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mencing motor-process, but its effect.^

7. In almost all special sensations, the movements of the organ-
ism play an important part, so that on closer examination sensations
of effort or muscular sensations are found as elements in states
which on superficial consideration we take to be perfectly simple.
In tasting, the movement of the tongue is of importance ; solid
pieces of food are pressed against the hard palate, and only so can
be tasted. Sensations of smell arise only if the air is drawn in
through the nose. If the air be kept out, all sensation of smell
ceases, even in a heavily scented atmosphere. In hearing, we move
the body, or at any rate the head, until we find the position in
which the sound is loudest. In attentive listening the muscles of
the tympanum contract. Movement is, however, especially im-
portant in the senses of sight and touch. The eye must be
accommodated to the distance of the object, and this is effected by
contraction of delicate muscles, the surface of the lens being thus
made more convex ; this change is effected with a certain effort.
In every definite position of the eye some muscles are actively
contracted, others passively relaxed ; every position of the eye is
therefore accompanied by a certain sensation of effort or a mus-
cular sensation. We move the eye, or even the whole head,

1 H atuibuch der Physiologie, CobXem, 1840, ii., p. 500. — According to Panum, stimuli
from the muscle and immedi.ite stimuli of innervation cooperate in the sensation of force.
.\cri'C!'atvets Fysiologi (" Physiology of the Nerve-tissue), p. 95.

' Sachs, " Physiol, u. .\natom. Untersuchungen iiber die sensiblen Nerven der
Muskeln" ("Physiological and Anatomical Investigations into the Sensitive Nerves of
the Muscles") (Reichcrts u. Dubois Reymond's Wn/;/7/, 1874).

3 [For full discussion of the question, see Brain, 1887. (Tr.)]



until the excitation of light falls upon tl^e place of most dis-
tinct vision (the yellow spot). The delicacy of the sense of
touch in the different parts of the body stands in a definite
relation to the mobility of those parts ; it is (according to Weber)
greatest in the tongue, the lips and the fingers, least in the chest
and back. To the, movable parts of the body the sense of touch
owes its importance ; it is by their means that active experiment
is possible. Touch and sight, the two senses linked to the most
movable organs, are in conjunction the most powerful means we
possess of determining our relations to the external world.

We are thus not given over as a purely passive prey to the im-
pressions of the external world. In the spontaneous and reflex
movements which precede the birth of consciousness, an active
nature is already apparent. The excitations from without soon,
moreover, call forth movements, which serve to retain or pursue
them. There is now an active turning towards the excitation, as
when an infant follows or searches for a light with his head or eyes.^
An involiiniary search and accommodatioti help to determine the
character of the sensations. How primitive this first form of
attention is, may be judged from the fact that a pigeon de-
prived of its cerebrum will turn its head after a light that is
being moved away. Attention still bears here the stamp of reflex
movement. A conscious concentration of attention (voluntary
attention) presupposes a certain development of the faculty of
remembering, and of forming ideas independently of purely
momentary impressions, and is therefore found only at a higher
stage than that now under consideration.

The sensation of attention is closely related to the sensation of
effort or muscular sensation, and is perhaps connected with the
fact that a stronger or weaker contraction takes place in the
muscles of the organ concerned.

Condillac's theory, that attention is only an " exclusive " sensa-
tion,'-^ is, then, contradicted even by direct, subjective observation.
If a sensation takes complete possession and almost succeeds in
driving all else out of consciousness, it then arrests our activity

1 " I saw a seven months' cliild, when two days old, in tlie evening at dusk repeatedly
turn his head towards the window and the light, even when he was moved to another part
of the room. He doubtless looked for the light." Kussniaul, Untcrsuchungen fiber das
Scelcnlcben des neugebornen iMenschcn ("Investigations into the Mental Life of In-
fants"), p. 26. — It is only later, according to Preyer, Die Scele des Kindes, p. 31
{The Mind of the Child. Trans, in Int. Educatl. Series, vol. i. pp. 43, 44), when a child
is twenty-three days old, that its eyes follow the light without movement of the head.

2 Lasiinie, i. 7 ; ff. Traile des Sensations, 1.^2, i.


also. An exclusive sensation therefore /> res i/p/>oses attention, but is
not one with it. Besides, how does a sensation become exclusive .''
Excitations can flow in upon us simultaneously from several sides.
The eye, c.^., receives simultaneous excitations from several points
of light. Several senses, moreover, may be in operation together.
If purely passive, sensuous perception would afford at every instant
a chaos of dixcrse sensations. But from the multitude of these
diverse sensations, in every tiny instant, ofie is selected which
becomes the centre. Reflexiy and instinctively the attention moves
from one excitation to another. As has been seen, the successive
is more easily and earlier aj^prehcndcd than the simultaneous :
this seems to stand in connection with the great importance of
movement in sensuous perception.^

The motive which decides the attention to leave one excitation
and turn to another is to be looked for in a sense of fatigue or in a
feeling of dulness, which makes it a necessity or a recreation to
turn to a new excitation, especially to one which is a natural
counterpart or supplement of the preceding excitation (c/. the effect
of contrast). In every such transition an elcjuentary choice takes

B. Ideation.

I. In the interaction of sensations and in involuntary attention,
unity and activity of consciousness are as yet manifested only in a
quite elementary way ; the phenomena are here so simple that it is
even difficult to find psychological expressions for them. But the
province of pure sensations is now to be overstepped, and
attention turned to the fact that the new sensations are determined
and modified not only by the immediately preceding and
simultaneous sensations, but also by others more remote in
time. This takes place by the new sensation re-exciting earlier

This presupposes that sensations repeat themselves. A con-
sciousness that were to pass continually to new impressions, from
A to B, from B to C, and so forth, would never advance beyond the

1 Condillac, however, in spite of his own definition, recognizes the independence of the
element of attention, when he says, " Lorsqu'une c.amp.igne s'ofTre a ma %nie, je vois tout
d'un premier coup d'oeil, et je ne discerne rien encore. Pour dcmcler ditTerens objets et
me faire une idc'c distincte de Icur forme et de leur situation, il faut que y'/i^vr/j- incs r?-
^fvira'i sur chacun d'eux . . . Cc r<if^3.rdL cslune action/>arieit}iiclie »ion aril lend a Cohjct
. . . par cetle raison je lui donne le nom d'attention ; et il m'est evident que (Cttc direc-
tion dc I'organc est toutc la part que Ic corps peut avoir a ['attention."


elementary stage we have described. But no consciousness is thus
constituted. Beings endowed with consciousness have their definite
conditions of life, which do not merely make existence possible,
but also narrow the horizon, since the series of impressions is not in-
finite but unfolds itself with a certain rhythm. The experiences
(sensations) of finite beings must be limited, because their exist-
ence is bound up with certain conditions, some of which are
constant, while others must recur at not too remote intervals.
Without repetition no life, and consequently no conscious life,
\vould be possible. Life consists in an alternation between the
absorption of matter (assimilation) and the waste of matter
(disassimilation), between vegetating and functioning. In or-
ganic functions a rhythmic repetition is therefore found ; as in in-
spiration and expiration, the circulation of the blood, sleeping and
waking. And this rhythm in the phenomena of organic life seems
to be only a special instance of a general law of nature, for there is
much which points to the conclusion ^ that all movements and
changes in nature are periodic.

The most elementary consciousness would be one in which
there was only a rhythmical alternation of pleasure and pain to-
gether with the accompanying simple sensory and motor sensations.
Then, if the series of sensations had arrived say at Z>, A would
occur again — at all events as A„, for the sensation might not have
precisely the same quality. A repetition of the same sensations
would not, however, have any psychological significance, had not
consciousness the power of reproducing the previous similar sen-
sations, were these latter on the contrary to disappear without
leaving the smallest trace. The psychological importance of repe-
tition consists in this, that — the power of reproduction being
assumed — it is possible for consciousness to combine earlier
with later sensations and experiences. We have here a funda-
mental property of consciousness which admits of no closer ex-
planation. It is a fact, that when the sensation A occurs again
after an interval which has been occupied by the sensation B, it has
a tendency to reproduce the state which preceded B ; it profits by
this repetition, since it utilizes the traces previously left behind by^.
Here the law of practice, which holds good for all organic life,
comes into force. All function is made easier by repetition and
practice. This is true especially of the functions of the nervous

1 Herbert Spencer, First Principles, ii. lo; Jevons, Principles of Science, second ed.,
pp. 448, 560, scq.


system ; indeed, all practising of complex movements is properly
exercise of the central nervous system. The nerve-tracks are, so to
speak, more practicable the oftcner they arc traversed. A sensation
acquires through repetition a certain distinguishing mark, confronts
with a special character other sensations which, so to speak, can be
compared with one another, not each with itself. There enters
a contrast between that which is repeated, familiar, customary,
and that which is new, not hitherto experienced ; between the
known and the unknown. — Sometimes the influence of repetition
and remembrance may call up a sensation which would not other-
wise arise. The partial tones in a chord can be distinguished
when there is a lively recollection of the sensation they produce as
simple tones ; but if some time has elapsed between the sensation
of the simple tone and the sensation of the chord, it is no longer pos-
sible to distinguish between them. Two tones so closely related as
to be only just distinguishable when heard in immediate succession,
appear to consciousness as one and the same when the interval is
from half a minute to a minute. If not more than 15 — 30 seconds
elapse between two sensations of weight, a difference between
I4i and 15 ozs. may be distinguished; but after the lapse of 40
seconds this is no longer possible.^ If we wish for examples from
more complex phenomena of consciousness, we may think, e.<^., of
the difference between reading a book or hearing a piece of music
for the first and the second time ; the second time everything is
taken in more clearly and distinctly, without its being precisely
necessary to think of the first time.

The reproduction of earlier sensation or experience does not, in
such cases as these, amount to an actual and distinct recall.
For the reawakened state fuses immediately witli the given
sensation, and does not stand out beside it as a free and inde-
pendent representation. There takes place an involuntary classi-
fication, a reference of the sensation to earlier sensations of
like kind. To say that little children and blind persons whose
sight has been restored, must /can: to sec colours, really means
that they must learn to recognize them, to refer the given sensations
of colour to similar earlier sensations. The very first sensations of
colour can be referred only to analogous sensations of different

1 HelmhoU7, Die Lchre von den Tonempfinditngen (" The Theory of i^ensatioDS
of Tones") (Brunswick, 1S63), p. no, Eng. trans. Ijy Ellis, p. 103 ; CI. H. Schneider,
" Die psychologische Ursache der Kontrasterscheinungen " (" The Psychological Cause
of the Phenomena of Contrast") (Zeiischr. fiir Philosophie, 1884), p. 164, scq. ; E. A.
Weber, "Tastsinn und Gemeingefiihr" ("Sense of Touch and General Feeling")
(Wagner's HandwSrterbuck dcr l'h)siolos;:c, iii. 2), p. 543.


modalities, as in the case of the man hhnd from birth, who, when
an attempt was made to describe to him the colour scarlet,
at last exclaimed, " It must be something like the blast of a

In such immediate and involuntary recognition consists /i?r£'^/-
tion. The psychological process which here takes place may be
described as the fusing of a reproduction and an actual sensation.
The percept is thus conceived as compounded out of a representa-
tion and a sensation ; but the representation does not come into
consciousness as a free and independent factor, and it may there-
fore be described as an implicate {^ebundne) representation. And
as we called the immediate interaction among successive sensations
elementary memory, so we may call the memory conditioning the
percept *• implicate ^ because what is remembered is not disengaged
from the sensation which calls it up. Since, finally, the percept
comes to exist only through the similarity of the given to former
sensations, the activity which is here displayed may be described
as an involuntary comparison. And this is an implicate com-
parison, since the elements which on account of their similarity
are combined, do not make their appearance as distinct and inde-
pendent. The more frequent the repetition, the more easily,
quickly, and unconsciously is the recognition effected. By repeti-
tion and practice, the "discrimination-time" (which might also be
called "recognition-time,") as well as the "will-time" (IV. 6), is

In various experiences, springing in some cases from healthy, in
some from abnormal states, this contrast between mere sensation
and perception is clearly apparent. On first awaking from sleep,
we often have sensations which we cannot recognize. A multi-
tude of diverse elements emerge into consciousness, without
being immediately classified. It is only when quite awake that
we attain to perception proper, and with it to clear consciousness
of our surroundings. What distinguishes the dreaming from the
waking consciousness is in great measure this, that the same
sense-impressions are differently apprehended or explained, and
differently classified [cf. III. 8;. When we are aroused by a

1 (In a series of recent articles, " Ueber Wiederkenncn, Association und psychische
KrXvri'Cix" {I'ierteljahrsschri/t f. ivisscnschaft. Philosophic, xiii. 4, .\iv. i, 2,3) Prof.
HolTding elucidates further this process of immediate recognition, and its place in
association. Cf. also Dr. Ward's recognition of the same process under the name
assimilation {Ency. Brit., vol. xx.. Art. "Psychology," pp. 52, 6o)> quoted by Prof.
Hoffding in Art. i, p. 437. The two writers differ, however, on the point of (free)
association by similarity. (Tr.)]


stimulus which excites strong interest, — or, as it has been ex-
pressed, when the "psychical relation" of the stimulus arouses
us, — we have a percept which is just on the borders between
dreaming and waking. One of Charcot's patients lost, after a
nervous illness, the power of perceiving visual objects, although
the sensibility had scarcely suffered at all. Every time that he
returned to his birthplace, it seemed strange to him ; he could
not at once rccogni/e his wife and children, on one occasion not
even himself when he looked in the glass.' In some very instruc-
tive states of disease, the power of understanding (of perceiving)
spoken or written words is lost, without sight or hearing having
suffered. The path from the concept to the word is unimpaired,
although the path from the word to the concept is closed. Kuss-
maul- calls this malady word-blindness or word-deafness. Later
inquiries into the physiology of the brain seem to show that
sensation and perception are attached to different nerve-centres.
While sensation seems to be possible even in an animal deprived
of the cercl:)rum (as when a pigeon thus mutilated turns its head
towards the light), perception can take place only when the cere-
brum is intact. After extensive injury to the occipital lobes, a
dog no longer understands what he sees and hears. He pays no
attention when threatened with the whip, passes indifferently by
his food, does not listen when he is called, etc. Dogs in this
state are, as Munk expresses it, soul-blind and soul-deaf, that
is to say, they have lost the power of combining sensations with
the corresponding reproductions, — have thus partially lost percep-
tion, while sensation is unimpaired. They have gone back to the
state of earliest youth, and must learn afresh to hear and see {i.e.
to perceive) {cf. II. \c).

The word perception is here employed in the sense given to
it by some English writers.-' Sibbern appears, although he does
not express himself quite plainly, to distinguish similarly between
mere sensation and perception. •* Other writers understand by
perception a process more complex and comprehensi\e than
that just described. Helmholtz, e.i^., vuiderstands by sensations
the impressions on our senses in so far as they come into
consciousness merely as states of the body (especially of the

1 //i;j//V(j/i/;V/<'W<f ("Hospital Journal") (Copenhagen, September 5, 1883).
- /);> .S"/,v, ;/„..,•« ,/,-r .?/>-<«<•//<• (•' Lingual .\tTectioii'i"), P- '74' ■^«''/-

2 Sir William" Hamilton (UctHr<-s on Metaphysics, xxvii.). Herbert Spencer ^Pr. 0/
Psychology, % y^,!,). [Cf. Sully, OutUntsof Psychology, p. 147. (l'r.)J

•• Psychologu', p. 50.


ner\ous system) ; by percepts he understands tlie same impres-
sions, in so far as we form out of them ideas of external objects.^
In reply to this it must be observed, in the first place, that our
immediate sensations are not from the first presented to us as
states of the body or of the nervous system ; we have at first no
notion that we have a body, not to mention a nervous system, and
the knowledge of our body is only gradually acquired by means of
sensations. Besides, with the proposed use of terms, no word
would be left for the simple psychological operation, by which a
sensation is brought into relation with a previous similar sensation.
This act does not involve any consciousness of the external origin
of the sensation ; it may occur, moreover, in subjective sensations
and feelings just as well as in those that owe their origin to external

2. Not only single sensations, but also whole series or groups
of sensations, can be repeated and recognized. We then have a
complex percept, and in reality nearly all our sensuous percepts are
complex, because as a rule several sensations occur at the same
time. In complex percepts, the content is arranged partly in the
form of time, partl\- in the forms of both time and space. The
closer examination of the conception of time and space must, how-
ever, be postponed to the next section (C). Here, on the other hand,
we shall inquire how the memory and the representations pass from
i\\e. implicate io the free state. This transition would not be possible
if we had only absolutely simple percepts. Were the sensation A to
be repeated and fused with the idea a, the process would then be at
an end. But when a series or group of sensations {A -\- B -\- C -\- D)
has frequently recurred, then, when A afterwards appears by itself,
the representations b, c, and d, as well as the representation a, have
a tendency to re-emerge. Now only a can completely fuse with
A; b, c, and d, in so far as they are not suppressed, must appear
as something different from the given sensation {A), and conse-
quently as independent parts or factors of the conscious-content.
They thus become free ideas or representations.

Let the object of a complex percept be, e.g., an apple. That I
perceive an apple means that I have, together or in immediate
succession, the sensations of colour {A), smell (/>), taste (C),
hardness (Z?), etc., which I recognize in their given combination.
If now the same sensation of colour recurs, it {A) is not only itself

1 Die Leitre I'on den 7'onei:i/>/hiii:iiif^tin, ist ed. (Crunswick, 1863), p. loi. C/. 4th
ed. p. 6. [In Ellis' traiiil->tioii of an intermediate edition, see p. 9. Tr.J


recognized (through the implicate representation rt),but also rouses
representations of the other properties {b,c, and d). I see only the
red colour behind the leaves but believe what I see to be an apple,
because I involuntarily supplement the percept {A -f a) with the
notion of the other properties of the apple. A child, who has
burned himself [B] at the fire {A), has the idea of pain {b) when
next he sees the fire {A ■\- a), although no pain is present at the

The more numerous the free representations that arise in this way,
the more there is formed in consciousness an independent field of
ideas, a world of memory, which confronts with a certain indepen-
dence the sensations and percepts of the moment, immediate sen-
sations then play often a merely subordinate part and act only as
liberating forces. When we read a book, the paper and the black
characters scarcely attain to express consciousness, but are lost in
the ideas and feelings which — at first through many intermediate
links— they set in motion. Consciousness has now at its disposal
a content, which makes it to a certain extent independent of the
influences of the moment ; a life may be passed in memory, a life
of thought, not merely a life of sensation or perception. The world
of ideas has been strikingly compared to the blood. In the blood,
which is formed out of nutritive matter derived from the external
world, the organism has an internal world {milieu intericur,
cf. II. 3), which makes it to some extent independent of the ex-
ternal world. Similarly consciousness has in its free ideas an
internal medium, which is formed out of previous sensations, and
which makes it capable of leading its own life, even when the
supply of fresh sensations fails.

We cannot of course completely isolate ourselves from the ex-
ternal world. Sensations are recei\ed at every instant, even when
we are principally occupied with free ideas. Even in sleep we
receive sense-impressions. And every sensation has a tendency
to arouse implicate, as well as free, representations. So that there
are always two streams in consciousness, of which now one prevails,
and now the other. The one is determined by the sensation
present at the moment and by the ideas which it tends to excite,
the other is composed of the series of free ideas, which have been
aroused by a previous sensation and which will be continued for
several instants. The one might be called the ascending, and the
other the horizontal, current, and the relation between them
represented thus : —




Free flow of ideas . . .(

Horizontal current.

6 "7 "a ^9 ^t^C-


az. <7r </- II,

Perrent ^ Impl'^^tc idea . / .A / ^\

^ ^^'^^P^ \ Sensation . .\A) \b)








Here A has set in motion a series of free ideas, which have so
forcibly arrested the attention that they persist not only for one
moment, {a . . . a^) but for several (d-, . . . a^), and that the suc-
ceeding sensations (B, C,D, etc.), are unable to break the series by
the ideas which they in their turn tend to excite. Perhaps they
may not even be all recognized ; in the schema we have given, only

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 14 of 41)