1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Repetition. Generic Images. Train of Ideas.

(Part 44)

(G) Mental Association and the Memory-Continuum (cont.)

Repetition. Generic Images. Train of Ideas.

More important changes are produced by the repetition of parts of the memory-train. The effect of this is not merely to prevent the evanescence of the particular image or series of mages, but by partial and more or less frequent reduplications of the train upon itself to convert it into a partially new continuum, which we might perhaps call the "ideational continuum." The reduplicated portions of the train are strengthened, while at the points of divergence it becomes comparatively weakened, and this apart from the effects of obliviscence. One who had seen the queen but once would scarcely be likely to think of her without finding the attendant circumstances recur as well; this could not happen after seeing her in a hundred different scenes. The central representation of the whole complex would have become more distinct, whereas the several diverging lines would tend to dissipate attention and, by involving opposing representations, to neutralize each other, so that probably no definite background would be reinstated. Even this central representation would be more or less generalized. It has been often remarked that one’s most familiar friends are apt to be mentally pictured less concretely and vividly than persons seen more seldom and then in similar attitudes and moods; in the former case a "generic image" has grown out of such more specific representations as the latter affords. Still further removed from memory-images are the images that result from such familiar percepts as those of horses, houses, tress, &c.,

Thus as the joint effect of obliviscence and reduplication we are provided with a flow of ideas distinct from the memory-train and thereby with the material, already more or less organized, for intellectual and volitional manipulation. We do not experience this flow – save very momentarily and occasionally – altogether undisturbed; even in dreams and reverie it is continually interrupted and diverted. Nevertheless it is not difficult to ascertain that, so far as it is left to itself, it takes a very different course from that which we should have to retrace if bent on reminiscence and able to recollect perfectly. The readiness and steadiness of this flow are shown by the extremely small effort necessary in order to follow it. Nevertheless from its very nature it is liable, though not to positive breaches of continuity from its own working, yet to occasional blocks or impediments to the smooth succession of images at points where reduplications diverge, and either permanently or at the particular time neutralize each other. [Footnote 62-3]


62-3 It is a mark of the looseness of much of our psychologists terminology that facts of this kind are commonly described as cases of association. Dr Bain calls them "obstructive association," which is about on a par with "progress backwards"; Mr Sully’s "divergent association" is better. But it is plain that what we really have is an arrest or inhibition consequent on association, and nothing that is either itself association of that leads to association.

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