Henry J. (Henry Jackson) Watt.

Psychology online

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M.A., PH.D., D.PHIL.








IN this little book the attention of the reader will
be directed mainly towards the study of experiences
their analysis, description, classification, and con-
nections. The aim of this branch of psychological
science is to show that experience is at least a part
of a closed system analogous to that of chemistry.
Our scientific insight must necessarily first touch
the simpler forms of experience with which we are
directly acquainted, although there may be others
of indefinitely greater or less complexity than these.
Just so has our scientific insight into the material
world developed. When the peculiar nature of the
system of experience has been discovered, we shall
have a more adequate understanding of its connec-
tion with the material system upon which we find
it is in part dependent.













INDEX . . 89




PSYCHOLOGY is the scientific study of the nature and
course of experience. Experience means all mental
states such as emotions, thoughts, memories, percep-
tions, and sensations. Not the world of matter in
motion, nor the world of abstractions like mathematical
truth, but only the world of the individual conscious-
ness, its elements, compounds, and processes, gives
psychology name and aim.

Mind and body, as we know them, axe closely
bound together. The occurrence and change of our
experiences is largely determined by the effect of im-
pressions, coming from without and within the body,
upon our sense-organs and the nerves connected with
them. Observation of external objects gives food for
thought ; and thought, feeling, and will, in their turn,
affect the body by the movements and expressions
they evoke. But for these connections between body
and mind it would be quit impossible to study experi-
ence adequately. For only in so far as we can stimulate
sense-organs as we please, can we regulate the occur-
rence of mental states ; and we could have no know-
ledge of other minds unless they expressed themselves
in movements, including words. Moreover, our whole
aim in education and art is to cultivate certain states
of mind and to bring them to complete expression.
These practical and theoretical interests extend psy-
chology beyond the study of the nature and course



of experience alone, and urge it to consider also its
natural conditions and its means of expression.

The methods of psychology are, in principle, the
same as those of other sciences. It starts with what
knowledge of experience the chances of daily life and
casual observation provide ; and by analysis and de-
scription, classification and synthesis, it tries to explain
the complex in terms of the simple. But its progress
has been seriously delayed for two reasons.

1. Much time has been lost in determining what the
type of the science should be. Many have been at-
tracted by the simplicity of geometry, a peculiar feature
of which is that every definition is a law to all that
follows ; it can be extended by other clauses or by
variant cases, but never contradicted. All the objects
and processes of geometrical study are partially, if not
wholly, prescribed by the mind. But when we are
dealing with real objects of any kind, we can never be
sure that they are not very much more complicated
than we may at any time suppose, and that we have
not overlooked many of their properties and functions.
In fact our definitions may be beside the mark alto-
gether ; for these are never a law to real objects. De-
finitions do not here prescribe, they announce. In
psychology we must therefore examine many similar
objects and events, so that their similarities and differ-
ences may strike us more forcibly. To this end special
methods of examination, of variation, and of multipli-
cation of cases especially those of experiment have
to be devised.

2. Again, if psychology is to be nourished by experi-
mental observation, the nature of the physical stimulus
and of the sense-organ, nerve, and brain the stimulus
plays upon, must be thoroughly understood, lest they
be confused with the action and interaction of experi-
ences themselves. Only thus can we know, for any
given experiment, whether we have varied a physical,
a physiological, or a mental factor. For this knowledge,
however, psychology had to wait until the sciences of
physics and physiology were sufficiently developed.


And so we find among the pioneers of the experimental
method in psychology Weber, an anatomist; Fechner,
a physicist ; and Wundt, at first professor of physiology.

The inspection of experience is a form of perception
and is commonly called introspection in order to dis-
tinguish it from the perception upon which the physical
sciences build the inspection of objects which exist
independently of the observing mind. The word intro-
spection means a " looking inwards." As applied to
the observation of experiences, it suggests that in order
to notice the objects of the physical sciences we must
look outwards. This suggestion is in many respects
quite valid ; it is, for example, comparatively seldom
that a physical object of study lies inside the body,
and we usually feel that we direct our gaze from our-
selves outwards upon the objects around us. On the
other hand, we do not locate our thoughts and feelings
where their objects may be ; we distinguish their place
roughly, if at all, by saying they are in our mind or in
our head. We speak, accordingly, of looking inwards
to find them. Such distinctions are, in their own way,
perfectly just and proper.

But we must be cautious in their interpretation. A
distant mountain looks small to the eye, although we
all know that it is really no smaller when we are far
from it than when we are near to it. Hence it is not
the mountain that changes in size, but only its appear-
ance to us, or its effect upon our vision. What this
effect is at any one moment depends upon many things
distance, atmosphere, eyesight, attentiveness, and
the like so that it will necessarily vary from person
to person. It is the effect of the mountain upon visual
and other mental processes, and so constitutes a part
of experience.

The distinction between things and experiences can
also be stated in the following way. The mountain is
composed of rock, and it is covered with earth, grass,
and trees ; it is traversed by many streams of water,
and shelters many beasts, birds, and insects ; its surface


reflects the ether-vibrations of the sun (colour), its
valleys and trees make eddies and torrents in the
currents of air which pour over it (sound), its rock bears
incalculable stresses (hardness), conducts heat well (feels
cold), and so on. We learn of all these things by our
experiences of colour, sound, and the rest. But these,
on the contrary, neither vibrate, nor bear stresses, nor
conduct heat. When we ask why a particular sensa-
tion of colour or sound is felt at a certain moment and
for a certain time and changes to another thereafter,
or when we simply ask " What is that ? " we are trying
to find out something about some object that is not
itself our experience. Such an object we may know,
hear, see, feel, &c., but it is not itself our knowledge,
hearing, seeing, or feelings ; these are experiences.

If you ask me " What is a grape-fruit ? " I may de-
scribe it in words, or show a picture or a sample of it.
In each case I say, as it were : judge what it is by the
effects of words, picture, or sample, upon your experi-
ence ; and you do so without questioning my method.
If you ask what is knowledge, colour, hearing, sweetness,
pleasantness, I can again only produce a sample-object,
a picture, a set of words ; but now I must say if I am
as sure of my procedure as I am in dealing with the
grape-fruit what you experience as the effect of my
words or picture is knowledge, or colour, or pleasant-
ness. We are, therefore, immediately acquainted with
experience or with the objects of introspection. All
other objects are objects of indirect acquaintance, or,
better, are objects of knowledge.

Sometimes it is asserted that in introspection experi-
ence is never actually before us; it has already just
passed away and must be recalled ; introspection is
therefore retrospection, or a looking backwards. But
this is an exaggerated and mistaken view. Any simple
experience that lasts for some time, e.g. sensation, can,
for all intents and purposes, be inspected while it lasts.
The inspection made is, of course, evoked by the sensa-
tion of an instant ago, preceding immediately the process
of inspection itself ; so, also, the mountain I observe ia


the mountain of an instant ago ; the sun is the sun of
five minutes ago. When, however, an experience is of
such a nature that it only occurs if a fairly complex
group or series of other experiences is aroused, then we
may have to retrospect ; and sometimes, in order to
have these experiences, we must follow up intentions
which for the moment prevent us from observing with
full attention. So must also every student of physics
who has to carry out (without the aid of machinery)
a long event requiring observation. He must either
perform the experiment first and then immediately
observe by recalling it, or invent a machine which
will carry it out, and, if possible, also register the
process automatically for him. He will then study
the register and from it try to complete his direct,
fragmentary observations of the course of events.
There are machines like the cinematograph and the
gramophone which will evoke experiences automatically ;
and there are machines which will register the effects
of experiences automatically. But a machine will no
more collect experiences than it will collect physical
events ; our immediate knowledge of certain experi-
ences must, therefore, be completed by a study of the
effects registered. In psychology, as elsewhere, this
indirect method of procedure must always be used
with great caution.

Summarising the preceding we may say that intro-
spection is very often the direct inspection and per-
ception of experience, whereby its different elements
and their aspects are classified, tabulated, and com-
pared. When we have to deal with complex experi-
ences or trains of experiences, we must often reconstruct
them gradually in repeated trials by memory, and if we
fancy our memories may deceive us, try to register their
simplest or most distinct effects, and by a study of these
ensure a better and fuller remembrance and description
of them.

But we are concerned in psychology not only with
our own experiences, but with those of others as well.
We wish to discover the experiences of all minds and


the laws which govern them, as well as the differ-
ences between minds. Here we are faced with a new
difficulty. For we can only obtain a knowledge of
the experience of others by means of its physical
effects movements, gestures, or words. Special de-
vices of mind and body have been developed in man
and the higher animals for the communication of ex-
periences from one to the other individual. Not very
much is known about these. But, for the purposes of
science, it is convenient and temporarily sufficient to
suppose that, when we read the record of any sequence
of experiences, we consider what kind of experiences
would find the same or similar expression in ourselves.
We can, then, understand that the more the expressions
of any creature resemble our own, the surer will be our
estimate of its experience ; while the less the similarity
between its expressions and ours, the weaker will our
inference be. This is the reason why the study of the
minds of children, insane persons, and animals, pro-
gresses so slowly. For its completion a highly developed
science of the introspecting mind is needed, as well as
the most careful experimental analysis of the impres-
sions which are capable of evoking movements from
other minds, so that we may be able to transfer to
these minds the experiences which in us accompany
the simplest sequences of impressions and movements,
and so to reconstruct their experiences. Genetic
methods, involving the observation of the time and
manner of first appearance of any given response to an
impression, must also be adopted.

If the experiences of adults are to be carefully observed,
it is evident that some persons must have the leisure
and the special training necessary for the purpose. Of
course an effort will be made to include in our list of
observers as many different kinds of minds as possible ;
but certain observers will inevitably stand forth as the
best. These expert observers will themselves usually
be trained psychologists. The incompetence of the
average observer in dealing with problems relating to
the nature of thought, or to the connection between


simultaneous or immediately successive experiences,
or to the varieties and affinities of feeling is already
keenly felt. The evidence of a few specialised ob-
servers is gladly preferred. This preference should
not, however, tempt us to dispense with the usual
experimental procedure and the usual precautions
against biassed judgment. The role of experimenter
should be given to one person and that of observer
to another ; and everything should be done to keep
the latter in ignorance of the plan and purpose of
the experiments and of the general trend of his
observations. Where there is reason to fear the bias
of a local doctrine, a sincere effort should be made
to obtain observers from other schools of psychology.
Otherwise we shall readily fall under the suspicion
of wishing to maintain a particular theory at the
expense of the truth.

Although psychology needs to take account of the
connection between body and mind, yet within the
positive sciences it is generally recognised that body
and mind are inexplicable in terms of one another.
The material world can be understood quantitatively
as a system of matter and energy. Any qualitative
differences which this system may contain He beyond
the range of our positive knowledge, so that even for
the relation of the complex to the simple in this realm
only quantitative expressions can be obtained. The
spiritual world, on the other hand, can be formulated
as a system of units which differ from one another in
several qualitative aspects. All statements regarding
the relation between the complex and the simple must
here be expressed in qualitative terms. If there are
any quantitative relations at all, it would seem that
the number of spiritual units which is at any one time
under direct inspection, is so very limited that it is
hardly possible to obtain any definite and general
quantitative statements about them. To try to reduce
qualitative differences or relations to quantitative terms
is, of course, absurd. Where we are dealing with qualita-
tive units and not with groups of individuals, the use


of quantitative expressions of their differences can be
justified only by convention and utility.

Apart, therefore, from certain more or less probable,
systematic considerations of a philosophic nature, we
know only that certain units or processes of mind are
dependent for their occurrence upon the occurrence of
certain units or processes of matter, and vice versa. In
so far as these material units are multiplied, there will
also be a certain multiplication or extension of the
qualitative units of mind they evoke. Thus we obtain
a very rough and restricted parallelism between the
two systems. If we do not know the creative source
of our spiritual units, we can at least look for a pro-
vocative material companion for each, in some hope of
finding one. But it would be folly to point to a com-
plicated brain-process as explanation of some compli-
cated, and as yet inexplicable, mental process. Nor
can we imagine we advance knowledge by " explaining "
the peculiarities of our experiences in terms of the
muscular movements they evoke. It is very import-
ant to discover the bodily antecedents, accompaniments,
and consequences of mental processes, but they are no
explanation thereof. Complex processes in each sphere
can be explained only in terms of its own units or ele-
ments. These we must take as given or created in the
form beyond which we are unable to reduce them. We
may also ascribe to them all those properties or powers
which we can identify in them by inspection, aided by
an examination of the regularities of their behaviour in,
or contribution to, complex processes. These units and
their properties will, then, form our basis of explanation,
which should be such that we can thoroughly accept the
effect after consideration of the nature of the combining
unitary causes. If things become too complicated for
this ideal completeness of explanation, we must be
content to state our knowledge as at least a rule of de-
pendence of one process upon another, in the same way
as we state our knowledge of the dependence of the
mind upon the body.


There are many motives which will always lead men
to put the highest demands upon the science of psy-
chology, no matter how difficult it may be to satisfy
them. For one thing, the mind is the instrument of
whatever translucent rationality our range of sciences
may anywhere hold. And it is not likely that the tool
will be incommensurate with its own performance. If
ideas are so inevitably bound up with one another that
we can work out from given premises to a distant,
secure conclusion, we may safely maintain that the
mental states by which we think out this conclusion
are bound to one another by as firm a cement as are
the ideas they convey to us. We do not found our
logic upon physiological tests of nerve and muscle ;
nor are we likely to base our psychology finally upon
physiological explanations. If so much can be guaran-
teed, we shall certainly never lack the motive to strive
to establish it firmly. For the vastest interests are
involved. If we can be stirred by the hope of dis-
covering the history and destiny of matter, we shall be
far more deeply moved when the first promise of cer-
tainty and unanimity regarding the constitution of
mind, its history, and its destiny are given by psycho-
logical science. Men have continually sprung to con-
clusions regarding these things. And where they can
do so, there seems no sufficient reason to believe that
by patient research and strenuous theory they will not
also shape a path to certainty which can be trodden by
all who care to follow.



THE study of experience must begin with the descrip-
tion and classification of the simplest possible parts of
its material. This is not so easy a task as it may seem.
For how shall we tell one another what mental states
we are classifying, unless we can point them out to each
other ; and how shall we do so, unless we have already
classified them ?

The escape from this difficulty lies in the fact that
certain experiences follow immediately and regularly
upon the stimulation of sense-organs, such as the eye
and the ear. These experiences are called sensations,
and the simplest, irreducible forms of them are the
elements of experience. There are many different kinds
of sensation, each of which is connected with a par-
ticular group of sense-organs. A sense-organ is a
receiver specially adapted to one kind of stimulus and
hardly sensitive to any other. We are equipped with
receivers for all the chief kinds of physical energy
except electricity, so that we can take direct notice of,
and, if necessary, respond to almost any change in our
surroundings. Let us now review rapidly the chief
classes of sensation.

The simplest and most primitive sensations are those
evoked by stimulation of the skin and viscera. There
are four chief kinds : touch or pressure, cold, warmth,
and pain. It can easily be shown that particular points
of the skin are specially sensitive to one of these four
sensations, while the spaces between the points are
much less sensitive. The blunt end of a cool lead-
pencil drawn slowly over the surface of the skin will



serve to stimulate a few of the cold spots. Special
sense-organs for each sensation lie presumably under
these points, but they are so small and so generally
scattered that even then* microscopic differentiation is
not easy. The most obvious are the touch organs at
the root of each hair, and, on hairless surfaces, certain
corpuscles called Meissner's. The two rarer sensations
of tickle and itch are probably complications or modifi-
cations of those of pressure and pain.

Tastes might almost be classed with the cutaneous
sensations. They are of four kinds : sweet, sour, salt,
and bitter, if we neglect the doubtful alkaline and
metallic tastes. To obtain pure taste-sensations smells
must be carefully excluded by stoppage of the nose, for
taste and smell are usually closely interwoven or fused
with one another.

Of smells there seem to be innumerable varieties.
No satisfactory classification or arrangement of them
has yet been made. Some persons are congenitally
insensitive to certain smells, e.g, vanilla, violets, and
mignonette. Different smells sometimes compensate or
obliterate one another ; and the nose, when fatigued
with one odour, is often thereby rendered for a time
insensitive to certain others.

Sounds may be divided into two classes tones and
noises. Tones vary from one another in pitch, in
regard to which they can be arranged in a simple series
leading from lowest to highest. The limits of this series
are rather hard to fix, and vary from person to person
and with age. The lowest tone lies about one octave
below the lowest tone of the pianoforte (ca. 16 vibra-
tions per second), and the highest about five octaves
above the high soprano C (ca. 20,000 vibrations per
second). " A noise may be said to be a tone whose
pitch is not yet audible, because it has lasted less than
the time of two vibrations, or a complex sound of many
pitches which make each other indistinguishable to
the unaided attention." In every noise there are
tones ; these can be easily distinguished if a series of
similar noises is produced, e.g. by tapping the succes*-


sive posts of a fence or paling. Many tones, especially
those of neighbouring pitch, together make a noise.
This is more difficult to prove by ordinary means, but
may be demonstrated after a fashion by pressing down
many keys of the piano with the flat side of a book.

The most pleasant or musical sounds are those whose
pitch is most readily distinguishable. But none of
them are perfectly pure ; they all contain many partial
tones, whose pitches stand in certain, more or less
harmonic, relationships to the fundamental compon-
ent of the tone, which gives it its pitch-name. The
sequence and strength of the partials of a tone differ
with the instrument which emits the tone. Vowel-
sounds vary in the same way ; the peculiar resonance
chamber formed by the mouth for each vowel intro-
duces into it a component that remains constant,
whatever may be the tone produced by the voice in
uttering the vowel. This characteristic partial tone
may be detected by the fact that, where the voice-tone
and the vowel-tone coincide, there the sound produced
will be smoothest. For this reason it is so easy to sing
certain vowels to certain tones. It is only in virtue of
these partial tones that we are able to recognise voices,
vowels, and musical instruments by ear.

A complete survey of our colour sensations is given
in the so-called colour-body, in which the colours are
arranged on the basis of their resemblance to one another.
Colours which show a progressive loss of resemblance to

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