HOW TO USE YOUR MIND
A PSYCHOLOGY OF STUDY
BEING A MANUAL FOR THE USE OF STUDENTS AND TEACHERS IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF SUPERVISED STUDY
HARRY D. KITSON, PH.D.
PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, INDIANA UNIVERSITY
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
The kindly reception accorded to the first edition of this book has confirmed the author in his conviction that such a book was needed, and has tempted him to bestow additional labor upon it. The chief changes consist in the addition of two new chapters, "Active Imagination," and "How to Develop Interest in a Subject"; the division into two parts of the unwieldy chapter on memory; the addition of readings and exercises at the end of each chapter; the preparation of an analytical table of contents; the correction of the bibliography to date; the addition of an index; and some recasting of phraseology in the interest of clearness and emphasis.
The author gratefully acknowledges the constructive suggestions of reviewers and others who have used the book, and hopes that he has profited by them in this revision.
April 1, 1921.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
Educational leaders are seeing with increasing clearness the necessity of teaching students not only the subject-matter of study but also methods of study. Teachers are beginning to see that students waste a vast amount of time and form many harmful habits because they do not know how to use their minds. The recognition of this condition is taking the form of the movement toward "supervised study," which attempts to acquaint the student with principles of economy and directness in using his mind. It is generally agreed that there are certain "tricks" which make for mental efficiency, consisting of methods of apperceiving facts, methods of review, devices for arranging work. Some are the fruits of psychological experimentation; others are derived from experience. Many of them can be imparted by instruction, and it is for the purpose of systematizing these and making them available for students that this book is prepared.
The evils of unintelligent and unsupervised study are evident to all who have any connection with modern education. They pervade the entire educational structure from kindergarten through college. In college they are especially apparent in the case of freshmen, who, in addition to the numerous difficulties incident to entrance into the college world, suffer peculiarly because they do not know how to attack the difficult subjects of the curriculum. In recognition of these conditions, special attention is given at The University of Chicago toward supervision of study. All freshmen in the School of Commerce and Administration of the University are given a course in Methods of Study, in which practical discussions and demonstrations are given regarding the ways of studying the freshman subjects. In addition to the group-work, cases presenting special features are given individual attention, for it must be admitted that while certain difficulties are common to all students, there are individual cases that present peculiar phases and these can be served only by personal consultations. These personal consultations are expensive both in time and patience, for it frequently happens that the mental habits of a student must be thoroughly reconstructed, and this requires much time and attention, but the results well repay the effort. A valuable accessory to such individual supervision over students has been found in the use of psychological tests which have been described by the author in a monograph entitled, "The Scientific Study of the College Student."
[Footnote 1: Princeton University Press.]
But the college is not the most strategic point at which to administer guidance in methods of study. Such training is even more acceptably given in the high school and grades. Here habits of mental application are largely set, and it is of the utmost importance that they be set right, for the sake of the welfare of the individuals and of the institutions of higher education that receive them later. Another reason for incorporating training in methods of study into secondary and elementary schools is that more individuals will be helped, inasmuch as the eliminative process has not yet reached its culmination.
In high schools where systematic supervision of study is a feature, classes are usually conducted in Methods of Study, and it is hoped that this book will meet the demand for a text-book for such classes, the material being well within the reach of high school students. In high schools where instruction in Methods of Study is given as part of a course in elementary psychology, the book should also prove useful, inasmuch as it gives a summary of psychological principles relating to the cognitive processes.
In the grades the book cannot be put into the hands of the pupils, but it should be mastered by the teacher and applied in her supervising and teaching activities. Embodying, as it does, the results of researches in educational psychology, it should prove especially suitable for use in teachers' reading circles where a concise presentation of the facts regarding the psychology of the learning process is desired.
There is another group of students who need training in methods of study. Brain workers in business and industry feel deeply the need of greater mental efficiency and seek eagerly for means to attain it. Their earnestness in this search is evidenced by the success of various systems for the training of memory, will, and other mental traits. Further evidence is found in the efforts of many corporations to maintain schools and classes for the intellectual improvement of their employees. To all such the author offers the work with the hope that it may be useful in directing them toward greater mental efficiency.
In courses in Methods of Study in which the book is used as a class-text, the instructor should lay emphasis not upon memorization of the facts in the book, but upon the application of them in study. He should expect to see parallel with progress through the book, improvement in the mental ability of the students. Specific problems may well be arranged on the basis of the subjects of the curriculum, and students should be urged to utilize the suggestions immediately. The subjects treated in the book are those which the author has found in his experience with college students to constitute the most frequent sources of difficulty, and under these conditions, the sequence of topics followed in the book has seemed most favorable for presentation. With other groups of students, however, another sequence of topics may be found desirable; if so, the order of topics may be changed. For example, in case the chapter on brain action is found to presuppose more physiological knowledge than that possessed by the students, it may be omitted or may be used merely for reference when enlightenment is desired upon some of the physiological descriptions in later chapters. Likewise, the chapter dealing with intellectual difficulties of college students may be omitted with non-collegiate groups.
The heavy obligation of the author to a number of writers will be apparent to one familiar with the literature of theoretical and educational psychology. No attempt is made to render specific acknowledgments, but special mention should be made of the large draughts made upon the two books by Professor Stiles which treat so helpfully of the bodily relations of the student. These books contain so much good sense and scientific information that they should receive a prominent place among the books recommended to students. Thanks are due to Professor Edgar James Swift and Charles Scribner's Sons for permission to use a figure from "Mind in the Making"; and to J.B. Lippincott Company for adaptation of cuts from Villiger's "Brain and Spinal Cord."
The author gratefully acknowledges helpful suggestions from Professors James R. Angell, Charles H. Judd and C. Judson Herrick, who have read the greater part of the manuscript and have commented upon it to its betterment. The obligation refers, however, not only to the immediate preparation of this work but also to the encouragement which, for several years, the author has received from these scientists, first as student, later as colleague.
CHICAGO, September 25, 1916.
I. INTELLECTUAL PROBLEMS OF THE COLLEGE FRESHMAN
Number. Variety. Lecture Method. Note Taking. Amount of Library Work. High Quality Demanded. Necessity for Making Schedule. A College Course Consists in the Formation of Habits. Requires Active Effort on Part of Student. Importance of Good Form.
II. NOTE TAKING
Uses of Notes. LECTURE NOTES—Avoid Verbatim Reports. Maintain Attitude of Mental Activity. Seek Outline Chiefly. Use Notes in Preparing Next Lesson. READING NOTES—Summarize Rather Than Copy. Read With Questions in Mind. How to Read. How to Make Bibliographies. LABORATORY NOTES—Content. Form. Miscellaneous Hints.
III. BRAIN ACTION DURING STUDY
The Organ of Mind. Gross Structure. Microscopic Structure. The Neurone. The Nervous Impulse. The Synapse. Properties of Nervous Tissue —Impressibility, Conductivity, Modifiability. Pathways Used in Study—Sensory, Motor, Association. Study is a Process of Making Pathways in Brain.
IV. FORMATION OF STUDY-HABITS
Definition of Habit. Examples. Inevitableness of Habits in Brain and Nervous System. How to Insure Useful Habits—Choose What Shall Enter; Choose Mode of Entrance; Choose Mode of Egress; Go Slowly at First; Observe Four Maxims. Advantages and Disadvantages of Habit. Ethical Consequences.
V. ACTIVE IMAGINATION
Nature of the Image. Its Use in Imagination. Necessity for Number, Variety, Sharpness. Source of "Imaginative" Productions. Method of Developing Active Imaginative Powers: Cultivate Images in Great Number, Variety, Sharpness; Actively Combine the Elements of Past Experience.
VI. FIRST AIDS TO MEMORY—IMPRESSION
Four Phases. Conditions of Impression: Care, Clearness, Choice of Favorable Sense Avenue, Repetition, Overlearning, Primacy, Distribution of Repetitions, (Inferences Bearing Upon Theme-writing), "Whole" vs. "Part" Method, "Rote" vs. "logical" Method, Intention.
VII. SECOND AIDS TO MEMORY—RETENTION, RECALL AND RECOGNITION
Retention. Recall. Recall Contrasted With Impression. Practise Recall in Impression. Recognition. Advantages of Review. Memory Works According to Law. Possibility of Improvement. Connection With Other Mental Processes.
VIII. CONCENTRATION OF ATTENTION
Importance in Mental Life. Analysis of Concrete Attentive State. Cross-section of Mental Stream. Focal Object, Clear; Marginal Objects, Dim. Fluctuation. Ease of Concentration Requires (1) Removal of All Marginal Distractions Possible, (2) Ignoring Others. Conditions Favorable for Concentration. Relation to Other Mental Processes.
IX. HOW WE REASON
Reasoning Contrasted with Simpler Mental Operations. Illustrated by Method of Studying Geometry. Analysis of Reasoning Act: Recognition of Problem, Efforts to Solve It, Solution. Study in Problems. Requirements for Effective Reasoning: Many Ideas, Accessible, Clear. How to Clarify Ideas: Define, Classify. Relation Between Habit and Reasoning. Summary.
X. EXPRESSION AS AN AID IN STUDY
Expression an Inevitable Accompaniment of Nervous Activity. Extent of Expressive Movements. Relation Between Ideas and Expressive Acts. Ethical Considerations. Methods of Expression Chiefly Used in Study: Speech, Writing, Drawing. Effects of Expression: (1) On Brain, (2) On Ideas. Hints on Development of Freedom of Expression.
XI. HOW TO BECOME INTERESTED IN A SUBJECT
Nature of Interest. Intellectual Interests Gained Through Experience. Many Possible Fields of Interest. Laws of Interest.
XII. THE PLATEAU OF DESPOND
Measurement of Mental Progress. Analysis of the "Learning Curve." Irregularity. Rapid Progress at Beginning. The Plateau. Causes. Remedies.
XIII. MENTAL SECOND-WIND
Description: (1) Physical, (2) Mental. Hidden Sources of Energy. Retarding Effect of Fatigue. Analysis of Fatigue. How to Reduce Fatigue in Study.
Purposes. Continuous Effort and Cramming. Effective Methods of Reviewing. Immediate Preparation for an Examination Conduct in Examination-room. Attitude of Activity. Attitude of Confidence.
XV. BODILY CONDITIONS FOB EFFECTIVE STUDY
FOOD: Quantity, Quality, Surroundings. SLEEP: Amount, Conditions, Avoidance of Insomnia. EXERCISE: Regularity, Emphasis.
SUGGESTIONS FOB FURTHER READING
HOW TO USE YOUR MIND
INTELLECTUAL PROBLEMS OF THE COLLEGE FRESHMAN
In entering upon a college course you are taking a step that may completely revolutionize your life. You are facing new situations vastly different from any you have previously met. They are also of great variety, such as finding a place to eat and sleep, regulating your own finances, inaugurating a new social life, forming new friendships, and developing in body and mind. The problems connected with mental development will engage your chief attention. You are now going to use your mind more actively than ever before and should survey some of the intellectual difficulties before plunging into the fight.
Perhaps the first difficulty you will encounter is the substitution of the lecture for the class recitation to which you were accustomed in high school. This substitution requires that you develop a new technic of learning, for the mental processes involved in an oral recitation are different from those used in listening to a lecture. The lecture system implies that the lecturer has a fund of knowledge about a certain field and has organized this knowledge in a form that is not duplicated in the literature of the subject. The manner of presentation, then, is unique and is the only means of securing the knowledge in just that form. As soon as the words have left the mouth of the lecturer they cease to be accessible to you. Such conditions require a unique mental attitude and unique mental habits. You will be obliged, in the first place, to maintain sustained attention over long periods of time. The situation is not like that in reading, in which a temporary lapse of attention may be remedied by turning back and rereading. In listening to a lecture, you are obliged to catch the words "on the fly." Accordingly you must develop new habits of paying attention. You will also need to develop a new technic for memorizing, especially for memorizing things heard. As a partial aid in this, and also for purposes of organizing material received in lectures, you will need to develop ability to take notes. This is a process with which you have heretofore had little to do. It is a most important phase of college life, however, and will repay earnest study.
Another characteristic of college study is the vast amount of reading required. Instead of using a single text-book for each course, you may use several. They may cover great historical periods and represent the ideas of many men. In view of the amount of reading assigned, you will also be obliged to learn to read faster. No longer will you have time to dawdle sleepily through the pages of easy texts; you will have to cover perhaps fifty or a hundred pages of knotty reading every day. Accordingly you must learn to handle books expeditiously and to comprehend quickly. In fact, economy must be your watchword throughout. A German lesson in high school may cover thirty or forty lines a day, requiring an hour's preparation. A German assignment in college, however, may cover four or five or a dozen pages, requiring hard work for two or three hours.
You should be warned also that college demands not only a greater quantity but also a higher quality of work. When you were a high school student the world expected only a high school student's accomplishments of you. Now you are a college student, however, and your intellectual responsibilities have increased. The world regards you now as a person of considerable scholastic attainment and expects more of you than before. In academic terms this means that in order to attain a grade of 95 in college you will have to work much harder than you did for that grade in high school, for here you have not only more difficult subject-matter, but also keener competition for the first place. In high school you may have been the brightest student in your class. In college, however, you encounter the brightest students from many schools. If your merits are going to stand out prominently, therefore, you must work much harder. Your work from now on must be of better quality.
Not the least of the perplexities of your life as a college student will arise from the fact that no daily schedule is arranged for you. The only time definitely assigned for your work is the fifteen hours a week, more or less, spent in the class-room. The rest of your schedule must be arranged by yourself. This is a real task and will require care and thought if your work is to be done with greatest economy of time and effort.
This brief survey completes the catalogue of problems of mental development that will vex you most in adjusting your methods of study to college conditions. In order to make this adjustment you will be obliged to form a number of new habits. Indeed, as you become more and more expert as a student, you will see that the whole process resolves itself into one of habit-formation, for while a college education has two phases—the acquisition of facts and the formation of habits—it is the latter which is the more important. Many of the facts that you learn will be forgotten; many will be outlawed by time; but the habits of study you form will be permanent possessions. They will consist of such things as methods of grasping facts, methods of reasoning about facts, and of concentrating attention. In acquiring these habits you must have some material upon which you may concentrate your attention, and it will be supplied by the subjects of the curriculum. You will be asked, for instance, to write innumerable themes in courses in English composition; not for the purpose of enriching the world's literature, nor for the delectation of your English instructor, but for the sake of helping you to form habits of forceful expression. You will be asked to enter the laboratory and perform numerous experiments, not to discover hitherto unknown facts, but to obtain practice in scientific procedure and to learn how to seek knowledge by yourself. The curriculum and the faculty are the means, but you yourself are the agent in the educational process. No matter how good the curriculum or how renowned the faculty, you cannot be educated without the most vigorous efforts on your part. Banish the thought that you are here to have knowledge "pumped into" you. To acquire an education you must establish and maintain not a passive attitude but an active attitude. When you go to the gymnasium to build up a good physique, the physical director does not tell you to hold yourself limp and passive while he pumps your arms and legs up and down. Rather he urges you to put forth effort, to exert yourself until you are tired. Only by so doing can you develop physical power. This principle holds true of mental development. Learning is not a process of passive "soaking-in." It is a matter of vigorous effort, and the harder you work the more powerful you become. In securing a college education you are your own master.
In the development of physical prowess you are well aware of the importance of doing everything in "good form." In such sports as swimming and hurdling, speed and grace depend primarily upon it. The same principle holds true in the development of the mind. The most serviceable mind is that which accomplishes results in the shortest time and with least waste motion. Take every precaution, therefore, to rid yourself of all superfluous and impeding methods.
Strive for the development of good form in study. Especially is this necessary at the start. Now is the time when you are laying the foundations for your mental achievements in college. Keep a sharp lookout, then, at every point, to see that you build into the foundation only those materials and that workmanship which will support a masterly structure.
READINGS AND EXERCISES
NOTE.—Numbers in parentheses refer to complete citations in Bibliography at end of book.
Readings: Fulton (5) Lockwood (11)
Exercise 1. List concrete problems that have newly come to you since your arrival upon the campus.
Exercise 2. List in order the difficulties that confront you in preparing your daily lessons.
Exercise 3. Prepare a work schedule similar to that provided by the form in Chart I. Specify the subject with which you will be occupied at each period.
Exercise 4. Try to devise some way of registering the effectiveness with which you carry out your schedule. Suggestions are contained in the summary: Disposition of (1) as planned; (2) as spent. To divide the number of hours wasted by 24 will give a partial "index of efficiency."
Most educated people find occasion, at some time or other, to take notes. Although this is especially true of college students, they have little success, as any college instructor will testify. Students, as a rule, do not realize that there is any skill involved in taking notes. Not until examination time arrives and they try vainly to labor through a maze of scribbling, do they realize that there must be some system in note-taking. A careful examination of note-taking shows that there are rules or principles, which, when followed, have much to do with increasing ability in study.
One criterion that should guide in the preparation of notes is the use to which they will be put. If this is kept in mind, many blunders will be saved. Notes may be used in three ways: as material for directing each day's study, for cramming, and for permanent, professional use. Thus a note-book may be a thing of far-reaching value. Notes you take now as a student may be valuable years hence in professional life. Recognition of this will help you in the preparation of your notes and will determine many times how they should be prepared.
The chief situations in college which require note-taking are lectures, library reading and laboratory work. Accordingly the subject will be considered under these three heads.
LECTURE NOTES.—When taking notes on a lecture, there are two extremes that present themselves, to take exceedingly full notes or to take almost no notes. One can err in either direction. True, on first thought, entire stenographic reports of lectures appear desirable, but second thought will show that they may be dispensed with, not only without loss, but with much gain. The most obvious objection is that too much time would be consumed in transcribing short-hand notes. Another is that much of the material in a lecture is undesirable for permanent possession. The instructor repeats much for the sake of emphasis; he multiplies illustrations, not important in themselves, but important for the sake of stressing his point. You do not need these illustrations in written form, however, for once the point is made you rarely need to depend upon the illustrations for its retention. A still more cogent objection is that if you occupy your attention with the task of copying the lecture verbatim, you do not have time to think, but become merely an automatic recording machine. Experienced stenographers say that they form the habit of recording so automatically that they fail utterly to comprehend the meaning of what is said. You as a student cannot afford to have your attention so distracted from the meaning of the lecture, therefore reduce your classroom writing to a minimum.
Probably the chief reason why students are so eager to secure full lecture notes is that they fear to trust their memory. Such fears should be put at rest, for your mind will retain facts if you pay close attention and make logical associations during the time of impression. Keep your mind free, then, to work upon the subject-matter of the lecture. Debate mentally with the speaker. Question his statements, comparing them with your own experience or with the results of your study. Ask yourself frequently, "Is that true?" The essential thing is to maintain an attitude of mental activity, and to avoid anything that will reduce this and make you passive. Do not think of yourself as a vat into which the instructor pumps knowledge. Regard yourself rather as an active force, quick to perceive and to comprehend meaning, deliberate in acceptance and firm in retention.
After observing the stress laid, throughout this book, upon the necessity for logical associations, you will readily see that the key-note to note-taking is, Let your notes represent the logical progression of thought in the lecture. Strive above all else to secure the skeleton—the framework upon which the lecture is hung. A lecture is a logical structure, and the form in which it is presented is the outline. This outline, then, is your chief concern. In the case of some lectures it is an easy matter. The lecturer may place the outline in your hands beforehand, may present it on the black-board, or may give it orally. Some lecturers, too, present their material in such clear-cut divisions that the outline is easily followed. Others, however, are very difficult to follow in this regard.
In arranging an outline you will find it wise to adopt some device by which the parts will stand out prominently, and the progression of thought will be indicated with proper subordination of titles. Adopt some system at the beginning of your college course, and use it in all your notes. The system here given may serve as a model, using first the Roman numerals, then capitals, then Arabic numerals:
I. II. A. B. 1. 2. a. b. (1) (2) (a) (b)
In concluding this discussion of lecture notes, you should be urged to make good use of your notes after they are taken. First, glance over them as soon as possible after the lecture. Inasmuch as they will then be fresh in your mind, you will be able to recall almost the entire lecture; you will also be able to supply missing parts from memory. Some students make it a rule to reduce all class-notes to typewritten form soon after the lecture. This is an excellent practice, but is rather expensive in time. In addition to this after-class review, you should make a second review of your notes as the first step in the preparation of the next day's lesson. This will connect up the lessons with each other and will make the course a unified whole instead of a series of disconnected parts. Too often a course exists in a student's mind as a series of separate discussions and he sees only the horizon of a single day. This condition might be represented by a series of disconnected links:
O O O O O
A summary of each day's lesson, however, preceding the preparation for the next day, forges new links and welds them all together into an unbroken chain:
A method that has been found helpful is to use a double-page system of notetaking, using the left-hand page for the bare outline, with largest divisions, and the right-hand page for the details. This device makes the note-book readily available for hasty review or for more extended study.
READING NOTES.—The question of full or scanty notes arises in reading notes as in lecture notes. In general, your notes should represent a summary, in your own words, of the author's discussion, not a duplication of it. Students sometimes acquire the habit of reading single sentences at a time, then of writing them down, thinking that by making an exact copy of the book, they are playing safe. This is a pernicious practice; it spoils continuity of thought and application. Furthermore, isolated sentences mean little, and fail grossly to represent the real thought of the author. A better way is to read through an entire paragraph or section, then close the book and reproduce in your own words what you have read. Next, take your summary and compare with the original text to see that you have really grasped the point. This procedure will be beneficial in several ways. It will encourage continuous concentration of attention to an entire argument; it will help you to preserve relative emphasis of parts; it will lead you to regard thought and not words. (You are undoubtedly familiar with the state of mind wherein you find yourself reading merely words and not following the thought.) Lastly, material studied in this way is remembered longer than material read scrappily. In short, such a method of reading makes not only for good memory, but for good mental habits of all kinds. In all your reading, hold to the conception of yourself as a thinker, not a sponge. Remember, you do not need to accept unqualifiedly everything you read. A worthy ideal for every student to follow is expressed in the motto carved on the wall of the great reading-room of the Harper Memorial Library at The University of Chicago: "Read not to contradict, nor to believe, but to weigh and consider." Ibsen bluntly states the same thought:
"Don't read to swallow; read to choose, for 'Tis but to see what one has use for."
Ask yourself, when beginning a printed discussion, What am I looking for? What is the author going to talk about? Often this will be indicated in topical headings. Keep it in the background of your mind while reading, and search for the answer. Then, when you have read the necessary portion, close the book and summarize, to see if the author furnished what you sought. In short, always read for a purpose. Formulate problems and seek their solutions. In this way will there be direction in your reading and your thought.
This discussion of reading notes has turned into an essay on "How to Read," and you must be convinced by this time that there is much to learn in this respect, so much that we may profitably spend more time in discussing it.
Every book you take up should be opened with some preliminary ceremony. This does not refer to the physical operation of opening a new book, but to the mental operation. In general, take the following steps:
1. Observe the title. See exactly what field the book attempts to cover.
2. Observe the author's name. If you are to use his book frequently, discover his position in the field. Remember, you are going to accept him as authority, and you should know his status. You may be told this on the title-page, or you may have to consult Who's Who, or the biographical dictionary.
3. Glance over the preface. Under some circumstances you should read it carefully. If you are going to refer to the book very often, make friends with the author; let him introduce himself to you; this he will do in the preface. Observe the date of publication, also, in order to get an idea as to the recency of the material.
4. Glance over the table of contents. If you are very familiar with the field, and the table of contents is outlined in detail, you might advantageously study it and dispense with reading the book. On the other hand, if you are going to consult the book only briefly, you might find it necessary to study the table of contents in order to see the relation of the part you read to the entire work.
5. Use the index intelligently; it may save you much time.
You will have much to do throughout your college course with the making of bibliographies, that is, with the compilation of lists of books bearing upon special topics. You may have bibliographies given you in some of your courses, or you may be asked to compile your own. Under all circumstances, prepare them with the greatest care. Be scrupulous in giving references. There is a standard form for referring to books and periodicals, as follows:
C.R. Henderson, Industrial Insurance (2d ed.; Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1912), p. 321.
S.I. Curtis, "The Place of Sacrifice," Biblical World, Vol. XXI (1902), p. 248 ff.
LABORATORY NOTES.—The form for laboratory notes varies with the science and is usually prescribed by the instructor. Reports of experiments are usually written up in the order: Object, Apparatus, Method, Results, Conclusions. When detailed instructions are given by the instructor, follow them accurately. Pay special attention to neatness. Instructors say that the greatest fault with laboratory note-books is lack of neatness. This reacts upon the instructor, causing him much trouble in correcting the note-book. The resulting annoyance frequently prejudices him, against his will, against the student. It is safe to assert that you will materially increase your chances of a good grade in a laboratory course by the preparation of a neat note-book.
The key-note of the twentieth century is economy, the tendency in all lines being toward the elimination of waste. College students should adopt this aim in the regulation of their study affairs, and there is much opportunity for applying it in note-taking. So far, the discussion has had to do with the content of the note-book, but its form is equally important. Much may be done by utilization of mechanical devices to save time and energy.
First, write in ink. Pencil marks blur badly and become illegible in a few months. Remember, you may be using the notebook twenty years hence, therefore make it durable.
Second, write plainly. This injunction ought to be superfluous, for common sense tells us that writing which is illegible cannot be read even by the writer, once it has "grown cold." Third, take care in forming sentences. Do not make your notes consist simply of separate, scrappy jottings. True, it is difficult, under stress, to form complete sentences. The great temptation is to jot down a word here and there and trust to luck or an indulgent memory to supply the context at some later time. A little experience, however, will quickly demonstrate the futility of such hopes; therefore strive to form sensible phrases, and to make the parts of the outline cohere. Apply the principles of English composition to the preparation of your note-book.
A fourth question concerns size and shape of the note-book. These features depend partly upon the nature of the course and partly upon individual taste. It is often convenient and practicable to keep the notes for all courses in a single note-book. Men find it advantageous to use a small note-book of a size that can be carried in the coat pocket and studied at odd moments.
A fifth question of a mechanical nature is, Which is preferable, bound or loose-leaf note-books? Generally the latter will be found more desirable. Leaves are easily inserted and the sections are easily filed on completion of a course.
It goes without saying that the manner in which notes, are to be taken will be determined by many factors, such as the nature of individual courses, the wishes of instructors, personal tastes and habits. Nevertheless, there are certain principles and practices which are adaptable to nearly all conditions, and it is these that we have discussed. Remember, note-taking is one of the habits you are to form in college. See that the habit is started rightly. Adopt a good plan at the start and adhere to it. You may be encouraged, too, with the thought that facility in note-taking will come with practice. Note-taking is an art and as you practise you will develop skill.
We have noted some of the most obvious and immediate benefits derived from well-prepared notes, consisting of economy of time, ease of review, ease of permanent retention. There are other benefits, however, which, though less obvious, are of far greater importance. These are the permanent effects upon the mind. Habits of correct thinking are the chief result of correct note-taking. As you develop in this particular ability, you will find corresponding improvement in your ability to comprehend and assimilate ideas, to retain and reproduce facts, and to reason with thoroughness and independence.
READINGS AND EXERCISES
Adams (1) Chapter VIII.
Dearborn (2) Chapter II.
Exercise 1. Contrast the taking of notes from reading and from lectures.
Exercise 2. Make an outline of this chapter.
Exercise 3. Make an outline of some lecture.
BRAIN ACTION DURING STUDY
Though most people understand more or less vaguely that the brain acts in some way during study, exact knowledge of the nature of this action is not general. As you will be greatly assisted in understanding mental processes by such knowledge, we shall briefly examine the brain and its connections. It will be manifestly impossible to inquire into its nature very minutely, but by means of a description you will be able to secure some conception of it and thus will be able better to control the mental processes which it underlies.
To the naked eye the brain is a large jelly-like mass enclosed in a bony covering, about one-fourth of an inch thick, called the skull. Inside the skull it is protected by a thick membrane. At its base emerges the spinal cord, a long strand of nerve fibers extending down the spine. For most of its length, the cord is about as large around as your little finger, but it tapers at the lower end. From it at right angles throughout its length branch out thirty-one pairs of fibrous nerves which radiate to all parts of the body. The brain and spinal cord, with all its ramifications, are known as the nervous system. You see now that, though we started with the statement that the mind is intimately connected with the brain, we must now enlarge our statement and say it is connected with the entire nervous system. It is therefore to the nervous system that we must turn our attention.
Although to the naked eye the nervous system is apparently made up of a number of different kinds of material, still we see, when we turn our microscopes upon it, that its parts are structurally the same. Reduced to lowest terms, the nervous system is found to be composed of minute units of structure called nerve-cells or neurones. Each of these looks like a string frayed out at both ends, with a bulge somewhere along its length. The nervous system is made up of millions of these little cells packed together in various combinations and distributed throughout the body. Some of the neurones are as long as three feet; others measure but a fraction of an inch in length.
We do not know exactly how the mind, that part of us which feels, reasons and wills, is connected with this mass of cells called the nervous system. We do know, however, that every time anything occurs in the mind, there is a change in some part of the nervous system. Applying this fact to study, it is obvious that when you are performing any of the operations of study, memorizing foreign vocabularies, making arithmetical calculations, reasoning out problems in geometry, you are making changes in your nervous system. The question before us, then, is, What is the nature of these changes?
According to present knowledge, the action of the nervous system is best conceived as a form of chemical change that spreads among the nerve-cells. We call this commotion the nervous current. It is very rapid, moving faster than one hundred feet a second, and runs along the cells in much the same way as a "spark runs along a train of gunpowder." It is important to note that neurones never act singly; they always act in groups, the nervous current passing from neurone to neurone. It is thought that the most important changes in the nervous system do not occur within the individual neurones, but at the points where they join with each other. This point of connection is called the synapse and although we do not understand its exact nature, it may well be pictured as a valve that governs the passage of the nervous current from neurone to neurone. At time of birth, most of the valves are closed. Only a few are open, mainly those connected with the vegetative processes such as breathing and digestion. But as the individual is played upon by the objects of the environment, the valves open to the passage of the nervous current. With increased use they become more and more permeable, and thus learning is the process of making easier the passage of the nervous current from one neurone to another.
We shall secure further light upon the action of the nervous system if we examine some of the properties belonging to nerve-cells. The first one is impressibility. Nerve-cells are very sensitive to impressions from the outside. If you have ever had the dentist touch an exposed nerve, you know how extreme this sensitivity is. Naturally such a property is very important in education, for had we not the power to receive impressions from the outside world we should not be able to acquire knowledge. We should not even be able to perceive danger and remove ourselves from harm. "If we compare a man's body to a building, calling the steel frame-work his skeleton and the furnace and power station his digestive organs and lungs, the nervous system would include, with other things, the thermometers, heat regulators, electric buttons, door-bells, valve-openers,—the parts of the building, in short, which are specifically designed to respond to influences of the environment." The second property of nerve-cells which is important in study is conductivity. As soon as a neurone is stimulated at one end, it communicates its excitement, by means of the nervous current, to the next neurone or to neighboring neurones. Just as an electric current might pass along one wire, thence to another, and along it to a third, so the nervous current passes from neurone to neurone. As might be expected, the two functions of impressibility and conductivity are aided by such an arrangement of the nerve-cells that the nervous current may pass over definitely laid pathways. These systems of pathways will be described in a later paragraph.
The third property of nerve-cells which is important in study is modifiability. That is, impressions made upon the nerve-cells are retained. Most living tissue is modifiable to some extent. The features of the face are modifiable, and if one habitually assumes a peevish expression, it becomes, after a time, permanently fixed. The nervous system, however, possesses the power of modifiability to a marked degree, even a single impression sufficing to make striking modification. This is very important in study, being the basis for the retentive powers of the mind.
Having examined the action of the nervous system in its simplicity, we have now to examine the ways in which the parts of the nervous system are combined. We shall be helped if we keep to the conception of it as an aggregation of systems or groups of pathways. Some of these we shall attempt to trace out. Beginning with those at the outermost parts of the body, we find them located in the sense-organs, not only within the traditional five, but also within the muscles, tendons, joints, and internal organs of the body such as the heart, and digestive organs. In all these places we find ends of neurones which converge at the spinal cord and travel to the brain. They are called sensory neurones and their function is to carry messages inward to the brain. Thus, the brain represents, in great part, a central receiving station for impressions from the outside world. The nerve-cells carrying messages from the various parts of the body terminate in particular areas. Thus an area in the back part of the brain receives messages from the eyes; another area near the top of the brain receives messages from the skin. These areas are quite clearly marked out and may be studied in detail by means of the accompanying diagram.
There is another large group of nerve-cells which, when traced out, are found to have one terminal in the brain and the other in the muscles throughout the body. The area in the brain, where these neurones emerge, is near the top of the brain in the area marked Motor on the diagram. From here the fibers travel down through the spinal cord and out to the muscles. The nerve-cells in this group are called motor neurones and their function is to carry messages from the brain out to the muscles, for a muscle ordinarily does not act without a nervous current to set it off.
So far we have seen that the brain has the two functions of receiving impressions from the sense-organs and of sending out orders to the muscles. There is a further mechanism that must now be described. When messages are received in the sensory areas, it is necessary that there be some means within the brain of transmitting them over to the motor area so that they may be acted upon. Such an arrangement is provided by another group of nerve-cells in the brain, having as their function the transmission of the nervous current from one area to another. They are called association neurones and transmit the nervous current from sensory areas to motor areas or from one sensory area to another. For example, suppose you see a brick falling from above and you dodge quickly back. The neural action accompanying this occurrence consists of an impression upon the nerve-cells in the eye, the conduction of the nervous current back to the visual area of the brain, the transmission of the current over association neurones to the motor area, then its transmission over the motor neurones, down the spinal cord, to the muscles that enable you to dodge the missile. The association neurones have the further function of connecting one sensory area in the brain with another. For example, when you see, smell, taste and touch an orange, the corresponding areas in the brain act in conjunction and are associated by means of the association neurones connecting them. The association neurones play a large part in the securing and organizing of knowledge. They are very important in study, for all learning consists in building up associations.
From the foregoing description we see that the nervous system consists merely of a mechanism for the reception and transmission of incoming messages and their transformation into outgoing messages which produce movement. The brain is the center where such transformations are made, being a sort of central switchboard which permits the sense-organs to come into communication with muscles. It is also the instrument by means of which the impressions from the various senses can be united and experience can be unified. The brain serves further as the medium whereby impressions once made can be retained. That is, it is the great organ of memory. Hence we see that it is to this organ we must look for the performance of the activities necessary to study. Everything that enters it produces some modification within it. Education consists in a process of undergoing a selected group of experiences of such a nature as to leave beneficial results in the brain. By means of the changes made there, the individual is able better to adjust himself to new situations. For when the individual enters the world, he is not prepared to meet many situations; only a few of the neural connections are made and he is able to perform only a meagre number of simple acts, such as breathing, crying, digestion. The pathways for complex acts, such as speaking English or French, or writing, are not formed at birth but must be built up within the life-time of the individual. It is the process of building them up that we call education. This process is a physical feat involving the production of changes in physical material in the brain. Study involves the overcoming of resistance in the nervous system. That is why it is so hard. In your early school-days, when you set about laboriously learning the multiplication table, your unwilling protests were wrung because you were being compelled to force the nervous current through new pathways, and to overcome the inertia of physical matter. Today, when you begin a train of reasoning, the task is difficult because you are opening hitherto untravelled pathways. There is a comforting thought, however, which is derived from the factor of modifiability, in that with each succeeding repetition, the task becomes easier, because the path becomes worn smoothly and the nervous current seeks it of its own accord; in other words, each act and each thought tends to become habitualized. Education is then a process of forming habits, and the rest of the book will be devoted to the description and discussion of habits which a student should form.
READING AND EXERCISE
Reading: Herrick (7)
Exercise 1. Draw a picture of the brain, showing roughly what takes place there (a) when you read a book, (6) listen to a lecture, (c) take notes.
FORMATION OF STUDY-HABITS
As already intimated, this book adopts the view that education is a process of forming habits in the brain. In the formation of habits there are several principles that must be observed. Accordingly we shall devote a chapter to the consideration of habits in general before discussing the specific habits involved in various kinds of study.
Habit may be defined roughly as the tendency to act time after time in the same way. Thus defined, you see that the force of habit extends throughout the entire universe. It is a habit for the earth to revolve on its axis once every twenty-four hours and to encircle the sun once every year. When a pencil falls from your hand it has a habit of dropping to the floor. A piece of paper once folded tends to crease in the same place. These are examples of the force of habit in nonliving matter. Living matter shows its power even more clearly. If you assume a petulant expression for some time, it gets fixed and the expression becomes habitual. The hair may be trained to lie this way or that. These are examples of habit in living tissue. But there is one particular form of living tissue which is most susceptible to habit; that is nerve tissue. Let us review briefly the facts which underlie this characteristic. In nerve tissue, impressibility, conductivity and modifiability are developed to a marked degree. The nerve-cells in the sense organs are impressed by stimulations from the outside world. The nervous current thus generated is conducted over long nerve fibers, through the spinal cord to the brain where it is received and we experience a sensation. Thence it pushes on, over association neurones in the brain to motor neurones, over which it passes down the spinal cord again to muscles, and ends in some movement. In the pathway which it traverses it leaves its impression, and, thereafter, when the first neurone is excited, the nervous current tends to take the same pathway and to end in the same movement.
It should be emphasized that the nervous current, once started, always tends to seek outlet in movement. This is an extremely important feature of neural action, and, as will be shown in another chapter, is a vital factor in study. Movement may be started by the stimulation of a sense organ or by an idea. In the latter case it starts from regions in the brain without the immediately preceding stimulation of a sense organ. Howsoever it starts you may be sure that it seeks a way out, and prefers pathways already traversed. Hence you see you are bound to have habits. They will develop whether you wish them or not. Already you are "a bundle of habits"; they manifest themselves in two ways—as habits of action and habits of thought. You illustrate the first every time you tie your shoes or sign your name. To illustrate the second, I need only ask you to supply the end of this sentence: Columbus discovered America in——. Speech reveals many of these habits of thought. Certain phrases persist in the mind as habits so that when the phrase is once begun, you proceed habitually with the rest of it. When some one starts "in spite," your mind goes on to think "of"; "more or" calls up "less." When I ask you what word is called up by "black," you reply "white" according to the principles of mental habit. Your mind is arranged in such habitual patterns, and from these examples you readily see that a large part of what you do and think during the course of twenty-four hours is habitual. Twenty years hence you will be even more bound by this overpowering despot.
Our acts our angels are, or good, or ill, Our constant shadows that walk with us still.
Since you cannot avoid forming habits, how important it is that you seek to form those that are useful and desirable. In acquiring them, there are several general principles deducible from the facts of nervous action. The first is: Guard the pathways leading to the brain. Nerve tissue is impressible and everything that touches it leaves an ineradicable trace. You can control your habits to some extent, then, by observing caution in permitting things to impress you. Many unfortunate habits of study arise from neglect of this. The habit of using a "pony," for example, arises when one permits oneself to depend upon a group of English words in translating from a foreign language.
Nerve pathways should then be guarded with respect to what enters. They should also be guarded with respect to the way things enter. Remember, as the first pathway is cut, subsequent nervous currents will be directed. Consequently if you make a wrong pathway, you will have trouble undoing it.
Another maxim which will obviously prevent undesirable pathways is, go slowly at first. This is an important principle in all learning. If, when trying to learn the date 1453, you carelessly impress it first as 1435, you are likely to have trouble ever after in remembering which is right, 1453 or 1435. As you value your intellectual salvation, then, go slowly in making the first impression and be sure it is right. The next rule is: Guard the exits of the nervous currents. That is, watch the movements you make in response to impressions and ideas. This is necessary because the nervous current pushes on past obstructions, through areas in the brain, until it ends in some form of movement, and in finding the way out, it seeks those pathways that have been most frequently travelled. In study, it usually takes the form of movements of speech or writing. You will need to guard this part of the process just as you did the incoming pathway You must see that the movement is made which you wish to build into a habit. In learning the pronunciation of a foreign word, for example, see that your first pronunciation of it is absolutely right. When learning to typewrite see that you always hit the right key during the early trials. The point of exit of a nervous current is the point also where precautions are to be taken in developing good form. The path should be the shortest possible, involving only those muscles that are absolutely necessary. This makes for economy of effort.
The third general principle to be kept in mind is that habits are most easily formed in youth, for this is the period when nerve tissue is most easily impressed and modified. With respect to habit formation, then, you see that youth is the time when emphasis should be laid upon the formation of as many useful habits as possible. The world recognizes this to some extent and society is so organized that the youth of the race are given leisure and protection so that they may form useful habits. The world asks nothing of you during the next four years except that you develop yourself and form useful habits which will enable you in later life to take your place as a useful and stable member of society.
In addition to the principles just discussed, there are a number of other maxims which have been laid down as guides in the formation of new habits. The first is, make an assertion of will. Vow to yourself that you will form the habit, and keep that resolve ever before you.
The second maxim is, make an emphatic start. Surround yourself with every aid possible. Make it easy at first to perform the act and difficult not to perform it. For example, if you desire to form the habit of arising at six every morning, surround yourself with a number of aids. Buy an alarm clock, and tell some one of your decision. Such efforts at the start "will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all." Man has discovered the value of such devices during the course of his long history, and has evolved customs accordingly. When men decide to swear off smoking, they choose the opening of a new year when many other new things are being started; they make solemn promises to themselves, to each other, and finally to their friends. Such customs are precautions which help to bolster up the determination at the time when extraordinary effort and determination are required. In forming the habits incidental to college life, take pains from the start to surround yourself with as many aids as possible. This will not constitute a confession of weakness. It is only a wise and natural precaution which the whole experience of the race has justified. The third maxim is, never permit an exception to occur. Suppose you have a habit of saying "aint" which you wish to replace with a habit of saying "isn't." If the habit is deeply rooted, you have worn a pathway in the brain to a considerable depth, represented in the accompanying diagram by the line A X B.
A X / B C
Let us suppose that you have already started the new habit, and have said the correct word ten times. That means you have worn another pathway A X C to a considerable depth. During all this time, however, the old pathway is still open and at the slightest provocation will attract the nervous current. Your task is to deepen the new path so that the nervous current will flow into it instead of the old. Now suppose you make an exception on some occasion and allow the nervous current to travel over the old path. This unfortunate exception breaks down the bridge which you had constructed at X from A to C. But this is not the only result. The nervous current, as it revisits the old path, deepens it more than it was before, so the next time a similar situation arises, the current seeks the old path with much greater readiness than before, and vastly more effort is required to overcome it. Some one has likened the effect of these exceptions to that produced when one drops a ball of string that is partially wound. By a single slip, more is undone than can be accomplished in a dozen windings.
The fourth maxim is, seize every opportunity to act upon your resolution. The reason for this will be understood better if you keep in mind the fact, stated before, that nervous currents once started, whether from a sense-organ or from a brain-center, always tend to seek egress in movement. These outgoing nervous currents leave an imprint upon the modifiable nerve tissues as inevitably as do incoming impressions. Therefore, if you wish your resolves to be firmly fixed, you should act upon them speedily and often. "It is not in the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new 'set' to the brain." "No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one's sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one's character may remain entirely unaffected for the better." Particularly at time of emotional excitement one makes resolves that are very good, and a glow of fine feeling is present. Beware that these resolves do not evaporate in mere feeling. They should be crystallized in some form of action as soon as possible. "Let the expression be the least thing in the world—speaking genially to one's grandmother, or giving up one's seat in a ... car, if nothing more heroic offers—but let it not fail to take place." Strictly speaking you have not really completed a resolve until you have acted upon it. You may determine to go without lunch, but you have not consummated that resolve until you have permitted it to express itself by carrying you past the door of the dining-room. That is the crucial test which determines the strength of your resolve. Many repetitions will be required before a pathway is worn deep enough to be settled. Seize the very earliest opportunity to begin grooving it out, and seize every other opportunity for deepening it.
After this view of the place in your life occupied by habit, you readily see its far-reaching possibilities for welfare of body and mind. Its most obvious, because most annoying, effects are on the side of its disadvantages. Bad habits secure a grip upon us that we are sometimes powerless to shake off. True, this ineradicableness need have no terrors if we have formed good habits. Indeed, as will be pointed out in the next paragraph, habit may be a great asset. Nevertheless, it may work positive harm, or at best, may lead to stagnation. The fixedness of habit tends to make us move in ruts unless we exert continuous effort to learn new things. If we permit ourselves to move in old grooves we cease to progress and become "old fogy."
But the advantages of habit far outweigh its disadvantages. Habit helps the individual to be consistent and helps people to know what to expect from one. It helps society to be stable, to incorporate within itself modes of action conducive to the common good. For example, the respect which we all have for the property of others is a habit, and is so firmly intrenched that we should find ourselves unable to steal if we wished to. Habit is thus a very desirable asset and is truly called the "enormous fly-wheel of society."
A second advantage of habit is that it makes for accuracy. Acts that have become habitualized are performed more accurately than those not habitualized. Movements such as those made in typewriting and piano-playing, when measured in the psychological laboratory, are found to copy each other with extreme fidelity. The human body is a machine which may be adjusted to a high degree of nicety, and habit is the mechanism by which this adjustment is made.
A third advantage is that a stock of habits makes life easier. "There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding or regretting of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all." Have you ever reflected how miserable you would be and what a task living would be if you had to learn to write anew every morning when you go to class; or if you had to relearn how to tie your necktie every day? The burden of living would be intolerable.
The last advantage to be discerned in habit is economy. Habitual acts do not have to be actively directed by consciousness. While they are being performed, consciousness may be otherwise engaged. "The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work." While you are brushing your hair or tying your shoes, your mind may be engaged in memorizing poetry or calculating arithmetical problems. Habit is thus a great economizer.
The ethical consequences of habit are so striking that before leaving the subject we must give them acknowledgment. We can do no better than to turn to the statement by Professor James, whose wise remarks upon the subject have not been improved upon:
"The physiological study of mental conditions is thus the most powerful ally of hortatory ethics. The hell to be endured hereafter, of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way. Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar. The drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson's play, excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by saying, 'I won't count this time!' Well! he may not count it and a kind heaven may not count it; but it is being counted none the less. Down among his nerve-cells and fibers the molecules are counting it, registering it, and storing it up to be used against him when the next temptation comes. Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out. Of course this has its good side as well as its bad one. As we become permanent drunkards by so many drinks, so we become saints in the moral, and authorities and experts in the practical and scientific, spheres, by so many separate acts and hours of work. But let no youth have any anxiety about the upshot of his education, whatever the line of it may be. If he keep faithfully busy each hour of the working day, he may safely leave the final result to itself. He can with perfect certainty count on waking up some fine morning, to find himself one of the competent ones of his generation, in whatever pursuit he has singled out. Silently, between all the details of his business, the power of judging in all that class of matter will have built itself up within him as a possession that will never pass away. Young people should know the truth of this in advance. The ignorance of it has probably engendered more discouragement and faintheartedness in youths embarking on arduous careers than all other causes put together."
Exercise 1. Point out an undesirable habit that you are determined to eradicate. Describe the desirable habit which you will adopt in its place. Give the concrete steps you will take in forming the new habit. How long a time do you estimate will be required for the formation of the new habit? Mark down the date and refer back to it when you have formed the habit, to see how accurately you estimated.
A very large part of the mental life of a student consists in the manipulation of images. By images we mean the revivals of things that have been impressed upon the senses. Call to mind for the moment your house-number as it appears upon the door of your home. In so doing you mentally reinstate something which has been impressed upon your senses many times; and you see it almost as clearly as if it were actually before you. The mental thing thus revived is called an image.
The word image is somewhat ill-chosen; for it usually signifies something connected with the eye, and implies that the stuff of mental images is entirely visual. The true fact of the matter is, we can image practically anything that we can sense. We may have tactual images of things touched; auditory images of things heard; gustatory images of things tasted; olfactory images of things smelled. How these behave in general and how they interact in study will engage our attention in this chapter.
The most highly dramatic use of images is in connection with that mental process known as Imagination. As we study the writings of Jack London, Poe, Defoe, Bunyan, we move in a realm almost wholly imaginary. And as we take a cross-section of our minds when thus engaged, we find them filled with images. Furthermore, they are of great variety—images of colors, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, even of sensations from our own internal organs, such as the palpitations of the heart that accompany feelings of pride, indignation, remorse, exaltation. A further characteristic is that they are sharp, clean-cut, vivid.
Note in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, the number, variety and vividness of the images:
"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. Be not her maid, since she is envious; Her vestal livery is but sick and green.... Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, Having some business, do entreat her eyes To twinkle in their spheres till they return. What if her eyes were there, they in her head? The brightness in her cheek would shame those stars, As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven Would through the airy regions stream so bright That birds would sing and think it were not night. See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!"
We may conclude, then, that three of the desirable attributes of great works of the imagination are number, variety and vividness of mental images.
One question that frequently arises concerning works of the imagination is, What is their source? Superficial thinkers have loosely answered, "Inspiration," implying, (according to the literal meaning of the word, "to breathe in"), that some mysterious external force (called by the ancients, "A Muse") enters into the mind of the author with a special revelation.
Psychological analysis of these imaginative works shows that this explanation is untrue. That the bizarre and apparently novel products arise from the experiences of the author, revived in imagination and combined in new ways. The horrendous incidents depicted in Dante's "Divine Comedy" never occurred within the lifetime experience of the author as such. Their separate elements did, however, and furnished the basis for Dante's clever combinations. The oft-heard saying that there is nothing new under the sun is psychologically true.
In the light of this brief analysis of products of the imagination we are ready to develop a program which we may follow in cultivating an active imagination.
Recognizing that images have their source in sensory experience, we see that the first step to take is to seek a multitude of experiences. Make intimate acquaintance with the objects of your environment. Handle them, tear them apart, put them together, place them next to other objects, noting the likenesses and differences. Thus you will acquire the stuff out of which images are made and will stock your mind with a number of images. Then when you wish to convey your ideas you will have a number of terms in which to do it—one of the characteristics of a free-flowing imagination.
The second characteristic we found to be variety. To secure this, seek a variety of sensational experiences. Perceive the objects of your experience through several senses—touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. By means of this variety in sensations you will secure corresponding variety in your images.
To revive them easily sometimes requires practice. For it has been discovered that all people do not naturally call up images related to the various senses with equal ease. Most people use visual and auditory images more freely than they do other kinds. In order to develop skill in evoking the others, practise recalling them. Sit down for an hour of practice, as you would sit down for an hour of piano practice. Try to recall the taste of raisins, English walnuts; the smell of hyacinths, of witch-hazel; the rough touch of an orange-skin. Though you may at first have difficulty you will develop, with practice, a gratifying facility in recalling all varieties of images.
The third characteristic which we observed in works of the imagination is vividness. To achieve this, pay close attention to the details of your sensory experiences. Observe sharply the minute but characteristic items—the accent mark on apres; the coarse stubby beard of the typical alley tough. Stock your mind with a wealth of such detailed impressions. Keep them alive by the kind of practice recommended in the preceding paragraph. Then describe the objects of your experience in terms of these significant details.
We discovered, in discussing the source of imaginative works, that the men whom we are accustomed to call imaginative geniuses do not have unique communication with heaven or with any external reservoir of ideas. Instead, we found their wonder-evoking creations to be merely new combinations of old images. The true secret of their success is their industrious utilization of past experiences according to the program outlined above. They select certain elements from their experiences and combine them in novel ways. This is the explanation of their strange, beautiful and bizarre productions. This is what Carlyle meant when he characterized genius as "the transcendent capacity for taking trouble" This is what Hogarth meant when he said, "Genius is nothing but labor and diligence." For concrete exemplification of this truth we need only turn to the autobiographies of great writers. In this passage from "John Barleycorn," Jack London describes his methods:
"Early and late I was at it—writing, typing, studying grammar, studying writing and all forms of writing, and studying the writers who succeeded in order to find out how they succeeded. I managed on five hours' sleep in the twenty-four, and came pretty close to working the nineteen waking hours left to me."
By saying that the novel effects of imagination come by way of industry, we do not mean to imply that one should strain after novelty and eccentricity. Unusual and happy combinations will come of themselves and naturally if one only makes a sufficient number.
There are laws of combination, known as the psychological laws of association, by which images will unite naturally. The number of possible combinations is infinite. By industriously making a large number, you will by the very laws of chance, stumble upon some that are especially happy and striking.
In summarizing this discussion, we may conclude that an active fertile imagination comes from crowding into one's life a large number of varied and vivid experiences; storing them up in the mind in the form of images; and industriously recalling and combining them in novel relationships. Mental images occur in other mental processes besides Imagination. They bulk importantly in memorizing, as we shall see in Chapters VI and VII; and in reasoning, as we shall see in Chapter IX. Throughout the book we shall find that as we develop ability to manipulate mental images, we shall increase the adaptability of all the mental processes.
READING AND EXERCISES
Reading: Dearborn (2) Chapter III.
Exercise 1. Call up in imagination the sound of your French instructor's voice as he says etudiant. Call up the appearance on the page of the conjugation of etre, present tense.
Exercise 2. Choose some word which you have had difficulty in learning. Look at it attentively, securing a perfectly clear impression of it; then practise calling up the visual image of it, until you secure perfect reproduction.
Exercise 3. List the different images called up by the passage from Romeo and Juliet.
FIRST AIDS TO MEMORY; IMPRESSION
Of all the mental operations employed by the student, memory is probably the one in which the greatest inefficiency is manifested. Though we often fail to realize it, much of our life is taken up with memorizing. Every time we make use of past experience, we rely upon this function of the mind, but in no occupation is it quite so practically important as in study. We shall begin our investigation of memory by dividing it into four phases or stages—Impression, Retention, Recall and Recognition. Any act of memory involves them all. There is first a stage when the material is being impressed; second, a stage when it is being retained so that it may be revived in the future; third, a stage of recall when the retained material is revived to meet present needs; fourth, a feeling of recognition, through which the material is recognized as having previously been in the mind.
Impression is accomplished through the sense organs; and in the foregoing chapter we laid down the rule: Guard the avenues of impression and admit only such things as you wish to retain. This necessitates that you go slowly at first. This is a principle of all habit formation, but is especially important in habits of memorizing. Much of the poor memory that people complain about is due to the fact that they make first impressions carelessly. One reason why people fail to remember names is that they do not get a clear impression of the name at the start. They are introduced in a hurry or the introducer mumbles; consequently no clear impression is secured. Under such circumstances how could one expect to retain and recall the name? Go slowly, then, in impressing material for the first time. As you look up the words of a foreign language in the lexicon, trying to memorize their English equivalents, take plenty of time. Obtain a clear impression of the sound and appearance of the words.
Inasmuch as impressions may be made through any of the sense organs, one problem in the improvement of memory concerns the choice of sense avenues. As an infant you used all senses impartially in your eager search after information. You voraciously put things into your mouth and discovered that some things were sweet, some sour. You bumped your head against things and learned that some were hard and some soft. In your insatiable curiosity you pulled things apart and peered into them; in short, utilized all the sense organs. In adult life, however, and in education as it takes place through the agency of books and instructors, most learning depends upon the eye and ear. Even yet, however, you learn many things through the sense of touch and through muscle movement, though you may be unaware of it. You probably have better success retaining impressions made upon one sense than another. The majority of people retain better things that are visually impressed. Such persons think often in terms of visual images. When thinking of water running from a faucet, they can see the water fall, see it splash, but have no trace of the sound. The whole event is noiseless in memory. When they think of their instructor, they can see him standing at his desk but cannot imagine the sound of his voice. When striving to think of the causes leading to the Civil War, they picture them as they are listed on the page of the text-book or note-book. Other people have not this ability to recall in visual terms, but depend to greater extent upon sounds. When asked to think about their instructor, they do it in terms of his voice. When asked to conjugate a French verb, they hear it pronounced mentally but do not see it on the page. These are extremes of imagery type, but they illustrate preferences as they are found in many persons. Some persons use all senses with ease; others unconsciously work out combinations, preferring one sense for some kinds of material and another for other kinds. For example, one might prefer visual impression for remembering dates in history but auditory impression for conjugating French verbs. You will find it profitable to examine yourself and discover your preferences. If you find that you have greater difficulty in remembering material impressed through the ear than through the eye, reduce things to visual terms as much as possible. Make your lecture notes more complete or tabulate things that you wish to remember, thus securing impression from the written form. The writer has difficulty in remembering names that are only heard. So he asks that the name be spelled, then projects the letters on an imaginary background, thus forming visual stuff which can easily be recalled. If, on the contrary, you remember best the things that you hear, you may find it a good plan to read your lessons aloud. Many a student, upon the discovery of such a preference, has increased his memory ability many fold by adopting the simple expedient of reading his lessons aloud. It might be pointed out that while you are reading aloud, you are making more than auditory impressions. By the use of the vocal organs you are making muscular impressions, which also aid in learning, as will be pointed out in Chapter X.
After this discussion do not jump to the conclusion that just because you find some difficulty in using one sense avenue for impression, it is therefore impossible to develop it. Facility in using particular senses can be gained by practice. To improve ability to form visual images of things, practise calling up visions of things. Try to picture a page of your history textbook. Can you see the headlines of the sections and the paragraphs? To develop auditory imagery, practise calling up sounds. Try to image your French instructor's voice in saying eleve. The development of these sense fields is a slow and laborious process and one questions whether it is worth while for a student to undertake the labor involved when another sense is already very efficient. Probably it is most economical to Arrange impressions so as to favor the sense that is already well developed and reliable.
Another important condition of impression is repetition. It is well known that material which is repeated several times is remembered more easily than that impressed but once. If two repetitions induce a given liability to recall, four or eight will secure still greater liability of recall. Your knowledge of brain action makes this rule intelligible, because you know the pathway is deepened every time the nervous current passes over it.
Experiments in the psychological laboratory have shown that it is best in making impressions to make more than enough impressions to insure recall. "If material is to be retained for any length of time, a simple mastery of it for immediate recall is not sufficient. It should be learned far beyond the point of immediate reproduction if time and energy are to be saved." This principle of learning points out the fact that there are two kinds of memory—immediate and deferred. The first kind involves recall immediately after impression is made; the second involves recall at some later time. It is a well-known fact that things learned a long time before they are to be recalled fade away. If you are not going to recall material until a long time after the impression, store up enough impressions so that you can afford to lose a few and still retain enough until time for recall. Another reason for "overlearning" is that when the time comes for recall you are likely to be disturbed. If it is a time of public performance, you may be embarrassed; or you may be hurried or under distractions. Accordingly you should have the material exceedingly well memorized so that these distractions will not prove detrimental.
The mere statement made above, that repetition is necessary in impression, is not sufficient. It is important to know how to distribute the repetitions. Suppose you are memorizing "Psalm of Life" to be recited a month from to-day, and that you require thirty repetitions of the poem to learn it. Shall you make these thirty repetitions at one sitting? Or shall you distribute them among several sittings? In general, it is better to spread the repetitions over a period of time. The question then arises, what is the most effective distribution? Various combinations are possible. You might rehearse the poem once a day during the month, or twice a day for the first fifteen days, or the last fifteen days, four times every fourth day, ad infinitum. In the face of these possibilities is there anything that will guide us in distributing the repetitions? We shall get some light on the question from an examination of the curve of forgetting—a curve that has been plotted showing the rate at which the mind tends to forget. Forgetting proceeds according to law, the curve descending rapidly at first and then more slowly. "The larger proportion of the material learned is forgotten the first day or so. After that a constantly decreasing amount is forgotten on each succeeding day for perhaps a week, when the amount remains practically stationary." This gives us some indication that the early repetitions should be closer together than those at the end of the period. So long as you are forgetting rapidly you will need more repetitions in order to counterbalance the tendency to forget. You might well make five repetitions; then rest. In about an hour, five more; within the next twenty-four hours, five more. By this time you should have the poem memorized, and all within two days. You would still have fifteen repetitions of the thirty, and these might be used in keeping the poem fresh in the mind by a repetition every other day.
As intimated above, one important principle in memorizing is to make the first impressions as early as possible, for older impressions have many chances of being retained. This is evidenced by the vividness of childhood scenes in the minds of our grandparents. An old soldier recalls with great vividness events that happened during the Civil War, but forgets events of yesterday. There is involved here a principle of nervous action that you have already encountered; namely, that impressions are more easily made and retained in youth. It should also be observed that pathways made early have more chances of being used than those made recently. Still another peculiarity of nervous action is revealed in these extended periods of memorizing. It has been discovered that if a rest is taken between impressions, the impressions become more firmly fixed. This points to the presence of a surprising power, by which we are able to learn, as it were, while we sleep. We shall understand this better if we try to imagine what is happening in the nervous system. Processes of nutrition are constantly going on. The blood brings in particles to repair the nerve cells, rebuilding them according to the pattern left by the last impression. Indeed, the entrance of this new material makes the impression even more fixed. The nutritional processes seem to set the impression much as a hypo bath fixes or sets an impression on a photographic plate. This peculiarity of memory led Professor James to suggest, paradoxically, that we learn to skate in summer and to swim in winter. And, indeed, one usually finds, in beginning the skating season, that after the initial stiffness of muscles wears off, one glides along with surprising agility. You see then that if you plan things rightly, Nature will do much of your learning for you. It might be suggested that perhaps things impressed just before going to sleep have a better chance to "set" than things impressed at other times for the reason that sleep is the time when the reparative processes of the body are most active.
Since the brain pattern requires time to "set," it is important that after the first impression you refrain from introducing anything immediately into the mind that might disturb it. After you have impressed the poem you are memorizing, do not immediately follow it by another poem. Let the brain rest for three or four minutes until after the first impressions have had a chance to "set."
Now that we have regarded this "unconscious memorizing" from the neurological standpoint, let us consider it from the psychological standpoint. How are the ideas being modified during the intervals between impressions? Modern psychology has discovered that much memorizing goes on without our knowing it, paradoxical as that may seem. The processes may be described in terms of the doctrine of association, which is that whenever two things have once been associated together in the mind, there is a tendency thereafter "if the first of them recurs, for the other to come with it." After the poem of our illustration has once been repeated, there is a tendency for events in everyday experience that are like it to associate themselves with it. For example, in the course of a day or week many things might arise and recall to you the line, "Life is real, life is earnest", and it would become, by that fact, more firmly fixed in the mind. This valuable semi-conscious recall requires that you must make the first impression as early as possible before the time for ultimate recall. This persistence of ideas in the mind means "that the process of learning does not cease with the actual work of learning, but that, if not disturbed, this process runs on of itself for a time, and adds a little to the result of our labors. It also means that, if it is to our advantage to stand in readiness with some word or thought, we shall be able to do so, if only this word or thought recur to us but once, some time before the critical moment. So we remember to keep a promise to pay a call, to make a remark at the proper time, even though we turn our mind to other work or talk for some hours between. We can do this because, if not vigorously prevented, ideas and words keep on reappearing in the mind." You may utilize this principle in theme-writing to good advantage. As soon as the instructor announces the subject for a theme, begin to think about it. Gather together all the ideas you have about the subject and start your mind to work upon it. Suppose you take as a theme-subject The Value of Training in Public Speaking for a Business Man. The first time this is suggested to you, a few thoughts, at least, will come to you. Write them down, even though they are disconnected and heterogeneous. Then as you go about your other work you will find a number of occasions that will arouse ideas bearing upon this subject. You may read in a newspaper of a brilliant speech made before the Chamber of Commerce by a leading business man, which will serve as an illustration to support your affirmative position; or you may attend a banquet where a prominent business man disappoints his audience with a wretched speech. Such experiences, and many others, bearing more or less directly upon the subject, will come to you, and will call up the theme-subject, with which they will unite themselves. Write down these ideas as they occur, and you will find that when you start to compose the theme formally, it almost writes itself, requiring for the most part only expansion and arrangement of ideas. While thus organizing the theme you will reap even more benefits from your early start, for, as you are composing it, you will find new ideas crowding in upon you which you did not know you possessed, but which had been associating themselves in your mind with this topic even when you were unaware of the fact.
In writing themes, the principle of distribution of time may also be profitably employed. After you have once written a theme, lay it aside for a while—perhaps a week. Then when you take it up, read it in a detached manner and you will note many places where it may be improved. These benefits are to be enjoyed only when a theme is planned a long time ahead. Hence the rule to start as early as possible.
Before leaving the subject of theme-writing, which was called up by the discussion of unconscious memory, another suggestion will be given that may be of service to you. When correcting a theme, employ more than one sense avenue. Do not simply glance over it with your eye. Read it aloud, either to yourself or, better still, to someone else. When you do this you will be amazed to discover how different it sounds and what a new view you secure of it. When you thus change your method of composition, you will find a new group of ideas thronging into your mind. In the auditory rendition of a theme you will discover faults of syntax which escaped you in silent reading. You will note duplication of words, split infinitives, mixed tenses, poorly balanced sentences. Moreover, if your mind has certain peculiarities, you may find even more advantages accruing from such a practice. The author, for example, has a slightly different set of ideas at his disposal according to the medium of expression employed. When writing with a pencil, one set of ideas comes to mind; with a typewriter slightly different ideas arise; when talking to an audience, still different ideas. Three sets of ideas and three vocabularies are thus available for use on any subject. In adopting this device of composing through several mediums, you should combine with it the principle of distributing time already discussed in connection with repetition of impressions. Write a theme one day, then lay it aside for a few days and go back to it with a fresh mind. The rests will be found very beneficial in helping you to get a new viewpoint of the subject.