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tion of a class upon various associations involved in learning the
multiplication table, a skillful teacher may on one day appeal to
curiosity in the novelty of the combinations; on another day she
may appeal to the native pleasure in rhythm by making the table



14 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

into a rhyme or song. Or the tendency to play will be utilized by
making the number combinations into a game. More than likely
the game itself will depend upon instinctive rivalry and emulation.
The love of social approval is appealed to by giving distinctions,
marks, gilt stars, and the like. Future advantage may be used as
an inducement for present application. The instinct of pugnacity
may be utilized in wanting to succeed in a hard task. The teacher
herself, in standing position with face and body in animated
attitudes, may appeal to the fundamental interest in change and
action. Lastly may be mentioned the more doubtful negative
motives of deprivation from coveted privileges and, biologically
perhaps the most fundamental and powerful of all motives, physical
pain. It may be worth noting that animal psychologists have
found pain in some cases a more potent motive to learning than
pleasure. Hoge and Stocking ('12) found that rats when rewarded
by food alone had by no means learned perfectly certain sensory
habits in 610 trials; when they were punished for failures they
learned the habits perfectly in this number of trials, but when
they were both rewarded for successes and punished for failures
they learned the habits perfectly in 530 trials.

Educational Doctrines Based upon Instincts. Some very far-
reaching speculations and theories with regard to the nature and
value of instincts for education have been spun out, some of which
are largely imaginary and questionable, and are based upon analogy
rather than fact. For the most part these educational doctrines
have centered around three concepts.

The first is that instincts are the great dynamic forces of hiunan
nature which determine the actions, desires, and achievements in an
individual's life. Hence the injunction to the school has been to
work with nature rather than against her or apart from her. We
shall call this the dynamic theory of instincts.

The second is that these instincts are highly transitory; that they
burst out at certain times in the growth of the individual with
more or less dramatic force and suddenness, and that if they are
not allowed to manifest themselves, they will disappear never to be
revived again. From this assumption has been derived the peda-
gogical application of the maxim, "strike while the iron is hot."
This is the theory of the transitoriness of instincts.

The third is that instincts appear in the growth of the child in
the order in which they appeared in the evolution of the race. From
this assumption has been derived the pedagogical maxim, "teach



INSTINCTIVE ELEMENTS OF NATIVE EQUIPMENT 1 5

the child his activities in the order in which the interests for
them appear," This is known as the recapitulation theory of
instincts.

^ritintip. - of the Dynamic Theory of Instincts. To work with
nature rather than against her is undoubtedly a sound principle.
The fundamental instincts of man are the driving forces of human
life that determine ultimately the motives and causes of behavior.
They are so deep-seated in the human psychophysical organism
that we may almost say that to work apart from, or against, nature
is a futile task. If, through the instinct of multiform activities, a
child manifests a tendency to draw, the school should take ad-
vantage of this original impulse and build upon it. All the original
manifestations of a child's nature should be used in the acquisi-
tion and training of those exercises which education considers
valuable.

This dynamic theory of instincts, however, involves on the one
hand a difficulty and on the other a questionable assumption. The
difficulty is that the principle is general and as such does not point
out the particular ways in which the school may cooperate with the
inborn forces of child nature. It is easy enough to say "work with
nature," but just how is that to be done in teaching a pupil how to
make the letter "a," or to learn the reading of a printed word, or to
acquire correct speech, or to learn the grammatical rules of a foreign
language? Ultimately, the concrete use of the principle must be
determined experimentally. Our definite knowledge of the tech-
nique of learning in the case of school subjects is appallingly limited.
Only by careful and painstaking experimentation can this principle
be made useful in the concrete work of the school in anything more
than an offhand impressionistic manner.

The questionable assumption is that the instincts are infallible
guides of human life. It may be argued that since instincts are
such powerful springs to action as to have maintained the individual
and the race for numberless generations, they must necessarily be
dependable in producing action and interest of the right sort. But
the question may fairly be raised: Are the native tendencies always
right so that we should always cooperate with them and never coun-
teract or curb them? The theory of the infallibility of instincts is
based on tht, belief that for countless ages nature has found by ex-
perimentation and natural selection what is best for the individual.
Whatever the child is inclined to do l^y virtue of his natural pro-
clivities is right and good for him; or, if apparently not useful, it is a



1 6 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

necessary precursor or a necessary accompaniment of useful tenden-
cies. On the theory of immunization or catharsis, the undesirable
tendencies prepare the ground for the proper development and
growth of the desirable ones.\ However, the theory of catharsis
is highly questionable and runs counter to the law of use and disuse
which in general operates to the effect of making permanent the
functions exercised. The belief is that if a boy has proclivities
toward thieving or lying or dishonesty, and is allowed to exercise
these unconstrained, he will purge himself of these tendencies and
be the more honest and truthful later on in life. Concrete data,
however, in addition to the general principle of use and disuse, seem
to point in the opposite direction. Experimental and statistical
inquiries show that the relative strength of the various traits
remains fairly constant throughout life; that if a child manifests
certain abilities and tendencies even during childhood, these abili-
ties and tendencies will remain relatively dominant during his adult
life. Early interests and intellectual capacities are very certain, on
the whole, of being prophecies of similar interests and intellectual
abilities later in life. As will be pointed out in a succeeding chapter,
scholastic ability remains fairly constant in any given child all
through his educational career.

Furthermore, we must remember that nature, in the develop-
ment of instincts and in securing adaptation to environment,
works on the whole in a very slow and prodigal manner; and that
conditions of life may change long before the organism through its
behavior appropriately adapts itself to the surroundings by fur-
nishing the 'necessary native equipment within the organism. On
this account a great deal of our native equipment is out of date and
has adapted man to primitive conditions of uncivilized life. As a
result of this, we manifest many tendencies which are not par-
ticularly useful at the present time. We would be better off if in
place of them we had instinct! ve'capaci ties for meeting situations
with which we are to-day confronted in civilized life. As Thorn-
dike has pointed out:

"The imperfections and misleadings of original nature are in fact
many and momentous. The common good requires that each child
learn countless new lessons and unlearn a large fraction of his natural
birthright. The main reason for this is that original equipment is archaic,
adapting the human animal for the life that might be led by a family
group of wild men in the woods, amongst the brute forces of land, water,
wind, rain, plants, animals, and other groups of wild men. The life to



INSTINCTIVE ELEMENTS OF NATIVE EQUIPMENT 1 7

which original nature adapts man is probably far more like the life of
the wolf or ape, than like the life that now is, as a result of human art,
habit and reasoning, perpetuating themselves in language, tools, build-
ings, books and customs." ('14, I, p. 280.)

That these primitive tendencies persist with great strength is
shown by the ready manner in which the veneer of civilization comes
off and by the fact that men and women in strained circumstances
will easily revert to their primitive, brutal instincts. The chief ad-
vocate of the theory of infallibility and catharsis of instincts has
been G. Stanley Hall, who has said:

"In education, don't cut off the tadpole's tail."

"Rousseau would leave prepubcscent years to nature and to these
primal hereditary impulsions and allow the fundamental traits of savagery
their fling till twelve. Biological psychology finds many and cogent
reasons to confirm this view if only a proper environment could be pro-
vided. The child revels in savagery; and if its tribal, predatory, hunting,
fishing, fighting, roving, idle, playing proclivities could be indulged in
the country and under conditions that now, alas! seem hopelessly ideal,
they could conceivably be so organized and directed as to be far more
truly humanistic and liberal than all that the best modern school can
provide. Rudimentary organs of the soul, now suppressed, perverted, or
delayed, to crop out in menacing forms later, would be developed in
their season so that we should be immune to them in maturer years, on
the principle of the Aristotelian catharsis for which I have tried to sug-
gest a far broader application than the Stagirite could see in his day."
(Hall, '08, p. 2.)

"He should have fought, whipped and been whipped, used language
offensive to the prude and to the prim precisian, been in some scrapes,
had something to do with b^^d, if more with good, associates, and been
exposed to and already recovering from as many forms of ethical mumps
and measles as, by having in mild form now he can be rendered immune
to later when they become far more dangerous, because his moral and
religious as well as his rational nature is normally rudimentary." ('08,
P- 23S-)

The Theory of the Transitoriness of Instincts. This concep-
tion of instincts contains two elements: First, the suddenness of the
appearance of instincts, and second, the unrevivable disappearance
of instincts. The most conspicuous advocate of the former idea in
this country, has been G. Stanley Hall, who states it as follows:

"But with the teens all this begins to be changed and many of these
precepts must be gradually reversed. There is an outburst of growth



i8



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



that needs a large part of the total kinetic energy of the body. There is
a new interest in adults, a passion to be treated Uke one's elders, to



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5.5 6.5 7.5 8.5 9.5 10.5 11.5 12.5 13.5 14.5 15.5 16.5 17.5 18.5
Age in Years

Fig. I . — Height of boys and girls measured in centimeters, based on measure-
ments of 45,151 boys and 43,298 girls. After Boas {'gb-gj).

make plans for the future, a new sensitiveness to adult praise or blame.
The large muscles have their innings and there is a new clumsiness of
body and mind. The blood-vessels expand and blushing is increased,
new sensations and feelings arise, the imagination blossoms, love of



















































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12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Ages



Fig. 2. — Rate of tapping. Number of taps made with right hand in 30
seconds. Based on tests with 395 boys and 495 girls. After Smedley
('oo-'oi).

nature is born, music is felt in a new, more inward way, fatigue comes
easier and sooner; and if heredity and environment enable the individual



INSTINCTIVE ELEMENTS OF NATIVE EQUIPMENT 1 9

to cross this bridge successfully, there is sometimes almost a break of
continuity, and a new being emerges." ('08, p. 236.)

The correctness of the theory of sudden appearance is primarily
a question of fact. Thus Hall describes the social instincts at the
time of adolescence as follows:

"The social instincts undergo sudden unfoldment and the new life of
love awakens. It is the age of sentiment and of religion, of rapid fluctua-
tion of mood, and the world seems strange and new. Interest in adult
life and in vocations develops. Youth awakes to a new world and under-
stands neither it nor himself." ('04, Preface p. XV.)

The advocates of this viewpoint maintain, therefore, that there is
a nascent period for motor activity, for memory and habituation,
for reason and logical thinking and the like; that the school should
seize these opportunities to teach those activities which will exer-
cise the particular capacities that occupy the stage of youth at that
period; and that more can be accomplished at those periods in a
given length of time than can be accomplished in several fold as
much time later on.

The facts do not seem to warrant an interpretation of such
marked suddenness but indicate rather a gradual waxing of in-
stincts. There appears to be no special time during which the child
suddenly begins to reason or to reason very much more than he had
^one theretofore. The same description seems to be true of
memory, motor ability, the collecting instinct, and other capaci-
ties, as indicated in the accompanying graphs.

A great deal of the dramatic bursting forth of instincts is chiefly
a dramatic bursting forth of descriptive words. The actual facts
seem to justify more nearly an interpretation of gradual unfold-
ment instead of a sudden bursting forth. Growth in height and
weight proceeds by a very uniform increase even during the adoles-
cent period. Motor capacity grows steadily and uniformly without
particularly sudden leaps or bounds. Memory ability increases
steadily for both rote and logical m.aterial up to adulthood, during
which it probably remains fairly constant until senility sets in.
There Is no memory period during which the child memorizes very
much more readil> than he did before or than he ever will later.
The memory of the average adult for both mechanical and logical
material ana for either immediate or permanent retention is superior
to the memory of the average child at any age. Even reasoning



20



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



ability, which is usually described as appearing suddenly at the
dawn of adolescence, is a matter of gradual development. To argue



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95
90
85
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75

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7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Ages

Fig. 3. — Memory for digits based upon tests of 937 pupils. After Smedley
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Grades



Fig. 4.- — Development in arithmetical reasoning as measured by the Courtis
test No. 8, Series A. The vertical axis shows the number of problems done cor-
rectly in six minutes.



INSTINCTIVE ELEMENTS OF NATIVE EQUIPMENT 21

that school exercises which consist mainly of memorizing should be
placed at the "memory age" on the ground that the pupil will
learn them more readily at that time than at a later time in life,
is fallacious. It may be advisable to begin the study of foreign
languages earlier than is customary, but not for any reason of more
rapid memorizing at an earlier age. If rapidity of tapping, Figure 2,
is any indication at all of endurance or of quickness of becoming
fatigued, it does not seem to be true that "fatigue comes easier
and sooner" during the adolescent stage. The graphs for tapping



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Grade

Fig. 5. — Development in arithmetical reasoning as measured by the arith-
metical scale A. After Starch ('16). The vertical axis represents the scale step
or the number of problems done correctly.



do not drop but tend to rise gradually even during the years from
eleven to fifteen. There is practically a level at the age of eleven
but no drop.

The unrevivability of instincts through disuse has been advocated
chiefly by James as follows:

"This leads us to the law of transitoriness which is this: Many in-
stincts ripen at a certain age and then fade away. A consequence of
this law is that if, during the time of such an instinct's vivacity, objects
adequate to arouse it are met with, a habit of acting on them is formed,
which remains when the original instinct has passed away; but that if



22



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



no such objects are met with, then no habit will be formed; and, later
on in life, when the animal meets the objects, he will altogether fail to
react, as at the earlier epoch he would instinctively have done." ('90,
II, p. 398.)

"Leaving lower animals aside, and turning to human instincts, we
see the law of transiency corroborated on the widest scale by the altera-
tion of different interests and passions as human life goes on. With the
child, life is all play and fairy-tales and learning the external properties
of 'things'; with the youth, it is bodily exercises of a more systematic
sort, novels of the real world, boon-fellowship and song, friendship and
love, nature, travel and adventure, science and philosophy; with the





























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10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Ages



Fig. 6. — The number of collections made by children at various ages. After
C. F. Burk ('00}.

man, ambition and policy, acquisitiveness, responsibility to others, and
the selfish zest of the battle of life. If a boy grows up alone at the age of
games and sports, and learns neither to play ball, nor row, nor sail, nor
ride, nor skate, nor fish, nor shoot, probably he will be sedentary to the
end of his days; and, though the best of opportunities be afforded him
for learning these things later, it is a hundred to one but he will pass
them by and shrink back from the effort of taking those necessary first
steps the prospect of which, at an earlier age, would have filled him with
eager delight. XThe sexual passion expires after a protracted reign; but
it is well known that its peculiar manifestations in a given individual
depend almost entirely on the habits he may form during the early
period of its activity. Exposure to bad company then makes him a
loose liver all his days; chastity kept at first makes the same easy later



INSTINCTIVE ELEMENTS OF NATIVE EQUIPMENT 23

on. In all pedagogy the great thing is to strike the iron while hot, and
to seize the wave of the pupil's 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 afterward
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, intro-
spective psychology and the metaphysical and rehgious mysteries take
their turn; and, last of all, the drama of human affairs and worldly
wisdom in the widest sense of the term." ('90, II, pp. 400-401.)

Facts seem to support this aspect of the nature of instincts more
than the theory of the sudden appearance. The law of disuse of
functions is necessarily in general support of the theory. Any
functions will, as a rule, be strengthened through exercise. The
assumption, however, that instincts, if not exercised when they first
manifest themselves, will become dormant beyond the possibility
of reawakening, or that they actually become dormant, is question-
able. James gives isolated instances in favor of his viewpoint.
Experimental and comprehensive observations are missing at the
present time. Isolated illustrations of the opposite viewpoint,
however, also are to be found. Thus it frec[uently happens that
through the change of circumstances of life, instincts apparently
long dormant or never given opportunity to manifest themselves,
will quickly appear for action. For example, the writer has a friend
who as a boy had never developed the instinctive tendencies in-
volved in fishing. About the age of thirty, through the opportuni-
ties of a new environment, the instinct appeared so strongly that
he will go to great lengths at any time of day or night to follow this
sport. But isolated instances are dangerous bases on which to
generalize, and future inquiries will have to solve the problem.
Many instincts apparently are dormant only because no opportu-
nity of expressing themselves are at hand, or because other more
dominant interests prevail, but may, when appropriate circum-
stances arise, rapidly appear for action.

The Recapitulation Theory of Instincts. The principle of re-
capitulation was formulated by biologists to account for the develop-
ment of animal organisms in the early stages of their growth.
The ^heory of recapitulation holds that the individual retraces in
its growth the successive stages of development of the entire animal
series. Thus Hall says:



24 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

"Holding that the child and the race are each keys to the other, I have
constantly suggested phyletic explanations. ..." ('04, I, p. VIII.)

"The best index and^guide to the stated activities of adults in past
ages is found in the instinctive, untaught, and non-imitative plays of
children. ... In play every mood and movement is instinct with
heredity. Thus we rehearse the activities of our ancestors, back we know
not how far, and repeat their life work in summative and adumbrated
ways. It is reminiscent, albeit unconsciously of our line of descent, and
each is the key to the other. . . . Thus stage by stage we enact their
(our ancestors') lives. Once in the phylon many of these activities were
elaborated in the life and death struggle for existence. Now the elements
and combinations oldest in the muscle history of the race are re-presented
earhest in the individual, and those later follow in order." ('04, I,
pp. 202-203.)

And Puffer says: "We are by turns vertebrates, gill-breathing verte-
brates, lung-breathing vertebrates (we make the great change at birth),
httle monkeys, little savages, and finally civilized men and women."
('12, p. 77.)

The evidences given for the principle of recapitulation are largely
embryological and structural. Vestigial organs such as the vermi-
form appendix, gill slits, etc., are further cited as evidences of the
remainder of structures once useful. The facts seem to be that
such recapitulation as takes place is very brief and confined almost
wholly to the prenatal period of an individual's development.
Davidson, after a comprehensive review of the biological evidence
for the theory, concludes thus:

"The history of recapitulation is an instructive one. A principle of
limited application within the field of its origin was elevated to a position
of wide generality, and so gave rise to a conception in the main mislead-



Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 2 of 41)