Organization For Mental Efficiency
( Originally Published 1921 )
MAN'S response to situations in the day's work is the measure of his efficiency. When the response results in behavior which satisfies the immediate, pressing demands and, in addition, adapts itself to change, growth, and progress, efficiency is perfect. In other words, the ability of a man to react effectively to his daily problems may be gauged by his alert, flexible adaptation to changing circumstances. The other side of the shield, however, is more familiar—the sight of the person whose response to new conditions is unreflective adaptation influenced by the force of habit, and nothing more. We select an illustrative example from the many suggested by the present war.
"It did not seem possible that human beings could brave these haunted streets," says Owen Johnson,' speaking of Arras under bombardment; "and yet human beings were there. In a broken street, where one shell had literally disembowelled a whole house, leaving only the roof hanging like a suspension bridge, whom should we happen upon but a postman delivering mail to a woman who rose cautiously from her cave. Remember, this was within fifty yards from the house which had been literally blown away. She was a sweet-faced old lady, untroubled and resigned. I asked the invariable question:
"'How do you dare stay here?'
"'Where would I go?' she said, with a helpless little look.
"To her, as to the rest, to leave home meant the end of all things. The outer world was something uncomprehended, which terrified her. The military authorities have done everything possible to enforce the evacuation of Arras, short of an absolute order, and yet they are met at every turn with this terrified clinging to the threshold, that prefers any risk rather than exile."
Adaptation and habit—adaptation to terrifying conditions, and the ability of the individual to continue his normal, habitual reactions in horribly abnormal situations! The nervous system cannot long continue to respond to repeated shocks. Either it becomes inured to the frequent mental concussions, which finally lose their power and cease to produce a response, or the nervous system gives way under the strain. Those who could not adapt themselves to the awful conditions had left or become insane. It is rapid and inexorable selection in which the sight of dead and maimed friends and the constant prospect of sharing their fate are the tests of even temporary survival. Adapt themselves they must if they remain; but, fortunately, the nervous system cares for that.
Another instance of adaptation—a more common, every-day illustration—is related by S. S. McClure from his editorial experience. "In the winter of 19o5–1906 the Chicago papers were filled day by day with news that revealed Chicago as a semibarbarous community in which life and property were unsafe to an extraordinary degree. This daily crop of news would be duly accented by reports of horrible crimes. I had a selection made from these papers which gave a criminal record of Chicago for the winter and revealed an appalling situation. Now it is a fact, which I have observed, that people will become accustomed to almost any environment. I remember, when I was in Turkey, where occasionally a village would be devastated, the children killed and women tortured, that people in an adjacent village, who might at any time become victims, went about their work quite calmly and indifferently; so that it is not surprising that this daily grist of news of the Chicago crimes was accepted by the citizens as a matter of course." ' What is the explanation of these adaptations which lead, at times, to such incredible acquiescence?
All variation by which an individual or a species is adjusted to the surrounding conditions must be made by the organism. To be sure, fitness for types of variations must exist in the environment. Lung-breathing animals, for example, could not have arisen had it not been for the atmosphere which surrounds the earth, and adaptation to electricity could not have been made were it not for the prevalence of electrical energy. Had the earth and atmosphere, with all the kinds of energy manifested in or through them, been different from what they are, living creatures, if they could have existed at all, would bear little or no resemblance to present forms.
Within the limits set by the physical environment, how-ever, great variation is possible. It is entirely conceivable, for instance, that an air-breathing mechanism quite different from the lungs might have developed. What, then, determines the kind and range of variation? For the lower animals it is natural selection acting through structural changes and instincts. Animals must adjust them-selves to conditions as they are. Such moderate alterations of the environment as the damming of a stream by beavers are, of course, observed; but these instances of control are sufficiently rare to be commented upon by zoologists. Usually animals must adapt themselves to a rigid environment, or perish.
Adaptation is perhaps the most significant influence to which organisms are subjected. The character of the surroundings, so far as conformity conditions their life, forms a circle within which the organisms live. In the unicellular animals the circle is small. The essential nature of their habitat. has altered little even through the ages. Consequently, these simple animals have undergone little change. Their surroundings have put upon them few new requirements which called for adaptive reconstruction.
The history of animals from the lowest to man reveals continuous, though more or less interrupted, changes, resulting from the attempt to maintain harmonious relations between the organism and its environment. A certain equilibrium must be established between external forces acting upon the individual and his responses. Maintaining this equilibrium is what is meant by adaptation. Among the lower animals we have seen that strict conformity is the rule. Any change that takes place is forced upon them by the exigencies of their surrounding conditions. Few reconstruct their environment to any great extent before adapting themselves to it, and any reconstruction that they make is explained by some earlier adjustment which has become fixed in them as an instinct.
Man, on the other hand, because of the superior development of his brain, possesses greatly increased ability to alter his environment. In certain lines he has practically made over the world in which he lives. The changes growing out of the natural sciences have been stupendous, but in many other matters his "thinking" has been largely drifting. It is the same sort of involuntary, uncontrolled adaptation that is characteristic of the lower animals; and the reasons for this are the pressing demands for immediate adjustment which is as much a human as an animal requirement, and the fact that reconstruction of the environment to enable the adaptation to be more intelligent calls for an expenditure of energy which man is loath to meet. Now efficiency requires that the quantity of intelligence in human adaptations be increased. But let us see how adaptation works out in the actual affairs of life.
When a young man starts on his business or professional career he is at once confronted with certain obstacles—difficulties to be overcome. If he is a lawyer the obstade may be the unwillingness of a witness to reveal facts with which he is familiar. Now there are different ways of approaching a witness, and one acquainted with human personalities knows that certain methods are successful in dealing with some men and worthless with others. It is almost certain, however, that the young attorney will adopt a method that expresses his own personality rather than that of the witness. In other words, his attitude and manner of questioning will be an unconscious adaptation to the difficulties that arise. Soon this form of behavior toward witnesses becomes an established adaptation. This is shown by the fact that lawyers are often described as relentlessly severe or as gentle and insinuating, leading the witness kindly to unforeseen admissions.
If we say that we know when we succeed in what we are engaged upon, the statement must be qualified by adding that the standard of achievement may be low. Many college students, for instance, "succeed" if they obtain the "gentleman's grade" of mediocrity. For them it is sufficient to have just missed the lowest passing mark. A certain summer school, to illustrate further, celebrated an increase of twenty-five students over the preceding year. Yet the surrounding territory should furnish two or three times as many students as the school ever had. And, again, a salesman recently said with great elation that his sales for the year exceeded those of a fellow traveller whose record, the writer happened to know, was in the lowest third of those made by the salesmen in the organization. Since this relative success is the. selective force in determining the adaptations it is clear that the result may be altogether inadequate to the needs and possibilities of the situation. There is, however, a further fact of immense importance to adaptation. The human environment is not static. "There is no standing still in the business world to-day," said the president of a large manufacturing plant recently. "Everything is in continual change, so that a man no sooner adapts himself to one set of conditions than he must readapt himself to others. Those who cannot do so fall behind the more versatile. One of the largest manufacturers of engines failed to grasp the significance of the steam-turbine. The management sat still while other companies brought it to a successful commercial basis."
Methods of doing the day's work also bring their problems of organization and co-ordination. There is an enormous amount of overlapping of duties and responsibilities. A large furniture manufactory spent several days trying to determine the responsibility for failure to do a given piece of work satisfactorily and promptly. Each department concerned blamed another, and in the end no one was satisfied. Such inefficiency produces continual financial loss and frequent dissatisfaction both within the organization and with customers.
Success in business, as in other matters, requires that conflicts be adjusted and difficulties overcome. Now the solution may be delayed until the problem is thought out. Then the several ways that suggest themselves may be thought through so as to determine how they would work out in practice. Again, one of the more promising solutions may be put to the actual test of a preliminary trial to determine what errors had been overlooked. As a mat-ter of fact, however, a man commonly uses neither of these methods. The idea in mind is the somewhat general notion of success, and the first method that seems to meet the exigencies of the situation is usually adopted. But the exigencies that are met are the immediate ones, those that are pressing for solution at the moment. The result is that the more remote, related conflicts are not adjusted. This was the case in the overlapping of responsibilities in the furniture factory to which we have referred.
When we ask what determines the selection of the plan or method of meeting difficulties that arise in business or in the professions, we come upon an important fact in human psychology. The obstacle that confronts us must be overcome, and the method employed is commonly the first one that promises to attain the desired result. The situation is urgent and there is always a tendency to meet it with an economical use of energy. This frugality of energy does not indicate intentional slighting of difficulties. It is a phase of unreflective adaptation to them. In the acquisition of skill, where we shall see it playing a leading role, this adaptation is so strictly unconscious that the learner is not aware of the particular method which he has adopted for meeting a difficulty until he finds himself using it with more or less success.
Now it is significant for efficiency that the method unconsciously adopted, in the unreflective adaptation of which we have been speaking, is not always the best. Out of six young men learning the juggler's feat of tossing two balls into the air, catching and tossing one before the other reached the hand, the writer found that only two adopted successful devices for avoiding "collisions" in the air, which was the difficulty they were trying to meet. The other four used methods which soon ended in failure. All six found themselves employing devices before they were aware of the attempt. The plan unconsciously adopted to meet an emergency, in acts of skill, is usually the one requiring the least expenditure of energy.. A very small matter may be the determining cause. Unselected actions follow the line of least resistance. So a business man attends to a matter of detail. It must be done at once, as it is an integral part of what he is engaged upon. To explain the matter to a clerk would require more time and energy at the moment than to do it himself. Consequently, he attends to the matter, and soon attention to details has become a habit. This adaptation is quite as unconscious as those which have been noted in acts of muscular skill. In both cases they are attempts to meet quickly an emergency, and the most available method—the easiest at the moment—is unconsciously employed.
This mode of overcoming obstacles is the "trial-and-error" method. The term was first used to designate the manner in which animals attack a problem. They do not stop to think the matter over, but go right at it, trying one way after another in rapid succession until they either obtain the desired result or become discouraged and stop. The means which they employ are determined by specific inheritance or individual experience. If a dog, for example, within an enclosure sees food he will probably first stick his head between the bars; next he is likely to jump up and paw the bars; then he does something else until he finally hits upon the right combination for getting out and obtaining the meat. Afterward, by degrees, the useless actions are eliminated,' and the dog performs only those acts necessary to secure the food.
It is commonly assumed that there is a sharp distinction in this respect between the actions of animals and man. The one does not reason, it is said, and the other does. As a matter of fact, man does not reason as much as he thinks he does. Perhaps this explains why he calls him-self a reasoning animal. He reasons so seldom that he likes to call attention to the little that he does. Children, for example, in learning to write use the trial-and-error method in determining the posture of the body and the movements in the writing. Of course it is used unconsciously, as in the other instances of which we have spoken. This is always the case in unreflective—unconsciousadaptation. The finger movement is the quickest way of getting results, and since it attains the desired end passably well, it is used unless the teacher is insistent. That the arm movement in the long run is less fatiguing and produces a better writer does not avail unless the beginner is held rigidly to instructions. In children and adults alike, if the first method meets the difficulty fairly well, it is likely to be adopted without further search for a better way. This is the explanation of slovenly habits in acts of skill, in language, literary style, and in other things. But it goes further than this.
Unreflective—unconscious—adaptation was the method of progress during the early history of the race. Problems were not foreseen. There was no outlook beyond immediate needs. Difficulties were met by the simplest possible adjustment, and the environment was the compelling, directing force. It was the trial-and-error method, with-out interpretation, without clarifying judgment. Through long years some working principles were acquired, but they were gained at an enormous cost of time and life, and the final result was, at best, an approximate and temporary makeshift. Learning the curative qualities of roots and herbs is an example of the method and of the value of the knowledge gained by it. Indeed, this way of making progress under the influence of prevailing beliefs and conditions, as well as the adjustment of knowledge and method to them, is admirably illustrated by the entire history of the art of medicine which preceded the scientific period.
Systems of medicine—if the philosophical and religious view of diseases and their cures may be so dignified—followed one another as philosophy and religion changed.' Medicine, like other beliefs, rested on authority. Systems were respectable or disreputable. Massaria, of Padua, in the sixteenth century, would rather be wrong with Galen than right with any other physician. One system was used until another was thought to be better, though at that time the trial-and-error judgment was guided more by the underlying philosophical belief than by the results of the treatment. It could not be otherwise, since accurate records were not kept. One uncriticised authority ruled until superseded by another. But through it all the importance of finding the cause of diseases was unrecognized. There was no problem here. The mind, then as now, played its role in cures, and so we have Three Thousand Years of Mental Healing.
Naturally in the past no other method of progress than that of uncriticised trial and error could be expected. The scientific method of investigation and experimentation was unknown. Consequently, there was nothing to stimulate thought. Besides, thinking has never been popular. It is too difficult. So any means of escaping from it has always been welcome. And when, as in the earlier days, besides the pains natural to originality, the thinker risked his life, new ideas were rarely made secure until the old had been worn out by the corroding effect of time. In the past this had its justification, but in the present it is without excuse. Out of a long period of progress by unconscious trial and error some truths emerge, but they are secured at an enormous cost of time and suffering. Blind trial and error is the animal and racial way. Unfortunately, it continues to be the chief method of modern man. Unreflective adaptation is followed to-day when obstacles are not so overwhelming as to force deliberation.
Man rarely stops to think out the method of procedure unless the difficulty is so great that no plan of action immediately presents itself. A momentarily insoluble problem is needed to make him think. But this is not all that is necessary. There must not only be a problem, but the individual must see it. The common supposition that problems are recognized is an error. Usually they pass unnoticed. If an illustration of so obvious a fact of human behavior is needed, advertising is a case in point. Thou-sands of dollars are spent for newspaper, street-car, and outdoor bulletin advertising without any intelligent effort to estimate the comparative value. To be sure, sales in a given advertised district are sometimes checked but there are too many local factors involved to give these estimates general value. Principles of advertising cannot be deduced in this way. These judgments have about as much value as the beliefs in the performances of so-called "psychics," such as foreseeing the future, mental telepathy, and the oracular nature of the writings of the ouija-board, which are still accepted on imperfect experiential evidence by the old women of both sexes. Again, the comparative cost per reader of full, half, and quarter page newspaper and magazine insertions is rarely known to business men. Yet these facts, and many more, may be ascertained by those who understand the method of scientific investigation. Some of them have already been worked out by psychologists. Business men do not have the information because they have not yet become aware of the problem. They are using the slow, expensive, uncriticised trial-anderror method.
The trial-and-error method is not without results. It is the means, as we have said, by which the experience of the race has been achieved. Knowledge has been slowly and painfully accumulated by the unplanned elimination of errors, but when uncriticised it is a wasteful process. The amazing advance of the natural sciences during the last quarter of a century is due to a new plan of campaign. Scientists no longer wait for the tedious, unintelligent elimination of mistakes. They set definite problems, study the conditions, and then plan their investigation so that the errors of earlier workers may be eliminated. This puts intelligence into nature's unintelligent method of progress. But the scientific plan has not been generally adopted. Usually man, like the lower animals, waits for something to turn up. Then he adapts himself as best he can.
Animals, we have observed, are dependent upon conditions that were forced upon them. To these they must adapt themselves or perish. But man can foresee and plan, if he will but use his intelligence. And by his planning he may reconstruct the environment. The world has been amazed at the success of German arms against a large part of the civilized world. The explanation is that the Germans looked ahead and planned. And in their planning they created conditions which the Allies have had to meet. We have heard much about time being on the side of the Allies. This means that they could not at once adapt themselves to the new type of war; and these new conditions were produced by Germany. Her military staff saw the problems and made their arrangements so completely that the adaptation had to come largely from her enemies. Many of the plans of the Al-lies were rendered obsolete by her constructive military thought. Forts were demolished like paper houses, and entirely new implements of war had to be invented and made. It is doubtful whether we shall ever have a better illustration of man's control over the conditions he must meet than this present war.
In industry, in commerce, and in military science Germany has risen above the animal method of unplanned adaptation, but in her failure to understand the collective mind of her enemies she has remained on the lower level. For her statesmen there existed no such problem. One of the many interesting psychological facts of the present war is the surprise of the German nation that the Allies do not know when they are whipped. The first magnificent Russian drive, followed immediately by the equally convincing Balkan victory, should have brought a request for peace from a purely military standpoint, which does not take into account different sorts of minds. And, again, the inability of the United States to recognize the righteousness of the German cause was to be explained, the Germans thought, only by generous use of British gold and the mercenary nature of the people. But the Germans missed the point. Their ignorance of the psychology of other nations is one of the astonishing disclosures of this war. "They understand nothing of the spirit of man," as Mr. Britling said.
The array of psychological blunders of the German military and civic authorities, to carry the illustration further, is unequalled in modern history. To mention only a few, there was first the invasion of Belgium, and the scrap-ofpaper episode, which brought England into the war and shocked the civilized world. Then followed the sinking of the Lusitania, the execution of Edith Cavell and Captain Fryatt, the barbaric deportation of Belgians, the slaughter of women and children by air raids on unfortified towns, the Zimmermann note urging Mexico and Japan to make war on the United States, the secret proposal through neutral Sweden to promise protection to Argentine ships, and then to sink them "without a trace," the submarine perfidy that made the United States an active enemy, the planting of disease germs in Roumania, and the aerial bombardment of hospitals, by which wounded soldiers and nurses were killed—hideous exhibitions of brutality. No efficiency was disclosed by these acts; they reveal only amazing incapacity to understand the spirit and sentiments of civilized peoples. If these acts were not always unplanned adjustment to the supposed needs of the moment, they certainly show unintelligent adaptation. Was military necessity the motive? If so, their efficiency is arguable. But surely, sinking the Lusitania, the execution of Edith Cavell and Captain Fryatt, murdering from the air innocent women and children, and bombing hospitals have not advanced the German armies. It is gross, inexcusable incompetency; and the massed psychological blunders. have sealed Germany's fate. Is it asking too much to expect a nation to be efficient in various lines? Probably national ability, like that of individuals, is specific and not general; then it is attained only in those fields to which serious study and thought are given. At all events, the German belief regarding the behavior of civilized nations toward her barbarous acts grew out of uncriticised experience—the animal method. And the acceptance of uncriticised experience is adaptation to events as they come to us.
Experience is a filing-case from which a man draws re-ports from his past life. And the analogy goes further. He selects from the files that for which he is looking. If one wants to believe something one will find ample justification in one's memory records. A significant psychological corollary is that another man with essentially the same "experience" will draw the opposite conclusion. In discussing questions of efficiency with business men the writer has found them differing vitally regarding matters of policy about which they should have agreed did "experience" have objective validity. The disagreement was not in the facts but in the interpretation of them and in the attitude toward them. This last is important because the mental attitude ends by altering the facts themselves. If a man expects a plan to succeed the chances are that he will carry it through, and if one anticipates failure one is quite certain to be gratified. Unbelievers are often surprised at the experiences of followers of occult phenomena. The explanation is, of course, that believers see, hear, and feel what they are expecting. "Do you never have the feeling of having previously existed in another form?" a theosophical devotee once said to the writer. To the re-ply, "Never, madam," came the astonished exclamation, "That is strange ! I often do !" Prophecies, again, fulfil themselves for their advocates. Believers in the miraculous cures by relics or mind produce the cure—if there is nothing serious the matter—by their belief. Primitive man, who was convinced that injury to his clay image would cause his death, fulfilled his fate because he lost his nerve; and, in more recent times, Charles Kingsley, speaking through Mr. Leigh, says: "I have seen, and especially when I was in Italy, omens and prophecies before now be-get their own fulfilments, by driving men into recklessness and making them run headlong upon the very ruin that they fancied was running upon them."' "Where there's a will there's a way" may not always be true, but it is a good mental attitude to bring the desired result. No one who did not believe in ghosts ever saw one, and visible,: spirits vanished with the coming of science, except in groups where science has not yet penetrated. The new knowledge that attends scientific investigation alters experience.
Experience is evidently a treacherous guide because it is likely to give what one is seeking. "I have tried putting children on their honor and letting them govern them-selves, but it has failed," said a teacher recently. Of course it did. He expected failure and arranged the de-tails so that it had to fail. Another teacher replied that he had used the plan for ten years and could not get along without it. This confidence was the reason for his success. The Colorado penitentiary system which has trans-formed the prison and made the roads of the State would fail under a less enthusiastic believer than Warden Tynan.
The trouble is not with experience but with the experience. He gets what he is looking for and so does not question the result. A variety of meanings may be observed in most experiences, and the one selected is likely to be taken either from unwillingness to undergo the effort of thinking or from emotional bias, which, again, is favored by native indolence. Spiritualistic materialization illustrates uncriticised, submissive adaptation from the side of perception. One medium has said that whenever she gives a seance, the stories told afterward grow, and always to her advantage. They grow so that when they come back to her she can hardly recognize her own work. "It is a fact," she says, "that believers are so anxious for tests that they always help out, if they be believers, in the way that the medium desires they should." This is because the mediums' desires coincide with the wishes of their followers. It is a common experience of lecturers to find an address interpreted in quite contradictory ways by different hearers who read their own views into what was said. A friend has told the writer that he recently gave an ad-dress on mind-cures. The lecture was purely descriptive, giving the positions and beliefs of the several "schools." At the close of his address a New Thought advocate, a metaphysical healer, and a Christian Scientist went to the platform to express their pleasure at finding him in their ranks. Yet, so far as he expressed any opinion at all, his intention had been to show that suggestion was the common factor and operating cause in all mind-cures. Here, again, adaptation—accepting appearances and adjusting oneself to them—was perfect, but comprehension was negligible.
Another instance of adaptation is the acceptance of succession of events as indicating cause and effect. Shortly after McKinley's first election to the presidency of the United States, potatoes, which had been low, rose to over a dollar a bushel, an advance which was attributed by Wisconsin farmers to his election. The fact that a potato famine occurred, owing to continued droughts in wide potato areas, was ignored.
Coincidences—agreement between events with wholly different causes or conditions, which, accordingly, are not likely to agree again—are often the basis of judgments and opinions, and adaptation is then made to their face value. Coincidence is the explanation of the importance ascribed to numbers by the ancients. Sometimes the co-incidence is astonishingly striking. "If to 1794," for in-stance, "the number of the year in which Robespierre fell, we add the sum of its digits, the result is 1815, the year in which Napoleon fell; the repetition of the process gives 1830, the year in which Charles the Tenth abdicated. Again, the French Chamber of Deputies, in 183o, consisted of 402 members, of whom 221 formed the party called `La queue de Robespierre,' while the remainder, 181 in number, were named `Les honnetes Bens.' If we give to each letter a numerical value corresponding to its place in the alphabet, it will be found that the sum of the values of the letters in each name exactly indicates the number of the party."
Teachers of psychology are frequently regaled with coincidences seriously offered as "proof" of something that those who relate the stories want to believe. They are the basis of much of the evidence for "reasoning" in animals, and it is probable that not a little of the circumstantial evidence in criminal courts has no better foundation. The success of advertising campaigns, again, may frequently be traced to the same chance agreement of events.
Animals low in the scale accept appearances. To them the world is what it seems to be. They are troubled neither by philosophic nor scientific doubts. They could not do otherwise and survive. If fishes stopped to examine a worm or a fly before seizing it they would starve to death. It is better that they take their chances. Appearances are true to fact often enough to meet their purposes. There are only a few things for which animals must provide—chiefly food and self-protection — and nature remedies their mistakes by rapid and numerous multiplication. The herring lays twenty thousand eggs, and the congereel the enormous number of fifteen million annually. It is more economical for nature to provide against annihilation in this lavish way than to make all animals clever. But, as we ascend the animal series intelligence begins to count, and then the offspring are not so numerous. The higher forms have better developed sense-organs, and they interpret more correctly the world in which they live. To them appearances may be deceitful. Foxes are famous for the skill with which they circumvent animals and man, when seeking food or escaping from enemies. In the arc-tic region they dig down through the snow under the trap, so as to spring it, and then they carry away the bait. The life of both parents and young is now important, because the offspring are not so numerous. Nature is not so extravagant in producing them. So they must be protected by cleverness if a given species is to survive. Far down the animal scale mechanical reactions are the only defense but among the higher forms intelligence has a greater value in nature's market, and in man survival depends only in a slight degree upon physical strength, at least beyond that which is needed to do his work. Intelligence is now the compelling factor.
Man, however, has not developed a method of progress. He does not make it his business to criticise experience. Like the lower animals, he is prone to accept appearances as true to fact. In other words, he continues to use the animal method. To be sure, scientists, as we have said, have a method. They prepare an experiment so as to control conditions, and they eliminate one factor after another that the effect of each in the phenomenon under investigation may be determined. This is man's reconstruction of nature's trial-and-error method, but it is too slow and laborious to satisfy the unscientific. These people want immediate results. So they draw conclusions from limited and uncontrolled observations, and take much pride in what "experience" has taught them. The complacency of "self-made" men in their "experience" is well known. They have taken a heavy responsibility from their teachers and from the Almighty with their boast of being self-made. To be sure, some effort is being made today to test experience in matters outside of science.
Scientific management is an attempt to introduce an intelligent plan into industry, but it has been only hesitatingly admitted into factories, and the doors of other lines of business are still generally closed to it. "Efficiency experts," however, are commonly men who have had much experience in the business which they criticise, but little scientific training. Some of them do not know what an investigation means or how a problem looks. Few have studied psychology, which, for those who are dealing with human behavior, is of fundamental importance in deter-mining efficiency tests and plans. In municipal and governmental affairs, again, scientific management is only occasionally employed. Penology is still an awful chaos, and sociology an array of interesting but confused facts. In these matters, as in other things, "experience" is thought to be of only one sort, always yielding valuable knowledge.
Experience, of course, organizes itself. But this organization tends to proceed in the same unintelligent way that has been found to be characteristic of the organization of movements in learning an act of skill. In both cases the line of least resistance is followed. Personal bias and emotional preference play a leading part in the product of experience. Men are still much like those of old who re-fused to look through Galileo's telescope at the satellites of Jupiter because, as they said, the" satellites were not there, but if they looked the devil would make them see them. Facts should be so classified that their bearing upon one another or their lack of connection may become clear. In this way the essential is distinguished from the unessential or accidental. This requires a wide knowledge not only in the business in which one is engaged, but also in related subjects. And for those who deal with human beings, and few occupations are not concerned with them, the science of human behavior—psychology—is needed. Unorganized facts, observation, or experience give, at best, only the "big, blooming, buzzing confusion" of which James spoke. Many are not sufficiently sensitive to feel the confusion. They let experience go its own way and organize itself, like the Oxford theologians who were ex-cited to violent antagonism at the production, by Faraday and others, of induced currents of electricity in a coil of wire by means of a magnet. Keble, also, professor of poetry in Oxford, was angry at the university because, as he said, it "had truckled sadly to the spirit of the times" in honoring these "hodgepodge philosophers." The experience of these professors had been too limited, too undisturbed to make them efficient in the world's problems.
An uneventful environment means mental stagnation. With nothing to compel selective action comes dulness, then in time retrogression. Progress, improvement, re-quires resistance--something to work against. This is not without significance in the training of children. The time comes when boys should have something dangerous to do, something that requires strenuous effort, thought and courage, real adventure involving, in their mind at least, danger. If such adventures are not provided they will find them for themselves, if they have the stuff that makes for vigorous manhood. This is their way of reconstructing their environment, of selecting and making the situations to which they will adapt themselves; and it is quite comparable to the creations of engineers and men of "big business." If boys do not find adventures when they are not furnished them, if they adapt themselves to the color-less, uneventful life of the "well-behaved" boy, their childhood has been deprived of something as essential to mental growth as the hormones—" chemical messengers" —are to physical development.
This need of courage in risk and adventure is as true of races as of individuals. The best period of a people, the period when they are doing things that are worth re-cording in their history, is their years of struggle, struggle against nature and against human adversaries. This is seen in the Roman republic and Grecian democracy. It is also observable in the rise and progress of religions, and it is equally true of individuals. Whatever truth there is in the accomplishments of self-made men lies in the fact that they had to fight against adverse conditions. Those who succeeded had staying qualities, perseverance, and the determination to win. Opposition, adverse circumstances, do not put brains into men, but they draw out what there is in them. Obstacles also eliminate incapables. And the reason why the sons of self-made men so rarely show the qualities of their fathers is that they are protected. The fathers supply them with money and automobiles, and "carry" them in business. The brain, like muscle, must work against resistance if it is to develop. Of course obstacles should not be beyond the available strength. Peoples sometimes succumb after brilliant efforts because the call was beyond their capacity, though sometimes by the psychological law of compensation their failure to maintain themselves as a nation may lead to success in literature, art, or science. But this does not necessarily mean that the losing battle which they valiantly fought was without significance. The quality of resistance, insufficient in battles and politics, was transferred to other fields. The need to fight developed staying qualities. In other cases, enervated by acquiescence and luxury, peoples have yielded to debilitating tendencies, and gone the way of the inefficient. Peoples and individuals are by nature indolent. They do not wish to exert themselves unnecessarily, and they are aroused only when ease is more unbearable than action. But neither races nor individuals can stand still. They are either progressing or retrogressing. Adaptation is always going on.
An illustration of the psychological effect of working against resistance is seen in the occasional revelation of latent ability in men. Their achievements are usually below their maximum efficiency. They rarely do the best of which they are capable. They grow to the smallest dimensions of their job and then stop. They do not make a little job into a big one. The reason for this, we have seen, is racial indolence. No more effort is expended in a piece of work than is required to produce a satisfactory result; and "satisfactory" is a variable quantity. There is usually no standard. Consequently, the result attained is far below the grade of which the individual is capable. It requires severe effort to maintain one's highest level of efficiency, and effort is a strain which one is loath to make. Consequently, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and business men are contented with efforts that bring fair results. So true is it that man is satisfied with the results which meet the lowest requirements of a situation that this human characteristic may be called the tendency to minimum effort.
To be sure, the quantity of energy expended in intelligent effort varies with individuals. There are those who conscientiously strive to secure the best of which they are capable. But these rare persons are seeking promotion or looking forward to achievements in other lines. They, also, are adapting themselves, but they are making their adaptation to distant demands which they hold in view. No one, probably, maintains his highest level of efficiency unless a continually exciting and varying stimulus is active in the environment. In this respect the lower animals are superior to man. They use all of their powers to the limit of their capacity; and man does not. At the outset he puts tremendous exertion into an under-taking. Then his efforts relax, perhaps at first gradually and imperceptibly, until finally he is acting on a level of efficiency much below his ability. It is, therefore, of supreme importance that young men and women, during their adaptive period, be associated with those whose standards of achievement are high—who stimulate to continous effort toward better efficiency. This is not merely that we may be shown how to do the work more effectively but that the improvement-stimulus may be constantly operative. Only in this way can one keep alive at the growing-point.
At times, when a man is put into a position of exceptional responsibility, he throws himself into the work with the "sink-or-swim" determination, and then he displays power unknown to his friends or himself. Robert Louis Stevenson illustrates this when he makes one of his characters in St. Ives say: "There is no telling what a man can do until you frighten him." Sometimes the occupation for which one is fitted, as a great opportunity, reveals one's power. U. S. Grant is an example. But the most striking illustration is Patrick Henry. "His companions" [in youth] " recollect no instance of premature wit, no striking sentiment, no flash of fancy, no remarkable beauty or strength of expression; and no indication, however slight, either of that impassioned love for liberty, or of that adventurous daring and intrepidity which marked so strongly his future character. . . . No persuasion could bring him either to read or to work. On the contrary, he ran wild in the forest, like one of the aborigines of the country, and divided his life between the dissipation and uproar of the chase and the languor of inaction."'
Established in business by his father, his inattention and indolence caused speedy failure. Given a farm, he could not make a living. Another failure followed a second attempt in business. Then, not knowing what else to do, he tried law. Neither he nor his friends had any hope of his success. But the rest of his career is interwoven in our country's history. The circumstances that surround one are evidently tremendously important in determining whether latent abilities shall reveal themselves. An environment is either stimulating or inert. When stimulating it arouses ambition, effort, and will—the determination to achieve—but if it is inert the adaptation is at the lowest level of efficiency. The individual then unconsciously, and quite likely unintentionally, expends his energy so grudgingly that he meets the minimum requirements of his work, or fails, as did Patrick Henry until he chanced upon a vocation that aroused all his latent powers. Here, then, is the psychological significance of adaptation. Let us consider it somewhat further.
As we ascend the animal series organisms become more complex. These higher forms represent the animals that have been able to adapt themselves to a wider range of conditions. The circle of requirements has enlarged. The change has not been sudden. Neither has it been conscious. It has been a blind struggle for survival. If the change is too rapid or. the required alteration too great the animals cannot make the adaptation and the species perishes. Those that succeeded have built their new lives upon the graves of incapables. The trail through the pre-historic jungle to modern times is strewn with the remains of animals that failed to qualify for new requirements.
Education, in its broadest meaning, consists in coming into such rapport with the environment as to meet success-fully the exigencies which arise. Adjustment is always an element in education, and in the lowest forms of life that is all there is to it. At this stage, then, education is wholly a matter of organic adaptation which results in physiological modification. The animal reacts differently to new conditions—behaves differently—because it is physiologically different. The education of man differs from that of the lower animals in the inclusion of factors which play no part in the development of lower forms of life. Adaptation, however, is no less forceful in its requirements and no less effective in producing alteration. Only now the changes are mental as well as physiological. Al Jennings, the reformed bandit and train-robber, and former leader of the once famous Jennings Gang," has given an interesting illustration of adaptation from his own life. "I am always surprising my friends," he says, "by deductions which they take for a kind of clairvoyant instinct. For example, I will be sitting with a group of a dozen people having a talk. Some one will look up and say: `Why, where's John gone?' No one but me will know. I can always tell when and how he left the room. Usually I have learned by his expression and gesture what made him leave, and all that without losing any of my absorption in the conversation. It wasn't so before I took the road; I got the habit in prison. That my old crimes raised me from a rough country practitioner to a real lawyer I haven't the slightest doubt."
The writer doubts whether it was prison life which awakened his dormant mind. Daily, relentless need for the minutest observation and most rigorously exact interpretation of persons and events outside of prison did the work. Heavy rewards upon his head severely strained the loyalty of friends. Failure to read their faces, when forced by need of food to accept hospitality, meant capture or death. Illustrations are not wanting in his book. "If there were two men in the whole territory on whom I depended, they were Sam Baker and Red Hereford. I stopped at Baker's on my way out. His wife told me that he had gone to find us boys. Her manner made me a little suspicious. When presently Baker came in he seemed cordial enough, but he asked where we were going, approaching the subject indirectly. Curiosity about the other fellow's whereabouts wasn't etiquette in our set. The next day I made Red Hereford's with Bill, whom I'd met on the road. There, also, the atmosphere had changed. It wasn't what he said—it was his manner."
The game of adaptation is two-sided and the player must keep up with it. A changing, uncertain environment makes demands upon those in it, and an active mind responds with its adaptations and reconstructions. Those who cannot meet the issues succumb either by suffering the supreme penalty of failure or by dropping to a lower level, where the less exacting demands can be met. In Al Jennings' world of that day the latter meant becoming cattle rustlers or ordinary thieves. To remain in the criminal aristocracy required intellect and bravery. Both of these Jennings had, and they came out when needed.
Prison-life adaptation is more likely to cause deterioration than to develop mental keenness. Robert Louis Stevenson observed this effect. "For it is strange," he says,' "how grown men and seasoned soldiers can go back in life; so that after but a little while in prison, which is after all the next thing to being in the nursery, they grow absorbed in the most pitiful, childish interests, and a sugar biscuit or a pinch of snuff becomes a thing to follow after and scheme for."
The sharpening of his intellect, which Jennings attributes to his life "on the road" and in prison, came from the need of the fullest development of all of his powers of perception, interpretation, and reasoning. Self-preservation is a stern and effective teacher. The conditions of his life called for certain responses—behavior—which were possible only as the result of functional changes. These changes were largely in the nervous system. He saw more, interpreted better what he saw, and reasoned more correctly on the basis of his interpretation.
That it is possible to see much more than is usually observed has been proven by Pfungst in his investigation of "Clever Hans," the so-called educated horse. Without any further practice than was involved in making the experiments, Pfungst, playing the part of the horse, was able to see and interpret the unconscious movements of the persons, who thought three numbers together with their sum, so as to determine the order in which the numbers were mentally added. For example, a man thought of I2 as 5 + 5 + 2 and as 2 + 5 + 5, and Pfungst, as he tapped off the number with his hand, could determine by watching the man which order the number took in his mind. The significance for interpreting events of this sharpened observation and inference is obvious.
Adaptation to a changed environment is also seen in the altered conduct of States-prison convicts when placed under new conditions. These striking changes, which often amount to a revolution in the character of the prisoners, are so much a matter of general knowledge to-day that it is only necessary to refer to them. In Colorado, convicts have been employed making roads two hundred miles from the prison. The men were housed in tents and dugouts, away from the towns near at hand, and the camps were guarded only to keep away tramps and prowlers who might attack the commissary or carry away other property.' "For a long time the only man who carried firearms in one of these camps was a long-time prisoner who patrolled the place for the above reason. We have now" [when the letter was written] "three hundred men employed away from the walls, and yet in the last eight months only one man has escaped."
Mr. Fremont Older, of the San Francisco Bulletin, has a former stage-robber as manager of his ranch. "He is absolutely honest and could be trusted with a million dollars. He has served four terms, aggregating thirty-eight years, for stage robbery and highway robbery, and he was considered the worst man in California." Evidently adaptation has a wide reach in making and remaking men.
Perhaps the explanation of the change in these convicts when placed under a new environment is to be found in a statement of an Oregon convict. Governor West was convinced that the shoeshop of the penitentiary was inefficient. So he telephoned the warden and asked that a prisoner, whom he designated by number, be sent to him. The convict came unguarded. He was told that he should go to Oregon City, study the machinery of the shoe-shops, and report on what was needed to make those of the penitentiary efficient. He went, again unguarded, and on his return told the governor what was necessary to make the prison shoe-shops modern. The governor then said to him: "Now, you're in for life, a murderer. You have tried to get away before. Why didn't you try it this time?" "Well, I'll tell you, governor. I've tried it be-fore. This would have been a pipe for sure. But it's the first time since I can remember that a man trusted me. I couldn't throw you down."
These human pictures represent men's physiological and mental reorganization in a changed environment. They are wholly comparable to the adaptations of lower animals. Habits and actions—behavior viewed in the large—are not isolated states. They are responses to environmental situations, and they can be rightly appraised only when considered in relation to these environing conditions. Behavior involves two factors, the organism, and the objects or circumstances that it faces. The external conditions demand adaptive response. At one time this demand imposes the penalty of death for failure to meet it, and at another the ridicule of associates with all the anguish that accompanies ostracism.
The human will is not resistless. It is influenced by racial and individual traits, some of which originated in needs quite different from those of the present day. Consequently, the adjustment of action to environment is at times imperfect. Primitive man, like his animal ancestors, expended tremendous strength and, having won his fight, relapsed into inaction, revelling in the fruits of his victory. Man is able to maintain a persistent battle-front only in extreme danger to his life. At other times he gradually relaxes his vigilance and finally, when resistance becomes too great a burden, he slowly yields. Witness the progress of reforms. A crying need is felt and volunteers are not lacking. But soon, confronted with continued opposition, enthusiasm wanes and vanishes, and things remain much as they were. The overwhelming but temporary outburst of indignation after the Iroquois Theatre and the Triangle Shirt-Waist Building burned, with their appalling loss of life, are illustrations. Enthusiasm comes in waves, but the effort needed to keep it going is too exacting.
All of these forms of behavior are phases of adaptation. In the case of the convicts of whom we have spoken, the social and industrial conditions confronting them required more mental, moral, and physical stamina than they had at their disposal. When, at a later time, the circumstances surrounding them favored an ethical, social attitude, when opposition to the unsocial did not require such strenuous, unremitting resistance, new adaptations followed. Only when it is recognized that will is an adaptive process, the outcome of pitting ideas, emotions, and thoughts, with their judgments, against surrounding conditions, will a social science be possible. As we shall see Iater, the will is not a "faculty "a single simple It is the whole mind active, impulses emotions, ideas, and ideals, but it is active with reference to something external to it. Life is not action. It is reaction.
The illustrations of adaptation which we have given are those of individuals—made within the lifetime of one person. When we turn to racial adaptation an interesting observation has been made by Boas.' He claims to have found that "the head form, which has always been considered as one of the most stable and permanent characteristics of human races, undergoes far-reaching changes due to the transfer of the races of Europe to American soil."
Another example is seen in Stefansson's blond Eskimo of Victoria Island. His measurements of 104 of these men "give an index of 97, which places the `blond Eskimo,' when judged by head form, exactly where it places them when judged by complexion—in the class with persons who are known to be of mixed Eskimo and white descent." Naturally, adaptation was favored by cross-breeding, but if Stefansson's theory is correct the Scandinavians who survived in their westward journey from Greenland must have practised very rigid adaptation. This is shown by the fate of early discoverers, as Sir John Franklin's party, who, though equipped with protecting devices and a reasonable quantity of food, could not meet the conditions sufficiently well to survive.
We have been discussing adaptations which were more or less successful and which made the individuals or group more efficient in respect to the exigencies that they fitted them to meet. But human adaptation is not fully illustrated by success. Let us therefore turn for a moment to some failures. If the death-rate increases it is evidence of lack of intelligent adjustment to conditions. And this is exactly what is happening in the United States to-day. Government reports show that the death-rate from organic diseases in this country has been steadily rising since 1880. It might be assumed that this is a necessary state of affairs due to uncontrollable causes involved in the progress of civilization were it not for the fact that during this period the death-rate from the same causes has not risen in European countries of a corresponding degree of civilization. "Coincident with the increase in the death-rate from organic diseases in the United States, the advance has occurred in the general death-rate in all age periods, commencing with age forty to fifty."'
The last report of the United States Census Bureau gives 1,001,921 deaths for the year 1916 in the "`registration area,' which contains approximately 70 per cent of the population of the entire United States. . . . Of these deaths nearly one-third were due to three causes—heart disease, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. . . . The deaths from heart disease (organic diseases of the heart and endocarditis) in the registration area in 1916 numbered .. . 159.4 per 100,000 population. The death-rate from this cause shows a marked increase as compared with 1900, when it was only 123.1 per 100,000." The mortality rate from Bright's disease and acute nephritis has increased, with some yearly fluctuations, from 89 per 100,000 in 1900 to 105.2 in 1916; and the rate from diabetes has risen al-most continuously since 1900, when it was 9.7 per 100,000, to 1916, when it was 17 for the same number of inhabitants. Arterial diseases, again, have increased from 6., in 1900 to 25.6 in 1912; and the increase of the mortality rate from apoplexy has been continuous since 1913. These startling figures become even more impressive when it is remembered that an organic disease, especially of the heart or kidneys, makes the prognosis decidedly more unfavorable for an acute disease like pneumonia, and this was one of the three diseases that caused nearly one-third of the deaths in the registration area during the year. Tuberculosis, another of the three, still "causes more deaths annually than any other malady, except heart diseases, and about 37 per cent more than all external causes—accidents, homicides, and suicides—combined."
Yet tuberculosis is an eradicable disease if proper attention is given to fresh air and out-of-door exercise.
The general death-rate has declined in recent years, but this does not mean that the race is more vigorous. The decline in mortality is chiefly in infancy, childhood, and early adult life. And the reason is better defense against germ diseases. The evidence indicates that deaths from wear and tear are increasing. Vital statistics show that the expectancy of life from shortly before forty years of age has been gradually but steadily falling. The investigations of Rittenhouse indicate that during the last thirty years the death-rate from organic diseases has increased 86 per cent in Massachusetts and 94 per cent in fifteen American cities. And yet, while the death-rate from these causes has been increasing in the United States, it has been stationary or decreasing in England, Germany, Sweden, and France. Since these countries do not have better physicians than the United States, there can be but one explanation—lack of intelligent adaptation to the rapid changes which have been taking place during recent years.
The mortality rate from some of the organic diseases has doubled within forty years. A striking increase in deaths from diseases of the heart, arteries, and liver begins between thirty and forty years of age, the maximum being reached at sixty or shortly after; and when the decades preceding 1881 and 1911 are compared it is found that during the latter period the expectation of life has been lowered for all ages after forty. The condition which these statistics indicate has attracted the attention of the United States Public Health Service, which has sent a warning' through the country.
"At the age of forty the expectation of life," the statement runs, "is less now than it was thirty years ago. This is true for both men and women. Life expectancy during infancy and childhood has increased owing to more intelligent care of young children, to the introduction of diphtheria antitoxin, and other means of combating the infectious diseases, and to more sanitary living. But the diseases of degeneration are increasing, especially those involving the kidneys, heart, and blood-vessels, particularly among persons not employed at manual labor. One reason for this is the lessened physical and the increased mental work entailed by our complex social fabric. More people are engaged in sedentary occupations than formerly.
More nervous energy is required of a man. Deprived of the natural assistance which physical exercise affords in eliminating through skin and lungs the waste products of the body, the kidneys become overloaded and fail. Lacking the normal assistance which working muscles give to circulation as they urge the blood and lymph onward in the natural channels, and overloaded with food poisons which brain-work cannot burn up as physical exercise will, the arteries become brittle and weak and the heart muscle flabby, like the biceps of its unfortunate possessor. The florid business man succumbs to apoplexy, perhaps; another big, pasty-complexioned brain-worker to nephritis; another to a fatty heart or to chronically overtaxed digestion, all of which could have been postponed for many years by a moderate amount of daily exercise."
The lack of applied intelligence of homo sapiens is shown, again, by the report of the Committee of One Hundred on National Health. There are over 625,000 deaths annually in the United States which could be prevented, and at least half of the 3,000,000 sick-beds now constantly filled would be empty if the existing knowledge of hygiene were applied.
"The health examinations of the Life Extension Institute have revealed unsuspected ailments in persons who considered themselves well, and to an extent which has astonished even those who have long been familiar with these subjects. Among large groups of clerks and employees of banks and commercial houses in New York City, with an average age of twenty-seven, and all supposedly picked men and women, only 1 per cent were found free of impairment or of habits of living which are obviously leading to impairment. Of those with important physical impairments, 88.88 per cent were, prior to the examination, unaware of impairment; 16 per cent of the total number examined were affected with organic heart trouble, 42 per cent with arterial changes, ranging from slight thickening to advanced arterio-sclerosis, 26 per cent with high or low blood-pressure, 4o per cent had sugar, casts, or albumen in the urine, 24 per cent had a combination of both heart and kidney disease, 47 per cent had decayed teeth or infected gums, 31 per cent had faulty vision uncorrected.
"Among industrial groups, not exposed to any special occupation hazard or poisoning, the figures were as follows: With an average age of thirty-three, none were found to be free of impairment or of living habits which are obviously leading to impairment. Of those with important physical impairments, 89 per cent were, prior to the examination, unaware of impairments; 3 per cent of the total number examined were affected with organic heart trouble; 53 per cent with arterial changes, ranging from slight thickening to advanced arterio-sclerosis; 23 per cent with high or low blood-pressure; 45 per cent had sugar, albumen, or casts in their urine; 26 per cent had a combination of both heart and kidney disease; 69 per cent had decayed teeth or infected gums; 41 per cent had faulty vision uncorrected."
No single explanation for this physical deterioration can be given. Probably, however, the most fundamental cause is the sudden change, during the last two generations, from muscularly active lives, spent mostly out-of-doors, to physically inactive lives, lived chiefly indoors. The proportion of city inhabitants has increased more than 130 per cent in the last fifty years; and while our city population has increased 35 per cent during the last decade, the rural population has increased only about 11 per cent.
This change from an active out-of-doors life to the inside of the shop or office has started a physical impairment which city conditions have promoted. The body and organs cannot at once readapt themselves from a life of action in the open to sedentary conditions in confined, overheated, dried-out, devitalized air. After they have made their adaptation to these conditions the race will be a long way on the road to decline.
Speaking of these facts with reference to two of the prevalent diseases — arterio-sclerosis and diabetes — Crile says: "It is essentially a story of the modern world; of power and progress and success; of liberty and luxury, and of their antitheses. . . . The identification of the common causes of diabetes with the common causes of, Graves' disease may explain why, in the words of a certain phrase-maker, `When stocks go down in New York diabetes goes up'; why diabetes is more commonly found in large cities, among individuals and races who are constantly under a strain of business perplexities, and who are constantly within sight and hearing of thousands of irritating and harassing episodes, and why it is rare in localities where leisurely and quiet ways of life prevail."
The physical waste produced by city life calls for stimulants and narcotics to speed up energy or dull the feeling of fatigue. Proof of this is not wanting. The annual consumption of alcoholic liquor, for example, has increased from. 6.5 gallons per capita to nearly 20 gallons since 186o, and, as evidence of the significance of this, life-insurance companies have found that " the death-rate of very moderate drinkers among the insured is i8 per cent higher and of steady drinkers 86 per cent higher than the average."'
Besides this, $1,200,000,000 worth of tobacco is annually burned, and, with probably still more disastrous effect, the consumption of coffee per capita has increased 54 per cent during the last two generations. Then, as another indication of the enervating effect of "civilized" life, 75,000,000 pounds of drugs are consumed annually, most of them, if druggists are to be believed, without the advice of a physician, and the yearly consumption of patent medicines and nostrums of one sort or another has in-creased 365 per cent per capita beyond that of thirty-five years ago.
If it be asked, What have these facts of physiology and hygiene to do with psychology? the answer is obvious. The mind is not an ethereal, spiritual force inhabiting the brain. c Mental processes accompany certain cerebral processes, and the productivity of the mind is not unrelated to the vigor of the nervous system and of the body in general.
But other unintelligent adaptations are evident in mod-ern social and especially urban life which hasten physical impairment. There is a dangerous tendency toward habits of physical ease. Athletics in schools and colleges are limited to a few. The others take their exercise vicariously on the bleachers. Increase in wealth has brought luxuries and ease. The apartment janitor or house man does the work formerly done by boys. Walking is rapidly becoming a lost art. People ride in street-cars or automobiles. Even the sauntering that boys do must conform to a certain "style" that predisposes to impairment. The "college slouch" is an illustration. An examination of 746 Harvard freshmen showed' that four out of every five stand and walk in a slumping posture, and that three out of five do not know how to take a correct position even when they try. It was also found that the students who affect the slouch have a greater variety and a higher percentage of sickness than those who stand erect.
The physical deterioration of young Americans is strikingly shown by the rejections for physical causes among those who have applied for admission to the army or navy. Out of 562 candidates for West Point in 1914, 142 were physically unfit and were rejected. These figures are the more dismaying when it is recalled that all candidates undergo a preliminary medical examination before going to West Point. The conspicuously unfit, therefore, never reach the final examination to which these figures refer. Yet, out of those sent to West Point we find about one-fourth, rejected for physical reasons.
The first draft under the Selective Service Act of 1917 furnishes the latest information regarding the physical condition of our young men. Of those called and examined 29.11 per cent were found physically unfit; and yet, notwithstanding these disturbing figures, the commanding officers of several cantonments have complained that too many who were physically unfit have been sent to the camps.
Of those who applied for admission to the Naval Academy in 1914, 30 per cent were rejected; in 1915, 25 per cent, and in 1916, 16 per cent. In these cases, also, a preliminary physical examination eliminated the conspicuously unfit before they reached the academy. It is probable that the smaller number of rejections in 1916 was the result of lowering the physical requirement on account of the prospect of war, though at no time have the demands on "fitness" been unduly severe.
According to a statement issued in December, 1916, by recruiting officers of the United States Marine service, only 1 out of every 30 who applied for admission from Manhattan were in sufficiently good condition to be avail-able. Referring to a large number of candidates, Captain L. P. Pinkston, of the New York City recruiting bureau, recently said that out of 11,012 applicants, only 316 could be accepted. Such is the physical preparedness of the men of New York City—1 in every 35 who applied is physically fit to be a marine ! What are the chief defects ? They are much the same the country over—heart trouble, flat chests, and flat feet. Too little walking makes flabby muscles and flat feet, and then flat feet forbid walking. It is one of those vicious little circles.
The mental effect of deterioration of the tissues of the bodily organs is evident. The will depends hardly less upon the stomach than upon the brain. It was no mere rhetorical flight of the imagination that led Henry Ward Beecher to cry: "It is as difficult for a dyspeptic to enter the kingdom of heaven as for a camel to pass though the eye of a needle." Aside from the physical effect, knowing that one is diseased plays a leading role in the drama of life. Thinking and judgment suffer, and the determined, efficient man becomes vacillating and unreliable.
We have seen that the changes which occur in the organism may be described in large part in terms of adaptation. (The external environment is the stimulus to which the physical organism reacts. Only when the environment is static do physical alterations reduce to the minimum or cease altogether. Every significant change in the environment puts the organism out of harmony with it and some sort of reorganization and, finally, reconstruction is necessary if the environmental change is sufficiently great. Failure to make the adaptation perpetuates the lack of harmony which, with time, may become sufficient to cost the individual its life or even to annihilate the species. With a stationary environment there is growth but no development. Development implies a reconstruction—mental and physical—leading to the restoration of a lost equilibrium between an organism and its environment. If this reconstruction produces greater organic complexity to meet more involved conditions of life there is progress.
Adaptation may take a form of response already perfected or in process of becoming fixed, or, again, there may be a tendency to alter the reaction to meet the varying needs of the environment. If the established response is continuous through the species—with the moderate variation observed in even so-called fixed reactions—it is instinct, and if it is peculiar to an individual it is habit. The ability of an organism to break away from established types of response—to adapt itself better to new conditions measure its capacity to develop. When changed condition in the environment are et by a responsive adjustment of behavior in the organism, the variation thus introduced leads to the establishment of a new reaction, which tends again to become fixed in habit. Along with the impulse to adapt and, when necessary, to readapt oneself to altered circumstances, there is always the tendency, as we have noticed, to do so with as little expenditure of energy as possible. Change, whether organic or mental, is always resisted. During any marked change in the essentials of an environment many perish because of inability to meet the new requirements. Those that survive make as little change in structure and behavior as will meet the exigencies of the situation.
The lower animals, we have said, must adapt themselves to the environment as it stands. They cannot make it over to any large extent. Their adaptation is therefore passive. Man, on the other hand, can entirely reconstruct his environment and in this way create new incentives to further improvement. An environment constantly changing under man's reconstructing and reorganizing ability presents a continuous succession of inducements to progress. The marvellous irrigation systems by which deserts have been changed into fertile farms, and the transformation of water-power into electrical machines that supply distant cities with electricity are illustrations.
We have illustrated human adaptation somewhat at length because of its importance in human efficiency. Man is prone to think that his higher intelligence makes him superior to this organic tendency. Yet he is no less subservient to it than are the lower animals. Adaptation is relentlessly exacting. We cannot escape it. The only method of control is the indirect one of planning the conditions to which adaptation shall be made. And it is here that man's intelligence has a chance to assert itself. The convicts, to whom reference has been made, adapted them-selves to two widely varying sets of conditions; and the results were so different as to exhibit in each convict two apparently antagonistic selves. Yet each manifestation of personality was true to itself and to the condition which drew it out. In helping others to develop, the effect of the conditions to which response is made is readily discernible because of the objective point of view. The problem is quite different, however, when it is a question of training oneself. This difference arises from the stealthy way in which adaptation works. Evidently the intellect should play a more discriminative part in planning the conditions to which human adaptation shall be made. We may therefore turn to the nature and method of thinking.