An Introduction to Comparative Psychology


C. Lloyd Morgan

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MY central object in this work is to discuss the relation of the psychology of man to that of the higher Animals, since such a discussion forms in my opinion the best introduction to Comparative Psychology. A secondary object, subordinate indeed, yet forming an integral part of my plan, is to consider the place of consciousness in nature, the relation of psychical evolution to physical and biological evolution, and the light which comparative psychology throws on certain philosophical problems.

It was my original intention to compare my own results with those which have been reached by previous. observers and thinkers in this field of investigation and inquiry. But I found that, in the first place, this would largely increase the bulk of the book; that, in the second place, it would introduce a controversial tone, which I was desirous of avoiding; and that it would in other ways interfere with what appeared the most convenient mode of developing my subject. I therefore abandoned my original intention, and adopted a more direct method of exposition and discussion. It is, however, all the more incumbent on me to acknowledge my indebtedness to my predecessors and contemporaries. Those whose acquaintance with the subject is most wide and extensive, will best be able to judge how far what I have written is a

(x) mere restatement of what has already been written, and how far, if at all, I have done something towards advancing the boundaries of our knowledge or rendering the knowledge that we possess clearer and more exact. Others will perhaps do well to regard me as a secretary who has, I trust, with due diligence thrown into convenient form the data with which he has been supplied.

It is right that I should particularly call attention to my indebtedness to the works of Mr Herbert Spencer, whose description of relations as " the momentary feelings accompanying transitions " in consciousness contains the germinal idea from which my own treatment of the perception of relations has developed; of Professor William James, whose conception of a wave of consciousness I have adopted; of Professor Romanes,[1] to whom I owe much, and in many ways; and of Professor Mivart, in whose writings I find many things with which I am in cordial agreement, and not a little from which I must dissent.

In the body of the work there will be found a description of certain experiments and observations on newly-hatched chicks and ducklings, some -of which have already been published in the Fortnightly Review for August 1893, and in Natural Science for March 1894. Similar observations have been made by previous observers, and the results obtained by,, Douglas Spalding and Professor Eimer are often quoted. In my own work on " Animal Life and Intelligence " I cited some of these results. Shortly

(xi) after the publication of that book, I received from my friend, Mr T. Mann Jones, a letter informing me that experiments and observations of his own gave different results, and had led him to regard with critical suspicion much that was written about the " philosopher's chick." He especially adduced the instinctive knowledge of the cry of a hawk, as such, said to be shown by young turkeys in the absence of individual experience. as in his opinion an unwarrantable assumption. I therefore determined to carry out a series of obser- vations for myself, especially as I wished to study association in young birds. The results of these observations are, on the whole, confirmatory of those to which Mr Mann Jones's investigation (which I trust he may be induced to publish) had led him. With regard, therefore, to the observations and experiments in this matter described in this book, I would ask the reader to bear in mind, that they are repetitions of similar observations made by many previous observers; that the results to which they lead differ in some respects from those obtained by Spalding and by Professor Eimer; and that they are, in their general, tendency, confirmatory of the views which Mr Mann Jones has communicated to me, and of the general conclusions on instinct in young birds advocated by Dr A. R. Wallace, Mr. W.H. Hudson, and others.

I have laid much stress on the paramount importance of systematic and sustained observation as the only safe basis for conclusions concerning the intelligence of animals. The observations, hereafter- described, of the way in which dogs deal with the difficulty of bringing a stick through vertical railings, affords a case in point. But with regard to this case,

(xii) I should here state that I have received communications from two correspondents-Miss M. E. Garnons Williams and " Ouida "-describing observations which show that dogs sometimes meet the difficulty without preliminary bungling. I do not think that such occasional observations invalidate the conclusions reached by systematic investigation. I would,- however, urge on all those who have the good fortune to witness the performance of some conspicuously intelligent action in any animal, not to rest content with merely recording it, but to make it the basis of further observation directed to the end of ascertaining its true nature. The records of casual observation are not without their interest ; but the results of detailed investigation are, for comparative psychology, of far greater value.

I would strongly urge upon my readers the advisability of testing, by careful introspection, all my statements concerning the mental processes of man. Only thus can a valid basis either of appreciation or of criticism be obtained. It must not be forgotten that introspective psychology is an essential preliminary -to comparative psychology, and that, if it is to pro-, duce results of scientific value, it must be based upon exact and oft-repeated observation. Such observation, however, requires special training, not less than objective observation in physics or in biology. It would be an inestimable boon to comparative psychology, if all those who venture to discuss the problems with which this science deals would submit to some preparatory discipline in the methods and results of introspective observation.

I have endeavoured throughout to be self-consistent in my use of technical terms. But it will be noticed

(xiii) that some terms, such as " perception " and " conception," "percept" and "concept," are employed in senses somewhat different from those which are commonly accepted; and indeed different from those which I had myself been led to adopt in a previous book. On this, matter I would court criticism. In another work, now in the press, entitled "Psychology for Teachers," I have further. endeavoured to give clear expression to my views in this matter and I beg to refer those who are interested in the matter to that work.

I have received friendly help and criticism from many correspondents, to whom I hereby tender my best thanks. Among these I would especially mention Mr T. Mann Jones, some of whose observations on animals are quoted in the Appendix of Mr Herbert Spencer's volume on "Justice." Mr Jones has been good enough to supply me with mu ch information which is the outcome of his wide experience of domestic animals, and also to give me permission to make use of the information he thus placed at my disposal. One of my chief grounds for not availing myself of this privilege, is my hope that Mr Jones may himself be induced to publish a work on animal intelligence, in which these observations would find a fitting place.- But I am anxious here to acknowledge how helpful my correspondence with him has been to me in my own work. Another correspondent who has favoured me with helpful criticism is Mr H. B. Medlicott. If the following pages show that I am not able fully to accept the view which he put forward in his pamphlet on " The Evolution of Mind in Man," I can assure him that I am not the less grateful for the

(xiv) elucidation of that view with which he has favoured me in private correspondence. I have also to thank my friends Mr Norman Wyld and Mr Sidney H. Reynolds, my brother Dr Llewellyn Morgan, and Miss Ashe, for the trouble they have taken in reading much of my work in MS. or in proof, and for the valuable assistance they have rendered me.

In conclusion, I desire to express my indebtedness to the Editors and Publishers of the Fortnightly Review, the Monist, the New World, and Natural Science, for their courteous permission to introduce parts of articles which have appeared in their pages.

After nine years of further observation and reflection, there are some parts of this work which I should like to recast. Among other things, I should come into line with the leading psychologists of recent times in the use of the word "perception." But I am loth to make more changes than are absolutely necessary. Hence, apart from some few additions and corrections, I have restricted the alterations to a restatement of the latter part of the chapter on "Conceptual. Thought," and a complete revision of the chapter in which the question, "Do Animals Reason ?" is discussed. I have there, as far as space allowed, drawn attention to the results of 'a large number of recent observations.


BRISTOL, September 1903


  1. The death of Professor Romanes, since this too brief acknowledgment of all that I owe to him was written and printed, has entailed a loss to Science which is irreparable, and a loss to his personal friends which lies too deep for words.

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