Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/66

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58
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN INTELLECT.
By Professor EDWARD L. THORNDIKE,
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.

TO the intelligent man with an interest in human nature it must often appear strange that so much of the energy of the scientific world has been spent on the study of the body and so little on the study of the mind. 'The greatest thing in man is mind/ he might say, 'yet the least studied.' Especially remarkable seems the rarity of efforts to trace the evolution of the human intellect from that of the lower animals. Since Darwin's discovery, the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea have been examined with infinite pains by hundreds of workers in the effort to trace our physical genealogy, and with consummate success; yet few and far between have been the efforts to find the origins of intellect and trace its progress up to human faculty. And none of them has achieved any secure success.

It may be premature to try again, but a somewhat extended series of studies of the intelligent behavior of fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals, including the monkeys, which it has been my lot to carry out during the last five years, has brought results which seem to throw light on the problem and to suggest its solution.

Experiments have been made on fishes, reptiles, birds and various mammals, notably dogs, cats, mice and monkeys, to see how they learned to do certain simple things in order to get food. All these animals manifest fundamentally the same sort of intellectual life. Their learning is after the same general type. What that type is can be seen best from a concrete instance. A monkey was kept in a large cage. Into the cage was put a box, the door of which was held closed by a wire fastened to a nail which was inserted in a hole in the top of the box. If the nail was pulled up out of the hole the door could be pulled open. In this box was a piece of banana. The monkey, attracted by the new object, came down from the top of the cage and fussed over the box. He pulled at the wire, at the door and at the bars in the front of the box. He pushed the box about and tipped it up and down. He played with the nail and finally pulled it out. When he happened to pull the door again it of course opened. He reached in and got the food inside. It had taken him 36 minutes to get in. Another piece of food being put in and the door closed the occurrences of the first trial were repeated, but there was less of the profitless pulling and tipping. He got in this time in 2 minutes and 20 seconds. With repeated trials