1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Assimilation of Impressions

(Part 27)

(E) Perception (cont.)

Assimilation of Impressions

The range of the terms assimilation or recognition of impressions is wide : between the simplest mental process they may be supposed to denote and the most complex there is a great differnce. The penguin that watched unmoved the first landing of man upon its lonely rock becomes as wild and wary as more civilized fowl after two or three visits from its molester : it then recognizes that featherless biped. His friends at home also recognize him though altered by years of peril and exposure. In the latter case some trick of his voice or manner, some "striking" feature, calls up sustains a crowd of memories of the traveller in the past,—events leading on to the present scene. The two recognitions are widely different, and it is from states of mind more like that latter than the former that psychologist have usually drawn their description of perception. At the outset say, we have a primary presentation or impression P, and after sundry repetitions there remains a mass or a series of P residua, p1p2p3…; perception ensues when, sooner or later, Pn "calls up" and associates itself with these re-presentations or ideas. Much of our later perception, and especially when we are at all interested, awakens, no doubt, both distinct memories and distinct expectations; but, since these imply previous perceptions, it is obvious that the earliest form of recognition, or, as we might better call it, assimilation, must be free from such complications, can have nothing in it answering to the over judgement, Pn is a P. Assimilation involves retentiveness and differentiation, as we have seen, and prepares the way for re-presentation ; but in itself there is no confronting the new with the old, no determination of likeness, and no subsequent classification. The pure sensation we may regard as a psychological myth ; and the simple image, or such sensation revived, seems equally mythical, as we see later on. The nth sensation is not like the first : it is a change in a presentation-continuum that has itself been changed by those preceding ; and it cannot with any propriety be said to reproduce these past sensations, for they never had the individuality which such reproduction implies. Nor does it associate with images like itself, since where there is association there must first have been distinctness, and what can be associated can also, for some good time at least, be dissociated.

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