The Fundamental Laws of Human Behavior

Table of Contents

Max Meyer

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Being, doing, thinking. Thinking of humanity in terms of thought. The subjective and the objective. Consciousness and nervous function. The nervous system compared with a telephone system. Designing a nervous system. Sensitivity, contractility, conductivity. Differentiation of tissues. An analogy of tissue conductivity. Deformation of the body bringing about change of its situation. Avoiding an obstacle. The story of the snail. A nervous system of impossible design.



Contraction at a point other than that of stimulation. The moth and the light. A steady stimulus causing a periodic motion. The need of a nervous system proportional to the development of special motor organs. Sensory and motor points of the body. Nervous connections represented graphically by arches. Cells the biological elements of structure. A nerve cell not a cell but a part o f a cell. Neuron, fiber, ganglion cell. Types of neurons. Collaterals. Terminal arborization and dendrites. White and gray matter. Relative unimportance of the ganglion cell for a theory of mental life.



Locomotion of the jelly-fish. Concerted action of all the divisions of the body and local responsiveness. Need of a gradation of connections differing in resistance. Corresponding points. Resistance dependent on length of conductors. Connections of non-corresponding points. Impossible manner of connecting the neuron arches. First improvement of manner of connection: One-way valves at the meeting points of neurons. Second improvement. The connections between the arches being themselves arches consisting of three neurons each.



Reflex arches. Their peripheral and central points. Central sensory points and central motor points. Central points of a lower and higher order. Lettering of diagrams explained. Central sensory and central motor neurons. Reflex and instinct. Instinct a selecting and collecting agent. Overflow of a strong sensori-motor discharge into the most closely connected arches. The source of motor power different from the signal for its expenditure. What a nervous excitation can be likened to. Signaling by rods and levers or by pneumatic tubes. Velocity of signal very great, but not infinite; not dependent on intensity. A neuron likened to an electric storage element. A simple picture of a nervous process needed for our imagination of nervous function.



Advantage of comparing the nervous process with a process of streaming. Analogy of the jet-pump. The whole nervous system permeated by any nervous process, but not with uniform intensity. Suction at motor points; openings made at sensory points. Velocity of the relief of tension. Conditions of the intensity of streaming at any definite point of the system. Exhaustion. Resistance increasing with, and even more rapidly than, the flux. Overflow not identical with universal permeation. The selective function of an instinct explained by the principle of deflection, the collective by that of overflow.



Tension of the total muscular system not interfering with special activities. The motor point not identical with the point that is moved. Fewer reflexes, more instincts in higher animals. The compounding of nervous elements into groups, of these groups into larger groups, and soon, into a single nervous system. The nervous system of a worm. Nerve centers. Lower and higher centers. The nervous system of a crayfish. The brains offish, frog, bird, and mammal. The nervous system of man. The cerebral hemispheres of man.



Learning. The susceptibility of nervous conductors. Variations of the nervous path. (1) Two kinds of variation of response. (2) Sensory condensation. (3) Motor condensation. Graceful motion. Inhibition. How a child comes to fear a fire.



Substitution of a direct for a devious nervous path. Nervous tension inducing growth. Automatic action. Periodic levels of learning. Two meanings of forgetting. Positive and negative susceptibility of neurons. The curves of learning and forgetting.



Sensory condensation in piano playing, Proportional reduction of the resistance of higher and lower centers connecting the same corresponding points. The positive (and negative) susceptibility of a higher center greater than that of a lower center. Motor condensation in grasping.



Order of acquisition of the first four classes of habits. Control of the sense organs of the head. Direction and extent of the fixation movement of the eye. Improvement by experience of the fixation movement of the eye. A variation of response resulting from a close succession of nervous processes just as from a deflection of one by another. Coordination of the eyes. How an infant learns to face a sounding object. Control of the hands and arms. Learning to raise the arm in response to a visual object above the eyes. Loose co-ordination of eye and hand.



Control of the feet. The ability to walk equal to rising plus balancing. Reflex of straightening the leg. Reflex of squatting. Balancing with hand support preceding free balancing. Balancing on one leg preceded by balancing on both. Walking not a simple instinct, but a compound of reflexes united largely by experience. Balancing sideways preceding balancing fore and aft. Stretching the foot reflexly toward a thing which impresses the eye. Locomotion resulting from this reflex. Creeping. Creeping on two legs preceded by creeping on one. Influences of creeping on walking. Sitting up. Finger-sucking superceded by other habits. Free standing rarely preceded by walking. One-sidedness and general clumsiness of first walking. Encouraging a child to stand: a purely negative event. The so-called instincts of constructiveness and destructiveness: rather habits.



Repetition of motor activity characteristic of learning in childhood. Variation of the order of earliest accomplishments. Speech organs: whispering and singing. First speech sounds. General and specific resistances of neurons. The motor outlet of a group of successive nervous processes determined by the temporal order of the qualitatively different processes. The general resistance as well as the specific resistance reduced by any special flux; but the reduction of the specific resistance outlasting that of the general resistance. Possibility of a particular distribution of specific resistances resulting from experience.



A simple sensory excitation bringing about a temporally complex response. Some, but by no means all, temporally complex responses to a simple sensory excitation explainable on the basis of geometric-mechanical rivalry of motor organs. Multiform variation of response. Importance of kinesthetic sensory activity. Two stages in the development o f speech. Reflex pointing and utterance of a dental sound. Left-handedness during the first months of life. Right-handed reflex pointing. Right-handedness and speech. Accented and gesticulating languages.



Spatial perception. Inherited responses to spatial form. Acquisition of unitary groups of conductors serving all objects of the same design. Mutual attraction of nervous processes of equal strength. Melody and harmony. Two kinds of tonal similarity. Neurons applying their specific resistances in various degrees to a variety of processes. Rhythm equals subjective grouping of objectively uniform excitations. Habits of performing group motions consisting of one chief and one or several preparatory movements. No counting in rhythmical perception. Why all common rhythms are of the doublet and triplet kind.



Imitation. Auditory and visual imitation at different stages of life. Kinesthetic imitation not inherited; of little importance even when acquired. Emotional reactions. Either contraction or relaxation prevailing in either organic or skeletal muscles. Emotional reactions inherited. Emotional reactions either of direct or of indirect value, for example, as signals for social interaction; especially in primitive man and in animals. Civilized man, deriving little benefit from his emotional reactions, practically unable to control them by experience.



The speech function serving as a generalizing function. Abstraction a kind of generalization. Advantages of the written language in generalization for individual use and for communication. Science the sum total of all generalizations which mankind has tested and collected. Written symbols becoming a class of (artificial) objects to which man learns to respond as formerly he learned to respond alone to the objects of nature. Arithmetic. The generalization "force" in mechanics: a creation of man like all other generalizations. Advantage of handling words rather than things. Danger of speculation.



The generalizing function changing from a nervous and muscular into a purely nervous function. Relation between processes in the higher nerve centers and strictly subjective experiences. Nervous functions of generalization especially likely to have also the subjective aspect. For the generalizing nervous function in another person's brain we substitute an imaginary mental state. The nervous correlates of sensation and imagery. Associations of successive and of simultaneous mental states. Attention. Pleasantness and unpleasantness. Insufficiency of introspective psychology.


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