Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/651

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By G. T. W. PATRICK, Ph. D.,


THE rapidly enlarging field of modern psychology makes it possible to discuss some questions not before attempted by students of mental science. There is, however, even yet, one apparently simple problem in mental pathology which the most hardy philosopher would hardly hope to solve. This problem is to determine, by analysis of the soul, the causes, symptoms, and cure of narrow-mindedness, or mental bias. Such a research, if aught could be made of it, would be as fascinating as it would be fruitful.

My present attempt is less ambitious. It is to trace out some primary laws of psychic activity in their bearing on that condition of mind known as prejudice. I shall not here allow myself to be entangled in a metaphysical puzzle by attempting an accurate definition of prejudice. To define it as deflection from truth would be to raise the ancient question, What is truth? It will be quite sufficient for my purpose to consider prejudice as individual deviation from the normal beliefs of mankind, taking as the standard the universal, the general, or the mean.

The chapter in modern psychology which furnishes the principles in quest is the chapter on apperception really only another word for attention. All knowledge is the result of the union of two factors, one objective and one subjective. To know anything is to refer it to something known before. In every cognition there is a union of the group of sensations composing the object with a group of ideas previously acquired and now recalled. Knowledge is classification. The class is within us; the thing to be classified is without. A piece of sugar lies before me on the table. I perceive only that it is a white object of a certain form. I apperceive, by means of the group of ideas previously associated with such white substances, that it is also sweet, hard, heavy, soluble in water in fact, that it is sugar. The inner group of ideas varies indefinitely in complexity. Closely related ideas may be altogether wanting, as when one sees, for instance, a horse for the first time, and can only ask, What is that thing? or, What is that animal? One with more experience that is, with more related ideas apperceives that it is a horse. A jockey, however, apperceives all his "points"; a zoologist still more. We say that the jockey or zoologist really sees more in the horse than the ignorant man, yet the image made upon the retina of the eye is the same in each observer. Similarly, in