Popular Science Monthly/Volume 31/October 1887/The Language of the Emotions
|←What American Zoologists Have Done for Evolution: 1887 Speech I||Popular Science Monthly Volume 31 October 1887 (1887)
The Language of the Emotions
By Alfred Jules Émile Fouillée
|The Theory of Tittlebats→|
By M. ALFRED FOUILLÉE.
WITH the words "Every gesture is a metaphor," Diderot exactly characterized that translation of the feelings into corresponding movements which we call their expression. But, though the natural language of the physiognomy and of gestures is metaphorical, it need not be inferred that it is composed of symbols in any degree arbitrary. It is rather by a necessary determinism that a particular internal phenomenon is translated by a peculiar external manifestation. Expression is no longer considered a sign that may be detached from the expressed fact; it is an integral part of the fact, or of its history. A man, realizing that his life is in extreme peril and anxious to save it, might, perhaps, be able to preserve his calm; but, as Darwin says, he suffers a tension of his will against his emotion, and the conflict within him is faithfully expressed in the body by the parallel tension of the muscles and the correlative tension of the pulse. Feelings too weak to produce a visible outward expression are marked in the interior of the organs. We should not, then, as the old psychologists did, place the psychological changes and the physiological movements in which they are realized, or prolonged, or expressed, in different worlds.
Darwin attempted a biological explanation of this reciprocally determined connection of the internal feelings with external movements, as arising in the gradual evolution of organisms struggling for existence. Mosso and Warner showed that there are physiological and mechanical limitations to the influence of selection and the medium, or that there are internal necessities independent of exterior utility, and assumed that the explanation of the phenomena belongs to physiology. But should not philosophy, we ask, maintain a view yet more of the interior, strictly psychological and sociological? Should it not explain, by the laws of individual or collective consciousness, those facts of expression which are the precise continuation of the mental in the physical and of the physical in the mental? All expression of feeling has, by its definition, a psychological, and, still more, a social, side. There is, in fact, no veritable expression except as there may be a possible interpretation of the movements by other beings forming, with the first one, a society. The language of the passions is eminently communicative. Every living organism is, moreover, itself a society of more elementary organisms, and it is therefore legitimate to inquire if the act of social communication does not begin within the organism itself before extending to other analogous organisms; if there is not a solidarity, at once mechanical and mental, between the parts of the identical organism — brain, heai't, and muscles of the face before the passion is communi- cated to the other organism. All the acts of expression are, we think, best explained by this physiological and sociological law of solidarity and sympathy.
According to Darwin's theory of explanation, our expressional movements are habits, which, useful at first for the maintenance or defense of life, are preserved and transmitted after they no longer have immediate utility. Most of our gestures are of this class. , The signs of affirmation and negation appear to have come from the infant's inclining its head to receive nourishment from its mother's breast, and turning it away when it does not want food. The same gestures, applied to all affirmation and negation, have become hereditary and instinctive with many nations. The acts of clinching the fists and displaying the teeth were primarily voluntary, as preparations for combat and signs of defiance of the enemy; they then became asso- ciated with the feeling of anger, then transmitted by heredity, till now we clinch our fist when the enemy is not present, and express the sneer of contempt by an exhibition of the teeth, joined with a backward motion of the head, but with no thought of biting.
However extended the effects of heredity may really be, we have a right to reproach Darwin for having given too great a part to the external causes, to selection and the medium. It is in the very tissues of the organism, in the inmost properties of the living substance, that we should first seek for the mechanical and physiological reasons for the phenomena of expression. Thus, the contraction of the eyebrows in struggle and in pain, which is explained by Darwin as a survival of a movement originally advantageous in combat, is shown by M. Mosso to be a result of the flow of blood to supply the waste of nervous force, and to be physiologically connected with movements of attention and of effort.
In the physiological view, the law that links the emotion with its exterior signs is the same that governs all the manifestations of life and force; it is the law of the equivalence of movements. At any particular moment, the quantity of nervous force corresponding to the state of consciousness called sensation has to expend itself in some way, and engender somewhere an equivalent manifestation of force. The expended force may itself follow three different courses. Some- times the nervous excitation is transformed simply into cerebral move- ments corresponding with a mental agitation. This is what takes place, for example, when a child hears a story that interests and moves it. At other times the nervous excitation is transformed into move- ments of the viscera, and follows the ganglionic nerves. Agreeable thoughts, for example, aid digestion. Fear may paralyze the nerves of the intestine. The heart beats more rapidly under emotion, and sometimes stops, and this influence is accomplished through the means of the pneumogastric nerves. Or the nervous excitation, following the motor nerves, is transformed into movements of the muscles, which then become the exterior and visible signs of the emotion. A burn on the finger produces a contraction of the features. A lively joy or a deep disquiet throws us into a condition of agitation and purposeless talking and moving about. If the emotion is concentrated, the cere- bral disturbance increases in violence as the muscular agitation dimin- ishes. When we spend the excess of our agitation in external move- ments, in gestures, walking back and forth, tears, and lamentations, the cerebral agitation is correspondingly diminished. These phenom- ena of diversion are nothing else than particular cases of the conserva- tion of force and the propagation of movements. Sometimes the propagation results in a real metamorphosis. Very violent emotions, producing a reaction on the central parts of the innervation, bring on a sudden paralysis of a number of muscular groups, while feeble dis- turbances of the sensibility produce superexcitation, which is subse- quently replaced by exhaustion. This is what Wundt calls the law of the metamorphosis of nervous action. There result from it effects of balancing and compensation which, in our opinion, are still simply an application of the law of equivalence between movements.
M. Mosso's physiological explanations usually revert into Wundt's law, and with stronger reason into the general law of the equivalence of forces. He has shown that cerebral excitation makes the blood flow to the brain, and that, during intellectual labor, the afflux is sufficient to diminish the volume of the arm. He observed the cir- culation of the blood in three subjects whose craniums had been par- tially destroyed. Whenever a stranger came in, or a sudden noise was heard, the cerebral pulse rose immediately. Under the influence of fear the blood flows back to the extremities, to such an extent that a ring can not be pulled off from the finger. M. Mosso has also applied the balance to the study of the circulation. A man is laid full length in a wooden box, arranged as a balance upon a knife-edge, with appa- ratus for marking the trace of the pulse in the feet and hands, and the changes of volume undergone by these organs. When the balance and the man in it are in equilibrium and repose, something is said to the man. Instantly, by the effect of the excitation received and the at- tention responding to it, the balance inclines toward the man's head.
Mr. Warner has carefully studied the effects of the emotions in nutrition, which he calls the trophic signs. Maladies that modify nutrition also modify the nervous system, and render it more irritable. The poorly-nourished child often has what the doctors call the nerv- ous that is, shaky hand; a more reduced nutrition may end in chorea. Plants also afford examples of excessive irritability, arising from imperfect nutrition. Some sensitive plants were sowed in clear sand, and others in vegetable mold mixed with sand in different pro- portions. The first, which had nothing but air to feed upon, lan- guished and died; they were extremely sensitive to the lightest touch; a breath, or a slight motion of the pot made them droop. Those plants wbich had a third or two thirds of vegetable mold were still irritable, but in a less degree, and would not bloom. Those which had pure vegetable earth became robust and nearly insensitive; striking their leaves with a stick, would make them double up, but they would unfold again almost in an instant.
Besides the general excitation of the cerebral centers, the gangli- onic nerves, the circulation, and nutrition, emotion produces a general excitation of the motor nerves and the muscles. According to Mr. Spencer, the excitation of the muscular system should be proportional to the intensity of the feeling, whatever may be its character in other respects; a great joy, like a great grief, should move the whole body. Moreover, Mr. Spencer adds, the force of the passion affects the mus- cles in the inverse ratio of their size and of the weight of the parts to which they are attached. With the clog and cat, the mobility of the tail makes it capable of furnishing, from its origin, the indication of the rising feeling. The greater or less elevation of the tail is a sign of pleasure; its sidewise beatings, of uneasiness. With man, the muscles of the face are relatively small and very mobile, and for this reason the countenance is the best index of the degree of intensity in feeling; and the ear, motionless in man, is a marked organ of expres- sion in the horse.
The real defect of the theory expounded by Mr. Spencer is, that it is too purely physiological; it has not taken sufficient account of the different effects produced according as the emotions are agreeable or painful. According to his view, the energy of the feeling, whatever may be its nature, is always manifested by an energy of movement. We dance, he says, with joy, as we stamp with rage; we can no more keep still under moral distress than in the exaltation of delight; there are cries of anguish as well as notes of pleasure; and frequently the sounds uttered by children in their sports leave parents in doubt whether vexation or pleasure is their motive. Granted; yet these va- rious manifestations of activity have a resemblance only in the eyes of a distant or superficial spectator. It is hard to suppose that pleasure and pain are primarily manifested by an identical general augmenta- tion of activity.
If the physiologists had considered the emotions in their psychologi- cal elements, they would have been better able to account for their mani- festations, and would not have involved themselves in an inextricable confusion. In all passion there is first an intellectual element per- ception or idea; next a sensible element pleasure or pain; and, finally, a volitional element desire or aversion. We must, then, to account completely for an expressive motion, seek first the sensitive and mental state which it expresses; second, the affective state; and, third, the corresponding attitude of the will.
Some psychologists, with Herbart, have locked for the primary ori- vol. xsxi. 52 gin of the emotions in the intelligence, and have sought to explain them hy a simple play of ideas. Ilerbart has made the mistake of havinsr seen only the intellectual effect in passion.
M. Wundt rather sees the force of the will under that of the ideas, but he places this force solely in the attention, in what he calls the apperception^ or the grasp of objects by the intelligence. Emotion is, then, according to him, in its origin, only the effect produced by the feeling on the attention. He concludes that the elementary emotion is surprise, "which behaves, in regard to the more complex movements of the soul, merely as the aesthetic feeling awakened by a simple geometric form as opposed to the effect produced by a work of art." M. Wundt might have added that surprise is the intellectual analogue of the mechanical shock with its well-known elastic effects.
Whatever part of truth this psychological analysis may include, it does not yet seem to us to reach to the real and primordial elements of the emotion. M. Wundt has not asked whether, instead of leading fright up to a sort of surprise, we can not trace surprise back to a sort of fright. In fact, with the inferior animals, astonishment is hardly anything else than fright that is, aversion. Every novelty not yet looked into is regarded, until further orders, as a danger; animals have not begun to be curious observers of new things, or innovators, but are still conservatives trembling before the unknown. We can not, therefore, consider astonishment the really primitive emotion.
The study of the physical effects will also help to enlighten us as to the nature of the causes. Surprise is manifested by open eyes, ele- vated eyebrows, open mouth, and raised hands. The eyes are opened to gain a clearer view of the strange object, and the lifting of the eye- brows is an accompaniment to that movement. The opening of the mouth is a consequence of the relaxation of the muscles caused by the flight of nervous force to the brain, and is also a movement promoting the deeper inspiration which is a requisite to energetic effort, and which accompanies the accelerated beatings of the heart. The raising and throwing back of the hands may be regarded as a cautionary movement.
According to the preceding observations, we should seek the real origin of the movements of expression in the effect of the emotions, not on the intelligence, but on the primary activity and the desire. Now, we know that pleasure is essentially an augmentation of vital activity, while pain is a diminution of it; here, therefore, is the prin- ciple from which we should start to look for the motions by which pleasures and pains are translated.
The most rudimentary animals, allied to the vegetable kingdom, without nervous and muscular systems, probably did not have the faculty of moving from one point to another in their abode; but there must have existed, even in these primitive species, some tendencies to a superexcitation or a depression of the general activity depending on the approach or the removal of advantageous or injurious objects. These tendencies, on account of their advantages, are picked out and magnified by natural selection. We may add, with M. Schneider, that the increase of the general activity, even in the absence of a muscular system, is always manifested as expansion, and the decrease of activity as contraction. Expansion and contraction are at the origin of all the other vital movements, and of course of all the signs of expression.
Now let us consider what states of sensibility would correspond among the rudimentary animals with the different modes of general activity, accompanied by movements of expansion and contraction. We shall then have the two following situations: first, approach of an advantageous object, followed by increase of activity beyond the normal state, with pleasure and the movement of general ex- pansion, which is the sign of it; and, second, on the approach of the injui'ious object, descent of activity below the normal, pain, and the movement of general contraction. With a step further in evolu- tion, the internal movement of contraction, perfecting itself by natural selection, has brought the living being to a massive movement of trans- port in space, which will take it away from the object this is the movement of aversion and flight. The movement of expansion, on the contrary, would have provoked a transportation of the whole body of the living being toward the agreeable object it is the movement of inclination and pursuit. Here are two new signs in the natural language. Add to them the idea of the object that causes the pain or the pleasure, and we shall have conscious repulsion and desire.
These are the pi'imary emotions, with the general movement of the body that expresses them at the first moment. We can say, then, con- trary to Mr. Spencer, that, if the intensity of an agreeable feeling is expressed by an exaltation and expansion of motive activity, the in. tensity of a painful feeling is expressed at once by a contraction and diminution of motive activity. In joy the different organs only repro- duce and aid the general movement of expansion; the features dilate, the eyebrows turn upward, the entire physiognomy opens, the voice rises and swells, and the gestures expand in more ample and more numerous movements. We can also say correctly that the lungs dilate, and their play is rendered easier; the cerebral functions are performed with more rapidity and ease; the intelligence is more animated; the sensibility more expansive; the will more kindly. In a word, the expression of joy is a general expression of liberty, and, by that fact, of liberality.
Next, we pass to the immediate expression of pain. At the first moment the depression of activity is manifested by a general depres- sion of the motive force. "The lips are relaxed," says Sir Charles Bell, "the lower jaw drops, the upper eyelid falls and covers half of the pupil, and the eyebrows incline like the mouth." It is true that some other muscles simultaneously become tense, and enter into play, but Mr. Bain lias shown that they are the ones the contraction of which is related to the relaxation of the other muscles. "With a little force a greater one is relaxed." The expenditure in this case is made for saving, and takes place, we think, hecause the first motion in the face of pain being a movement of conservation and concentration on self, is also a tendency to save the force which is felt to he diminish- ing we retire from the pain, and try to recover ourselves. The first stage of pain does not last long, for the reaction begins at once. While the will can consent to pleasure, it can not consent to pain. It defends itself, it struggles, against it. After the first stroke of pain that casts down, we perceive the signs of effort. Sometimes the effort is spasmodic, and involves a prodigality of force that can hardly fail to bring on quick prostration.
Suffering and joy are always accompanied by aversion and desire. The movement of concentration upon self and of the defensive, com- mon to all personal or egotistical feelings, gives to their expression, as M. Mantegazza has remarked, a character essentially concentric or centripetal, while the expression of the benevolent affections is cen- trifugal and "eccentric." Fear presents the type of the concentric physiognomy pertaining to the affections which have for their center the me.
While the feelings derived from aversion are concentric, those de- rived from desire are expansive. The setting forth of them is ex- pressed by the body, the arms, the head, lips, and eyes, by a tendency to enlargement and touch, the aspect of which is varied according to the nature of the objects and of the possible touch. With joy and suffering, aversion and desire, Ave have the four fundamental pas- sions, the commingling of which is sufficient to account for all the others, and the expression of which in like manner engenders the most complex mimicry. Physiologists have not taken enough notice of the simplifications which could thus be effected by psychology. The whole can be definitely relegated to a general movement of the will toward the objects or their opposites; and it is the correlative move- ment of organic expansion or contraction that is the real generator of the language of the emotions.
We pass next to the considerations, ordinarily neglected, that can be borrowed from sociology. When the series of brain-disturbances is produced which have their origin in the appetite or the zest of life, the movement is then inevitably propagated to all the organs. There is in this case, in the first instance, a mechanical contagion, but there is, also, we think, a psychological contagion, and consequently a social phenomenon. The organism, in fact, is a compound of element- ary organisms, a society of living cells, united among one another by bonds more or less strict. The cerebral cells being analogous to all the other cells, it is hardly probable that these should not also have their mental side that is, that they should not be the seat of rudimentary sensations, of vague emotions, and of blind appetitions. In the myriapod it is the head or terminal segment that directs, sees, and smells, but all the other segments also fulfill their appropriate func- tions, and have their peculiar life in the midst of the collective life. If we cut the animal into several parts, the different parts will con- tinue to move and react under external excitations; it is, therefore, im- probable that the head should be the only part to possess sensibility and appetite. When a wound is inflicted upon the animal, it is felt in different degrees by all the segments, and the reaction is propa- gated from segment to segment. With the superior animals, which are a sort of very centralized states, the concentration of consciousness into the head only obscures the rudiment of sensibility which is still subsisting between the other parts.
For these reasons, we suppose a solidarity of the parts in the living body which, mechanical without, is mental and social within. Hence there can be no irritation of a part without its propagating itself by contagion to all the other parts; this is the germ of the diffused sen- sation which is felt iu the whole body. Furthermore, this irritation beino - always either favorable or unfavorable to the life of the whole and of the parts, would be felt as rudimentary pain or pleasure that is, as the germ of the diffused emotion. Finally, all the parts having power to react and a tendency to their own conservation, the irritation brings on a motive reaction of the whole body; this is the germ of the diffuse appetite, of the zest of life inherent in the whole. The solidarity, in the association of living cells, then takes the triple form of a solidarity of extension, of emotion, and of reaction. We could summarize this mutual communication of the organs with the words sympathy and synergy. We think we make a metaphor when we say, "I am suffering all over my body"; but we are only expressing the exact truth: when a part of the organism is suffering, all the other parts feel it by rebound, each according to its importance and its degree of organization. The cry of alarm that issues from the mouth is the translation to the ear of the alarm which is produced not in the brain only, but out to the smallest parts of the organism; it is the cry of an entire people which finds its life threatened. Expression is then a social phenomenon of sympathy and synergy, which is in- terior to the organism before extending to neighboring organisms.
Thus, we think, is explained the association of similar sensations with one another, and of sensations with emotions. Wundt has insist- ed upon these two psychological laws, while he has perhaps limited himself too much in establishing them. By virtue of the first law, analogous sensations are associated together; grave sounds have a re- lationship with somber colors; high tones with bright colors and with white. The sharp sound of the trumpet, and bright yellow and red, correspond. We say, w T ith reason, that there are shrill colors, also that there are cold colors and warm. The reason of these existing affinities between different sensations is that they can be relegated to a fundamental unity; they are all, fundamentally, excitations and sym- pathetic reactions of the same primordial appetite.
This fundamental unity explains, we think, the other great psycho- logical law of association, which connects the sensations with analo- gous emotions a law which plays a very important part in expres- sion. Wundt has shown that there is something exact in the images of vulgar language a hard necessity, a sweet tenderness, bitter griefs, black cares, a somber destiny. These images, so far from being wholly artificial, have their natural origin in the constitution of our sensibility and in the relation of the sensitive organs to the motor muscles. Our sensitive organs are provided with muscles which have the double purpose of better disposing them to receive favorable excitations and removing harmful agents. The mouth takes a different form and ex- pression accordingly as we are tasting a sweetened liquor or swallow- ing a bitter draught; in the former case, it seems to dispose itself to attract and receive, in the latter to repel and reject. Darkness, a glar- ing light, a clear daylight, give by turns a different figure to the physiognomy. By virtue of the association of the emotions with similar sensations and of these with their corporeal expression, agree- able or disagreeable feelings joy, esteem, fear, grief, spite are mani- fested by muscular contractions resembling either the action of pleas- ing tastes and smells, and of the luster of a tempered light, or of bitterness, poisonous odors, darkness, and blindness. If the expression is the same for the physical sensation and the moral feeling, it is be- cause both have their unity, not only in the same field of conscious- ness, but also in the same movement of the appetite and the will. Whatever the causes and whatever the objects, we simply desire what augments our activity, and repel what diminishes it.
Reciprocally, the willful expression of an emotion which we do not feel, generates it by generating the sensations connected with it, which in their turn are associated with analogous emotions: the actor who expresses and simulates anger ends by feeling it to a certain ex- tent. Absolute hypocrisy is an ideal; it is never complete with a man, realized in full, it would be a contradiction of the will with itself. In every case, Nature is ignorant of it; sincerity is the first law of Nature as it is the first law of morals. So it is with sympathy. Nature knows no isolation of ideal egoism; it brings together, it con- founds, it unites. Like heat and light, it can not give life and sensi- bility to one point without making them radiate upon the other points. Even within the individual organism, it establishes a society; and he Mho believes himself one and solitary is already several: the ./is al- ready the we. In this way, all the organs, the heart, arteries, nerves, and muscles sympathize with the brain, and tell, each in its own lan- guage, of the suffering or enjoyment in which they are participating. In this way, too, the brain sympathizes with the organs, changes their pain into sadness, and their sensation into feeling; it sends them back its pain and receives it multiplied; a sad thought soon has a cortege of myriads of painful sensations, from the movements of the heart and chest to the most superficial parts of the organism.
To the association of analogous sensations or emotions may he re- ferred, we think, the third of the laws of expression, which Darwin has studied without exhibiting its real meaning the law of antithe sis. Some states of mind, says Darwin, induce in the animal certain habitual acts which are useful to the support or defense of life; and when a state of mind of a directly inverse character is produced, the animal instinctively and by antithesis performs the opposite acts, even when they are useless. Physiologists have rejected the Darwinian principle of antithesis, and the examples he cites in illustration of it may generally be explained in another way. But we think the prin- ciple has a psychological value which Darwin failed to elucidate. The association of states of consciousness takes place by contrast and antithesis as well as by analogy; contraries as well as similars are subject to a law of association, which is especially manifested in the domain of the emotions. There exists a fundamental antithesis be- tween pleasure and pain, between acceptation and repulsion by the will. An organic connection appeal's to be established between these opposites, in such a way as to produce a perpetual bifurcation of movements. It is not, therefore, strange that the contrary of a feeling should be expressed by contrary movements or attitudes, aside from all considerations of utility or all choice of the will. This contrast affords a means of facilitating the interpretation of signs.
The law of antithesis is thus a particular case of the law of asso- ciation, which itself results from the natural concert of all the organs. This concert, or sociality, is so much the essential character of the emotion and its language, that the absence of accord and consonance between all the parts of the organism gives us the means of distinguish- ing feigned emotions from i*eal. Thus, in theatrical pain, the expres- sion is exaggerated out of all proportion to the occasion, and the real physical condition is so unlike the assumed that the sham is easily de- tected, and the illusion may be destroyed by a slight accident. On the other hand, when dissimulation of a real emotion is attempted, it is very hard to keep the current of feeling, which is not allowed to express itself in the natural way, from finding vent in some other way, as in mental excitement, or in movements which apparently have no relation to the suffering experienced. Passions on the point of break- ing out may be revealed by rhythmical movements of the fingers, or by forced respiration.
Expressional movements, associated according to the laws we have reviewed, end by fixing themselves and leaving traces, not only in passing attitudes, but also in that permanent attitude which consti- tutes the form of the features. Persons leading the same life, as man and wife, sometimes ultimately acquire a similarity of physiognomy. Animals faithfully express the passions of their race in their organs and attitudes ; and men, in turn, reproduce in themselves various types of animality. Different races of men have their own respective varieties of physiognomy, according to the predominant traits of their characters, and different nations among men of the same race.
The professions also leave their traces in the forms of the organs and in the features. " The hearing of the soldier," says M. Mante- gazza, " is precise, stiff, and energetic ; that of the priest, supple and unctuous. The soldier, even in civil life, shows in his movements the habit of obedience and command ; while the priest in a lay dress wears the mark of the cassock and the cloth, and his fingers seem all the time to be blessing or absolving." So many other professions may be recognized by their attitudes, but there are limitations in the mat- ter ; for physiognomy, as M. Mantegazza says, " can not yet be con- sidered an exact science, because we do not yet know all the elements of the problem. It has, nevertheless, its well-established general laws We are not likely to confound a frank physiognomy with a tricky one, or an honest face with the face of a debauchee or rascal."
There remain a few words to be said on the interpretation of signs, in which the old psychology saw a mysterious faculty. We regard it as the simple continuation in another of the sympathetic conta- gion, of the solidarity which is first manifested in the interior of an organism. In the exterior as well as in the interior of our body, sym- pathy is the only psychological law of expression ; to interpret is to sympathize. In a mechanical view, this sympathy is a real communi- cation of movements, as when the vibrations of a bell set another bell in vibration ; in the psychological and social view, it is a real solidar- ity of sensations, impressions, and volitions. The instinctive reaction of the will under the influence of the feeling, having been extended by contagion to our whole organism, extends by contagion to similar or- ganisms, and, if other men comprehend what we feel, it is because they themselves feel it. The final result of this sympathetic com- munication is the retranslation of the emotion felt by one into similar emotions in the others. The emotion of our neighbor is returned to us by a kind of response or return shock. Seeing the movements and . attitudes of others, we tend to realize them in ourselves ; then, as by a counter-stroke, the movement and attitude realized by us reproduce in us the feelings that correspond to them.
Mr. Spencer would explain the interpretation of signs by a purely mechanical association. This same cause, acting upon several animals simultaneously, makes them, for example, utter the same cry of alarm ; the fear and the cry are finally associated mechanically ; this associa- tion, by the survival of the best endowed, becomes organic and heredi- tary ; at least the mere hearing of the sound of alarm will be enough mechanically to awaken the feeling. While we do not deny the influence of habit and heredity, we think that this explanation of Mr. Spencer's is still too exterior. There is an intimate connection, both physiological and psychological, between the cry of distress and the distress itself. The part of heredity and selection is simply to augment more and more the kind of internal sonorousness by which one being responds to the emotion of another. And why does this sonorousness become stronger as the being has more intelligence? Because, its power of representation having increased, it can represent to itself with more vivacity what other beings, and in due order itself, feel. But intellectual sympathies are less the true conditions of the affective life than organic sympathies. Intellectual sympathies present a kind of intermittent character; but the sympathies of the organs among one another never wholly cease till death; and from this results a constant necessity for sympathy with others which is the extension of the concert that was begun in our organism. — Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.
- Angelo Mosso, "La Paura," 1885.
- Warner, "Physical Expression," 1886.