Daniel Starch.

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The preparation of this book has been carried out according to
two fundamental purposes: First, to present that material which
seems to be most useful and relevant to the problems of educa-
tional psychology; and second, to maintain a strictly experimental,
scientific viewpoint in discussing these problems. The result of
these aims has been a considerable reduction in the amount of
space usually devoted in texts on educational psychology to cer-
tain topics such as, instinct, fatigue, and imagery, and the inclusion
of new topics such as tests of intelligence, studying, transference
of training in school subjects, the assignment of marks, and much
of the material in Part III which has as yet not found a place in

The space devoted to the discussion of instinct has been ma-
terially reduced for two reasons: In the first place, while the in-
stincts are fundamental in human life, too much time has usually
been devoted to their consideration for the amount of direct
benefit gained. The actual use in school work that can be made
of a detailed knowledge of instincts, which in our present stage
of information is largely analytical and theoretical, is relatively
small when it comes to dealing face to face with concrete school
problems. In the second place, a great deal of experimental
and statistical material has accumulated in recent years which is
more immediately valuable in solving the problems of the psy-
chology and pedagogy of learning.

It would have been desirable to include a discussion of the
psychology of more of the high school subjects; but this is impossi-
ble at the present time. The discussion of the school subjects in
Part III has been confined to tangible, scientific investigations.
Obviously there is little or no material of this sort on most of the
high school subjects. The consideration of educational tests in
the chapters of Part III is perhaps brief; but a detailed treatment
of the theoretical and statistical principles underlying their con-
struction belongs rather in special treatises. Chapter XII on
How to Study is not altogether satisfactory, because of the scar-
city of definite or substantial material in this field. It was, how-


ever, included because the topic is exceedingly important in school
work and because it was hoped that its inclusion would stimulate
discussion of it by teachers and prospective teachers.

I take pleasure in expressing my obligations to the persons who
have assisted me in various ways in the preparation of this book;
namely, to Dr. Helen Hubbert Caldwell and Mr. A. O. Hansen,
who have read the manuscript and offered many helpful sugges-
tions, to Mr. W. R. Ames who has prepared the drawings, and
especially to Dr. C. L. Hull who has critically examined every
portion of the manuscript and has offered many suggestions which
have been incorporated in the book.

Daniel Starch.
Madison, Wisconsin,

October 5, 191 8.


Chapter page

I. Problems and Scope of Educational Psychology i

Part I. The Native Equipment of Human Beings

II. The Instinctive Elements of Native Equipment 9

III. Variation in Human Capacities 26

IV. Correlation Among Human Capacities 49

V. Sex Differences 63

VI. THeTniaeritance of Mental Traits 73

j^^U. The Measurement of Mental Capacities 97

Part II. The Psychology op Learning: A. In General

VIII. Analysis of Problem^ 115

IX. The Reception of Stimuli: A. Sensory Defects 121

X. The Reception of Stim<uH: B. Perception and Observation of

Sensory Material. . . N 132

XL The Rate and Progress of Learning 141

XIL How to Study 176

XIII. Transference of Training in Special Mental Functions 191

XIV. Transference of Training in Abilities in School Subjects 217

Part III. The Psychology of Learning: B. Of School Subjects

XV. The Psychology of Learning School Subjects 259

XVI. Reading 261

X XVlI. Handwriting 297

XVIII. Spelling •• . . 322

XIX. Language 349

XX. Arithmetic 374

XXI. History 416

XXII. Marks as Measures of School Work 426

Bibliography 451

Index ,.,.,.....,., 465





"What is Education? The problems and the scope of educational
psychology are necessarily determined by our conception of what
education is. If we conceive education to be primarily self-devel-
opment, our problems will be of one sort; if we conceive education
to be fundamentally social adaptation, our problems will be of
another sort. In the former case, education would mean the
complete training of the mental and physical capacities irrespective
of environment; in the latter case, education would mean the
training of those capacities which will adapt the individual most
adequately to the social and physical environment in which he is
to live. For our present purpose it is not necessary to define in
complete detail the aim and meaning of education. It will be
sufficient to state in the simplest terms what education is as a
psychological process.

In the broadest sense, education is the production of useful
changes in human beings. ^ These changes may be classified into
three divisions: changes in knowledge, in skill, and in ideals.
Through education the child is to acquire useful knowledge; he is
to acquire skill, both motor and intellectual, in the use of his
muscles and in the manipulation of ideas and concepts; and,
finally, he is to acquire the right ideals of life which will actually
function in his behavior. Probably all changes wrought in human
beings which in any sense are educational, fall under these three
heads. Obviously then, education is the most momentous, as well
as the most essential, business of the human race; for the welfare
of the race depends upon education as it depends upon nothing

^ Thorndike has defined the purpose of education thus: "The aim of education is, as
we have seen, to change human beings for the better, so that they will have more humane
and useful wants and be more able to satisfy them." ('12, p. 52.)


Which changes are useful and which are not is a question that
cannot be answered as easily as it would seem at first glance.
Learning to read or to figure are obviously useful modifications;
but it is not so easy to say whether the study of a given drama, or
the knowledge of certain facts of history, or the understanding of
a certain theory of matter, or ability to read a given foreign lan-
guage, are useful, or sufficiently useful to be included in the com-
mon school, in the high school, or in the university. The term
useful should not be limited narrowly to the things which are
immediately applicable in making a li\-ing, but should include
all changes which will broaden and enrich the life of the in-

The Problems of Educational Psychology. In accordance with
our definition, the fundamental problems that we must raise
concerning education are as follows:

1. What changes are to be made in human beings?

2. What are the agencies by which the changes may be brought

3. What are the capacities which human beings possess for
acquiring the changes?

4. What are the most economical methods by which these
changes may be brought about?

The first problem is primarily a problem for philosophy and
sociology. What changes are ultimately to be made depends upon
our ideals of life and our views of society. The modifications
that have been sought by different nations and different sys-
tems of education have varied from century to century and
from race to race. The ultimate aims of education sought by
the ancient Greeks or by the mediaeval monks were very
different from those sought by the modern Americans or

The second problem deals primarily with the value of school
subjects and exercises in bringing about the changes that are to be
made. To what extent will the study of arithmetic, the study of
grammar, or the study of physics or Latin be able to produce the
training that philosophy and sociology dictate? This problem is
partly sociological and partly psychological. It is sociological in
so far as the determination of educational agencies depends upon
the physical and social environment of mankind; it is psychological
in so far as it necessitates a study of mental processes affected or


brought about by these agencies. This latter phase of the problem
merges into problems three and four.

Problems three and four are fundamentally psychological and,
together with the second phase of problem two, constitute the
main scope of educational psychology. It is a psychological prob-
lem to determine what capacity and equipment human beings
have for acquiring the changes that are to be made. Likewise, it
is fundamentally a psychological problem to discover the most
economical methods of learning. Accordingly, the field of edu-
cational psychology is divided into two large divisions which we
may designate as:

I. The native equipment of human beings;

II. The psychology of learning.

Psychology and Teaching. Methods of teaching rest funda-
mentally upon the psychology of learning.. Since the experimental
analysis of learning processes will have td reveal the principles ac-
cording to which the human mind learns, and learns most economic-
ally, it follows that the methods of teaching will have to be based
upon these discoveries. This may be illustrated in the case of
reading. /If the child learns to read most economically by the word
method, it follows that the most economical way of teaching read-
ing would be by the word method. Likewise, if a child learns to
spell homonyTiis more easily by studying them together, or memo-
rizes prose or poetry more readily by wholes than by parts, it follows
that these exercises should be taught accordingly. Evidently the
fundamental principles of teaching must be based upon the psy-
chological laws and principles of economic learning.

"Waste in Education. Exact information concerning the proper
procedure in educational matters is exceedingly rare. Definite,
scientific knowledge of the proper methods of learning and teaching
school subjects and of the efficient administration of our schools
is surprisingly small, and the field of educational psychology in its
broadest sense opens up endless problems for the future to solve.
We know relatively little in a scientific way about the learning of
any single school subject. For example, we do not know with any
definite assurance what is the most economical amount of time to
devote to any one of the school subjects. From such investigations
as have been made, we may infer that there is an enormous waste
in our educational practices which is indicated by such facts as the
following: It has been found by recent tests and measurements


that some schools obtain just as good results by devoting only
one-half as much time to writing as other schools do. Similar facts
have been brought out in the case of reading, arithmetic and other
school subjects. Schools which have devoted as much as loo
minutes a week, or 20 minutes a day, have obtained no better re-
sults than other schools devoting 50 minutes a week, or 10 minutes
a day, to the same subject. If these facts actually represent the
real possibilities, it seems quite obvious that there is an enormous
waste in our schools and this waste is far greater than we realize
until we make definite calculations of the possible saving of time.
If by some means it were possible to save one minute a day for
every school day during the eight years of a child's school life,
we would be able to save one entire week of school time. If we
could save four minutes a day for the same length of time, we
would be able to save one month; if we were able to save 18 min-
utes a day, we would be able to save one-half of a school year; and
if by more economical methods of learning and distribution of
time we were able to save 36 minutes a day for eight years, we
would be able to save an entire school year. Such a saving is not
impossible; indeed, by a better use of time and more effective
methods of learning, it is highly probable. Eighteen minutes a
day would mean a reduction of only 4^ minutes in each of four
subjects; 36 minutes a day would mean a reduction of only 9
minutes a day in each of four subjects. This time could be de-
voted with greater advantage to other and possibly more advanced
school subjects and school exercises.

The Specific Topics and Problems. In order that we may be
properly orientated with reference to the problems that will be
discussed under the two large divisions of educational psychology,
the following order of topics will be considered:

I. The native equipment of human beings.

a. What does it consist of?

b. To what extent does it vary?

1. Among individuals.

(a) In single traits.

(b) In combinations and relationships of traits.

2. At different times of life in the same individual.

3. Between the sexes.

c. To what extent is it inherited?

d. How may it be measured?



II. The Psychology of Learning.

a. The psychology of learning in general.

1. Observation and perception.

2. The rate and progress of learning.

3. Transference of training.

b. The psychology of learning school subjects in particular.

1. The psychological processes involved in each subject.

2. The measurement of ability and progress in learning

each subject.

3. The most economical methods of learning the material

of each subject.



Reflexes, Instincts, and Capacities. The equipment with
which human beings start in hfe may be divided into three types
of inherited responses and abilities: Reflexes, instincts, and capaci-
ties. The distinction among these three is primarily one of definite-
ness and degree of complexity. An instinct may be defined from
the neurological side as an inborn neural connection between sense
organ and muscle. It may be defined from the functional side
as an inborn capacity of responding in definite ways under definite
circumstances. These responses are prior to experience and train-
ing, and need not be learned. To close the eyes when an object
suddenly approaches them, to get food when hungry, to strike
when struck, and to be afraid of thunder and of the dark, are illus-
trations of instinctive responses. The reflexive and instinctive
responses are inherited in the sense that there is present in the
nervous system, either at the time of birth or later on as a result
of growth, a set of nervous connections already formed for the
carrying out of a particular action in response to a given situation.
If the child closes his eyes when an object suddenly approaches,
it means that the motor impulses travel from the retina to the
visual center of the brain, from there to the motor center which
controls the movement of the eyelids, and from there out to the
muscles of the eyelids to cause the contraction. In the case of
inherited responses, the connection from the sensory to the motor
centers is already present and ready to operate in carrying out
the action. In the case of acquired responses, such as habits,
these nervous connections must be formed as a result of effort
and trial on the part of the individual.

The difference between reflexes and instincts is largely a differ-
ence of complexity. Both are inherited types of responses. Re-
flexes are simpler forms of reaction usually involving a limited set
of muscles and occurring in response to precise stimuli. The
contraction or expansion of the iris, the closing of the eyelids, the
knee jerk, are illustrations of reflexes. Instincts are complex re-


actions involving the use of la,rge groups of muscles or, in many
instances, the entire muscular system of the body. They may be
aroused either by external stimuli or situations or possibly by
internal stimulation. To make movements in the direction of
getting food when hungry, to seek shelter when cold, to offer re-
sistance when hemmed in, to spit out what tastes bad, and the
like, are instinctive reactions. Capacities are distinguished from
reflexes and instincts in being general mental abilities rather than
specific motor responses and in referring primarily to the native
mental equipment, such as the powers of sensation, perception,
retention, attention, imagination, and all the varied complex
psychic processes.

Classification of Instinctive Responses. The older classifica-
tions of instincts usually divided them into three or four large
groups of responses, such as individual, racial, and social, and re-
garded them rather as general tendencies than as specific responses.
The present conception of instincts is to regard them as specific
responses with inherited neural mechanisms which will be set
into action by specific stimuli or situations. On this basis the
classification consists of an enumeration of as many definite, identi-
fiable, unlearned reactions to specific situations as can be observed
and as can be recognized in human beings prior to training and
habituation in each particular type of activity. Accordingly,
Thomdike ('14, 1) enumerates forty or more different types of in-
stinctive reactions as follows:

1. Food getting and protective responses.

1. Eating.

2. Reaching, grasping, and putting objects into the


3. Acquisition and possession.

4. Hunting.

5. Collecting and hoarding.

6. Avoidance and repulsion.

7. Rivalry and cooperation.

8. Habitation.

9. Response to confinement.

10. Migration and domestici;.y.

11. Fear.

12. Fighting.

13. Anger.


II. Responses to behavior of other human beings.

14. Motherly behavior,

15. Gregariousness.

16. Responses of attention to other human beings.

17. Attention getting.

18. Responses to approving and to scornful behavior.

19. Responses by approving and scornful behavior.

20. Mastering and submissive behavior.

21. Display.

22. Shyness.

23. Self-conscious behavior.

24. Sex behavior.

25. Secretiveness.

26. Rivalry.

27. Cooperation.

28. Suggestibility and opposition.

29. Envious and jealous behavior,

30. Greed.

31. Ownership.

32. Kindliness.

;^^. Teasing, tormenting, and bullying.

34. Imitation.

III. Minor bodily movements and cerebral connections.

35. Vocalizations. -

36. Visual exploration.

37. Manipulation.
^8. Cleanliness.

39. Curiosity.

40. Multiform mental activities.

41. Multiform physical activities.

42. Play.

Relation of Education to Native Endowment. The inherited
equipment of the human being is the foundation upon which educa-
tion must build; it consists of the faculties and capacities which
the child has for reacting to his environment. It is the utilization,
the training or the curbing of these endowments which education
attempts to accomplish. In much of the writing and thinking con-
cerning educational problems, there has been a relative overem-
phasis, in space and time, upon instincts and an underemphasis upon
the mental capacities. Education in the sense of schooling has as


much if not more to do with the latter than with the former. The
direct appeal to, and use of, instinctive reactions in actual concrete
instances in school work are not as frequent and specific as is com-
monly implied. The number of instincts enumerated in the pre-
ceding list which may be directly and concretely appealed to in the
learning of a school subject is relatively small. The best way to be
convinced on this point is to take the various instincts one by one,
and to determine to what extent each one may be appealed to or
used in teaching the various subjects. The number of specific
applications is much smaller than one is likely to anticipate. Two-
thirds or three-fourths of them are probably never immediately
but only indirectly concerned in school exercises, and most of the
remaining ones, such as rivalry, cooperation, collecting and hoard-
ing, are serviceable chiefly as general motives. As such they are,
to be sure, highly important.

We must, of course, not minimize the place and importance of
instinctive reactions in behavior as a whole. They furnish the
general motives and mechanisms for doing and learning, but the
mental capacities are more directly and concretely involved in the
acquisition of knowledge and skill in school subjects.

The instinctive elements in learning any school subject are for
the most part simple reflex actions or undeveloped connections.
Take learning to read as an illustration. The chief instinctive
elements probably are the reflexes in the control of the eyes, the
neural mechanism for receiving and transmitting visual impulses
to the brain, the capacities for attentiveness and retentiveness,
and partial motor control of the speech organs. The process of
learning to read assumes these and uses them; but, what is
more important from the practical side of getting the meaning
of the printed word is the establishment of countless new con-

Perhaps the most important role of instinct in education lies
in jnoliYaling and energizing the learning processes. There can
be no education except through the activity of the child himself;
and no activity can take place which does not ultimately depend
upon native tendencies. They are the origin of effort, the springs of
action. The skillful teacher plays upon them and appeals to them
in countless ways. The ability to do this is an art which is not
easily learned from books; it is acquired rather by patient practice
and by sympathetic contact with children.

The energizing power of instinct makes itself felt largely through


its control of the attention processes. Owing to the peculiarities
of our inherited nervous organization, certain impressions have a
potency over others in attracting the attention and interest of the
child. A flash of lightning, a holiday parade, one's name in the
newspaper, or a moving picture make certain instinctive appeals to
the attention of a young girl which the study-lamp, the doing of
errands for mother, the seeing of a stranger's name in the newspaper,
or the reading of the history lesson do not make. The great im-
portance of attention for the learning process lies in the fact that
associations, analyses, and indeed all mental processes are carried
out much more effectively when they occupy the focus of attention.
Ebbi nrrhmis found that, after inattentively reading over nonsense
syllables until many successive persons had learned them per-
fectly, he himself could repeat very few of them. Impressions
must occupy the focus of consciousness in order to be retained

Considering the three main types of attention, passive, active,
and secondary passive, the most simple and the one most directly
related to the instinctive life is probably the first. Passive atten-
tion is such as one gives spontaneously to any curious or interesting
sight or sound. Active attention is such as one gives perhaps to an
inherently distasteful task which requires an efTort of will to keep
the mind upon it. While such a task itself does not supply the
stimulus for vigorous instinctive reaction, it is in some direct way
connected with one that does. A little girl will apply herself to the
disagreeable task of learning a spelling lesson, not because the
words in themselves have any charm for her but because she has
the instinctive craving for the approval of her teacher. The third
type of attention, secondary passive or derived attention, is at-
tention which has become passive only after having passed through
an initial active stage. It is illustrated by the common experience
of becoming absorbed in a task which at first required a distinct
effort. In the beginning the motivation lay outside the task, say
in a sense of duty or social obligation; but after a time an adequate
stimulus for activity was encountered in the work itself.

Apparently back of every act of attention lies somewhere a more
or less primitive, innate tendency to action. To focus the atten-

Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 1 of 41)