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2. With distraction (10) 18

V. Maximum voluntary activity — tapping (S 30") 19

(The figures in parenthesis indicate the number of reactions, memory units
or experiments, in the test.)

"These tests were taken by 10 reagents, 8 of whom took training be-
tween the first and final series which were separated by an interval of



55 days. The first scries of tests occupied 12 days during a period of
36 days; the second, or final, 10 days during a period of 21 days. Each
pair of tests was separated by an interval of about 66 days.

"The pairs of tests were also taken by two reagents of a group of 21
control reagents. There were thus two sets of control reagents: The two
who took all the tests, and the 21 each of whom took only one pair or a
few pairs of tests." (Coovcr, '16.)

Different ones of the subjects took training in different material :

"During the SS-day interval between the tests, two reagents (MN.,
Le.) took training 18 days on Test 17; 25 1 2-letter- rectangles were pre-
sented daily, making in all 450 experiments each. Two reagents (Rt. and
SI.) took training 18 days on Test 13; 20 1 2-letter-rectangles were pre-
sented daily, aggregating 360 experiments each. One reagent (Ly.) took
training in simple reaction to sound for 11 days, 1,100 reactions in all.
(Le., who took training on test 17, also took training in this simple re-
action to the extent of about 500 reactions.) Two reagents (He., Cr.)
took training on memory schemes for about 14 days. And one reagent
(al.) took training on Test 17 for 8 days, almost consecutive, to the ex-
tent of 200 experiments."

The results obtained from the various end tests are rather intri-
cate and difficult to present in tabular form and somewhat doubtful
as to their meaning so far as improvement in attention is concerned.
Coover attempted to interpret their meaning from the standpoint
of control of attention by comparing the variability in the perform-
ance of the persons before and after training on the assumption that
reduction in variability indicated better attention. For a detailed
consideration, Coover's original report must be consulted. His
general conclusion was that "as a measure of attention our tests
are inadequate, and the question of transference of improved con-
ditions of attention remains open " (page 183).

g. Analysis and Ingenuity. Ruger ('10), in connection with his
study of learning to solve puzzles, made observations on transfer
of practice. His results are difficult to summarize in brief form.
It will have to suffice, therefore, to say that he enumerates general
factors of transfer in solving puzzles as follows: (a) The ideal of
efl5ciency, that is, "the active search for methods of control;"
(b) a high level of attention was a precondition of success; (c)
attitudes — "The change from the self-conscious to the problem-
attitude occurred sometimes automatically, and sometimes de-
liberately by means of an ideal. The most powerful stimulus to


change of attitude and so of its transfer was personal success; it
did not matter much whether it was accidental or planned;" (d)
methods of attack. As to special factors he mentions: (a) Related
ideas — "Geometrical concepts played an almost negligible part in
the work of solution; " "The greatest transfer in the way of related
ideas was that from similar puzzles; " (b) motor habits — "The mere
presence, in the case of change of conditions, of motor habits ap-
propriate to the new conditions did not necessitate positive trans-
fer," "The degree of positive transfer varied directly with the pre-
cision of analysis of the similarity of the new case to the old,"
*'In some cases a generalized formula developed in connection with
the first case was essential to effective transfer of motor habits to
later modifications of the first case," "Transfer was more effective
in those cases where the formula or general rule was developed in the
first few trials, and where the formation of perceptual-motor habits
had been controlled and inter-penetrated by it from the start,
than when the generalization had been arrived at after those habits
had been set up."

//. Cross Education. Cross education refers to the transfer of
practice from one organ of the body to bilaterally symmetrical
organs, as for example the spread of training from the right hand
to the left hand. A number of investigations have been made on
this problem which show that such transfer takes place to a very
great extent. Scripture, Smith, and Brown ('94) state that im-
provement in the strength of grip with one hand produced 80%
as much gain in the other. They also report that Volkmann found
that improvement in discrimination with the left arm was accom-
panied by approximately 80% as much gain in the other arm and
that other instances showed similar gains.

Davis ('98- '00) measured the effect of practice in tapping with
the right great toe upon the rate of tapping with the right hand,
the left hand and the left great toe. He found that the left toe
improved 151% as much as the right toe, with which the prac-
ticing had been done, the right hand 100% as much, and the left
hand 83% as much. He also found that practice in gripping a
dynamometer with the one hand improved the other about 70%
as much. Practice in hitting a target 100 times with the right hand
improved the left hand about 75% as much.

Woodworth ('99) reports that practice in hitting dots with the
left hand improved the right hand about 50% as much and Swift
found that practice in tossing balls with the right hand caused the


left hand afterwards to improve in the same exercise more rapidly
than it would otherwise have done.

The writer ('lo) measured the amount of transfer of improve-
ment in tracing with the right hand a star outline as seen in a
mirror to tracing the same outline with the left hand. The
test was made by having a tracing made first with the left hand,
then a series of 25 to 100 tracings with the right hand, and, at
the close, a tracing again with the left hand. The amount of
transfer to the left hand is approximately 90% of the total amount
of gain made by the right hand. The left hand improves nearly
as much as the right hand although all the practicing had
been done by the right hand. The results of experiments in cross
education are somewhat uncertain in their meaning so far as
transfer of training is concerned. Improvement in one organ,
which is uniformly accompanied by a very large improvement
in bilaterally symmetrical organs, is probably due to the fact that
many common processes are involved in doing a task with two
bilateral organs. For example, in practicing with the hands, many
of the same sensory and neural processes are involved. Thus, the
same visual processes and the same visual brain centers would be con-
cerned. Likewise, it is also probable that neural innervations going
to the right hand in practice also go to the left hand. These would
tend to improve the control of the left hand without actual practice
with the left hand. The data on cross education probably have
only a distant and doubtful bearing upon the problem of transfer.

Criticism of the Technique of Experiments on Transfer of Train-
ing. There are three important elements in the technique of
experimentation in this field which have not been recognized by
investigators from the beginning and are not recognized by all
investigators even to-day. (i) The first is the length of the end
tests. These have been too long in some investigations to give
as full opportunity as possible to transference. This was one
of the difficulties in James' original experiment and was recog-
nized by James himself. (2) In the second place, the end tests
have not always been repeated on a control group of subjects.
This is true of nearly all of the early studies. (3) In the third place,
many investigations do not mention the amount of improvement
made in the training series itself with which the gain in the end
tests may be compared. Failure to observe these precautions
makes impossible an accurate, quantitative interpretation of
many of the early researches and even of some of the recent ones.


Summary. It may perhaps be unwise in view of the intricacy
of the researches and their partial incongruity to attempt to sum-
marize general conclusions. However, a brief resume will help
to clarify the reader's thinking about these problems, (i) Practi-
cally every investigation shows that improvement in one mental
or neural function is accompanied by a greater or less amount of
modification in other functions. (2) This modification is in most
instances a positive transfer, that is, an improvement. Negative
transfer, that is, loss of efficiency in other functions, or interference,
has been reported principally among sensori-motor habits. (3)
The amount of improvement in the capacity trained is probably
never accompanied by an equal amount of improvement in other
capacities, with the possible exception of a few isolated instances
whose actuality may be questioned. Thus, for example, Thorndike
and Woodworth found that the gain in various types of perception
or discrimination closely related to the type in which the training
took place was from 0% to about 40% as great as that made in
the particular kind of perception trained. In memory, Fracker's
results showed that the improvement in different sorts of memoriz-
ing, so similar to the training series that they were all but identical
with it, was about 75% as much as that made in the training
series; while the improvement made in the forms of memory rather
different from the training series was only about 15% as much
as that in the training series. Up to about 1890 when James re-
ported the first investigation on the problem of transference, it
was tacitly assumed by many writers that a very large share, if
not all, of the training derived from one sort of exercise was carried
over to other sorts of exercise. After the first investigations be-
came generally known, many writers went to the other extreme
and assumed that all training is entirely specialized and that
nothing carries over from one kind of practice to any other kind
of practice. As a general estimate, on the basis of experimental
work done thus far, the amount of transference between the ex-
tremes of 100% and 0% of transfer lies nearer to the zero end and
is probably in the neighborhood of 20% to 30% of transfer to
closely allied functions and from that point on down to 0% of
transference to more unlike functions. (4) In the fourth place, the
improvement spread to other functions diminishes very rapidly
in amount as these other functions become more and more un-
like the function specifically trained. This diminution occurs at a
surprisingly rapid rate.


How Does the Transfer Take Place? If improvement in one
mental function is accompanied by, or produces improvement in,
other functions, how may the change in these other mental func-
tions be explained? How does change in one function carry over
to others? Two general theories have been proposed: (i) The
theory of identical elements or special connections, and (2) the
theory of generalization or common capacities.

The theory of identical elements has been advocated by Thorn-
dike and may best be stated in his own words:

"The answer which I shall try to defend is that a change in one func-
tion alters any other only in so far as the two functions have as factors
identical elements. The change in the second function is in amount that
due to the change in the elements common to it and the first. The
change is simply the necessary result upon the second function of the
alteration of those of its factors which were elements of the first function,
and so were altered by its training. To take a concrete example, im-
provement in addition will alter one's ability in multiplication because
addition is absolutely identical with a part of multiplication and because
certain other processes, — e. g., eye movements and the inhibition of all
save arithmetical impulses, — are in part common to the two functions.

"Chief amongst such identical elements of practical importance in
education are associations including ideas about aims and ideas of method
and general principles, and associations involving elementary facts of
experience such as length, color, number, which are repeated again and
again in differing combinations.

"By identical elements are meant mental processes which have the'
same cell action in the brain as their physical correlate. It is of course j
often not possible to tell just what features of two mental abilities are
thus identical. But, as we shall see, there is rarely much trouble in
reaching an approximate decision in those cases where training is of
practical importance." (Thorndike,'i4, II, pp. 358-359.)

The theory of generalization has been advocated by Judd in
the following manner:

"The important psychological fact ... is that the extent to which
a student generalizes his training is itself a measure of the degree
to which he has secured from any course the highest form of training.
One of the major characteristics of human intelligence is to be de-
fined by calling attention, as was pointed out in the chapter on science,
to the fact that a human being is able to generalize his experience.
James has discussed this matter by using the example of the animal
trained to open a particular latch. The animal becomes acquainted with


the necessary movements to open one door, but he never has the abihty
to generalize this experience. He cannot see that the same method of
opening doors is appHcable to many other latches. The result is that the
animal goes through life with one particular narrow mode of behavior,
and exhibits his lack of intelligence by his inability to carry this single
type of skill over to the other cases which are very familiar to the trained
human intelligence.

"James goes on to say that the same distinction appears when we con-
trast a trained scientific mind with the ordinary mind. The ordinary
thinker does not see how to deal with a situation in terms of scientific
principles. James cites the example of his own experience with a smoking
student-lamp. He discovered by accident that the lamp would not
smoke if he put something under the chimney so as to increase the air
current, but he did not realize that what he had done was only one par-
ticular example of the general principle that combusion is favored by a
large supply of oxygen. The general principle and its useful application
belong to a sphere of thinking and experience which the untrained lay-
man has not yet mastered." (Judd, '15, pp. 413-414.)

The theory of identical elements is based on the doctrine that
learning or changes in mental capacities consist of the establish-
ment of specific connections or associations between various
specific elements. One form of exercise has influence upon another
capacity whenever connections established in the former may also
be used in the latter. In a certain sense the theory of identical
elements describes or explains transfer of training in a tangible,
concrete manner. In a certain other sense it does not explain
transfer of training at all or else it implies that there is no general
training in the sense in which formal disciplinarians use the term.
If special training is general or helps in performing various mental
activities only to the extent to which the special training has
elements in it which occur also in these other activities then there
is no spread of training to such activities in which no elements
are found which also appear in the capacity specifically trained.
The formal disciplinarian assumes that training of one sort affects
capacities of other sorts irrespective of identical elements or simi-
larity to the activities developed. In the last analysis the contro-
versy comes down to a question of fact, namely, to how dissimilar
activities does any given form of training spread? The theory of
identical elements, when the term identical elements is used in a
liberal manner, has the advantage of describing the situation in con-
crete, definite concepts and lends itself fairly well to the interpreta-
tion of experimental results. The discussion of the formal discipli-


narian is usually not in as tangible terms but is likely not to be very
different from the statements of the experimentalist when the former
reduces his argument to specific terms.

The theory of generalization attempts to explain spread of
improvement in terms of the recognition of application of an ex-
perience obtained in one connection to other connections and is
probably more satisfactory to the formal discipHnarian. In the
author's opinion there is no necessary opposition between the
theory of identical elements and the theory of generalization.
The essential difference is in the emphasis upon the conscious rec-
ognition of identical elements in as many situations as possible.
Judd has emphasized this in connection with teaching:

"The first and most striking fact which is to be drawn from school
experience is that one and the same subject-matter may be employed
with one and the same student with wholly different effects, according to
the mode of presentation. If the lesson is presented in one fashion it
will produce a very large transfer; whereas if it is presented in an entirely
different fashion it will be utterly barren of results for other phases of
mental life. It is quite possible to take one of the objects of nature study,
for example, and to teach it in such a way that it becomes an isolated and
utterly formal possession of the student. This has been illustrated time
and time again by the instruction which has been given in birds and
plants. A teacher can teach birds and plants in such a way as to arouse a
minimum of ideas in the student's mind. The training may be as formal
in these content subjects as it ever was in language instruction. On the
other hand, the same subject-matter may be taken by a different teacher,
and under other methods can be made vital for the student's whole
thinking. Thus the teacher who is dealing with birds as a subject of
nature study and secures an interest on the part of his students for the
world in which these birds live, through an examination of the structures
and habits of the birds, will have in this subject-matter one of the most
broadly interesting topics that can be taught. In exactly the same way a
teacher who knows how to make use of the materials given in a Latin
course may render this subject very broadly productive, as contrasted
with the teacher who merely gives the formal aspects of the subject.
Formalism and lack of transfer turn out to be not characteristics of sub-
jects of instruction, but rather products of the mode of instruction in
these subjects." (Judd, '15, pp. 412-413.)

It seems then that the two theories are not necessarily antagonis-
tic but when sanely interpreted are useful supplements to each
other. The theory of identical elements has helped to make the


discussion of formal discipline or transfer of training concrete, and
the theory of generalization will help to emphasize the conscious
recognition of the identical elements in as many situations as
possible. Some writers have assumed that transfer is limited
to a conscious recognition of elements. This, however, is dis-
proved by some experiments with human beings and particularly
by the experiments with animals such as those reported by Webb.




To what extent does the training of the capacities exercised by
school subjects carry over to capacities concerned in other school
subjects, and especially to the capacities involved in the usual
activities of life? This question brings the problem of transfer-
ence of training directly face to face with the issues of education
and is the form in which it is usually concerned in discussions of
mental discipline. It is of more special concern to the liberal
phases of education in the high school and the college for the reason
that the subjects taught in the elementary school, in the vocational
courses in the high school, and in the professional courses in the
university are directly pertinent to the common needs of life or
to the various occupations and professions. Most of the discus-
sion has, therefore, centered about the training value to be de-
rived from the traditional academic work of the high school and
the college.

General ©pinions. The beliefs concerning transfer of training of
the capacities employed in school subjects have been largely matters
of opinion and not matters of fact. These opinions, held by persons
prominent in educational affairs, have been for the most part
rather uniformly confident in the faith that the exercise of the
mind upon the materials of the school subjects produces a very
profound improvement in mental powers as a whole. Typical of
such opinions are the following:

"But my opinions of the supreme educational value of the great dis-
ciplinary studies have not changed, and will never change.

"As a result of my long experience in watching their effects on our
students I am absolutely and irrevocably sure that certain subjects train
in thinking straight and reasoning clearly.

"I am absolutely sure that Latin and Greek, higher mathematics,
philosophy, the critical study of the literatures of different nations (and
the better the literature, the better the training it gives, Greek, Latin,
English, and French literatures leading all others in this respect, and in
the order named), economics and politics, especially on their theoretical



side, and English composition are thinking subjects of very high educa-
tional value." (Thomas, M. C, " Old Fashioned Disciplines," Journal
of the Association of Collegiate Almmice, May, 1917, p. 588.)

In connection with the Classical Conference at Ann Arbor,
Michigan, 1909, Dr. Harvey Wiley sent out questions to 100
scientific men asking what they considered to be the value of Latin
and Greek as preparation for scientific pursuits. He received 35
replies distributed as follows:

Favorable to the study of Latin and Greek 14

Unfavorable to the study of Latin and Greek 17

Favorable to Latin, but not to Greek 4

Among the opinions expressed in this connection, Professor
R. P. Biglow made this statement:

"To summarize my opinions in the matter of a scientific education, it
seems to me that the essentials are of two classes: First, a thorough
training in the use of the tools required by a scientific man, namely, the
modern languages and mathematics; second, a training in the scientific
method, especially as applied to the branch of science in which he desires
to specialize. If to the curriculum, the studies of classics can be added
without interfering with these essentials, then it seems to me that in some
cases it would be desirable as a means of culture."

Professor Neff of the University of Chicago regretted the time
he spent on Latin and Greek:

"I think everyone realizes as he grows older that he has his limitations.
I, for one, regret very keenly that I took a great deal of Latin and Greek
and did not spend far more time on advanced mathematics and physics.
I am, however, not now wasting any time in vain or useless regrets on
this account, but simply doing the best I can with the knowledge that I
have acquired."

The opinions of prominent business men were reported at the
same conference:

Mr. WiUiam Sloane, a New York business man:

"I believe that the slow processes of translation of the classics make
good training for the boy who has chosen a business career."

The Hon. J. W. Foster, of Washington:

"The mere routine labors of the translation of Greek and Latin authors
into one's vernacular, the effort to ascertain their exact meaning and the


choice of the words which correctly express that meaning, constitute a
mental training which will be invaluable to the future lawyer or public

Probably the most notable assemblage of opinions ever brought
together was that presented at the conference on classical studies
held at Princeton University in June, 1917.^ These opinions were
quoted from some 300 persons prominent in public hfe, business,

Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 18 of 41)