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How to Teach by George Drayton Strayer and Naomi Norsworthy

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Two further suggestions in habit formation which grow out of the above
laws should be borne in mind. The first is the effect of primacy. In
everyday language, "first impressions last longest." The character of
the first responses made in any given situation have great influence on
all succeeding responses. They make the strongest impression, they are
the hardest to eradicate. From a physiological point of view the
explanation is evident. A connection untraversed or used but a few times
is much more plastic than later when it has been used often. Hence the
first time the connection is used gives a greater set or bent than any
equal subsequent activity. This is true both of the nervous system as a
whole and of any particular conduction unit. Thus impressions made in
childhood count more than those of the same strength made later. The
first few attempts in pronouncing foreign words fixes the pronunciation.
The first few weeks in a subject or in dealing with any person
influences all subsequent responses to a marked degree.

The second suggestion has to do with the effect of exceptions. James
says, "Never allow an exception to occur" in the course of forming a
habit. Not only will the occurrence of one exception make more likely
its recurrence, but if the exception does not recur, at least the
response is less sure and less accurate than it otherwise would be. It
tends to destroy self-confidence or confidence in the one who allowed
the exception. Sometimes even one exception leads to disastrous
consequences and undoes the work of weeks and months. This is especially
true in breaking a bad habit or in forming a new one which has some
instinctive response working against it.

There has been a great deal of work done in experimental laboratories
and elsewhere in the study of the formation of particular habits. The
process of habit formation has been shown by learning curves. When these
learning curves are compared, it becomes clear that they have certain
characteristics in common. This is true whether the learning be directed
to such habits as the acquisition of vocabularies in a foreign language
or to skill in the use of a typewriter. Several of the most important
characteristics follow.

In the first place it is true of all learning that there is rapid
improvement at first. During the beginning of the formation of a habit
more rapid advance is made than at any other time. There are two
principal reasons for this fact. The adjustments required at the
beginning are comparatively simple and easily made and the particular
learning is new and therefore is undertaken with zest and interest.
After a time the work becomes more difficult, the novelty wears off,
therefore the progress becomes less marked and the curve shows

Another characteristic of the learning curve is the presence of the
so-called "plateaus." Plateaus show in the curve as flat, level
stretches during which there has apparently been no progress. The
meaning of these level stretches, and whether or not they can be
entirely done away with in any curve, is a matter of dispute. These
pauses may be necessary for some of the habits to reach a certain degree
of perfection before further progress can be made. However this may be,
there are several minor causes which tend to increase the number of
plateaus and to lengthen the time spent in any one. In the first place
an insecure or an inaccurate foundation must result in an increase of
plateaus. If at the beginning, during the initial spurt, for instance,
the learner is allowed to go so fast that what he learns is not
thoroughly learned, or if he is pushed at a pace that for him makes
thoroughness impossible, plateaus must soon occur in his learning curve.
In the second place a fruitful cause of plateaus is loss of
interest,--monotony. If the learner is not interested, he will not put
forth the energy necessary for continued improvement, and a time of no
progress is the result. The attitude of the learner toward the work is
extremely important, not only in the matter of interest, but in the
further attitude of self-confidence. Discouragement usually results in
hindering progress, whereas confidence tends to increase it. The
psychological explanation of this is very evident. Both lack of interest
in the learning and the presence of discouragement are likely to result
in divided attention and that, as has already been shown, results in
unsatisfactory work. A third cause for plateaus is physiological. Not
only must the learner be in the right attitude towards the work, but he
must feel physically "fit." There seem to be certain physiological
rhythms that may disturb the learning process whose cause cannot be
directly determined, but generally the feeling of unfitness can be
traced to a simple cause,--such as physical illness, loss of sleep,
exercise, or food, or undue emotional strain.

The older psychology has left an impression that improvement in any
function is limited both as to amount and as to the period during which
it must be attained. The physiological limit of improvement has been
thought of as one which was rather easily reached. The loss of
plasticity of the nervous system has been supposed to be rather rapid,
so that marked improvement in a habit after one has passed well into the
twenties was considered improbable. Recent experiments, however, seem to
show that no such condition of affairs exists. There is very great
probability that any function whatsoever is improvable with practice,
and in most cases to a very marked degree. To find a function which has
reached the physiological limit has been very rare, even in experimental
research, and even with extended practice series it has been unusual to
reach a stage of zero improvement even with adults. Thorndike says, "Let
the reader consider that if he should now spend seven hours, well
distributed, in mental multiplication with three place numbers, he would
thereby much more than double his speed and also reduce his errors; or
that, by forty hours of practice, he could come to typewrite (supposing
him to now have had zero practice) approximately as fast as he can write
by hand; or that, starting from zero knowledge, he could learn to copy
English into German script at a rate of fifty letters per minute, in
three hours or a little more."[3] It is probably true that the majority
of adults are much below their limit of efficiency in most of the habits
required by their profession, and that in school habits the same thing
is true of children. Spurious levels of accomplishment have been held up
as worthy goals, and efficiency accepted as ultimate which was only two
thirds, and often less than that, of what was possible. Of course it may
not be worth the time and energy necessary to obtain improvement in
certain lines,--that must be determined by the particular case,--but the
point is, that improvement; is possible with both children and adults in
almost every habit they possess with comparatively little practice.
Neither the physiological limit of a function nor the age limit of the
individual is reached as easily or as soon as has been believed.

There are certain aids to improvement which must be used in order that
the best results may be obtained. Some of them have already been
discussed and others will be discussed at a later time, so they need
only be listed here, the right physiological conditions, the proper
distribution of the practice periods, interest in the work, interest in
improvement, problem attitude, attention, and absence of both excitement
and worry.

Habits have been treated in psychology as wholes, just as if each habit
was a unit. This has been true, whether the habits being discussed were
moral habits, such as sharing toys with a younger brother; intellectual
habits, such as reading and understanding the meaning of the word "and";
or motor habits, such as sitting straight. The slightest consideration
of these habits makes obvious that they differ tremendously in
complexity. The moral habit quoted involves both intellectual and motor
habits--and not one, but several. From a physiological point of view,
this difference in the complexity of habits is made clear by an
examination of the number of neural bonds used in getting the habit
response to a given situation. In some cases they are comparatively
few--in others the number necessary is astonishing. In no case of habit
will the bonds used involve but a single connection.

Just what bonds are needed in order that a child may learn to add, or to
spell, to appreciate music, or to be industrious, is a question that
only experiment and investigation can answer. At present but little is
known as to just what happens, just what connections are formed, when
from the original tendency towards vocalization the child just learns to
say the word "milk," later reads it, and still later writes it. One
thing is certain, the process is not a unitary one, nor is it a simple
one. Just so long as habit is discussed in general terms, without any
recognition of the complexity of the process or to the specific bonds
involved, just so long will the process of habit formation be wasteful
and inefficient.

As a sample of the kind of work being done in connection with special
habits, investigation seems to give evidence that in the habit of simple
column addition eight or nine distinct functions are involved, each of
which involves the use of several bonds. Besides these positive
connections, a child in learning must inhibit other connections which
are incorrect, and these must often outnumber the correct ones. And yet
column addition has always been treated as a simple habit--with perhaps
one element of complexity, when carrying was involved. It is evident
that, if the habit concerned does involve eight or nine different
functions, a child might go astray in any one. His difficulty in forming
the habit might be in connection with one or several of the processes
involved. Knowledge on the part of the teacher of these different steps
in the habit, and appreciation by him of the possibilities of making
errors, are the prerequisites of efficient teaching of habits.

In each one of the subjects there is much need of definite experimental
work, in order that the specific bonds necessary in forming the habits
peculiar to the subject be determined. The psychology of arithmetic, or
of physics, or of spelling should involve such information. Meanwhile
every teacher can do much if she will carefully stop and think just what
she is requiring in the given response. An analysis of the particular
situation and response will make clear at least some of the largest
elements involved, some of the most important connections to be made. It
is the specific nature of the connections to be made and the number of
those connections that need emphasis in the teaching of habits. Not only
must the specific nature of the bonds involved in individual habits be
stressed, but also the specific nature of the entire complex which is
called the habit. There is no such thing as a general curve of learning
that will apply equally well, no matter what the habit. The kind of
curve, the rate of improvement, the possibilities of plateaus, the
permanence of the improvement, all these facts and others vary with the
particular habit.

In habit formation, as is the case in other types of activity, we get
the most satisfactory results only when we secure a maximum of interest
in the work to be done. The teacher who thinks that she can get
satisfactory results merely by compelling children to repeat over and
over again the particular form to be mastered is doomed to
disappointment. Indeed, it is not infrequently true that the dislike
which children get for the dreary exercises which have little or no
meaning for them interferes to such a degree with the formation of the
habit we hope to secure as to develop a maximum of inaccuracies rather
than any considerable improvement. The teacher who makes a game out of
her word drill in beginning reading may confidently expect to have
children recognize more words the next day than one who has used the
same amount of time, without introducing the motive which has made
children enjoy their work. Children who compare their handwriting with a
scale, which enables them to tell what degree of improvement they have
made over a given period, are much more apt to improve than are children
who are merely asked to fill up sheets of paper with practice writing. A
vocabulary in a modern language will be built up more certainly if
students seek to make a record in the mastery of some hundreds or
thousands of words during a given period, rather than merely to do the
work which is assigned from day to day. A group of boys in a
continuation school have little difficulty in mastering the habits which
are required in order to handle the formal processes in arithmetic, or
to apply the formula of algebra or trigonometry, if the application of
these habitual responses to their everyday work has been made clear.
Wherever we seek to secure an habitual response we should attempt to
have children understand the use to which the given response is to be
put, or, if this is not possible, to introduce some extraneous motive
which will give satisfaction.

We cannot be too careful in the habits which we seek to have children
form to see to it that the first response is correct. It is well on many
occasions, if we have any doubt as to the knowledge of children, to
anticipate the response which they should give, and to make them
acquainted with it, rather than to allow them to engage in random
guessing. The boy who in writing his composition wishes to use a word
which he does not know how to spell, should feel entirely free to ask
the teacher for the correct spelling, unless there is a dictionary at
hand which he knows how to use. It is very much better for a boy to ask
for a particular form in a foreign language, or to refer to his grammar,
than it is for him to use in his oral or written composition a form
concerning which he is not certain. A mistake made in a formula in
algebra, or in physics, may persist, even after many repetitions might
seem to have rendered the correct form entirely automatic.

In matters of habit it does not pay to take it for granted that all have
mastered the particular forms which have supposedly been taught, and it
never pays to attempt to present too much at any one time. More
satisfactory work in habit formation would commonly be done were we to
_teach_ fewer words in any one spelling lesson, or attempt to fix fewer
combinations in any particular drill lesson in arithmetic, or assign a
part of a declension or conjugation in a foreign language, or to be
absolutely certain that one or two formulas were fixed in algebra or in
chemistry, rather than in attempting to master several on the same day.
Teachers ought constantly to ask themselves whether every member of the
class is absolutely sure and absolutely accurate in his response before
attempting new work. It is of the utmost importance that particular
difficulties be analyzed, and that attention be fixed upon that which is
new, or that which presents some unusual difficulty.

As has already been implied, it is important not simply to start with as
strong a motive as possible, but it is also necessary to keep attention
concentrated during the exercises which are supposed to result in habit
formation. However strong the motive for the particular work may have
been at the beginning, it is likely after a few minutes to lack power,
if the particular exercise is continued in exactly the same form. Much
is to be gained by varying the procedure. Oral work alternated with
written work, concert work alternated with individual testing, the
setting of one group over against another, the attempt to see how much
can be done in a given period of minutes,--indeed, any device which will
keep attention fixed is to be most eagerly sought for. In all practice
it is important that the pupil strive to do his very best. If the ideal
of accuracy or of perfection in form is once lost sight of, the
responses given may result in an actual loss rather than in gain in
fixing the habit. When a teacher is no longer able to secure attention
to the work in hand, it is better to stop rather than to continue in
order to provide for a given number of repetitions. Drill periods of
from five to fifteen minutes two or three times a day may almost always
be found to produce better results than the same amount of time used
consecutively. Systematic reviews are most essential in the process of
habit formation. The complaint of a fifth-grade teacher that the work in
long division was not properly taught in the fourth grade may be due in
considerable measure to the fact that she has neglected at the beginning
of the fifth grade's work to spend a week or two in careful or
systematic review of the work covered in the previous year. The
complaint of high school teachers that children are not properly taught
in the elementary school would often be obviated if in each of the
fields in question some systematic review were given from time to time,
especially at the beginning of the work undertaken, in any particular
subject which involves work previously done in the elementary school.
During any year's work that teacher will be most successful who reviews
each day the work of the day before, who reviews each third or fourth
day the particularly difficult parts of the work done during the
previous periods, who reviews each week and each month, and even each
two or three months, the work which has been covered up to that time.
When teachers understand that the intervals between repetitions which
seem to have fixed a habit may only be gradually lengthened, then will
the formation of habits upon the part of boys and girls become more
certain, and the difficulties arising from lapses and inaccuracies
become less frequent.

As has been suggested in previous discussions, it will be necessary in
habit formation to vary the requirements among the individuals who
compose a group. The motive which we seek to utilize may make a greater
appeal to one child than to another. Physiological differences may
account for the fact that a small number of repetitions will serve to
fix the response for one individual as over against a very much larger
number of repetitions required for another. It is of the utmost
importance that all children work up to the maximum of their capacity.
It is very much better, for example, to excuse a boy entirely from a
given drill exercise than to have him dawdle or loaf during the period.
In some fields a degree of efficiency may be reached which will permit
the most efficient children to be relieved entirely from certain
exercises in order that they may spend their time on other work. On the
other hand, those who are less capable may need to have special drill
exercises arranged which will help them to make up their deficiency. The
teacher who is acquainted with the psychology of habit formation should
secure from the pupils in her class a degree of efficiency which is not
commonly found in our schools.


1. In what sense is it true that we have habits of thought?

2. What habits which may interfere with or aid in your school work are
formed before children enter school?

3. Why is it hard to break a habit of speech?

4. Distinguish among actions to which we attribute a moral significance
those which are based upon habit and those which are reasoned.

5. Professor James said, "Habits are the stuff of which behavior
consists." Indicate the extent to which this is true for the children in
your classes.

6. In how far is it advantageous to become a creature of habit?

7. Which of our actions should be the result of reason?

8. Should school children reason their responses in case of a fire
alarm, in passing pencils, in formal work in arithmetic? Name responses
which should be the result of reason; others which should be habitual.

9. Why do we sometimes become less efficient when we fix our attention
upon an action that is ordinarily habitual?

10. Why do children sometimes write more poorly, or make more mistakes
in addition, or in their conjugations or declensions, at the end of the
period than they do at the beginning?

11. How would you hope to correct habits of speech learned at home? What
particular difficulty is involved?

12. When, are repetitions most helpful in habit formation?

13. When may repetitions actually break down or eliminate habitual

14. How may the keeping of a record of one's improvement add in the
formation of a habit?

15. What motives have you found most usable in keeping attention
concentrated during the exercises in habit formation which you conduct?

16. The approval or disapproval of a group of boys and girls often
brings about a very rapid change in physical, moral, or mental habits on
the part of individual children. Why?

17. Why should drill work be discontinued when children grow tired and
cease to concentrate their attention?

18. Why should reviews be undertaken at the beginning of a year's work?
How can reviews be organized to best advantage during the year?

19. What provision do you make in your work to guard against lapses?

* * * * *


There is no sharp distinction between habit and memory. Both are
governed by the general laws of association. They shade off into each
other, and what one might call habit another with equal reason might
call memory. Their likenesses are greater than their differences.
However, there is some reason for treating the topic of association
under these two heads. The term memory has been used by different
writers to mean at least four different types of association. It has
been used to refer to the presence of mental images; to refer to the
consciousness of a feeling or event as belonging to one's own past
experience; to refer to the presence of connections between situation
and motor response; and to refer to the ability to recall the
appropriate response to a particular situation. The last meaning of the
term is the one which will be used here. The mere flow of imagery is not
memory, and it matters little whether the appropriate response be
accompanied by the time element and the personal element or not. In
fact, most of the remembering which is done in daily life lacks these
two elements.

Memory then is the recall of the appropriate response in a given
situation. It differs from habit in that the responses referred to are
more often mental rather than motor; in that it is less automatic, more
purposeful. The fact that the elements involved are so largely mental
makes it true that the given fact is usually found to have several
connections and the given situation to be connected with many facts.
Which particular one will be "appropriate" will depend on all sorts of
subtle factors, hence the need of the control of the connection aeries
by a purpose and the diminishing of the element of automaticity. As was
said before, there is no hard and fast line of division between habit
and memory. The recall of the "sqrt(64)" or of how to spell "home" or of
the French for "table" might be called either or both. All that was said
in the discussion of habit applies to memory.

This ability to recall appropriate facts in given situations is
dependent primarily on three factors: power of retention, number of
associations, organization of associations. The first factor, power of
retention, is the most fundamental and to some extent limits the
usefulness of the other two. It is determined by the character of the
neurones and varies with different brains. Neurones which are easily
impressed and retain their impression simply because they are so made
are the gift of nature and the corner stone of a good memory. This
retention power is but little, if at all, affected by practice. It is a
primary quality of the nervous system, present or absent to the degree
determined by each individual's original nature. Hence memory as a whole
cannot be unproved, although the absence of certain conditions may mean
that it is not being used up to its maximum capacity. Change in these
conditions, then, will enable a person to make use of all the native
retentiveness his nervous system has. One of the most important of these
conditions is good health. To the extent that good blood, sleep,
exercise, etc., put the nervous system in better tone, to that extent
the retentive power present is put in better working order. Every one
knows how lack of sleep and illness is often accompanied by loss in
memory. Repetition, attention, interest, vividness of impression, all
appeal primarily to this so-called "brute memory," or retentive power.
Pleasurable results seem not to be quite so important, and repetition to
be more so when the connections are between mental states instead of
between mental states and motor responses. An emphasis on, or an
improvement in, the use of any one of these factors may call into play
to a greater extent than before the native retentive power of a given

The power to recall a fact or an event depends not only upon this
quality of retentiveness, but also upon the number of other facts or
events connected with it. Each one of these connections serves as an
avenue of approach, a clew by means of which the recall may operate. Any
single blockade therefore may not hinder the recall, provided there are
many associates. This is true, no matter how strong the retentive power
may be. It is doubly important if the retentive power is weak. Suppose a
given fact to be held rather weakly because of comparatively poor
retentive power, then the operation of one chain of associates may not
be energetic enough to recall it. But if this same fact may be
approached from several different angles by means of several chains of
associations, the combined power of the activity in the several neurone
chains will likely be enough to lift it above the threshold of recall.
Other things being equal, the likelihood that a needed fact will be
recalled is in proportion to the number of its associations.

The third factor upon which goodness in memory depends is the
organization of associates. Number of connections is an aid to
memory--but systematization among these connections is an added help.
Logical arrangement of facts in memory, classification according to
various principles, orderly grouping of things that belong together,
make the operation of memory more efficient and economical. The
difference between mere number of associations and orderly arrangement
of those associations may be illustrated by the difference in efficiency
between the housekeeper who starts more or less blindly to look all over
the house for a lost article, and the one who at least knows that it
must be in a certain room and probably in a certain bureau drawer.
Although memory as a whole cannot be improved because of the limiting
power of native retentiveness, memory for any fact or in any definite
field may be improved by emphasizing these two factors: number of
associations and organization among associations.

Although all three factors are operative in securing the best type of
memory, still the efficiency of a given memory may be due more to the
unusual power of one of them than to the combined effect of the three.
It is this difference in the functioning of these three factors which is
primarily responsible for certain types of memory which will be
discussed later. It must also be borne in mind that the power of these
factors to operate in determining recall varies somewhat with age.
Little children and old people are more dependent upon mere
retentiveness than upon either of the others, the former because of lack
of experience and lack of habits of thought, the latter because of the
loss of both of these factors. The adult depends more on the
organization of his material, while in the years between the number of
the clews is probably the controlling factor. Here again there is no
sharp line of division; all three are needed. So in the primary grades
we begin to require children to organize, and as adults we do all we can
to make the power of retention operate at its maximum.

Many methods of memorizing have been used by both children and adults.
Recently experimental psychology has been testing some of them. So far
as the learner is concerned, he may use repetition, or concentration, or
recall as a primary method. Repetition means simply the going over and
over again the material to be learned--the element depended upon being
the number of times the connection is made. Concentration means going
over the material with attention. Not the number of connections is
important, but the intensity of those connections. In recall the
emphasis is laid upon reinstating the desired connections from within.
In using this method, for instance, the learner goes over the material
as many times as he sees necessary, then closes the book and recalls
from memory what he can of it.

The last of the three methods is by far the best, whether the memory
desired be rote or logical, for several reasons. In the first place it
involves both the other methods or goes beyond them. Second, it is
economical, for the learner knows when he knows the lesson. Third, it is
sure, for it establishes connections as they will be used--in other
words, the learning provides for recall, which is the thing desired,
whereas the other two methods establish only connections of impression.
Fourth, it tends to establish habits that are of themselves worth while,
such as assuming responsibility for getting results, testing one's own
power and others. Fifth, it encourages the use of the two factors upon
which memory depends, which are most capable of development, _i.e.,_
number and organization of associations.

In connection with the use of the material two methods have been
employed--the part method and the whole method. The learner may break
the material up into sections, and study just one, then the next, and so
on, or he may take all the material and go through with it from the
beginning to the end and then back again. Experimental results show the
whole method to be the better of the two. However, in actual practice,
especially with school children, probably a combination of the two is
still better, because of certain difficulties arising from the exclusive
use of the whole method. The advantages of the whole method are that it
forms the right connections and emphasizes the complete thought and
therefore saves time and gives the right perspective. Its difficulties
are that the material is not all of equal difficulty and therefore it is
wasteful to put the same amount of time on all parts; it is discouraging
to the learner, as no part may be raised above the threshold of recall
at the first study period (particularly true if it is rote memory); it
is difficult to use recall, if the whole method is rigidly adhered to. A
combination of the two is therefore wise. The learner should be
encouraged to go over the material from beginning to end, until the
difficult parts become apparent, then to concentrate on these parts for
a time and again go over from the beginning--using recall whenever

A consideration of the time element involved in memorizing has given use
to two other methods, the so-called concentrated and distributive. Given
a certain amount of time to spend on a certain subject, the learner may
distribute it in almost an infinite number of ways, varying not only the
length of the period of practice, but also the length of time elapsing
between periods. The experimental work done in connection with these
methods has not resulted in agreement. No doubt there is an optimum
length of period for practice and an optimum interval, but too many
factors enter in to make any one statement. "The experimental results
justify in a rough way the avoidance of very long practice periods and
of very short intervals. They seem to show, on the other hand, that much
longer practice periods than are customary in the common schools are
probably entirely allowable, and that much shorter intervals are
allowable than those customary between the just learning and successive
'reviews' in schools."[4] This statement leaves the terms very long and
very short to be defined, but at present the experimental results are
too contradictory to permit of anything more specific. However, a few
suggestions do grow from these results. The practice period should be
short in proportion as these factors are present: first, young or
immature minds; second, mechanical mental processes as opposed to
thought material; third, a learner who "warms up" quickly; the presence
of fatigue; a function near its limit. Thus the length of the optimum
period must vary with the age of the learner, the subject matter, the
stage of proficiency in the subject, and the particular learner. The
same facts must be taken into consideration in deciding on the optimum
interval. One fact seems pretty well established in connection with the
interval, and that is that a comparatively short period of practice with
a review after a night's rest counts more than a much longer period
added to the time spent the evening before.

There are certain suggestions which if carried out help the learner in
his memorizing. In the first place, as the number of associates is one
factor determining recall, the fact to be remembered should be presented
in many ways, _i.e.,_ appealing to as many senses as possible. In
carrying this out, it has been the practice of many teachers to require
the material to be remembered to be acted out or written. This is all
right in so far as the muscular reactions required are mechanical and
take little attention. If, on the other hand, the child has to give much
attention to how he is to dramatize it, or if writing in itself is as
yet a partially learned process, the attention must be divided between
the fact to be memorized and its expression, and hence the desired
result is not accomplished. Colvin claims that "writing is not an aid to
learning until the sixth or seventh grade in the schools." This same
fact that an association only partly known is a hindrance rather than a
help in fixing another is often violated both in teaching spelling and
language. If the spelling of "two" is unknown or only partly known, it
is a hindrance instead of a help to teach it at the same time "too" is
being taught. Second, the learner should be allowed to find his own
speed, as it varies tremendously with the individual. Third, rhythm is
always an aid when it can be used, such as learning the number of days
in each month in rhyme. Fourth, after a period of hard mental work a few
minutes (Pillsbury thinks three to six) should elapse before definitely
taking up a new line of work. This allows for the so-called "setting" of
associations, due to the action of the general law of inertia, and tends
to diminish the possibility of interference from the bonds called into
play by the new work. Fifth, mnemonic devices of simple type are
sometimes an aid. Most of these devices are of questionable value, as
they themselves require more memory work than the facts they are
supposed to be fixing. However, if devised by the learner, or if
suggested by some one else after failure on the part of the learner to
fix the material, they are permissible.

Memory has been classified in various ways, according to the time
element, as immediate and permanent. Immediate memory is the one which
holds for a short time, whereas permanent memory holds for a long time.
People differ markedly in this respect. Some can if tested after the
study period reproduce the material with a high degree of accuracy, but
lose most of it in a comparatively short time. Others, if tested in the
same way, reproduce less immediately, but hold what they have over a
long period. Children as a whole differ from adults in having poorer
immediate memories, but in holding what is fixed through years. Of
course permanent memory is the more valuable of the two types for most
of life, but on the other hand immediate memory has its own special
value. Lawyers, physicians, politicians, ministers, lecturers, all need
great power of immediate memory in their particular professions. They
need to be able to hold a large amount of material for a short time, but
then they may forget a great deal of it.

Memory is also classified according to the arrangement of the material
as desultory, rote, and logical memory. In desultory memory the facts
just "stick" because of the great retentive power of the brain, there
are few connections, the material is disconnected and disjointed. Rote
memory depends on a special memory for words, aided by serial
connections and often rhythm. Logical is primarily a memory for meanings
and depends upon arrangement and system for its power. Little children
as a class have good desultory memories and poor logical memories. Rote
memory is probably at its best in the pre-adolescent and early
adolescent years. Logical memory is characteristic of mature, adult
minds. However, some people excel in one rather than another type, and
each renders its own peculiar service. A genius in any line finds a good
desultory memory of immense help, despite the fact that logical memory
is the one he finds most valuable. Teachers, politicians, linguists,
clerks, waiters, and others need a well-developed desultory memory. Rote
memory is, of course, necessary if an individual is to make a success as
an actor, a singer, or a musician.

According to the rate of acquisition memory has been classified into
quick and slow. One learner gets his material so much more quickly than
another. Up to rather recent years the quick learner has been
commiserated, for we believed, "quickly come, quickly go." Experimental
results have proved this not to be true, but in fact the reverse is more
true, _i.e.,_ "quickly come, slowly go." The one who learns quickly,
provided he really learns it, retains it just as long and on the average
longer than the one who learns much more slowly. The danger, from a
practical point of view, is that the quick learner, because of his
ability, gets careless and learns the material only well enough to
reproduce at the time, whereas the slow learner, because of his lack of
ability, raises his efficiency to a higher level and therefore retains.
If the quick learner had spent five minutes more on the material, he
would have raised his work to the same level as that of the slow one and
yet have finished in perhaps half the time.

All through the discussion of kinds of memory the term "memory" should
have been used in the plural, for after all we possess "memories" and
not a single faculty memory which may be quick, or desultory, or
permanent. The actual condition of affairs is much more complex, for
although it has been the individual who has been designated as quick or
logical, it would be much more accurate to designate the particular
memory. The same person may have a splendid desultory memory for gossip
and yet in science be of the logical type. In learning French
vocabularies he may have only a good immediate memory, whereas his
memory for faces may be most lasting. His ability to learn facts in
history may class him as a quick learner, whereas his slowness in
learning music may be proverbial. The degree to which quickness of
learning or permanence of memory in one line is correlated with that
same ability in others has not yet been ascertained. That there is some
correlation is probable, but at present the safest way is to think in
terms of special memories and special acquisitions. Some experimental
work has been done to discover the order in which special memories
develop in children. The results, however, are not in agreement and the
experiments themselves are unsatisfactory. That there is some more or
less definite order of development, paralleling to a certain extent the
growth of instincts, is probable, but nothing more definite is known
than observation teaches. For instance, every observer of children knows
that memory for objects develops before memory for words; that memory
for gestures preceded memory for words; that memory for oral language
preceded memory for written language; that memory for concrete objects
preceded memory for abstractions. Further knowledge of the development
of special memories should be accompanied by knowledge as to how far
this development is dependent on training and to what extent lack of
memory involves lack of understanding before it can be of much practical
value to the teacher.

Just as repetition or exercise tends to fix a fact in memory, so disuse
of a connection results in the fact fading from memory. "Forgetting" is
a matter of everyday experience for every one. The rate of forgetting
has been the subject of experimental work. Ebbinghaus's investigation is
the historical one. The results from this particular series of
experiments are as follows: During the first hour after study over half
of what was learned had been forgotten; at the end of the first day two
thirds, and at the end of a month about four fifths. These results have
been accepted as capable of rather general application until within the
last few years. Recent experiments in learning poetry, translation of
French into English, practice in addition and multiplication, learning
to toss balls and to typewrite, and others, make clear that there is no
general curve of forgetting. The rate of forgetting is more rapid soon
after the practice period than later, but the total amount forgotten and
the rate of deterioration depend upon the particular function tested. No
one function can serve as a sample for others. No one curve of
forgetting exists for different functions at the same stage of
advancement or for the same function at different stages of advancement
in the same individual, much less for different functions, at different
stages of advancement, in different individuals. Much more experimental
work is needed before definite general results can be stated.

This experimental work, however, is suggestive along several lines, (1)
It seems possible that habits of skill, involving direct sensori-motor
bonds, are more permanent than memories involving connections between
association bonds. In other words, that physical habits are more lasting
than memories of intellectual facts. (2) Overlearning seems a necessary
correlate of permanence of connection. That is, what seems to be
overlearning at beginning stages is really only raising the material to
the necessary level above the threshold for retention. How far
overlearning is necessary and when it becomes wasteful are yet to be
determined. (3) Deterioration is hastened by competing connections. If
during the time a particular function is lying idle other bonds of
connection are being formed into some parts or elements of it, the rate
of forgetting of the function in question is hastened and the
possibility of recall made more problematic. The less the interference,
the greater will be the permanence of the particular bonds.

A belief maintained by some psychologists is in direct opposition to
this general law that disuse causes deterioration. It is usually stated
something like this, that periods of incubation are necessary in
acquiring skill, or that letting a function lie fallow results in
greater skill at the end of that period, or briefly one learns to skate
in summer and swim in winter. To some extent this is true, but as stated
it is misleading. The general law of the effect of disuse on a memory is
true, but under some circumstances its effect is mitigated by the
presence of other factors whose presence has been unnoted. Sometimes
this improvement without practice is explained by the fact that at the
last practice period the actual improvement was masked by fatigue or
boredom, so that disuse involving rest and the disappearance of fatigue
and boredom produces apparent gain, when in reality it but allows the
real improvement to become evident. Sometimes a particular practice
period was accompanied by certain undesirable elements such as worry,
excitement, misunderstandings, and so on, and therefore the improvement
hindered or masked, whereas at the next period under different
conditions there would be less interference and therefore added gain.
All experimental evidence is against the opinion that mere disuse in and
of itself produces gain. In fact, all results point to the fact that
disuse brings deterioration.

In the case of memory, as has already been described in habit formation,
reviews which are organized with the period between repetitions only
gradually lengthened may do much to insure permanence. It is entirely
feasible to have children at the end of any school year able to repeat
the poems or prose selections which they have memorized, provided that
they have been recalled with sufficient frequency during the course of
the year. In a subject like geography or history, or in the study of
mathematics or science, in which logical memory is demanded, systematic
reviews, rather than cramming for examinations, will result in
permanence of command of the facts or principles involved, especially
when these reviews have involved the right type of organization and as
many associations as is possible.

It is important in those subjects which involve a logical organization
of ideas to have ideas associated around some particular problem or
situation in which the individual is vitally interested. Children may
readily forget a large number of facts which they have learned about
cats in the first grade, while the same children might remember, very
many of them, had these facts been organized round the problem of taking
care of cats, and of how cats take care of themselves. A group of
children in an upper grade may forget with great rapidity the facts of
climate, soil, surface drainage, industries, and the like, while they
may remember with little difficulty facts which belong under each of
these categories on account of the interest which they have taken in the
problem, "Why is the western part of the United States much more
sparsely populated than the Mississippi Valley?" Boys and girls who
study physics in the high school may find it difficult to remember the
principles involved in their study of heat if they are given only in
their logical order and are applied only in laboratory exercises which
have little or no meaning for them, while the same group of high school
pupils may remember without difficulty these same laws or principles if
associated round the issue of the most economical way of heating their
houses, or of the best way to build an icehouse.

There has been in our school system during the past few years more or
less of a reaction against verbatim memorization, which is certainly
justified when we are considering those subjects which involve primarily
an organization of ideas in terms of problems to be solved, rather than
memory for the particular form of expression of the ideas in question.
It is worth while, however, at every stage of education to use whatever
power children may possess for verbatim memorization, especially in the
field of literature, and to some extent in other fields as well. It
seems to the writers to be worth while to indicate as clearly as
possible in the illustration which follows the method to be employed in
verbatim memorization. As will be easily recognized, the number and
organization of associations are an important consideration. It is
especially important to call attention to the fact that any attempt at
verbatim memorization should follow a very careful thinking through of
the whole selection to be memorized. An organization of the ideas in
terms of that which is most important, and that which can be
subordinated to these larger thoughts, a combination of method of
learning by wholes and by parts, is involved.

It is not easy to indicate fully the method by which one would attempt
to teach to a group of sixth-grade boys or girls Wordsworth's
"Daffodils." The main outline of the method may, however, be indicated
as follows: The first thing to be done is to arouse, in so far as is
possible, some interest and enthusiasm for the poem in question. One
might suggest to the class something of the beauty of the high, rugged
hills, and of the lakes nestling among them in the region which is
called the "Lake Region" in England. The Wordsworth cottage near one of
the lakes, and at the foot of one of the high hills, together with the
walk which is to this day called Wordsworth's Walk, can be brought to
the mind, especially by a teacher who has taken the trouble to know
something of Wordsworth's home life. The enthusiasm of the poet for the
beauties of nature and his enjoyment in walking over the hills and
around the lakes, is suggested by the poem itself. One might suggest to
the pupils that this is the story of a walk which he took one morning
early in the spring.

The attempt will be made from this point on to give the illustration as
the writer might have hoped to have it recorded as presented to a
particular class. The poet tells us first of his loneliness and of the
surprise which was his when he caught sight for the first time of the
daffodils which had blossomed since the last time that he had taken this
particular walk:

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

You see, he was not expecting to meet any one or to have any unusual
experience. He "wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er
vales and hills," and his surprise was complete when he saw
suddenly,--"all at once I saw a crowd, a _host_ of _golden_ daffodils,
beside the lake, beneath the trees." You might have said that they were
waving in the wind, but he saw them "fluttering and dancing in the

The daffodils as they waved and danced in the breeze suggested to him
the experience which he had had on other walks which he had taken when
the stars were shining, and he compares the golden daffodils to the
shining, twinkling stars:

"Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay;
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance."

The daffodils were as "continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on
the Milky Way." There was no beginning and no end to the line,--"They
stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay." He saw as
many daffodils as one might see stars,--"Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance."

The poet has enjoyed the beauty of the little rippling waves in the
lake, and he tells us that

"The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed,--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:"

The daffodils have really left the poet with a great joy,--the waves
beside the daffodils are dancing, "but they outdid the _sparkling_ waves
in glee," and of course "a poet could not but be gay in such a jocund
company." Had you ever thought of flowers as a jocund company? You
remember they fluttered and danced in the breeze, they lifted their
heads in sprightly dance. Do you wonder that the poet says of his
experience, "I gazed--and gazed,--but little thought what wealth the
show to me had brought"? I wonder if any of you have ever had a similar
experience. I remember the days when I used to go fishing, and there is
a great joy even now in recalling the twitter of the birds and the hum
of the bees as I lay on the bank and waited for the fish to bite.

And what is the great joy which is his, and which may belong to us, if
we really see the beautiful things in nature? He tells us when he says

"For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

There are days when we cannot get out of doors,--"For oft, when on my
couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood,"--these are the days when we
recall the experiences which we have enjoyed in the days which are
gone,--"they flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude."
And then for the poet, as well as for us, "And then my heart with
pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils."

Now let us get the main ideas in the story which the poet tells us of
his adventure. "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er
vales and hills," "I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils," they
were "beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the
breeze." They reminded me as I saw the beautiful arched line of "the
stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way," because "they stretched
in never-ending line along the margin of a bay"; and as I watched "ten
thousand" I saw, "tossing their heads in sprightly dance." And then they
reminded me of the waves which sparkled near by, "but they outdid the
sparkling waves in glee," and in the happiness which was mine, "I
gazed--and gazed,--but little thought what wealth the show to me had
brought." And that happiness I can depend upon when upon my couch I lie
in vacant or in pensive mood, for "they flash upon that inward eye which
is the bliss of solitude," and my heart will fill with pleasure and
dance with the daffodils.

These, then, are the big ideas which the poet has,--he wanders lonely as
a cloud, he enjoys the great surprise of the daffodils, the great crowd,
the host, of golden daffodils, fluttering and dancing in the breeze; he
thinks of the stars that twinkle in the Milky Way, because the line of
daffodils seems to have no beginning and no end,--he sees ten thousand
of them at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance. And as he
looks at them he thinks of the beauty of the sparkling waves, and thinks
of them as they dance with glee, and he gazes and gazes without thinking
of the wealth of the experience. But later when he writes the poem, he
tells us of the wealth of the experience which can last through all of
the days when he lies on his couch in vacant or in pensive mood, for it
is then that this experience flashes upon that inward eye which is the
bliss of solitude, and his heart fills with pleasure and dances with the

Now let us say it all over again, and see how nearly we are able to
recall the story of his experience in just the words that he used. I
will read it for you first, and then you may all try to repeat it after

The teacher then reads the whole poem through, possibly more than once,
and then asks all of the children to recite it with him, repeating
possibly the first stanza twice or three times until they get it, and
then the second stanza two or three times, then the third as often as
may be necessary, and finally the fourth. It may be well then to go back
and again analyze the thought, and indicate, using as far as possible
the author's own words, the development of ideas through the poem. Then
the poem should be recited as a whole by the teacher and children. The
children may then be left to study it so that they may individually on
the next day recite it verbatim. The writer has found it possible to
have a number of children in a sixth grade able to repeat the poem
verbatim after the kind of treatment indicated above, and at the end of
a period of fifteen minutes.


1. Distinguish in so far as you can between habit and memory.

2. Name the factors which determine one's ability to recall.

3. How can you hope to improve children's memories? Which of the factors
involved are subject to improvement?

4. In what way can you improve the organization of associations upon the
part of children in any one of the subjects which you teach? How
increase the number of associations?

5. What advantage has the method of concentration over the method of
repetition in memorization?

6. Give the reasons why the method of recall is the best method of

7. If you were teaching a poem of four stanzas, would you use the method
of memorization by wholes or by parts? Indicate clearly the degree to
which the one or the other method should be used or the nature of the
combination of methods for the particular selection which you use for
the purposes of illustration.

8. How long do children in your classes seem to be able to work hard at
verbatim memorization?

9. Under what conditions may the writing of the material being memorized
actually interfere with the process? When may it help?

10. Why may it not be wise to attempt to teach "their" and "there" at
the same time?

11. What is the type of memory employed by children who have
considerable ability in cramming for examinations? Is this type of
memory ever useful in later life?

12. What precaution do we need to take to insure permanence in memory
upon the part of those who learn quickly?

13. What is meant by saying that we possess memories rather than a power
or capacity called memory?

14. Do we forget with equal rapidity in all fields in which we have
learned? What factors determine the rate of forgetting?

15. Why should a boy think through a poem to be memorized rather than
beginning his work by trying to repeat the first two lines?

* * * * *


Imagination is governed by the same general laws of association which
control habit and memory. In these two former topics the emphasis was
upon getting a desired result without any attention to the form of that
result. Imagination, on the other hand, has to do with the way past
experience is used and the form taken by the result. It merges into
memory in one direction and into thinking in another. No one definition
has been found acceptable--in fact, in no field of psychology is there
more difference of opinion, in no topic are terms used more loosely,
than in this one of imagination. Stated in very general terms,
imagination is the process of reproducing, or reconstructing any form of
experience. The result of such a process is a mental image. When the
fact that it is reproduction or reconstruction is lost sight of, and the
image reacted to as if it were present, an illusion or hallucination

Images may be classified according to the sense through which the
original experience came, into visual, auditory, gustatory, tactile,
kinaesthetic, and so on. In many discussions of imagery the term
"picture" has been used to describe it, and hence in the thought of many
it is limited rather definitely to the visual field. Of course this is
entirely wrong. The recall of a melody, or of the touch of velvet, or of
the fragrance of a rose, is just as much mental imagery as the recall of
the sight of a friend.

Three points of dispute in connection with image types are worth while
noting. First, the question is raised by some psychologists as to
whether kinaesthetic or motor images really exist. An example of such an
image would be to imagine yourself as dancing, or walking downstairs, or
writing your name, or saying the word "bubble." Those who object to such
an image type claim that when one tries to get such an image, the
attempt initiates slight muscle movements and the result is a sense
experience instead of an imaged one. They believe this always happens
and that therefore a motor image is an impossibility. Others agree that
this reinstatement of actual movements often happens, but contend that
in such cases the image precedes the movement and that the resulting
movement does not always take place. The question is still in dispute.

The second question in dispute is as to the possibility of classifying
people according to the predominant type of their imagery. People used
to be classed as "visualizers," "audiles." etc., the supposition being
that their mental imagery was predominantly in terms of vision or
hearing. This is being seriously questioned, and experimental work seems
to show that such a classification, at least with the majority of
people, is impossible. The results which are believed to warrant such a
conclusion are as follows: First, no one has ever been tested who always
used one type of image. Second, the type of image used changed with the
following factors: the material, the purpose of the subject, the
familiarity of the subject with the experience imagined. For example,
the same person would, perhaps, visualize if he were imaging landscape,
but get an auditory image of a friend's voice instead of a visual image
of him. He might, when under experimental conditions with the
controlling purpose,--that of examining his images,--get visual images,
but, when under ordinary conditions, get a larger number of auditory and
kinaesthetic images. He might when thought was flowing smoothly be using
auditory and motor images, but upon the appearance of some obstacle or
difficulty in the process find himself flooded with visual images.
Third, subjects who ranked high in one type of imagery ranked high in
others, and subjects who ranked low in one type ranked low also in
others. The ability seems to be that of getting clear image types, or
the lack of it, rather than the ability to get one type. Fourth, most of
the subjects reported that the first image was usually followed by
others of different types. The conclusions then, that individuals,
children as well as adults, are rarely of one fixed type, the mixed type
being the usual one, is being generally accepted. In fact, it seems much
more probable that materials and outside conditions can more easily be
classified as usually arousing a certain type of image, than people can
be classified into types.

The third point of controversy grows out of the second. Some
psychologists are asking what is the value of such a classification?
Suppose people could be put under types in imagery, what would be the
practical advantage? Such an attempt at classification is futile and not
worth while, for two reasons. First, the result of the mental
processes--the goal arrived at is the important thing, and the
particular type of image used is of little importance. Does it make any
difference to the business man whether his clerk thinks in terms of the
visual images of words or in terms of motor images so long as he sells
the goods? To the teacher of geography, does it make any difference
whether John in his thinking of the value of trees is seeing them in his
mind's eye, or hearing the wind rustle through the leaves, or smelling
the moist earth, leaf-mold, or having none of these images, if he gets
the meaning, and reaches a right conclusion? Second, the sense which
gives the clearest, most dependable impressions is not the one
necessarily in terms of which the experience is recalled. One of the
chief values urged for a classification according to image type of
people, especially children, has been that the appeal could then be made
through the corresponding sense organs. For instance, Group A, being
visualizers, will be asked to read the material silently; Group B,
audiles, will have the material read to them; Group C, motiles, will be
asked to read the material orally, or asked to dramatize it. For each
group the major appeal should be made in terms of the sense
corresponding to their image type. But such a correspondence as this
does not exist. An individual may learn best by use of his eyes and yet
very seldom use visual images in recall. This is true of most people in
reading. Most people grasp the meaning of a passage better when they
read it than when they hear it read, and yet the predominant type of
word image is auditory-motor. Hence if any classification of children is
attempted it should be according to the sense by means of which they
learn best, and not according to some supposed image type. Many methods
of appeal for all children is the safest practical suggestion.

Images may also be classified according to the use made of past
experience. Past experience may be recalled in approximately the same
form in which it occurred, or it may be reconstructed. In the former
case the image is called reproductive image or memory image; in the
latter form it is called productive or creative image, or image of the
imagination. The reproductive image never duplicates experience, but in
its major features it closely corresponds to it, whereas the productive
image breaks up old experiences and from them makes new wholes which
correspond to no definite occurrence. The elements found in both kinds
of imagery must come from experience. One cannot imagine anything the
elements of which he has not experienced. Creative imagination
transcends experience only in the sense that it remodels and remakes,
but the result of that activity produces new wholes as far removed from
the actual occurrences as "Alice in Wonderland" is from the humdrum life
of a tenement dweller. Just the same, the fact that the elements used in
creative work must be drawn from experience is extremely suggestive from
a practical point of view. It demonstrates the need of a rich sensory
life for every child. It also explains the reason for the lack of
appreciation on the part of immature children of certain types of
literature and certain moral questions.

No more need be said here of the reproductive image, as it is synonymous
with the memory image and was therefore treated fully under the topic of
memory. One fact should be borne in mind, however, and that is, that the
creative image is to some extent dependent on the reproductive image as
it involves recall. However, as productive imagery involves the recall
of elements or parts rather than wholes, an individual may have talent
in creative imagery without being above the average in exact

Productive imagery may be classified as fanciful, realistic, and
idealistic according to the character of the material used. Fanciful
productive imagery is characterized by its spontaneity, its disregard of
the probable and possible, its vividness of detail. It is its own
reward, and does not look to any result beyond itself. Little children's
imaginations are of this type--it is their play world of make-believe.
The incongruity and absurdity of their images have been compared to the
dreams of adults. Lacking in experience, without knowledge of natural
laws, their imagination runs riot with the materials it has at its
command. Some adults still retain it to a high degree--witness the myths
and fairy stories, "Alice in Wonderland," and the like. All adults in
their "castle-building" indulge in this type of imagery to some extent.
Realistic productive imagery, as its name implies, adheres more strictly
to actual conditions, it deals with the probable. It usually is
constructed for a purpose, being put to some end beyond itself. It lacks
much of the emotional element possessed by the other two types. This is
the kind most valuable in reasoning and thinking. It deals with new
situations--constructs them, creates means of dealing with them, and
forecasts the results. It is the type of productive imagery called into
play by inventors, by craftsmen, by physicians, by teachers--in fact, by
any one who tries to bring about a change in conditions by the
functioning of a definite thought process. This is the kind of imagery
which most interests grammar school pupils. They demand facts, not
fancies. They are most active in making changes in a world of things.

Idealistic productive imagery does not fly in the face of reality as
does the fanciful, nor does it adhere so strictly to facts as does the
realistic. It deals with the possible--with what may be, but with what
is not yet. It always looks to the future, for if realized it is no
longer idealistic. It is enjoyed for its own sake but does not exist for
that alone, but looks towards some result. It is concerned primarily
with human lives and has a strong emotional tone. It is the heart of
ideals. The adolescent revels in this type of productive imagery. His
dreams concerning his own future, his service to his fellow men, his
success, and the like involve much idealistic imagery. Hero worship
involves it. It is one of the differences between the man with "vision"
and the man without.

The importance of productive imagery cannot be overemphasized. This
power to create the new out of the old is one of the greatest
possessions of mankind. All progress in every field, whether individual
or racial, depends upon it. From the fertility and richness of man's
productive imagination must come all the suggestions which will make
this world other than what it is. Therefore one of the greatest tasks of
education at present is to cherish and cultivate this power. One cannot
fail to recognize, however, that with the emphasis at present so largely
upon memory, the cultivation of the imagination is being pushed into the
background despite all our theories to the contrary. Not only is
productive imagery as a whole worth while, but each type is valuable. An
adult lacking power of fanciful imagination lacks power to enjoy certain
elements in life and lacks a very definite means of recreation. Lacking
in realistic imagination he is unable to deal successfully with new
situations, but must forever remain in bondage to the past. Without
idealistic imagination he lacks the motive which makes men strive to be
better, more efficient--other than what they are. At certain times in
child development one type may need special encouragement, and at
another time some other. All should, however, be borne in mind and
developed along right and wholesome lines; otherwise, left to itself,
any one of these, and especially the last, may be a source of danger to
the character.

Images may be classified according to the material dealt with into
object images or concrete images and into word or abstract images. No
one of these terms is very good as a name of the image referred to. The
first group--object or concrete image--refers to an image in which the
sensory qualities, such as color, size, rhythm, sweetness, harmony,
etc., are present. The images of a friend, of a text-book, of the
national anthem, of an orange, of the schoolroom, and so on, would all
be object images. A word or abstract image is one which is a symbol. It
stands for and represents certain sensory experiences, the quality of
which does not appear in the image. Any word, number, mathematical or
chemical symbol--in fact, any abstract symbol will come under this type
of image. If in the first list of illustrations, instead of having
images of the real objects, an individual had images of words in each
case, the images would be abstract or verbal images. Abstract images
shade into concrete by gradual degrees--there is no sharp line of
division between the two; however, they do form two different kinds of
images, two forms which may have the same meaning.

The question as to the respective use and value of these two kinds of
images is given different answers. There is no question but that the
verbal image is more economical than the object image. It saves energy
and time. It brings with it less of irrelevant detail and is more stable
than the object image, and therefore results in more accurate thinking.
It is abstract in nature and therefore has more general application. On
the other hand, it has been claimed for the object image that it
necessarily precedes the verbal image--is fundamental to it; that it is
essential in creative work dealing with materials and sounds and in the
appreciation of certain types of descriptive literature, and that in any
part of the thinking process when, because of difficulty of some kind, a
percept would help, an object image would be of the same assistance. It
is concerning these supposed advantages of the object image that there
has been most dispute. There is no proof that the line of growth is
necessarily from percept, through object image, to verbal image. In
certain fields, notably smell, the object image is almost absent and yet
the verbal images in that field carry meaning. It is also true that
people whose power of getting clear-cut, vivid object images is almost
nil seem to be in nowise hampered by that fact in their use of the
symbols. Knowing the unreliability of the object image, it would seem
very unsafe to use it as the link between percept and symbol. Much
better to connect the symbol directly with the experience and let it
gain its meaning from that. As to its value in constructive work in
arts, literature, drama, and invention, the testimony of some experts in
each field bears witness that it is not a necessary accompaniment of
success. The musician need not hear, mentally, all the harmonies,
changes, intervals; he may think them in terms of notes, rests, etc., as
he composes. The poet need not see the scene he is describing; verbal
images may bear his meanings. Of course this does not mean that object
images may not be present too, but the point is that the worker is not
dependent on them. The aid offered by object images in time of
difficulty is still more open to doubt. As an illustration of what is
meant by this: Suppose a child to be given a carpeting example in
arithmetic which he finds himself unable to solve. The claim is made
that if he will then call up a concrete image of the room, he will see
that the carpet is laid in strips and that suggestion may set him right.
But it has been proved experimentally over and over again that if he
doesn't know that carpets are laid that way, he will never get it from
the image, and if he does know it, he doesn't need an object image. It
seems to be a fact that object images do not function, in the sense that
one cannot get a correct answer as to color, or form, or number from
them. One can read off from a concrete image what he knows to be true of
it--or else it is just guessing. "Knowing" in each case involves
observation and judgment, and that means verbal images. Students whose
power of concrete imagery is low do, on the average, in situations where
a concrete image would supposedly help, just as well as students whose
power in this field is high. It does seem to be true that object images
give a vividness and color to mental life which may result in a keener
appreciation of certain types of literature. This warmth and vividness
which object images add to the mental processes of those who have them
is a boon.

On the whole, then, word images are the more valuable of the two types.
Upon them depends, primarily, the ability to handle new situations, and
even in the constructive fields they are all sufficient. These two
facts, added to the fact that they are more accurate, speedy, and
general in application, makes them a necessary part of the mental
equipment of an efficient worker, and means that much more attention
must be given to the development of productive symbol images.

Two warnings should be borne in mind: First, although the object images
are not necessary in general, as discussed above, to any given
individual, because of his particular habits of thought, they may be
necessary accompaniments to his mental processes. Second, although
object images may not help in giving understanding or appreciation under
new conditions, still the method of asking students to try to image
certain conditions is worth while because it makes them stop and think,
which is always a help. Whether they get object or word images in the
process makes no difference.

The discussion concerning the possibility of "imageless" thought, while
an interesting one, cannot be entered into here. Whether "meanings" can
exist in the human mind apart from any carrier in the form of some
sensory or imaginal state is unsettled, but the discussion has drawn
attention to at least the very fragmentary nature of those carriers. A
few fragments of words, a mental shrug of the shoulder, a feeling of the
direction in which a certain course is leading, a consciousness of one's
attitude towards a plan or person--and the conclusion is reached. The
thinking, or it may even have been reasoning, involved few clear-cut
images of any kind. The fragmentary, schematic nature of the carriers
and the large part played by feelings of direction and attitude are the
rather astonishing results of the introspective analysis resulting from
this discussion. This sort of thinking is valuable for the same reasons
that thinking in terms of words is valuable--it only goes a step
further, but it needs direction and training.

Images of all kinds have been discussed as if they stood out clearly
differentiated from all other types of mental states. This is necessary
in order that their peculiar characteristics and functions may be clear.
However, they are not so clearly defined in actual mental life, but
shade into each other and into other mental states, giving rise to
confusion and error. The two greatest sources of error are: first, the
confusion of image with percept, and second, the confusion of memory
image with image of the imagination. The chief difference between these
mental states as they exist is a difference in kind and amount of
associations. These different associates usually give to the percept a
vividness and material reality which the other two lack. They give to
the memory image a feeling of pastness and trueness which the image of
imagination lacks. Therefore lack of certain associations, due to lack
of experience or knowledge, or presence of associations due to these
same causes and to the undue vividness of other connections, could
easily result in one of these states being mistaken for another. There
is no inherent difference between them. The first type of confusion,
between percept and image, has been recently made the subject of
investigation. Perky found that even with trained adults, if the
perceptual stimulus was slight, it was mistaken for an image. All
illusions would come under this head. Children's imaginary companions,
when really believed in, are explained by this confusion. However, the
confusion is much more general than these illustrations would seem to
imply. The fact that "Love is blind," that "We see what we look for" are
but statements of this same confusion, and these two facts enter into
multitudes of situations all through life. The need to "see life clearly
and see it whole" is an imperative one.

The second type of confusion, between reproductive and productive
memory, is even more common. The "white lies" of children, the
embroidering of a story by the adult, the adding to and adding to the
original experience until all sense of what really happened is lost, are
but ordinary facts of everyday experiences. The unreliability of witness
and testimony is due, in part, to this confusion.


1. How is the process of imagination like memory?

2. What is the relation of imagination to thinking?

3. What kind of images do you seek to have children use in their work in
the subjects which you teach?

4. Can you classify the members of your class as visualizers, audiles,
and the like?

5. If one learns most readily by reading rather than hearing, does it
follow that his images will be largely visual? Why?

6. Give examples from your own experience of memory images; of creative

7. To what degree does creative imagination depend upon past

8. What type of imagery is most important for the work of the inventor?
The farmer? The social reformer?

9. Of what significance in the life of an adult is fanciful imagery?

10. What, if any, is the danger involved in reveling in idealistic
productive imagery?

11. What advantages do verbal images possess as over against object

12. Why would you ask children to try to image in teaching literature,
geography, history, or any other subject for which you are responsible?

13. How would you handle a boy who is hi the habit of confusing memory
images with images of imagination?

14. In what sense is it true that all progress, is dependent upon
productive imagination?

* * * * *


The term "thinking" has been used almost as loosely as the term
"imagination," and used to mean almost as many different things. Even
now there is no consensus of opinion as to just what thinking is. Dewey
says, "Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or
supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it,
and the further conclusions to which it tends, constitutes reflective
thought."[5] Miller says, "Thinking is not so much a distinct conscious
process as it is an organisation of all the conscious processes which
are relevant in a problematic situation for the performance of the
function of consciously adjusting means to end."[6] Thinking always
presupposes some lack in adjustment, some doubt or uncertainty, some
hesitation in response. So long as the situation, because of its
simplicity or familiarity, receives immediately a response which
satisfies, there is no need for thinking. Only when the response is
inadequate or when no satisfactory response is forthcoming is thinking
aroused. By far the majority of the daily adjustments made by people,
both mental and physical, require no thinking because instinct, habit,
and memory suffice. It is only when these do not serve to produce a
satisfactory response that thinking is needed--only when there is
something problematic in the situation. Even in new situations thinking
is not always used to bring about a satisfactory adjustment. Following
an instinctive prompting when confronted by a new situation; blindly
following another's lead; using the trial and error method of response;
reacting to the situation as to the old situation most like it; or
response by analogy: all are methods of dealing with new situations
which often result in correct adjustments, and yet none of which need
involve thinking. This does not mean that these methods, save the first
mentioned, may not be accompanied by thinking; but that each of them may
be used without the conscious adjustment of means to end demanded by
thinking. That these methods, and not thinking, are the ones most often
used, even by adults, in dealing with problems, cannot be denied. They
offer an easy means of escape from the more troublesome method of
thinking. It is so much easier to accept what some one else says, so
much easier to agree with a book's answer to a question than to think it
out for oneself. Following the first suggestion offered, just going at
things in a hit-or-miss fashion, uncritical response by analogy, saves
much time and energy apparently, and therefore these methods are adopted
and followed by the majority of people in most of the circumstances of
life. It is human nature to think only when no other method of mental
activity brings the desired response. We think only when we must.

Not only is it true that problems are often solved correctly by other
methods than that of thinking, but on the other hand much thinking may
take place and yet the result be an incorrect conclusion, or perhaps no
solution at all be reached. Think of the years of work men have devoted
to a single problem, and yet perhaps at the end of that time, because of
a wrong premise or some incorrect data, have arrived at a result that
later years have proved to have been utterly false. Think of the
investigations being carried on now in medicine, in science, in
invention, which because of the lack of knowledge are still incomplete,
and yet in each case thinking of the most technical and rigorous type
has been used. Thinking cannot be considered in terms of the result.
Correct results may be obtained, even in problematic situations, with no
thinking, and on the other hand much thinking may be done and yet the
results reached be entirely unsatisfactory. Thinking is a process
involving a certain definite procedure. It is the organisation of all
mental states toward a certain definite end, but is not any one mental
state. In certain types of situations this procedure is the one most
certain of reaching correct conclusions, in some situations it is the
only possible one, but the conclusion is not the thinking and its
correctness does not differentiate the process from others.

From the foregoing discussions it must not be deduced that because of
the specific nature and the difficulty of thinking that the power is
given only to adults. On the contrary, the power is rooted in the
original equipment of the human race and develops gradually, just as all
other original capacities do. Children under three years of age manifest
it. True, the situations calling it out are very simple, and to the
adult seem often trivial, as they most often occur in connection with
the child's play, but they none the less call for the adjustment of
means to end, which is thinking. A lost toy, the absence of a playmate,
the breaking of a cup, a thunderstorm, these and hundreds of other
events of daily life are occasions which may arouse thinking on the part
of a little child. It is not the type of situation, nor its dignity,
that is the important thing in thinking, but the way in which it is
dealt with. The incorrectness of a child's data, their incompleteness
and lack of organization, often result in incorrect conclusions, and
still his thinking may be absolutely sound. The difference between the
child and the adult in this power is a difference in degree--both
possess the power. As Dewey says, "Only by making the most of the
thought-factor, already active in the experience of childhood, is there
any promise or warrant for the emergence of superior reflective power at
adolescence, or at any later period."[7]

Thinking, then, is involved in any response which comes as a result of
the conscious adaptation of means to end in a problematic situation.
Many of the processes of mental activity which have been given other
names may involve this process. Habit formation--when the learner
analyzes his progress or failure, when he tries to find a short cut, or
when he seeks for an incentive to insure greater improvement--may serve
as a situation calling for thinking. The process of apperceiving or of
assimilation may involve it. Studying and trying to remember may involve
it. Constructive imagination often calls for it. Reasoning, always
requires it. In the older psychology reasoning and thinking were often
used as synonyms, but more recently it has been accepted by most
psychologists that reasoning is simply one type of thinking, the most
advanced type, and the most demanding type, but not the only one.
Thinking may go on (as in the other processes just mentioned) without
reasoning, but all reasoning must involve thinking. It is this lack of
differentiation between reasoning and thinking, the attempt to make of
all thinking, reasoning, that has limited teachers in their attempts to
develop thinking upon the part of their pupils.

The essentials of the thinking process are three: (1) a state of doubt
or uncertainty, resulting in suspended judgment; (2) an organization and
control of mental states in view of an end to be attained; (3) a
critical attitude involving selection and rejection of suggestions
offered. The recognition of some lack of adjustment, the feeling of need
for something one hasn't, is the only stimulus toward thinking. This
problematic situation, resulting in suspended judgment, caused by the
inadequacy of present power or knowledge, may arise in connection with
any situation. It is unfortunate that the terms "problematic situation"
and "feeling of inadequacy" have been discussed almost entirely in
connection with situations when the result has some pragmatic value.
There is no question but what the situation arousing thinking must be a
live one and a real one, but it need not be one the answer to which will
be useful. It is true that with the majority of people, both children
and adults, a problem of this type will be more often effective in
arousing the thinking process than a problem of a more abstract nature,
but it is not always so, nor necessarily so. Most children sometimes,
and some children most of the time, enjoy thinking simply for the sake
of the activity. They do not need the concrete, pragmatic
situation--anything, no matter how abstract, that arouses their
curiosity or appeals to their love of mastery offers enough of a
problem. Sometimes children are vitally interested in working
geometrical problems, translating difficult passages in Latin, striving
to invent the perpetual motion machine, even though there is no evident
and useful result. It is not the particular type of situation that is
the thing to be considered, but the attitude that it arouses in the
individual concerned. Educators in discussion of the situations that
make for thinking must allow for individual differences and must plan
for the intellectually minded as well as for others.

The thinker confronted by a situation for which his present knowledge is
not adequate, recognizes the difficulty and suspends judgment; in other
words, does not jump at a conclusion but undertakes to think it out. To
do this control is continually necessary. He must keep his problem
continually before him and work directly for its solution, avoiding
delays, avoiding being side-tracked. This means, of course, the critical
attitude towards all suggestions offered. Each one as it comes must be
inspected in the light of the end to be reached--if it does not seem to
help towards that goal, it must be rejected. Criticism, selection, and
rejection of suggestions offered must continue as long as the thinking
process goes on. "To maintain the state of doubt and to carry on
systematic and protracted inquiry--these are the essentials of

In order to maintain this critical attitude to select and reject
suggestions with reference to a goal, the suggestions as they come
cannot be accepted as units and followed. Such a procedure is possible
only when the mental process is not controlled by an end. Control by a
goal necessitates analysis of the suggestions and abstraction of what in
them is essential for the particular problem in hand. It is because no
complete association at hand offers a satisfactory response to the
situation that the need for thinking arises. Each association as it
comes must be broken up, certain parts or elements emerge, certain
relationships, implications, or functions are made conscious. Each of
these is examined in turn; as they seem to be valueless for the purpose
of the thinker, they are rejected. If one element or relationship seems
significant for the problem, it is seized upon, abstracted from its
fellows, and becomes the center of the next series of suggestions. A
part, element, quality, or what not, of the situation is accepted as
significant of it for the time being. The part stands for the
whole--this is characteristic of all thinking. As a very simple
illustration, consider the following one reported by Dewey:

"Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on
which I daily cross the river, is a long white pole, bearing a gilded
ball at its tip. It suggested a flag pole when I first saw it; its
color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons
seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented
themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a
flag pole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by
which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere two vertical
staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that
the pole was not there for flag-flying.

"I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of such a pole, and to
consider for which of these it was best suited: (_a_) Possibly it was an
ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried like
poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (_b_) Possibly it was the terminal
of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this
improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be
the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house, (_c_) Its
purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

"In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower
than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it.
Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the
pilot's position, it must appear to project far out in front of the
boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would
need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles
for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the
others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set
up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat
pointed, to enable him to steer correctly."[8]

The problem was to find out the use of the flag pole. No adequate
explanation came as the problem presented itself; it therefore caused a
state of uncertainty, of suspended judgment, and a process of thinking
in order to get an answer. Each suggestion that came was analyzed, its
requirements and possibilities checked up by the actual facts and the
goal. The suggestions that the pole was simply to carry a flag, was an
ornament, was the terminal of a wireless telegraph, were examined and
rejected. The final one, that the pole was to point out the direction in
which the boat was moving, upon analysis seemed most probable and was
accepted. The one characteristic of the pole, that it points direction,
and its position, need to be accepted as the essential facts in the
situation, for the particular problem. Without control of the process,
without the two steps of analysis and abstraction, no conclusion could
have been reached.

Analysis and abstraction may be facilitated in three ways. First, by
attentive piecemeal examination. The total situation is examined,
element by element, attentively, until the element needed is reached or
approximated. This method of procedure helps to emphasize minor bonds of
association which the element possesses in the learner's experience but
which he needs to have brought to his attention. It can only be used
when the element is known to some degree. It is the method to use when
elements are known in a hazy, incomplete, or indefinite way and need
clearing up. Second, by varying the concomitant. An element associated
with many situations, which vary in other respects, comes to be felt and
recognized as independent. This is the method to use when a new element
in a complex is to be taught. Third, by contrast. A new element is
brought into consciousness more quickly if it is set side by side with
its opposite. Of course, this is only true provided the opposite has
already been learned. To present opposites, both of which are new or
only partially learned, confuses the analysis instead of facilitating

Reasoning, as the highest type of thinking, includes all that thinking
in general does, and adds some particular requirement which
differentiates it from the simpler forms. Further discussion of it,
then, should make clearer the essential in thinking as a process, as
well as make clear its most difficult form. Reasoning is defined by
Miller as "controlled thinking,--thinking organized and systematized
according to laws and principles and carried on by use of superior
technique."[9] Reasoning, then, is the kind of thinking that deals
directly with laws and principles. Much thinking may be carried on
without any overt, definite use of laws and principles, as in
constructive imagination or in apperception, but, if this is so, it
seems better to call the thinking by one of the other names. Of course
this classification is somewhat arbitrary, but there can be no question
that types of thinking do differ. As has already been noted, some
psychologists have used the terms thinking and reasoning as synonyms,
but such usage has resulted in confusion and has not been of practical
value. It is only as the mental process desired becomes clearly
conceived of, its connotations and denotation clearly defined, that it
becomes a real goal towards Which a teacher or learner may strive. This,
then, is the primary criterion of reasoning--that the thinker be dealing
consciously with laws and principles. An acceptance of this first
essential makes clear that the particular process of reasoning cannot be
carried on in subjects which lack laws and principles. Spelling,
elementary reading, vocabulary study, most of the early work in music
and art, the acquisition of facts wherever found--these situations may
offer opportunity for thinking, but little if any for reasoning. Because
a teacher is using the development method does not mean necessarily that
her students are reasoning. The two terms are not in any way synonymous.

The second essential in reasoning is the presence of a definite
technique. This technique consists of two factors: first, certain
definite mental states, and second, the use of the process of thinking
by either the inductive or the deductive method.

First as to the mental states involved. The fact that the thinking deals
with laws and principles necessitates the presence, in the thinking
process, of constructive verbal or symbolic imagery, logical
relationships, logical concepts, and explicit judgments. This does not
at all exclude other types of these mental states and entirely different
mental states. The kind of analysis involved simply necessitates the
presence of these types, whatever others may be present. Constructive
symbolic imagery has already been discussed. Logical relationships are
those that are independent of accidental conditions, are not dependent
on mere contiguity in time and space, but are inherent in the
association involved. Such relationships are those of likeness and
difference, cause and effect, subject and object, equality, concession,
and the like. Logical concepts are those which are the result of
thinking, whose definite meaning has been brought clearly into
consciousness so that a definition could be framed. A child has some
notion of the meaning of tree, or man, or chemist, and therefore
possesses a concept of some kind, but the exact meaning, the particular
qualities necessary, are usually lacking, and so it could not be called
a logical concept. Explicit judgments are those which contain within
themselves the reasons for the inference. They, too, are the result of
thinking. One may say that "cheating is wrong," or that "water will not
rise above its source level," or that "cleanliness is necessary to
health," or that "this is a Rembrandt"--as a matter of experience,
habit, but without any reflection and with no reasons for such judgment.
If, on the other hand, the problems to which these judgments are answers
had been a matter of thinking, the reasons or the ground for such
judgment would have become conscious and the judgment then become
explicit. It must be evident that in any problems dealing with laws and
principles the mental states involved must be definite, clear cut,
logically sound, and their implications thoroughly appreciated and

The second element in the technique necessary in reasoning is the use of
either the inductive or the deductive method in the process. Induction
requires--a problem, search for facts with which to solve it, comparison
and analysis of those facts, abstraction of the essential likenesses,
and conclusion. Deduction requires--a problem, the analysis of the
situation and abstraction of its essential elements, search for generals
under which to classify it, comparison of it with each general found,
and conclusion. It is unfortunate that in the discussions of induction
and deduction the differences have been so emphasized that they have
been regarded as different processes, whereas the likenesses far
outweigh the differences. An examination of the requirements of each as
stated above shows that the process in the two is the same. Not only do
both involve reasoning and therefore require the major steps of analysis
and abstraction present in all thinking, but both also involve search
and comparison. Both, of course, involve the same kind of mental states.
At times it is very difficult to distinguish between them. Although for
practical purposes it is necessary, sometimes, to stress the
differences, the inherent similarity should not be lost sight of.

The differences between these two methods of reasoning are, first, in
the locus of the problem; second, in the order of the steps of the
process; third, in the relative proportion of particulars and generals
used; fourth, in the devices used, (1) In induction the problem is
concerned with a general. In some situation a concept, law, or principle
has proven inadequate as a response. The question is then raised as to
what is wrong with it and the inductive process is instigated. The
problem is solved when the principle or concept is perfected or
enlarged--in other words, is made adequate. In deduction the problem is
concerned with the individual situation. Some problem is raised by a
particular fact or experience and is answered when it is placed under
the law or concept to which it belongs. Deduction is, practically the
classification of particulars. (2) The order of steps is different. In
induction, because present knowledge falls short, the major step of
analysis necessary to abstraction of the essential is impossible, and
therefore the search for new facts must come first, whereas in
deduction, the analysis of the particular situation results in a search
for generals and a classification of the situation in question. (3) In
induction many particular facts may be necessary before one concept or
principle is made adequate, while in deduction many concepts or
principles may be examined before one particular is classified. (4) In
induction the hypothesis is used as a device to make clear the possible
goal; in deduction the syllogism is used as a device to make clear the
conclusion which has been reached, to throw into relief the
classification and the result coming from it.

In this discussion, induction and deduction have been treated, for the
sake of clearness, as if they acted independently of each other, as if a
thinker might at one time use deduction and at another time induction.
They have been outlined in such a way that one might think that the
movement of the mind in one process was such that it precluded the
possibility of the other process. This is not so--the two are
inextricably mingled in the actual process of reasoning, and further,
induction as used in practical life always involves deduction at two
points, as an initial starting point and as an end point. The knowledge
that a certain principle is inadequate comes to consciousness through
the attempt to classify some particular experience under it. Failure
results and the inductive process may then be initiated, but this
initial attempt is deductive and if it had been successful there would
have been no need of induction. After the inductive process is complete
and the general principle has been classified or perfected, the final
step is testing it to see if it is adequate, first by applying it to the
particular problem which caused the whole process, and then to new
situations. If it tests, it is accepted,--if not, further induction is
necessary. This again is deduction. Not only is induction not complete
without deduction, but each deduction influences the principle which is
applied, making it more sure and more flexible. Even in the process of
induction, there are attempts to classify these facts which are being
gathered under suggested old principles, or half-formed new ones, before
the process is completed. This is a deductive movement, even though it
prove unsatisfactory or impossible. Dewey describes this interaction by
saying, "There is thus a double movement in all reflection: a movement
from the given partial and confused data to a suggested comprehension
(or inclusive) entire situation; and back from this suggested
whole--which as suggested is a meaning, an idea--to the particular
facts, so as to connect these with one another and with additional facts
to which the suggestion has directed attention."[10] However true this
intermingling of induction and deduction may be, the fact still remains
true that in any given case the major movement is in one direction or
the other, and that therefore in order to insure effective thinking
measures must be taken accordingly. As a child formulates his conception
of a verb, or words the characteristic essentials of the lily-family, or
frames the rule for addition of fractions or the action of a base on a
metal, he is concerned primarily with the form of the reasoning process
known as induction. When he classes a certain word as a conjunction, a
certain city as a trade center, a certain problem as one in percentage,
he is using deduction. Complexes and gradual shadings of one state into
another, not clearly defined and sharply differentiated processes and
states, are characteristic of all mental life.

Another unfortunate statement with regard to induction and deduction is
that the former "proceeds from particulars to generals" and the latter
from "generals to particulars." Both of these statements omit the
starting point and leave the thinker with no ground for either the
particulars or the generals with which he works. The thinker is
supposed, let us say, to collect specimens of flowers in order to arrive
at a notion of the characteristics of a certain class--but why collect
these rather than any others? True, in the artificial situation of a
schoolroom or college, the learner often collects in a certain field
rather than another, simply because he is told to. But in daily life he
would not be told to---the incentive must come from some particular
situation which presents a problem and therefore limits the field of
search. The starting point must be a particular experience or situation.
The same thing is true in deduction, although the syllogistic form has
often been misleading. "Metals are hard; iron is a metal, therefore iron
is hard." But why talk about metals at all--and if so why hardness
rather than color or effect on bases or some other characteristic? Of
course, here again it is some particular problem that defines the search
for the general and directs attention to some class characteristics
rather than to others. Not only is the starting point of all reasoning
some definite situation for which there is no adequate response, but the
end point must naturally be the same. A particular problem demanding
solution is the cause for reasoning, and, of course, the end of the
process must be the solution of that problem.

From the foregoing it must not be concluded that the processes of
induction and deduction are manifested only in connection with
reasoning. In fact, their use as a conscious tool of technique in
reasoning comes only after considerable experience of their use when
there was no conscious purpose and no control. A little child's notion
of dog, or tree, or city--in fact, all his psychological concepts
necessitate the inductive movement, but it has taken place in his
spontaneous thinking and the meanings have evolved after considerable
experience without any definite control on his part. So with deduction.
As he recognizes this as a chestnut tree, that as a rocking chair, as he
decides that this is wrong or that it is going to clear, he is
classifying things, or conduct, or conditions, and so is following the
deductive movement. But the judgments may come as a result of past
experience, may be spontaneous and involve no protracted controlled
activity which has been defined as thinking. Man's mind works
spontaneously both inductively and deductively, and hence the
possibility of control of these operations later. Thinking is an
outgrowth of spontaneous activity; reasoning is but an application of
the natural laws of mental activity to certain situations.

The laws of readiness, exercise, and effect govern thinking just as they
do all other mental processes. Thinking is not independent of habit; it
is not a mysterious force other than association which deals with novel
data. Thinking is merely an exhibition of the laws of habit under
certain definite situations. At first sight this seems to be impossible,
because, as has been emphasized throughout this chapter, thinking takes
place when no satisfactory response is at hand and when nothing is
offered by past experience which is adequate. As a result of the
thinking, responses are reached which never before have occurred as a
result of that situation. Just the same they are reached only because of
the operation of the laws of habit. It must be borne in mind that the
laws of association do not work in such a way that only gross total
situations are bound to total responses. In man particularly, situations
are being continually broken up into elements, and those elements
connected with responses. Responses are being continually disintegrated,
and elements, instead of the whole response, being bound to situations.
Analysis is continually taking place merely as a result of the working
of these laws. If the nervous mechanism of man were not of this
hair-trigger variety, if elements did not emerge from a total complex as
a result of bonds formed, of readiness of certain tracts, no willing, no
attention on the part of the thinker, would ever bring about analysis.
This is made very vivid when one is met by a problem he cannot solve. If
the situation does not break up, if the right element does not emerge,
if the right cue is not given, he is helpless. All he can do is to hold
fast to his problem and wait. As the associations are offered, he can
select and reject, but that is all. The marvelous power of the genius,
the inventor, the reasoner in all fields, is merely an exhibition of the
laws of association working with extremely subtle elements. It seems to
transcend all experience because these elements and the bonds which
experience has formed cannot be observed. A child fails in his thinking
often because he uses his past experience and responds by analogy--we
note that fact and criticize him for it. But he succeeds for just the
same reason and by the use of just the same laws. James long ago showed
conclusively that association by similarity, which is one of the
prominent types used in reasoning, was only the law of habit working
with elements of novel data.

The fact that thinking is determined by its aim rather than by its
antecedents has also been given a mysterious place as apart from
association. The thinker who chose the right associate, the one that led
him towards his goal rather than some other, was called sagacious. But,
after all, this being governed by an aim is nothing more than the
operation of the law of readiness among intellectual bonds. One
associate is chosen and another rejected because one is more satisfying
than another. Certain bonds are made more ready than others because of
the general set or attitude of the thinker, and therefore any associate
using those bonds brings satisfaction and is retained. "The power that
moves the man of science to solve problems correctly is the same that
moves him to eat, sleep, rest, and play. The efficient thinker is not
only more fertile in ideas and more often productive of the 'right'
ideas than the incompetent is; he is also more satisfied by them when he
gets them, and more rebellious against the futile and misleading ones.
We trust to the laws of cerebral nature to present us spontaneously with
the appropriate idea, and also _to prefer that idea to others."_[11]

The reasons for failure of teachers and educators of all kinds to train
people to think are numerous. (1) Scarcity of brains which work
primarily in terms of connections between subtle elements,
relationships, etc. (2) Lack of knowledge or incorrect knowledge, due to
narrow experience or poor memory. (3) Lack of the necessary habits of
attention and criticism. (4) Lack of power of the more abstract and
intellectual operations to bring satisfaction, due partly to original
equipment and partly to training. (5) Lack of power to do independent
work, due to poor training. Schools cannot in any way make good the
deficiency which is due to a lack of mental capacity. They can, and
should, do something to provide knowledge which is well organized around
experiences which have proved vital to pupils. Something can undoubtedly
be done in the way of cultivating the habit of concentration of
attention, and of making more or less habitual the critical attitude.
Within the range of the ability which the individuals to be educated
possess, the school may do much to give training which will make
independent work or thinking more common in the experience of school
pupils, and therefore much more apt to be resorted to in the case of any
problematic situation.

Possibly the greatest weakness in our schools, as they are at present
constituted, is in the dependence of both teachers and children upon
text-books, laboratory manuals, lectures, and the like. In almost every
field of knowledge which is presented in our elementary and high
schools, more opportunity should be given for contact with life
activities. Such contacts should, in so far as it is possible, involve
the organization of the observations which are made with relation to
problems and principles which the subject seeks to develop. In nature
study or in geography in the elementary school many of the principles
involved are never really mastered by children, by virtue of the fact
that they merely memorize the words which are involved, rather than
solve any of the problems which may occur, either by virtue of their
intellectual interests, or on account of their meaning in everyday life.
The following of the instructions given in the laboratory manual does
not necessarily result in developing the spirit of inquiry or
investigation, nor even acquaint pupils with the method of the science
which is supposed to be studied.

Possibly the greatest contribution which a teacher can make to the
development of thinking upon the part of children is in discovering to
them problems which challenge their attention, the solution of which for
them is worth while. As has already been indicated, an essential element
in thinking is constantly to select from among the many associations
which may be available that one which will contribute to the particular
problem which we have in mind. The mere grouping of ideas round some
topic does not satisfy this requirement, for such a reciting of
paragraphs or chapters may amount simply to memorization and nothing
more. If a teacher can in geography or in history send children to their
books to find such facts as are available for the solution of a
particular problem, she is stimulating thought upon their part, and may
at the same time be giving them some command of the technique of inquiry
or of investigation. The class that starts to work, either in the
discussion during the recitation period, or when they work at their
seats, or at home, with a clear statement of the aim or problem may be
expected to do much more in the way of thinking than will occur in the
experience of those who are merely told to read certain parts of a book.
In a well-conducted recitation which involves thinking, the aim needs to
be restated a number of times in order that the selection of those
associations which are important, and the rejection of those which are
not pertinent, may continue over a considerable period.

In so far as it is possible, children should be made to feel
responsibility for the progress which is made in the solution of their
problems. They should be critical of the contributions made by each
other. They should be sincere in their expression of doubt, and in
questioning whenever they do not understand. Above all, if they are
really thinking, they need to have an opportunity for free discussion.
In classrooms in which children are seated in rows looking at the backs
of each other's heads and reciting to the teacher, the tendency is
simply to satisfy what the pupils conceive to be the demands of the
teacher, rather than to think and to attempt to resolve one's doubts. In
classes in which teachers provide not only for a statement of the
problem which is to be solved during the study period, but also for a
variety in assignments, children may be expected to bring to class
differences in points of view and in the data which they have collected.
In such a situation discussion is a perfectly normal process, and
thinking is stimulated.

As children pass through the several grades of the school system, they
ought to become increasingly conscious of the process of reasoning. They
should be asked to tell how they have arrived at their conclusions. They
should give the reason for their judgments. A great deal of loose
thinking would be avoided if we could in some measure establish the
habit upon the part of boys and girls of asking, "Will it work in all
cases?"; "What was assumed as a basis for arriving at the conclusion
which I have accepted?"; "Are the data which have been brought together
adequate?"; "To what degree have the fallacies which are more or less
common in reasoning entered into my thinking?" It is not that one would
hope to give a course in logic to elementary or to high school children,
but rather that they should learn, out of the situations which demand
thought, constantly to check up their conclusions and to verify them in
every possible way. We may not expect by this method to create any
unusual power of thought, but we may in some degree provide for the
development of a critical attitude which will enable these same boys and
girls, both now and as they grow older, to discriminate between those
who merely dogmatize, and those who present a sound basis for their
reasoning, either in terms of a principle which can be accepted, or in
terms of observations or experiments which establish the conclusions
which they are asked to accept.

In all of the work which involves thinking, it is of the utmost
importance that we preserve upon the part of pupils, in so far as it is
possible, an open-minded attitude. It is well to have children in the
habit of saying with respect to their conclusions that in so far as they
have the evidence, this or that conclusion seems to be justified. It may
even be well to have them reach the conclusion in some parts of their
work that there are not sufficient data available upon which to base a
generalization, or that certain principles which are accepted as valid
by some thinkers are questioned by others, and that the conclusions
which are based upon principles which are not commonly accepted must
always be stated by saying: it follows, if you accept a particular
principle, that this particular conclusion will hold.

We need more and more to encourage the habit of independent work. We
must hope as children pass through our school system that they will grow
more and more independent in their statement of conclusions and of
beliefs. We can never expect that boys and girls, or men and women, will
reach conclusions on all of the questions which are of importance to
them, but it ought to be possible, especially for those of more than
usual capacity, to distinguish between the conclusions of a scientific
investigation and the statements of a demagogue. The use of whatever
capacity for independent thought which children possess should result in
the development of a group of open-minded, inquiring, investigating boys
and girls, eager and willing in confronting their common community
problems to do their own thinking, or to be guided by those who present
conclusions which are recognized as valid. They should learn to act in
accordance with well-established conclusions, even though they may have
to break with the traditions or superstitions which have operated to
interfere with the development of the social welfare of the group with
which they are associated.


1. How do children (and adults) most frequently solve their problems?

2. Under what conditions do children think and yet reach wrong
conclusions? Give examples.

3. Can first-grade children think? Give examples which prove your

4. What are the important elements to be found in all thinking?

5. Show how these elements may be involved in a first-grade lesson in
nature study. In an eighth-grade lesson in geography. In the teaching of
any high school subject.

6. When may habit formation involve thinking? Memorization?

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