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.

I have already said that the illusion for passive touch was greatest when the two spaces were presented simultaneously and adjacent.  Dresslar has mentioned in his studies on the ‘Psychology of Touch,’ that the time factor cannot enter into an explanation of this illusion; but the experiments of which I have just spoken seem to point plainly to a very intimate relation between this illusion and the illusions in our judgments of time.  We have here presented on a diminutive scale the illusions which we see in our daily experience in comparing past with present stretches of time.  It is a well-known psychological experience that a filled time appears short in passing, but long in retrospect, while an empty time appears long in passing, but short in retrospect.  Now this illusion of the open and filled space, for the finger-tip, is at every point similar to the illusion to which our time judgment is subject.  If we pronounce judgment on a filled space or filled time while we are still actually living in it, it seems shorter than it really is, because, while we pay attention to the discrete sensations of external origin, we lose sight of the sensations of internal origin, which are the sole means whereby we measure lapse of time, and we consequently underestimate such stretches of time or space.  But when the sensations from the outer world which enter into such filled spaces or times exist only in memory, the time-measuring sensations of internal origin are allowed their full effect; and such spaces and times seem much longer than when we are actually passing through them.

I dwell on this illusion at a length which may seem out of proportion to its importance.  My object has been to show how widely different are the objective conditions here from what they are in the optical illusion which has so often been called the analogue of this.  James[14] has said of this tactual illusion:  ’This seems to bring things back to the unanalyzable laws, by reason of which our feeling of size is determined differently in the skin and in the retina even when the objective conditions are the same.’  I think that my experiments have shown that the objective conditions are not the same; that they differ in that most essential of all factors, namely, the time element.  Something very nearly the analogue of the optical illusion is secured when we take very short open and filled tactual spaces, and move over them very rapidly.  Here the illusion exists in the same direction as it does for sight, as has already been stated.  On the other hand, a phenomenon more nearly parallel to the tactual illusion, as reported in the experiments of James and Dresslar, is found if we take long optical distances, and traverse the open and filled spaces continuously, without having both parts of the line entirely in the field of view at any one moment.  I made a few experiments with the optical illusion in this form.  The filled and open spaces were viewed by the subject through a slot which was passed over them.  These experiments all pointed in the direction of an underestimation of a filled space.  Everywhere in this illusion, then, where the objective conditions were at all similar for sight and touch, the resulting illusion exists in the same direction for both senses.

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