Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/57

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47
THE PROBLEMS OF COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY.

bility of tracing similarities between the spontaneous attempts of children to imitate the social conditions under which their elders live, and the actual history of social and political institutions. Two striking illustrations of this have been recorded. Dr. Stanley Hall has described the evolution of a sand-pile into a farming community, under the promptings of the organizing play instinct of some New England boys. Farms, roads, houses, barns, men, women, cattle, tools, and so on, were fashioned, and in their growth we find mimicked the evolution of human industry, the problems of social life, the distribution of wealth, the invention of money, the fluctuation of prices, the tendencies that make the monopolist and the socialist. And yet it is distinctly play; the wooden farmers of the community being not unlike dolls, though possessing a personality with curiously real relations to the boys themselves. A more valuable illustration, because less of play and more of reality, is shown by the governmental and social regulations of the boys of the McDonough School near Baltimore, the description of which we owe to Mr. John Johnson. These boys roamed over eight hundred acres of land full of objects arousing a boy's desires and curiosity, such as birds' eggs and nests, rabbits, and nuts of all kinds. From an original common ownership in the land a few boys, by extra exertion and improvements, gained privileges over certain portions of it; and step by step as the number of boys increased, and the desirability of various bits of land was more clearly recognized, unwritten laws grew up, judicial procedure was inaugurated, testamentary power granted; money, which took the form of "butter" and school credits, introduced; and the intricacies of speculation, fluctuation of values, attempts at the redistribution of the soil, conservatism and liberalism gradually appeared as problems, and were solved in some satisfactory way. These and other phases of social and political movements had as intense a reality as in actual life, and in them Mr. Johnson finds many and striking analogies to the history of social and political institutions.

One further aspect of our train of thought deserves a moment's consideration, and this is the analogy between primitive mental traits and those appearing in the decay of mind, in arrested mental development, in hypnotism, and in other somewhat unusual and morbid psychic conditions. In the waning of mental powers we observe a remarkable law, by which the latest, least firm acquisitions are first lost, and the older, more deeply impressed, more primitive manifestations are longest retained. We thus possess an additional method of corroborating the various deductions above drawn, and in a sense truer than at first appears we have a "second childhood" the inverse of the first. To give a single instance where a detailed study would alone do justice, many of the