The Human Mind Up to Date

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The Human Mind Up to Date
by Stephen Leacock

The Human Mind Up To Date[edit]

Note. The discussion which follows below is intended to be merely a portion, or half portion, of a Manual of the New Mentality. The work when finished will comprise twenty instalments which may be read either singly or all at the same time. The final edition will be bound in half-calf for ordinary readers, with a university edition for scholars (complete calf), and for the rich an édition de luxe sold at an addition de hxe.

The object of the entire work---I need hardly say--will not be to make money, but to perform a service to the community. To make this certain, the word service will be stamped in gilt letters on each volume of a special or "service edition" of the book--sold to servants.

The Mind Wave[edit]

reat wave of mind culture has swept over the community. People who never had any before now have little else.

It is generally admitted that the human mind was first discovered about four years ago by a brilliant writer in one of the Sunday journals. His article "Have We a Subconscious Ego?" was immediately followed by a striking discussion under the title "Are We Top Side Up?" This brought forth a whole series of popular articles and books under such titles as Willing and Being, How to Think, Existence as a Mode of Thought, The Super Self, and such special technical studies as The Mentality of the Hen and the Thought Process of the Potato.

This movement, once started, has spread in every direction. All our best magaziues are now full of mind. In every direction one sees references to psychoanalysis, auto-suggestion, hypnosis, hypnoosis, psychiatry, inebriety, and things never thought of a little while ago. Will power is being openly sold by correspondence at about fifty cents a kilowatt. College professors of psychology are wearing overcoats lined with fur, and riding in little coupé cars like doctors. The poor are studying the psychology of wealth, and the rich are studying the psychology of poverty. Memory has been reduced to a system. A good memory is now sold for fifty cents.

Everybody's mind is now analyzed. People who used to be content with the humblest of plain thinking, or with none at all, now resolve themselves into "reflexes" and "complexes" and "impulses." Some of our brightest people are kleptomaniacs, paranoiacs, agoraphobists, and dolomites. A lot of our best friends turn out to be subnormal and not worth knowing. Some of the biggest business men have failed in the intelligence test and have been ruined. A lot of our criminals turn out not to be criminals at all, but merely to have a reaction for another person's money.

Still more gratifying is the fact that we are now able to locate with something like certainty where the mind is. And it appears that it is away down--in fact, is sinking into a bottomless abyss. What we took for the mind is only an insignificant part of it, a poor glimmer of intelligence, a rush light floating on the surface of an unknown depth. Underneath the mind lurks the subconscious, and away down under this again, the subliminal, and under that is the primitive complex, and farther down, fifty feet in the mud, is the cosmic intelligence. This late item, cosmic intelligence, is thought by some people to be found in Buddhism, and other people say that it is seen in Walt Whitman, and in Dante at his best. It may also be connected with music.

But what is now an assured fact is that, while human beings have only just begun to learn about these things, the animals have known about them and been using them for years. It seems that the caterpillar doesn't think at all! He gave it up long ago; he merely "reacts." The common ant (formica americana) instead of working all the time, as we thought it did, does not work at all. It merely has a community complex in the lobes of one of its feet. What we took to be the play of the young lamb (lambens piccola) is simply a chemical movement of its tail under the influence of one or more stimuli.

In short, the whole mental world has been thrown into the greatest excitement. Everybody is "reacting" on everybody else. Mind waves and brain storms blow about like sand in the Sahara. Things good and bad come at us like an infection. We live in deadly fear that we may catch bolshevism, as we might a cold. Everything rushes at us in "waves." A New York chauffeur chokes his employer, and it is called a "crime wave." The man is rushed off to a rest house to have his complex removed, while the people leave the city in the flood. Then they hear that a repentant burglar has given a million dollars to Trinity Church, and that a moral wave is flooding over the city; and they come back.

In this disturbed state nobody's mind can act alone. Everybody has to be in it with a lot of others. Family love is replaced by Big Brother Movements and Little Sister Agitations, and a grown-up man subscribes twenty-five cents and wears a pink ribbon to help him to be kind to his own mother.

The Outbreak of Psychology[edit]

Prominent among all these phenomena is the great movement which is putting psychology into the front rank of human activities. In earlier days this science was kept strictly confined to the colleges. It was taught by an ancient professor in a skull cap, with a white beard which reached to the foot of his waistcoat. It had no particular connection with anything at all, and did no visible harm to those who studied it. It explained the difference between a "sensation" and a "perception" and between an "idea" and a "notion." As a college subject, it was principally taken as a qualification for the football team, and thus ranked side by side with architecture, religious knowledge and the Portuguese Ballad. Some of the greatest players on the Harvard and Yale teams knew little else.

All this changed. As a part of the new research, it is found that psychology can be used not only for the purpose of football, but for almost anything in life. There is now not only psychology in the academic or college sense, but also a Psychology of Business, a Psychology of Education, a Psychology of Salesmanship, a Psychology of Religion, a Psychology of Boxing, a Psychology of Investment, and a Psychology of Playing the Banjo. In sort, [sic!] everybody has his. There is the psychology of the criminal, the psychology of the politician, and a psychology of the infant. For almost every juncture of life we now call in the services of an expert psychologist as naturally as we send for an emergency plumber. In all our great cities there are already, or soon will be, signs that read "Psychologist--Open Day and Night."

The real meaning of this is found in the fact that we are now able to use psychology as a guide or test in a thousand and one practical matters. In the old days there was no way of knowing what a man could do except by trying him out. Now we don't have to do this at all. We merely measure the shape of his head and see whether, by native intelligence he can, immediately and offhand, pronounce TH back-ward, or count the scales of a goldfish. This method has been applied for many years in the appointment of generals in the Chinese army, but with us it is new.

The Intelligence Test[edit]

In other words, the intelligence test has come to us as one of the first fruits of the new psychology. In practically every walk of life, this bright little device is now being introduced as a means of finding out what people don't know, and for what particular business they are specially unfitted. Many persons, it now appears, go through life without be!ng able to distinguish colors, or to arrange equilateral triangles into a tetrahedron, or to say the alphabet backwards. Indeed, some persons of this sort have in the past gone clear through and got away with it. They could hardly do so now. And yet incompetent persons of this kind used often to occupy positions of trust, and even to handle money.

Let us see then what the intelligence test means.

If we wish to realize how slipshod is the thinking of persons in apparently sound mental condition, we have only to ask any man of our acquaintance how much is 13 times 147- The large probability is that he doesn't know. Or let us ask any casual acquaintance how many cubic centimeters there are in the Woolworth Building, and his estimate will be found to be absurdly incorrect. The man, in other words, lacks observation. His mind has never been trained to form an accurate judgment.

Compare with this the operation of the trained, keener mind such as is being fashioned by the new psychology. This man, or shall we say this mind, for he deserves to be called it, walks down the street with his eye alert and his brain active. He notes the cubic contents of the buildings that he sees. He can tell you if you ask him (or even if you don't) the numbers of the taxicabs which he has passed, or overtaken, in his walk. He can tell you what proportion of red-haired men have passed him in a given time; how many steps he has taken in going a hundred yards; and how many yards he has walked in a given number of steps.

In other words, the man is a thinker. For such a man the intelligence test has no terrors. I questioned a man of this sort the other day. I said, "You have been in such and such an apartment building, have you not?" He answered, with characteristic activity of mind, "Yes." "And did you on entering such and such a hall in the building observe such and such a goldfish in such and such a bowl?" Judge my surprise when he told me that he had not only observed it, but had counted its scales and given it a peanut. My readers, moreover, will readily believe me when I say that the man in question is the head of one of the biggest corporations in the city. No one else could have done it.

But for persons who lack the proper training and habits of observation the intelligence test acts as a ruthless exterminator of incompetence. The point of it is, I repeat, that it is aimed not at eliciting the things which, from the very routine of our life itself, we are certain we know, but at those things which we ought to know but don't.

Here are a few little samples of what I mean, taken from the actual test questions used by one of our leading practical psychologists:

Intelligence Test for Bank Managers
1. Can you knit?
2. Name your favorite flower.
3. Which is the larger end of a safety pin ?
4. How many wheels has a Pullman car ?
5. If a spider wants to walk from the top corner of a room to the bottom corner farthest away, will he follow the angular diameter of the floor, or will his path be an obese tabloid ?

It is the last question, I may say, which generally gets them. Already four of the principal bank managers in New York have lost their positions over it.

Let us put beside this from the same source another interesting set of questions:

Intelligence Test for Hospital Nurses
1. What is the difference between a Federal Reserve note and a Federal Reserve Bank note?
2. Suppose that a general buoyancy had led you to expand beyond what you considered prudent, and you felt that you must deflate, what would you take in first?

I may say that of seventeen trained nurses only one was able to answer these questions, especially No. 2, without wandering from the essential meaning; even the odd one hardly counted, as she turned out to be engaged to a bank teller.

Still more striking is the application of the intelligence test to the plain manual occupations. The worker fulfils, let us admit, his routine duty. But we have to ask, is this all that we have a right to demand from him? No. If the man is to be really competent, his mind ought to have a reach and an outlook which go beyond the mechanical operations of his job. I give an example:

Intelligence Test for Marine Engineers
1. Are you inclined to sympathize with Schiaparelli's estimate of Dante's Divina Commedia?
2. Luigi Pulci, it has been said, voices the last strains of the age of the troubadours. Do you get this ?
3. Alfieri must always be regarded rather as the last of the cinquecentisti than as the first of the moderns. How do you stand on that?

Let us put beside this as an interesting parallel the following:

Intelligence Tests for Professors of Comparative Literature
1. How much pressure per square inch of surface do you think a safe load to carry?
2. Suppose that, just as you were getting to work, you got trouble somewhere in your flow of gas, so that that set up a back-firing in your tubes, would you attribute this to a defect in your feed ?
3. Suppose that you were going along late at night at moderate speed, and properly lighted up, and you saw a red light directly in front of you, would you stop or go right on ?

From all of which it appears that by means of the Intelligence Test we have now an infallible means of knowing just what a man amounts to. If we want to know whether or not an applicant is suited for a job we have only to send him to the laboratory of a practicing psychologist, and we can find out in fifteen minutes all about him. How vastly superior this is to the old and cumbersome methods of inquiring into a young man's schooling, and into his family, and reading personal letters of recommendation, can hardly be exaggerated. Let me quote as a typical example the case which I have just mentioned, that of letters of recommendation. Compare the old style and the new.

Old-fashioned Letter of Recommendation Given to a Young Man Seeking a Position in the Milling Business.

To Messrs. Smith, Brown & Co. Dear Sirs,

I should like to recommend to you very cordially my young friend Mr. O'Hagan. I have known him since his boyhood, and can assure you that he is an estimable young man who has had a good schooling and is willing to work. When I add that he was raised right here in Jefferson County, and that his mother was one of the McGerrigles, I feel sure that you will look after him.
We have had an open fall here, but a good spell of cold has set in since New Year's.
Very faithfully,
.......................
New-Fashioned Letter of Estimation as Supplied by a Psychological Laboratory Expert

Messrs. Smith, Brown & Co. Dear Sirs,

This certifies that I have carefully examined Mr. O'Hagan in my laboratory for fifteen minutes and submitted him to various measurements and tests, with a view to estimating his fitness for the Milling Business. He measures 198 centimeters from end to end, of which his head represents 7.1 per cent. We regard this as too large a proportion of head for a miller. His angle of vision is 47, which is more than he will need in your business. We applied various stimuli to the lobes of his neck and got very little reaction from him. We regret to say that he does not know what 17 times 19 is; and we further found that, after being in our laboratory for fifteen minutes, he had failed to notice the number of panes in the windows.
On the whole, we think him better suited for social service or university work or for the church than for a position of responsibility.
Very truly,
..........................
P.S. We enclose our statement of account for 17 tests at $5.00 per test.

The value of the system, however, does not stop even at this point. It is proving itself an invaluable aid in weeding out incompetent men who have perhaps escaped detection for many years. For example, a firm in Kansas were anxious to judge of the selling power of their salesmen. An intelligence test applied to their staff showed that not a single one knew how to sell anything. The firm had been misled for years by the mere fact that these men were successfully placing orders. A furniture factory in Grand Rapids submitted seventy-one of their employees to the test to see what they knew about furniture: it appeared that they knew nothing about it. One of the Kalamazoo Celery companies, anxious to develop the Psychology of Growing Celery, instituted a searching test of their gardeners. It appeared that only four of them had ever heard of psychology and only one of them could spell it. Yet here were men who had been professing to grow celery for twenty years. Instances such as these show how far from perfect is our industrial system. Nor will it ever be improved until sweeping intelligence tests and wholesale dismissals have put it on a new basis.

The Psychology of the Animal Mind[edit]

The sad truth is that as yet most of us do not know how to think. We think we think, but we don't.

Nor can we begin thinking until we are prepared to begin all over again and build up our thought-process from its basis up. Herein lies the peculiar importance of Animal Psychology in the new wave of mentality.

Already the ground has been broken. Careful investigations of the thought-complex of the hen, the worm, and the bee have revealed to the world something of the wonderful mentality that was formerly rudely classed as "instinct." We now know that the bee could not construct her honeycomb in the particular form which she uses had she not some knowledge, however modest, of the mathematical law of the maximum cubic content. Where she got it we do not as yet know. But we hope to find out. Our psychological investigators are sitting among the bees, following the hens, and associating with the worms, and adding daily to our store of knowledge.

My own researches in this direction are not of wide extent. But I have endeavored to fit myself for discussing the subject by undertaking the study of one particular animal. I make here no claim to originality of method, and readily admit that my researches are based upon--I may say, are imitated from--the best models of work in this direction. I selected as my subject the common Hoopoo, partly because no one had investigated the Hoopoo before, and partly because good fortune threw the opportunity in my way.

In other words, the observations which I have carried on in regard to the mentality and habits of the Hoopoo fall within that large portion of the new mentality which deals with the mind of animals. I should be ungrateful if I did not express my obligation to the authors of The Play of Animals, The Behavior of the Toad, The Love Affairs of the Lobster, and other well-known manuals of this class. But, so far as I am aware, I am the first to subject the Hoopoo to the same minute scrutiny which has been so successfully applied to the bee, the garden worm, and the iguanadon.

My acquaintance with the Hoopoo herself I owe to the fortunate fact that beside my house is an empty brick yard devoid of grass, occupied only with sand, litter, and broken stone--in short, a tempting spot for the entomologist.

It was while sitting on a brick in the empty brickyard, occupied, I fear, with nothing better than counting the grains of sand in a wagon load that had been dumped upon the ground, that I first saw the Hoopoo. She was making her way in the leisurely fashion that is characteristic of her, from one tiny pebble to another, daintily crossing the minute rivulets and ravines of the broken soil with that charm which is all hers. The glorious occasion was not to be lost. As hastily as I could, I made my way back to the house to bring my notebook, my pencil--without which my notebook could be but an aggravation--and my lens. Alas I by the time I had returned the Hoopoo had disappeared. I resolved henceforth to be of a greater prudence. Blaming myself for my lack of preparedness, I took care next night to sleep with my lens in bed with me so as to be ready at the earliest dawn to proceed to the brickyard.

The first beams of day saw me seated upon the same brick, my lens ready at hand, my notebook on my knee and my pencil poised in the air. But alas! my hopes were destined to be dashed to the ground. The Hoopoo did not appear.

The entomologist, however, must be patient. For five successive mornings I found myself seated on the brick in eager expectation. No result. .But on the sixth morning there flashed through my mind one of those gleams of inductive reasoning which make the entomologist what he is. It occurred to me with such force as to make me wonder why it had not occurred to me with such force before, that on the first occasion I had seen the Hoopoo at ten o'clock in the morning. On all the other occasions I had sat on the brick at four in the morning. The inference was obvious. The Hoopoo does not get up until ten.

To wait until ten o'dock was the work of a moment. With renewed expectation, I found myself seated on the brick at the very moment when the shadow thrown by the morning sun from behind the chimney of a nearby factory indicated to me that it was ten o'clock. With a beating heart I watched the shadow steal across the ground. Alas l I was doomed again to failure. Ten o'clock came and passed and no sign of the Hoopoo greeted my anxious eye. I was just about to leave the place in despair and to select for my researches some animal less erratic than the Hoopoo, such as the horse, the boa-constrictor, or the common kangaroo, when a thought flashed through my mind calculated to turn my despair into a renewed anticipation. Six days--so it now suddenly occurred to me--had elapsed. One more would make seven. Seven days in a week. The inexorable logic was complete. Whe Hoopoo must appear once a week. The day of her first appearance had been Sunday. To-morrow she would come again.

The reader may imagine in what an agony of expectation I waited till next day. Spasms went through me when I thought of what the morrow might or might not bring. But this -time I was not doomed to disappointment. Seated on my brick at the precise hour of ten, and watching the moving shadow, I became suddenly aware that the Hoopoo had appeared and was moving daintily over the dusty ground. There was no doubt of her identity. My eye dwelt with delight on the beautiful luster of her carapace and the curvical appearance of her snortex. Her antennæ gracefully swept the air before her while the fibulæ with which her feet were shielded traced a feathery pattern in the dust. Hastily taking out my stop-watch, I timed her. She was moving at the rate of the tenth part of a centimeter in the twentieth of a second. Her general direction was north-north-west. But here entered an astounding particularity which I am as yet unable to explain. The direction in which the Hoopoo was moving was exactly reversed from that of the previous week.

I determined now to test the intelligence of the Hoopoo. Taking a small piece of stick, I placed it directly across her path. She stepped over it. I now supported the same piece of stick by elevating it, still lying in the Hoopoo's path, on two small pebbles. She went under it. I next placed both stick and stones together so as to form what must have appeared a formidable barrier directly in her path. She went around it. I now varied my experiment. With the blade of my knife I dug, directly in the path of the moving animal, a hole which must have appeared to her a considerable cavity. She jumped across it.

I need not, however, recite in detail the series of experiments which I carried out on this and the following Sunday mornings. I tested the Hoopoo in accordance with all the latest intelligence tests of animal life. And in every test she acquitted herself not only with credit but with distinction. I lifted her up with blades of grass, carried her to a distance of fifty yards and set her down again, to see if she could walk home (which she did), and fed her with minute particles of farraginous oatcake soaked in champagne. The result of my experiments show her to be right up in the front class of animal psychology, along with the ant, the bee, and the filipino.

In short if I wished to summarize the results of my scientific labours on the Hoopoo and to set them down as an addition to human knowledge, on a par with most of our new discoveries in regard to the behaviour and psychology of animals, I should formulate them as follows:

1. When the Hoopoo is unable to step over anything, she walks round it.
2. The Hoopoo will drink water when she has to, but only when she has to, but she will drink champagne whether she has to or not.
3. The religious belief of the Hoopoo is dim.

Had the Hoopoo lived a great career would have opened up in front of her. Alas! she did not. An attempt to see whether the Hoopoo could eat gravel proved disastrous. But she at least lived long enough to add one more brilliant page to the growing literature of insect life.

I cannot but feel a sense of personal loss as I sit now in the solitude of the sunlit brickyard, listening to the hum of the zocataquil and the drone of the probiscus and the sharp staccato note of the jimjam.

The Human Memory[edit]

Try My System and You will never Forget it

But I turn not without a feeling of reluctance from the memory of the Hoopoo and the subject of animal psychology to another aspect of the human mind now very much in the foreground of interest. I refer to Memory.

I gather from the back pages of the magazines, which are the only ones that I ever read, that there seems to be a great demand for the strengthening of the human memory. A great many "systems of memory" are now being placed upon the market, and these systems, I am delighted to find, involve no strain upon the brain, can be acquired at an expenditure of only four minutes' time each day, resemble play rather than work, and are forwarded to any part of the United States or Canada for fifty cents.

Persons who are not satisfied with the treatment may write and say so if they don't forget to do so. In short any one who cares to have it, can now acquire a memory as prehensile as a monkey's tail.

This is indeed a boon. After all, what is so distressing as a failing memory? Any reader of this book can tell for himself whether he is in the first stage of the collapse of memory by asking himself whether he has any difficulty ia recalling the names of the people he meets on the street. Does the reader find himself greeted two or three times a week and compelled to say:--

"Excuse me, I seem to know your face, and there's something familiar about the droop of your head, and the silly expression of your features and that asinine way in which you lean forward on your feet but I can't recall your name."

That however is only the first stage. A little later on, unless the memory is attended to, and toned up by a system, it goes into a further lapse in which the victim thus accosted on the street is only able to answer:--

"Excuse me. I can't recall your name. I don't remember your face. I never saw your clothes. I don't recollect your voice. If I ever saw you I have forgotten it. If I ever knew you, it has left no impression. Tell me irankly, are you one of my relations or just one of my best friends ?"

After which it is very humiliating to have the stranger remind him of the simple fact that he was at the Schenectady High School with him only thirty-five years ago.

But the loss of memory as to names and faces is only a part of the evil. Many people find that as they grow older they lose their memory for words, for passages from books, for pieces of poetry familiar since childhood. The reader may test his own power of memory by completing if he can the following:-

"The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence,---"

Let us ask "whence what?" and "in what direction?", "why was the deck burning?" and "why had the boy selected it for standing on?" Or this again:--

"Under the spreading chestnut tree,
The village smithy stands,
The smith, ---"

Now then, quite frankly, what about the Smith ? Can you give any idea of his personal appearance. What about his hands--eh what ?

I may say at once that any reader who finds himself unable to recall poems of this class, or to name the branches of the Amazon, or to remember who it was that borrowed a dollar from him at bridge, is in a bad way and had better take treatment at once.

It is to meet this very kind of difficulty that I have been working out a system of memory. As yet it is only in a fragmentary shape, but even as it is,-it may be found of use for certain purposes.

I will take a very familiar and very important case--the question of how to remember the delegates at a convention. All of us nowadays have to attend conventions of one kind or another---conventions of Furniture Men, or Rubber Men, or Stone Men, or Cement Men, Gas Men, Air Men,--any kind of men. And at every convention the delegate from Grand Rapids, Michigan, looks exactly like the delegate from Miami, Florida, and from Iksquak, Ungava. Is there, one asks, any way by which one can remember the name of a peculiar delegate? Yes, I think, it can be done.

In my system in such a problem as this we proceed on the method of Infinite Verification. Put in simple language this means that if.you say a thing over often enough presently you may remember it. Thus if a delegate is introduced to you under the name of Mr. Louis Barker of Owen Sound, Ontario, as soon as he has been presented you must say:

"Pardon me, I am not sure that I have the name right?"

"Louis Barker."

"Ah, thank you, Mr. Barker, and from where did you say?"

"From Owen Sound."

"Oh, yes,--and I don't know if I got your Christian name ?"

"Louis."

"Oh, certainly, and what did you say was your surname?" "Barker."

"Yes, exactly, and from what town do you come, Mr. Barker?"

"From Owen Sound."

"Ah, to be sure and you said it was in Alberta."

"No, in Ontario."

"In Ontario! Of course, how stupid of me, and,--pardon me, I want to get it right,--did you say that your name was Lloyd or Tomlinson? For the moment I can't remember which."

When you hear two or more people going through this kind of conversation you may be sure that they are memory experts, and that they are paying fifty cents a week for memory lessons,--or they ought to.

At any rate there is no doubt that if that kind of question and answer is repeated often enough you will presently retain with absolute distinctness the recollection that the man's name is Louis Barker,--either that or William Baker.

And just at the time when you have got this established he himself will turn to you and say:

"Excuse me, I am afraid I am rather stupid, but did you say that your name was Edward Peterson or Lionel Jennings?"

It has to be observed however that even when this much has been accomplished you still may not be able to remember the delegate's face. That is another question. Science has not yet gone far enough to tell us whether it is possible to remember delegates' faces at conventions.

Such cases, however, are relatively simple. I turn to the more difficult problem of how to remember telephone numbers. Everybody knows how provoking it is when we cannot remember whether our best friend's telephone number is 4821 or 4281,--or just possibly 8241, or even 8421,--with a faint suspicion that it may be 2841 or,--stop a bit--2481. It seems a shame to remember it so nearly as that--in fact, within a few thousands--and yet not get it.

The best solution, no doubt, is to associate only with people who have reasonable telephone numbers such as 9999 or 0000. Failing that, one must fall back on some kind of mnemonic device. Now in the case of numbers a great deal can be done by what we call technically the principle of association. This means that, after all, everything must in a way be like something else~ and that even the oddest collection of figures are connected by some link or association with others more simple.

For example, a friend of mine told me that he had great difficulty in remembering his telephone number which was 2937-J. I drew his attention to the simple fact that 29 is only one short of thirty and that 37 is only three short of forty and that J is the next letter before K. After that the thing was absurdly easy.

A similar difficulty presented itself in another case where the telephone number was 4754. But after turning it over in my mind I realized that 47 is the highest prime number above 41 and that 54 would be the next if it were 53 instead of 54. Add to this that the number 4754 itself is nothing other than the square root of 22,600,516 and the problem is solved.

It may be objected that this form of memory work is open only to people of a mathematic mind--such as actuaries, astronomers, and the employees of a cash register company. Other people may prefer a form of association dealing rather with facts than with figures. In this connection I may quote the case of a man whose telephone number was 1066 and who was able to remember it by noticing that it represents the date of the Norman Conquest. This is capable of a wide application. If your telephone number is 2986 connect it at once with the fall of the Ming dynasty in China; if it is 3843, that is obviously the date of the death of Amenhotep the First and so on. In short, whatever your number is you have but to look it up in a book of history, connect an event with it, learn the event, memorize the date, and the thing is done. In such a case be careful not to say to the operator: "Give me the landing of the Pilgrim fathers, Uptown-W."

Here is a more intricate problem in which the student of memory may surprise his friends with the brilliance of his performance,--I refer to the power to memorize a long and disconnected series of names. The best illustration or at least the most familiar, is the series of the names of the Presidents of the United States in order of office.

When we apply the principle of association to this, what appears an almost insuperable task is easily overcome. Take the first link in the chain. We want to remember that after Washington comes Adams. Can it be done? Yes, by association. We connect with the word Washington anything that it suggests, and then something that that suggests, and so on till we happen to get to Adams--

Washington evidently suggests washing.

Washing evidently suggests laundry.

Laundry evidently suggests the Chinese.

The Chinese evidently suggest missionaries.

Missionaries evidently suggest the Bible.

The Bible begins with Adam.

How ridiculously simple!

In conclusion I may say that if any reader of this book will send me fifty cents, I will either (a) forward to him by post my entire system of memory, or (b) send him back his fifty cents, or (c) keep his fifty cents and say nothing about it. If his memory is so weak as to need a system he will have forgotten his fifty cents anyway.