Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

The New Psychology
Scripture, Edward Wheeler
The inability to answer such questions concerning 
details, says Ebbinghaus, does not arise because by 
chance these details have escaped investigation, and 
can be determined whenever we have a mind to do so. 
On the one hand, although we feel that such ideas as 
degrees of forgetting, of certainty and of interest, are 
quite correct ones, we find no means in our experience 
of defining such degrees except in the wildest extremes 
and vaguest indefiniteness. We consequently have 
nothing to start an investigation with. On the other 
hand, we find that our ideas of memory, formed for 
certain extreme cases, do not fit the facts of memory in 
ordinary life, and we also find that we have not even 
grasped many fundamental ideas necessary to a study 
of the details of the facts, and to the theoretical grasp 
of the results. Such metaphorical concepts as the usual 
ones of stored-up impressions, of more or less travelled 
paths, of images engraved on the mind, &c., have only 
one thing certain about them, namely, that they are 
entirely inappropriate. 
The possibility of gaining any accurate and trust¬ 
worthy knowledge concerning memory depends upon 
the possibility of applying what is often called the 
u natural science ” method. This is the method on 
which all science must rest, and is called the “ natural 
science ” method merely because mental science has 
made so little use of it. This method is essentially as 
follows : from the complexity of conditions surrounding 
a phenomenon we first exclude those that are evidently 
unessential ; then we seek to maintain all the others 
unchanged except one ; we vary this one by definite 
steps, and determine what changes occur in the 
How is this to be done for such an indefinite thing as 
memory ?


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