Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/455

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449
THE PERMANENCE OF INTERESTS

THE PERMANENCE OF INTERESTS AND THEIR RELATION TO ABILITIES
By Professor EDWARD L. THORNDIKE

TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

THERE is a wide range of opinion amongst both theorists and practitioners with respect to the importance of the interests of children and young people. These early likes and dislikes, attractions and repulsions, are, by some, taken to be prime symptoms of what is for the welfare of the individual or even of the species. By others they are discarded as trivial, fickle, products of more or less adventitious circumstances, meaning little or nothing for the nature or welfare of any one. It seems, therefore, desirable to report whatever impersonal estimates of the significance and value of interests one can secure.

I have measured the significance of interests in certain limited particulars, with very definite results, and shall, in this article, describe these results and the method by which they were obtained and by which any one can readily verify them.

The particular problems attacked all concerned the relative amount or relative intensity or relative strength of interests within the same individual. That is, "greater interest" will always mean the interest which was greater than the others possessed by the same individual. Little interest will mean little in comparison with the individual's other interests. The question, "To what extent is the strength of an interest from ten to fourteen prophetic of the strength which that interest will manifest in adult life?" will mean, "To what extent will it in adult life keep the same place in an order of the individual's interests which it had in the order which described his childish preferences?" Amounts or degrees of ability or capacity will similarly always mean relative amounts. Thus, to say that a person was, during high school, most interested in mathematics and most able at mathematics will mean that the person liked mathematics more than he did anything else, and did better at mathematics than he did at anything else. The statement will not imply anything about the degree of his interest or ability in comparison with other individuals.

The particular problems attacked are limited further to seven varieties of interests and the corresponding varieties of ability or capacity, namely, mathematics, history, literature, science, music, drawing, and other hand-work (this last being defined as "carpentering, sewing,