Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Experimental Psychology: A Manual of Laboratory Practice, Vol. I: Qualitative Experiments, Part 1: Student's Manual
Titchener, Edward B.
§ 40- Perception 
that history, with minutes in place of centuries, — they show all 
manner of short cuts in development, so that it is often difficult 
or impossible to parallel the growth of the individual with the 
growth of the species. Very much the same thing holds of 
mind. Mental process, too, has its short cuts ; we do not pass 
through all the ancestral stages. And perception is, in this 
respect, the most puzzling of all mental formations. The orig¬ 
inal pattern has been modified : old sensations have dropped 
out, and new sensations have come in to take their places ; or 
perhaps, to make our task still more difficult, old short-cuts have 
gone, and new short-cuts have been superinduced upon the 
fragments of the old material. You will understand this better 
when you have worked through the perception experiments. It 
accounts for the fact that there are so many, and so divergent, 
‘theories ’ of perception : why should there be different theories, 
if the psychology of perception meant merely the dissection of 
sensation groups ? And it accounts, too, for the instantaneous¬ 
ness and sense-directness of perception : how could we see how 
far off a thing is, the first time that we look at it, — how could 
we hear a melody, the first time that it is played to us,—if we 
had to travel all the slow and tedious journey that our ancestors 
travelled in the time when the perceptions of tune and distance 
were in the making ? 
A perception, therefore, is primarily a group of sensations, 
arranged by external nature ; but it has seen so much wear and 
tear, and has been so often amended and remodelled, that to 
know it we must know its history and genesis. The psychol¬ 
ogist has a threefold problem before him : the analysis of the 
constituent sensations ; the tracing of the pattern, the mode of 
connection, imposed upon them ; and the discovery of the 
substitutions and short-cuts that have obscured the original 
Do not, however, let the complexity of this problem cause you 
to lose sight of what was said at the outset : that the psychology 
of perception follows without break from that of sensation. We 
may wish (for it would make things easier) that mind were a 
mechanical puzzle, so that the analysis of the constituent sensa- 


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