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fondled and bribed when they become sufficiently obnoxious. When by chance they behave modestly and obediently, they are unnoticed; but their early efforts at impertinence, self-will and vanity arouse amusement and comment. By the time the two-year-old baby has become a ten-year-old boy the result is often intolerable, and the father who laughed at the infantile self-will is amazed to find an ill-mannered, selfish, petulant son. He then makes an equal error, expecting (2) to inhibit directly by resulting discomfort a fully formed habit. He scolds and punishes the boy for the acts he encouraged in the baby. He may mend the boy's manners, but he loses his confidence. He may prevent certain acts for the time being, but they will probably recur when the boy becomes old enough to fear punishment no longer, or when circumstances are such that the act will not be discovered.
(3) To value the feeling of effort for its own sake. The feeling of effort is found in efficient and good men; it is a frequent accompaniment of great and noble deeds. As a result we tend to think of it as itself a desirable thing, and to use its presence as a test of the value of any act. “This is hard ; therefore it is right. I do not wish to do this; therefore I ought,' was a common enough reasoning of our Puritan ancestors. “You do not wish to do this; therefore you ought,” was still commoner. And to-day many a one does, and makes others do, useless acts because they are hard and because their doing will test and increase the power to stand the strain of effort. This is doubly a mistake. The chance to improve character by the performance of concretely useful acts, productive of concretely useful habits, is wasted; and the one who makes the effort, stands the strain, is being taught the lesson that, though he does stand the strain, nothing comes of it, unless perhaps this power of concentration about which his master declaims. There are enough useful acts to be done to give all the training in self-control that anyone could ask, and these will increase self-control far more surely, for they will demonstrate that it is worth while.
(4) To regard quantity of action as a sign of energy. It is an American fashion to regard repose as indolence and ‘hustle' as accomplishment. But in reality a vast amount of action may come from a small amount of energy, when none is expended for inhibition and control. In well-directed action far more energy is consumed in restraining and guiding conduct than in merely arousing it. Indeed, over-action is a recognized symptom of nervous weakness. Men learn efficiency in action by learning to omit erroneous acts and to keep all acts under rigid control. Not quantity, but balance,—the preservation of the golden mean in action,—is the best symptom of energy or strength.
Exercises 1. Illustrate from your own acquaintance or from fiction, extreme inability to act on abstract and general ideas.
2. Illustrate similarly a predominant tendency for ideas to call up other ideas rather than acts.
3. Illustrate similarly an explosive will due to excessive impulsion.
4. Illustrate similarly an explosive will due to a lack of inhibition.
5. Illustrate similarly an obstructed will due to excessive inhibition.
6. Illustrate similarly an obstructed will due to a lack of impulsion.
7. What did Dr. Clonston probably mean by this statement: "You Americans wear too much expression on your faces...... The duller countenances of the British population betoken a better scheme of life”. (Quoted by James in his Talks to Teachers on Psychology, p. 208.)
Stout, Manual, 581-616.
Titchener, Outline, $$ 62-69.
James, Principles, XXVI.
References on Imitation and Suggestion
§ 56. Acts of Skill So far the connections of mental states with bodily movements have been treated broadly and from the point of view of the general conduct of life. From this point of view the exact nature of the movement is of little consequence, the main issue being whether or not a movement of a certain general character shall or shall not be made. In the case of what are called acts of skill the same general problem appears, but the main issue is now: Just what movement shall be made; just how extensive or energetic or long in duration shall it be? Life as a whole is made up both of such movements as are made in playing chess, where what you do counts, and of such movements as are made in billiards or lawn tennis, where the thing of importance is how you do it. The question before was: ‘Given any mental state, what thing shall be done?' The question now is: “What causes a certain definite, precise movement or series of movements ?'
The Acquisition of Skill.—The same law of association operates here as elsewhere. A single illustration will suffice. In drawing a straight line, the situation is the sight of the paper, the feeling of the pencil and of one's arm and fingers in position, and the command or idea that is connected with the act of drawing a straight line. As the movement is made new sensations arise from the sight of so much of the line as has been already drawn, from the movements already made and from the new position taken; the continuation of the movement is the sequent of these as well as of the original mental state; and so on until the movement is complete, each successive part of the movement furnishing new sensations which, arousing their appropriate connections, modify the further course of the movement. Let the reader draw rapidly a line between the two lines of Fig. 83
without touching either and he will realize this process of continual arousal of alterations in the movement by new sensations produced by it. When you see the pencil going too far down toward one line, you alter its direction; when you have made one or two touches, you decrease the speed. Just how you initiate, guide and alter your movement will depend upon what inborn capacity for steadiness and precision of movement you possess and what previous practice you have had; i.e., upon what connections have