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involved, the most skillful performance, the only desirable end. The
social reformers, on the other hand, may consider the best work that
which combines the greatest and best possible output with the highest
possible saving of the organism and the fullest development of the
personality. We have emphasized from the start that the practical
psychologist as such has not the right to give a decision upon
problems of social civilization. He has to accept the economic tasks
from the community for which he is working and his impartial service
commences only when the goals have been determined. It is not his
share to select the ends, but simply to determine the means after the
valuable ends have been chosen. As a psychological scientist he has
not the right to enter into the arena of different social party
fights. Yet we find after all a broad region which seems rather
untouched by any conflict of reasonable opinions. A reckless
capitalism on the one side and a feeble sentimentality on the other
side may try to widen or to narrow the boundaries of this region, but
taken all together, a vigorous healthy nation which is eagerly devoted
to its work is on the whole in agreement as to the essential economic
demands for efficient labor.

Experience, to be sure, shows that great changes in the conditions of
work can never enter into the history of civilization without certain
disturbances, and that opposition must therefore necessarily arise in
certain groups even against such changes as are undoubtedly
improvements and advances from the point of view of the whole nation.
Such dissatisfaction arose when the factory system was introduced, and
it is only natural that some irritation should accompany the
introduction of psychological improvements in the methods of work,
inasmuch as not a few wage-earners may at first have to lose their
places because a small number of men will under the improved
conditions be sufficient for the performance of tasks which needed
many before. But the history of economics has clearly shown that from
the point of view of the whole community such an apparent disturbance
has always been only temporary. If the psychologists succeed in
fundamentally improving the conditions of labor, the increased
efficiency of the individual will promote such an enriched and
vivified economic life that ultimately an increase in the number of
laborers needed will result. The inquiry into the possible
psychological contributions to the question of reinforced achievement
must not be deterred by the superficial objection that in one or
another industrial concern a dismissal of wage-earners might at first
result. Psychotechnics does not stand in the service of a party, but
exclusively in the service of civilization.

To begin at the beginning, we may start from the commonplace that
every form of economic labor in the workshop and in the factory, in
the field and in the mine, in the store and in the office, must first
be learned. How far do the experiments of the psychologist offer
suggestions for securing the most economic method of learning
practical activities? Bodily actions in the service of economic work
are taught and learned in hundreds of thousands of places. It is
evident that one method of teaching must reach the goal more quickly
and more reliably than another. Some methods of teaching must
therefore be economically more advantageous, and yet on the whole the
methods of teaching muscular work are essentially left to chance. It
is indeed not difficult to observe how factory workers or artisans
have learned the same complex motion according to entirely different
methods. The result is that they carry out the various partial
movements in a different order, or with different auxiliary motions,
or in different positions, or in a different rhythm, or with different
emphasis, simply because they imitate different teachers, and because
no norm, no certainty as to the best methods for the teaching, has
been determined. But the process of learning is still more fluctuating
and still more dependent upon chance than the process of teaching. The
apprentice approaches the instruction, in any chance way, and the
beginner usually learns even the first steps with a psychophysical
attitude which is left to accident. An immense waste of energy and a
quite anti-economic training in unfit movements is the necessary
result.

The learning of the elements of school knowledge in the classroom in
earlier times proceeded after exactly such chance methods. Any one who
knew how to read, write, and calculate felt himself prepared to pour
reading, writing, and arithmetic into the unprotected children.
Methods which are based on scientific examination of the
psychophysical process of reading and writing were not at the disposal
of the schools, and exact results from comparative studies of
pedagogical methods had not been secured. The last few decades have
created an entirely new foundation for enlightened school work. The
experimental investigations of pedagogical psychology have determined
exactly how the consciousness of the child reacts on the various
methods of teaching and have built up a real systematic economic
learning. All which was left to dilettantic caprice has been
transformed into more or less definite standard forms. For instance,
the old scheme of teaching reading by the alphabet method is
practically eliminated from our modern schools. It is clear that this
learning of the names of the single letters as a starting-point for
the reading of words was not only a wasting of time and energy, but an
actual disturbance in the development of the reading process in the
older generation. As those names of the letters do not occur at all in
the words to be read, but only their sounds, what had been learned in
seeing the single letters had to be inhibited in pronouncing the whole
word. It seems not too much to say that the learning of industrial
activities on the whole still stands on the level of such alphabet
methods, and this cannot be otherwise, as the real problem, namely,
the systematic investigation of the psychophysical activities
involved, has never been brought into the psychological laboratory.

The pedagogical experiment has shown clearly enough that the
subjective feeling of easier or quicker learning may be entirely
unreliable and misleading. If the task is to learn a page by heart, we
may proceed after many different methods. We may learn very small
fractions of the text, repeating only a few words, or we may read
whole paragraphs every time; we may repeat the whole material again
and again, or we may put in long periods of rest after a few
repetitions; we may frequently recite it from memory and have some one
to prompt us; we may give our attention especially to the meaning of
the words, or merely to the sounds, or we may introduce any number of
similar variations. Now the careful experiment shows that of two such
methods one which appears to us the better and more appropriate in
learning, perhaps even as the easier and more comfortable, may prove
itself the less efficient one in the practical result. The psychology
of learning, which won its success by introducing meaningless
syllables as experimental material, has slowly determined the most
reliable methods for impressing knowledge on memory. Where such
results have once been secured, it would surely be a grave mistake
simply to stick to the methods of so-called common sense and to leave
it to the caprice of the individual teacher to decide what method of
learning he will suggest to his pupils. The best method is always the
only one which should be considered. The psychology of economic work
must aim toward similar goals. We must secure a definite knowledge as
to the methods by which a group of movements can best be learned. We
must understand what value is to be attached to the repetitions and to
the pauses, to the imitations and to the special combinations of
movements, to the exercise in parts of the movements, to the rhythm of
the work, and to many similar influences which may shape the learning
process.

The simplest aspect, that of the mere repetition of the movement, has
frequently been examined by psychophysicists. The real founder of
experimental psychology, Fechner, showed the way; he performed
fatiguing experiments with lifted dumb-bells. Then came the time in
which the laboratories began to make a record of the muscular
activities with the help of the ergograph, an instrument with which
the movements of the arm and the fingers can easily be registered on
the smoked surface of a revolving drum. The subtlest variations of the
activity, the increase and decrease of the psychomotor impulse, the
mental fatigue, can be traced exactly in such graphic records. This
psychomotor side of the process, and not the mere muscle activity as
such, is indeed the essential factor which should interest us. The
results of exercise are a training of the central apparatus of the
brain and not of the muscular periphery. The further development of
those experiments soon led to complex questions, which referred not
only to the mere change in the motor efficiency, but to the learning
of particular groups of movements and to the influences on the
exactitude and reliability of the movements. The purely mental factors
of the will-impulse, especially the consciousness of the task, came
into the foreground. These experiences of the scientists concerning
the influences of training, the mechanization of repetition, and the
automatization of movements have been thoroughly discussed by a
brilliant political economist[19] as an explanation of certain
industrial facts, but they have not yet practically influenced life in
the factory.

The nearest approach from the experimental side to the study of the
effect of training in actual industrial tasks may be found in certain
laboratory investigations which refer to the learning of telegraphing,
typewriting, and so on. For instance, we have a careful study[20] of
the progress made in learning telegraphy, both as to the transmitting
of the telegrams by the key movement and the receiving of the
telegrams by the ear. It was found that the rapidity of transmitting
increases more rapidly and more uniformly than the rapidity of
receiving. But while the curve of the latter rises more slowly and
more irregularly, it finally reaches the greater height. The ability
in transmitting, represented by a graphic record, shows an ascent
which corresponds to the typical, steady curve of training. In the
receiving curve, on the other hand, we find not far from the beginning
a characteristic period during which no progress whatever can be
noticed, and this is also repeated at a later stage. The psychological
analysis shows that the increase of ability in the receiving of
telegrams depends upon the development of a complex system of
psychophysical habits. The periods in which the curve does not ascend
represent stages of training in which the elementary habits are
almost completely formed, but have not become sufficiently automatic.
The attention is therefore not yet ready to start habits of a higher
order. The lowest correlation refers to the single letters, after that
to the syllables and words. As soon as the apprentice has reached this
point, he stops, because he must learn to master more and more new
words until his telegraphic vocabulary is large enough to make it
possible for him to turn his consciousness to whole groups of words at
once. Only when this new habit has been made automatic by a training
of several months can he advance to a level at which whole groups of
words are perceived as telegraphic units. A time follows in which this
mastery of whole phrases advances rapidly, until a new period of rest
comes, from which, only after years and often quite suddenly, a last
new ascent can be noticed. Instead of concentrating the attention with
conscious strain on single phrases, the operator progresses to a
perfect liberty in which whole sentences are understood automatically.

We also have a model experimental research into the psychological
conditions of learning in the case of writing on a typewriter.[21] By
electrical connections between the typewriting machine and a system of
levers which registered their movements on the rotating drum of a
kymograph, graph, each striking of a key, each completion of a word,
or of a line, could be recorded in exact time-relations. Each glance
at the copy was also registered. It was found that the process of
learning consisted first of a continuous simplification of the
cumbersome methods with which the beginner commences. A steady
elimination of unfit movements, a selection, a reorganization, and
finally, a combination of psychophysical acts to impulses of higher
order, could be traced exactly. Here, too, the curve of learning at
first rises quickly and then more and more slowly. Of course the usual
fluctuations in the growth of the ability can also be found, and above
all the irregular periods of rest in which the learning itself does
not progress, for some of these so-called plateaus which lie between
the end of one ascent and the beginning of the next may cover a month
and more. At the beginning we have the elementary association between
the single letter and the position of the corresponding key, but soon
an immediate connection between the visual impression of the whole
syllable or the whole word and the total group of movements necessary
to strike the keys for it is developed. The more the ability grows,
the more these psychical impulses of higher order become organized
without conscious intention. The study shows that this development of
higher habits has already begun before the lower habits are fully
settled.

How far the special training involves at the same time a general
training which could be of advantage for other kinds of labor has not
yet been studied at all with reference to industrial technique. There
we are still completely dependent upon certain experiences in the
field of experimental pedagogy, and upon certain statistics, for
instance, in the textile industry. Many patient investigations, with
every independent group of apparatus and machines, may be necessary
before psychotechnics will be able to supply industry with reliable
advice for teaching and learning. Nor have we the least right hastily
to carry over the results from one group of movements to another. Even
where superficially a certain similarity between the technical factors
exists, the psychophysical conditions may be essentially different. In
the two cases mentioned, for instance, telegraphing and typewriting,
the chief factor seems the same, as in both cases the aim is to make
the quickest possible finger movements for purposes of signals; and
yet it is not surprising that the development of the ability from the
beginnings to the highest mastery is rather unlike, as all the
movements in telegraphing are performed with the same finger, while
in typewriting the chief trait is the organization of groups from the
impulses to all ten fingers. At least it is certain that learning
always means far more than a mere facilitation of the movement by
mechanical repetition, and this is true of the simplest handling of
the tools in the workshop, of the movements at the machine in the
factory, and of the most complex performances at the subtlest
instruments. The chief factor in the development is always the
organization of the impulses by which the reactions which are at first
complicated become simplified, later mechanized, and finally
synthesized into a higher group which becomes subordinated to one
simple psychical impulse. The most reliable and psychophysically most
economic means for this organization will have to be studied in the
economic psychological laboratories of the future for every particular
technique. Then only can the enormous waste of psychical energy
resulting from haphazard methods be brought to an end.

A problem which is still too little considered in industrial life is
the mutual interference of acquired technical activities. If one
connected series of movements is well trained by practice, does it
become less firmly fixed, if another series is studied in which the
same beginning is connected with another path of discharge? I
approached this psychophysical question of learning by experiments
which I carried on for a long while with variations of ordinary habits
of daily life, asking whether a habit associated with a certain
sensory stimulus can function automatically while dispositions for a
different habit, previously acquired, remain in the psychophysical
system. For instance, I was accustomed to carry my watch in my
left-hand vest pocket. For a week I carried it in the right-hand
pocket of my trousers and recorded every case in which I first
automatically made the movement to the vest. After some time the
movement to the right-hand pocket became entirely automatic. When it
was sufficiently fixed, I again put the watch in the left-hand vest
pocket and recorded how often I unconsciously grasped at the right
side when I wanted to see what time it was. As soon as the vest pocket
movement had again become fixed, I went back to the right-hand
trousers pocket. And so I alternated for a long while, always changing
only after reaching complete automatism. But the results in this case
and in other similar experiments which I carried on showed that the
new automatic connection did not extinguish the after effects of the
previous habit. With every new change the number of wrong movements
became smaller and smaller, and finally a point was reached at which
the dispositions for both movements were equally developed so that no
wrong movements occurred when the watch was put into the new
position.[22]

This problem has been followed up very recently in a valuable
investigation at Columbia University,[23] in which various habits of
typewriting and of card-sorting were acquired and studied in their
mutual interference. These very careful experiments also show that
when two opposing associations are alternately practiced, they have an
interference effect on each other, but that the interference grows
less and less as the practice effect becomes greater. The interference
effect is gradually overcome and both opposing associations become
automatic, so that either of them can be called up independently
without the appearance of the other. Many details of the research
suggest that this whole group of interference problems deserves the
most careful attention by those who would practically profit from
increased industrial efficiency.

Finally, in the experimental study of the problem of technical
learning, we cannot ignore the many side influences which may hasten
or delay, improve or disturb, the acquisition of industrial skill. In
the Harvard laboratory, for instance, we are at present engaged in an
investigation which deals with the influence of feelings on the
rapidity with which new movement coördinations are mastered.[24] In
order to have unlimited comparable material a very simple technical
performance is required, namely, the distribution of the 52
playing-cards into 52 boxes. Labels on the boxes indicate changing
combinations for the distribution to be learned. We examine, on the
one side, the influence of feelings of comfort or of discomfort on the
learning of the new habit, these feeling states being produced by
external conditions, such as pleasant or unpleasant sounds, odors, and
so on. On the other side we trace the effects of those feelings which
arise during the learning process itself, such as feelings of
satisfaction with progress, or disappointment, or discomfort, or
disgust or joy in the activity.




XIV

THE ADJUSTMENT OF TECHNICAL TO PSYCHICAL CONDITIONS


Teaching and learning represent only the preliminary problem. The
fundamental question remains, after all, how the work is to be done by
those who have learned it in accordance with the customs of the
economic surroundings and who are accordingly already educated and
trained for it. What can be done to eliminate everything which
diminishes and decreases efficiency, and what remains to be done to
reinforce it. Such influences are evidently exerted by the external
technical conditions, by variations of the activity itself, and by the
play of the psychical motives and counter-motives. It must seem as if
only this last factor would belong in the realm of psychology, but the
technical conditions, of which the machine itself is the most
important part, and the bodily movements also have manifold relations
to the psychical life. Only as far as these relations prevail has the
psychologist any reason to study the problem. The purely physical and
economic factors of technique do not interest him at all, but when a
technical arrangement makes a psychophysical achievement more
difficult or more easy, it belongs in the sphere of the psychologist,
and just this aspect of the work may become of greatest importance for
the total result. In all three of these directions, that is, with
reference to the technical, to the physiological, and to the purely
psychical, the scientific management movement has prepared the way.
The engineers of scientific management recognized, at least, that no
part of the industrial process is indifferent, even the apparently
most trivial activity, the slightest movement of arm or hand or leg,
became the object of their exact measurement. The stopwatch which
measures every movement in fractions of a second has become the symbol
of this new economic period. As long as special psychological
experiments in the service of industrial psychology are still so
exceptional, it may, indeed, be acknowledged that the practical
experiments in the service of scientific management have come nearest
to the solution of these special psychotechnical problems.

To proceed from without toward the centre, we may begin our review
with the physical technique of the working conditions and its
relations to the mind. Tue history of technique shows on every page
this practical adjustment of external labor conditions to the
psychophysical necessities and psychophysical demands. No machine
with which a human being is to work can survive in the struggle for
technical existence, unless it is to a certain degree adapted to the
human nerve and muscle system and to man's possibilities of
perception, of attention, of memory, of feeling, and of will.
Industrial technique with its restless improvements has always been
subordinated to this postulate. Every change which made it possible
for the workingman to secure equal effects with smaller effort or to
secure greater or better effects with equal effort counted as an
economic gain, which was welcome to the market. For instance,
throughout the history of industry we find the fundamental tendency to
transpose all activities from the great muscles to the small muscles.
Any activity which is performed with the robust muscles of the
shoulder when it can be done with the lower arm, or labor which is
demanded from the muscles of the lower arm when it can just as well be
carried out by the fingers, certainly involves a waste of
psychophysical energy. A stronger psychophysical excitement is
necessary in order to secure the innervation of the big muscles in the
central nervous system. This difference in the stimulation of the
various muscle groups has been of significant consequence for the
differentiation of work throughout the development of mankind.[25]
Labor with the large muscles has, for these psychophysical reasons,
never been easily combined with the subtler training of the finer
muscles. Hence a social organization which obliged the men to give
their energy to war and the hunt, both, in primitive life, functions
of the strongest muscles, made it necessary for the domestic
activities, which are essentially functions of the small muscles, to
be carried out by women. The whole history of the machine demonstrates
this economic tendency to make activities dependent upon those muscles
which presuppose the smallest psychophysical effort. It is not only
the smaller effort which gives economic advantage to the stimulation
of the smaller muscles, but the no less important circumstance that
the psychophysical after-effect of their central excitement exerts
less inhibition than the after-effect of the brain excitement for the
big muscles.

But we must not overlook another feature in the development of
technique. The machines have been constantly transformed in the
direction which made it possible to secure the greatest help from the


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