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   Chapter 7 MEMORY

The Story of the Champions of the Round Table By Howard Pyle Characters: 46975

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

Perceptions and Ideas. In a previous chapter, brief mention was made of the difference between perceptions and ideas. This distinction must now be enlarged upon and made clearer. Perceptions arise out of our sensory life. We see things when these things are before our eyes. We hear things when these things produce air vibrations which affect our ears. We smell things when tiny particles from them come into contact with a small patch of sensitive membrane in our noses. We taste substances when these substances are in our mouths. Now, this seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, etc., is perceiving. We perceive a thing when the thing is actually at the time affecting some one or more of our sense organs. A perception, then, results from the stimulation of a sense organ. Perception is the process of perceiving, sensing, objects in the external world.

Ideas are our seeming to see, hear, smell, taste things when these things are not present to the senses. This morning I saw, had a perception of, a robin. To-night in my study, I have an idea of a robin. This morning the robin was present. Light reflected from it stimulated my eye. To-night, as I have an idea of the robin, it is not here; I only seem to see it. The scene which was mine this morning is now revived, reproduced. We may say, therefore, that ideas are the conscious representatives of objects which are not present to the senses. Ideas are revived experiences.

Revived experience is memory. Since it is memory that enables us to live our lives over again, brings the past up to the present, it is one of the most wonderful aspects of our natures. The importance of memory is at once apparent if we try to imagine what life would be without it. If our life were only perceptual, if it were only the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of the passing moment, it would have little meaning, it would be bare and empty. But instead of our perceptions being our whole life, they are only the starting points of life. Perceptions serve to arouse groups of memory images or ideas, and the groups of ideas enrich the passing moment and give meaning to the passing perceptions, which otherwise would have no meaning.

Suppose I am walking along the street and meet a friend. I see him, speak to him, and pass on. But after I have passed on, I have ideas. I think of seeing my friend the day before. I think of what he said and of what he was doing, of what I said and of what I was doing. Perhaps for many minutes there come ideas from my past experience. These ideas were aroused by the perception of my friend. The perception was momentary, but it started a long train of memory ideas.

I pass on down the street and go by a music store. Within the store, a victrola is playing Jesus, Lover of My Soul. The song starts another train of memory ideas. I think of the past, of my boyhood days and Sunday school, my early home and many scenes of my childhood. For several minutes I am so engrossed with the memory images that I scarcely notice anything along the street. Again, the momentary perception, this time of sounds, served to revive a great number of ideas, or memories, of the past.

These illustrations are typical of our life. Every moment we have perceptions. These perceptions arouse ideas of our past life and experience. One of these ideas evokes another, and so an endless chain of images passes along. The older we become, the richer is our ideational life. While we are children, the perceptions constitute the larger part of our mental life, but as we become older, larger and larger becomes the part played by our memory images or ideas. A child is not content to sit down and reflect, giving himself up to the flow of ideas that come up from his past experience, but a mature person can spend hours in recalling past experience. This means that the older we grow, the more we live in the past, the less we are bound down by the present, and when we are old, instead of perceptions being the main part of mental life, they but give the initial push to our thoughts which go on in an endless chain as long as we live.

The Physiological Basis of Memory. It will be remembered that the basis of perception is the agitation of the brain caused by the stimulation of a sense organ by an external thing or force. If there is no stimulation of a sense organ, there is no sensation, no perception. Now, just as the basis of sensation and perception is brain activity, so it is also the basis of ideas. In sensation, the brain activity is set up from without. In memory, when we have ideas, the brain activity is set up from within and is a fainter revival of the activity originally caused by the stimulation of the sense organ. Our ideas are just as truly conditioned or caused by brain activity as are our sensations.

Memory presents many problems, and psychologists have been trying for many years to solve them. We shall now see what they have discovered and what is the practical significance of the facts.

Relation of Memory to Age and Sex. It is a common notion that memory is best when we are young, but such is not the case. Numerous experiments have shown that all aspects of memory improve with age. Some aspects of memory improve more than others, and they improve at different times and rates; but all aspects do improve. From the beginning of school age to about fourteen years of age the improvement of most aspects of memory is rapid.

If we pronounce a number of digits to a child of six, it can reproduce but few of them, a child of eight or ten can reproduce more, a child of twelve can reproduce still more, and an adult still more. If we read a sentence to children of different ages, we find that the older children can reproduce a longer sentence. If we read a short story to children of different ages, and then require them to reproduce the story in their own words, the older children reproduce more of the story than do the young children.[5]

[5] See age and sex graphs, pp. 184, 188, 189.

Girls excel boys in practically all the aspects of memory.

In rote memory, that is, memory for lists of unrelated words, there is not much difference; but the girls are somewhat better. However, in the ability to remember the ideas of a story, girls excel boys at every age. This superiority of girls over boys is not merely a matter of memory. A girl is superior to a boy of the same age in nearly every way. This is merely a fact of development. A girl develops faster than a boy, she reaches maturity more quickly, in mind as well as in body. Although a girl is lighter than a boy at birth, on the average she gains in weight faster and is heavier at twelve than a boy of the same age. She also gains faster in height, and for a few years in early adolescence is taller than a boy of the same age. Of course, boys catch up and finally become much taller and heavier than girls. Similarly, a girl's mind develops faster than the mind of a boy, as shown in memory and other mental functions.

The Improvement of Memory by Practice. All aspects of memory can be improved by practice, some aspects much, other aspects little. The memory span for digits, or letters, or words, or for objects cannot be much improved, but memory for ideas that are related, as the ideas of a story, can be considerably improved. In extensive experiments conducted in the author's laboratory, it was found that a person who at first required an hour to memorize the ideas in a certain amount of material, could, after a few months' practice, memorize the same amount in fifteen minutes. And in the latter case the ideas would be better remembered than they were at the beginning of the experiment. Not only could a given number of ideas be learned in less time, but they would be better retained when learned in the shorter time. If a person comes to us for advice as to how to improve his memory, what should we tell him? In order to answer the question, we must consider the factors of a good memory.

Factors of a Good Memory. (1) The first requirement is to get a good impression in the beginning. Memory is revived experience. The more vivid and intense the first experience, the more sure will be the later recall. So if we wish to remember an experience, we must experience it in the first place under the most favorable conditions. The thing must be seen clearly, it must be understood, it must be in the focus of consciousness.

The best teaching is that which leads the child to get the clearest apprehension of what is taught. If we are teaching about some concrete thing, a plant, a machine, we should be sure that the child sees the essential points, should be sure that the main principles enter his consciousness. We should find out by questioning whether he really does clearly understand what we are trying to get him to understand. Often we think a pupil or student has forgotten, when the fact is that he never really knew the thing which we wished to have him remember.

The first requisite to memory, then, is to know in the first place. If we wish to remember knowledge, the knowledge must be seen in the clearest light, really be knowledge, at the outset. Few people ever really learn how to learn. They never see anything clearly, they never stick to a point till it is apprehended in all its relations and bearings; consequently they forget, largely because they never really knew in the fullest sense.

Most teaching is too abstract. The teacher uses words that have no meaning to the pupil. Too much teaching deals with things indirectly. We study about things instead of studying things. In geography, for example, we study about the earth, getting our information from a book. We read about land formations, river courses, erosion, etc., when instead we should study these objects and processes themselves. The first thing in memory, then, is clear apprehension, clear understanding, vivid and intense impression.

(2) The second thing necessary to memory is to repeat the experience. First we must get a clear impression, then we must repeat the experience if we would retain it. It is a mistake to believe that if we have once understood a thing, we will always thereafter remember it. We must think our experiences over again if we wish to fix them for permanent retention.

We must organize our experience. To organize experience means to think it over in its helpful relations. In memory, one idea arouses another. When we have one idea, what other idea will this arouse? It depends on what connections this idea has had in our minds in the past. It depends on the associations that it has, and associations depend on our thinking the ideas over together.

Teachers and parents should help children to think over their experiences in helpful, practical relations. Then in the future, when an idea comes to mind, it brings along with it other ideas that have these helpful, practical relations. We must not, then, merely repeat our experiences, but must repeat them in helpful connections or associations. In organizing our experience, we must systematize and classify our knowledge.

One of the chief differences in men is in the way they organize their knowledge. Most of us have experiences abundant enough, but we differ in the way we work over and organize these experiences. Organization not only enables us to remember our experience, but brings our experience back in the right connections.

The advice that should be given to a student is the following: Make sure that you understand. If the matter is a lesson in a book, go through it trying to get the main facts; then go through it again, trying to see the relation of all the facts. Then try to see the facts in relation to your wider experience. If it is a history lesson, think of the facts of the lesson in their relation to previous chapters. Think of the details in their bearing on wider and larger movements.

A teacher should always hold in mind the facts in regard to memory, and should make her teaching conform to them. She should carefully plan the presentation of a new topic so as to insure a clear initial impression. A new topic should be presented orally by the teacher, with abundant illustration and explanation. It cannot be made too concrete, it cannot be made too plain and simple.

Then after the teacher has introduced and made plain the new topic, the pupil reads and studies further. At the next recitation of the class, the first thing in order should be a discussion, on the part of the pupils. This will help the pupils to get the facts cleared up and will help the teacher to find out whether the pupils have the facts right.

The first part of the recitation should also be a time for questions. Everything should now be made clear, if there are any errors or misunderstandings on the pupil's part. Of course any procedure in a recitation should depend upon the nature of the material and to some extent on the stage of advancement of the pupil; but in general such a procedure as that just outlined will be most satisfactory and economical: first clear initial presentation by the teacher; then reading and study on the part of the pupil, and third, discussions on the following day.

Teachers should also endeavor to show students how to study to the best advantage. Pupils do not know how to study. They do not know what to look for, and do not know how to find it after they know what they are looking for. They should be shown. Of course, some of them learn without help how to study. But some never learn, and it would be a great saving of time to help all of them master the arts of study and memorizing.

A very important factor in connection with memory is the matter of meaning. If a person will try to memorize a list of nonsense words, he will find that it is much more difficult than to memorize words that have meaning. This is a significant fact. It means that as material approaches nonsense, it is difficult to memorize. Therefore we should always try to grasp the meaning of a thing, its significance. In science, let us always ask, what is the meaning of this fact? What bearing does it have on other facts? How does it affect the meaning of other facts?

Kinds of Memories. We should not speak of memory as if it were some sort of power like muscular strength. We should always speak of memories. Memories may be classified from several different points of view: A classification may be based on the kind of material, as memory for concrete things, the actual objects of experience, on the one hand, and memory for abstract material, such as names of things, their attributes and relations, on the other. Again, we can base a classification on the type of ideation to which the material appeals, as auditory memory, visual memory, motor memory. We can also base a classification on the principle of meaning. This principle of classification would give us at least three classes: memory for ideas as expressed in sentences, logical memory; memory for series of meaningful words not logically related in sentences, rote memory; memory for series of meaningless words, a form of rote memory. This classification is not meant to be complete, but only suggestive. With every change in the kind of material, the method of presenting the material to the subject, or the manner in which the subject deals with the material, there may be a change in the effectiveness of memory.

While these different kinds or aspects of memory may have some relation to one another, they are to some extent independent. One may have a good rote memory and a poor logical memory, or a poor rote memory and a good logical memory. That is to say, one may be very poor at remembering the exact words of a book, but be good at remembering the meaning, the ideas, of the book. One may be good at organizing meaningful material but poor at remembering mere words. On the other hand, these conditions may be reversed; one may remember the words but never get the meaning. It is of course possible that much of this difference is due to habit and experience, but some of the difference is beyond doubt due to original differences in the nervous system and brain. These differences should be determined in the case of all children. It is quite a common thing to find a feeble-minded person with a good rote memory, but such a person never has a good logical memory. One can have a good rote memory without understanding, one cannot have a good logical memory without understanding.

Let us now ask the question, why can one remember better words that are connected by logical relations than words that have no such connection? If we read to a person a list of twenty nonsense words, the person can remember only two or three; but if a list of twenty words connected in a sentence were read to a person, in most cases, all of them would be reproduced. The reason is that the words in the latter case are not new. We already know the words. They are already a part of our experience. We have had days, perhaps years, of experience with them. All that is now new about them is perhaps a slightly new relation.

Moreover, the twenty words may contain but one, or at most only a few, ideas, and in this case it is the ideas that we remember. The ideas hold the words together. If the twenty words contain a great number of ideas, then we cannot remember all of them from one reading. If I say, "I have a little boy who loves his father and mother very much, and this boy wishes to go to the river to catch some fish," one can easily remember all these words after one reading. But if I say, "The stomach in all the Salmonid? is syphonal and at the pylorus are fifteen to two hundred comparatively large pyloric c?ca"; although this sentence is shorter, one finds it more difficult to remember, and the main reason is that the words are not so familiar.

Memory and Thinking. What is the relation of memory to thinking and the other mental functions? One often hears a teacher say that she does not wish her pupils to depend on memory, but wishes them to reason things out. Such a statement shows a misunderstanding of the facts; for reasoning itself is only the recall of ideas in accordance with the laws of association. Without memory, there would be no reasoning, for the very material of thought is found to be the revived experiences which we call ideas, memories.

One of the first requisites of good thinking is a reliable memory. One must have facts to reason, and these facts must come to one in memory to be available for thought. If one wishes to become a great thinker in a certain field, he must gain experience in that field and organize that experience in such a way as to remember it and to recall it when it is wanted.

What one does deplore is memory for the mere words with no understanding of the meaning. In geometry, for example, a student sometimes commits to memory the words of a demonstration, with no understanding of the meaning. Of course, that is worse than useless. One should remember the meaning of the demonstration. If one has memorized the words only, he cannot solve an original problem in geometry. But if he has understood the meaning of the demonstration, then he recalls it, and is enabled to solve the problem. If one does not remember the various facts about the relationships in a triangle, he cannot solve a problem of the triangle until he has worked out and discovered the necessary facts. Then memory would make them available for the solution of the problem.

Memory and School Standing. That memory plays a large part in our life is evident; and, of course, it is an important factor in all school work. It matters not what we learn, if we do not remember it. The author has made extensive experiments to determine the relation that memory has to a child's progress in school.

The method used was to give logical memory tests to all the children in a school and then rank the children in accordance with their abilities to reproduce the story used in the test. Then they were ranked according to their standing in their studies. A very high correlation was found. On the whole, the pupils standing highest in the memory tests were found to stand highest in their studies. It is true, of course, that they did not stand highest merely because they had good memories, but because they were not only better in memory, but were better in most other respects too. Pupils that are good in logical memory are usually good in other mental functions.

A test of logical memory is one of the best to give us an idea of the school standing of pupils. Not only is the retention of ideas of very great importance itself, but the acquiring of ideas, and the organizing of them in such a way as to remember them involves nearly all the mental functions. The one who remembers well ideas logically related, is the one who pays the closest attention, the one who sees the significance, the one who organizes, the one who repeats, the one who turns things over in his mind. A logical memory test is therefore, to some extent, a test of attention, association, power of organization as well as of memory; in a word, it is a test of mental power.

Other things being equal, a person whose power of retention is good has a great advantage over his fellows who have poor ability to remember. Suppose we consider the learning of language. The pupil who can look up the meaning of a word just once and remember it has an advantage over the person who has to look up the meaning of the word several times before it is retained. So in any branch of study, the person who can acquire the facts in less time than another person, has the extra time for learning something else or for going over the same material and organizing it better. The scientist who remembers all the significant facts that he reads, and sees their bearing on his problems, has a great advantage over the person who does not remember so well.

Of course, there are certain dangers in having a good memory, just as there is danger in being brilliant generally. The quick learner is in danger of forming slovenly habits. A person who learns quickly is likely to form the habit of waiting till the last minute to study his lesson and then getting a superficial idea of it. The slow learner must form good habits of study to get on at all.

Teachers and parents should prevent the bright children from forming bad habits of study. The person who learns quickly and retains well should be taught to be thorough and to use the advantage that comes from repetition. The quick learner should not be satisfied with one attack on his lesson, but should study the lesson more than once, for even the brilliant learner cannot afford to neglect the advantages that come from repetition. A person with poor memory and only mediocre ability generally can make up very much by hard work and by work that takes advantage of all the laws of economical learning. But he can never compete successfully with the person who works as hard as he does and who has good powers of learning and retention.

The author has found that in a large class of a hundred or more, there is usually a person who has good memory along with good mental ability generally, and is also a hard worker. Such a person always does the best work in the class. A person with poor memory and poor mental powers generally cannot hope to compete with a person of good memo

ry, good mental powers generally, if that person is also a good worker.

Learning and Remembering. A popular fallacy is expressed in the saying "Easy come, easy go." The person who is the best learner is also the best in retaining what is learned, provided all other conditions are the same. This matter was determined in the following way: A logical memory test was given to all the children in a city school system. A story was read to the pupils and then reproduced by them in writing. The papers were corrected and graded and nothing more was said about the test for one month. Then at the same time in every room, the teachers said, "You remember the story I read to you some time ago and which I asked you to reproduce. Well, I wish to see how much of the story you still remember." The pupils were then required to write down all the story that they could recall.

It was found that, in general, the children who write the most when the story is first read to them, write the most after the lapse of a month, and the poorest ones at first are the poorest ones at the end of the month. Of course, the correspondence is not perfect, but in some cases, in some grades, it is almost so.

The significance of this experiment is very great. It means that the pupil who gets the most facts from a lesson will have the most facts at any later time. This is true, of course, only if other things are equal. If one pupil studies about the matter more, reflects upon it, repeats it in his mind, of course this person will remember more, other things being equal. But if neither reviews the matter, or if both do it to an equal extent, then the one who learns the most in the first place, remembers the most at a later time.

I have also tested the matter out in other ways. I have experimented with a group of men and women, by reading a passage of about a page in length, repeating the reading till the subject could reproduce all the facts. It was found that the person who acquired all the facts from the fewest readings remembered more of the facts later. It must be said that there is less difference between the subjects later than at first.

In the laboratory of Columbia University a similar experiment was performed, but in a somewhat different way. Students were required to commit to memory German vocabularies and were later tested for their retention of the words learned. It was found that those who learned the most words in a given time, also retained the largest percentage of what had been learned. It should not be surprising that this is the case. The quick learner is the one who makes the best use of all the factors of retention, the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraph-good attention, association, organization, etc.

Another experiment performed in the author's laboratory bears out the above conclusions. A group of students were required to commit to memory at one sitting a long list of nonsense syllables. The number of repetitions necessary to enable each student to reproduce them was noted. One day later, the students attempted to reproduce the syllables. Of course they could not, and they were then required to say them over again till they could just repeat them from memory. The number of repetitions was noted. The number of repetitions was much less than on the first day. On the third day, the process was repeated. The number of repetitions was fewer still. This relearning was kept up each day till each person could repeat the syllables from memory without any study. It was found that the person who learned the syllables in the fewest repetitions the first time, relearned them in the fewest repetitions on succeeding days. All the experiments bearing on the subject point to the same conclusion; namely, that the quick learner, if other things are equal, retains at least as well as the slow learner, and usually retains better.

Transfer of Memory Training. We have said above that there are many kinds or aspects of memory. It has also been said that we can improve memory by practice. Now, the question arises, if we improve one aspect of memory, does this improve all aspects? This is an important question; moreover, it is one to be settled by experiment and not by argument.

The most extensive and thorough experiment was performed by an English psychologist, Sleight. The experiment was essentially as follows: He took a large number of pupils and tested the efficiency of the various aspects of their memory. He then took half of them and trained one aspect of their memory until there was considerable improvement. The other section had no memory training meanwhile. After the training, both groups again had all aspects of their memory tested. Both groups showed improvement in all aspects because the first tests gave them some practice, but the group that had been receiving the training was no better in those aspects not trained than was the group receiving no training at all. Aspects of memory much like the one trained showed some improvement, but other aspects did not.

The conclusion is that memory training is specific, that it affects only the kind of memory trained, and related memories. This is in harmony with what we learned about habit. When we receive training, it affects only the parts of us trained and other closely related parts.

Learning by Wholes. We do not often have to commit to memory verbatim, but when we do, it is important that we should know the most economical way. Experiments have clearly demonstrated that the most economical way is to read the entire selection through from beginning to end and continue to read it through in this way till the matter is learned by heart.

In long selections, the saving by this method is considerable. A pupil is not likely to believe this because if he spends a few minutes learning in this manner, he finds that he cannot repeat a single line, while if he had concentrated on one line, he could have repeated at least that much. This is true; but although he cannot repeat a single line by the whole procedure, he has learned nevertheless. It would be a good thing to demonstrate this fact to a class; then the pupils would be satisfied to use the most economical procedure. The plan holds good whether the matter be prose or poetry.

But experiments have been carried on only with verbatim learning. The best procedure for learning the facts so that one can give them in one's own words has not yet been experimentally determined.

Cramming. An important practical question is whether it pays to go over a great amount of material in a very short time, as students often do before examinations. From all that has been said above, one could infer the solution to this problem. Learning and memorizing are to some extent a growth, and consequently involve time.

There is an important law of learning and memory known as Jost's law, which may be stated as follows: If we repeat or renew associations, the repetitions have most value for the old associations. Therefore when we learn, we should learn and then later relearn. This will make for permanent retention. Of course, if we wish to get together a great mass of facts for a temporary purpose and do not care to retain them permanently, cramming is the proper method. If we are required to pass an examination in which a knowledge of many details is expected and these details have no important permanent value, cramming is justified. When a lawyer is preparing a case to present to a court, the actual, detail evidence is of no permanent value, and cramming is justified.

But if we wish to acquire and organize facts for their permanent value, cramming is not the proper procedure. The proper procedure is for a student to go over his work faithfully as the term of school proceeds, then occasionally review. At the end of the term, a rapid review of the whole term's work is valuable. After one has studied over matter and once carefully worked it out, a quick view again of the whole subject is most valuable, and assists greatly in making the acquisition permanent. But if the matter has not been worked out before, the hasty view of the material of the course, while it may enable one to pass the examination, has no permanent value.

Function of the Teacher in Memory Work. The function of a teacher is plainly to get the pupils to learn in accordance with the laws of memory above set forth; but there are certain things that a teacher can do that may not have become evident to the reader. It has been learned in experiments in logical memory that when a story is read to a subject and the subject attempts to reproduce it, certain mistakes are made. When the story is read again, it is common for the same mistakes to be made in the recall. Certain ideas were apprehended in a certain way; and, when the piece is read again, the subject pays no more attention to the ideas already acquired and reported, and they are therefore reported wrongly as they were in the first place. Often the subject does not notice the errors till his attention is called to them.

This suggests an important function of the teacher in connection with the memory work of the pupils. This function is to correct mistakes in the early stages of learning. A teacher should always be on the watch to find the errors of the pupils and to correct them before they are fixed by repetition.

A teacher should, also, consider it her duty to test the memory capacities of the pupils and to give each the advice that the case demands.

Some Educational Inferences.-There are certain consequences to education that follow from the facts of memory above set forth that are of considerable significance. Many things have been taught to children on the assumption that they could learn them better in childhood than later, because it was thought that memory and the learning capacity were better in childhood. But both of these assumptions are false. As children grow older their learning capacity increases and their memories become better.

It has particularly been held that rote memory is better in childhood and that therefore children should begin their foreign language study early. It is true that as far as speaking a foreign language is concerned, the earlier a child begins it the better. But this is not true of learning to read the language. The sounds of the foreign language that we have not learned in childhood in speaking the mother tongue are usually difficult for us to make. The organs of speech become set in the way of their early exercise. In reading the foreign language, correct pronunciation is not important. We are concerned with getting the thought, and this is possible without pronouncing at all. Reference to graphs on pages 190 and 191 will show that rote memory steadily improves throughout childhood and youth. The author has performed numerous experiments to test this very point. He has had adults work side by side with children at building up new associations of the rote memory type and found that always the adult could learn faster than the child and retain better what was learned.

The experience of language teachers in college and university does not give much comfort to those who claim that language study should be begun early. These teachers claim that the students who have had previous language study do no better than those who have had none. It seems, however, that there certainly ought to be some advantage in beginning language study early and spreading the study out over the high school period. But what is gained does not offset the tremendous loss that follows from requiring all high school students to study a foreign language merely to give an opportunity for early study to those who are to go on in the university with language courses. A mature university student that has a real interest in language and literature can begin his language study in the university and make rapid progress. Some of the best classical scholars whom the author knows began their language study in the university. While it would have been of some advantage to them to have begun their language study earlier, there are so few who should go into this kind of work that society cannot afford to make provision for their beginning the study in the high school.

The selection and arrangement of the studies in the curriculum must be based on other grounds than the laws of memory. What children make most progress in and need most to know are the concrete things of their physical and social environment. Children must first learn the world-the woods and streams and birds and flowers and plants and animals, the earth, its rocks and soils and the wonderful forces at work in it. They must learn man,-what he is and what he does and how he does it; how he lives and does his work and how he governs himself. They should also learn to read and to write their mother tongue, and should learn something of that great store of literature written in the mother tongue.

The few that are to be scholars in language and literature must wait till beginning professional study before taking up their foreign language; just as a person who is to be a lawyer or physician must also wait till time to enter a university before beginning special professional preparation. The child's memory for abstract conceptions is particularly weak in early years; hence studies should be so arranged as to acquaint the child with the concrete aspects of the world first, and later to acquaint him with the abstract relations of things. Mathematics should come late in the child's life, for the same reason. Mathematics deals with quantitative relations which the child can neither learn nor remember profitably and economically till he is more mature. The child should first learn the world in its descriptive aspects.

Memory and Habit. The discussion up to this point should have made it clear to the reader that memory is much the same thing as habit. Memory considered as retention depends upon the permanence of the impression on the brain; but in its associative aspects depends on connections between brain centers, as is the case with habit. The association of ideas, which is the basis of their recall, is purely a matter of habit formation.

When I think of George Washington, I also think of the Revolution, of the government, of the presidency, of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc., because of the connections which these ideas have had in my mind many times before. There is a basis in the brain structure for these connections. There is nothing in any idea that connects it with another idea. Ideas become connected because of the way in which we experience them, and the reason one idea calls up another idea is because the brain process that is the cause of one idea brings about another brain process that is the cause of a second idea. The whole thing is merely a matter of the way the brain activities become organized. Therefore the various laws of habit-formation have application to memory in so far as memory is a matter of the association of ideas, based on brain processes.

One often has the experience of trying to recall a name or a fact and finds that he cannot. Presently the name or fact may come, or it may not come till the next day or the next week. What is the cause of this peculiar phenomenon? The explanation is to be found in the nervous system. When one tries to recall the name and it will not come to mind, there is some temporary block or hindrance in the nerve-path that leads from one center to the other and one cannot think of the name till the obstruction is removed. We go on thinking about other things, and in the meantime the activities going on in the brain remove the obstruction; so when the matter comes up again, the nerve current shoots through, and behold, the name comes to mind.

Figure IV-Associative Connections

The diagram represents schematically the neural basis of the association of ideas.

Now the only preventive of such an occurrence is to be found in the law of habit, for the block ordinarily occurs in case of paths or bonds not well established. We must think together the things we wish to have associated. Repetition is the key to the situation, repetition which is the significant thing in habit-formation, repetition which is the only way of coupling two things which we wish to have associated together.

Of course, there is no absolute coupling of two ideas. One sometimes forgets his own name. When we are tired or ill, things which were the most closely associated may not hang together. But those ideas hold together in the firmest way that have been experienced together most often in a state of attention. The diagram on page 147 illustrates schematically the neural connections and cross-connections which are the bases of the association of ideas, the circles A, B, C, D, E, and F represent brain processes which give rise to ideas, and the lines represent connecting paths. Note that there are both direct and indirect connections.

Summary. Sensation and perception give us our first experience with things; memory is revived experience. It enables us to live our experience over again and is therefore one of the most important human traits. The physiological basis of memory is in the brain and nervous system. Memory improves with practice and up to a certain point with the age of the person. It is better in girls than in boys. Good memory depends on vivid experience in the first place and on organization and repetition afterward. The person who learns quickly usually retains well also. Memory training is specific. The extension of the learning process over a long time is favorable to memory. Memory ideas are the basis of thinking and reasoning.


The teacher can test the auditory memory of the members of the class for rote material by using letters. It is better to omit the vowels, using only the consonants. Prepare five groups of letters with eight letters in a group. Read each group of letters to the class, slowly and distinctly. After reading a group, allow time for the students to write down what they recall, then read the next group and so proceed till the five groups have been read. Grade the work by finding the number of letters reproduced, taking no account of the position of the letters.

In a similar way, test visual memory, using different combinations of letters. Write the letters plainly on five large squares of cardboard. Hold each list before the class for as long a time as it took to read a group in experiment No. 1.

Test memory for words in a similar way. Use simple words of one syllable, making five lists with eight words in a list.

Test memory for objects by fastening common objects on a large cardboard and holding the card before the class. Put eight objects on each card and prepare five cards. Expose them for the same length of time as in experiment No. 2.

Test memory for names of objects by preparing five lists of names, eight names in a list, and reading the names as in experiment No. 1.

You now have data for the following study: Find the average grade of each student in the different experiments. Find the combined grade of each student in all the above experiments. Do the members of the class hold the same rank in all the tests? How do the boys compare with the girls? How does memory for objects compare with memory for names of objects? How does auditory memory compare with visual? What other points do you learn from the experiments?

The teacher can make a study of the logical memory of the members of the class by using material as described on page 184. Make five separate tests, using stories that are well within the comprehension of the class and that will arouse their interest. Sufficient material will be found in the author's Examination of School Children and Whipple's Manual. However, the teacher can prepare similar material.

Do the students maintain the same rank in the separate tests of experiment No. 7? Rank all the students for their combined standing in all the first five tests. Rank them for their combined standing in the logical memory tests. Compare the two rankings. What conclusions are warranted?

You have tested, in experiment No. 7, logical memory when the material was read to the students. It will now be interesting to compare the results of No. 7 with the results obtained by allowing the students to read the material of the test. For this purpose, select portions from the later chapters of this book. Allow just time enough for the selection to be read once slowly by the students, then have it reproduced as in the other logical memory experiment. Give several tests, if there is sufficient time. Find the average grade of each student, and compare the results with those obtained in No. 7. This will enable you to compare the relative standing of the members of the class, but will not enable you to compare the two ways of acquiring facts. For this purpose, the stories would have to be of equal difficulty. Let the members of the class plan an experiment that would be adequate for this purpose.

A brief study of the improvement of memory can be made by practicing a few minutes each day for a week or two, as time permits, using material that can be easily prepared, such as lists of common words. Let the members of the class plan the experiment. Use the best plan.

The class can make a study of the relation of memory to school standing in one of the grades below the high school. Give at least two tests for logical memory. Give also the rote memory tests described on page 189. Get the class standing of the pupils from the teacher. Make the comparison as suggested in Chapter I, page 15. Or, the correlation can be worked out accurately by following the directions given in the Examination of School Children, page 58, or in Whipple's Manual, page 38.

Let the members of the class make a plan for the improvement of their memory for the material studied in school. Plan devices for learning the material better and for fixing it in memory. At the end of the course in psychology, have an experience meeting and study the results reported.

Prepare five lists of nonsense syllables, with eight in a list. Give them as in experiment No. 3, and compare the results with those of that experiment. What do the results indicate as to the value to memory of meaningful material? What educational inferences can you make? In preparing the syllables, put a vowel between two consonants, and use no syllable that is a real word.

A study of the effects of distractions on learning and memory can be made as follows: Let the teacher select two paragraphs in later chapters of this book, of equal length and difficulty. Let the students read one under quiet conditions and the other while an electric bell is ringing in the room. Compare the reproductions in the two cases.

From the chapter and from the results of all the memory tests, let the students enumerate the facts that have educational significance.

Make a complete outline of the chapter.


Colvin and Bagley: Human Behavior, Chapter XV.

Münsterberg: Psychology, General and Applied, pp. 165–170.

Pillsbury: Essentials of Psychology, Chapters VI and VIII.

Pyle: The Outlines of Educational Psychology, Chapter XIII.

Titchener: A Beginner's Psychology, Chapter VII.

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