Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/489

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THE LAPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS. 483

may serve as a natural and profitable approach to the general and theoretical interpretations, which form an important goal of the psy- chologist's efforts.

If one were to set forth the factors of an operation intelligently guided, that is, of a piece of human conduct, simple or complex, he would find that every distinctive phase thereof may, on occasion, be carried on with a markedly lowered, an unusually reduced, degree of the awareness which its performance normally demands. The contours of such a piece of conduct would show in silhouette, first, the perception of the situation by the message brought through eye or ear or other window of the soul; such message is offered to the appropriate powers of the mind for interpretation and for the elaboration, variably intricate, of the suitable response ; and the bit of conduct is rounded by the fit and skilled execution of what it has been decided to do or say. What is here appropriate is that one may find any portion or the whole of these successive links in the chain of mental reactions sufficiently and intel- ligently directed by a subconscious type of adjustment. Though the factors properly form a unit, combining with like units into a series of expanding complexity of kind and number, yet each is naturally viewed as composed of its receptive or perceptive aspect, accompanied by a suitable interpretation through which the process acquires mean- ing: and again, of its expressive phase, which, as the issue of a pre- paratory elaboration, becomes not merely a muscular contraction, but a significant piece of conduct. For a different purpose it would be- come necessary also to consider quite separately and minutely what here must be treated en masse, the inner elaborative processes that bind perception and expression, and thus appraise the dignity of the intel- lectual response in terms of habit, training, insight, judgment or wisdom. For the present argument, whether we proceed by large gen- eral outlines, or by more detailed steps, we shall be able to illustrate that for each stage of the process a counterpart in subconscious terms may be found.

The Motor Lapse and its Sensory Clue. The receptive (sensory) and the responsive (motor) phases of a bit of conduct are the ones most readily distinguished; and in regard to these, my data emphasize that the latter occupy the focus of the more common forms of subconscious activity: which means that, though the reduced awareness spreads itself over the whole procedure, it affects more prominently the motor response, the terminal, rather than the initial, phase of conduct; or, that once the nature of a situation is normally perceived, our motor habits step in to perform the appropriate (or unintended) response with submerged awareness, possibly amid distracted attention. A peculiarly apposite recognition of this rela-

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