Mind Self and Society
Section 13 The Nature of Reflective Intelligence
In the type of temporary inhibition of action which signifies thinking, or in which reflection arises, we have presented in the experience of the individual, tentatively and in advance and for his selection among them, the different possibilities or alternatives of future action open to him within the given social situa-
(91) -tion -- the different or alternative ways of completing the given social act wherein he is implicated, or which he has already initiated. Reflection or reflective behavior arises only under the conditions of self-consciousness, and makes possible the purposive control and organization by the individual organism of its conduct with reference to its social and physical environment, i.e., with reference to the various social and physical situations in which it becomes involved and to which it reacts. The organization of the self is simply the organization, by the individual organism, of the set of attitudes toward its social environment-and toward itself from the standpoint of that environment, or as a functioning element in the process of social experience and behavior constituting that environment-which it is able to take. It is essential that such reflective intelligence be dealt with from the point of view of social behaviorism.
I said a moment ago that there is something involved in our statement of the meaning of an object which is more than the mere response, however complex that may be. We may respond to a musical phrase and there may be nothing in the experience beyond the response; we may not be able to say why we respond or what it is we respond to. Our attitude may simply be that we like some music and do not like other music. Most of our recognitions are of this sort. We pick out the book we want but could not say what the character of the book is. We probably could give a more detailed account of the countenance of a man we meet for the first time than of our most intimate friends. With our friends we are ready to start our conversation the moment they are there; we do not have to make sure who they are. But if we try to pick out a man who has been described to us we narrowly examine the person to make sure he answers to the account that is given to us. With a person with whom we are familiar we carry on our conversation without thinking of these things. Most of our processes of recognition do not involve this identification of the characters which enable us to identify the objects. We may have to describe a person and we find we cannot do it-we know him too well. We may have to pick those
(92) details out, and then if we are taking a critical attitude we have to find out what it is in the object that calls out this complex response. When we are doing that we are getting a statement of what the nature of the object is, or if you like, its meaning. We have to indicate to ourselves what it is that calls out this particular response. We recognize a person, say, because of the character of his physique. If one should come into the room greatly changed by a long attack of sickness, or by exposure to the tropical sun, one's friends would not be able to recognize him immediately. There are certain elements which enable us to recognize a friend. We may have to pick out the characters which make recognition successful, to indicate those characters to somebody or to ourselves. We may have to determine what the stimuli are that call out a response of this complex character. That is often a very difficult thing to do, as is evidenced by musical criticism. A whole audience may be swept away by a composition and perhaps not a person there will be able to state what it is in the production that calls out this particular response, or to tell what the various reactions are in these individuals. It is an unusual gift which can analyze that sort of an object and pick out what the stimulus is for so complex an action.
What I want to call attention to is the process by which there is an indication of those characters which do call out the response. Animals of a type lower than man respond to certain characters with a nicety that is beyond human capacity, such as odor in the case of a dog. But it would be beyond the capacity of a dog to indicate to another dog what the odor was. Another dog could not be sent out by the first dog to pick out this odor. A man may tell how to identify another man. He can indicate what the characters are that will bring about a certain response. That ability absolutely distinguishes the intelligence of such a reflective being as man from that of the lower animals, however intelligent they may be. We generally say that man is a rational animal and lower animals are not. What I wanted to show, at least in terms of behavioristic psychology, is that what we have in mind in this distinction is the indication of those
(93) characters which lead to the sort of response which we give to an object. Pointing out the characters which lead to the response is precisely that which distinguishes a detective office that sends out a man, from a bloodhound which runs down a man. Here are two types of intelligence, each one specialized; the detective could not do what the bloodhound does and the bloodhound could not do what the detective does. Now, the intelligence of the detective over against the intelligence of the bloodhound lies in this capacity to indicate what the particular characters are which will call out his response of taking the man .
Such would be a behaviorist's account of what is involved in reason. When you are reasoning you are indicating to yourself the characters that call out certain responses-and that is all you are doing. If you have the angle and a side you can determine the area of a triangle; given certain characters there are certain responses indicated. There are other processes, not exactly rational, out of which you can build up new responses from old ones. You may pick out responses which are there in other reactions and put them together. A book of directions may provide a set of stimuli which lead to a certain set of responses, and you pick them out of your other complex responses, perhaps as they have not been picked out before. When you write on a typewriter you may be instructed as to the way in which to use it. You can build up a fairly good technique to start with, but even that is a process which still involves the indication of the stimuli to call out the various responses. You unite stimuli which have not been united in the past, and then these stimuli take with them the compound responses. It may be a crude response at first, and must be freed from the responses had in the past. The way in which you react toward the doubling of letters when you write is different from the way you react in writing the
(94) letters on a typewriter. You make mistakes because the responses you utilize have been different, have been connected with a whole set of other responses. A drawing teacher will sometimes have pupils draw with the left hand rather than the right, because the habits of the right hand are very difficult to get rid of. This is what you are doing when you act in a rational fashion: you are indicating to yourself what the stimuli are that will call out a complex response, and by the order of the stimuli you are determining what the whole of the response will be. Now, to be able to indicate those stimuli to other persons or to yourself is what we call rational conduct as distinct from the unreasoning intelligence of the lower animals, and from a good deal of our own conduct.
Man is distinguished by that power of analysis of the field of stimulation which enables him to pick out one stimulus rather than another and so to hold on to the response that belongs to that stimulus, picking it out from others, and recombining it with others. You cannot get a lock to work. You notice certain elements, each of which brings out a certain sort of response; and what you are doing is holding on to these processes of response by giving attention to the stimuli. Man can combine not only the responses already there, which is the thing an animal lower than man can do, but the human individual can get into his activities and break them up, giving attention to specific elements, holding the responses that answer to these particular stimuli, and then combining them to build up another act. That is what we mean by learning or by teaching a person to do a thing. You indicate to him certain specific phases or characters of the object which call out certain sorts of responses. We state that generally by saying consciousness accompanies only the sensory process and not the motor process. We can directly control the sensory but not the motor processes; we can give our attention to a particular element in the field and by giving such attention and so holding on to the stimulus we can get control of the response. That is the way we get control of our action;
(95) we do not directly control our response through the motor paths themselves.
There is no capacity in the lower forms to give attention to some analyzed element in the field of stimulation which would enable them to control the response. But one can say to a person "Look at this, just see this thing" and he can fasten his attention on the specific object. He can direct attention and so isolate the particular response that answers to it. That is the way in which we break up our complex activities and thereby make learning possible. What takes place is an analysis of the process by giving attention to the specific stimuli that call out a particular act, and this analysis makes possible a reconstruction of the act. An animal makes combinations, as we say, only by trial and error, and the combination that is successful simply maintains itself.
The gesture as worked out in the conduct of the human group serves definitely to indicate just these elements and thus to bring them within the field of voluntary attention. There is, of course, a fundamental likeness between voluntary attention and involuntary attention. A bright light, a peculiar odor, may be something which takes complete control of the organism and in so far inhibits other activity. A voluntary action, however, is dependent upon the indication of a certain character, pointing it out, holding on to it, and so holding on to the response that belongs to it. That sort of an analysis is essential to what we call human intelligence, and it is made possible by language.
The psychology of attention ousted the psychology of association. An indefinite number of associations were found which lie in our experience with reference to anything that comes before us, but associational psychology never explained why one association rather than another was the dominant one. It laid down rules that if a certain association had been intense, recent, and frequent it would be dominant, but often there are in fact situations in which what seems to be the weakest element in the situation occupies the mind. It was not until the psychologist took up the analysis of attention that he was able to deal with
(96) such situations, and to realize that voluntary attention is dependent upon indication of some character in the field of stimulation. Such indication makes possible the isolation and recombination of responses.
In the case of the vocal gesture there is a tendency to call out the response in one form that is called out in the other, so that the child plays the part of parent, of teacher, or preacher. The gesture under those conditions calls out certain responses in the individual which it calls out in the other person, and carrying it out in the individual isolates that particular character of the stimulus. The response of the other is there in the individual isolating the stimulus. If one calls out quickly to a person in danger, he himself is in the attitude of jumping away, though the act is not performed. He is not in danger, but he has those particular elements of the response in himself, and we speak of them as meanings. Stated in terms of the central nervous system, this means that he has stirred up its upper tracts which would lead to the actual jumping away. A person picks out the different responses involved in escape when he enters the theater and notices the signs on the program cautioning him to choose the nearest exit in case of fire. He has all the different responses, so to speak, listed before him, and he prepares what he is going to do by picking out the different elements and putting them together in the way required. The efficiency engineer comes in to pick out this, that, or the other thing, and chooses the order in which they should be carried out. One is doing the same himself in so far as he is self-conscious. Where we have to determine what will be the order of a set of responses, we are putting them together in a certain fashion, and we can do this because we can indicate the order of the stimuli which are going to act upon us. That is what is involved in the human intelligence as distinguished from the intelligence type of the lower forms. We cannot tell an elephant that he is to take hold of the other elephant's tail; the stimulus will not indicate the same thing to the elephant as to ourselves. We can create a situation which is a stimulus to the elephant but we cannot get the
(97) elephant to indicate to itself what this stimulus is so that he has the response to it in his own system.
The gesture provides a process by means of which one does arouse in himself the reaction that might be aroused in another, and this is not a part of his immediate reaction in so far as his immediate physical environment is concerned. When we tell a person to do something the response we have is not the doing of the actual thing, but the beginning of it. Communication gives to us those elements of response which can be held in the mental field. We do not carry them out, but they are there constituting the meanings of these objects which we indicate. Language is a process of indicating certain stimuli and changing the response to them in the system of behavior. Language as a social process has made it possible for us to pick out responses and hold them in the organism of the individual, so that they are there in relation to that which we indicate. The actual gesture is, within limits, arbitrary. Whether one points with his finger, or points with the glance of the eye, or motion of the head, or the attitude of the body, or by means of a vocal gesture in one language or another, is indifferent, provided it does call out the response that belongs to that thing which is indicated. That is the essential part of language. The gesture must be one that calls out the response in the individual, or tends to call out the response in the individual, which its utilization will bring out in another's response. Such is the material with which the mind works. However slight, there must be some sort of gesture. To have the response isolated without an indication of a stimulus is almost a contradiction in terms. I have been trying to point out what this process of communication does in the way of providing us with the material that exists in our mind. It does this by furnishing those gestures which in affecting us as they affect others call out the attitude which the other takes, and that we take in so far as we assume his rôle. We get the attitude, the meaning, within the field of our own control, and that control consists in combining all these various possible responses to furnish the newly constructed act demanded by the problem. In
(98) such a way we can state rational conduct in terms of a behavioristic psychology.
I wish to add one further factor to our account: the relation of the temporal character of the nervous system to foresight and choice .
The central nervous system makes possible the implicit initiation of a number of possible alternative responses with reference to any given object or objects for the completion of any already initiated act, in advance of the actual completion of that act; and thus makes possible the exercise of intelligent or reflective choice in the acceptance of that one among these possible alternative responses which is to be carried into overt effect.
Human intelligence, by means of the physiological mechanism of the human central nervous system, deliberately selects one from among the several alternative responses which are possible in the given problematic environmental situation; and if the given response which it selects is complex-i.e., is a set or chain or group or succession of simple responses-it can organize this set or chain of simple responses in such a way as to make possible the most adequate and harmonious solution by the individual of the given environmental problem.
It is the entrance of the alternative possibilities of future response into the determination of present conduct in any given environmental situation, and their operation, through the mechanism of the central nervous system, as part of the factors or conditions determining present behavior, which decisively contrasts intelligent conduct or behavior with reflex, instinctive, and habitual conduct or behavior--delayed reaction with immediate reaction. That which takes place in present organic behavior is always in some sense an emergent from the past, and
(99) never could have been precisely predicted in advance-never could have been predicted on the basis of a knowledge, however complete, of the past, and of the conditions in the past which are relevant to its emergence; and in the case of organic behavior which is intelligently controlled, this element of spontaneity is especially prominent by virtue of the present influence exercised over such behavior by the possible future results or consequences which it may have. Our ideas of or about future conduct are our tendencies to act in several alternative ways in the presence of a given environmental situation-tendencies or attitudes which can appear, or be implicitly aroused, in the structure of the central nervous system in advance of the overt response or reaction to that situation, and which thus can enter as determining factors into the control or selection of this overt response. Ideas, as distinct from acts, or as failing to issue in overt behavior, are simply what we do not do; they are possibilities of overt responses which we test out implicitly in the central nervous system and then reject in favor of those which we do in fact act upon or carry into effect. The process of intelligent conduct is essentially a process of selection from among various alternatives; Intelligence is largely a matter of selectivity.
Delayed reaction is necessary to intelligent conduct. The organization, implicit testing, and final selection by the individual of his overt responses or reactions to the social situations which confront him and which present him with problems of adjustment, would be impossible if his overt responses or reactions could not in such situations be delayed until this process of organizing, implicitly testing, and finally selecting is carried out; that is, would be impossible if some overt response or other to the given environmental stimuli had to be immediate. Without delayed reaction, or except in terms of it, no conscious or intelligent control over behavior could be exercised; for it is through this process of selective reaction-which can be selective only because it is delayed-that intelligence operates in the determination of behavior. Indeed, it is this process which constitutes intelligence. The central nervous system provides not
(100) only the necessary physiological mechanism for this process, but also the necessary physiological condition of delayed reaction which this process presupposes. Intelligence is essentially the ability to solve the problems of present behavior in terms of its possible future consequences as implicated on the basis of past experience-the ability, that is, to solve the problems of present behavior in the light of, or by reference to, both the past and the future; it involves both memory and foresight. And the process of exercising intelligence is the process of delaying, organizing, and selecting a response or reaction to the stimuli of the given environmental situation. The process is made possible by the mechanism of the central nervous system, which permits the individual's taking of the attitude of the other toward himself, and thus becoming an object to himself. This is the most effective means of adjustment to the social environment, and indeed to the environment in general, that the individual has at his disposal.
An attitude of any sort represents the beginning, or potential initiation, of some composite act or other, a social act in which, along with other individuals, the individual taking the given attitude is involved or implicated. The traditional supposition has been that the purposive element in behavior must ultimately be an idea, a conscious motive, and hence must imply or depend upon the presence of a mind. But the study of the nature of the central nervous system shows that in the form of physiological attitudes (expressed in specific physiological sets) different possible completions to the given act are there in advance of its actual completion, and that through them the earlier parts of the given act are affected or influenced (in present conduct) by its later phases; so that the purposive element in behavior has a physiological seat, a behavioristic basis, and is not fundamentally nor necessarily conscious or psychical.