Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/174
162 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
often ripens in a child with almost startling suddenness. A few sig- nificant sounds are gradually acquired, but the vocabulary is very small until the impulse of imitating sounds awakes. When its awak- ening is abrupt it is impossible to talk with the child. His condition is that of echolalia: instead of answering, he repeats the question. His whole energy may for a few days be poured into this channel, and during those days the foundations of his future vocabulary are laid.
Imitation is a human instinct which has other fields of application than the vocal one. Say what one will of monkeys, man is the imita- tive animal. Civilization, in fact, depends on the trait. Nil humani a me alienum, is the motto of each of us, and we are uneasy when an- other shows any power or superiority, till we can exhibit it ourselves as well. Much might be said of this propensity, as well as of the im- pulse to rivalry which is akin to it, and equally instinctive ; but I must hasten on to
Sympathy is an emotion as to whose instinctiveness psychologists have held hot debate, some of them contending that it is no primitive endowment, but, originally at least, the result of a rapid calculation of the good consequences to ourselves of the sympathetic act. Such a calculation, at first conscious, would grow more unconscious as it be- came more habitual, and at last, tradition and association aiding, might prompt to actions which could not be distinguished from immediate impulses. It is hardly needful to argue against the falsity of this view. Some forms of sympathy, that of mother with child, for example, are surely primitive, and not intelligent forecasts of support to be reaped in old age. Danger to the child blindly and instantaneously stimu- lates the mother to actions of alarm or defense. Menace or harm to the adult, beloved, and friend, excites us in a corresponding way, often against all the dictates of prudence. It is true that sympathy does not necessarily follow from gregariousness. Sheep and cattle do not help a wounded comrade ; on the contrary, they are more likely to dis- patch him. But a dog will lick another sick dog, and even bring him food ; and the sympathy of monkeys is proved by many observations to be strong. In man, then, we may lay it down that the sight of suffering or danger to others is a direct exciter of interest, and an im- mediate stimulus, if no complication hinders, to acts of relief. There is nothing unaccountable or pathological about this nothing to justify Professor Bain's assimilation of it to the " fixed ideas " of insanity, as " clashing with the regular outgoings of the will." It may be as primi- tive as any other "outgoing," and may be due to a random variation selected, quite as probably as, in Spencer's opinion, gregariousness and maternal love are due to such variations.
It is true that sympathy is peculiarly liable to inhibition from other instincts which its stimulus may call forth. The traveler whom the good Samaritan rescued may well have prompted such instinctive fear