Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/601

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELAXATION 597

If it could be shown that the child passes through the various stages of development that the race passed through, this would throw no light on the sports of men.

Nor again does this theory explain the delight which children take in their play nor does it make clear the distinction between work and play. Why does a boy become so quickly fatigued hoeing in the garden or raking leaves when his physical endurance is beyond belief when hunting, fishing or playing football? It is commonly assumed that in the former case the fatigue is fictitious, but this is not the case, as the results of forced child labor always show.

Finally this theory admits of no clear educational application. All the writers of this school assume that since the child's plays tend pro- gressively to take the forms of the serious pursuits of his ancestors, there- fore these tendencies should be encouraged. Every child, they say, must live out and live through these stages in order that he may enter into the next stage sound of body and mind. This may be true, but no satis- factory reason for it has been given. Why rather should not these sur- vivals of savagery be discouraged and the boy's plays be modeled after his future manly duties?

Failing thus to find the recapitulation theory of play any more satis- factory than the other theories, but recognizing the full value of the facts from which it sprang, let us. see whether these facts are not susceptible of a somewhat different interpretation.

It is evident that progress in civilization has depended upon the de- velopment of certain peculiar forms of mental activity which were rela- tively undeveloped in primitive man. If it be true that these forms of mental activity are relatively undeveloped in the child and when de- veloped in the adult are most susceptible to fatigue, we have at once the key to the whole problem of sport and play, explaining why the plays of children and the sports of men take the form of primitive human activities.

It is not necessary for our present purpose to attempt any exact de- scription of those forms of mental activity which are newest in human evolution. Commonly they are exhibited as a constantly increasing power of inhibition and a constantly increasing capacity for sustained attention, and they depend no doubt upon that growing complexity of brain structure which makes possible and easy new forms of association. The individual becomes able therefore to hold steadily in view the image of a desired end, to inhibit the old and habitual responses which are no longer appropriate to that end, to analyze a given situation in thought so that the response may be to certain elements in the situa- tion rather than to the situation as a whole, and thus to meet a given situation with a new response.

Even in the lower forms of animal life this tendency appears as the

�� �