Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Experimental Psychology: A Manual of Laboratory Practice, Vol. II: Quantitative Experiments, part 2: Instructor's Manual
Titchener, Edward B.
The Reaction Experiment 
position should not be said to ‘ correspond to ' a conscious contents, but 
to ‘ be produced ’ or to ‘ be left behind ’ by it. Association accordingly 
becomes (if we abbreviate a little) an union, formed by experience, be¬ 
tween the mental traces left behind by two conscious contents, such that 
when the one content recurs the other tends to recur also. Very well ! 
but do ' contents ’ recur ? Of course not : meanings recur ; contents 
never (Baldwin, Handbook, i., 1890, 165 ; Stout, Manual, 1899, 84). 
Pass this, however, and consider the mechanics of association. Two 
ideas have been together in consciousness ; they have set up two mental 
dispositions, which form an union. At a later date, the one idea recurs. 
Recurring, it realises its own disposition. But this disposition is attached 
to the other disposition. The other disposition, therefore, tends to share 
in the realisation of the first ; and the idea which originally produced it 
tends itself to recur. The work is done by the dispositions. 
Now consult Stout’s Manual (82 ff.). “On seeing a flower, I am told 
that it has a certain name. Afterwards, I hear this name again : it may 
then call up to my mind a mental picture of the flower, although no 
flower is actually present . . . The actual perception of the flower oc¬ 
curred as part of the same continuous conscious process as the hearing 
of the name. Hence, when the name occurs again, it may re-excite the 
mental disposition left behind by the perception, and re-excite it in such 
a way that the mental image of the flower rises before the mind although 
no actual flower is present to the senses.” Here it is not the name 
[What the ‘ prefix of the latter term ’ may be (329, col. 2., 11. 13, 14), the author 
cannot discover. Is the latter term ? or habit ?] It looks, then, as if the 
definition of Disposition should have had three sub-headings; (i)=acquired+ 
congenital disposition; (2)=acquired disposition (the usage recommended) ; and 
(3)=congenital disposition (Predisposition recommended). 
If we seek, further, to replace the other terms of the definition of Association 
by their definitions, we get into more difficulty. What is experience ? “ Consci¬ 
ousness considered as a process taking place in time ” [i., 360. The (1) on 361, 
col. i, 1. 12, should be (2)]. And what is consciousness ? “ The distinctive char¬ 
acter of whatever may be called mental life ” (i., 216). “ Formed in and by the 
course of experience ” thus becomes “formed in and by the course of the dis¬ 
tinctive character (considered as temporal process) of the mental life.” And 
“ contents of consciousness ” becomes “ contents of the distinctive character of 
whatever may be called mental life.” Yet, if we turn to ‘content,’ we find 
(i., 223) : “ whatever in any way forms part of a total consciousness,” etc. Here 
‘ consciousness ’ is employed, against its definition, in the sense in which the ex¬ 
perimentalists employ it. 
The fact would seem to be that the writers took the terms, as they came up, 
and approached them with very different ‘ dispositions ’ or ‘ associations.’ Natural 
■enough ! But suppose that an experimental psychologist were guilty of similar 
looseness : would there not be a certain Schadenfreude in the other camps ?


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