1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Association by Familiarity Not Fundamental

(Part 40)

(G) Mental Association and the Memory-Continuum

Association by Familiarity Not Fundamental

Only a very brief treatment of this important subject is permissible here, as it has already been handled at length under ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS (q.v.). Great confusion has been occasioned, as we have seen incidentally, by the lax use of the term "association"; this confusion has been increased by a further laxity in the use of the term "association by similarity." In so far as the similarity amounts to identify, as in assimilation, we have a process which is more fundamental than association by contiguity, but then it is not a process of association. Yet, when the reviving presentation is only partially similar to the presentation revived, the nature of the association does not appear to differ from that operatives when one "contiguous" presentation revives another. In the one case we have, say a b x recalling a b y and in the other a b c recalling d e f. Now anybody who will reflect must surely see that the similarity between a b x and a b y, as distinct form the identity of their partial constituent a b, cannot be the means of recall; for this similarity is nothing but the state of mind – to be studied presently – which results when a b x and a b y, having been recalled, are in consciousness together and then compared. But, if a b, having concurred with y before and being now present in a b x, again revives y, the association, so far as that goes, is manifestly one of contiguity, albeit the state of mind immediately incident as soon as the revival is complete be what Dr Bain loves to style "the flash of similarity." So far as the mere revival itself goes, there is no more similarity in the case than there is when a b c revives d e f. For the very a b c that now operates as the reviving presentation was obviously never in time contiguous with the d e f that is revived; if all traces of previous experiences of a b c were obliterated there would be no revival. In other words, the a b c now present must be "automatically associated," of, as we prefer to say, must be assimilated to those residua of a b c which were ‘contiguous" with d e f, before its representation can occur. And this, and nothing more than this, we have seen, it all the "similarity" that could be at work when a b x "brought up" a b y .

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