The Science of Thought Vol. 1


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Syed Nomanul Haq, Ph.D.

Aspinwall; With contributions by Keith F. Sanford's suggestion. The distinguishing features of the study were these: We, the observers, waked ourselves by the use of alarm-clocks at different hours of the night; we recorded our dreams at the instant of waking and each morning studied with care all the records, whether slight and trivial or seemingly significant. We took account of the different types of dream experience, discovering elements of all sense modes, emotions of every sort, and occasional examples of dream reasoning and dream volition; and we considered also the relation of the dream to the waking life, distinguishing in particular the persons and the places of our dream experiences.

The conclusion which I reached, that the dream merely reproduces "in general the persons, places and events of recent sense perception" and that the dream is rarely "associated with that which is of paramount significance in one's waking experience,"[ 4 ] is almost ludicrously opposed to the nowadays widely accepted Freudian conception of the dream; in fact, my study as a whole must be rather contemptuously set down by any good Freudian as superficially concerned with the mere "manifest content" of the dream. It is, however, of interest to me to notice that my old dream study does anticipate more than one of the findings of the psychoanalysts.

In agreement with them, for example, it vigorously disputes the assertions of people who report that they never dream; and this on strictly empirical grounds. For I had more than one instance of waking without the faintest memory of having dreamed and of discovering by my side the night record of one dream or of several. A second fruit of the first year of graduate work in psychology was a paper on association which I wrote for Dr. I had first- proposed 'attention' as my topic, but he frowned on this if I rightly remember for the highly characteristic reason that he was sick of the subject.

Quite at random I next chose 'association,' thus determining my chief interest for a number of years. This paper turned out to be my first published contribution to psychology. It appeared, suitably condensed, in an early issue, July, , of the Philosophical Review. The paper takes its start in the conception of association as observable connection between succeeding objects or contents of consciousness; proceeds, after James's fashion, to reduce so-called association by similarity to contiguity association; and is largely concerned with a classification in which, modifying that of James, it lays stress on what it calls the persisting element in cases of 'multiple' and 'focalized' partial association.

I can hardly hope ever again to be so puffed with pride as when I found this distinction approvingly referred to in a footnote of the second edition of "little James," the name by which, at this time, we all knew the Briefer Course in Psychology. In the very fall of , when I had planned to ask admission to his Freiburg Laboratory, he came instead to Harvard; and for parts of three years I worked under his inspiring direction in the old Psychology Laboratory of Dane Hall.

The Laboratory was infelicitously situated within hearing on the one side of the hand-organs and the street-car bells of Harvard Square and on the other of the often vociferous outbursts of Professor Copeland's "elocution" classes, but it was none the less the scene of absorbing work.

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I shall not let this opportunity pass by to record my gratitude for the friendly, comradely, and refreshingly matter-of-fact welcome which I received from the men working in [p. My abiding gratitude to Dr. I interrupt myself to interpolate a frivolous reminiscence, of a much later date, which sets off in bold relief the friendly tolerance of my Harvard fellow-students.

No woman, he correctly insisted, might set foot in the main hall; nor was it possible to admit so many men, balanced by one woman only, to the ladies' dining-room. My problem for experimental investigation was a comparison of frequency, recency, and vividness as conditions of association. In brief, I showed that, in direct competition, recency yields to vividness, and both vividness and recency to frequency. Concretely stated -- in showing series of colors paired with numerals I found that a numeral which had repeatedly appeared in conjunction with a given color was more likely than either a vividly colored numeral or than the numeral last paired with the color, to be remembered, on a reappearance of the given color.

Perhaps more significant than these results is the method, since known as that of right associates, which I employed. For I discovered presently, to my unbounded surprise, that I had originated a technical memorizing method. I have strayed so far from the path of experimental procedure, while consistently placing so high a value on the experimental method, that I take unaffected pleasure in the thought of my one slightly significant contribution to experimental psychology.

My work in association, theoretical and experimental, was brought [p. My natural regret at the action of the Corporation has never clouded my gratitude for the incomparably greater boon which they granted me -- that of working in the seminaries and the laboratory of the great Harvard teachers.

Meantime I had begun my teaching of psychology. Officially, it was I who had the honor of setting up at Wellesley, in the wide attic spaces of the fifth floor of old College Hall, one of the earlier and smaller of American psychological laboratories Actually, the laboratory was the creation of Professor Sanford, whose counsel I sought and received in large things and small, in planning the expenditure of my restricted laboratory fund, in placing orders with European apparatus makers, and in the selection and purchase of materials nearer at hand.

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Several pieces of apparatus were made from Dr. Sanford's specifications by Wellesley carpenters; our chronoscope one of his own invention , our Wheatstone stereoscope, and other pieces were constructed by a Clark University mechanician. The fire of destroyed apparatus and laboratory, but the workers today in the Wellesley Laboratory gratefully acknowledge Edmund Sanford as its founder. Looking back on these earlier years of psychology teaching, I seem to myself to have gained three useful, though disparate, ends.

In the first place, I "held the fort" for my successor in the direction of the Laboratory, Dr. Eleanor Gamble, an experimentalist far better endowed and equipped than I. I had the opportunity, in the second place, to conduct among some hundreds of students an investigation of the prevalence, nature, and types of synaesthesia and mental forms. In the third place, I worked out a course in general psychology in which simple experiments provided first-hand material for the study of a number of topics.


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A paper, written at the invitation of President Hall, and published during in the American Journal of Psychology , briefly describes this rather crude course. More or less external conditions greatly modified it, with the years, but I take this opportunity to register my ardent championship of an inductive method in introductory psychology courses. I am convinced that exercises in introspection, whenever possible experimentally controlled, should precede both the reading of textbooks and the hearing of lectures.

The list would include color-theory,[ 7 ] the criterion of animal consciousness,[ 8 ] the analysis of the space-consciousness,[ 9 ] and the theory of the "physiological correlate of emotion. These are: the study of association; the conception of the psychic element; the doctrine of relational elements of experience; finally, and most important, the conception of psychology as science of self with which I contrasted atomistic or idea-psychology, the study without reference to any self, of successive experiences.

Both conceptions of psychology, I maintained, are valid and useful; but I deprecated strongly the tendency of psychologists to alternate irresponsibly between one and the other. Two papers which I published in gather up between them my convictions on all four of these subjects of my main interest and serve as a sort of program for the work which followed.

The earlier of these papers is entitled "Elements of Conscious Complexes"[ 12 ] and is mainly concerned with psychology from the atomistic standpoint. In addition to its stress on this conception of psychology, the paper has two main emphases: in the first place, it seeks to replace the doctrine that psychic elements have attributes by the more rigid conception of the so-called attributes -- the sensational intensities and extensities, for example -- as themselves psychic elements;[ 13 ] in the second place, it takes up the cudgels for the James and Spencer conception of relational or thought elements.

The first of these doctrines still commands my firm adherence, but I have long since ceased bickering about it for it now seems to me relatively unimportant.

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Anti-sensationalism, on the other hand, is to this day a live issue; and I am as much concerned now as I was in to affirm the unsensational nature of such experiences as the consciousness of the likeness of one color to another. The second of the program-papers, published in , considers psychology as science of self. It is the first systematic statement of my self-psychology but by no means the earliest indication of my interest in the 'self. A "presupposition of the fact of association," I wrote in , "is that of the identity of the subject.

The same 'I' must exist if there is to be consciousness 'in the same way' or 'of the same object. Yet all the time one is conscious that it is oneself who has changed or whose identity is doubled. From this digression I return to the paper, published in , on "Psychology as Science of Selves. Atomistic psychology I still recognized as a valid science concerned with these psychic events called contents of consciousness. The psychology of selves, on the other hand, I conceived as "frankly" acknowledging the contents of consciousness as experiences of some self and proceeding to the study of these selves "in their diverse relations to each other and to facts of other sorts.

I wish that I could recall more completely the sources of this personalistic doctrine of psychology. In my emphasis on the social nature of the self, I was certainly influenced by Baldwin and by Royce, to both of whom I explicitly referred. I am confident, also, [p. To Dr. It is a systematic treatment of experience from the double standpoint of atomistic and of self-psychology. I followed it up in by a summary of its teaching which I wrote in German and published it is needless to add, after revision by a German friend under the title Der Doppelte Standpunkt in der Psychologie.

Atomistic and self-psychology figure in this treatise as Vorgangspsychologie and Ichpsychologie , fortuitous names, as Vaihinger was good enough to write me. My psychological efforts, in the first years of the 's were largely directed toward replying to my critics.

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Their objections to my doctrine may be grouped roughly somewhat as follows. First, difficulties of detail, many of them justified -- the objection, for example, that in perceiving one is not, as a fact, always conscious of other selves as sharing one's experience. Secondly, the criticism that in treating atomistic psychology as the only alternative to self-psychology I ignored the advancing claim of functional psychology.

LECTURE I. – (Introduction.)

Thirdly, a charge of inconsistency with my own self-psychological doctrine. My definition of the idea, or mental process, as an experience [p. Fourthly, and most important, criticisms of my concept of the self as vague, unscientific, and unverified. My immediate reaction to the second of these charges was embodied in an address, read in December, , to the American Psychological Association. In this paper, "A Reconciliation between Structural and Functional Psychology," I interpreted the 'function' as fundamentally a reaction of conscious self on its environment and argued that "consciousness which always implies a conscious self is a complex alike of structural elements and of relations of self to environment.

It offers, not indeed a definition, but a description of the self as persistent, unique, complex, and also as related to objects, personal and impersonal. The book diverges most strikingly from those which preceded it by its abandonment of the duplex conception of psychology, as science alike of succeeding mental events and of the conscious self, in favor of a single-track self-psychology. In my preface, I call attention to the fact that I make the change "not because I doubt the validity" of psychology of the atomistic type but because "I question the significance and the adequacy, and deprecate the abstractness, of the science thus conceived.

In particular, the fourth edition formally abandons my earlier view, frankly acknowledging it as a "survival in my thinking of idea psychology," that the so-called structural elements of consciousness "are discovered only by an analysis of consciousness which leaves the self out of account. My psychological activities since the issue of this last edition of A First Book in Psychology have consisted in attempts to elucidate, to enrich, and to defend self-psychology.

Even a recent paper on "The Ambiguous Concept of Meaning,"[ 25 ] seemingly immune by title from self-psychology, really takes its start in a criticism of the Titchenerian habit of dismissing the self as object of mere 'meaning. I have proposed accordingly as uniting concept for the warring systems the biological form of personalistic psychology, that is, the conception of psychology as science of the conscious organism. The preceding pages tell enough and more than enough about myself, my interests, and my occupations.

In what follows I shall check my autobiographical outpouring and shall whole-heartedly devote myself, first, to setting forth and, secondly, to arguing for the essentials of a personalistic psychology. For with each year I live, [p.

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To establish this doctrine seems to me the first task of psychology and the essential preparation for its most important special undertakings. At the outset, therefore, I shall plainly state my reason for rejecting behaviorism, the one doctrine which, calling itself a psychology, none the less challenges the introspective procedure. By behaviorism I emphatically do not mean the doctrine set forth in the reiterated statements that consciousness is in its very nature impulsive, that any effective thinking must eventuate in doing, that we learn to think by learning to do.

For all these commonplaces, popularly used in support of behaviorism, are perfectly consistent with introspective psychology and indeed form part and parcel of the output of all contemporary psychology, at least from William James down. They therefore constitute no argument for behaviorism proper, extreme behaviorism, the doctrine that so-called consciousness literally is, consists in, bodily reactions; that seeing is eye-movement; that emotion is chaotic instinctive reaction; and that thinking is internal speech.

These statements, constituting as they do the center and core of behaviorism I oppose much as I should oppose the statement that a flame consists in striking a match and that the sound of a bell is an electric contact. Striking the match, as every one knows, is not identical with the flame: the two are related, in this case as condition and conditioned, but are not the same; and similarly the laryngeal muscle contraction, however closely related to thought, is not identical with thinking.

In truth, if the two, thinking and subvocal muscle contraction, were identical, we should be wholly unable to explain the admitted expression of the same thought by phonetically dissimilar words. If, for example, the experience of 'equality' consists in the sub-vocal contraction of throat muscles involved in pronouncing the word, it cannot also consist in the quite different muscular contractions involved in "whispering to one's self" the word Gleichheit. Accordingly, I reject behaviorism as a positive doctrine simply because, as has just appeared, it autocratically identifies phenomena which are to observation distinct.

Behaviorism in its critical capacity I cannot, however, so summarily dismiss. The behaviorist as a critic [p.


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But he chiefly protests against the "subjectivity," by which he means the individuality, of introspection. He stresses the fact that one can introspect only one's own private experience, that one cannot therefore check up or verify one's results -- in a word, that the introspectionist must abandon the firm ground of natural science. Now no introspectionist will deny the difficulty or the fallibility of introspection. But he will stoutly urge against the behaviorist, first, that this argument is a boomerang telling against "the firmly grounded natural sciences" as well as against psychology.

For the physical sciences themselves are based in the end on the introspections of scientists -- in other words, the physical sciences, far from being wholly free of 'subjectivity' must describe their phenomena in the sometimes diverse terms of what different observers see, hear, and touch.

In the second place, as the discriminating critic of behaviorism points out, the introspective psychologist does not actually confine himself to the study of his own private experiences, though he certainly starts from them. Rather, he attributes to his fellows experiences resembling his own, indicated to him by their speech or by their non-verbal behavior.

In a word, the introspective psychologist deals not only with his own directly introspected experiences but with the inferred experiences supposedly introspected by other people. For both these reasons I refuse, at the behest of the behaviorist, to abjure the study of the mental life. But this, as a later section will set forth, means only that I refuse adherence to the negative part of behaviorism, its denial of self and of consciousness.

On the other hand, like all introspectionists, I welcome cordially every positive contribution of behaviorism -- every study of conditioned reflex and bodily response. For it is an admitted part of the psychologist's business to correlate bodily reactions with conscious experience -- immediate reactions, for example, with perceiving, delayed reactions with deliberation, chaotic and interrupted reactions with emotion. Introspectionists of varying types may conceive the correlation differently, but all assert it.

For the term 'introspective psychology' shelters two widely different types of psychological system -- the impersonalistic and the personalistic. If I had to figure out to what extent others are reliable interpreters of themselves, then that would make things much more complicated and slow. It would take a great deal more energy and interpretive work to understand the intentions and mental states of others.

And then it is the same heuristic transparency-of-mind assumption that makes my own thoughts seem transparently available to me. There is a great deal of experimental evidence from normal subjects, especially of their readiness to falsely, but unknowingly, fabricate facts or memories to fill in for lost ones. Moreover, if introspection were fundamentally different from reading the minds of others, one would expect there to be disorders in which only one capacity was damaged but not the other.

Autism spectrum disorders, for example, are not only associated with limited access to the thoughts of others but also with a restricted understanding of oneself. There seems to be only a single mind-reading mechanism on which we depend both internally and in our social relations. The price we pay is that we believe subjectively that we are possessed of far greater certainty about our attitudes than we actually have. We believe that if we are in mental state X, it is the same as being in that state. As soon as I believe I am hungry, I am. Once I believe I am happy, I am. But that is not really the case.

It is a trick of the mind that makes us equate the act of thinking one has a thought with the thought itself. What might be the alternative? What should we do about it , if only we could? Well, in theory, we would have to distinguish between an experiential state itself on the one hand and our judgment or belief underlying this experience on the other hand. There are rare instances when we succeed in doing so: for example, when I feel nervous or irritated but suddenly realize that I am actually hungry and need to eat.

That would be one way of saying it. It is astonishingly difficult to maintain this kind of distanced view of oneself. Brain researchers put a lot of effort into figuring out the neural correlates of consciousness, the NCC. Will this endeavor ever be successful? I think we already know a lot about how and where working memory is represented in the brain. Our philosophical concepts of what consciousness actually is are much more informed by empirical work than they were even a few decades ago. Whether we can ever close the gap between subjective experiences and neurophysiological processes that produce them is still a matter of dispute.

I would rather say that consciousness is not what we generally think it is. It is not direct awareness of our inner world of thoughts and judgments but a highly inferential process that only gives us the impression of immediacy. We can still have free will and be responsible for our actions.

Conscious and unconscious are not separate spheres; they operate in tandem. We are not simply puppets manipulated by our unconscious thoughts, because obviously, conscious reflection does have effects on our behavior. It interacts with and is fueled by implicit processes. Consciousness is generally understood to mean that an individual not only has an idea, recollection or perception but also knows that he or she has it.

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