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A CORRECTION OF STATEMENT

psychology

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A CORRECTION OF STATEMENT.

Before attempting to define further in this Symposium the behaviourist's position on thinking, it would seem best to discuss for a moment some of the statements the behaviourist has already made. In advance of any argument I think we can say that he has never really held the view that thinking is merely the action of language mechanisms. Possibly my own loose way of writing may have lent colour to such a view. I frankly admit that in a number of paragraphs in a recent book I may justly be accused of having given an affirmative answer to the question before the Symposium. I can make only the well-worn excuse that my over-emphasis was indulged in for the sake of sharpness of presentation before elementary students.




In psychology we can rarely make a complete observation of everything that a human being does at any one moment; and in giving an account of what happens we emphasize those points which the experiment was designed best to bring out. This is what I meant to do in my previous discussion of thinking. I gladly emend any statement I may [p. 88] hitherto have made as follows. -- A whole man thinks with his whole body in each and in every part. If he is mutilated or if his organs are defective or lacking, he thinks with the remaining parts left in his care: but surely he does everything else in exactly the same way. If one studies a game of tennis, one's observation is taken up with the type of strokes the player makes, his serve, his returns, the way he covers the court, etc. In other words, arm and leg activities are principally emphasized. However, everyone admits that the player is using every cell in his body during the game. Nevertheless if we sever a small group of muscles in his right arm his playing is reduced practically to that of a novice.[3] This illustration serves us very well in explaining why one emphasizes laryngeal processes in thinking. Surely we know that the deaf and dumb use no such laryngeal processes, nor does the individual whose larynx has been removed. Other bodily processes have to take on the function of the larynx. Such functions are usually usurped by the fingers, hands, arms, facial muscles, muscles of the head, etc. I have in another place emphasized the extent to which finger and hand movements are used by the deaf and dumb when they are engaged in silent thinking. Mr. Thomson in his paper before the Symposium seems more or less to subscribe to the same view. It would be an easy experiment, but so far as I know not hitherto tried, to bind the fingers and arms of such an individual and then give him a problem in arithmetic, memorizing simple stanzas, and the like, which have to be worked out without exteroceptive aid. It would be necessary probably to tie down eye movements, were such a thing possible, and to restrain even the head and intercostal muscles.



While there is no sacrosanct reason why thinking should go on in normal individuals in the muscular fields of the larynx and throat, there are two very practical ones. There is first the genetic fact that, from childhood onwards, organization has been forced in the direction of language activity. From the third or fourth year onwards probably a thousand language adjustments are made to one manual adjustment. There is, too, a biological reason. This arises from the fact that the human being in his early struggles for existence had to have the undivided use of arm, finger and hand musculature when hunting and fighting. If he [p. 89] had had to employ the large muscles in thinking as, I am convinced, deaf mutes do, manual activity would have been interfered with at critical times. I have never had the opportunity of observing deaf mutes in a fight or in a critical situation where both thinking and delicate action of the manual type were demanded.






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