1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Expectation

(Part 47)

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


Intimately connected with memory is expectation. We may as the result of reasoning conclude that a certain event will happen; we may also, in like manner, conclude that a certain other event has happened. But as we should not call the latter memory, so it is desirable to distinguish such indirect anticipation as the former from that expectation which is directly due to the interaction of ideas. Any man knows that her will die, and may make a variety of arrangement in anticipation of death, but he cannot with propriety be said to be expecting it unless he has actually present to his mind a series of ideas ending in that of death, such series being due to previous associations, and unless, further, this series owes its representations at this moment to the actual recurrence of some experience to which that series succeeded before. And as familiarity with an object or event in very various setting may be a bar to recollection, so it may be to expectation: the average Englishmen, e.g., is continually surprised without his umbrella, though only too familiar with rain, since in his climate one not specially attentive to the weather obtains no clear representation of its successive phases. But after a series of events A B C D E … has been once experienced we instinctively expect the recurrence of B C…. on the recurrence of A, i.e., provided the memory-train continues so far intact. Such expectations, at first perhaps slight – a mere tendency easily overborne – becomes strengthened by every repetition of the series in the old order, till eventually, if often fulfilled and never falsified, it becomes certain and, as we commonly say, irresistible. To have a clear case of expectation, then, it is not necessary that we should distinctly remember any previous experience like it, but only that we should have actually present some earlier member of a series which has been firmly associated by such previous experiences, the remaining members, or at least the next, if they continue serial, being revived through that which is once again realized. This expectation may be instantly checked by reflexion, just as it may of course be disappointed in fact; but these are matters which do not concern the inquiry as to the nature of expectation while expectation lasts.

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