Mental Development in the Child and the Race

Chapter 1: Infant and Race Psychology

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THE study of psychology has had so remarkable a development in recent years, and the standpoint from which it is now approached is so unlike the point of view of older writers on mental philosophy, that the several departments which it now comprises stand in need of separate introductions; and not only are such introductions necessary for purposes of exposition, but their apologetic function, though reduced to a minimum, is still real. The expression 'nursery psychologist' no doubt means what its author intended it to mean, to some others than himself; and it is desirable that it should be understood by the educated public as a badge of honourable service rather than as a phrase of disparagement and discredit.

I. Infant and Race Psychology: Ontogenesis, the Genetic Point of View

No doubt we owe to the rise of the evolution idea something at least of the benefit brought about by what we may call the psychological renaissance of the last twenty-five

(2) or thirty years. The breadth of the current conception of psychology is certainly in harmony with the conceptions long ago current in other departments of scientific research; but there is a phase o$ this broadening of psychological inquiry strikingly brought out only when interpreted in the light of evolution doctrine. This is what we may call the genetic phase, the growth phase. The older idea of the soul was of a fixed substance, with fixed attributes. Knowledge of the soul was immediate in consciousness, and adequate; at least, as adequate as such knowledge could be made. The mind was best understood where best or most fully manifested; its higher 'faculties,' even when not in operation, were still there, but asleep.

Under such a conception, the man was father to the child. What the adult consciousness discovers in itself is true, and wherein the child lacks it falls short of the true stature of soul life. We must, therefore, if we take account of the child-mind at all, interpret it up to the revelations of the man-mind. If the adult consciousness shows the presence of principles not observable in the child consciousness, we must suppose, nevertheless, that they are really present in the, child consciousness beyond the reach of our observation. The old argument was this, -- and it is not too old to be found in the metaphysics of to-day, -- consciousness reveals certain great ideas as simple and original: consequently they must be so. If you do not find them in the child-mind, then you must read them into it.

The genetic idea reverses all this. Instead of a fixed substance, we have the conception of a growing, developing activity. Functional psychology succeeds faculty psychology. Instead of beginning with the most elaborate exhibition of this growth and development, we shall find

(3) most instruction in the simplest activity that is at the same time the same activity. Development is a process of involution as well as of evolution, and the elements come to be hidden under the forms of complexity which they build up. Are there principles in the adult consciousness which do not appear in the child consciousness, then the adult consciousness must, if possible, be interpreted by principles present in the child consciousness; and when this is not possible, the conditions under which later principles take their rise and get their development must still be adequately explored.

Now that this genetic conception has arrived, it is astonishing that it did not arrive sooner, and it is astonishing that the 'new' psychology has hitherto made so little use of it. The difference between description and explanation is as old as science itself. What chemist long remains satisfied with a description of the substances found in nature ? He is no investigator at all. His science was not born until he became an analyst. The student of philology is not content with a description, a grammar, of spoken languages: he desiderates their reduction to common vocal elements, and aims to discover the laws of their genetic development. But the mental scientist has called such description science, even when he has had examples of nature's own furnishing around him which would have confirmed or denied the results of mental analysis.

The advantages which we look to infant psychology to furnish, meet just this need of analysis; and the reason that the needed analysis is found here, is that the mind, like all other natural things, grows. This general statement may be put into concrete form under several points, which divide this branch of general psychology from others now recognized.

I. In the first place, the phenomena of the infant con-

(4)-sciousness are simple as opposed to reflective; that is, they are the child's presentations or memories simply, not his own observations of them. In the adult consciousness the disturbing influences of inner observation is a matter of notorious moment. It is impossible for me to know exactly what I feel, for the apprehending of it through the attention alters its character. My volition also is a complex thing of alternatives, one of which is my personal pride and self-conscious egotism. But the child's emotion is as spontaneous as a spring. The effects of it in the mental life come out in action, pure and uninfluenced by calculation and duplicity and adult reserve. There is around every one of us a web of convention and prejudice of our own making. Not only do we reflect the social formalities of our environment, and thus lose the distinguishing spontaneities of childhood, but each one of us builds up his own little world of seclusion and formality with himself. We are subject not only to 'idols of the forum,' but also to 'idols of the den.'

The child, on the contrary, has not reamed his own importance, his pedigree, his beauty, his social place, his religion, his paternal disgrace; and he has not observed himself through all these and countless other lenses of time, place, and circumstance. He has not yet fumed himself into an idol nor the world into a temple; and we can study him apart from the complex accretions which are the later deposits of his self-consciousness.

Perhaps one of the best illustrations we can find of the value of this consideration in the study of the child-mind is seen in the reversion to the child-type occasioned by hypnotism. One of the signal services of hypnotism, I think, is the demonstration of the intrinsic motor force of an idea. Any idea tends at once to realize itself in action. All conventionalities, proprieties, alternatives, hesitations,

(5) are swept away, and the developed mind reveals its skeleton structure, so to speak, its composition from reactive elements. But hypnotism need not have been waited for to show this. The patient observation of the movements of a child during his first year would have put it among the safest generalizations of the science of mind. In the absence of alternative considerations, reflections, the child acts, and act it must, on the first suggestion which has the faintest meaning in terms of its sensations of movement.

2. The study of children is often the only means of testing the truth of our mental analyses. If we decide that a certain complex product is due to a union of simpler mental elements, then we may appeal to the proper period of child life to see the union taking place. The range of growth is so enormous from the infant to the adult, and the beginnings of the child's mental life are so low in the scale, in the matter of mental and moral endowment, that there is hardly a question of analysis now under debate which may not be tested by this method.

On the other hand, that such confirmation shuts out most conclusively the advocates of irreducibility in many cases, seems to admit of no question. A good example of such analysis is seen in the distinction between simple consciousness and self-consciousness. Over and over again have systems been built upon the subject-object theory of consciousness; namely, that personality, subjectivity, consciousness in any form, necessarily implicated an antithesis, in consciousness, between ego and non-ego. But an example of what is thus denied may be seen upon the floor of any nursery where there is a child less than six months of age.

At this point it is that child psychology is more valuable than the study of the consciousness of animals. The latter never become men, while children do. The animals repre-

(6)-sent in some few respects a branch of the tree of growth in advance of man, while being in many other respects very far behind him. In studying animals we are always haunted by the fear that the analogy may not hold; that some element essential to the development of the human mind may not discover itself at all. Even in such a question as the localization of the motor functions of the brain, where the analogy is one of comparative anatomy and only secondarily of psychology, the monkey presents analogies with man which dogs do not. But in the study of children we may be always sure that a normal child has in him the promise of a normal man.

The contrast between this branch of psychology and mental pathology also shows points of advantage on the side of the former. In the study of mental disease all the mental functions are or may be involved. We are never sure that functional connections and sympathies have not been developed in the growth of the personality as a whole, which are liable to derangement with other processes very remote from them. For example, instinct is modified by the growth of volition; so that in cases of diseased volition, we do not find that the instincts corresponding to those of the creatures which do not attain volition are left intact. For this reason the application of the logical 'method of difference,' which consists in observing the change brought about in a phenomenon from the removal of part of its antecedent conditions, cannot be always relied upon. It is further true that, in the child, the whole nature is growing together, so that the absence of one function does not mean the violent uninhibited exercise of others, as is the case with diseased adult patients.

One of the same difficulties confronts the student of animal pathology. The indefinite source of error called 'shock' is always present. The organs left intact by the

(7) disease or by the operator 'sympathize' in the sufferings of the organism as a whole; and sometimes loss of function is reported, when time afterwards repairs the damage.

In dealing with the child, however, the same advantage of simplicity is secured without the corresponding disadvantage of possible interference of functions. In other words, the simplicity of the child is normal simplicity, while the simplicity of disease or surgery is abnormal simplicity; and the danger of what physicians call 'complication' is in the former case entirely ruled out.

3. Again, in the study of the child-mind, we have the added advantage of a corresponding simplicity on the organic side; that is, we are able to take account of the physiological processes at a time when they are relatively simple. I say 'relatively simple,' for in reality they are enormously complex at birth, and the embryologist pushes his researches much farther back in the life history of the organism. But yet they are simple relatively to their condition after the formation of habits, motor complexes, brain connections and associations; in short, after the nervous system has been educated to its whole duty in its living environment. For example: a psychology which holds that we have a 'speech faculty,' an original mental endowment which is incapable of further reduction, may appeal to the latest physiological research and find organic confirmation, at least as far as a determination of its cerebral apparatus is concerned; but such support for the position is wanting when we return to the brain of the infant. Not only do we fail to find the series of centres into which the organic basis of speech has been divided, but even those of them which we do find have not taken up the function, either alone or together, which they perform when speech is actually realized. In other words, the primary object of each of the various centres involved is not speech, but some

(8) other and simpler function; and speech arises by development from a union of these separate functions.

We accordingly find a development of consciousness keeping pace with the development of the physical organism. The extent of possible analogies between the growth of body and that of mind may thus be estimated from below; and any outstanding facts of the inner life which cannot be correlated with facts of the physical organism get greater prominence and safer estimation.

4. In observing young children, a more direct application of the experimental method is possible. [1] By 'experiment' here, I mean both experiment on the senses and also experiment directly on consciousness by suggestion, social influence, etc. In experimenting on adults, great difficulties arise through the fact that reactionsCsuch as performing a voluntary movement when a signal is heard, etc.,Care broken at the centre by deliberation, habitual desire, choice, etc., and closed again by a conscious voluntary act. The subject hears a sound, identifies it, and presses a buttonCif he choose and agree to do so. What goes on in this interval between the advent of the incoming nerve process and the discharge of the outgoing nerve process? Something, at any rate, which represents a brain process of great complexity. Now, anything that fixes this sensori-motor connection or simplifies the central process, in so far gives greater certainty to the results. For this reason, experiments on reflex reactions are valuable and decisive where similar experiments on voluntary reactions are uncertain and of doubtful value. Now the fact that the child consciousness is relatively simple, and so offers a field for more fruitful experiment, is illustrated in what is said in the following pages about suggestion in

(9) infant life; it is also seen in the mechanical reactions of an infant to strong stimuli, such as bright colors, etc.[2] Of course, this is the point where originality must be exercised in the devising and executing of experiments. After the subject is a little better developed, new experimentation will be as difficult here as in the other sciences; but at present the simplest phenomena of child life and activity are open to the investigator.

With this inadequate review of the advantages of infant psychology, it is well also to point out the dangers of the abuse of such a branch of inquiry. Such dangers are real The very simplicity which seems to characterize the life of the child is often extremely misleading, and misleading because the simplicity in question is not always typical but may be to a degree individual. Mr. Spencer had a large range of facts in view when he said that organic development involved progress not only in complexity, but also in definiteness; :~d the distinction between simplicity which indicates mere absence of complexity, and that which indicates definiteness of function as well, applies with great force to mental growth. Two nervous reactions may appear equally simple; but e may be an adaptive reaction learned with great pains and really very complex in its elements, while the other may be inadaptive and really simple. So a state of infant consciousness may seem to involve no complexity or integration, and yet turn out to represent, by reason of its very apparent simplicity and definiteness, a mass of individual or race development. It is a corollary from this that children differ under the law of heredity very remarkably, even in the simplest manifestations of their conscious lives. It is never safe except under the qualifications mentioned below, to say,

(10) 'This child did, consequently all children must.' The most we can usually say in observing single infants is, 'This child did, consequently another child may.' Yet the uncertainties of the case may be summed up and avoided if certain principles of mental development are kept in view.

I. In the first place, we can fix no absolute time in the history of the mind at which a certain mental function takes its rise. The observations, now quite extensively recorded, and sometimes quoted as showing that the first year, or the second year, etc., brings such and such developments, tend, on the contrary, to show that such divisions do not hold in any strict sense. Like any organic growth, the nervous system may develop faster under more favourable conditions, or more slowly under less favourable; and the growth of mental faculty is largely dependent upon such organic growth. Only in broad outline and by the widest generalization can such epochs be marked off at all.

2. The possibility of the occurrence of a mental phenomenon must be distinguished from its necessity. The occurrence of a single clearly observed event is decisive only against the theory according to which its occurrence under the given conditions may not occur; that is, the cause of the event is proved not to lie among agencies or conditions which are absent. For example: the very early adaptive movements of the infant in receiving its food cannot be due to volition; but the case is still open for the question, what is the sufficient reason of their presence, i.e. how much nervous development is present, how much experience is necessary, etc. It is well to emphasize the fact that one case may be decisive in overthrowing a theory, but the conditions are seldom simple enough to make one case decisive in establishing a theory.

3. It follows from the principle of growth itself that the

(11) order of development of the mental functions is constant, and normally free from variation; consequently, the most fruitful observations of children are those which show that such a function was present before another could be observed. The complexity becomes finally so remarkable that there seems to be no before or after at all in mental things; but if the child's processes show stages in which any element is clearly absent, we have at once light upon the law of growth. ~For example: if a single case is conclusively established of a child's drawing an inference before it begins to use words or significant vocal sounds, the one case is as good as a thousand to show that thought develops to a degree independently of spoken language. [3]

4. While the most direct results are acquired by systematic experiments with a given point in view, still general observations kept regularly, and carefully recorded, are important for the interpretation which a great many such records may afford in the end. In the multitude of experiences here, as everywhere, there is strength. Such observations should cover everything about the child, -- his movements, cries, impulses, sleep, dreams, personal preferences, muscular efforts, attempts at expression, games, favourites, etc., -- and should be recorded in a regular daybook at the time of occurrence. What is important and what is not, is, of course, something to be learned; and it is extremely desirable that any one contemplating such observations should acquaint himself beforehand with the principles of general psychology and physiology, especially the former, and seek also the practical advice of a trained observer. [4]


  1. On the nature and application of experiment in psychology, see my Handbook of Psychology, I., 2d ed., pp. 25-31.
  2. See below, Chaps. III. to VI.
  3. Yet even this rule is subject to the modifications given below in this chapter, 4, II.
  4. 4.See Chap. XII., 3, below, on the method of observing children's imitations.


2. Race Psychology: Phylogenesis

If we adopt a distinction in terminology which the biologists use, and call the development of a single life or mind its ontogenesis, and, on the other hand, call the life history of the race, or of consciousness in all the forms of animal life, the phylogenesis of mind, it will be seen that what I have said about infant psychology falls under the former head. Before we proceed to take up the special questions to which this book is devoted, it may be well to indicate the place of phylogenetic inquiry.

The phrase 'Race Psychology' is commonly used in a narrow sense, having reference to the characteristic mental peculiarities of various peoples, tribes, stages of civilization, cults, etc. That is, the word 'race' is applied to the human race. The points of comparison, on the other hand, between human and animal consciousness, fall under so-called Comparative Psychology. I take the liberty, however, of extending the meaning of the former phrase to include the history of consciousness, very much as the phrase 'race experience' is used to include the full wealth of inheritance derived, as it is held to be, from ancestral life of whatever kind. The problem of 'race psychology' then becomes the problem of the phylogenetic development of consciousness, just as 'individual psychology' deals with its ontogenetic development, both being legitimate branches of genetic as opposed to analytic psychology.

The question of race psychology, as thus understood, is an extremely important and, until very lately, a greatly neglected question. The presumption in favour of mental phylogenesis, arising from the modern evolution theory in biology, cannot be duly weighed without the most careful and detailed comparative work and the fairest interpretation

(13) of the concomitance existing between nervous and mental growth everywhere. So far as theoretical human psychology has to do with questions of the nature of mind, as opposed to questions of function, it is, I hold, largely independent of questions of origin; but so far as data of origin must be included in the answer to questions of function, just so far do they come to throw light on the deeper problems of the nature of the mind as well. [1]

Assuming, then, that there is a phylogenetic problem, Cthat is, assuming that mind has had a natural history in the animal series,Cwe are at liberty to use what we know of the correspondence between nerve process and conscious process, in man and the higher animals, to arrive at hypotheses for its solution: [2] to expect general analogies to hold between nervous development and mental development, one of which is that between race history epochs and individual history epochs through the repetition of phylogenesis in ontogenesis, called in biology 'Recapitulation'; to view the plan of development of the two series of facts taken together as a common one in race history, as we are convinced it is in individual history by an overwhelming weight of evidence; to accept the criteria established by biological research on one side of this correspondence, -- the organic, -- while we expect biology to accept the criteria established on the other side by

(14) psychology; and, finally, to admit with equal freedom the possibility of an absolute beginning of either series at points, if such be found? at which the best conceived criteria on either side fail of application. For example: if biology has the right to make it a legitimate problem whether the organic exhibits a kind of function over and above that supplied by the chemical affinities which are the necessary presuppositions of life, then the psychologist has the equal right, after the same candid rehearsal of the facts in support of his criteria, to submit for examination the claim, let us say, that 'judgments of worth' represent a kind of deliverance which vital functions as such do not give rise to.

The chapters of this book will be found, in various places, to involve all these determinations respecting genetic psychology. One of them, however, -- that which relates to the analogy between individual and race growth, -- carries so many preliminary suggestions and yet has received so little enforcement in the literature of the topic, that it is well to present it at the outset with 'greater fulness.


  1. For a later full discussion of 'Origin vs. Nature,' see the writer's article on that topic in his Dictionary of Philosophy, II.
  2. Such a hypothesis is that of a 'uniform psycho-physical connection' which is commonly held to apply in two great spheres in which it has not as yet been proved, viz. the sphere of volition (see, however, Chap. XIV. below) on the one hand, and that of the lower nervous centres on the other. The two questions which uniformity supposes answered in the affirmative are, accordingly: has volition a nervous process? and, do the lower nervous ganglia have consciousness? The theory of 'Psycho-physical Parallelism' has detailed discussion in the later volume in this series, Development and Evolution (Chap. I.).

3. Analogies of Development: Epochs of Development

Students of biology consider the argument for organic evolution especially strong in view of the analogy between race and individual development. The individual in embryo passes through stages which represent morphologically, to a degree, the stages actually found in the ancestral animal series. A similar analogy, when inquired into on the side of consciousness, seems on the surface true, since we find more and more developed stages of conscious function in a series corresponding in the main with the stages of nervous growth in the animals; and then we find this

(15) growth paralleled in its great features in the mental development of the human infant.

The race series seems to require, both on organic grounds and from evidence regarding consciousness, a development whose major terms are somewhat in this order, [1] i.e. simple contractility with the organic analogue of pleasure and pain; nervous integration corresponding to the sense functions, including the congeries of muscular sensations, and some adaptive movements; nervous integration to a degree to which corresponds mental presentation of objects with higher motor organization and reflex attention; greater co-ordination, having on the conscious side memory, conscious imitation, impulse, instinct, instinctive emotion; finally, cerebral function with conscious thought, voluntary action, and ideal emotion. Without insisting on the details of this sketch -- intended at this point for no more than a sketch -- certain great epochs of functional differentiation may be clearly seen. First, the epoch of the rudimentary sense processes, the pleasure and pain process, and simple motor adaptation, called for convenience the 'affective epoch': second, the epoch of presentation, memory, imitation, defensive action, instinct, which passes by gradations into, third, the epoch of complex presentation, complex motor co-ordination, of conquest, of offensive action, and rudimentary volition. These, the second and third together, I should characterize, on the side of consciousness, as the 'epoch of objective reference.' And fourth, the epoch of thought, reflection, self-assertion, social organization, union of forces, co-operation; the 'epoch of subjective reference,' which, in human history, merges into the 'social and ethical epoch.'

In the animal world these terms form a series -- evident enough on the surface -- its terms not sharply divided

(16) from one another, not in most instances exclusive before and after; but representing great places for emphasis, stages of safe acquirement? and outlooks for further growth. So we find the invertebrates, the lower vertebrates, the higher vertebrates up to, or somewhere near, man, and man -- four stages.

The analogy of this series, again, with that of the infant's growth, is, in the main, very clear: the child begins in its pre-natal and early post-natal experience with blank sensations and pleasure and pain with the motor adaptations to which they lead, passes into a stage of apprehension of objects with response to them by 'suggestion,' imitation, etc., gets to be more or less self-controlled, imaginative, and volitional, and ultimately becomes reflective, social, and ethical.

On the side of consciousness, however, we are able safely to divide our functional epochs a little more minutely, and in those of the following chapters in which ontogenetic development is our main point of inquiry this is done.

A single further distinction is in point here, however; a distinction also further justified in a subsequent connection.[2] It is evident that if the objective epoch precedes the subjective -- if the child gets objects and reacts upon them at first without reflection, and only later deliberates upon their meaning to himself, and then aims at his own pleasure or profit in his behaviour toward them -- it is evident that there will be a great difference between the way he looks at other persons at these two stages of his growth respectively. Before he understands himself, that is, during the objective epoch, he cannot understand others, except as they are also

(17) objects of a certain kind; but in learning to understand himself, he also comes to understand them, as like himself, that is, as themselves having objects to act toward and upon just as he does. Here are, therefore, four very distinct phases of the child's experience of persons not himself, all subsequent to his purely affective or pleasure-pain epoch; first, persons are simply objects, parts of the material going on to be presented, mainly sensations which stand out strong, etc.; second, persons are very peculiar objects, very interesting, very active, very arbitrary, very portentous of pleasure or pain. If we consider these objects as fully presented, i.e. as in due relationship to one another in space, projected out, and thought of as external, and call such objects again projects, then persons at this stage may be called personal projects. They have certain peculiarities afterwards found by the child to be the attributes of personality; third, his own actions issuing from himself, largely by imitation, as we shall see, m response to the requirements of this 'projective' environment, having his own organism as their centre and his own consciousness as their theatre, give him light on himself as subject; and, fourth, this light upon himself is reflected upon other persons to illuminate them as also subjects, and they to him then become ejects or social fellows.

I insist upon this series of distinctions here, even though it be necessary to refer the reader ahead in my text for further justification of them; since it is the fundamental disregard of them which has vitiated much of the earlier work in infant and social psychology. The familiar 'psychologist's fallacy,' a fallacy which is so easy a refuge for inadequate insight, and so ready a screen for faulty analysis, will be permanently exposed only by the adoption of terms which forbid appeal to it. If by 'project' of persons we understand the infant's consciousness of others before he is conscious of

(18) himself, by 'subject' his consciousness of himself, and by 'eject,' as Clifford suggested, his consciousness of other persons as similar to himself, we have, I think, safer terms than before, and, at the same time, full opportunity to define the content of each as the facts may require.

The parallelism with animal development is quite clear from this new point of approach. The only stage for which an evident analogy has not been pointed out by other writers is that called 'projective.' Now in the fact of herding, common life and arrangements for the protection of the herd, animal societies of various kinds, animal division of labour, etc., -- whatever be the origin of it, -- we have what seems to be such an epoch in animal life. These creatures show a real recognition of one individual by another, and a real community of life and reaction, which is quite different from the individualism of a purely sensational and unsocial consciousness. And yet it is just as different from the reflective organization of human society, in which the self-consciousness and personal volition of the individual play the most important role. [3] I see no way of accounting for the gregarious instinct anywhere, except on the assumption of such an epoch of animal consciousness.

We thus reach what I think is a valuable distinction in the interpretation of animal action, and avoid what has been a repetition of the 'psychologist's fallacy' habitual with naturalists. It is just as great a mistake to account for human society in terms of the gregarious instinct of animals, however we may account for this instinct, as it is to explain human reflective altruism by the organic sympathy of the lioness with her cub. In each of these cases we are anticipating a later stage of a single process of growth, because,

(19) being at this later stage ourselves, we are able to anticipate it, and by thus leveling the higher down to the lower, we are failing to recognize the essential process by which, and by which alone, all through the whole organic evolution, higher functional forms are reached by development from lower.


  1. Some of these points have discussion in later chapters.
  2. Below, Chap. VI., 3, and Chap. XI., 3; also the volume Social and Ethical Interpretations, especially Chap. I. The development of the object mode is worked out in detail in the treatise Thought and Things, Vol. I. (1906).
  3. The 'social' life of certain of the hymenoptera, notably bees and ants, illustrates an extreme 'projective' social development embodied in instinct.

4. Variations in Ontogeny

Even in the great darkness which obscures the relation of race to individual development, two modifications seem plainly necessary of the common biological theory of Recapitulation, according to which there is a strict parallel between them. [1]

I. The continued application of the principles of organic Habit and Accommodation, with the perpetuation of their results either by natural selection alone or with the inheritance of characters acquired by individual creatures, leads to certain organic 'short-cuts' -- the omission in future descendants of certain elements or stages which were necessary in the progress of their ancestors.

Let us look first at Habit, and put the case, at the outset, abstractly. A particular function involving elements a, b, c, etc., in a dog, for example, may, by the habitual exercise of this function, in later modes of life and different environment, come to involve only the elements a, c, etc. This is actually seen in well-known examples, such as the difference between dogs, together with rabbits and lower creatures

(20) generally, on one side, and monkeys and men on the other side, in regard to certain sense functions. If the cortical centre for sight be extirpated in a dog, he becomes temporarily blind, recovering his sight after some days by what is supposed to be the reinstatement of a lower centre in the function which belonged to it in ancestral forms; this lower centre is the b of the a, b, c series. But when monkeys or men lose their sight by reason of a lesion of the cortical centre for vision in the occipital lobe they never recover it. In this case the lower centre has lost its ability to constitute itself a eight centre, -- it is no longer necessary as a term in the series of organs involved in the function, -- and a, c, etc., represents the series. This 'short-cut' is inherited or selected and so represents a departure from phylogeny. As I have said elsewhere: "In organisms in which the reflex reactions predominate, in which the 'downward' growth has led to the consolidation of the greater part of the system in ganglionic centres, we would expect that the higher functions, the centres for complex delicate movements, would be more dependent and unformed. Consequently, when they are interfered with, the ganglionic centres, being still in close anatomical connection with them, would regain the function which they formerly performed. Thus sensori-motor ganglionic connections which have fallen into disuse through the growth of higher centres recover their lost activity under the stimulus of a serious and dangerous lesion. It is nothing more than a reversion of function by a reverse process of adaptation. On the other hand, in the case of man, the law of 'upward' growth has reached its fullest application; the cortical centres have become independent of their ganglionic confreres, and, in the loss of the former an irreparable damage is sustained. In this latter case, it is a general in the army who has fallen, and no subordinate officer can fill his place;

(21) in the former case, it is a captain that is lost and his lieutenant is easily promoted." [2]

Referring to this hypothesis which I have called the 'shortcut, theory, in its application to muscular movement, the application which has especial interest for us later on, Foster says: [3] "It is possible to maintain the thesis that man has become so developed as to his nervous system and the motor cortex, so accustomed to make use exclusively of the pyramidal system, that the will has lost the power, still possessed by the lower animals, to gain access, by some path other than the pyramidal one, to the immediate nervous mechanisms of thought."

The practical result, in the case of this particular illustration, which recurs in our later discussion, [4] may be put very briefly thus: it is possible that animals may perform movements which seem to be voluntary, with a nervous apparatus which would be inadequate to their voluntary performance by the child or the man. [5] And this is to say that man in his individual development does not pass through the stage represented by the animal's performance of this function with this apparatus.

In the fact of Accommodation or adaptation, we find a similar influence at work to modify the strict parallel required by the theory of Recapitulation. By accommodation, with the new adaptations which it works, old habits are broken up, and new co-ordinations are made, which are more complex, or new organic growths secured, which simplify a function. These gains are again clinched by heredity or selection and

(22) constitute further variations from phylogeny. This is particularly evident in volition. Foster again notes this in the quotation which follows, citing the same structure as in the earlier quotation, the pyramidal tracts. He does not appear to see the application of the two opposite principles which I have mentioned, however; for he does not make it clear that in one case, the latter, he is dealing with the question of the origin of the pyramidal tracts by new adaptations, and in the other, with the organic fixing of these tracts for purposes of voluntary movement. He says: [6] "When we pass in review a series of brains from the lower to the higher, and see how the pyramidal system is, so to speak, grafted on to the rest of the brain, when we observe how the increasing differentiation of the motor cortex runs parallel to the increasing possession of skilled, educated movements, we may perhaps suppose that 'a short-cut' from the cortex to the origins of the several motor nerves, such as is afforded by the pyramidal fibres, from the advantages it offers to the more primitive path from segment to segment along the cerebro-spinal axis, has by natural selection been developed into being in man the chief and most important instrument for carrying out voluntary movements."

This influence of Accommodation means, therefore, in this particular case, that animals may have nervous apparatus strikingly similar to that of man in many of its parts and stir? not be able to perforsn the functions which are performed by those parts in man. And the reason of it is, again, that man has got a certain apparatus set aside for a higher function without first using it for the lower function for which the animal used it. In this again, we must recognize departure from strict Recapitulation.

The degree to which a simple structural device may pre-

(23) serve its type of action while adapting itself to new conditions, and assuming functions which, so far as their value, end, and conscious character are concerned, are new -- this is simply extraordinary. And all the more so when we go to consciousness for the criterion of difference in function. I shall illustrate this further in what I call the principle of 'lapsed links' in the discussion of imitation below, and also in connection with the theory of the genesis of emotional expression. [7] The self-repeating or 'circular' reaction, to which the name 'organic imitation' is given in the later pages, is seen to be fundamental and to remain the same, as far as structure is concerned, for all motor activity whatever: the only difference between higher and lower function being, that in the higher, certain accumulated adaptations have in time so come to overlie the original reaction, that the conscious state which accompanies it seems to differ per se from the crude imitative consciousness in which it had its beginning.

(24) On the contrary, we find that the infant does not act voluntarily at all until he acts via the pyramidal tracts and their central connections. The stage of intra-segmental voluntary action which, if it exists, represents in certain animals a stage of development, is lacking altogether in the ontogenetic series.[9]

Similarly, we find a remarkable illustration on the side of Accommodation. On the strict interpretation of the doctrine of Recapitulation we should find the child first passing through a stage of very varied and admirable instinctive adjustments, -- corresponding to the instinctive equipment of the brutes, -- and then later losing these instincts when it learns to act voluntarily. But the child shows nothing of the kind. We find instead that he passes directly from the suggestive, sensori-motor, stage, which is much lower and earlier in the phylogenetic series than the extreme instinctive stage, directly to the volitional stage. He accomplishes this by direct inheritance of the highly differentiated organism which has arisen through the exercise of conscious mental selection with heredity or through natural selection, [10] and so omits, in his individual development, a great mass of phylogenetic details.

The probability of such a modification of the doctrine of ontogenesis occurs to us also in a later connection as a corolIary from the psychological theory of Habit. [11] The question is raised whether the effects of habit, itself a phenomenon of development, would not be inherited, or selected, thus abbreviating the ontogenetic process. A child, for example, by possessing a direct tendency to respond to a visual stimulus with movements of the tongue and larynx, would be saved the long course of development which has been necessary phylogenetically for the establishing of the direct connection, now very generally held to exist, between the visual and motor-speech centres, with a corresponding saving on the mental side. A striking illustration is seen, also`- in the infant's behaviour in regard to space. A strict reproduction of the phylogenetic order would require that the child should first see the spatial dimensions with all the exactitude of the young of some of the animals, and then afterwards develop the apparatus for learning space properties by a very gradual experience, at the same time losing the former apparatus and with it his instinctive knowledge of space.

These considerations also seem, from the psychological side, to support the general theory of 'race experience' as held by the evolutionists of both schools. The whole tendency of current psychology is toward a functional view of experience, i.e. toward the view that memory is a form of mental reinstatement or habit, that character is disposition for action, that the brain develops by enlargement of function on the basis of earlier function, and that the mind proceeds upon its past, even when it does not know its indebtedness. The value of ancestral experience is seen in what it makes me to be for opinion and action now -- by whatever process it may have come down from my father to myself.

Now this is what evolution claims for race experience. It says what is present in the mind now, in the way of function, is due somehow to the past. Nervous inheritance provides for the apparatus, and mental inheritance sums up the experience. Hence if individual mental development does not epitomize race development and yet it be true that man has developed, then the 'race experience hypothesis' becomes absolutely essential to genetic psychology, just as animal physiology would be the main resource of human morphology if the animal embryos did not show Recapitulation. [12]

These positions, it is clear, suggest modifications of that doctrine of ontogenesis which holds that it closely epitomizes phylogenesis. It is evident that while the organism develops serially in regular stages, yet often the stages in the individual's growth represent directly later stages in the series of animal structures, without having passed through all the earlier stages. [8] To use the same example, which is apropos to our later topics, we could not hold that the infant first gets voluntary movement by using the intra-segmental pathways, and then later, by developing the pyramidal tracts and their connections, transfers its voluntary function to these. Yet this latter has been, probably, the course of phylogenesis.

The probabilities point, therefore, from the side of the phylogenesis of mind to very marked modifications of the race record in the growth of the individual. They may finally have to be stated even more strongly than the purely nervous ones are stated, e.g. by Balfour, who says: "The time and sequence of the development of parts is often modified, and finally secondary structural features make their appearance to fit the embryo or larva for special conditions of existence.... Like the scholar with his manuscript, the embryologist has by a process of careful and critical examination to determine where the gaps are present, to detect the later insertions, and to place in order what has been misplaced"; [13] and by Marshall: " It is indeed a history, but a history of which entire chapters are lost, while in those that remain many pages are misplaced and others are so blurred

(27) as to be illegible . . . and worse still, alterations or spurious additions have been freely introduced by later hands, and at times so cunningly as to defy detection."

II. The second great consideration pertains to the period of infancy, using the term 'infancy' to cover the entire period of an organism's life from germination to independent existence with power to support life alone.

The bearing of the length of the extra-uteAne period of infancy -- the usual meaning of the term -- upon the development of the creature has been shown by Fiske and others to be highly important. Children are, during their long infancy, given parental care and artificial protection, and so enabled to develop slowly to maturity, with all the practice in the acquisition of movements and in general adaptation to artificial conditions of living, etc., which the human intellectual and social environment of the adult demands. A long infancy period is accordingly necessary to his being a man; the child must have time, nourishment and protection during the time, and finally instruction.

Biologists are now recognizing a corresponding group of modifying circumstances brought to bear also during the prenatal period, which is simply an earlier stage of infancy. The course of development of the embryo is dependent upon the presence and amount of food, called 'food-yolk,' which the egg supplies. A principle has been formulated which connects the ontogenetic stages of growth directly with the food-yolk supply, i.e. a plentiful supply of food-yolk tends to a direct development toward maturity, to the abbreviation, consequently, of the recapitulation process, and to the birth of the creature ready formed for separate and independent existence. [14]

In this matter of the interpretation of the whole infancy period, including both prenatal and postnatal infancy, however, there seem to be two influences at work which tend to opposite results. We have seen that abundant food supply in the conditions of embryonic or prenatal life tends to swift development and developmental abbreviation. The newborn animal is soon fitted, under these conditions, for independent life on a comparatively high level of competition. This shortness of the embryonic period seems to be in direct relation to the shortness or entire absence of the postnatal infancy period. Being thus fitted to take care of himself by advanced uterine development, he does not need after birth the artificial care, protection, etc., of other infants.

On the other hand, where we find a long postnatal infancy period, as in the case of the child, we find also a long antecedent embryo period, in spite of the abundant food supply afforded by the placental method of uterine nourishment.

The difference in the two cases seems to find some explanation when we look at the nature of the mental endowment secured in each case respectively. In the former case -- that of swift intra-uterine preparation for immediate, independent life -- the goal is refined and varied instinct, a matter of organic structure secured by earlier phylogenetic development: so the pathway of progress is already well trodden and the young organism has a straight road to grow along, marked out by its hereditary impulse. So the stretch to maturity is made rapidly.

In the case, however, of long infancy, both before and after birth, the mental gifts to be secured are of a kind not already crystallized in instinct. The hereditary impulses require a long ontogenetic evolution in each individual. SQ in spite of all the favourable conditions of abundant food, free-

(29)-dom from disturbing influences, etc., the creature must have both one and the other period at its longest.

The psychological considerations -- which I am careful to keep to, not making any claim to biological expertness -- would seem to favour some such formulation as the following: the extra-uterine infancy period is to the intra-uterine embryonic period, the conditions being equally favourable, as the amount of possible ontogenetic development is to the amount of phylogenetic development, in the entire working out of the creature's hereditary impulse. For although with creatures of instinct, which represent much phylogeny, the sum of the two periods is short, still the prenatal infancy period is relatively long, while with creatures of intelligence, which represent much ontogeny, although their whole period is long, yet the prenatal infancy period is relatively short.[15]

Furthermore, a great class of mechanical influences, such as external strain and stress, accidents, sudden changes in environment, cause modifications of the physiological conditions, and so also modifications of the stages of growth during the whole infancy period. Biologists recognize the need of restricting their expectations of recapitulation to circumstances in which the physiological conditions have been normal.

The great cause, however, of departures from the series demanded by the theory of recapitulation in a given case is that which is known in general biology technically as 'fortuitous' or 'spontaneous variation.' The law upon the basis of which natural selection gets application in the preservation of adult organisms -- the law of supply, by which a great variety of forms is secured to select from -- this law applies none the less to immature organisms. Not only do the

(30) fittest adults survive, but also the fittest embryos develop. And it is only a further application of the same truth -- an application recently put in evidence by Weismann (Romanes Lecture, Oxford, 1894)' under the term 'Intra-Selection' -- that single organs of one and the same creature are subject to such selection. [16] It is easy then to see that the actual course of development of an organism along the line of stages marked out by the earlier race development might be disturbed at any point by the operation of natural selection. For under new conditions an embryo which departs in some way from the series demanded by recapitulation may by that very fact be fitted to survive, and so be seized upon by natural selection. [17] Sedgwick maintains also that variations found in adult forms are also reflected in the embryo. He says in the paper referred to in the last note (p. 41): "Variations do not merely affect the non-early period of life where they are of immediate functional importance to the animal, but, on the contrary, they are inherent in the germ and affect more or less profoundly the whole of development."

Coming back to mental development, we should expect to find a similar state of things: the recapitulation of mental stages in the history of the child should show similar breaks. Abundant 'food supply' in the shape of lessons, rich sugges-

(31)-tions in its social and educational life, urging forward in tasks of mind, etc., should give precocious mental development in the sense of early maturity of mind. The stages normally prescribed for natural growth may thus be abbreviated. The same effect is produced also by accidents of environment. Newsboys and street gamins become sharp and mentally agile to a phenomenal degree from their method of life, while boys reared in the artificial seclusion and solitude of the single son, educated by a tutor in his father's house, show the contrary character.

The fact of variation, however, should here, as on the biological side, have supreme emphasis. No two children are alike. This is a commonplace; but its true meaning is not a commonplace. Its meaning is not limited to the fact that the child A has a different temperament, different tastes, different memory type, etc., from the child B. It means further that this difference is the only means to human progress,— the only supply of material for the selection of the fittest under the action of a progressive social environment.

I do not care to enlarge here upon the extraordinary [18] pedagogical aspects of this theme, though they are well worth attention. I note it here as a fact important in the theory of mental development. If it be a fact, then all infant observations should be read in the light of it. No child's deeds should be given universal value without a critical examination, before which even the most competent psychologist might well quail. For how do we know that this child has not had artificial rearing so far in its life, how know that he has not experienced accidents of environment which produce those 'developmental conveniences' of mental behaviour which psychologists may recognize as artificial short-cuts from one stage of growth to another; how know

(32) that he does but show anachronisms of development forced upon him by malformation of brain, body, or limb? Or is he not himself in some important respect -- as to filial instinct, premature sexuality, unusually strong or early thrill of nervous emotion, etc. -- a variation, for life or for speedy death ? We do not know.

If the morphologist, whose specimens are laid out on glass and bottled in jars, is confused by the perpetual anomalies of recapitulation, which make it necessary for him to arm himself with all the cautions formulated by Balfour, Marshall, Adam Sedgwick, [19] and others; then where is the morphologist of mind, whose specimens are hidden behind all the screens of social convention, maternal pride and tenderness, and all the homely realities of ignorant nursery customs? All he can get is an occasional snap-shot at a baby. And, alas, this is more than most psychologists seem to want !

We are obliged, therefore, to modify even further the principle which seemed safe in our earlier paragraph, i.e. that the order of an infant's stages of development might be considered constant. It is only true if we know that the 'stage' is really a universal and regular stage. To be such it must lie between two other 'stages' just as universal and regular. With this caution we may use the rule with two very different degrees of value, according as we are dealing with the ontogeny of man or with his phylogeny, -- with what a human mind goes through from cradle to grave on one hand, and with what, on the other hand, we may take from this development, as representing the race history of man, either the history of the species or the wider reach of animal race history.

For it is clear that the stages of human life history may be built up from a wide series of observations of different chil-

(33)-dren under varied conditions. So the embryologists establish the ontogeny of a species with great exactness and nicety of observation. In this way the widest reports of single observers of children get their value -- a value for science, and especially for education.

But such a science as comparative mental morphology -- and even worse, that of mental embryology -- is at present a chimera. How can we say anything about recapitulation when we know so little about mental ontogeny and less, perhaps, about comparative mental physiology? [21] In popular phrase, that is: how can we compare the development of the infant with that of the animal series, when we know neither how the child develops nor what is actually taking place in his consciousness, in any great detail, at any stage to which he may have developed ?


  1. See also Chap. XVI., 4, below. Perhaps the best and most readable statement of the present standing of the theory of 'Recapitulation' is the late Professor A. M. Marshall's President's Address before the British Association at Leeds in 1890, reprinted as Chap. XIII, 'The Recapitulation Theory,' in Marshall's Biological Lectures and Addresses (1894). The names associated with the theory are Ernst von Baer, Louis Agassiz, Fritz Muller, Haeckel, and Balfour, The standing of the theory is not materially changed to-day (1906).
  2. Handbook of Psychology, Vol. II., p. 46.
  3. Textbook of Physiology, 5th ed., III., p. 1062.
  4. Below, Chap. XIII.
  5. I have, in reference to this formulation, the opinion of Professor H. F. Osborn, that 'this is probably supported by the comparative anatomy of the cortex.'
  6. Loc. cit., p. 1063.
  7. Chap. X., 2, for the first reference and Chap. VIII., 4, for the second.
  8. Professor C. S. Minot thinks this is the case with structures, the material going directly to make up later organs. 'For example,' he says, 'the gill-arches make the branchian apparatus in fishes, but the neck in man.
  9. Cf. Edinger's account of the early development of the pyramidal tracts in his Structure of the Central Nervous System.
  10. It will have been noticed that in using the phrase 'heredity, or natural selection,' I offer either of the current biological views of heredity. I do not think the current controversy over 'acquired characters' is pertinent to this topic: for Weismann's supplementary hypotheses in support of neoDarwinism are so evidently framed to reinstate all the explanations of the doctrine of use with heredity, that it makes little difference which side is right. Jf the effects of experience are preserved sufficiently to secure evolution, as we find it, it becomes an extremely interesting biological problem to be sure, but not a matter of much philosophical importance whether the method is use with heredity or variation with selection. See further discussion below, Chap. VII., 3. The writer's own theory of 'Organic Selection' -- a form of Darwinism -- is presented in detail in the volume Development and Evolution (1902).
  11. Below, Chap. XVI., 2, 3.
  12. An interesting line of inquiry has recently been opened up into what is known as 'Neuroses of Development' (cf. Clouston's book with that title) i.e. the nervous conditions which arise from the fact of development itself. These states arise at the crises, bridges, 'short-cuts,' in the individual's development; such as the preliminaries of puberty, which probably represent a great series of phylogenetic changes. The theory of 'race experience' as social -- not physical -- heredity is worked out in Social and Ethical Interpretations, Chap. II.
  13. Comparative Embryology, p. 3.
  14. See Marshall's discussion of the influence of the food-yolk supply, Biological Lectures, XIII.
  15. That is, both the time ratios and the development ratios are large or small together.
  16. Cf. the theory of motor adaptation developed below (Chap. VII.).
  17. This influence of 'variation' does not seem to have had sufficient emphasis by embryologists, but see the illustrations of it given by Marshall, who, nevertheless, rather leaves it to be assumed than definitely states it. The recent paper by Sedgwick, Quarterly Journal of Microscopic Science (April 1894), endeavours, however, to reconstruct the theory of recapitulation in view of the facts of variation. He finds that only those stages of ancestral form are preserved in embryos which represent conditions of larval existence in the ancestral line, the point being that the independent life of larvae have required the full development of organs for actual functions and so secured their preservation in the later series of embryonic changes, the change from larval to embryonic development being due to variation.
  18. See the relative chapters in the writer's Story of the Mind.
  19. In Quarterly Journal of Microscopic Science, April, 1894
  20. As treated in 'Individual' and 'Class' Psychology.


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