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.

These experiments were made on four different parts of the skin—­the forehead, the back of the hand, the abdomen, and the leg between the knee and the thigh.  I here forsook the plan which I had followed almost exclusively hitherto, that of comparing the cutaneous distances with each other directly.  The judgments now were secured indirectly through the medium of visual distances.  There was placed before the subject a gray card, upon which were put a series of two-point distances ranging from 2 to 20 cm.  The two-point distances were given on the skin, and the subject then selected from the optical distances the one that appeared equal to the cutaneous distance.  This process furnished the judgments on open spaces.  For the filled spaces, immediately after the two-point distance was given a blunt stylus was drawn from one point to the other, and the subject then again selected the optical distance which seemed equal to this distance filled by the moving point.

The results from these experiments point very plainly in one direction.  I have therefore thought it unnecessary to go into any further detail with them than to state that for all subjects and for all regions of the skin the filled spaces were overestimated.  This overestimation varied also with the rate of speed at which the stylus was moved.  The overestimation is greatest where the motion is slowest.

Vierordt[7] found the same result in his studies on the time sense, that is, that the more rapid the movement, the shorter the distance seems.  But lines drawn on the skin are, according to him, underestimated in comparison with open two-point distances.  Fechner[8] also reported that a line drawn on the skin is judged shorter than the distance between two points which are merely touched.  It will be noticed, however, that my experiments differed from those of Vierordt and Fechner in one essential respect.  This difference, I think, is sufficient to explain the different results.  In my experiments the two-point distance was held on the skin, while the stylus was moved from one point to the other.  In their experiments the line was drawn without the points.  This of course changes the objective conditions.  In simply drawing a line on the skin the subject rapidly loses sight of the starting point of the movement.  It follows, as it were, the moving point, and hence the entire distance is underestimated.  I made a small number of tests of this kind, and found that the line seemed shorter than the point distance as Fechner and Vierordt declared.  But when the point distance is kept on the skin while the stylus is being drawn, the filling is allowed its full effect in the judgment, inasmuch as the end points are perceived as stationary landmarks.  The subjects at first found some difficulty in withholding their judgments until the movement was completed.  Some subjects declared that they frequently made a preliminary judgment before the filling was inserted, but that when the moving point approached the end point,

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