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are approached with the careful analysis of the experimental

Such a systematic psychological inquiry is the more important for
questions of fatigue, as we know that the subjective feeling of
displeasure in fatigue is no reliable measure for the objective
fatigue, that is, for the real reduction of the ability for work.
Daily experience teaches us how easily some people overstep the limits
of normal fatigue, and in extreme cases even come to a nervous
breakdown because nature did not protect them by the timely appearance
of strong fatigue feelings. On the other hand, we find many men and
still more women who feel tired even after a small exertion, because
they did not learn early to inhibit the superficial feelings of
fatigue, or because the sensations of fatigue have in fact a certain
abnormal intensity in their case. The question how far the
psychophysical apparatus has really been exhausted by a certain effort
must be answered with the help of objective research and not on the
basis of mere subjective feelings. But such objective measurements
demand systematic experiments in the laboratory.

The experiments which really have been carried on in the laboratory as
yet, as far as they were not merely physiological, have on the whole
been confined to so-called mental labor, and were essentially devoted
to problems of school instruction or medical diagnosis. We have no
doubt excellent experiments which are devoted to the study of the
individual differences of exhaustion, fatigue, exhaustibility, ability
to recover the lost energy, ability to learn from practice, and so on,
but they are still exclusively adjusted to the needs of the
school-teacher and of the nerve specialist and would hardly be
immediately useful to the manager of a factory. We shall need a long
careful series of investigations in order to determine how far those
manifold results from experiments with memory work, thought work,
writing work, and so on can be applied to the work which the
industrial laborer is expected to perform.



The increase and decrease of the ability to do good work depends of
course not only upon the direct fatigue from labor and the pauses for
rest; a large variety of other factors may lead to fluctuations which
are economically important. The various hours of the day, the seasons
of the year, the atmospheric conditions of weather and climate, may
have such influence. Some elements of this interplay have been cleared
up in recent years. Just as the experiments of pedagogical psychology
have determined the exact curve of efficiency during the period of an
hour in school, so other investigations have traced the typical curve
of psychical efficiency throughout the day and the year. Sociological
and criminological statistics concerning the fluctuations in the
behavior of the masses, common-sense experience of practical life, and
finally, economic statistics concerning the quantity and quality of
industrial output in various parts of the day and of the year, have
supplemented one another. The systematic assistance of the
psychological laboratory, however, has been confined to the
educational aspect of the problem. Psychological experiments have
determined how the achievement of the youth in the schoolroom changes
with the months of the year and the hours of the day. It seems as if
it could not be difficult to secure here, too, a connection between
exact experiment and economic work. Much will have to be reduced to
individual variations. The laboratory has already confirmed the
experience of daily life that there are morning workers whose
strongest psychophysical efficiency comes immediately after the
night's rest, while the day's work fatigues them more and more; and
that there are evening workers who in the morning still remain under
the after effects of the night's sleep, and who slowly become fresher
and fresher from the stimuli of the day. It would seem not impossible
to undertake a systematic selection of various individuals under this
point of view, as different industrial tasks demand a different
distribution of efficiency between morning and night.

Such a selection and adjustment may be economically still more
important with reference to the fluctuations during the course of the
year. Economic inquiries, for instance, have suggested that younger
and older workingmen who ordinarily show the same efficiency become
unequal in their ability to do good work in the spring months, and the
economists have connected this inequality with sexual conditions. But
other factors as well, especially the blood circulation of the
organism and the resulting reactions to external temperature,
different gland activities, and so on, cause great personal
differences in efficiency during the various seasons of the year.
Inasmuch as we know many economic occupations in which the chief
demand is made in one or another period of the year, a systematic
study of these individual variations might be of high economic value,
where large numbers are involved, and might contribute much to the
individual comfort of the workers. But a constant relation to day and
year also seems to exist independent of all personal variations. When
the sun stands at its meridian, a minimum of efficiency is to be
expected and a similar minimum is to be found at the height of summer.
Correspondingly we have an increase of the total psychical efficiency
in winter-time. During the spring-time the behavior seems, as far as
the investigations go, to be different in the intellectual and in the
psychomotor activities. It is claimed that the efficiency of the
intellectual functions decreases as the winter recedes, but that the
efficiency of psychomotor impulses increases.[44]

The influences of the daily temperature, of the weather and of the
seasons may be classed among the physical conditions of efficiency. We
may group with them the effects of nourishment, of stimulants, of
sleep, and so on. As far as the relations between these external
factors and purely bodily muscle work are involved, the interests of
the psychologists are not engaged. But it is evident that every one of
these relations also has its psychological aspect, and that a really
scientific psychotechnical treatment of these problems can become
possible only through the agency of psychological experiments. We have
excellent experimental investigations concerning the influence of the
loss of sleep on intellectual labor and on simple psychomotor
activities. But it would be rather arbitrary to deduce from the
results of those researches anything as to the effect of reduction of
sleep on special economic occupations. Yet such knowledge would be of
high importance. We have in the literature concerned with accidents in
transportation numerous popular discussions about the destructive
influence of loss of sleep on the attention of the locomotive engineer
or of the helmsman or of the chauffeur, but an analysis of the
particular psychophysical processes does not as yet exist and can be
expected only from systematic experiments. Nor has the influence of
hunger on psychotechnical activities been studied in a satisfactory

A number of psychological investigations have been devoted to the
study of the influence of alcohol on various psychical functions and
in this field at least the strictly economic problem of industrial
labor has sometimes been touched. We have the much quoted and much
misinterpreted experiments [45] which were carried on in Germany with
typesetters. The workmen received definite quantities of heavy wine at
a particular point in the work and the number of letters which they
were able to set during the following quarter-hours were measured and
compared with their normal achievement in fifteen minutes. The
reduction of efficiency amounted on the average to 15 per cent of the
output. It may be mentioned that the loss referred only to the
quantity of the work and not at all to the quality. The well-known
subjective illusory feeling of the subjects was not lacking; they
themselves believed that the wine had reinforced their working power.
As soon as such experiments are put into the service of economic life,
they will have to be carried on with much more accurate adjustment to
the special conditions, with subtler gradation of the stimuli, and
especially with careful study of individual factors. But at first it
seems more in the interest of the practical task that the extremely
complicated problem of the influence of alcohol be followed up by
purely theoretical research in the laboratory in order that the effect
may be resolved into its various components. We must first find the
exact facts concerning the influence of alcohol on elementary
processes of mental life, such as perception, attention, memory, and
so on, and this will slowly prepare the way for the complete economic

At present the greatest significance for the economic field may be
attached to those alcohol experiments which dealt with the
apprehension of the outer world. They proved a reduction in the
ability to grasp the impressions and a narrowing of the span of
consciousness. The indubitable decrease of certain memory powers, of
the acuity in measuring distance, of the time estimation, and similar
psychical disturbances after alcohol, must evidently be of high
importance for industry and transportation, while the well-known
increase of the purely sensory sensibility, especially of the visual
acuity after small closes of alcohol, hardly plays an important rôle
in practical life. The best-known and experimentally most studied
effect of alcohol, the increase of motor excitability, also evidently
has its importance for industrial achievements. It cannot be denied
that this facility of the motor impulses after small doses of alcohol
is not a real gain, which might be utilized economically, but is
ultimately an injury to the apparatus, even if we abstract from the
retardation of the reaction which comes as an after-effect. The
alcoholic facilitation, after all, reduces the certainty and the
perfection of the reaction and creates conditions under which wrong,
and this in economic life means often dangerous, motor responses
arise. The energy of the motor discharge suffers throughout from the

Some experiments which were recently carried on with reference to the
influence of alcohol on the power of will seem to have especial
significance for the field of economic activity. The method applied in
the experiment was the artificial creation of an exactly measurable
resistance to the will-impulse directed toward a purpose. The
experiment had to determine what power of resistance could be overcome
by the will and how far this energy changes under the influence of
alcohol. For this end combinations of meaningless syllables were
learned and repeated until they formed a close connection in memory.
If one syllable was given, the mechanical tendency of the mind was to
reproduce the next syllable in the memorized series. The
will-intention was then directed toward breaking this memory type. For
instance, it was demanded, when a syllable was called, that the
subject should not answer with the next following syllable, but with a
rhyming syllable. This will-impulse easily succeeded when the
syllables to be learned had been repeated only a few times, while
after a very frequent repetition the memory connection offered a
resistance which the simple will-intention could not break. The
syllable which followed in the series rushed to the mind before the
intention to seek a rhyming syllable could be realized. The number of
repetitions thus became a measure for the power of the will. After
carrying out these experiments at first under normal conditions, they
were repeated while the subjects were under the influence of exactly
graded doses of alcohol.[46] From such simple tasks the experiment was
turned to more and more complex ones of similar structure. All
together they showed clearly that the alcohol did not influence the
ability to make the will effective and that the actual decrease of
achievement results from a decrease in the ability to grasp the
material. As long as the alcohol doses are small, this feeling of
decreased ability stirs up a reinforcement in the tension of the
will-impulse. This may go to such an extent that the increased
will-effort not only compensates for the reduced understanding, but
even over-compensates for it, producing an improvement in the mental
work. But as soon as the alcohol doses amount to about 100 cubic
centimeters, the increased tension of the will is no longer sufficient
to balance the paralyzing effect in the understanding. Yet it must not
be overlooked that in all these experiments only isolated will acts
were in question which were separated from one another by pauses of
rest. Evidently, however, the technical laborer is more often in a
situation in which not isolated impulses, but a continuous tension of
the will is demanded. How far such an uninterrupted will-function is
affected by alcohol has not as yet been studied with the exact means
of the experiment.

To be sure an obvious suggestion would be that the whole problem, as
far as economics, and especially industry, are concerned, might be
solved in a simpler way than by the performance of special
psychological experiments, namely, by the complete elimination of
alcohol itself from the life of the wage-earner. The laboratory
experiment which seems to demonstrate a reduction of objective
achievement in the case of every important mental function merely
supplements in exact language the appalling results indicated by
criminal statistics, disease statistics, and inheritance statistics.
It seems as if the time had come when scientists could not with a good
conscience suggest any other remedy than the merciless suppression of
alcohol. Indeed, there can be no doubt that alcohol is one of the
worst enemies of civilized life, and it is therefore almost with
regret that the scientist must acknowledge that all the psychological
investigations, which have so often been misused in the partisan
writings of prohibitionists, are not a sufficient basis to justify the
demand for complete abstinence.

First, newer experiments make it very clear that many of the so-called
effects of alcohol which the experiment has demonstrated are produced
or at least heightened by influences of suggestion. Experiments which
have been carried on in England for the study of that point show
clearly that certain psychical disturbances which seem to result from
small doses of alcohol fail to appear as soon as the subject does not
know that he has taken alcohol. For that purpose it was necessary to
eliminate the odor, and this was accomplished by introducing the
beverages into the organism by a stomach pump. When by this method
sometimes water and sometimes diluted alcohol was given without the
knowledge of the subject, the usual effects of small doses of alcohol
did not arise. But another point is far more important. We may take it
for granted that alcohol reduces the ability for achievement as soon
as such very small doses are exceeded. But from the standpoint of
economic life we have no right to consider a reduction of the
psychical ability to produce work as identical with a decrease in the
economic value of the personality. Such a view would be right if the
influence necessarily set in at the beginning of the working period.
But if, for instance, a moderate quantity of beer is introduced into
the organism after the closing of the working day, it would certainly
produce an artificial reduction of the psychical ability, and yet this
decrease of psychophysical activity might be advantageous to the total
economic achievement of the workingman in the course of the week or
the year. To be sure the glass of beer in the evening paralyzes
certain inhibitory centres of the brain and therefore puts the mind
out of gear, but such a way of expressing it may easily be misleading,
as it suggests too much that a real injury is done. From the point of
view of scientific psychology, we must acknowledge that such a
paralyzing effect in certain parts of the psychophysical system sets
in with every act of attention and reaches its climax in sleep, which
surely does no harm to the mind. It may be thoroughly advantageous for
the total work of the normal, healthy, average workingman if the after
effects of the motor excitement of the day are eliminated by a mild,
short alcoholic poisoning in the evening. It may produce that
narrowing and dulling of consciousness which extinguishes the cares
and sorrows of the day and secures the night's sleep, and through it
increased efficiency the next morning. Systematic experiments with
exact relation to the various technical demands must slowly bring real
insight into this complex situation. The usual hasty generalization
from a few experiments with alcohol for partisan interests is surely
not justified in the present unsatisfactory state of knowledge.[47]

Perhaps we know still less of the influences which coffee, tea,
tobacco, sweets, and so on exert on the life of the industrial worker.
It will be wise to resolve these stimuli in daily use into their
elements and to study the effects of each element in isolated form. To
know, for instance, the effects of caffein on the psychophysical
activities does not mean to know the effects of tea or coffee, which
contain a variety of other substances besides the caffein, substances
which may be supposed to modify the effect of the caffein. Yet the
first step must in this case be the study of the effects of the
isolated caffein, before the total influences of the familiar
beverages can be followed up. An excellent investigation of this
caffein effect on various psychological and psychomotor functions has
recently been completed.[48] When the caffein effect on tapping
movements was studied, it was found that it works as a stimulation,
sometimes preceded by a slight initial retardation. It persists from
one to two hours after doses of from one to three grains and as long
as four hours after doses of six grains. The steadiness test showed a
slight nervousness after several hours after doses of from one to four
grains. After six grains there is pronounced unsteadiness. A complex
test in coördination indicated that the effect of small, amounts of
caffein is a stimulation and that of large amounts a retardation.
Correspondingly the speed of performance in typewriting is heightened
by small doses of caffein and retarded by larger doses. In both cases
the quality of the performance as measured by the number of errors is
superior to the normal result.

The influences of the physiological stimulants have many points of
contact with the effects of social entertainment, the significance of
which for the economic life is still rather unknown in any exact
detail. Many factories in which the labor is noiseless, as in the
making of cigars, have introduced gramophone music or reading aloud,
and it is easy to understand theoretically that a certain animating
effect results, which stimulates the whole psychophysical activity But
only the experiment would be able to decide how this stimulation is
related, for instance, to the distraction of attention, which is
necessarily involved, or how it influences various periods of the work
and various types of work, how far it is true that the musical key
exerts an exciting or relaxing influence, what intensity and what
local position, what rhythm and what duration of such æsthetic
stimuli, would bring the best possible economic results. We all have
read of the favorable effects which were secured in a factory when a
cat was brought into every working-room in which women laborers were
engaged in especially fatiguing work. The cat became a living toy for
the employees, which stimulated their social consciousness. In not a
few plants the reinforced achievement is explained by the social means
of entertainment, which have been introduced under the pressure of
modern philanthropic ideas. The lounging-rooms with the newspapers and
periodicals the clubrooms with libraries, the excursions and dances
and patriotic festivities, fill up the reservoir of psychophysical
energies. As a matter of course all the social movements which enhance
the consciousness of solidarity among the laborers and the feeling of
security as to their future development in their career have a similar
effect of reinforcing the normal psychical achievement.

As the strongest factor, finally, the direct material interest must
be added to these conditions. The literature of political economy is
full of discussions of the effect of increase of wages, of the payment
of bonuses and premiums, of piece-wages, of promised pensions, and, as
far as Europe is concerned, of state insurance. In short, the whole
individual financial situation in its relation to the psychophysical
achievement of the wage-earner is a favorite topic of economic
inquiry. We cannot participate here in these inexhaustible
discussions, because all these questions are to-day still so endlessly
far from the field of psychological experiments. Nevertheless we ought
not to forget the experience through which general experimental
psychology has gone in the last few decades. When the first
experiments were undertaken in order to deal systematically with the
mental life, the friends of this new science and its opponents agreed,
on the whole, in the belief that certainly only the most elementary
phenomena of consciousness, the sensations and the reactions of
impulses, would be accessible to the new method. The opponents
naturally compared this modest field with the great problems of the
mental totality, and therefore ridiculed the new narrow task as
unimportant. The friends, on the other hand, were eager to follow the
fresh path, because they were content to gain real exactitude by the
experiment at least in these simplest questions. Yet as soon as the
new independent workshops were established for the young science, it
was discovered that the method was able to open fields in which no one
had anticipated its usefulness. The experiments turned to the problems
of attention, of memory, of imagination, of feeling, of judgment, of
character, of æsthetic experience and so on. It is not improbable that
the method of the economic psychological experiment may also quickly
lead beyond the more elementary problems, as soon as it is
systematically applied, and then it, too, may conquer regions of
inquiry in which to-day no exact calculation of the psychological
factors seems possible.

If such an advance is to be a steady one, the economic psychologist
will emancipate himself from the chance question of what problems are
at this moment important for commerce and industry and will proceed
systematically step by step from those results which the psychological
laboratory has yielded under the non-economic points of view. Many
previous psychological or psychophysical inquiries almost touch the
problems of industrial achievement. For instance, the experiments on
imitation, which psychophysicists have carried on in purely
theoretical or pedagogical interests, move parallel to industrial
experiences. It is well known that the pacemaker plays his rôle not
only in the field of sport but also in the factory. The rhythm of one
laborer gains controlling importance for the others, who instinctively
imitate him. Some plants even have automatically working machines with
the special intention that the sharp rhythm of these lifeless
forerunners shall produce an involuntary imitation in the
psychophysical system. In a similar way many laboratory investigations
on suggestion and suggestibility point to such economic processes, and
it seems to me that especially the studies on the influence of the
ideas of purpose which are being undertaken nowadays in many
psychological laboratories may easily be connected with the problems
of economic life. We know how the consciousness of the task to be
performed has an organizing influence on the system of those
psychophysical acts which lead to the goal. The experiment has shown
under which conditions this effect can be reinforced and under which
reduced. Pedagogical experiments have also shown exactly what
influence belongs to the consciousness of the approach to the end of
work; the feeling of the nearness of the close heightens the
achievement, even of the fatigued subject. It would not be difficult
to connect psychophysical experiments of this kind with the problems

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Online LibraryHugo MünsterbergPsychology and Industrial Efficiency → online text (page 12 of 16)