Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/67

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59
EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN INTELLECT.

the animal finally came to drop entirely the profitless acts and to take the nail out and open the door as soon as the box was put in his cage. He had, we should say, learned to get in.

The process involved in the learning was evidently a process of selection. The animal is confronted by a state of affairs or, as we may call it, a 'situation.' He reacts in the way that he is moved by his innate nature or previous training to do, by a number of acts. These acts include the particular act that is appropriate and he succeeds. In later trials the impulse to this one act is more and more stamped in, this one act is more and more associated with that situation, is selected from amongst the others by reason of the pleasure it brings the animal. The profitless acts are stamped out; the impulses to perform them in that situation are weakened by reason of the positive discomfort or the absence of pleasure resulting from them. So the animal finally performs in that situation only the fitting act.

Here we have the simplest and at the same time the most widespread sort of intellect or learning in the world. There is no reasoning, no process of inference or comparison; there is no thinking about things, no putting two and two together; there are no ideas—the animal does not think of the box or of the food or of the act he is to perform. He simply comes after the learning to feel like doing a certain thing under certain circumstances which before the learning he did not feel like doing. Human beings are accustomed to think of intellect as the power of having and controlling ideas and of ability to learn as synonymous with ability to have ideas. But learning by having ideas is really one of the rare and isolated events in nature. There may be a few scattered ideas possessed by the higher animals, but the common form of intelligence with them, their habitual method of learning, is not by the acquisition of ideas, but by the selection of impulses.

Indeed this same type of learning is found in man. When we learn to drive or play tennis or billiards, when we learn to tell the price of tea by tasting it or to strike a certain note exactly with the voice, we do not learn in the main by virtue of any ideas that are explained to us, by any inferences that we reason out. We learn by the gradual selection of the appropriate act or judgment, by its association with the circumstances or situation requiring it in just the way that the animals do.

From the lowest animals of which we can affirm intelligence up to man this type of intellect is found. With it there are in the mammals obscure traces of the ideas which come in the mental life of man to outweigh and hide it. But it is the basal fact. As we follow the development of animals in time we find the capacity to select impulses growing. We find the associations thus made between situation and act growing in number, being formed more quickly, lasting longer and