Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/590

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574
[MENTAL ASSOCIATION
PSYCHOLOGY


their integration; for the result of this occupation may be regarded as a new continuum in which A and X become adjacent parts. For it is characteristic of a continuum that an increase in the intensity of any part leads to the intenser presentation of adjacent parts; and in this sense A and X, which were not originally continuous, have come to be so. We have here, then, some justihcation for the term secondary- or memory continuum when applied to this continuous series of representations to distinguish it from the primary or presentation continuum from which its constituents are derived. The most important peculiarity of this continuum, therefore, is that it is a series of representations integrated by means of the movements of attention out of the differentiations of the primary or presentation-continuum, or rather out of so much of these differentiations as pertain to what we know as the primary memory-image. These movements of attention, if the phrase may be allowed, come in the end to depend mainly upon interest, but at first appear to be determined entirely by mere intensity? To them it is proposed to look for that continuity which images lose in so far as they part with the local signs they had as percepts and cease to be either localized or projected. Inasmuch as it is assumed that these movements form the Connexion between one representation and another in the memory-train, they may be called “temporal signs.”2 The evidence for their existence can be more conveniently adduced presently; it must suffice to remark here that it consists almost wholly of facts connected with voluntary attention and the voluntary control of the flow of ideas, so that temporal signs, unlike local signs, are fundamentally motor and not sensory. And, unlike impressions, representations can have each but a single sign,3 the continuum of which, in contrast to that of local signs, is not rounded and complete, but continuously advancing. But in saying this we are assuming for a moment that the memory-continuum forms a perfectly single and unbroken train. If it ever actually were such, then, in the absence of any repetition of old impressions and apart from voluntary interference with the train, consciousness, till it ceased entirely, would consist of a fixed and mechanical round of images. Some approximation to such a state is often found in uncultured persons who lead uneventful lives, and still more in idiots, who can scarcely think at all. 2 5. In actual fact, however, the memory-train is liable to change in two respects, which considerably modify its structure, viz. (1) through the evanescence of some parts, and (2) through the partial recurrence of like impressions, which produces re duplications of varying amount and extent in other parts. As regards the first, we may infer that the waning or sinking towards the threshold of consciousness which we can observe pa, -, ,, ,¢;, ,, in the primary mental image continues in subof Ideatlonal consciousness after the threshold is past. For the C“"“"“""'- longer the time that elapses before their revival the fainter, the less distinct, and the less complete are the images when revived, and the more slowly they rise. All the elements of a complex are not equally relivable, as we have seen already: tastes, smells and organic sensations, though powerful as impressions to revive other images, have little capacity for ideal This connexion of association with continuous movements of attention makes it easier to understand the difficulty above referred to, viz. that in a series A B C D . B revives C but not A, and so on -a difficulty that the analogy of adhesiveness or links leaves unaccountable. To ignore the part played by attention in association, to represent the memory-continuum as due solely to the concurrence of presentations, is perhaps the chief defectmof the associationist psychology, both English and German. Spencer's endeavour to show “ that psychical life is distinguished from physical life by consisting of successive changes only instead of successive and simultaneous changes ” (Principles of Psychology, pt. iv. ch. ii., in particular pp. 403, 406) is really nothing but so much testimony to the work of attention in forming the memory-continuum, especially when. HS there is good reason to do, we reject his assumption that this growing seriality is physically determined. 2 A term borrowed from Lotze (Metaphysik, 1st ed., p. 295>. but the present writer is alone responsible for the sense here given tio it and the hypothesis in which it is used.

3 Apart, that is to say, of course, from the re duplications of the memory-train spoken of below.

reproduction themselves, while muscular movements, though perhaps of all presentations the most readily revived, do not so readily revive other presentations. Idiosyncrasies are, however, frequent; thus we find one person has an exceptional memory for sounds, another for colours, another for forms. Still it is in general true that the most intense, the most impressive, and the most interesting presentations persist the longest. But the evanescence, which is in all cases comparatively rapid at first, deepens sooner or later into real or apparent oblivion. In this manner it comes about that parts of the memory-continuum lose all distinctness of feature and, being without Oblmscenm recognizable content, shrivel up to a dim and meagre representation of life that has lapsed-a representation that just suffices, for example, to show us that “ our earliest recollections ” are not of our first experiences, or to save them from being not only isolated but discontinuous. Such discontinuity can, of course, never be absolute; we must have something represented even to mark the gap. Oblivion and the absence of all representation are thus the same, and the absence of all representation cannot psychologically constitute a break. The terms “ evolution” and “involution” have- in this respect been happily applied to the rising and falling of representations. When we recall a particular period of our past life, or what has long ceased to be a familiar scene, events and features gradually unfold and, as it were, spread out as we keep on attending. A precisely opposite process may then be supposed to take place when they are left in undisturbed forgetfulness; this process is called obliviscence.

More important changes are produced by the repetition of parts of the memory-train. The effect of this is not merely to prevent the evanescence of the particular image Repetmom or series of images, but by partial and more or less frequent re duplications of the memory-train or “ thread ” upon itself to convert it into a partially new continuum, which we might perhaps call the ideational continuum or “tissue.” The reduplicated portions of the train are strengthened, while at the points of divergence it becomes comparatively weakened, and this apart from the effects of obliviscence. One who had seen the king but once would scarcely be likely to think of him without finding the attendant circumstances recur as well; this could not happen after seeing him in a hundred different scenes. The central representation of the whole complex would have become more distinct, whereas the several Generic

diverging lines would tend to dissipate attention and, Im, , ges by involving opposing representations, to neutralize each other, so that probably no definite background would be reinstated. Even this central representation would be more or less generalized. It has been often remarked that one's most familiar friends are apt to be mentally pictured less concretely and vividly than persons seen more seldom and then in similar attitudes and moods; in the former case a “ generic image ” has grown out of such more specific representations as the latter affords. Still further removed from memory-images are the images that result from such familiar percepts as those of horses, houses, trees, &c. Thus as the joint effect of obliviscence and reduplication we are provided with trains of ideas distinct from the memory thread and thereby with the material, already more

Trains ol

or less organized, for intellectual and volitional Meas manipulation. We do not experience the flow of ideas-save very momentarily 'and occasionally-altogether undisturbed; even in dreams and reverie. it is continually interrupted and diverted. Nevertheless it is not difficult to ascertain that, so far as it is left to itself, it takes a very different course from that which we should have to retrace if bent on reminiscence and able to recollect perfectly. The readiness and steadiness of this flow are shown by the extremely small effort necessary in order to follow it. Nevertheless from its very nature it is liable, though not to positive breaches

  • This contrast of thread and tissue is suggested, of course, by

Herbart's terms Reihe and Gewebe. It is justified by the fact that memory fproper follows the single line of temporal continuity, While ideation urnishes the basis for manifold logical connexions.