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   Chapter 8 THINKING

The Story of the Champions of the Round Table By Howard Pyle Characters: 41051

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

In Chapter III we learned about sensation. We found that when a sense organ is stimulated by its appropriate type of stimulus, this stimulation travels through the sensory nerves and sets up an excitation in the brain. This excitation in the brain gives us sensation. We see if the eye is stimulated. We hear if the ear is stimulated, etc. In Chapter VII we learned that after the brain has had an excitation giving rise to sensation, it is capable of reviving this excitation later. This renewal or revival of a brain excitation gives us an experience resembling the original sensation, only usually fainter and less stable. This revived experience is called image or idea. The general process of retention and revival of experience is, as we have seen, known as memory. An idea, then, is a bit of revived experience. A perception is a bit of immediate or primary experience. I am said to perceive a chair if the chair is present before me, if the light reflected from the chair is actually exciting my retinas. I have an idea of the chair when I seem to see it, when the chair is not before me or when my eyes are shut. These distinctions were pointed out in the preceding chapter. Let us now proceed to carry our study of ideas further.

Association of Ideas. The subject of the association of ideas can best be introduced by an experiment. Take a paper and pencil, and think of the word "horse." Write this word down, and then write down other words that come to mind. Write them in the order in which they come to mind. Do this for three or four minutes, and try the experiment several times, beginning with a different word each time. Make a study of the lists of words. Compare the different lists and the lists written by different students.

In the case of the writer, the following words came to mind in the first few seconds: horse, bridle, saddle, tail, harness, buggy, whip, man, sky, stars, sun, ocean. Why did these words come, and why did they come in that order? Why did the idea "horse" suggest the idea "bridle"? And why did "bridle" suggest "saddle"? Is there something in the nature of ideas that couples them with certain other ideas and makes them always suggest the other ideas? No, there is not. Ideas become coupled together in our experience, and the coupling is in accordance with our experience. Things that are together in our experience become coupled together as ideas. The idea "horse" may become coupled with any other idea. The general law of the association of ideas is this: Ideas are joined together in memory or revived experience as they were joined in the original or perceptive experience.

But the matter is complicated by the fact that things are experienced in different connections in perceptive experience. I do not always experience "horse" together with "bridle." I sometimes see horses in a pasture eating clover. So, as far as this last experience is concerned, when I think "horse" I should also think "clover." I sometimes see a horse running when a train whistles, so "whistle" and "horse" should be coupled in my mind. A horse once kicked me on the shoulder, so "horse" and "shoulder" should be connected in my mind. And so they are. The very fact that these various experiences come back to me proves that they are connected in my mind in accordance with the original experiences. The revival of various horse experiences has come to me faster than I could write them down, and they are all bound together in my memory. If I should write them all out, it would take many hours, perhaps days.

Not only are these "horse ideas" bound together with one another, but they are bound more or less directly, more or less closely, to everything else in my life. I can, therefore, pass in thought from the idea "horse" to any other idea, directly or indirectly. Now, in any given case, what idea will actually come first after I have the idea "horse"? This depends upon the tendencies established in the nervous system. The brain process underlying the idea "horse" has connections with many other processes and tends to excite these processes. The factors that strengthen these tendencies or connections are the frequency, recency, primacy, and vividness of experience. Let us consider, in some detail, each of these factors.

Primacy of Experience. A strong factor in determining association is the first experience. The first, the original, coupling of ideas tends to persist. The first connection is nearly always a strong one, and is also strengthened by frequent repetition in memory. Our first experience with people and things persists with great strength, across the years, in spite of other associations and connections established later. Just now there comes to mind my first experience with a certain famous scientist. It was many years ago. I was a student in an eastern university. This man gave a public lecture at the opening of the session. I remember many details of the occurrence with great vividness. Although I studied under this man for three years, no other experience with him is more prominent than the first. First experiences give rise to such strong connections between ideas that these connections often persist and hold their own as against other connections depending upon other factors.

The practical consequences of this factor in teaching are, of course, evident. Both teachers and parents should take great care in the matter of the first experiences of children. If the idea-connections of first experiences are likely to persist, then these connections should be desirable ones. They should not be useless connections, nor should they, ordinarily, be connections that will have to be radically undone later. Usually it is not economical to build up connections between ideas that will not serve permanently, except in cases in which the immaturity of the mind makes such a procedure necessary.

Recency of Experience. The most recent connection of ideas is relatively strong, and is often the determining one. But the most recent connection must be very recent or it has no especial value. If I have seen a certain friend to-day, and his name is brought to mind now, to-day's experience with him will likely be brought to mind first. But if my last seeing him was some days or months ago, the idea-connection of the last meeting has no great value. Of course, circumstances always alter the matter. Perhaps we should say in the last instance that, other things being equal, the last experience has no special value. If the last experience was an unusual one, such as a death or a marriage, then it has a value due to its vividness and intensity and its emotional aspects. These factors not only add strength to the connections made at the time but are the cause of frequent revivals of this last experience in memory in the succeeding days. All these factors taken together often give a last experience great associative strength, even though the last experience is not recent.

Frequency of Experience. The most frequent connection of ideas is probably the most important factor of all in determining future associations. The first connection is but one, and the last connection is but one, while repeated connections may be many in number. Connections which recur frequently usually overcome all other connections. Hence frequency is the dominant factor in association. Most of the strength of first connections is due to repetitions in memory later. The first experience passes through the mind again and again as memory, and thereby becomes strengthened. The fact that repetition of connections establishes these connections is, of course, the justification of drill and review in school studies. The practical needs of life demand that certain ideas be associated so that one calls up the other. Teachers and parents, knowing these desirable connections, endeavor to fix them in the minds of children by repetition. The important facts of history, literature, civics, and science we endeavor, by means of repetition, to fasten in the child's mind.

Vividness and Intensity of Experience. A vivid experience is one that excites and arouses us, strongly stimulating our feelings. Such experiences establish strong bonds of connection. When I think of a railroad wreck, I think of one in which I participated. The experience was vivid, intense, and aroused my emotions. I hardly knew whether I was dead or alive. Then, secondly, I usually think of a wreck which I witnessed in childhood. A train plunged through a bridge and eighteen cars were piled up in the ravine. The experience was vivid and produced a deep and lasting impression on me.

The practical significance of this factor is, of course, great. When ideas are presented to pupils these ideas should be made clear. Every conceivable device should be used to clarify and explain,-concrete demonstration, the use of objects and diagrams, pictures and drawings, and abundant oral illustration. We must be sure that the one taught understands, that the ideas become focal in consciousness and take hold of the individual. This is the main factor in what is known as "interest." An interesting thing is one that takes hold of us and possesses us so that we cannot get away from it. Such experiences are vivid and have rich emotional connections or accompaniments. Ideas that are experienced together at such times are strongly connected.

Mental Set or Attitude. Another influence always operative in determining the association of ideas is mental set. By mental set we mean the mood or attitude one is in,-whether one is sad or glad, well or ill, fresh or fatigued, etc. What one has just been thinking about, what one has just been doing, are always factors that determine the direction of association. One often notices the effects of mental set in reading newspapers. If one's mind has been deeply occupied with some subject and one then starts to read a newspaper, one may actually miscall many of the words in the article he is reading; the words are made to fit in with what is in his mind. For example, if one is all wrought up over a wedding, many words beginning with "w" and having about the same length as the word "wedding," will be read as "wedding."

Mental set may be permanent or temporary. By permanent we mean the strong tendencies that are built up by continued thought in a certain direction. One becomes a Methodist, a Democrat, a conservative, a radical, a pessimist, an optimist, etc., by continuity of similar experiences and similar reactions to these experiences. Germans, French, Irish, Italians, Chinese, have characteristic sets or ways of reacting to typical situations that may be called racial. These prejudicial ways of reacting may be called racial sets or attitudes. Religious, political, and social prejudices may all be called sets or attitudes.

Temporary sets or attitudes are leanings and prejudices that are due to temporary states of mind. The fact that one has headache, or indigestion, or is in a hurry, or is angry, or is hungry, or is emotionally excited over something will, for the time, be a factor in determining the direction of association.

One of the tasks of education is to build up sets or attitudes, permanent prejudices, to be constant factors in guiding association and, consequently, action. We wish to build up permanent attitudes toward truth, honesty, industry, sympathy, zeal, persistence, etc. It is evident that attitude is merely an aspect of habit. It is an habitual way of reacting to a definite and typical situation. This habitual way is strengthened by repetition, so that set or attitude finally, after years of repetition, becomes a part of our nature. Our prejudices become as strong, seemingly, as our instinctive tendencies. After a man has thought in a particular groove for years, it is about as sure that he will come to certain definite conclusions on matters in the line of his thought as that he would give typical instinctive or even reflex reactions. We know the direction association will take for a Presbyterian in religious matters, for a Democrat in political matters, with about as much certainty as we know what their actions will be in situations that evoke instinctive reactions.

Thinking and Reasoning. Thinking is the passing of ideas in the mind. This flow of ideas is in accordance with the laws of association above discussed. The order in which the ideas come is the order fixed by experience, the order as determined by the various factors above enumerated.

In early life, one's mind is chiefly perceptual, it is what we see and hear and taste and smell. As one grows older his mind grows more and more ideational. With increasing age, a larger and larger percentage of our mental life is made up of ideas, of memories. The child lives in the present, in a world of perceptions. A man is not so much tied down to the present; he lives in memory and anticipation. He thinks more than does the child. A man is content to sit down in his chair and think for hours at a time, a child is not. This thinking is the passing of ideas, now one, then another and another. These ideas are the survivals or revivals of our past experience. The order of their coming depends on our past experience.

As I sit here and write, there surge up out of my past, ideas of creeks and rivers and hills, horses and cows and dogs, boys and girls, men and women, work and play, school days, friends,-an endless chain of ideas. This "flow" of ideas is often started by a perception. For illustration, I see a letter on the table, a letter from my brother. I then have a visual image of my brother. I think of him as I saw him last. I think of what he said. I think of his children, of his home, of his boyhood, and our early life together. Then I think of our mother and the old home, and so on and on. Presently I glance at a history among my books, and immediately think of Greece and Athens and the Acropolis, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, schoolmates and teachers, and friends connected in one way or another with my college study of Greek.

In this description of the process of thinking, I have repeatedly used the words "think of." I might have said instead, "there came to mind ideas of Athens, ideas of friends," etc. Thinking, then, is a general term for our idea-life.

Reasoning is a form of thinking. Reasoning, too, is a flow of ideas. But while reasoning is thinking, it is a special form of thinking; it is thinking to a purpose. In thinking as above described and illustrated, no immediate ends of the person are served; while in reasoning some end is always sought. In reasoning, the flow of ideas must reach some particular idea that will serve the need of the moment, the need of the problem at hand. Reasoning, then, is controlled thinking, thinking centering about a problem, about a situation that one must meet.

The statement that reasoning is controlled thinking needs some explanation, for the reader at once is likely to want to know what does the controlling. There is not some special faculty or power that does the controlling. The control is exercised by the set into which one is thrown by the situation which confronts one. The set puts certain nerve-tracts into readiness to conduct, or in other words, makes certain groups of ideas come into mind, and makes one satisfied only if the right ideas come. As long as ideas come that do not satisfy, the flow keeps on, taking one direction and then another, in accordance with the way our ideas have become organized. An idea finally comes that satisfies. We are then said to have reached a conclusion, to have made up our mind, to have solved our problem.

But the fact that we are satisfied is no sure sign that the problem is correctly solved. It means only that our past experiences, available at the time through association, say that the conclusion is right. Or, in more scientific terms, that the conclusion is in harmony with our past experience, as it has been organized and made available through association. There is not within us a little being, a reasoner, that sits and watches ideas file by and passes judgment upon them. The real judge is our nervous system with its organized bonds or connections.

An illustration may make the matter clearer: A boy walking along in the woods comes to a stream too wide for him to jump across. He wishes to be on the other side, so here is a situation that must be met, a problem that must be solved. A flow of ideas is started centering about the problem. The flow is entirely determined and directed by past experience and the present situation. The boy pauses, looks about, and sees on the bank a pole and several large stones. He has walked on poles and on fences, he therefore sees himself putting the pole across the stream and walking on it. This may be in actual visual imagery, or it may be in words. He may merely say, "I will put the pole across and walk on it." But, before having time to do it, he may recall walking on poles that turned. He is not then satisfied with the pole idea. The perception of stones may next become clear in his mind, and if no inhibiting or hindering idea comes up, the stone idea carries him into action. He piles the stones into the stream and walks across.

As was mentioned above, the flow of ideas may take different forms. The imagery may take any form but is usually visual, auditory, motor, or verbal.

Further discussion of the point that reasoning is determined by past experience may be necessary. Suppose the teacher ask the class a number of different questions, moral, religious, political. Many different answers to the questions will be received, in some cases as many answers to the questions as there are pupils. Ask whether it is ever right to steal, whether it is ever right to lie, whether it is ever right to fight, whether it is ever right to disobey a parent or teacher, whether oak is stronger than maple, whether iron expands more when heated than does copper, whether one should always feed beggars, etc. The answers received, in each case, depend on the previous experience of the pupils. The more nearly alike the experiences of the pupils, the more nearly alike will be the answers. The more divergent the experiences, the more different will be the answers.

The basis of reasoning is ultimately the same sort of thing as the basis of habit. We have repeated experiences of the same kind. The ideas of these experiences become welded together in a definite way. Association between certain groups of ideas becomes well fixed. Later situations involving these groups of ideas set up definite trains of association. We come always to definite conclusions from the same situations provided that we are in the same mental set and the factors involved are the same.

Throughout early life we have definite moral and religious ideas presented to us. We come to think in definite ways about them or with them. It therefore comes about that every day we live, we are determining the way we shall in the future reason about things. We are each day getting the material for the solution of the problems that will be presented to us by future situations. And the reason that one of us will solve those problems in a different way from another is because of having somewhat different experiences, and of organizing them in a different way.

Meaning and the Organization of Ideas. In the preceding paragraphs we have several times spoken of the organization of ideas. Let us now see just what is meant by this expression. Intimately connected with the organization of ideas is meaning. What is the meaning of an idea? The meaning of an idea is another idea or group of ideas that are very closely associated with it. When there comes to mind an idea that has arisen out of repeated experience, there come almost immediately with it other ideas, perhaps vivid images which have been connected with the same experience. Suppose the idea is of a horse. If one were asked, "What is a horse?" ideas of a horse in familiar situations would present themselves. One may see in imagination a horse being driven, ridden, etc., and he would then answer, "Why, a horse is to ride," or "A horse is to drive," or "A horse is a domestic animal," etc.

Again, "What is a cloud? What is the sun? What is a river? What is justice? What is love?" One says, "A cloud is that from which rain falls," or "A cloud is partially condensed vapor. The sun is a round thing in the s

ky that shines by day. A river is water flowing along in a low place through the land. Justice is giving to people what they deserve. Love is that feeling one has for a person which makes him be kind to that person." The answer that one gives depends on age and experience.

But it is evident that when a person is asked what a thing is or what is the meaning of a thing, he has at once ideas that have been most closely associated with the idea in question. Now, since the most important aspect of a thing is what we can do with it, what use it can be to us, usually meaning centers about use. A chair is to sit in, bread is to eat, water is to drink, clothes are to wear, a hat is a thing to be worn on one's head, a shovel is to dig with, a car is to ride in, etc.

Use is not quite so evident in such cases as the following: "Who was C?sar? Who was Homer? Who is Edison? What was the Inquisition? What were the Crusades?" However, one has, in these cases, very closely associated ideas, and these ideas do center about what we have done with these men and events in our thinking. "C?sar was a warrior. Homer was a writer of epics. Edison is an inventor," etc. These men and events have been presented to us in various situations as standing for various things in the history of the world. And when we think of them, we at once think of what they did, the place they fill in the world. This constitutes their meaning.

It is evident that an idea may have many meanings. And the meaning that may come to us at any particular moment depends upon the situation. A chair, for example, in one situation, may come to mind as a thing to sit in; in another situation, as a thing to stand in the corner and look pretty; in another, a thing to stand on so that one may reach the top shelf in the pantry; in another, a thing to strike a burglar with; in another, a thing to knock to pieces to be used to make a fire.

The meaning of a thing comes from our experience with it, and the thing usually comes to have more and more meanings as our experience with it increases. When we meet something new, it may have practically no meaning. Suppose we find a new plant in the woods. It has little meaning. We may be able to say only that it is a plant, or it is a small plant. We touch it and it pricks us, and it at once has more meaning. It is a plant that pricks. We bite into it and find it bitter. It is then a plant that is bitter, etc. In such a way, objects come to have meaning. They acquire meaning according to the connections in which we experience them and they may take on different meanings for different persons because of the different experiences of these persons. The chief interest we have in objects is in what use we can make of them, how we can make them serve our purposes, how we can make them contribute to our pleasure.

The organization of experience is the connecting, through the process of association, of the ideas that arise out of our experience. Our ideas are organized not only in accordance with the way we experience them in the first place, but in accordance with the way we think them later in memory. Of course, ideas are recalled in accordance with the way we experience them, but since they are experienced in such a multitude of connections, they are recalled later in these various connections and it is possible in recall to repeat one connection to the exclusion of others.

Organization can therefore be a selective process. Although "horse" is experienced in a great variety of situations or connections, for our purposes we can select some one or more of these connections and by repetition in recalling it, strengthen these connections to the exclusion of others. Herein lies one of the greatest possibilities in thinking and reasoning, which enables us, to an extent, to be independent of original experience. We must have had experience, of course, but the strength of bonds between ideas need not depend upon original experience, but rather upon the way in which these ideas are recalled later, and especially upon the number of times they are recalled.

It is in the matter of the organization of experience that teachers and parents can be of great help to young people. Children do not know what connections of ideas will be most useful in the future. People who have had more experience know better and can, by direction and suggestion, lead the young to form, and strengthen by repetition, those connections of ideas that will be most useful later.

In the various school studies, a mass of ideas is presented. These ideas, isolated or with random connections, will be of little service to the pupils. They must be organized with reference to future use. This organization must come about through thinking over these ideas in helpful connections. The teacher knows best what these helpful connections are and must help the pupil to make them.

Suppose the topic studied in history is the Battle of Bunker Hill. The teacher should assist the child to think the battle over in many different connections. There are various geographical, historical, and literary aspects of the battle that are of importance. These aspects should be brought to mind and related by being thought of together. Thinking things together binds them together as ideas; and later when one idea comes, the others that have been joined with it in the past in thought, come also. Therefore, in studying the Battle of Bunker Hill, the pupil not only reads about it, but gets a map and studies the geography of it, works out the causes that led up to the battle, studies the consequences that followed, reads speeches and poems that have been made and written since concerning the battle, the monument, etc.

Similarly, all the topics studied in school should be thought over and organized with reference to meaning and with reference to future use. As a result of such procedure, all the topics become organized and crystallized, with all related ideas closely bound together in association.

One of the greatest differences in people is in the organization of their ideas. Of course, people differ in original experience, but they differ more in the way they organize this experience and prepare it for future needs. Just as in habit-formation we should by exercise and practice acquire those kinds of skill that will serve us best in the future, so in getting knowledge we should by repetition strengthen the connections between those ideas that we shall need to have connected in the future. All education looks forward and is preparatory. As a result of training in the organization of ideas, a pupil can learn how to organize his experience, in a measure, independent of the teacher. He learns to know, himself, what ideas are significant, and what connections of ideas will be most helpful. Such an outcome should be one of the ends of school training.

Training in Reasoning. We have already mentioned ways in which a child can be helped in gaining power and facility in reasoning. In this paragraph we shall discuss the matter more fully. There are three aspects of training in reasoning, one with reference to original experience, one with reference to the organization of this experience as just discussed, and one with reference to certain habits of procedure in the recall and use of experience.

(1) Original experience. Before reasoning in any field, one must have experience in that field. There is no substitute for experience. After having the experience, it can be organized in various ways, but experience there must be. Experience may be primary, with things themselves, or it may be secondary, received second hand through books or through spoken language. We cannot think without ideas, and ideas come only through perceptions of one kind or another.

Originally, all experience arises out of sensations. Language makes it possible for us to profit through the perceptual experience of others. But even when we receive our experience second hand, our own primary experience must enable us to understand the meaning of what we read and hear about, else it is valueless to us. Therefore, if we wish to be able to reason in the field of physics, of botany, of chemistry, of medicine, of law, or of agriculture, we must get experience in those fields. The raw material of thought comes only through experience. In such a subject as physical geography, for example, the words of the book have little meaning unless the child has had original experience in the matter discussed. He must have seen hills and valleys and rivers and lakes and rocks and weathering, and all the various processes discussed in physical geography; otherwise, the reading of the text is almost valueless. The same thing is true of all subjects. To reason in any subject we must have had original experience in it.

(2) The organization of experience. After experience comes its organization. This point has already been fully explained. It was pointed out that organization consists in thinking our experience over again in helpful relations. Here parents and teachers can be of very great service to children.

(3) Habits of thought. There are certain habits of procedure in reasoning, apart from the association of the ideas. One can form the habit of putting certain questions to oneself when a problem is presented, so that certain types of relations are called up. If one is a scientist, one looks for causes. If one is a lawyer, one looks up the court decisions. If one is a physician, one looks for symptoms, etc.

One of the most important habits in connection with reasoning is the habit of caution. Reasoning is waiting, waiting for ideas to come that will be adequate for the situation. One must form the habit of waiting a reasonable length of time for associations to run their course. If one act too soon, before his organized experience has had time to pass in review, he may act improperly. Therefore one must be trained to a proper degree of caution. Of course, caution may be overdone. One must act sometime, one cannot wait always.

Another habit is that of testing out a conclusion before it is finally put into practice. It is often possible to put a conclusion to some sort of test before it is put to the real test, just as one makes a model and tries out an invention on a small scale. One should not have full confidence in a conclusion that is the result of reasoning, till the conclusion has been put to the final test of experiment, of trial.

This last statement leads us to the real function of reasoning. Reason points the way to action in a new situation. After the situation is repeated for a sufficient number of times, action passes into the realm of habit.

Language and Thinking. The fact that man has spoken and written language is of the greatest significance. It has already been pointed out that language is a means through which we can get experience secondhand. This proves to be a great advantage to man. But language gives us still another advantage. Without language, thinking is limited to the passing of sensory images that arise in accordance with the laws of association. But man can name things and the attributes of things, and these names become associated, so that thinking comes to be, in part at least, a matter of words. Thinking is talking to oneself. One cannot talk without language.

The importance that attaches to language can hardly be overestimated. When the child acquires the use of language, he has acquired the use of a tool, the importance of which to thinking is greater than that of any other tool. Now, one can think without language, in the sense that memory images come and go,-we have defined thinking as the flow of imagery, the passing or succession of ideas. But after we have named things, thinking, particularly reasoning, becomes largely verbal, or as we said above, talking to oneself.

Not only do we give names to concrete things but we give names to specific attributes and to relations. As we organize and analyze our experiences, there appear uniformities, principles, laws. To these we give names, such as white, black, red, weight, length, thickness, justice, truth, sin, crime, heat, cold, mortal, immortal, evolution, disintegration, love, hate, envy, jealousy, possible, impossible, probable, etc. We spoke above of meanings. To meanings we give names, so that a single word comes to stand for meanings broad and significant, the result of much experience. Such words as "evolution" and "gravitation," single words though they are, represent a wide range of experiences and bring these experiences together and crystallize them into a single expression, which we use as a unit in our thought.

Language, therefore, makes thought easier and its accomplishment greater. After we have studied C?sar for some years, the name comes to represent the epitome, the bird's-eye view of a great man. A similar thing is true of our study of other men and movements and things. Single words come to represent a multitude of experiences. Then these words become associated and organized in accordance with the principles of association discussed above, so that it comes about that the older we are, the more we come to think in words, and the more these words represent. The older we are, the more abstract our thinking becomes, the more do our words come to stand for meanings and attributes and laws that have come out of the organization of our experience.

It is evident that the accuracy of our thinking depends upon these words standing for the truth, depends upon whether we have organized our experience in accordance with facts. If our word "C?sar" does not stand for the real C?sar, then all our thinking in which C?sar enters will be incorrect. If our word "justice" does not stand for the real justice, then all our thinking in which justice enters will be incorrect.

This discussion points to the tremendous importance of the organization of experience. Truth is the agreement of our thought with the thing, with reality. We must therefore help the young to see the world clearly and to organize what they see in accordance with the facts and with a view to future use. Then the units of this organized experience are to be tagged, labeled, by means of words, and these words or labels become the vehicles of thought, and the outcome of the thinking depends on the validity of the organization of our experience.

Summary. Thinking is the passing of ideas in the mind; its basis is in the association of memory ideas. The basis of association is in original experience, ideas becoming bound together in memory as originally experienced. The factors of association are primacy, recency, frequency, intensity, and mental set or attitude. Reasoning is thinking to a purpose. We can be trained in reasoning by being taught to get vivid experience in the first place and in organizing this experience in helpful ways, having in mind future use.


A series of experiments should be performed to make clear to the students that the basis of the association of ideas is in experience and not in the nature of the ideas themselves.

Let the students, starting with the same word, write down all the ideas that come to mind in one minute. The teacher should give the initial idea, as sky, hate, music, clock, table, or wind. The first ten ideas coming to each student might be written on the blackboard for study and comparison. Are any series alike? Is the tenth idea in one series the same as that in any other?

For a study of the various factors of association, perform the following experiment: Let the teacher prepare a list of fifty words-nouns and adjectives, such as wood, murder, goodness, bad, death, water, love, angel. Read the words to the class and let each student write down the first idea that comes to mind in each case. After the list is finished, let each student try to find out what the determining factor was in each case, whether primacy, frequency, recency, vividness, or mental set. When the study is completed, the student's paper should contain three columns, the first column showing the stimulus words, the second showing the response words, the third showing the determining factors. The first column should be dictated and copied after the response words have been written.

Study the data in (a) and (b), noting the variety of ideas that come to different students for the same stimulus word. It will be seen that they come from a great variety of experiences and from all parts of one's life from childhood to the present, showing that all our experiences are bound together and that we can go from one point to any other, directly or indirectly.

Perform an experiment to determine how each member of the class thinks, i.e. in what kind of imagery. Let each plan a picnic in detail. How do they do it? Do they see it or hear it or seem to act it? Or does it happen in words merely?

Think of the events of yesterday. How do they come to you? Do your images seem to be visual, auditory, motor, or verbal? Do you seem to have all kinds of imagery? Is one kind predominant?

Test the class for speed of free association as described on page 193. Repeat the experiment at least five times and rank the members of the class from the results.

Similarly, test speed for controlled association as described on page 195 and rank the members of the class.

Compare the rankings in Nos. 4 and 5.

The teacher can extend the controlled association tests by preparing lists that show different kinds of logical relations with one another, from genus to species, from species to genus, from verb to object, from subject to verb, etc. Do the students maintain the same rank in the various types of experiments? Do the ranks in these tests correspond to the students' ranks in thinking in the school subjects?

At least two series of experiments in reasoning should be performed, one to show the nature of reasoning and the other to show the ability of the members of the class.

Put several problems to the class, similar to the following: What happens to a wet board laid out in the sunshine? Explain. Suppose corn is placed in three vessels, 1, 2, and 3. Number 1 is sealed up air tight and kept warm? Number 2 is kept open and warm? Number 3 is kept open and warm and moist. What happens in each case? Explain.

Condensed milk does not sour as long as the can remains unopened. After the can is opened, the milk sours if allowed to become warm; it does not sour if kept frozen. Why? Two bars of metal are riveted together. One bar is lead, the other iron. What happens when the bars are heated to 150 C? 500 C? 1000 C? 2000 C? Answer the following questions: Is it ever right to steal? To kill a person? To lie? Which are unwise and mistaken, Republicans or Democrats?

In the above, do all come to the same conclusion? Why? Were any unable to come to a conclusion at all on some questions? Why? Do the experiments make it clear that reasoning is dependent upon experience?

Let the teacher prepare five problems in reasoning well within the experience of the class, and find the speed and accuracy of the students in solving them. Compare the results with those in the controlled association tests. Test the class with various kinds of mechanical puzzles.

The students should study several people to ascertain how well those people have their experience organized. Is their experience available? Can they come to the point immediately, or, are they hazy, uncertain, and impractical?

It is claimed that we have two types of people, theoretical and practical. This is to some extent true. What is the explanation?

From the point of view of No. 10, compare teachers and engineers.

If anything will work in theory, will it work in practice?

From what you have learned in the chapter and from the experiments, write a paper on training in reasoning.

What are the main defects of the schools with reference to training children to think?

Make a complete outline of the chapter.


Colvin and Bagley: Human Behavior, Chapters XVI and XVIII.

Dewey: How We Think, Parts I and III.

Münsterberg: Psychology, General and Applied, Chapters VIII and XII; also pp. 192–195.

Pillsbury: Essentials of Psychology, Chapters VI and IX.

Pyle: The Outlines of Educational Psychology, Chapter XV.

Titchener: A Beginner's Psychology, Chapters V, VI, and X.

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