Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/570

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554
[ATTENTION
PSYCHOLOGY


in their simplest form, i.e. as sensations and movements, we have:-

(I) non-voluntarily attending

to changes in the =Pf€5ef1taU°“

sensory-continuum# of Senmfy

Cognition]

(2) being, in consequence,

either pleased or

A sunjecr Palfled: onjacrs.

Feeling]

and (3) by voluntary attention

or “ innervation ” =p, -esentation

producing changes in of mow,

the motor-continuum!

Conation]

Of the three phases or functions, thus analytically distinguishable, but not really separable, the first and the third correspond in the main with the receptive and active states or powers of the older psychologists. The second, being more difficult to isolate, was long overlooked; or, at all events, its essential characteristics were not distinctly marked, so that it was confounded either with (1) which is its cause, or with (3), its effect. But perhaps the most important of all psychological distinctions is that which traverses both the old bipartite and the prevailing tripartite analysis, viz. that between the subject on the one hand, as acting and feeling, and the objects of this activity on the other. With this distinction clearly before us, instead of crediting the subject with an indefinite number of faculties or capacities, we must seek to explain not only reproduction, association, &c., but all varieties of thinking and acting, by the laws pertaining to ideas or presentations, leaving to the subject only the one power of variously distributing that attention upon which the intensity of a presentation in part depends. What we call activity in the narrower sense (as e.g. purposive movement and intellect ion) is but a special form of this single subjective activity, although a very important one.

According to this view, then, presentations, attention, feeling, are not to be regarded as three co-ordinate genera, each of which is a complete “ state of mind or consciousness, ” i.e. as being all alike included under this one supreme category. There is, as Berkeley long ago urged, no resemblance between activity and an idea.; nor is it easy to see anything common to pure feeling and an idea, unless it be that both possess intensity. Classification seems, in fact, to be here out of place. Instead, therefore, of the one surnrnum genus, state of mind or consciousness, with its three co-ordinate subdivisions-cognition, emotion, conationour analysis seems to lead us to recognize three distinct and irreducible components-attention, feeling, and objects or presentations-as together, in a certain connexion, constituting one concrete state of mind or psychosis. Of such concrete states of mind or psychoses we may then say-so far agreeing with the older, bipartite psychology-that there are two forms, corresponding to the two ways in which attention may be determined and the two classes of objects attended to in each, viz. (r) the sensory or receptive attitude, when attention is non-voluntarily determined, i.e. Where feeling follows the act of attention; and (2) the motor or active attitude, where feeling precedes the act of attention, which is thus determined voluntarily.

Attention.

9. Instead of a congeries of faculties we have assumed a. single subjective activity and have proposed to call this attention. Some further explication of this position seems to be desirable. We start with the duality of subject and object as fundamental. We say of man, mouse, or monkey that it feels, perceives, remembers, infers, strives, and so forth. Leaving aside the first term, it is obvious that all the rest imply both an activity and an object. Is it possible to resolve these instances into a form in which the assumed diversity of the act will appear as a diversity of the object? At first sight it looks rather as if the kind I'o coyer more complex cases we might here add the words “ or trams of ideas."

of activity might vary while the object remained the same; that e.g. we perceived an object and later on remembered or desired it. It would then be most natural to refer these several activities to corresponding faculties of perception, memory and desire. This, indeed, is the view embodied in common speech, and for practical purposes it is doubtless the simplest and the best. Nevertheless, a more thorough analysis shows that when the supposed faculty is different the object is never entirely and in all respects the same. Thus in perception, e.g. we deal with “impressions ” or primary presentations, and in memory and imagination with “ideas ” (in the later sense) or secondary presentations. In desire the want of the object gives it an entirely different setting, adding a new characteristic, that of value or worth, so that its acquisition becomes the end of a series of efforts or movements. The older psychology, by its acceptance of the Cartesian doctrine that all the facts of immediate experience are to be interpreted as subjective modifications, failed to distinguish adequately between the subject as active and the objects of its activity. Hence the tendency to rest content with the popular distinction of various faculties in spite of the underlying sameness implied in the common application of “ conscious ” to them all. In fact, Locke's definition of idea (in the older and wider sense) as the immediate object of consciousness or thinking was censured by Reid as “ the greatest blemish in the Essay on H urnan Understanding.” But, accepting this definition as implied in the duality of subject and object, and accepting too the underlying sameness which the active form “conscious ” undeniably implies, we have simply to ask: “ Which is the better term to denote this common element consciousness or attention?"

Consciousness, as the vaguest, most protean and most treacherous of psychological terms, will hardly serve our purpose. Attention, on the other hand, has an invariable active sense, and there is an appropriate verb, to attend. But many things, it may be said, are presented while few are attended to; if attention is 'to be made coextensive with the activity implied in consciousness, will not the vital distinction between attention and inattention be lost? In fact, however, this distinction implies a covert comparison, not an absolute contrast. In everyday life we recognize many degrees of attention, ranging from an extreme of intense concentration to one of complete remission, as Locke long ago pointed out.2 Between these extremes there is perfect continuity, and not a difference of kind; to apply the one term attention to the whole range is very like applying the one term magnitude to large and small quantities alike.

But it is not enough to show that when we commonly talk of different faculties we also find psychological differences of object, and to assert that if there is one common factor in all psychical activity this factor is attention. To make our position secure it is needful to show directly that all the various faculties with which a subject can be credited are resolvable into attention and various classes or relations or states of presentations that are attended to. How farthis is possible remains to be seen as we proceed. In the case of the so-called “ intellectual powers ” the position is generally conceded, but so far as the voluntary or active powers are concerned it is as generally denied. Now, in so far as volition implies not merely action, overt or intended, but also motives, in so far also it must be acknowledged it contains a factor not resolvable into attention to motor presentations. This further factor, which has been called “the volitional character of feeling, ” we here leave aside. Apart from this direct spring of action, then, the question is whether the active process itself differs from the cognitive or receptive process 2 " That there are ideas, some or other, always present in the mind of a waking man, every one's experience convinces him; though the mind employs itself about them with several degrees of attention. Sometimes the mind fixes itself with such intention . . that it shuts out all other thoughts and takes no notice of the ordinary impressions made on the senses; . . .at other times it barely observes the train of ideas . . . without directing and pursuing any of them; and at other times it lets them pass almost quite unre arded as faint shadows that make no impression " (Essay, ii. 19, §§ 3, 4). .