roof. A tremendous effort was devoted to the study and improvement of the industrial apparatus and of the raw material, while the mental fitness and the mental method of the army of workingmen was dealt with unscientifically and high-handedly. But within the last few years the attention of the industrial world has been seriously turned to the matter-of-course fact that the workman's mind is more important than the machine and the material, if the highest economic output is to be secured. The great movement for scientific management, however much or little its original plans may survive, has certainly once for all convinced the world that the study of the man and his functions ought to be the chief interest of the market, even in our electrical age; and the more modest movement for vocational guidance has emphasized this personal factor from sociological motives. At last the psychologists themselves approached the problem of the worker in the factory, began to examine his individual fitness for his work, and to devise tests in order to select quickly those whose inborn mental capacity makes them particularly adjusted to special lines of work. Above all, they examined the methods by which the individual learned and got his training in the technical activities, they began to determine the exact conditions which secured the greatest amount of the best possible work with the greatest saving of human energy. All this is certainly still at its beginning, but even if the solutions of the problems are still insufficient, the problems themselves will not again be lost sight of. The most obvious acknowledgment of the importance of these demands lies in the fact that already the quack advice of pseudo-psychologists is offered from many sides. The up-to-date manufacturer knows, even if he is not interested in the social duties involved, that the mere economic interest demands a much more serious study of the workingman's mind than any one thought of ten years ago.
This change must finally come into the agricultural circles. The consequences of the usual, or rather invariable neglect, are felt less in agriculture than in industry, because the work is so much more scattered. The harmful effects of poor adjustment and improper training must be noticed more easily where many thousands are crowded together within the walls of the same mill. But it would be an illusion to fancy that the damage and the loss of efficiency are therefore less in the open field than in the narrow factory. On the contrary, the conditions favour the workshop. There everybody stands under constant supervision, and what is still more important, always has the chance for imitation. Every improvement, almost every new trick and every new hand movement which succeeds with one, is taken up by his neighbour and spreads over the establishment. The principle of farm work is isolation. One hardly knows what another is doing, and where several do cooeperate, they are generally engaged in different functions. Even where the farmhands work in large groups, the attitude is much less that of team work than of a mere summation of individual workers. In the country as a whole the man who works on the farm has to gather his experience for himself, has to secure every advance for himself, and has to miss the benefit which the social atmosphere of industrial work everywhere furnishes.
It would be utterly misleading to think that the long history of mankind's agricultural pursuits ought to have been sufficient to bring together the necessary experience. The analysis of the vocational activities has given every evidence that even the oldest functions are performed in an impractical, inefficient way. The students of scientific management have demonstrated how the work of the mason, as old as civilization itself, is carried on every day in every land with methods which can be improved at once, as soon as a scientific study of the motions themselves is started. It could hardly be otherwise, and the principle might be illustrated by any chance case. If a girl were left to herself to learn typewriting, the best way would seem to her to be to pick out the letters with her two forefingers. She would slowly seek the right key for each letter and press it down. In this way she would be in the pleasant position of producing a little letter after only half an hour of trial. As soon as she has succeeded with such a first half page, she will see only the one goal of increasing the rapidity and accuracy, and by hard training she will indeed gain steadily in speed and correctness, and after a year she will write rather quickly. Yet she will never succeed in reaching the ideal proficiency. In order to attain the highest point, she ought to have started with an entirely different method. She ought to have begun at once to use all her fingers, and, moreover, to use them without looking at the keyboard. If she had started with this difficult method she would never have succeeded in writing a letter the first day. It would have taken weeks to reach that achievement which the simpler method yields almost at once. But in plodding along on this harder road she would finally outdistance the competitor with the commonsense method and would finally gain the highest degree of efficiency. This is exactly the situation everywhere. Commonsense always grasps for those methods which quickly lead to a modest success, but which can never lead to maximum achievement. On the other hand, up to the days of modern experimental psychology the interest was not focussed on the mental operations involved in industrial life as such. Everything was left to commonsense, and therefore it is not surprising that the farmhand like the workingman in the mill has never hit upon the one method which is best, as all his instincts and natural tendencies had to lead him to the second or third best method, since these alone give immediate results.
A highly educated man who spent his youth in a corn-raising community reports to me the following psychological observation: However industrious all the boys of the village were, one of them was always able to husk about a half as much more corn than any one else. He seemed to have an unusual talent for handling so many more ears than any one of his rivals could manage. Once my friend had a chance to inquire of the man with the marvellous skill how he succeeded in outdoing them so completely, and then he learned that no talent was involved, but a simple psychological device, almost a trick. The worker who husks the ear is naturally accustomed to make his hand and finger movements while his eyes are fixed on them. As soon as one ear is husked, the attention turns to the next, the eyes look around and find the one which best offers itself to be handled next. When the mind, under the control of the eyes, has made its choice, the mental impulse is given to the arms, and the hands take hold of it. Yet it is evident that these manipulations can be carried on just as well without the constant supervision of the eyes. The eye is needed only to find the corn and to direct the impulse of the hands toward picking it up. But the eye is no longer necessary for the detailed movements in husking. Hence it must be possible to perform that act of vision and that choice of the second ear while the hands are still working on the first. The initial stage of the work on the second ear then overlaps the final stages of the work with the first, and this must mean a considerable saving of time.
This was exactly the scheme on which that marvel of the village had struck. He had forced on himself this artificial breaking of the attention, and had trained himself to have his eyes performing their work independent of the activity of the hands. My friend assures me that as soon as he had heard of the trick, there was no difficulty in his imitating it, and immediately the number of ears which he was able to husk in a given time was increased by 30 per cent. The mere immediate instinct would always keep the eye movement and the hand movements coupled together. A certain artificial effort is necessary to overcome this natural cooerdination. But if this secret scheme had been known to all the boys in the village, ten would have been able to perform what fifteen did. Of course this is an utterly trivial incident, and where my friend husked corn in his boyhood days, to-day probably the cornharvester is doing it more quickly anyhow. But as long as real scientific effort has not been applied toward examining the details, we have to rely on such occasional observations in order at first to establish the principle. Every one knows that just such illustrations might as well be taken from the picking of berries, in which the natural method is probably an absurd waste of energy, and yet which in itself seems so insignificant that up to present days no scientific efforts have been made to find out the ideal methods.
Similar accidental observations are suggested by the well-known experiments with shovelling carried on in the interest of industry, where the shovelling of coal and of pig iron demanded a careful investigation into the best conditions for using the shovel. It was found that it is an unreasonable waste of energy to use the same size and form of tool for lifting the heavy and the light material. With the same size of shovel the iron will make such a heavy load that the energies are exhausted, and the coal will give such a light load that the energies are not sufficiently made use of. It became necessary to determine the ideal load with which the greatest amount of work with the slightest fatigue could be performed, and that demanded a much larger shovel for the light than for the heavy substance. Exactly this situation repeats itself with the spade of the farmer. The conditions are somewhat different, but the principle must be the same. Of course the farmer may use spades of different sizes, but he is far from bringing the product of spade surface and weight to a definite equation. Sometimes he wastes his energies and sometimes he exhausts them. But it is not only a question of the size of shovel or spade. The whole position of the body, the position of the hands, the direction of the attention, the rhythm of the movement, the pauses between the successive actions, the optical judgment as to the place where the spade ought to cut the ground, the distribution of energy, the respiration, and many similar parts of the total psychophysical process demand exact analysis if the greatest efficiency is to be reached. Everybody knows what an amount of attention the golf player has to give to every detail of his movement, and yet it would be easier to discover by haphazard methods the best way to handle the golf stick than to use the spade to the best effect.
On the other hand, the better method is not at all necessarily the more difficult one. More effort is needed at the beginning to acquire an exactly adjusted scheme of movement, but as soon as the well-organized activity has become habitual, it will realize itself with less inner interference. For the educated it is no harder to speak correct grammar than to speak slang, and it is no more difficult to write orthographically than to indulge in chaotic spelling, just as in every field it is no harder to show good manners than to behave rudely. If the sciences of digging and chopping, of reaping and raking, of weeding and mowing, of spraying and feeding, are all postulates of the future, each can transform the chance methods into exact ones, and that means into truly efficient ones, only when every element has been brought under the scrutiny of the psychological laboratory. We must measure the time in hundredths of a second, must study the psychophysical conditions of every movement, where not trees are cut or hay raked, but where the tools move systems of levers which record graphically the exact amount and character of every partial effect. The one problem of the distribution of work and rest alone is of such tremendous importance for the agricultural work that a real scientific study of the details might lead to just as much saving as the introduction of new machinery. The farmhand, who would never think of wasting his money, wastes his energies by contracting big muscles, where a better economized system of movement would allow him to reach the same result through the contraction of smaller muscles, which involves much less energy and much less fatigue. The loss by wrong bending and wrong cooerdination of movement may be greater than by bad weather.