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.

The first mode has already been called the reflex mode.  The short reactions referred to usually lie between 40[sigma] and 80[sigma], and since experiment has shown conclusively that the spinal reflex occupies about 50[sigma], there can be little doubt that the first mode is that of the reflex reaction time.

The second mode represents those reactions which are the result of central activity and control.  I should be inclined to argue that they are what we usually call the instinctive and impulsive actions.  And the remaining reactions represent such as are either purely voluntary, if any frog action can be so described, or, in other words, depend upon such a balancing of forces in the brain as leads to delay and gives the appearance of deliberate choice.

Everything points to some such classification of the types as follows:  (1) Stimuli strong enough to be injurious cause the shortest possible reaction by calling the spinal centers into action, or if not spinal centers some other reflex centers; (2) slightly weaker stimuli are not sufficient to affect the reflex mechanism, but their impulse passes on to the brain and quickly discharges the primary center.  There is no hesitation, but an immediate and only slightly variable reaction; just the kind that is described as instinctive.  As would be expected, the majority of the frog’s responses are either of the reflex or of this instinctive type. (3) There is that strength of stimulus which is not sufficient to discharge the primary center, but may pass to centers of higher tension and thus cause a response.  This increase in the complexity of the process means a slower reaction, and it is such we call a deliberate response.  Precisely this kind of change in neural action and in reaction time is at the basis of voluntary action.  And (4) finally, the stimulus may be so weak that it will not induce a reaction except by repetition.  Just above this point lies the threshold of sensibility, the determination of which is of considerable interest and importance.

Group 2 of the electrical reactions consists of three series taken to determine the relation of strength of stimulus to reaction time.  The conditions of experimentation differed from those for group 1 in the following points:  (1) The stimulus was applied directly by the making of a circuit through wires upon which the subject rested (Fig. 9); (2) the thread was attached to the right hind leg; (3) the thread, instead of being kept at the tension given by the 5-gram weight as in the former reactions, was slackened by pushing the upright lever of the reaction key one eighth of an inch toward the animal.  This was done in order to avoid the records given by the slight twitches of the legs which precede the motor reaction proper.  For this reason the reactions of group 2 are not directly comparable with those of group 1.  Fig. 9 is the plan of the bottom of a reaction box 15 cm. at one end, 30 cm. at the other,

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Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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