in himself of any one elementary faculty. This
concentrated type of attention is an elementary faculty:
it is one of the things that might be ascertained
and measured by exercises in the laboratory.
But, having ascertained it in a number of persons,
we could never rank them in a scale of actual and
practical mental efficiency based on its degrees.
The total mental efficiency of a man is the resultant
of the working together of all his faculties.
He is too complex a being for any one of them to have
the casting vote. If any one of them do have
the casting vote, it is more likely to be the strength
of his desire and passion, the strength of the interest
he takes in what is proposed. Concentration,
memory, reasoning power, inventiveness, excellence
of the senses,—all are subsidiary to this.
No matter how scatter-brained the type of a man’s
successive fields of consciousness may be, if he really
for a subject, he will return to it incessantly
from his incessant wanderings, and first and last
do more with it, and get more results from it, than
another person whose attention may be more continuous
during a given interval, but whose passion for the
subject is of a more languid and less permanent sort.
Some of the most efficient workers I know are of the
ultra-scatterbrained type. One friend, who does
a prodigious quantity of work, has in fact confessed
to me that, if he wants to get ideas on any subject,
he sits down to work at something else, his best results
coming through his mind-wanderings. This is perhaps
an epigrammatic exaggeration on his part; but I seriously
think that no one of us need be too much distressed
at his own shortcomings in this regard. Our mind
may enjoy but little comfort, may be restless and feel
confused; but it may be extremely efficient all the
We are following a somewhat arbitrary order.
Since each and every faculty we possess is either
in whole or in part a resultant of the play of our
associations, it would have been as natural, after
treating of association, to treat of memory as to
treat of interest and attention next. But, since
we did take the latter operations first, we must take
memory now without farther delay; for the phenomena
of memory are among the simplest and most immediate
consequences of the fact that our mind is essentially
an associating machine. There is no more pre-eminent
example for exhibiting the fertility of the laws of
association as principles of psychological analysis.
Memory, moreover, is so important a faculty in the
schoolroom that you are probably waiting with some
eagerness to know what psychology has to say about
it for your help.