Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/344

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lid, are selectively attended to; and assimilative imagination, the overlaying of the visual impression with an image called up by similarity or analogy, does the rest. In this way the actual field of visible objects is apt to get veiled, its appearance being transformed by the wizard touch of a lively childish fancy.

No doubt there are various degrees of illusion here. In its matter-of-fact and really scrutinizing mood a child will not confound what is seen with what is imagined; in this case the analogy recalled is distinguished and used as an explanation of what is seen—as when a child observed of a panting dog, "Dat bow-bow like puff-puff." On the other hand, when another little boy aged three years and nine months, seeing the leaves falling exclaimed, "See, mamma, the leaves is flying like dickey-birds and little butterflies!" it is hard not to think that the child's fancy for the moment transformed what he saw into the pretty pictures. And one may risk the opinion that, with the little thinking power and controlling force of will which a child possesses, the chances are that such assimilative activity of imagination always tends in the young brain to develop a degree of momentary illusion.

It may be added that abundant evidence goes to show that children at first quite seriously believe that all things are alive and feel. A child starts from himself as the model of a thing, and mentally fashions other things like himself. He has slowly to learn the distinction between the living and the lifeless, the sentient and the insentient. No parent who has lived with his children could, I think, doubt this. Dr. Stanley Hall's inquiries have, among other curious results, shown that out of forty-eight little ones just attaining the school age, twenty believed the moon and stars to be alive, fifteen thought a doll and sixteen thought flowers would suffer pain if burned. Perhaps a good many more had a secret belief to the same effect, but through shyness and a shrewd half-guess of the drift of the question declined to be drawn into a categorical statement. The animism of children is apt to get laughed at, and as soon as that begins they become reserved and secretive of the "contents" of their minds.

There is another way in which imagination may combine with and transform sensible objects, viz., by what is commonly called association. Mr, Ruskin tells us that when young he associated the name crocodile with the creature so closely that the long series of letters took on something of the look of the lanky creature. The same writer in his Præterita tells of a Dr. Grant into whose therapeutic hands he fell when a child. "The name" he adds, "is always associated in my mind with a brown powder—rhubarb or the like—of a gritty or acrid nature. . . . The name always sounded to me gr-r-ish and granular."