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of the task and bonus system, which is nowadays so much discussed in
industrial life. The practical successes seem to prove that the
individual can do more with equal effort if he does not stand before
an unlimited mass of work of which he has to do as much as possible in
the course of the day, but if he is before a definitely determined,
limited task with the demand that he complete it in an exactly
calculated time. Scientific management has made far-reaching use of
this principle, but whether constant results for the various
industries can be hoped for from such methods must again be
ascertained by the psychological experiment.

These hopes surely will not weaken the interest of the psychologist
for those many psychological methods which lie outside of the
experimental research. A sociologist, who himself had been a laborer
in his earlier life, undertook in Germany last year an inquiry into
the psychological status of the laborers' achievement by the
questionnaire method.[49] He sent to 8000 workingmen in the mining
industries, textile industries, and metal industries, blanks
containing 26 questions, and received more than 5000 replies. The
questions referred to the pleasure and interest in the work, to
preferences, to fatigue, to the thoughts during the work, to the
means of recreation, to the attitude toward the wages, to the
emotional situation, and so on. The 5000 answers allowed manifold
classifications. The various mental types of men could be examined,
the influence of the machine, the attitude toward monotony, the
changes of pleasure and interest in the work with the age of the
laborer, the time at which fatigue becomes noticeable, and so on. Many
psychological elements of industrial life thus come to a sharp focus
and the strong individual differences could not be brought out in a
more characteristic way. Yet, all taken together, even such a careful
investigation on a psychostatistical basis strongly suggests that a
few careful experimental investigations could lead further than such a
heaping-up of material gathered from men who are untrained in
self-observation and in accurate reports, and above all who are
accessible to any kind of suggestion and preconceived idea. The
experimental method is certainly not the only one which can contribute
to reforms in industrial life and the reinforcement of industrial
efficiency, but all signs indicate that the future will find it the
most productive and most reliable.





Every economic function comes in contact with the mental life of man,
first from the fact that the work is produced by the psyche of
personalities. This gave us the material for the first two parts of
our discussion. We asked what mind is best fitted for the particular
kind of work, and how the mind can be led to the best output of work.
But it is evident that the real meaning of the economic process
expresses itself in an entirely different contact between work and
mind. The economic activity is separated from all other processes in
the world, not by the fact that it involves labor and achievement by
personalities, but by the fact that this labor satisfies a certain
group of human desires which we acknowledge as economic. The mere
performance of labor, with all the psychical traits of attention and
fatigue and will-impulses and personal qualities, does not in itself
constitute anything of economic value. For instance, the sportsman
who climbs a glacier also performs such a fatiguing activity which
demands the greatest effort of attention and will; and yet the
psychotechnics of sport do not belong in economic psychology, because
this mountain climbing does not satisfy economic desires. The ultimate
characteristic which designates an activity as economic is accordingly
a certain effect on human souls. The whole whirl of the economic world
is ultimately controlled by the purpose of satisfying certain
psychical desires. Hence this psychical effect is still more
fundamental for the economic process than its psychical origin in the
mental conditions of the worker. The task of psychotechnics is
accordingly to determine by exact psychological experiments how this
mental effect, the satisfaction of economic desires, can be secured in
the quickest, in the easiest, in the safest, in the most enduring, and
in the most satisfactory way.

But we must not deceive ourselves as to the humiliating truth that so
far not the slightest effort has been made toward the answering of
this central scientific question. If the inquiry into the psychical
effects were really to be confined to this problem of the ultimate
satisfaction of economic desires, scientific psychology could not
contribute any results and could not offer anything but hopes and
wishes for the future. At the first glance it might appear as if just
here a large amount of literature exists; moreover, a literature rich
in excellent investigations and ample empirical material. On the one
side the political economists, with their theories of economic value
and their investigations concerning the conditions of prices and the
development of luxury, the calculation of economic values from
pleasure and displeasure and many similar studies, have connected the
economic processes with mental life; on the other side the
philosophers, with their theories of value, have not confined
themselves to the ethical and æsthetic motives, but have gone deeply
into the economic life too. While such studies of the economists and
of the philosophers are chiefly meant to serve theoretical
understanding, it might seem easy to deduce from them technical
practical prescriptions as well. If we know that under particular
conditions certain demands will be satisfied, we draw the conclusion
that we must realize those conditions whenever such demands are to be
satisfied. The theoretical views of the economists and of the
philosophers of value might thus be directly translated into
psychotechnical advice.

As soon as we look deeper into the situation, we must recognize that
this surface impression is entirely misleading. Certainly whenever
the philosophers or political economists discuss the problems of value
and of the satisfaction of human demands, they are using psychological
terms, but the whole meaning which they attach to these terms,
feeling, emotion, will, desire, pleasure, displeasure, joy, and pain,
is essentially different from that which controls the causal
explanations of scientific psychology. We cannot enter into the real
fundamental questions here, which are too often carelessly ignored
even in scientific quarters. Too often psychology is treated, even by
psychologists, as if it covered every possible systematic treatment of
inner experience, and correspondingly outsiders like the economists
fancy that they are on psychological ground and are handling
psychological conceptions as soon as they make any statements
concerning the inner life. But if we examine the real purposes and
presuppositions of the various sciences, we must recognize that the
human experience can be looked on from two entirely different points
of view. Only from one of the two does it present itself as
psychological material and as a fit object for psychological study.
From the other point of view, which is no less valuable and no less
important for the understanding of our inner life, human experience
offers itself as a reality with which psychology as such has nothing
to do, even though it may be difficult to eliminate the usual
psychological words.

The psychologist considers human experience as a series of objects for
consciousness. All the perceptions and memory ideas and imaginative
ideas and feelings and emotions, are taken by him as mental objects of
which consciousness becomes aware, and his task is to describe and to
explain them and to find the laws for their succession. He studies
them as a naturalist studies the chemical elements or the stars. It
makes no difference whether his explanation leads him to connect these
mental contents with brain processes as one theory proposes, or with
subconscious processes as another theory suggests. The entirely
different aspect of inner life is the one which is most natural in our
ordinary intercourse. Whenever we give an account of our inner life or
are interested in the experience of our friends, we do not consider
how their mental experiences as such objective contents of
consciousness are to be described and explained, but we take them as
inner actions and attitudes toward the world, and our aim is not to
describe and to explain them but to interpret and to understand them.
We do not seek their elements but their meaning, we do not seek their
causes and effects but their inner relations and their inner
purposes. In short, we do not take them at all as objects but as
functions of the subject, and our dealing with them has no similarity
to the method of the naturalist.

This method of practical life in which we seek to express and to
understand a meaning, and relate every will-act to its aim, is not
confined to the mere popular aspect; it can lead to very systematic
scholarly treatment. It is exactly the treatment which is fundamental
in the case of all history, for example, or of law, or of logic. That
is, the historian makes us understand the meaning of a personality of
the past and is really interested in past events only as far as human
needs are to be interpreted. It would be pseudo-psychology, if we
called such an account in the truly historical spirit a psychological
description and explanation. The student of law interprets the meaning
of the will of the legislator; he does not deal with the idea of the
law as a psychological content. And the logician has nothing to do
with the idea as a conscious object in the mind; he asks as to the
inner relations of it and as to the conclusions from the premises. In
short, wherever historical interpretations or logical deductions are
needed, we move on in the sphere of human life as it presents itself
from the standpoint of immediate true experience without artificially
moulding it into the conceptions of psychology. On the other hand, as
soon as the psychological method is applied, this immediate life
meaning of human experience is abandoned, and instead of it is gained
the possibility of considering the whole experience as a system of
causes and effects. Mental life is then no longer what it is to us in
our daily intercourse, because it is reconstructed for the purposes of
this special treatment, just as the water which we drink is no longer
our beverage if we consider it under the point of view of chemistry as
a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Hence we have not two statements
one of which is true and the other ultimately untrue; on the contrary,
both are true. We have a perfect right to give the value of truth to
our experience with water as a refreshing drink, and also to the
formula of the chemist. With a still better right we may claim that
both kinds of mental experience are equally true. Hence not a word of
objection is raised against the discussions of the historians and the
philosophers, if we insist that their so-called psychology stands
outside of the really descriptive and explanatory account of mental
life, and is therefore not psychology in the technical sense of the

It is this historical attitude which controls all the studies of the
political economists. They speak of the will-acts of the individuals
and of their demands and desires and satisfactions, but they do not
describe and explain them; they want to interpret and understand them.
They may analyze the motives of the laborer or of the manufacturer,
but those motives and impulses interest them not as contents of
consciousness, but only as acts which are directed toward a goal. The
aim toward which these point by their meaning, and not the elements
from which they are made up or their causes and effects, is the
substance of such economic studies. For such a subjective account of
the meaning of actions the only problem is, indeed, the correct
understanding and interpretation, and the consistent psychologist who
knows that it is not his task to interpret but to explain has no right
to raise any questions here. It is, therefore, only a confusing
disturbance, if a really psychological, causal explanation is mixed
into the interpretation of such a system of will-acts and purposes. It
is true we find this confusion in many modern works on economics.
Economists know that a scientific explanatory study of the human mind
exists, and they have a vague feeling that they have no right to
ignore this real psychology, instead of recognizing that the
psychology really has nothing to do with their particular problem. The
result is that they constantly try to discuss the impulses and
instincts, the hunger and thirst and sexual desire, and the higher
demands for fighting and playing and acquiring, for seeking power and
social influence, as a psychologist would discuss them, referring them
to biological and physiological conditions and explaining them
causally. Yet as soon as they come to their real problems and enter
into the interpretation and meaning of these economic energies, they
naturally slide back into the historical, economic point of view and
discuss the economic relations of men without any reference to their
psychologizing preambles. The application of the psychological,
scientific method to the true economic experience is therefore not
secured at all in this way. The demands and volitions which they
disentangle are not the ones which the psychophysiologist studies,
because they are left in their immediate form of life reality. They
are accordingly inaccessible to the point of view of experimental
psychology, and nothing can be expected from such interpretative
discussions of the economists for the psychotechnics at which the
psychologist is aiming. Even where the political economists deal with
the problems of value in exact language, nothing is gained for the
kind of insight for which the psychologist hopes, and the
psychologists must therefore go on with their own methods, if they
are ever to reach a causal understanding of the means by which a
satisfaction of the economic demands may be effected.

So far the psychologists have not even started to examine these
economic feelings, demands, and satisfactions with the means of
laboratory psychology. Hence no one can say beforehand how it ought to
be done and how to gain access to the important problems, inasmuch as
the right formulation of the problem and the selection of the right
method would here as everywhere be more than half of the solution. It
must be left to the development of science for the right
starting-point and the right methods to be discovered. Sometimes, to
be sure, the experiment has at least approached this group of economic
questions. For instance, the investigations of the so-called
psychophysical law have often been brought into contact with the
experiences of ownership and acquirement. The law, well known to every
student of psychology, is that the differences of intensity in two
pairs of sensations are felt as equal, when the two pairs of stimuli
are standing in the same relation. The difference between the
intensities of the light sensations from 10 candles and 11 candles is
equal to that from 50 candles and 55 candles, from 100 candles and
110, from 500 candles and 550: that is, the difference of one
additional candle between 10 and 11 appears just as great as the
difference of 50 candles between 500 and 550. The psychologists have
claimed that in a corresponding way the same feeling of difference
arises when the amounts of possessions stand in the same relation.
That is, the man who owns $100 feels the gain or loss of $1 as much as
one who owns $100,000 feels the gain or loss of $1000. Not the
absolute amount of the difference, but the relative value of the
increase or decrease is the decisive influence on the psychological
effect. Some experimental investigations concerning feelings have also
come near to the economic boundaries. The study of the contrast
feelings and of the relativity of feelings, for instance, has points
of contact with the economic problem of how far economic progress,
with its stirring up and satisfying of continually new demands, really
adds to the quantity of human enjoyment. In other words, how far are
those sociologists right who are convinced that by the technical
complexity of modern life, with all its comforts and mechanizations,
the level of individual life is raised, but that the oscillations
about this average level remain the same and produce the same amount
of pleasure and pain? The technical advance would therefore bring no
increase of human pleasure.

We might also put into this class the meagre experimental
investigations concerning the mutual influence of feelings. When
sound, light, and touch impressions, each of which, isolated, produces
a feeling of a certain degree, are combined with one another, the
experiment can show very characteristic changes in the intensity of
pleasure and displeasure. From such routine experiments of the
laboratory it might not be difficult to come to more complex
experiments on the mutual relations of feeling values and especially
of the combinations of pleasure with displeasure. This would lead to
an insight into the processes which are involved in the fixing of
prices, as they are always dependent upon the pleasure in the
acquisition and the displeasure in the outlay. The exact psychology of
the future may thus very well determine the conditions under which the
best effects for the satisfaction of economic demands may be secured,
but our present-day science is still far from such an achievement: and
it seems hardly justifiable to propose methods to-day, as it would be
like drawing a map with detailed paths for a primeval forest which is
still inaccessible.



We have said that the time has not yet come for discussing from the
standpoint of experimental psychology the means to secure the ultimate
effects of economic life, namely, the satisfaction of economic
demands. If this were the only effect which had economic significance,
this whole last part of our little book would have to remain a blank,
as we wanted to deal here with the securing of the best effects after
having studied the securing of the best man and of the best work. Yet
these ultimate ends are certainly not the only mental effects which
become important in the course of economic processes. In order to
reach that final end of the economic movement, often an unlimited
number of part processes distributed over space and time must
coöperate. The satisfaction of our thirst in a tea-room may be a
trivial illustration of such a final effect, but it is clear that in
order to produce this ultimate mental effect of satisfying the thirst,
thousands of economic processes must have preceded. To bring the tea
and the sugar and the lemon to the table, the porcelain cup and the
silver spoon, wage-earners, manufacturers and laborers, exporters,
importers, storekeepers, salesmen, and customers had to coöperate.
Among such part processes which serve the economic achievement are
always many which succeed only if they produce characteristic effects
in human minds. The propaganda which the storekeeper makes, for
instance, his display and his posters, serve the economic interplay by
psychical effects without themselves satisfying any ultimate economic
demand. They must attract the passer-by or impress the reader or
stimulate his impulse to buy, and through all this they reach an end
which is in itself not final, as no human desire to read
advertisements exists. When the salesman influences the customer to
buy something which may later help to satisfy a real economic demand,
the art of his suggestive words secures a mental effect which again is
in itself not ultimate. If the manufacturer influences his employees
to work with more attention or with greater industry, or if the
community stirs up the desire for luxury or the tendency to saving, we
have mental effects which are of economic importance without being
really ultimate economic effects.

As far as these effects are necessary and justified stages leading to
the ultimate satisfaction of economic demands, it certainly is the
duty of applied psychology to bring psychological experience and exact
methods into their service. We emphasize the necessary and justified
character of these steps, as it is evident that psychological methods
may be made use of also by those who aim toward mental effects which
are unjustified and which are not necessary for the real satisfaction
of valuable demands. Psychological laws can also be helpful in
fraudulent undertakings or in advertisements for unfair competition.
The psychotechnical scientist cannot be blamed if the results of his
experiments are misused for immoral purposes, just as the chemist is
not responsible if chemical knowledge is applied to the construction
of anarchistic bombs. But while psychology, as we have emphasized
before, cannot from its own point of view determine the value of the
end, the psychologist as a human being is certainly willing to
coöperate only where the soundness and correctness of the ends are
evident from the point of view of social welfare.

In order to demonstrate the principle of this kind of psychotechnical
help with fuller detail, at least by one illustration, I may discuss
the case of the advertisements, the more as this problem has already
been taken up in a somewhat systematic way by the psychological
laboratories. We have a number of careful experimental investigations
referring to the memory-value, the attention-value, the
suggestion-value, and other mental effects of the printed business
advertisements. Of course this group of experimental investigations at
once suggests an objection which we cannot ignore. A business
advertisement, as it appears in the newspapers, is such an extremely
trivial thing and so completely devoted to the egotistical desire for
profit that it seems undignified for the scientist to spend his time
on such nothings and to shoot sparrows with his laboratory
cannon-balls. But on the one side nothing can be unworthy of thorough
study from a strictly theoretical point of view. The dirtiest chemical
substance may become of greatest importance for chemistry, and the
ugliest insect for zoölogy. On the other side, if the practical point
of view of the applied sciences is taken, the importance of the
inquiry may stand in direct relation to the intensity of the human
demand which is to be satisfied by the new knowledge. Present-day
society is so organized that the economic advertisement surely serves
a need, and its intensity is expressed by the well-known fact that in
every year billions are paid for advertising. Measured by the amount
of expenditure, advertising has become one of the largest and
economically most important human industries. It is, then, not
astonishing that scientists consider it worth while to examine the
exact foundations of this industry, but it is surprising that this
industry could reach such an enormous development without being guided
by the spirit of scientific exactitude which appears a matter of
course in every other large business. As it is a function of science
to study the physics of incandescent lamps or gas motors so as to
bring the economically most satisfactory devices into the service of
the community, it cannot be less important from the standpoint of
national economics to study scientifically the efficiency of the
advertisements in order that the national means may in this industry,
too, secure the greatest possible effects. It is only a secondary
point that experiments of this kind are of high interest to the
theoretical scientist as well. For us the advertisement is simply an
instrument constructed to satisfy certain human demands by its effects
on the mind. It is a question for psychology to determine the
conditions under which this instrument may be best adapted to its

The mental effect of a well-adapted advertisement is manifold. It
appeals to the memory. Whatever we read at the street corner, or in
the pages of the newspaper or magazine, is not printed with the idea
that we shall immediately turn to the store, but first of all with
the expectation that we keep the content of the advertisement in our
memory for a later purchase. It will therefore be the more valuable

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Online LibraryHugo MünsterbergPsychology and Industrial Efficiency → online text (page 13 of 16)