Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.
than the first, and unless this is due to the partial exhaustion of the nervous system it is hard to find an explanation of the fact.  Fatigue of the muscles concerned seems out of the question because the reactions occur at the rate of only one per minute, and during the rest interval any healthy and well-nourished muscle would so far recover from the effect of contraction that it would be able to continue the rhythmic action for long periods.

To the inquiry, Does fatigue in the experiments mean tiring by the exhaustion of nerve energy, or is the lengthening in reaction time which would naturally be attributed to tiring due to the fact that experience has shown quick reaction to be unnecessary? we shall have to reply that there is evidence in favor of both as factors.  There can be little doubt that in case of the strong stimuli there is genuine fatigue which makes quick reaction impossible; but at the same time it is certain that the 40 to 50 per cent. increase of the second half of sets in series 1 over the first half can not be due to fatigue, for the strain is here evidently much less than for series 3.  Rather, it would seem that habituation instead of exhaustion is the all-important cause of the difference in series 1 and 2.  It becomes clear from these considerations that the repetition of a stimulus can never mean the repetition of an effect.

VII.  TACTUAL REACTION TIME.

In the following work on the reactions to tactual stimulation the subject was placed in a large reaction box with a thread attached to one of its legs and passing to a reaction key, as in the experiments already described.  The box in which the subject was confined was surrounded by movable cloth curtains to prevent the animal’s escape and at the same time permit the experimenter to work without being seen by the frog.

Tactual stimulation was given by means of a hand key[15] similar to that used for electrical stimulation which is represented in Fig. 6.  The touch key ended in a hard-rubber knob which could be brought in contact with the skin of the subject.  This key was fixed to a handle of sufficient length to enable the operator to reach the animal wherever it chanced to be sitting in the reaction box.  Stimulation was given by allowing the rubber point of the touch key to come in contact with the skin in the middle region of the subject’s back.  As soon as the point touched the animal the chronoscope circuit was broken by the raising of the upper arm of the key.

   [15] This apparatus was essentially the same as Scripture’s
   device for the giving of tactual stimulation.

As a precaution against reactions to visual stimuli, which it might well be supposed would appear since the subject could not in every case be prevented from seeing the approaching apparatus, the frog was always placed with its head away from the experimenter so that the eyes could not readily be directed toward the touch apparatus.  Notwithstanding care in this matter, a reaction occasionally appeared which was evidently due to some disturbance preceding the tactual stimulus which served as a warning or preparation for the latter.  All such responses were at once marked as questionable visual reactions and were not included in the series of touch reactions proper.

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