Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/475

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THE EARLIEST ORGANIC MOVEMENTS.

We find a little—as much, perhaps, as we have a right to expect. There is a class of movements, familiar to every one who has read Darwin's 'Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals' which are known in psychology as 'expressive' movements. Such are the opening of mouth and eyes in surprise, the frown and clenched fist of anger, the play of the facial muscles in joy and sorrow. These movements belong to various psychological classes, volitional, selective, impulsive, reflex. But there are among them certain reflexes—primary reflexes, not automatic actions or 'secondary' reflexes of the kind just described—that can only be explained as the unconscious descendants of earlier impulsive actions. The face of proud contempt reflexly 'curves a contumelious lip.' What does the movement mean? Why, it lays bare the canine teeth; it is the human counterpart of the snarl of dog or wolf; it is the last reflex or unconscious remnant of a coordinated or impulsive action which, somewhere or other in our not remote ancestry, preceded the movements of actual attack. The deer bounds away when it hears the hounds, and we 'jump' when we are startled; the sitting bird crouches on its nest when danger approaches, and we wince or shrink when we are frightened or censured. The connection is obvious; the activities are related; but the action which formerly was conscious has become, in us, a mere 'automatism.' Instances of this sort might easily be multiplied.[1] The facts are admitted, and their explanation accepted, by psychologists of all schools. But here is evidence of the derivation of unconscious from conscious movement, not in the life history of the individual, but in that of the race.

In both of the cases which we have discussed, consciousness has shown itself to be chronologically prior to unconsciousness. Are there any known cases to the contrary? Have we any instance of an action which, unconscious in the lower animals or early in our own lives, later becomes conscious? Have we any hint of a tendency in this direction? On the former count, as regards the animals, the appeal must lie to the 'objective criterion' of mind, and therefore to biology as well as to psychology. I can only say that the psychological evidence is negative, and that I have not myself—speaking, however, as a layman in biology—come across any positive indications in-biological literature. On the latter, as regards ourselves, I find no evidence either in psychological


  1. It would be especially interesting to examine from this point of view the movements of the new-born infant. The position taken in the text is, I think, supported by, e. g., the mimetic facial reflexes, and by the various atavistic reflexes (hanging from stick or finger, swimming movements, etc.)-But a full consideration of all these movements would require a separate paper. On the other hand, the fact that in the higher animals the reflexes are imperfect at birth, and take a little time to 'harden'—a fact which has been rightly emphasized in several recent studies of animal behavior—does not seem to touch the present argument one way or the other.