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.

With these facts in view Dodge made an experiment to test the hypothesis of anaesthesia.  He proceeded as follows (ibid., p. 458):  “A disc of black cardboard thirteen inches in diameter, in which a circle of one-eighth inch round holes, one half inch apart, had been punched close to the periphery all around, was made to revolve at such a velocity that, while the light from the holes fused to a bright circle when the eye was at rest, when the eye moved in the direction of the disc’s rotation from one fixation point, seen through the fused circle of light, to another one inch distant, three clear-cut round holes were seen much brighter than the band of light out of which they seemed to emerge.  This was only possible when the velocity of the holes was sufficient to keep their images at exactly the same spot on the retina during the movement of the eye.  The significant thing is that the individual round spots of light thus seen were much more intense than the fused line of light seen while the eyes were at rest.  Neither my assistant nor I was able to detect any difference in brightness between them and the background when altogether unobstructed.”  Dodge finds that this experiment ‘disproves’ the hypothesis of anaesthesia.

If by ‘anaesthesia’ is meant a condition of the retinal end-organs in which they should be momentarily indifferent to excitation by light-waves, the hypothesis is indeed disproved, for obviously the ‘three clear-cut round holes’ which appeared as bright as the unobstructed background were due to a summation of the light which reached the retina during the movement, through three holes of the disc, and which fell on the same three spots of the retina as long as the disc and the eyeball were moving at the same angular rate.  But such a momentary anaesthesia of the retina itself would in any case, from our knowledge of its physiological and chemical structure, be utterly inconceivable.

On the other hand, there seems to be nothing in the experiment which shows that the images of the three holes were present to consciousness just during the movement, rather than immediately thereafter.  A central mechanism of inhibition, such as Exner mentions, might condition a central anaesthesia during movement, although the functioning of the retina should remain unaltered.  Such a central anaesthesia would just as well account for the phenomena which have been enumerated.  The three luminous images could be supposed to remain unmodified for a finite interval as positive after-images, and as such first to appear in consciousness.  Inasmuch as ’the arc of eye movements was 4.7 deg.’ only, the time would be too brief to make possible any reliable judgment as to whether the three holes were seen during or just after the eye-movement.  With this point in view, the writer repeated the experiment of Dodge, and found indeed nothing which gave a hint as to the exact time when the images emerged in consciousness.  The results of Dodge were otherwise entirely confirmed.

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