The Mind and Its Education
by George Herbert Betts
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On the other hand, the dog that is being trained to perform his tricks is rewarded with a tidbit or a pat when the right response has been made. In this way the bond for this particular act is strengthened through the use of pleasure. All matter studied and learned under the stimulus of good feeling, enthusiasm, or a pleasurable sense of victory and achievement not only tends to set up more permanent and valuable associations than if learned under opposite conditions, but it also exerts a stronger appeal to our interest and appreciation.

The influence of mental attitude on the matter we study raises a question as to the wisdom of assigning the committing of poetry, or Bible verses, or the reading of so many pages of a literary masterpiece as a punishment for some offense. How many of us have carried away associations of dislike and bitterness toward some gem of verse or prose or Scripture because of having our learning of it linked up with the thought of an imposed task set as penance for wrong-doing! One person tells me that to this day she hates the sight of Tennyson because this was the volume from which she was assigned many pages to commit in atonement for her youthful delinquencies.

INTEREST AS A BASIS FOR ASSOCIATION.—Associations established under the stimulus of strong interest are relatively broad and permanent, while those formed with interest flagging are more narrow and of doubtful permanence. This statement is, of course, but a particular application of the law of attention. Interest brings the whole self into action. Under its urging the mind is active and alert. The new facts learned are completely registered, and are assimilated to other facts to which they are related. Many associative connections are formed, hence the new matter is more certain of recall, and possesses more significance and meaning.

ASSOCIATION AND METHODS OF LEARNING.—The number and quality of our associations depends in no small degree on our methods of learning. We may be satisfied merely to impress what we learn on our memory, committing it uncritically as so many facts to be stored away as a part of our education. We may go a step beyond this and grasp the simplest and most obvious meanings, but not seek for the deeper and more fundamental relations. We may learn separate sections or divisions of a subject, accepting each as a more or less complete unit, without connecting these sections and divisions into a logical whole.

But all such methods are a mistake. They do not provide for the associative bonds between the various facts or groups of facts in our knowledge, without which our facts are in danger of becoming but so much lumber in the mind. Meanings, relations, definitely recognized associations, should attach to all that we learn. Better far a smaller amount of usable knowledge than any quantity of unorganized and undigested information, even if the latter sometimes allows us to pass examinations and receive honor grades. In short, real mastery demands that we think, that is relate and associate, instead of merely absorbing as we learn.


1. Test the uncontrolled associations of a group of pupils by pronouncing to the class some word, as blue, and having the members write down 20 words in succession as rapidly as they can, taking in each instance the first word that occurs to them. The difference in the scope, or range, of associations, can easily be studied by applying this test to, say, a fourth grade and an eighth grade and then comparing results.

2. Have you ever been puzzled by the appearance in your mind of some fact or incident not thought of before for years? Were you able to trace out the associative connection that caused the fact to appear? Why are we sometimes unable to recall, when we need them, facts that we perfectly well know?

3. You have observed that it is possible to be able to spell certain words when they occur in a spelling lesson, but to miss them when employing them in composition. It is possible to learn a conjugation or a declension in tabular form, and then not be able to use the correct forms of words in speech or writing. Relate these facts to the laws of association, and recommend a method of instruction that will remove the discrepancy.

4. To test the quickness of association in a class of children, copy the following words clearly in a vertical column on a chart; have your class all ready at a given signal; then display the chart before them for sixty seconds, asking them to write down on paper the exact opposite of as many words as possible in one minute. Be sure that all know just what they are expected to do.

Bad, inside, slow, short, little, soft, black, dark, sad, true, dislike, poor, well, sorry, thick, full, peace, few, below, enemy.

Count the number of correct opposites got by each pupil.

5. Can you think of garrulous persons among your acquaintance the explanation of whose tiresomeness is that their association is of the complete instead of the selective type? Watch for such illustrations in conversation and in literature (e.g., Juliet's nurse).

6. Observe children in the schoolroom for good and poor training in association. Have you ever had anything that you otherwise presumably would enjoy rendered distasteful because of unpleasant associations? Pass your own methods of learning in review, and also inquire into the methods used by children in study, to determine whether they are resulting in the best possible use of association.



Every hour of our lives we call upon memory to supply us with some fact or detail from out our past. Let memory wholly fail us, and we find ourselves helpless and out of joint in a world we fail to understand. A poor memory handicaps one in the pursuit of education, hampers him in business or professional success, and puts him at a disadvantage in every relation of life. On the other hand, a good memory is an asset on which the owner realizes anew each succeeding day.


Now that you come to think of it, you can recall perfectly well that Columbus discovered America in 1492; that your house is painted white; that it rained a week ago today. But where were these once-known facts, now remembered so easily, while they were out of your mind? Where did they stay while you were not thinking of them? The common answer is, "Stored away in my memory." Yet no one believes that the memory is a warehouse of facts which we pack away there when we for a time have no use for them, as we store away our old furniture.

WHAT IS RETAINED.—The truth is that the simple question I asked you is by no means an easy one, and I will answer it myself by asking you an easier one: As we sit with the sunlight streaming into our room, where is the darkness which filled it last night? And where will all this light be at midnight tonight? Answer these questions, and the ones I asked about your remembered facts will be answered. While it is true that, regardless of the conditions in our little room, darkness still exists wherever there is no light, and light still exists wherever there is no darkness, yet for this particular room there is no darkness when the sun shines in, and there is no light when the room is filled with darkness. So in the case of a remembered fact. Although the fact that Columbus discovered America some four hundred years ago, that your house is of a white color, that it rained a week ago today, exists as a fact regardless of whether your minds think of these things at all, yet the truth remains as before: for the particular mind which remembers these things, the facts did not exist while they were out of the mind.

It is not the remembered fact which is retained, BUT THE POWER TO REPRODUCE THE FACT WHEN WE REQUIRE IT.

THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF MEMORY.—The power to reproduce a once-known fact depends ultimately on the brain. This is not hard to understand if we go back a little and consider that brain activity was concerned in every perception we have ever had, and in every fact we have ever known. Indeed, it was through a certain neural activity of the cortex that you were able originally to know that Columbus discovered America, that your house is white, and that it rained on a day in the past. Without this cortical activity, these facts would have existed just as truly, but you would never have known them. Without this neural activity in the brain there is no consciousness, and to it we must look for the recurrence in consciousness of remembered facts, as well as for those which appear for the first time.

HOW WE REMEMBER.—Now, if we are to have a once-known fact repeated in consciousness, or in other words remembered, what we must do on the physiological side is to provide for a repetition of the neural activity which was at first responsible for the fact's appearing in consciousness. The mental accompaniment of the repeated activity is the memory. Thus, as memory is the approximate repetition of once-experienced mental states or facts, together with the recognition of their belonging to our past, so it is accomplished by an approximate repetition of the once-performed neural process in the cortex which originally accompanied these states or facts.

The part played by the brain in memory makes it easy to understand why we find it so impossible to memorize or to recall when the brain is fatigued from long hours of work or lack of sleep. It also explains the derangement in memory that often comes from an injury to the brain, or from the toxins of alcohol, drugs or disease.

DEPENDENCE OF MEMORY ON BRAIN QUALITY.—Differences in memory ability, while depending in part on the training memory receives, rest ultimately on the memory-quality of the brain. James tells us that four distinct types of brains may be distinguished, and he describes them as follows:

Brains that are:

(1) Like marble to receive and like marble to retain. (2) Like wax to receive and like wax to retain. (3) Like marble to receive and like wax to retain. (4) Like wax to receive and like marble to retain.

The first type gives us those who memorize slowly and with much heroic effort, but who keep well what they have committed. The second type represents the ones who learn in a flash, who can cram up a lesson in a few minutes, but who forget as easily and as quickly as they learn. The third type characterizes the unfortunates who must labor hard and long for what they memorize, only to see it quickly slipping from their grasp. The fourth type is a rare boon to its possessor, enabling him easily to stock his memory with valuable material, which is readily available to him upon demand.

The particular type of brain we possess is given us through heredity, and we can do little or nothing to change the type. Whatever our type of brain, however, we can do much to improve our memory by obeying the laws upon which all good memory depends.


Nothing is more obvious than that memory cannot return to us what has never been given into its keeping, what has not been retained, or what for any reason cannot be recalled. Further, if the facts given back by memory are not recognized as belonging to our past, memory would be incomplete. Memory, therefore, involves the following four factors: (1) registration, (2) retention, (3) recall, (4) recognition.

REGISTRATION.—By registration we mean the learning or committing of the matter to be remembered. On the brain side this involves producing in the appropriate neurones the activities which, when repeated again later, cause the fact to be recalled. It is this process that constitutes what we call "impressing the facts upon the brain."

Nothing is more fatal to good memory than partial or faulty registration. A thing but half learned is sure to be forgotten. We often stop in the mastery of a lesson just short of the full impression needed for permanent retention and sure recall. We sometimes say to our teachers, "I cannot remember," when, as a matter of fact, we have never learned the thing we seek to recall.

RETENTION.—Retention, as we have already seen, resides primarily in the brain. It is accomplished through the law of habit working in the neurones of the cortex. Here, as elsewhere, habit makes an activity once performed more easy of performance each succeeding time. Through this law a neural activity once performed tends to be repeated; or, in other words, a fact once known in consciousness tends to be remembered. That so large a part of our past is lost in oblivion, and out of the reach of our memory, is probably much more largely due to a failure to recall than to retain. We say that we have forgotten a fact or a name which we cannot recall, try as hard as we may; yet surely all have had the experience of a long-striven-for fact suddenly appearing in our memory when we had given it up and no longer had use for it. It was retained all the time, else it never could have come back at all.

An aged man of my acquaintance lay on his deathbed. In his childhood he had first learned to speak German; but, moving with his family when he was eight or nine years of age to an English-speaking community, he had lost his ability to speak German, and had been unable for a third of a century to carry on a conversation in his mother tongue. Yet during the last days of his sickness he lost almost wholly the power to use the English language, and spoke fluently in German. During all these years his brain paths had retained the power to reproduce the forgotten words, even though for so long a time the words could not be recalled. James quotes a still more striking case of an aged woman who was seized with a fever and, during her delirious ravings, was heard talking in Latin, Hebrew and Greek. She herself could neither read nor write, and the priests said she was possessed of a devil. But a physician unraveled the mystery. When the girl was nine years of age, a pastor, who was a noted scholar, had taken her into his home as a servant, and she had remained there until his death. During this time she had daily heard him read aloud from his books in these languages. Her brain had indelibly retained the record made upon it, although for years she could not have recalled a sentence, if, indeed, she had ever been able to do so.

RECALL.—Recall depends entirely on association. There is no way to arrive at a certain fact or name that is eluding us except by means of some other facts, names, or what-not so related to the missing term as to be able to bring it into the fold. Memory arrives at any desired fact only over a bridge of associations. It therefore follows that the more associations set up between the fact to be remembered and related facts already in the mind, the more certain the recall. Historical dates and events should when learned be associated with important central dates and events to which they naturally attach. Geographical names, places or other information should be connected with related material already in the mind. Scientific knowledge should form a coherent and related whole. In short, everything that is given over to the memory for its keeping should be linked as closely as possible to material of the same sort. This is all to say that we should not expect our memory to retain and reproduce isolated, unrelated facts, but should give it the advantage of as many logical and well grounded associations as possible.

RECOGNITION.—A fact reproduced by memory but not recognized as belonging to our past experience would impress us as a new fact. This would mean that memory would fail to link the present to the past. Often we are puzzled to know whether we have before met a certain person, or on a former occasion told a certain story, or previously experienced a certain present state of mind which seems half familiar. Such baffling mental states are usually but instances of partial and incomplete recognition. Recognition no longer applies to much of our knowledge; for example, we say we remember that four times six is twenty-four, but probably none of us can recall when and where we learned this fact—we cannot recognize it as belonging to our past experience. So with ten thousand other things, which we know rather than remember in the strict sense.


What are the forms in which memory presents the past to us? What are the elements with which it deals? What is the stuff of which it consists?

IMAGES AS THE MATERIAL OF MEMORY.—In the light of our discussion upon mental imagery, and with the aid of a little introspection, the answer is easy. I ask you to remember your home, and at once a visual image of the familiar house, with its well-known rooms and their characteristic furnishings, comes to your mind. I ask you to remember the last concert you attended, or the chorus of birds you heard recently in the woods; and there comes a flood of images, partly visual, but largely auditory, from the melodies you heard. Or I ask you to remember the feast of which you partook yesterday, and gustatory and olfactory images are prominent among the others which appear. And so I might keep on until I had covered the whole range of your memory; and, whether I ask you for the simple trivial experiences of your past, for the tragic or crucial experiences, or for the most abstruse and abstract facts which you know and can recall, the case is the same: much of what memory presents to you comes in the form of images or of ideas of your past.

IMAGES VARY AS TO TYPE.—We do not all remember what we call the same fact in like images or ideas. When you remembered that Columbus discovered America in 1492, some of you had an image of Columbus the mariner standing on the deck of his ship, as the old picture shows him; and accompanying this image was an idea of "long agoness." Others, in recalling the same fact, had an image of the coast on which he landed, and perchance felt the rocking of the boat and heard it scraping on the sand as it neared the shore. And still others saw on the printed page the words stating that Columbus discovered America in 1492. And so in an infinite variety of images or ideas we may remember what we call the same fact, though of course the fact is not really the same fact to any two of us, nor to any one of us when it comes to us on different occasions in different images.

OTHER MEMORY MATERIAL.—But sensory images are not the only material with which memory has to deal. We may also recall the bare fact that it rained a week ago today without having images of the rain. We may recall that Columbus discovered America in 1492 without visual or other images of the event. As a matter of fact we do constantly recall many facts of abstract nature, such as mathematical or scientific formulae with no imagery other than that of the words or symbols, if indeed these be present. Memory may therefore use as its stuff not only images, but also a wide range of facts, ideas and meanings of all sorts.


The development of a good memory depends in no small degree on the closeness with which we follow certain well-demonstrated laws.

THE LAW OF ASSOCIATION.—The law of association, as we have already seen, is fundamental. Upon it the whole structure of memory depends. Stating this law in neural terms we may say: Brain areas which are active together at the same time tend to establish associative paths, so that when one of them is again active the other is also brought into activity. Expressing the same truth in mental terms: If two facts or experiences occur together in consciousness, and one of them is later recalled, it tends to cause the other to appear also.

THE LAW OF REPETITION.—The law of repetition is but a restatement of the law of habit, and may be formulated as follows: The more frequently a certain cortical activity occurs, the more easily is its repetition brought about. Stating this law in mental terms we may say: The more often a fact is recalled in consciousness the easier and more certain the recall becomes. It is upon the law of repetition that reviews and drills to fix things in the memory are based.

THE LAW OF RECENCY.—We may state the law of recency in physiological terms as follows: The more recently brain centers have been employed in a certain activity, the more easily are they thrown into the same activity. This, on the mental side, means: The more recently any facts have been present in consciousness the more easily are they recalled. It is in obedience to this law that we want to rehearse a difficult lesson just before the recitation hour, or cram immediately before an examination. The working of this law also explains the tendency of all memories to fade out as the years pass by.

THE LAW OF VIVIDNESS.—The law of vividness is of primary importance in memorizing. On the physical side it may be expressed as follows: The higher the tension or the more intense the activity of neural centers the more easily the activity is repeated. The counterpart of this law in mental terms is: The higher the degree of attention or concentration when the fact is registered the more certain it is of recall. Better far one impression of a high degree of vividness than several repetitions with the attention wandering or the brain too fatigued to respond. Not drill alone, but drill with concentration, is necessary to sure memory,—in proof of which witness the futile results on the part of the small boy who "studies his spelling lesson over fifteen times," the while he is at the same time counting his marbles.


Much careful and fruitful experimentation in the field of memory has taken place in recent years. The scientists are now able to give us certain simple rules which we can employ in using our memories, even if we lack the time or opportunity to follow all their technical discussions.

WHOLES VERSUS PARTS.—Probably most people in setting to work to commit to memory a poem, oration, or other such material, have a tendency to learn it first by stanzas or sections and then put the parts together to form the whole. Many tests, however, have shown this to be a less effective method than to go over the whole poem or oration time after time, finally giving special attention to any particularly difficult places. The only exception to this rule would seem to be in the case of very long productions, which may be broken up into sections of reasonable length. The method of committing by wholes instead of parts not only economizes time and effort in the learning, but also gives a better sense of unity and meaning to the matter memorized.

RATE OF FORGETTING.—The rate of forgetting is found to be very much more rapid immediately following the learning than after a longer time has elapsed. This is to say that of what one is going to forget of matter committed to memory approximately one-half will fall away within the first twenty-four hours and three-fourths within the first three days. Since it is always economy to fix afresh matter that is fading out before it has been wholly forgotten, it will manifestly pay to review important memory material within the first day or two after it has once been memorized.

DIVIDED PRACTICE.—If to commit a certain piece of material we must go over it, say, ten different times, the results are found to be much better when the entire number of repetitions are not had in immediate succession, but with reasonable intervals between. This is due, no doubt, to the well-known fact that associations tend to take form and grow more secure even after we have ceased to think specifically of the matter in hand. The intervals allow time for the associations to form their connections. It is in this sense that James says we "learn to swim during the winter and to skate during the summer."

FORCING THE MEMORY TO ACT.—In committing matter by reading it, the memory should be forced into activity just as fast as it is able to carry part of the material. If, after reading a poem over once, parts of it can be repeated without reference to the text, the memory should be compelled to reproduce these parts. So with all other material. Re-reading should be applied only at such points as the memory has not yet grasped.

NOT A MEMORY, BUT MEMORIES.—Professor James has emphasized the fact, which has often been demonstrated by experimental tests, that we do not possess a memory, but a collection of memories. Our memory may be very good in one line and poor in another. Nor can we "train our memory" in the sense of practicing it in one line and having the improvement extend equally to other lines. Committing poetry may have little or no effect in strengthening the memory for historical or scientific data. In general, the memory must be trained in the specific lines in which it is to excel. General training will not serve except as it may lead to better modes of learning what is to be memorized.


Let us next inquire what are the qualities which enter into what we call a good memory. The merchant or politician will say, "Ability to remember well people's faces and names"; the teacher of history, "The ability to recall readily dates and events"; the teacher of mathematics, "The power to recall mathematical formulae"; the hotel waiter, "The ability to keep in mind half-a-dozen orders at a time"; the manager of a corporation, "The ability to recall all the necessary details connected with the running of the concern." While these answers are very divergent, yet they may all be true for the particular person testifying; for out of them all there emerges this common truth, that the best memory is the one which best serves its possessor. That is, one's memory not only must be ready and exact, but must produce the right kind of material; it must bring to us what we need in our thinking. A very easy corollary at once grows out of this fact; namely, that in order to have the memory return to us the right kind of matter, we must store it with the right kind of images and ideas, for the memory cannot give back to us anything which we have not first given into its keeping.

A GOOD MEMORY SELECTS ITS MATERIAL.—The best memory is not necessarily the one which impartially repeats the largest number of facts of past experience. Everyone has many experiences which he never needs to have reproduced in memory; useful enough they may have been at the time, but wholly useless and irrelevant later. They have served their purpose, and should henceforth slumber in oblivion. They would be but so much rubbish and lumber if they could be recalled. Everyone has surely met that particular type of bore whose memory is so faithful to details that no incident in the story he tells, no matter however trivial, is ever omitted in the recounting. His associations work in such a tireless round of minute succession, without ever being able to take a jump or a short cut, that he is powerless to separate the wheat from the chaff; so he dumps the whole indiscriminate mass into our long-suffering ears.

Dr. Carpenter tells of a member of Parliament who could repeat long legal documents and acts of Parliament after one reading. When he was congratulated on his remarkable gift, he replied that, instead of being an advantage to him, it was often a source of great inconvenience, because when he wished to recollect anything in a document he had read, he could do it only by repeating the whole from the beginning up to the point which he wished to recall. Maudsley says that the kind of memory which enables a person "to read a photographic copy of former impressions with his mind's eye is not, indeed, commonly associated with high intellectual power," and gives as a reason that such a mind is hindered by the very wealth of material furnished by the memory from discerning the relations between separate facts upon which judgment and reasoning depend. It is likewise a common source of surprise among teachers that many of the pupils who could outstrip their classmates in learning and memory do not turn out to be able men. But this, says Whately, "is as reasonable as to wonder that a cistern if filled should not be a perpetual fountain." It is possible for one to be so lost in a tangle of trees that he cannot see the woods.

A GOOD MEMORY REQUIRES GOOD THINKING.—It is not, then, mere re-presentation of facts that constitutes a good memory. The pupil who can reproduce a history lesson by the page has not necessarily as good a memory as the one who remembers fewer facts, but sees the relations between those remembered, and hence is able to choose what he will remember. Memory must be discriminative. It must fasten on that which is important and keep that for us. Therefore we can agree that "the art of remembering is the art of thinking." Discrimination must select the important out of our mental stream, and these images must be associated with as many others as possible which are already well fixed in memory, and hence are sure of recall when needed. In this way the old will always serve as a cue to call up the new.

MEMORY MUST BE SPECIALIZED.—And not only must memory, if it is to be a good memory, omit the generally worthless, or trivial, or irrelevant, and supply the generally useful, significant, and relevant, but it must in some degree be a specialized memory. It must minister to the particular needs and requirements of its owner. Small consolation to you if you are a Latin teacher, and are able to call up the binomial theorem or the date of the fall of Constantinople when you are in dire need of a conjugation or a declension which eludes you. It is much better for the merchant and politician to have a good memory for names and faces than to be able to repeat the succession of English monarchs from Alfred the Great to Edward VII and not be able to tell John Smith from Tom Brown. It is much more desirable for the lawyer to be able to remember the necessary details of his case than to be able to recall all the various athletic records of the year; and so on.

In order to be a good memory for us, our memory must be faithful in dealing with the material which constitutes the needs of our vocations. Our memory may, and should, bring to us many things outside of our immediate vocations, else our lives will be narrow; but its chief concern and most accurate work must be along the path of our everyday requirements at its hands. And this works out well in connection with the physiological laws which were stated a little while since, providing that our vocations are along the line of our interests. For the things with which we work daily, and in which we are interested, will be often thought of together, and hence will become well associated. They will be frequently recalled, and hence more easily remembered; they will be vividly experienced as the inevitable result of interest, and this goes far to insure recall.


Many devices have been invented for training or using the memory, and not a few worthless "systems" have been imposed by conscienceless fakers upon uninformed people. All memorizing finally must go back to the fundamental laws of brain activity and the rules growing out of these laws. There is no "royal road" to a good memory.

THE EFFECTS OF CRAMMING.—Not a few students depend on cramming for much of their learning. If this method of study would yield as valuable permanent results, it would be by far the most sensible and economical method to use; for under the stress of necessity we often are able to accomplish results much faster than when no pressure is resting upon us. The difficulty is, however, that the results are not permanent; the facts learned do not have time to seek out and link themselves to well-established associates; learned in an hour, their retention is as ephemeral as the application which gave them to us.

Facts which are needed but temporarily and which cannot become a part of our body of permanent knowledge may profitably be learned by cramming. The lawyer needs many details for the case he is trying, which not only are valueless to him as soon as the case is decided, but would positively be in his way. He may profitably cram such facts. But those facts which are to become a permanent part of his mental equipment, such as the fundamental principles of law, he cannot cram. These he must have in a logical chain which will not leave their recall dependent upon a chance cue. Crammed facts may serve us during a recitation or an examination, but they never really become a part of us. Nothing can take the place of the logical placing of facts if they are to be remembered with facility, and be usable in thinking when recalled.

REMEMBERING ISOLATED FACTS.—But after all this is taken into consideration there still remain a large number of facts which refuse to fit into any connected or logical system. Or, if they do belong with some system, their connection is not very close, and we have more need for the few individual facts than for the system as a whole. Hence we must have some means of remembering such facts other than by connecting them with their logical associations. Such facts as may be typified by the multiplication table, certain dates, events, names, numbers, errands, and engagements of various kinds—all these need to be remembered accurately and quickly when the occasion for them arises. We must be able to recall them with facility, so that the occasion will not have passed by before we can secure them and we have failed to do our part because of the lapse.

With facts of this type the means of securing a good memory are the same as in the case of logical memory, except that we must of necessity forego the linking to naturally related associates. We can, however, take advantage of the three laws which have been given. If these methods are used faithfully, then we have done what we can in the way of insuring the recall of facts of this type, unless we associate them with some artificial cue, such as tying a thread around our finger to remember an errand, or learning the multiplication table by singing it. We are not to be too ready to excuse ourselves, however, if we have forgotten to mail the letter or deliver the message; for our attention may have been very lax when we recorded the direction in the first place, and we may never have taken the trouble to think of the matter between the time it was given into our keeping and the time we were to perform the errand.

MNEMONIC DEVICES.—Many ingenious devices have been invented to assist the memory. No doubt each one of you has some way of your own of remembering certain things committed to you, or some much-needed fact which has a tendency to elude you. You may not tie the traditional string around your finger or place your watch in the wrong pocket; but if not, you have invented some method which suits your convenience better. While many books have been written, and many lectures given exploiting mnemonic systems, they are, however, all founded upon the same general principle: namely, that of association of ideas in the mind. They all make use of the same basis for memory that any of us use every time we remember anything, from the commonest event which occurred last hour to the most abstruse bit of philosophy which we may have in our minds. They all tie the fact to be remembered to some other fact which is sure of recall, and then trust the old fact to bring the new along with it when it again comes into the mind.

Artificial devices may be permissible in remembering the class of facts which have no logical associates in which we can relate them; but even then I cannot help feeling that if we should use the same care and ingenuity in carefully recording the seemingly unrelated facts that we do in working out the device and making the association in it, we should discover hidden relations for most of the facts we wish to remember, and we should be able to insure their recall as certainly and in a better way than through the device. Then, also, we should not be in danger of handing over to the device various facts for which we should discover relations, thus placing them in the logical body of our usable knowledge where they belong.


1. Carefully consider your own powers of memory and see whether you can decide which of the four types of brain you have. Apply similar tests to your classmates or a group of school children whom you have a chance to observe. Be sure to take into account the effects of past training or habits of memory.

2. Watch in your own memorizing and also that of school children for failures in recall caused by lack of proper associations. Why is it particularly hard to commit what one does not understand?

3. Observe a class in a recitation or an examination and seek to discover whether any defects of memory revealed are to be explained by lack of (1) repetition, (2) recency, (3) vividness in learning.

4. Make a study of your own class and also of a group of children in school to discover their methods of memorizing. Have in mind the rules for memorizing given in section 5 of this chapter.

5. Observe by introspection your method of recall of historical events you have studied, and note whether images form an important part of your memory material; or does your recall consist chiefly of bare facts? In how far does this depend on your method of learning the facts in the first place?

6. Carefully consider your experience from cramming your lessons. Does the material learned in this way stay with you? Do you understand it and find yourself able to use it as well as stuff learned during a longer interval and with more time for associations to form?



No word is more constantly on our lips than the word think. A hundred times a day we tell what we think about this thing or that. Any exceptional power of thought classes us among the efficient of our generation. It is in their ability to think that men stand preeminently above the animals.


The term think, or thinking, is employed in so many different senses that it will be well first of all to come to an understanding as to its various uses. Four different types of thinking which we shall note are:[5] (1) chance, or idle, thinking; (2) thinking in the form of uncritical belief; (3) assimilative thinking; and (4) deliberative thinking.

CHANCE OR IDLE THINKING.—Our thinking is of the chance or idle kind when we think to no conscious end. No particular problem is up for solution, and the stream of thought drifts along in idleness. In such thinking, immediate interest, some idle fancy, the impulse of the moment, or the suggestions from our environment determine the train of associations and give direction to our thought. In a sense, we surrender our mental bark to the winds of circumstance to drive it whithersoever they will without let or hindrance from us. Since no results are sought from our thinking, none are obtained. The best of us spend more time in these idle trains of thought than we would like to admit, while inferior and untrained minds seldom rise above this barren thought level. Not infrequently even when we are studying a lesson which demands our best thought power we find that an idle chain of associations has supplanted the more rigid type of thinking and appropriated the field.

UNCRITICAL BELIEF.—We often say that we think a certain thing is true or false when we have, as a matter of fact, done little or no thinking about it. We only believe, or uncritically accept, the common point of view as to the truth or untruth of the matter concerned. The ancients believed that the earth was flat, and the savages that eclipses were caused by animals eating up the moon. Not a few people today believe that potatoes and other vegetables should be planted at a certain phase of the moon, that sickness is a visitation of Providence, and that various "charms" are potent to bring good fortune or ward off disaster. Probably not one in a thousand of those who accept such beliefs could give, or have ever tried to give, any rational reason for their point of view.

But we must not be too harsh toward such crude illustrations of uncritical thinking. It is entirely possible that not all of us who pride ourselves on our trained powers of thought could give good reasons discovered by our own thinking why we think our political party, our church, or our social organization is better than some other one. How few of us, after all, really discover our creed, join a church, or choose a political party! We adopt the points of view of our nation or our group much as we adopt their customs and dress—not because we are convinced by thinking that they are best, but because they are less trouble.

ASSIMILATIVE THINKING.—It is this type of thinking that occupies us when we seek to appropriate new facts or ideas and understand them; that is, relate them to knowledge already on hand. We think after this fashion in much of our study in schools and textbooks. The problem for our thought is not so much one of invention or discovery as of grasp and assimilation. Our thinking is to apprehend meanings and relations, and so unify and give coherence to our knowledge.

In the absence of this type of thinking one may commit to memory many facts that he does not understand, gather much information that contains little meaning to him, and even achieve very creditable scholastic grades that stand for a small amount of education or development. For all information, to become vital and usable, must be thought into relation to our present active, functioning body of knowledge; therefore assimilative thinking is fundamental to true mastery and learning.

DELIBERATIVE THINKING.—Deliberative thinking constitutes the highest type of thought process. In order to do deliberative thinking there is necessary, first of all, what Dewey calls a "split-road" situation. A traveler going along a well-beaten highway, says Dr. Dewey, does not deliberate; he simply keeps on going. But let the highway split into two roads at a fork, only one of which leads to the desired destination, and now a problem confronts him; he must take one road or the other, but which? The intelligent traveler will at once go to seeking for evidence as to which road he should choose. He will balance this fact against that fact, and this probability against that probability, in an effort to arrive at a solution of his problem.

Before we can engage in deliberative thinking we must be confronted by some problem, some such "split-road" situation in our mental stream—we must have something to think about. It is this fact that makes one writer say that the great purpose of one's education is not to solve all his problems for him. It is rather to help him (1) to discover problems, or "split-road" situations, (2) to assist him in gathering the facts necessary for their solution, and (3) to train him in the weighing of his facts or evidence, that is, in deliberative thinking. Only as we learn to recognize the true problems that confront us in our own lives and in society about us can we become thinkers in the best sense. Our own plans and projects, the questions of right and wrong that are constantly arising, the social, political and religious problems awaiting solution, all afford the opportunity and the necessity for deliberative thinking. And unhappy is the pupil whose school work does not set the problems and employ the methods which will insure training in this as well as in the assimilative type of thinking. Every school subject, besides supplying certain information to be "learned," should present its problems requiring true deliberative thinking within the range of development and ability of the pupil, and no subject—literature, history, science, language—is without many such problems.


All true thinking is for the purpose of discovering relations between the things we think about. Imagine a world in which nothing is related to anything else; in which every object perceived, remembered, or imagined, stands absolutely by itself, independent and self-sufficient! What a chaos it would be! We might perceive, remember, and imagine all the various objects we please, but without the power to think them together, they would all be totally unrelated, and hence have no meaning.

MEANING DEPENDS ON RELATIONS.—To have a rational meaning for us, things must always be defined in terms of other things, or in terms of their uses. Fuel is that which feeds fire. Food is what is eaten for nourishment. A locomotive is a machine for drawing a train. Books are to read, pianos to play, balls to throw, schools to instruct, friends to enjoy, and so on through the whole list of objects which we know or can define. Everything depends for its meaning on its relation to other things; and the more of these relations we can discover, the more fully do we see the meaning. Thus balls may have other uses than to throw, schools other functions than to instruct, and friends mean much more to us than mere enjoyment. And just in the degree in which we have realized these different relations, have we defined the object, or, in other words, have we seen its meaning.

THE FUNCTION OF THINKING IS TO DISCOVER RELATIONS.—Now it is by thinking that these relations are discovered. This is the function of thinking. Thinking takes the various separate items of our experience and discovers to us the relations existing among them, and builds them together into a unified, related, and usable body of knowledge, threading each little bit on the string of relationship which runs through the whole. It was, no doubt, this thought which Tennyson had in mind when he wrote:

Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower—but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.

Starting in with even so simple a thing as a little flower, if he could discover all the relations which every part bears to every other part and to all other things besides, he would finally reach the meaning of God and man. For each separate thing, be it large or small, forms a link in an unbroken chain of relationships which binds the universe into an ordered whole.

NEAR AND REMOTE RELATIONS.—The relations discovered through our thinking may be very close and simple ones, as when a child sees the relation between his bottle and his dinner; or they may be very remote ones, as when Newton saw the relation between the falling of an apple and the motion of the planets in their orbits. But whether simple or remote, the seeing of the relationships is in both cases alike thinking; for thinking is nothing, in its last analysis, but the discovering of the relationships which exist between the various objects in our mental stream.

Thinking passes through all grades of complexity, from the first faint dawnings in the mind of the babe when it sees the relation between the mother and its feeding, on to the mighty grasp of the sage who is able to "think God's thoughts after Him." But it all comes to the same end finally—the bringing to light of new meanings through the discovery of new relations. And whatever does this is thinking.

CHILD AND ADULT THINKING.—What constitutes the difference in the thinking of the child and that of the sage? Let us see whether we can discover this difference. In the first place the relations seen by the child are immediate relations: they exist between simple percepts or images; the remote and the general are beyond his reach. He has not had sufficient experience to enable him to discover remote relations. He cannot think things which are absent from him, or which he has never known. The child could by no possibility have seen in the falling apple what Newton saw; for the child knew nothing of the planets in their orbits, and hence could not see relations in which these formed one of the terms. The sage, on the other hand, is not limited to his immediate percepts or their images. He can see remote relations. He can go beyond individuals, and think in classes. The falling apple is not a mere falling apple to him, but one of a class of falling bodies. Besides a rich experience full of valuable facts, the trained thinker has acquired also the habit of looking out for relations; he has learned that this is the method par excellence of increasing his store of knowledge and of rendering effective the knowledge he has. He has learned how to think.

The chief business of the child is the collection of the materials of thought, seeing only the more necessary and obvious relations as he proceeds; his chief business when older grown is to seek out the network of relations which unites this mass of material, and through this process to systematize and give new meanings to the whole.


It is evident from the foregoing discussion that we may include under the term thinking all sorts of mental processes by which relations are apprehended between different objects of thought. Thus young children think as soon as they begin to understand something of the meaning of the objects of their environment. Even animals think by means of simple and direct associations. Thinking may therefore go on in terms of the simplest and most immediate, or the most complex and distant relationships.

SENSATIONS AND PERCEPTS AS ELEMENTS IN THINKING.—Relations seen between sensations would mean something, but not much; relations seen between objects immediately present to the senses would mean much more; but our thinking must go far beyond the present, and likewise far beyond individual objects. It must be able to annihilate both time and space, and to deal with millions of individuals together in one group or class. Only in this way can our thinking go beyond that of the lower animals; for a wise rat, even, may come to see the relation between a trap and danger, or a horse the relation between pulling with his teeth at the piece of string on the gate latch, and securing his liberty.

But it takes the farther-reaching mind of man to invent the trap and the latch. Perception alone does not go far enough. It is limited to immediately present objects and their most obvious relations. The perceptual image is likewise subject to similar limitations. While it enables us to dispense with the immediate presence of the object, yet it deals with separate individuals; and the world is too full of individual objects for us to deal with them separately. It is in conception, judgment, and reasoning that true thinking takes place. Our next purpose will therefore be to study these somewhat more closely, and see how they combine in our thinking.


Fortunately for our thinking, the great external world, with its millions upon millions of individual objects, is so ordered that these objects can be grouped into comparatively few great classes; and for many purposes we can deal with the class as a whole instead of with the separate individuals of the class. Thus there are an infinite number of individual objects in the world which are composed of matter. Yet all these myriads of individuals may be classed under the two great heads of inanimate and animate. Taking one of these again: all animate forms may be classed as either plants or animals. And these classes may again be subdivided indefinitely. Animals include mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, mollusks, and many other classes besides, each class of which may be still further separated into its orders, families, genera, species, and individuals. This arrangement economizes our thinking by allowing us to think in large terms.

THE CONCEPTS SERVE TO GROUP AND CLASSIFY.—But the somewhat complicated form of classification just described did not come to man ready-made. Someone had to see the relationship existing among the myriads of animals of a certain class, and group these together under the general term mammals. Likewise with birds, reptiles, insects, and all the rest. In order to accomplish this, many individuals of each class had to be observed, the qualities common to all members of the class discriminated from those not common, and the common qualities retained as the measure by which to test the admission of other individuals into this class. The process of classification is made possible by what the psychologist calls the concept. The concept enables us to think birds as well as bluebirds, robins, and wrens; it enables us to think men as well as Tom, Dick, and Harry. In other words, the concept lies at the bottom of all thinking which rises above the seeing of the simplest relations between immediately present objects.

GROWTH OF A CONCEPT.—We can perhaps best understand the nature of the concept if we watch its growth in the thinking of a child. Let us see how the child forms the concept dog, under which he is able finally to class the several hundred or the several thousand different dogs with which his thinking requires him to deal. The child's first acquaintance with a dog is, let us suppose, with a pet poodle, white in color, and named Gyp. At this stage in the child's experience, dog and Gyp are entirely synonymous, including Gyp's color, size, and all other qualities which the child has discovered. But now let him see another pet poodle which is like Gyp except that it is black in color. Here comes the first cleavage between Gyp and dog as synonyms: dog no longer means white, but may mean black. Next let the child see a brown spaniel. Not only will white and black now no longer answer to dog, but the roly-poly poodle form also has been lost; for the spaniel is more slender. Let the child go on from this until he has seen many different dogs of all varieties: poodles, bulldogs, setters, shepherds, cockers, and a host of others. What has happened to his dog, which at the beginning meant the one particular little individual with which he played?

Dog is no longer white or black or brown or gray: color is not an essential quality, so it has dropped out; size is no longer essential except within very broad limits; shagginess or smoothness of coat is a very inconstant quality, so this is dropped; form varies so much from the fat pug to the slender hound that it is discarded, except within broad limits; good nature, playfulness, friendliness, and a dozen other qualities are likewise found not to belong in common to all dogs, and so have had to go; and all that is left to his dog is four-footedness, and a certain general form, and a few other dog qualities of habit of life and disposition. As the term dog has been gaining in extent, that is, as more individuals have been observed and classed under it, it has correspondingly been losing in content, or it has been losing in the specific qualities which belong to it. Yet it must not be thought that the process is altogether one of elimination; for new qualities which are present in all the individuals of a class, but at first overlooked, are continually being discovered as experience grows, and built into the developing concept.

DEFINITION OF CONCEPT.—A concept, then, is our general idea or notion of a class of individual objects. Its function is to enable us to classify our knowledge, and thus deal with classes or universals in our thinking. Often the basis of a concept consists of an image, as when you get a hazy visual image of a mass of people when I suggest mankind to you. Yet the core, or the vital, functioning part of a concept is its meaning. Whether this meaning attaches to an image or a word or stands relatively or completely independent of either, does not so much matter; but our meanings must be right, else all our thinking is wrong.

LANGUAGE AND THE CONCEPT.—We think in words. None has failed to watch the flow of his thought as it is carried along by words like so many little boats moving along the mental stream, each with its freight of meaning. And no one has escaped the temporary balking of his thought by failure to find a suitable word to convey the intended meaning. What the grammarian calls the common nouns of our language are the words by which we name our concepts and are able to speak of them to others. We define a common noun as "the name of a class," and we define a concept as the meaning or idea we have of a class. It is easy to see that when we have named these class ideas we have our list of common nouns. The study of the language of a people may therefore reveal much of their type of thought.

THE NECESSITY FOR GROWING CONCEPTS.—The development of our concepts constitutes a large part of our education. For it is evident that, since thinking rests so fundamentally on concepts, progress in our mental life must depend on a constant growth in the number and character of our concepts. Not only must we keep on adding new concepts, but the old must not remain static. When our concepts stop growing, our minds have ceased to grow—we no longer learn. This arrest of development is often seen in persons who have settled into a life of narrow routine, where the demands are few and of a simple nature. Unless they rise above their routine, they early become "old fogies." Their concepts petrify from lack of use and the constant reconstruction which growth necessitates.

On the other hand, the person who has upon him the constant demand to meet new situations or do better in old ones will keep on enriching his old concepts and forming new ones, or else, unable to do this, he will fail in his position. And the person who keeps on steadily enriching his concepts has discovered the secret of perpetual youth so far as his mental life is concerned. For him there is no old age; his thought will be always fresh, his experience always accumulating, and his knowledge growing more valuable and usable.


But in the building up of percepts and concepts, as well as in making use of them after they are formed, another process of thinking enters; namely, the process of judging.

NATURE OF JUDGMENT.—Judging enters more or less into all our thinking, from the simplest to the most complex. The babe lies staring at his bottle, and finally it dawns on his sluggish mind that this is the object from which he gets his dinner. He has performed a judgment. That is, he has alternately directed his attention to the object before him and to his image of former nursing, discovered the relation existing between the two, and affirmed to himself, "This is what gives me my dinner." "Bottle" and "what-gives-me-my-dinner" are essentially identical to the child. Judgment is, then, the affirmation of the essential identity of meaning of two objects of thought. Even if the proposition in which we state our judgment has in it a negative, the definition will still hold, for the mental process is the same in either case. It is as much a judgment if we say, "The day is not-cold," as if we say, "The day is cold."

JUDGMENT USED IN PERCEPTS AND CONCEPTS.—How judgment enters into the forming of our percepts may be seen from the illustration just given. The act by which the child perceived his bottle had in it a large element of judging. He had to compare two objects of thought—the one from past experience in the form of images, and the other from the present object, in the form of sensations from the bottle—and then affirm their essential identity. Of course it is not meant that what I have described consciously takes place in the mind of the child; but some such process lies at the bottom of every perception, whether of the child or anyone else.

Likewise it may be seen that the forming of concepts depends on judgment. Every time that we meet a new object which has to be assigned its place in our classification, judgment is required. Suppose the child, with his immature concept dog, sees for the first time a greyhound. He must compare this new specimen with his concept dog, and decide that this is or is not a dog. If he discovers the identity of meaning in the essentials of the two objects of thought, his judgment will be affirmative, and his concept will be modified in whatever extent greyhound will affect it.

JUDGMENT LEADS TO GENERAL TRUTHS.—But judgment goes much farther than to assist in building percepts and concepts. It takes our concepts after they are formed and discovers and affirms relations between them, thus enabling us finally to relate classes as well as individuals. It carries our thinking over into the realm of the universal, where we are not hampered by particulars. Let us see how this is done. Suppose we have the concept man and the concept animal, and that we think of these two concepts in their relation to each other. The mind analyzes each into its elements, compares them, and finds the essential identity of meaning in a sufficient number to warrant the judgment, man is an animal. This judgment has given a new bit of knowledge, in that it has discovered to us a new relation between two great classes, and hence given both, in so far, a new meaning and a wider definition. And as this new relation does not pertain to any particular man or any particular animal, but includes all individuals in each class, it has carried us over into universals, so that we have a general truth and will not have to test each individual man henceforth to see whether he fits into this relation.

Judgments also, as we will see later, constitute the material for our reasoning. Hence upon their validity will depend the validity of our reasoning.

THE VALIDITY OF JUDGMENTS.—Now, since every judgment is made up of an affirmation of relation existing between two terms, it is evident that the validity of the judgment will depend on the thoroughness of our knowledge of the terms compared. If we know but few of the attributes of either term of the judgment, the judgment is clearly unsafe. Imperfect concepts lie at the basis of many of our wrong judgments. A young man complained because his friend had been expelled from college for alleged misbehavior. He said, "Mr. A—— was the best boy in the institution." It is very evident that someone had made a mistake in judgment. Surely no college would want to expel the best boy in the institution. Either my complainant or the authorities of the college had failed to understand one of the terms in the judgment. Either "Mr. A——" or "the best boy in the institution" had been wrongly interpreted by someone. Likewise, one person will say, "Jones is a good man," while another will say, "Jones is a rascal." Such a discrepancy in judgment must come from a lack of acquaintance with Jones or a lack of knowledge of what constitutes a good man or a rascal.

No doubt most of us are prone to make judgments with too little knowledge of the terms we are comparing, and it is usually those who have the least reason for confidence in their judgments who are the most certain that they cannot be mistaken. The remedy for faulty judgments is, of course, in making ourselves more certain of the terms involved, and this in turn sends us back for a review of our concepts or the experience upon which the terms depend. It is evident that no two persons can have just the same concepts, for all have not had the same experience out of which their concepts came. The concepts may be named the same, and may be nearly enough alike so that we can usually understand each other; but, after all, I have mine and you have yours, and if we could each see the other's in their true light, no doubt we should save many misunderstandings and quarrels.


All the mental processes which we have so far described find their culmination and highest utility in reasoning. Not that reasoning comes last in the list of mental activities, and cannot take place until all the others have been completed, for reasoning is in some degree present almost from the dawn of consciousness. The difference between the reasoning of the child and that of the adult is largely one of degree—of reach. Reasoning goes farther than any of the other processes of cognition, for it takes the relations expressed in judgments and out of these relations evolves still other and more ultimate relations.

NATURE OF REASONING.—It is hard to define reasoning so as to describe the precise process which occurs; for it is so intermingled with perception, conception, and judgment, that one can hardly separate them even for purposes of analysis, much less to separate them functionally. We may, however, define reasoning provisionally as thinking by means of a series of judgments with the purpose of arriving at some definite end or conclusion. What does this mean? Professor Angell has stated the matter so clearly that I will quote his illustration of the case:

"Suppose that we are about to make a long journey which necessitates the choice from among a number of possible routes. This is a case of the genuinely problematic kind. It requires reflection, a weighing of the pros and cons, and giving of the final decision in favor of one or other of several alternatives. In such a case the procedure of most of us is after this order. We think of one route as being picturesque and wholly novel, but also as being expensive. We think of another as less interesting, but also as less expensive. A third is, we discover, the most expedient, but also the most costly of the three. We find ourselves confronted, then, with the necessity of choosing with regard to the relative merits of cheapness, beauty, and speed. We proceed to consider these points in the light of all our interests, and the decision more or less makes itself. We find, for instance, that we must, under the circumstances, select the cheapest route."

HOW JUDGMENTS FUNCTION IN REASONING.—Such a line of thinking is very common to everyone, and one that we carry out in one form or another a thousand times every day we live. When we come to look closely at the steps involved in arriving at a conclusion, we detect a series of judgments—often not very logically arranged, to be sure, but yet so related that the result is safely reached in the end. We compare our concept of, say, the first route and our concept of picturesqueness, decide they agree, and affirm the judgment, "This route is picturesque." Likewise we arrive at the judgment, "This route is also expensive, it is interesting, etc." Then we take the other routes and form our judgments concerning them. These judgments are all related to each other in some way, some of them being more intimately related than others. Which judgments remain as the significant ones, the ones which are used to solve the problem finally, depends on which concepts are the most vital for us with reference to the ultimate end in view. If time is the chief element, then the form of our reasoning would be something like this: "Two of the routes require more than three days: hence I must take the third route." If economy is the important end, the solution would be as follows: "Two routes cost more than $1,000; I cannot afford to pay more than $800; I therefore must patronize the third route."

In both cases it is evident that the conclusion is reached through a comparison of two or more judgments. This is the essential difference between judgment and reasoning. Whereas judgment discovers relations between concepts, reasoning discovers relations between judgments, and from this evolves a new judgment which is the conclusion sought. The example given well illustrates the ordinary method by which we reason to conclusions.

DEDUCTION AND THE SYLLOGISM.—Logic may take the conclusion, with the two judgments on which it is based, and form the three into what is called a syllogism, of which the following is a classical type:

All men are mortal; Socrates is a man, Therefore Socrates is mortal.

The first judgment is in the form of a proposition which is called the major premise, because it is general in its nature, including all men. The second is the minor premise, since it deals with a particular man. The third is the conclusion, in which a new relation is discovered between Socrates and mortality.

This form of reasoning is deductive, that is, it proceeds from the general to the particular. Much of our reasoning is an abbreviated form of the syllogism, and will readily expand into it. For instance, we say, "It will rain tonight, for there is lightning in the west." Expanded into the syllogism form it would be, "Lightning in the west is a sure sign of rain; there is lightning in the west this evening; therefore, it will rain tonight." While we do not commonly think in complete syllogisms, it is often convenient to cast our reasoning in this form to test its validity. For example, a fallacy lurks in the generalization, "Lightning in the west is a sure sign of rain." Hence the conclusion is of doubtful validity.

INDUCTION.—Deduction is a valuable form of reasoning, but a moment's reflection will show that something must precede the syllogism in our reasoning. The major premise must be accounted for. How are we able to say that all men are mortal, and that lightning in the west is a sure sign of rain? How was this general truth arrived at? There is only one way, namely, through the observation of a large number of particular instances, or through induction.

Induction is the method of proceeding from the particular to the general. Many men are observed, and it is found that all who have been observed have died under a certain age. It is true that not all men have been observed to die, since many are now living, and many more will no doubt come and live in the world whom we cannot observe, since mortality will have overtaken us before their advent. To this it may be answered that the men now living have not yet lived up to the limit of their time, and, besides, they have within them the causes working whose inevitable effect has always been and always will be death; likewise with the men yet unborn, they will possess the same organism as we, whose very nature necessitates mortality. In the case of the premonitions of rain, the generalization is not so safe, for there have been exceptions. Lightning in the west at night is not always followed by rain, nor can we find inherent causes as in the other case which necessitates rain as an effect.

THE NECESSITY FOR BROAD INDUCTION.—Thus it is seen that our generalizations, or major premises, are of all degrees of validity. In the case of some, as the mortality of man, millions of cases have been observed and no exceptions found, but on the contrary, causes discovered whose operation renders the result inevitable. In others, as, for instance, in the generalization once made, "All cloven-footed animals chew their cud," not only had the examination of individual cases not been carried so far as in the former case when the generalization was made, but there were found no inherent causes residing in cloven-footed animals which make it necessary for them to chew their cud. That is, cloven feet and cud-chewing do not of necessity go together, and the case of the pig disproves the generalization.

In practically no instance, however, is it possible for us to examine every case upon which a generalization is based; after examining a sufficient number of cases, and particularly if there are supporting causes, we are warranted in making the "inductive leap," or in proceeding at once to state our generalization as a working hypothesis. Of course it is easy to see that if we have a wrong generalization, if our major premise is invalid, all that follows in our chain of reasoning will be worthless. This fact should render us careful in making generalizations on too narrow a basis of induction. We may have observed that certain red-haired people of our acquaintance are quick-tempered, but we are not justified from this in making the general statement that all red-haired people are quick-tempered. Not only have we not examined a sufficient number of cases to warrant such a conclusion, but we have found in the red hair not even a cause of quick temper, but only an occasional concomitant.

THE INTERRELATION OF INDUCTION AND DEDUCTION.—Induction and deduction must go hand in hand in building up our world of knowledge. Induction gives us the particular facts out of which our system of knowledge is built, furnishes us with the data out of which general truths are formed; deduction allows us to start with the generalization furnished us by induction, and from this vantage ground to organize and systematize our knowledge and, through the discovery of its relations, to unify it and make it usable. Deduction starts with a general truth and asks the question, "What new relations are made necessary among particular facts by this truth?" Induction starts with particulars, and asks the question, "To what general truth do these separate facts lead?" Each method of reasoning needs the other. Deduction must have induction to furnish the facts for its premises; induction must have deduction to organize these separate facts into a unified body of knowledge. "He only sees well who sees the whole in the parts, and the parts in the whole."


1. Watch your own thinking for examples of each of the four types described. Observe a class of children in a recitation or at study and try to decide which type is being employed by each child. What proportion of the time supposedly given to study is given over to chance or idle thinking? To assimilative thinking? To deliberative thinking?

2. Observe children at work in school with the purpose of determining whether they are being taught to think, or only to memorize certain facts. Do you find that definitions whose meaning is not clear are often required of children? Which should come first, the definition or the meaning and application of it?

3. It is of course evident from the relation of induction and deduction that the child's natural mode of learning a subject is by induction. Observe the teaching of children to determine whether inductive methods are commonly used. Outline an inductive lesson in arithmetic, physiology, geography, civics, etc.

4. What concepts have you now which you are aware are very meager? What is your concept of mountain? How many have you seen? Have you any concepts which you are working very hard to enrich?

5. Recall some judgment which you have made and which proved to be false, and see whether you can now discover what was wrong with it. Do you find the trouble to be an inadequate concept? What constitutes "good judgment"? "poor judgment"? Did you ever make a mistake in an example in, say, percentage, by saying "This is the base," when it proved not to be? What was the cause of the error?

6. Can you recall any instance in which you made too hasty a generalization when you had observed but few cases upon which to base your premise? What of your reasoning which followed?

7. See whether you can show that validity of reasoning rests ultimately on correct perceptions. What are you doing at present to increase your power of thinking?

8. How ought this chapter to help one in making a better teacher? A better student?



Nothing is more wonderful than nature's method of endowing each individual at the beginning with all the impulses, tendencies and capacities that are to control and determine the outcome of the life. The acorn has the perfect oak tree in its heart; the complete butterfly exists in the grub; and man at his highest powers is present in the babe at birth. Education adds nothing to what heredity supplies, but only develops what is present from the first.

We are a part of a great unbroken procession of life, which began at the beginning and will go on till the end. Each generation receives, through heredity, the products of the long experience through which the race has passed. The generation receiving the gift today lives its own brief life, makes its own little contribution to the sum total and then passes on as millions have done before. Through heredity, the achievements, the passions, the fears, and the tragedies of generations long since moldered to dust stir our blood and tone our nerves for the conflict of today.


Every child born into the world has resting upon him an unseen hand reaching out from the past, pushing him out to meet his environment, and guiding him in the start upon his journey. This impelling and guiding power from the past we call instinct. In the words of Mosso: "Instinct is the voice of past generations reverberating like a distant echo in the cells of the nervous system. We feel the breath, the advice, the experience of all men, from those who lived on acorns and struggled like wild beasts, dying naked in the forests, down to the virtue and toil of our father, the fear and love of our mother."

THE BABE'S DEPENDENCE ON INSTINCT.—The child is born ignorant and helpless. It has no memory, no reason, no imagination. It has never performed a conscious act, and does not know how to begin. It must get started, but how? It has no experience to direct it, and is unable to understand or imitate others of its kind. It is at this point that instinct comes to the rescue. The race has not given the child a mind ready made—that must develop; but it has given him a ready-made nervous system, ready to respond with the proper movements when it receives the touch of its environment through the senses.

And this nervous system has been so trained during a limitless past that its responses are the ones which are necessary for the welfare of its owner. It can do a hundred things without having to wait to learn them. Burdette says of the new-born child, "Nobody told him what to do. Nobody taught him. He knew. Placed suddenly on the guest list of this old caravansary, he knew his way at once to two places in it—his bedroom and the dining-room." A thousand generations of babies had done the same thing in the same way, and each had made it a little easier for this particular baby to do his part without learning how.

DEFINITION OF INSTINCT.—Instincts are the tendency to act in certain definite ways, without previous education and without a conscious end in view. They are a tendency to act; for some movement, or motor adjustment, is the response to an instinct. They do not require previous education, for none is possible with many instinctive acts: the duck does not have to be taught to swim or the baby to suck. They have no conscious end in view, though the result may be highly desirable.

Says James: "The cat runs after the mouse, runs or shows fight before the dog, avoids falling from walls and trees, shuns fire and water, etc., not because he has any notion either of life or death, or of self, or of preservation. He has probably attained to no one of these conceptions in such a way as to react definitely upon it. He acts in each case separately, and simply because he cannot help it; being so framed that when that particular running thing called a mouse appears in his field of vision he must pursue; that when that particular barking and obstreperous thing called a dog appears he must retire, if at a distance, and scratch if close by; that he must withdraw his feet from water and his face from flame, etc. His nervous system is to a great extent a pre-organized bundle of such reactions. They are as fatal as sneezing, and exactly correlated to their special excitants as it to its own."[6]

You ask, Why does the lark rise on the flash of a sunbeam from his meadow to the morning sky, leaving a trail of melody to mark his flight? Why does the beaver build his dam, and the oriole hang her nest? Why are myriads of animal forms on the earth today doing what they were countless generations ago? Why does the lover seek the maid, and the mother cherish her young? Because the voice of the past speaks to the present, and the present has no choice but to obey.

INSTINCTS ARE RACIAL HABITS.—Instincts are the habits of the race which it bequeaths to the individual; the individual takes these for his start, and then modifies them through education, and thus adapts himself to his environment. Through his instincts, the individual is enabled to short-cut racial experience, and begin at once on life activities which the race has been ages in acquiring. Instinct preserves to us what the race has achieved in experience, and so starts us out where the race left off.

UNMODIFIED INSTINCT IS BLIND.—Many of the lower animal forms act on instinct blindly, unable to use past experience to guide their acts, incapable of education. Some of them carry out seemingly marvelous activities, yet their acts are as automatic as those of a machine and as devoid of foresight. A species of mud wasp carefully selects clay of just the right consistency, finds a somewhat sheltered nook under the eaves, and builds its nest, leaving one open door. Then it seeks a certain kind of spider, and having stung it so as to benumb without killing, carries it into the new-made nest, lays its eggs on the body of the spider so that the young wasps may have food immediately upon hatching out, then goes out and plasters the door over carefully to exclude all intruders. Wonderful intelligence? Not intelligence at all. Its acts were dictated not by plans for the future, but by pressure from the past. Let the supply of clay fail, or the race of spiders become extinct, and the wasp is helpless and its species will perish. Likewise the race of bees and ants have done wonderful things, but individual bees and ants are very stupid and helpless when confronted by any novel conditions to which their race has not been accustomed.

Man starts in as blindly as the lower animals; but, thanks to his higher mental powers, this blindness soon gives way to foresight, and he is able to formulate purposeful ends and adapt his activities to their accomplishment. Possessing a larger number of instincts than the lower animals have, man finds possible a greater number of responses to a more complex environment than do they. This advantage, coupled with his ability to reconstruct his experience in such a way that he secures constantly increasing control over his environment, easily makes man the superior of all the animals, and enables him to exploit them for his own further advancement.


No child is born with all its instincts ripe and ready for action. Yet each individual contains within his own inner nature the law which determines the order and time of their development.

INSTINCTS APPEAR IN SUCCESSION AS REQUIRED.—It is not well that we should be started on too many different lines of activity at once, hence our instincts do not all appear at the same time. Only as fast as we need additional activities do they ripen. Our very earliest activities are concerned chiefly with feeding, hence we first have the instincts which prompt us to take our food and to cry for it when we are hungry. Also we find useful such abbreviated instincts, called reflexes, as sneezing, snuffling, gagging, vomiting, starting, etc.; hence we have the instincts enabling us to do these things. Soon comes the time for teething, and, to help the matter along, the instinct of biting enters, and the rubber ring is in demand. The time approaches when we are to feed ourselves, so the instinct arises to carry everything to the mouth. Now we have grown strong and must assume an erect attitude, hence the instinct to sit up and then to stand. Locomotion comes next, and with it the instinct to creep and walk. Also a language must be learned, and we must take part in the busy life about us and do as other people do; so the instinct to imitate arises that we may learn things quickly and easily.

We need a spur to keep us up to our best effort, so the instinct of emulation emerges. We must defend ourselves, so the instinct of pugnacity is born. We need to be cautious, hence the instinct of fear. We need to be investigative, hence the instinct of curiosity. Much self-directed activity is necessary for our development, hence the play instinct. It is best that we should come to know and serve others, so the instincts of sociability and sympathy arise. We need to select a mate and care for offspring, hence the instinct of love for the other sex, and the parental instinct. This is far from a complete list of our instincts, and I have not tried to follow the order of their development, but I have given enough to show the origin of many of our life's most important activities.

MANY INSTINCTS ARE TRANSITORY.—Not only do instincts ripen by degrees, entering our experience one by one as they are needed, but they drop out when their work is done. Some, like the instinct of self-preservation, are needed our lifetime through, hence they remain to the end. Others, like the play instinct, serve their purpose and disappear or are modified into new forms in a few years, or a few months. The life of the instinct is always as transitory as is the necessity for the activity to which it gives rise. No instinct remains wholly unaltered in man, for it is constantly being made over in the light of each new experience. The instinct of self-preservation is modified by knowledge and experience, so that the defense of the man against threatened danger would be very different from that of the child; yet the instinct to protect oneself in some way remains. On the other hand, the instinct to romp and play is less permanent. It may last into adult life, but few middle-aged or old people care to race about as do children. Their activities are occupied in other lines, and they require less physical exertion.

Contrast with these two examples such instincts as sucking, creeping, and crying, which are much more fleeting than the play instinct, even. With dentition comes another mode of eating, and sucking is no more serviceable. Walking is a better mode of locomotion than creeping, so the instinct to creep soon dies. Speech is found a better way than crying to attract attention to distress, so this instinct drops out. Many of our instincts not only would fail to be serviceable in our later lives, but would be positively in the way. Each serves its day, and then passes over into so modified a form as not to be recognized, or else drops out of sight altogether.

SEEMINGLY USELESS INSTINCTS.—Indeed it is difficult to see that some instincts serve a useful purpose at any time. The pugnacity and greediness of childhood, its foolish fears, the bashfulness of youth—these seem to be either useless or detrimental to development. In order to understand the workings of instinct, however, we must remember that it looks in two directions; into the future for its application, and into the past for its explanation. We should not be surprised if the experiences of a long past have left behind some tendencies which are not very useful under the vastly different conditions of today.

Nor should we be too sure that an activity whose precise function in relation to development we cannot discover has no use at all. Each instinct must be considered not alone in the light of what it means to its possessor today, but of what it means to all his future development. The tail of a polliwog seems a very useless appendage so far as the adult frog is concerned, yet if the polliwog's tail is cut off a perfect frog never develops.

INSTINCTS TO BE UTILIZED WHEN THEY APPEAR.—A man may set the stream to turning his mill wheels today or wait for twenty years—the power is there ready for him when he wants it. Instincts must be utilized when they present themselves, else they disappear—never, in most cases, to return. Birds kept caged past the flying time never learn to fly well. The hunter must train his setter when the time is ripe, or the dog can never be depended upon. Ducks kept away from the water until full grown have almost as little inclination for it as chickens.

The child whom the pressure of circumstances or unwise authority of parents keeps from mingling with playmates and participating in their plays and games when the social instinct is strong upon him, will in later life find himself a hopeless recluse to whom social duties are a bore. The boy who does not hunt and fish and race and climb at the proper time for these things, will find his taste for them fade away, and he will become wedded to a sedentary life. The youth and maiden must be permitted to "dress up" when the impulse comes to them, or they are likely ever after to be careless in their attire.

INSTINCTS AS STARTING POINTS.—Most of our habits have their rise in instincts, and all desirable instincts should be seized upon and transformed into habits before they fade away. Says James in his remarkable chapter on Instinct: "In all pedagogy the great thing is to strike while the iron is hot, and to seize the wave of the pupils' interest in each successive subject before its ebb has come, so that knowledge may be got and a habit of skill acquired—a headway of interest, in short, secured, on which afterwards the individual may float. There is a happy moment for fixing skill in drawing, for making boys collectors in natural history, and presently dissectors and botanists; then for initiating them into the harmonies of mechanics and the wonders of physical and chemical law. Later, introspective psychology and the metaphysical and religious mysteries take their turn; and, last of all, the drama of human affairs and worldly wisdom in the widest sense of the term. In each of us a saturation point is soon reached in all these things; the impetus of our purely intellectual zeal expires, and unless the topic is associated with some urgent personal need that keeps our wits constantly whetted about it, we settle into an equilibrium, and live on what we learned when our interest was fresh and instinctive, without adding to the store."

There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

THE MORE IMPORTANT HUMAN INSTINCTS.—It will be impossible in this brief statement to give a complete catalogue of the human instincts, much less to discuss each in detail. We must content ourselves therefore with naming the more important instincts, and finally discussing a few of them: Sucking, biting, chewing, clasping objects with the fingers, carrying to the mouth, crying, smiling, sitting up, standing, locomotion, vocalization, imitation, emulation, pugnacity, resentment, anger, sympathy, hunting and fighting, fear, acquisitiveness, play, curiosity, sociability, modesty, secretiveness, shame, love, and jealousy may be said to head the list of our instincts. It will be impossible in our brief space to discuss all of this list. Only a few of the more important will be noticed.


No individual enters the world with a large enough stock of instincts to start him doing all the things necessary for his welfare. Instinct prompts him to eat when he is hungry, but does not tell him to use a knife and fork and spoon; it prompts him to use vocal speech, but does not say whether he shall use English, French, or German; it prompts him to be social in his nature, but does not specify that he shall say please and thank you, and take off his hat to ladies. The race did not find the specific modes in which these and many other things are to be done of sufficient importance to crystallize them in instincts, hence the individual must learn them as he needs them. The simplest way of accomplishing this is for each generation to copy the ways of doing things which are followed by the older generation among whom they are born. This is done largely through imitation.

NATURE OF IMITATION.—Imitation is the instinct to respond to a suggestion from another by repeating his act. The instinct of imitation is active in the year-old child, it requires another year or two to reach its height, then it gradually grows less marked, but continues in some degree throughout life. The young child is practically helpless in the matter of imitation. Instinct demands that he shall imitate, and he has no choice but to obey. His environment furnishes the models which he must imitate, whether they are good or bad. Before he is old enough for intelligent choice, he has imitated a multitude of acts about him; and habit has seized upon these acts and is weaving them into conduct and character. Older grown we may choose what we will imitate, but in our earlier years we are at the mercy of the models which are placed before us.

If our mother tongue is the first we hear spoken, that will be our language; but if we first hear Chinese, we will learn that with almost equal facility. If whatever speech we hear is well spoken, correct, and beautiful, so will our language be; if it is vulgar, or incorrect, or slangy, our speech will be of this kind. If the first manners which serve us as models are coarse and boorish, ours will resemble them; if they are cultivated and refined, ours will be like them. If our models of conduct and morals are questionable, our conduct and morals will be of like type. Our manner of walking, of dressing, of thinking, of saying our prayers, even, originates in imitation. By imitation we adopt ready-made our social standards, our political faith, and our religious creeds. Our views of life and the values we set on its attainments are largely a matter of imitation.

INDIVIDUALITY IN IMITATION.—Yet, given the same model, no two of us will imitate precisely alike. Your acts will be yours, and mine will be mine. This is because no two of us have just the same heredity, and hence cannot have precisely similar instincts. There reside in our different personalities different powers of invention and originality, and these determine by how much the product of imitation will vary from the model. Some remain imitators all their lives, while others use imitation as a means to the invention of better types than the original models. The person who is an imitator only, lacks individuality and initiative; the nation which is an imitator only is stagnant and unprogressive. While imitation must be blind in both cases at first, it should be increasingly intelligent as the individual or the nation progresses.

CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS IMITATION.—The much-quoted dictum that "all consciousness is motor" has a direct application to imitation. It only means that we have a tendency to act on whatever idea occupies the mind. Think of yawning or clearing the throat, and the tendency is strong to do these things. We naturally respond to smile with smile and to frown with frown. And even the impressions coming to us from our material environment have their influence on our acts. Our response to these ideas may be a conscious one, as when a boy purposely stutters in order to mimic an unfortunate companion; or it may be unconscious, as when the boy unknowingly falls into the habit of stammering from hearing this kind of speech. The child may consciously seek to keep himself neat and clean so as to harmonize with a pleasant and well-kept home, or he may unconsciously become slovenly and cross-tempered from living in an ill-kept home where constant bickering is the rule.

Often we deliberately imitate what seems to us desirable in other people, but probably far the greater proportion of the suggestions to which we respond are received and acted upon unconsciously. In conscious imitation we can select what models we shall imitate, and therefore protect ourselves in so far as our judgment of good and bad models is valid. In unconscious imitation, however, we are constantly responding to a stream of suggestions pouring in upon us hour after hour and day after day, with no protection but the leadings of our interests as they direct our attention now to this phase of our environment, and now to that.

INFLUENCE OF ENVIRONMENT.—No small part of the influences which mold our lives comes from our material environment. Good clothes, artistic homes, beautiful pictures and decoration, attractive parks and lawns, well-kept streets, well-bound books—all these have a direct moral and educative value; on the other hand, squalor, disorder, and ugliness are an incentive to ignorance and crime.

Hawthorne tells in "The Great Stone Face" of the boy Ernest, listening to the tradition of a coming Wise Man who one day is to rule over the Valley. The story sinks deep into the boy's heart, and he thinks and dreams of the great and good man; and as he thinks and dreams, he spends his boyhood days gazing across the valley at a distant mountain side whose rocks and cliffs nature had formed into the outlines of a human face remarkable for the nobleness and benignity of its expression. He comes to love this Face and looks upon it as the prototype of the coming Wise Man, until lo! as he dwells upon it and dreams about it, the beautiful character which its expression typifies grows into his own life, and he himself becomes the long-looked-for Wise Man.

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