Volltext: Dictionary of philosophy and psychology including many of the principal conceptions of ethics, logics, aesthetics ... and giving a terminology in English, French, German and Italian, vol. 2 [lead-zwing] (2)

Muscle Reading : Ger. Muskellesen, Ge¬ 
dankenlesen (thought reading) ; Fr. lecture de 
la pensée (thought reading) ; Ital. lettura del 
pensiero (thought reading). The interpreta¬ 
tion through contact, such as grasping the 
hand, of slight involuntary movements or mus¬ 
cular contractions, and the detection thereby 
of the direction or object of another’s thoughts. 
The basis of muscle reading rests upon the 
tendency—a marked one in some individuals, 
and less so in others—of involuntary move¬ 
ments and impulses to motor expression to 
accompany mental operations. Such move¬ 
ments find most ready expression in the con¬ 
traction of delicate and specialized muscle 
groups, of which the hand is a familiar 
example. Such involuntary movements, 
particularly of the hand, were offered in ex¬ 
planation of the phenomena of spiritualism, 
such as the rappings, table turning, and 
planchette writing. The phenomena of the 
divining rod have also been referred to 
involuntary movements (see letter of Chevreul, 
1852, in Binet, Alterations of Personality, 
Eng. trans., 221). The experimental de¬ 
monstration of these movements has been 
frequently made. For such purpose an ap¬ 
paratus is necessary by which the movements 
may be rendered visible. Such apparatus have 
been devised by Jastrow (Fact and Fable in 
Psychol., 130) and Sommer [Zeitsch. f Psychol., 
xvi. 275). See Automatograph, under Labo- 
In this way it has been proved that the 
thought of a particular corner of the room 
is likely involuntarily to direct the hand to¬ 
wards that corner, the direction of the atten¬ 
tion towards a sound is apt to start a move¬ 
ment towards the locality of the sound, and so 
on. In brief, the local direction of the atten¬ 
tion is more or less readily reflected in the 
accompanying involuntary movement. More 
recently it has been shown that involuntary 
whispering may also occur ; and the move¬ 
ments of the larynx accompanying reading 
to oneself, the active thinking of certain 
sounds, &c., have been recorded. While the 
mere fact of movement not infrequently rises 
into consciousness, the directions and details 
of the movements remain unconscious and 
wholly involuntary. When, in susceptible 
persons, these movements become pronounced 
and directive, they develop into Automatic 
Whiting (q. v.), planchette writing, &c. 
Ordinarily the movements fundamental to 
muscle reading involve only direction and 
local indication ; but truly ‘ automatic ’ move¬ 
ments convey by symbols, such as writing, 
an indication of the content of the mover’s 
Muscle reading as an expert performance 
has been exhibited by various performers 
from about 1874; it is often misleadingly 
termed mind reading and heralded as depen¬ 
dent upon a mysterious power to divine 
another’s thoughts. The usual procedure is 
for the muscle reader to place the hand of his 
subject against his own forehead, and by 
noting the indications of the movements and 
of their direction and the moments of in¬ 
creased excitement, to find a hidden object, to 
select from a group of numbers the digits 
which compose the number of a bank-note of 
which the subject is thinking, and other more 
elaborate variations of such pi'ocedures. The 
skill with which such involuntary indications 
can be interpreted by an expert muscle reader 
—combined with a more general shrewdness 
and alertness—is remarkable, and many 
striking feats have been recorded. It may 
be stated as probable that, apart from 
general shrewdness, such performances (feats 
involving collusion or fraud are not considered 
in this connection) involve nothing more than 
the skilful interpretations of involuntary mus¬ 
cular contractions ; but with this must be 
included not only definite movements, but 
exhibition of excitement (change of respira¬ 
tion, flushing, the hush of the audience when 
the muscle reader approaches the hiding- 
place, &c.), and all the various accompani¬ 
ments of intense concentration. The process 
on the part of the muscle reader requires an 
extreme and wearing concentration, and some 
performers are only dimly conscious of their 
modus operandi. The difference in the readi¬ 
ness with which various subjects become 
helpful to a muscle reader is very great ; but 
nothing more than general correlations of 
such motor tendencies with other nervous 
dispositions may be postulated. 
We may name Cumberland, Bishop, Brown, 
Onofroff, Capper, Pikman, Dalton, Caselli, 
and others as expert performers. 
Literature (on involuntary movements) : 
Jastbow, Amer. J. of Psychol., iv. (1892) 
398 ff., v. (1892) 223 ff. ; Preyek, Die 
Erklärung des Gedankenlesens (1886) ; Han¬ 
sen and Lehmann, Ueher unwillkürliches 
Flüstern, Philos. Stud., xi. (1895) 471-530; 
Cubtis, Automatic Movements of Larynx, 
Amer. J. of Psychol., xi. (1900) 237-40. 
On muscle-reading performances : articles on 
Muscle Reading, Mind Reading, or Thought 


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