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ILLUSTRATION OF THINKING MADE OVERT

psychology

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ILLUSTRATION OF THINKING MADE OVERT.

The present writer has often felt that a good deal more can be learned about the psychology of thinking by making subjects think aloud about definite problems, than by trusting to the unscientific method of introspection. Usually a scientific man is quite willing to enter into the experiment with zest. If I ask my subject in 1 (see page 90) to think aloud he overtly responds with his limerick, his day dreaming or his mathematical answer. Similarly if I ask him to think aloud in 2, I notice hesitations here and there, false starts and occasional returns, but in general a fairly ready response occurs with relatively few errors. It is only when we ask him to think aloud in 3 above that we begin to grasp how relatively crude is the process of thinking. Here we see typified all of the errors made by the rat in the maze: false starts appear; emotional factors show themselves, such as the hanging of the head and possibly even blushing when a false scent is followed up. The subject returns again and again to his starting point as shown by his asking, 'You say the given facts are so and so?' The experimenter says 'Yes' and again the subject starts off. In conducting an experiment of this kind, one has to be careful to impose problems upon his subject which are as far as possible removed from repressed [p. 92] emotional factors. It is never possible of course completely to do this as the analysts have more than once pointed out. The following illustration will make clear some of the points which appear in overt thinking.




A colleague of mine came on a visit to stay in an apartment in which I had rooms. In a passage leading from the shower bath was a peculiar piece of apparatus standing near a sink. The essential features were a curved shallow nickel pan about twelve inches wide by twenty inches long; at one end the pan had been bent in in the form of a half circle, while at the other end the side pieces did not extend for the full width. The pan was mounted on a stand adjustable in height. Furthermore the pan itself was attached to the stand by a ball and socket joint. My friend had never seen anything like it and asked me what in the world it was. I told him I was writing a paper on thinking and pleaded with him to think his problem out aloud. He entered into the experiment in the proper spirit. I shall not record all of his false starts and returns but I will sketch a few of them. 'The thing looks a little like an invalid's table, but it is not heavy, the pan is curved, it has side pieces and is attached with a ball and socket joint. It would never hold a tray full of dishes (cul de sac). The thing (return to starting point) looks like some of the failures of an inventor. I wonder if the landlord is an inventor. No, you told me he was a porter in one of the big banks down town. The fellow is as big as a house and looks more like a prize-fighter than a mechanician; those paws of his would never do the work demanded of an inventor' (blank wall again). This was as far as we got on the first day. On the second morning we got no nearer the solution. On the second night we talked over the way the porter and his wife lived, and the subject wondered how a man earning not more than $150 per month could live as our landlord did. I told him that the wife was a hair-dresser and earned about eight dollars per day herself. Then I asked him if he did not see the sign 'Hair-Dresser' on the door as we entered. The next morning after coming from his bath he said, 'I saw that infernal thing again' (original starting point). 'It must be something to use in washing or weighing the baby -- but they have no baby (cul de sac again). The thing is curved at one end so that it would just fit a person's neck. Ah! I have it! The curve does fit the neck. The woman you say is a hairdresser and the pan goes against the neck and the hair is spread out over it.' This was the correct conclusion. Upon reaching it there was a smile, a sigh and an immediate turn to something else (the equivalent of obtaining food after search).








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