l66 PSYCHOLOGY AND PREACHING
Consciousness is always to some extent focalized. Its form is a bright point surrounded by an indefinite, fading border, which James has called the " fringe." It is a matter of no importance whether, as most writers state it, the normal form of consciousness be conceived as that of a clear centre surrounded by a border which gradually shades off to un consciousness ; or, according to others, as a stream which runs " at two different levels, the higher that of the clear, the lower that of the obscure." * In both cases we are using figures of speech which are not to be taken too literally. Both of them are useful figures and help us to understand the nature of the attention. The more intense conscious ness is, the more pronounced is this form ; as consciousness becomes less and less intense the form becomes less pro nounced, until consciousness and its form disappear together. To attend to an object is to direct the focus of conscious ness upon it, and close attention is intense focalization. In attention is usually the direction of the focus toward some object other than that to which it should at the time be directed. Absolute inattention is simply the disappearance of consciousness. Lax or careless attention is low intensity, accompanied by diversion to other objects.
II. Its function. Attention is the selective action of con sciousness the picking out of a small section of the en vironment from among the multitude of things that encom pass us and considering that, while all else either stands in the twilight border, or is enveloped in the total darkness which surrounds the illuminated area of consciousness. All our senses are, during our waking hours, so many open avenues along which innumerable impressions are reaching us all the time. Sights, sounds, contacts, smells, tastes, variations in temperature are making their appeals to us from without, while from within numerous organic sensations are continually knocking at the door of consciousness. As a matter of fact few of these stimuli, either from without or from within, get recognition. Most of them never get
iTichenor, "A Text-book of Psychology," p. 277.