Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 757 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

Series No.  VI._—­Both the figures in each pair of this series were of the same material (granite-gray cardboard) and of the same area and outline, but the content of one of the two was varied with dark lines for the most part concentric with the periphery.

The advantage on the side of the figures with a varied content is marked, the general averages showing a greater difference than is shown in any of the tables so far considered.  And the advantage appears on the same side both in the individual averages and in the averages for the different pairs as shown at the foot of the columns.  There can be little doubt, accordingly, that we have here the expression of a general law.

For the meaning of this law we may consult the notes of the subjects:  ‘The plain figure became a mere amorphous mass;’ ’the inner lines reinforce the shape, for while previously the number of points in this star has increased (in ideation), here the number is fixed, and fixed correctly;’ ’my attention traversed the lines of the content, and seemed to be held by them;’ ’the variety of the marked objects was felt as more interesting;’ ’the attention was more active when considering the marked figures, passing from point to point of the figure;’ ’the surface of the plain figure was attended to as a whole or mass, without conscious activity;’ ’in the plain figure I thought of the gray, in the marked figure I thought of the lines;’ ’part of the plain figure tended to have lines.’

The part played by the motor elements previously referred to in sustaining attention and prolonging (internal) sensation is here unmistakable.  We have further evidence, too, of the value of the line in defining and strengthening the mental attitude.  In a mass of homogeneous elements such as is presented by a uniform gray surface, the attention is equally engaged by all and definitely held by none.  Monotony therefore means dullness.  And the inhibition of incompatible attitudes being as weak and uncertain as the attitudes actually but loosely assumed, the latter are readily displaced, and the sensation to which they correspond as readily disappears.  Hence the greater interest excited by the lined figures.  The lines give definiteness and direction to the attention, and as definitely inhibit incompatible attitudes.  And the shutting out of the latter by the spontaneous activity of the mind means that it is absorbed or interested in its present occupation.


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