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MORE COMPREHENSIVE USE OF THE TERM 'THINKING' DEMANDED

psychology

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MORE COMPREHENSIVE USE OF THE TERM 'THINKING' DEMANDED


MORE COMPREHENSIVE USE OF THE TERM 'THINKING' DEMANDED.

The question is often asked what marks off thinking from the mere subvocal unwinding of well-organized language habits. Mr. Bartlett and Miss Smith have brought out this question explicitly and have formulated an answer which is not satisfactory to me. I think we ought to make the term 'thinking' cover generally all implicit language activity and other activity substitutable for language activity. [It should be admitted furthermore that under proper stimulation (usually a request is sufficient) the subject can be made to think aloud.] Thinking would comprise then the subvocal use of any language or related material whatever, such as the implicit repetition of poetry, day dreaming, rephrasing word processes in logical terms, running over the day's events verbally, as well as implicit planning for the morrow and the verbal working out of difficult life situations. The term 'verbal' here must be made broad enough to cover processes substitutable for verbal activity, such as the shrug of the shoulder and the lifting of the brows. It must embrace the implicit movements involved in written words or the implicit movements demanded in the use of the deaf-and-dumb sign manual, which are, in essence, word activity. Thinking then might become our general term to cover all subvocal behaviour. It is obvious that this definition can take care of the most mechanical and deeply grounded of our language habits such as those used in the subvocal repetition of childhood verse, the repetition of stanzas of poetry, limericks, etc.; those depending more particularly upon emotional stimuli as day dreaming, as well as those verbal processes not completely habitual such as the working out of a lecture, the planning of a book; and finally those in which new results are brought out. It is clear that if in the interests of systematic psychology we need to sub-divide the whole process of thinking, three lines of cleavage will at once appear.




1. Mere unwinding of vocal habits where the word sequences are invariable: illustrated by hymes, quotations; by many of the responses in mathematics, as 2 and 2 equal 4, square root of 9 equals 3, and the like. Here there is no new work, no trial movements like those we see [p. 90] in overt manual activity when a new situation capable of solution is presented the first few times. Such thinking corresponds to an extremely simple stimulus and response type of behaviour. Similarly day dreaming would fall under this division. We assume that such dreaming takes place in response particularly to deficiency stimuli of one kind or another; such as the absence of sex activity, lack of food and water, lack of habitual surroundings and companions, lack of drugs, or even under the sway of drugs.

2. The solving of problems which are not new, but which are so infrequently met with that trial verbal behaviour is demanded; illustrated probably by thinking out of stanzas, partially forgotten; in trying to apply one mathematical formula after another in a particular problem at hand. All of the part processes have been met with by the individual and are part of his organization, but he cannot use these part processes with machine-like facility.

3. Finally we have the extreme extension of 2 above. Here the problem is new and the organism when confronting such a problem is in a grave situation. We will suppose, for example, that a man loses his position and wealth suddenly and must be ready in a few hours to act explicitly in a new undertaking. The problem, it is assumed, is of such a character that it must be worked out verbally before any overt action can take place. Hundreds of examples of this type immediately suggest themselves. Most of the real social and moral problems appearing in one's life are exactly of this type.[4]



These subdivisions are really guesses as to what may go on. No scientific division is as yet possible. It should be expressly stated, furthermore, that thinking in any of the above forms is not an isolated process. A human animal never gets away from his biography; and the varying organic and emotional states the organism is in must exert a tremendous influence upon the course of his thinking. So that once more we would [p. 91] emphasize the fact that thinking, whatever its type, is an integrated bodily process.

Probably not many of my colleagues would include 1 and 2 under the term 'thinking.' Thinking has come to be identified with 3 of our division, but for no valid reason. We use the term manual activity when our subject ties his shoe strings in exactly the way we use it when he is learning to manipulate (for the first time) the most complicated of machine-gun mechanisms. In our opinion 3 represents a bit of behaviour on the part of the human animal which, when stripped of its unessentials, is exactly like that bit of behaviour which the rat exhibits when put into a complicated maze for the first time. When it gets to the food the autonomic strivings die down and it goes to sleep. The deficiency stimuli, lack of food, lack of usual surroundings, etc., cease to operate -- the adjustment is complete. Surely a similar thing takes place in man. He works verbally (that is particularly verbally; many other processes go on of course, such as wrinkling the brow, tearing the hair, etc.) until certain verbal acts ('conclusions') are executed. If, when this conclusion is reached, the driving stimuli (verbal, autonomic, emotional, etc.) cease to operate, the adjustment has been completed.






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