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Habit In Preparation For Efficiency

( Originally Published 1921 )

WHEN we observe an animal or plant we are impressed with the similarity of its life from day today. It does much the same thing under essentially the same conditions. The root of a plant always grows down into the earth and the stem seeks the light; cats mew beseechingly at the sight of milk and spit when a strange dog appears; and a man awakens at about the same time every morning, eats much the same things for breakfast, reaches his office at the same hour each day, and begins his work in the serial order of yesterday. The reason for this similarity of action is habit.

As was pointed out long ago by various writers, habits are the result of changes in matter. It is because of this that we sometimes speak of the habits of plants. Indeed, one may go much further and refer to the "habits" of non-living matter. Shoes, for example, are more comfort-able and flexible after having been worn for a few weeks, and the wood of a violin of an old master has acquired "habits" of vibrating that make it a more sensitive and delicate musical instrument.

It will be observed that in some of these instances the changes are, in a sense, external. The creases of the shoes that make them more comfortable are visible. The alteration of the wood of the violin, however, is invisible. As a result of the skilful playing of the master the wood has acquired certain vibratory tendencies. It has become more flexible in certain ways; it responds more delicately to touch. To be able to adapt itself to new conditions—to have the capacity to change, the ability to adopt new habits—a substance must be flexible enough to alter its form or its structure without losing its integrity. It must not go to pieces. Substances which have no plasticity or which break under alteration cannot acquire new habits.

We are not accustomed, however, to speak of these responses of non-living matter as habits. Neither do we usually apply the word to the actions of plants. The term 'has been reserved for the relatively settled ways of behavior of animals—modes of action which have been acquired during the lifetime of the individual. Habit is thus distinguished from instinct. If we put it a little more technically, habit is a relatively organized and fixed nervous process, or series of processes, acquired by an individual, the repetition of which results in greater facility and better accommodation to the conditions that start the process. Objects and animals alike offer resistance to modification—to change; and, when the change has taken place, the new arrangement acquires a permanency of its own. It has taken on new habits and again it resists alteration.

The justification for making habit analogous to the behavior of plants and the action of non-living matter is found in the fact already mentioned that habits are the result of changes in matter. A sprained arm, for example, is ever sensitive to strain. Some persons, again, are prone to sore throat, bronchitis, or tonsilitis. The tissues may be said to have the habit of easily becoming irritated. Functional diseases, again, are due to a predisposition of certain organs to function abnormally, and in such cases the purpose of medicine is to establish correct "habits" of action. "Tapering off" is another illustration. The purpose of this treatment is gradually to overcome old habits by starting and strengthening new ones.

If we ask how habits are formed in animals we must turn to the nervous system for the answer. Nervous impulses started through the eye, ear, or other sense-organ run their course. They must find an exit; and their exit results in an adaptive response—in behavior of some sort—to an external situation, perhaps to an emergency. These nervous impulses in their course leave traces behind them. Some alteration occurs in the path which they have taken because of their passage over the route. There is some kind of a change in the nerves or in the connections between the neurones, by which a path once traversed is opened, and consequently offers less resistance to the next nerve-impulse that seeks an exit. What is this change? We do not know definitely, but the indications are that it is of a chemical nature. At any rate, a path once traversed by a nerve-impulse becomes an available outlet for succeeding ones, and a habit is thus established.

Psychologists speak of "paths" being formed in the nervous system, and being made more easily traversible by the repeated passage of an impulse. This, of course, is an analogy, and analogies are likely to be misleading. But there seems to be truth in Carpenter's statement that an organ grows "to the mode in which it is habitually exercised." This is the case with muscle, as is seen in exercise, and there is no reason why it should not be true of the nervous system. Reconstructive changes are always going on, and these changes tend to emphasize and "fix" the sort of functional activity prevailing for the time. It is an instance of organic adaptation to demands. Exercise builds up muscle and lack of exercise is attended by gradual deterioration of the tissue.

Activity always breaks down tissue which must be re-stored that the organ may not lose its power to function. This restoration, however, does not reinstate the original condition of the organ, for if it did the strengthening of a muscle would be impossible. The reconstruction is rather an adaptive process that tends to meet the demands put upon the organ, and in a nerve-unit this demand is for continued and improved accessibility to nerve-impulses that reach it over a previously travelled route. The need for an uninterrupted course exists, and the claim is made upon a particular nerve-unit because the path has already been traversed. In this way nutritional reconstruction of a neurone whose elements have been depleted by the pas-sage of an impulse tends to conform to the demand of other impulses for free passage.

If we inquire why the nerve-impulse first took the path which began the habit, perhaps the most that can be said is that there was no special reason why it should not. For reasons hidden in the structure of the nerves, or their connections, it was at the moment the path of least resistance, and there was no urgent need for taking another course. A man, for example, has rented a house in the middle of a block. The first time that he starts for the street-car he may turn to the right or to the left. Both cross-streets are equally near to his house and to the car. He does not know why he took one rather than the other, but the first act establishes the habit and, except for special reasons, he will always follow the same route in the future.

We are now able to state the first practical advantage of habit and also to show its evolutionary significance. Habit makes movements exact and "sets" them, and it lessens fatigue. One need only watch a child who is learning to dress himself try to button his clothes to see the advantage of this. If movements once acquired by practice were not "set," learning acts of skill would have no meaning. It would be necessary continually to repeat the trial-anderror method, and man would have no time for anything beyond the simplest, most elemental needs of existence.

The lessening of fatigue in habitual occupations is quite evident in physical labor. The bricklayer is unfatigued by his day's work, and the store clerk stands or walks about for ten or twelve hours with ease, but let these men exchange occupations and both are exhausted at the end. This is not merely a matter of muscles. The nerve centres and synapses—the functional connection between nerve-units—are factors in even "muscular fatigue." It is much the same with mental activity. An accountant ends the day as fresh as the department manager, but neither could do the other's work without exhaustion at the close of day. In all of these cases it is habit that makes the work endurable—habits of muscles, of nerve-connections, and nerve-centres.

The same reason that makes a change of occupation fatiguing applies in adopting a new method for the same work. Subjectively the resistance of the nervous system to an altered response may have all the signs of fatigue. Yet in many instances this feeling of weariness expresses the organic reluctance to drive through the first line of trenches, to overcome the first resistance; and it is because of this characteristic of the nervous system that what we have called the tendency to minimum effort prevails. Energy is required to overcome this inertia and the effort is not easily made. When once the habits that constitute the revised action are established everything again runs smoothly.

The advantage of habit is the exactness of automatized movements, and its evolutionary explanation is the need of meeting emergencies in a definite manner. Having found a successful reaction, the act once performed becomes the line of least resistance. In the species, habit represents the prudent, "safe" manner of behaving. These "habits" of the species, however, are deeply ingrained in the organ-ism and are called instincts. They are necessary for survival and have been established by the elimination of those individuals who did not conform.

Man tends to do things in the simplest way, in the way that requires least expenditure of energy. "No one, not even a child, likes to take unnecessary trouble," was one of Rousseau's keen observations; and habits are trouble-savers. A certain result is desired, and we have found that only so much energy is expended as its attainment requires. Illustrations in daily life are common. Professional and business men wish to achieve a certain end. The goal is variable. "Success" has no absolute measure. Consequently, the methods that secure fair results are continued, and habits are formed. Change of habit is always accompanied by a mental wrench. One's mind seems out of gear. Reactions do not run off smoothly. The habit of taking exercise, or of not taking it, and of the gait in walking, are illustrations. A man unaccustomed to regular exercise cannot break away from his office, and business habits are difficult to change for exactly the same reason. The nervous impulses are accustomed to take certain paths, and when they run through these there is less resistance than when they take a new course.

New paths, however, may be opened and two or more opposing habits may be brought to such a degree of perfection that each will function without interference from the others when once the cue is given. Let us turn for a moment to some of the experiments which have shown this. It will then be easier to estimate the larger significance of habit. Munsterberg tested the persistency of habit in two ways. He was accustomed to carry his watch in his left vest-pocket, so he changed it to his right trousers-pocket and noted the number of false movements. After a month had passed and he had acquired the habit of immediately putting his hand into his right trousers-pocket when he wished to ascertain the time, he replaced the watch in his left vest-pocket. He found that it required considerably less time to relearn the old habit than it had taken to accustom himself to the pocket of his trousers. Traces of the old habit therefore remained. He then alternated the use of the pockets and observed that the time for each relearning grew less until, after the third change, he could use either pocket without making any mistakes.

He then tried a similar experiment with the inkstands on his desk, filling first one and then the other and noting again the number of wrong movements. Finally he tested himself in using two doors leading from his office to the corridor. The one not in use was kept locked. The result of these experiments was essentially the same as with his watch; traces of the old habit remained and resisted change, but it was easier to relearn the old than to learn the new, and finally he could make the right movement, whichever it might be, without interference from the opposing habit. Munsterberg therefore concluded that a given association —or habit—can function automatically while some effect of another, opposing, association remains.

Repetition of Munsterberg's experiments, in Washington University, by members of the class in psychology, indicated that somewhat less time was required than he found to break the simple habit of taking knife, keys, or watch from a certain pocket. From two weeks to sixteen days were needed to reach the first errorless day in the establishment of a new habit.

Bergstrom tested the effect of interference of previously formed associations (or habits) in sorting cards. He found that "the false movements" [in sorting the pack in a new order], "the errors which the subject was obliged to correct, and the consequent retardation, show that a strong association had been formed. . . . It is a mechanical struggle of habits." From his second study Bergstrom concluded that the effect of the interference of an association (or habit) partly established is equivalent to the practice effect. The earlier habits therefore persist. They have not been effaced.

Miller and Schumann experimented with nonsense-syllables. They stated their problem as follows: "When a series of nonsense-syllables has been learned until it can be repeated once without error, and is then relearned to the same extent after a certain interval, will more repetitions be required if in the meantime the syllables have been associated with another sort of syllables'?" These experiments indicated considerable interference in the relearning, because of the disturbance caused by the secondary associations. In other words, an incipient habit asserted itself.

Bair'attacked the problem of interference from habit, among other ways, by using a typewriter. The keys were associated with definite colors. He found that the difference between two opposing habits grew less the more automatic the two responses became, and finally, after both sets of reactions were practised to perfection, the interference disappeared. This agrees with Munsterberg's conclusion that two opposing habits may be made so automatic that conflict disappears when they are alternated.

The typewriter and sorting of cards were used by Culler in his experiments. The keys of the typewriter were numbered and certain fingers were habituated to the different keys. Later, different fingers were used to strike some of the keys, and the interference was noted in the additional time required for the writing. Culler's conclusions may, perhaps, be best given in his own words:

" When two opposing associations, each of which excludes the other, are alternately practised with one, four, or eight repetitions of each association before the other is resumed, the opposing associations have an interference effect upon each other in all" [persons]. "The interference effect grows less and less while the practice effect becomes greater. The interference effect is gradually overcome, and both opposing associations become automatic, so that either of them can be called up independently without the appearance of the other. . . . When a change in reaction to several of a series of long-practised stimuli is introduced, as in the typewriting experiment, there is great immediate interference effect. This is shown by the increase in time and the recurrence of the former associations. . . . An error committed in practice tends to introduce interfering associations which will cause other errors. In some cases this interference has a general effect which causes various errors; in other cases it has a specific effect which causes a repetition of the error in succeeding trials."

The last investigation of this subject which we shall cite was again an experiment in sorting cards in two different orders. In this investigation Brown' found that interference manifests itself to the detriment of success in trying to learn to sort the cards in two different ways. In beginning either of the two methods of sorting there was clearly loss of speed, due to the tendency toward conflicting movements, and interference was also indicated by increase in the number of errors. Errors always increased when the order in which the cards were sorted was changed, and those who were most disturbed made the larger number of errors. Brown observed, however, that as the work proceeded practice in one order helped in learning the other. So learning to do a thing in two different ways need not be detrimental. This agrees with Bair's conclusion that if a series of reactions is well learned this practice promotes learning a new arrangement of the series.

This experimental evidence that two opposing habits may operate alternately does not refute what has been said about their dominating power. The experiments show that habits are closely isolated processes. Start one habitual series, and it runs its course. Start another and it does the same, even though there are elements in the two that conflict with one another. Habit clearly persists, delaying and disturbing opposing reactions, but when two conflicting habits have become automatic, interference between the two disappears. In acts of skill the sensation caused by a muscular contraction starts the next movement in a habitual muscular series.

This is the explanation of complex acts involving many simple movements. If one thoroughly masters a type-writer with one arrangement of the keyboard, before be-ginning on another with a different keyboard, for example, there is not only no interference between the two sets of habits, but the second one may even be learned in less time than was needed for the first. After the second has, in turn, become automatic, the two may be alternated without conflict between the two sets of habits. In the same way, if one is studying different theories regarding some scientific or social phenomenon, there will be interference between the two views and one will remember neither accurately unless the first is thoroughly mastered before the second is studied. After the first is understood and learned, the second will cause no confusion, and if each is made automatic there will be no difficulty in recalling either or both.

Habits in individuals are practically inevitable reactions surrounding conditions. In a very real sense they are personal reflexes. Aside from the automatized movements of which we have just been speaking, they show themselves in social mannerisms, in ways of talking, even to the words used, in the manner of walking, and in general in the mode of behaving. Families, schools, colleges, business houses, all have their peculiar habits, represented in the similarity of behavior of their members.

The daylight-saving plan is an excellent illustration of public recognition of the irresistible force of habit. People cannot change their habits of rising and beginning their work by the clock; so the clock is set ahead an hour, and then everything works smoothly. It is a deliberate self-deception by which a whole city intentionally tricks itself into rising, working, and retiring an hour earlier by the sun.

The habits of the people are not disturbed, because they do everything at the same hour as before, by the clock.

Habit is evidently a tremendous force which must enter into our computation of problems of human behavior. The long discussion about setting the clock ahead—it has now continued over two years—shows that our custom must not be disturbed. When we look at our watch preparatory to leaving the office, the time indicated should be the hour at which we are wont to leave. We must not be obliged to reflect upon whether we will leave an hour earlier than has been set by habit. If the routine is not disturbed the usual series of acts for that hour will run its course and the desk will be closed.

We have said that habit makes movements exact and "sets" them, and that it lessens fatigue. We are now ready to state its second practical advantage. Habit first reduces and then eliminates the attention with which acts are performed. These acts will then become essentially reflex. Automatic actions and the handicrafts afford the best illustrations of this advantage. So helpful is absence of attention to automatic acts that when it is given to them they are disturbed. It is a matter of common knowledge that attention to our manner of walking across a ballroom makes our gait awkward. This has been illustrated in one of those little doggerels that so often represent the psychological observations of the layman:

"The centipede was happy quite,
Until the toad, in fun,
Said, `Pray, which leg comes after
which When you begin to run?'
This wrought his mind to such a pitch,
He lay distracted in a ditch,
Uncertain how to run."

In the handicrafts, also, skill is not associated with attention to the delicate muscular movements, and the importance of habit in the moral and social virtues is too well known to require extended discussion. A recent report from an unexpected source, however, adds greatly to the significance of ethical, social, and industrial habits. A committee of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education estimated the relative importance of the various factors that make for success in engineering.' Over 5,000 practising engineers participated in the investigation, and knowledge of fundamentals and technic was rated at about 25 per cent. The remaining 75 per cent was accorded to various qualities into which habits of one sort or another enter. It has long been observed that engineers, when selecting young graduates for their em-ploy, inquire quite as much whether the applicants are leaders in college and in social service as about their technical qualifications. They want subordinates who have acquired habits of leadership which will fit them to handle men; and they are of the opinion that these useful habits, if they are foreign to the earlier life of the young men, can-not be readily adopted in the course of the work. Ethical habits are evidently quite as significant for efficiency as those that are physical.

Childhood and youth are the periods for fixing both intellectual and ethical habits. If a boy of seventeen has not learned that accurate facts are essential to correct reasoning, if he does not know the difference between facts and assumptions, it is doubtful whether he will ever make the discovery and acquire the habit of investigating; and in adult life, to turn briefly to the ethical side of the subject, one cannot successfully adopt manners and forms of behavior to which one has been unaccustomed earlier in life, cannot give the appearance of having been to the manner born. The efforts of the nouveaux riches to simulate refinement, for example, would be pathetic did not their contentment with the grotesque result give a touch of humor to the outcome. Dress, manners, and house furnishings all betray the humble origin, which is made vulgar by the attempt to conceal and forget it. Early habits of primitive taste and behavior are too firmly rooted to be eradicated. And one proof of this is the gratification of these people with the result. Not the slightest doubt of success clouds their satisfaction.

Some people, on the other hand, in adult life become aware of the terrible handicap of habits against which they are struggling. "Could the young but realize," says James,' "how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits,. they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar. The drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson's play, excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by saying: `I won't count this time !' Well, he may not count it, and a kind Heaven may not count it; but it is being counted none the less. Down among his nerve cells and fibres the molecules are counting it, registering and storing it up to be used against him when the next temptation comes. Nothing that we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out." So strong is the grip of habit. Success or failure in life is being settled before the boy and girl are old enough to appreciate the meaning of their actions. A good quality of brain-tissue is made inefficient by its tremendous handicap; and only later, if ever, when the hold is too firm to loosen, does the man or woman realize what might have been. The formation of habits should look toward the future that they may become the allies of our mature purposes and aspirations instead of their enemies. In early childhood this is largely the business of parents, but in youth and early maturity it should be the chief concern of the individual.

Resolutions and moral or ethical principles should be determinedly put into action, at once and on every occasion. Letting ideals ooze out in vapid sentimentality produces only a tiresome, ineffective prater. Some men, for example, are mightily concerned over wrongs done to working girls in all factories and stores except their own. Many get their moral contentment by weeping over sin. They go on an emotional spree periodically, and they enjoy the orgy. Virtue oozes from every pore, and they bask in its sublime feeling; but they do nothing. The habit of emotional vaporization satisfies their longing to do good.

Inability to act may become a habit as truly as can action itself. The writer has an acquaintance who for ten years has had a scholarly book ready for publication, but he cannot let it go. He is oppressed with the fear that it will not be up to date, that there is something which he will find if he waits longer—and hunts. It is doubtful whether the book will appear during his lifetime. Some people, again, are always making resolutions—always promising themselves to begin to work vigorously, tomorrow, always waiting for a great and perhaps conspicuous opportunity to do a social service, always preparing to break a bad habit; and then, as the habit of postponement becomes fixed, moments of anguish come, followed by periods of elation, as emotional virtue again soothes the mind. These people are rich in purposes, resolutions, and plans, but they never cross the Rubicon and burn the bridges. They are always vacillating between determination and doubt, between hope and fear. Inefficiency is not infrequently caused by this habit of indecision, and the disastrous effect, in this instance, arises, curiously enough, from the very qualities of habit which in other ways are serviceable. It is this advantage and disadvantage of the same features of habits that make their outcome so important for efficiency. This may easily be shown.

Habit, we have said, first diminishes the attention with which acts are performed and then eliminates it. This is, of course, a great advantage in acts which should be mechanized. Its limitation, however, should not be overlooked. Repetition makes perfect, but it perfects only that which is repeated; and the perfection consists solely in "setting" serviceable movements, after the elimination of those that are useless, or with mental processes in bringing information to mind of which we are in frequent need. It enables the physiological machinery to run without friction. Short cuts are formed in the nervous system. The route from eye or ear to muscle is shortened by eliminating the cerebrum from the circuit. Lower reflex centres are called into play and the brain is relieved of the burden of over-seeing these activities. After the simpler movements have become mechanized they may be combined into more complex actions, and in this way highly involved reaction-systems may be organized. Release of the brain from the direction and supervision of certain activities is a tremendous advantage, because it is left free for things that cannot profitably be made habitual.

Illustrations are not wanting, however, to show that some acts should not be made habitual. One of the speakers at the Tuck School Conference on Scientific Management' said that he found the proprietor of a large printing-house answering telephone-calls. When asked if a boy at the telephone would not save him time for more important things he agreed, but said that he could not let go of such details. "I am constantly doing things which I have no business to do, but I can't get away from them," was the way in which the proprietor of another large establishment admitted his subjection to inefficient habits. These are only illustrations, but they represent the wasteful methods of two men engaged in business. Probably they are typical. Of course men differ in their bad habits as well as in their good ones; but this merely means that the illustrations of inefficiency vary with different men.

Examples of the "setting" of unproductive methods of work could be multiplied indefinitely. Teachers, according to Thorndike, rarely progress after the third year of service; and it is a common complaint of business men that those in their employ "stop growing" too soon. "The difficulty with which we are always confronted," said the 'manager of a large manufacturing plant recently to the writer, "is that our business grows faster than those within it. The men do no up with the changes." This is an instance of the human tendency of which we have spoken in an earlier chapter, the tendency to adjust oneself to the lowest level of efficiency that will "carry."

These occupation-habits grow out of the need felt for getting things done quickly. The attention is fixed on the accomplishment of the immediate end rather than on the final outcome. Consequently, the person takes short cuts and is pleased with quick results. Time looms large —that is, the time at the moment. He does not see that minutes are saved at an immense expense of future time; and when a trial balance is struck he finds that, so far as achievements are concerned, he is bankrupt. He did not include the future in his mental vision. The final stage of the process was ignored. He was always busy, yet accomplished nothing. He has not even put himself in the line of significant results. This can be best illustrated by an act of muscular skill. A beginner in typewriting makes the most rapid progress by watching the keys and using the two forefingers. This plan, however, and the' habits formed by its adoption, will never enable him to compete for the salary of one who practises the slower touch method and employs all the fingers on the key-board.

A department store in a large city of the Middle West, to illustrate the inefficiency of certain habits in a different line of business, had engaged an unusually successful East-ern manager at a high salary. In a year he had so nearly wrecked the business that the management paid him $60,000 to annul the contract. This manager had acquired certain business habits which were successful where he gained his reputation, but he could not alter them to meet new conditions. He did not know why his methods had succeeded. He had not analyzed the situation. He merely grew into certain habits which happened to succeed because they harmonized with the conditions in his locality. It is quite likely that these circumstances had something to do with the formation of the habits. Probably, also, the harmony was, in part, a matter of chance. To a certain extent, at least, he followed the method of the stenographer to whom we have just referred. He adopted the plan that secured the quickest results. At all events, he did not understand the reasons for his success. If he had he would have known that the method might fail under other conditions; and he would have been able to readapt himself. "Managers want to get better results in their own way," says one of the most stimulating writers on business efficiency. "They don't want to learn new ways." ' This is because "their own way" has become "fixed" in their nervous system, and it suggests the rule of action for making habits our allies in promoting personal efficiency.

This, then, brings us to our third point, that habits to be of advantage should be thoughtfully selected and organized instead of following unconscious adaptation. Those lacking constructive, productive power should be eliminated before they gain control. A distinction should be made between acts in which definite habits are beneficial and those acts that may best be left free. Perhaps a given kind of work should not be reduced to habit or, if it should, then the sort of habits to be formed is important. This puts intelligence into the process. After the selection has been made, those acts which can be done best through habit should be made automatic, and the others kept in a free, fluid condition, so that the best method of the moment may be utilize Human failure is due largely to the fact that habits get us instead of our getting them. The rule-of-thumb-man is in this class of failures. He wants rules so that he may reduce his methods to habits. It saves thinking. "The rule-of-thumb man must have his vision enlarged, else it becomes ingrowing," says Lewis.' "As a type he is lacking in imagination, and therefore complains be-cause the talks of the board of commerce and articles in the trade papers are not about his business. He lacks the power to adapt, because he can only imitate. Imitation works in a vicious circle, repeating old errors until they become enwrapped in the winding-sheet of sacred tradition, as grandma's remedies and father's policies."

We have been emphasizing the importance of selecting our habits so as to mechanize only those acts which may be made automatic with greatest advantage to efficiency, and to leave the others free. The curtailment of efficiency through failure to follow this course, and the unconscious adaptation to the lower requirements of life, are admirably described by James Men, "as a rule," he says, "habitually use only a small part of the powers which they actually possess and which they might use under appropriate conditions... . The human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. In elementary faculty, in coordination, in power of inhibition and control, in every conceivable way, his life is contracted like the field of vision of an hysteric subject—but with less excuse, for the poor hysteric is diseased, while in the rest of us it is only an inveterate habit—the habit of inferiority to our full self—that is bad."

An illustration of the effect of a higher standard of work —the reverse side of the shield so vividly described by James—is the change produced in the methods of biologists as a result of Agassiz's example—a change almost equivalent to a revolution in habits. One evening Agassiz was a guest of the Boston Microscopical Club, "when a member made the statement that he had studied a certain form four days, and feeling that nothing resulted from this elaborate investigation gave it up as impracticable. After some discussion the guest of the evening, Agassiz, was called upon. He astonished his hearers by saying that he had also studied the object in question, having had it under his eye at stated periods night and day for six weeks." 1 At another time, to one of his students, who afterward became a distinguished entomologist, he gave an echinoderm, with instructions to be prepared on the following day to describe its external characteristics. After the description had been given, Agassiz again sent the young man back to the echinoderm, and, as the story runs, he kept him looking at this object for a week. At the end of that time the youth knew something about how echinoderms look, and he had acquired a habit of observation which he never lost. It was with much the same confidence in selected habits, assciated with capacity to change, that James J. Hill sent many boys to agricultural colleges that they might acquire methods of investigation. He saw clearly that if they remained on the farm they would inevitably adopt antiquated "farm habits."

In the business world, as in all occupations involving human beings, to illustrate the need of selected habits and adaptive variability in a field too often overlooked, the manner in which the men are treated largely determines the success of manager or foreman. Certain methods have been acquired from the environment, education, or training, and they are followed. They secure results but perhaps not the best. Yet these managers know no other way. The Filene Co-operative Association of Boston is an instance of reversal of traditional business habits. The William Filene's Sons' Company decided to give the men and women behind the counter of their department store a voice in shaping the policies of the company. The association, composed of members of the firm and of all employees, may initiate or amend any rule that affects the efficiency of employees. The decision, passed by the council, may be vetoed by the management, but if after such a veto the association again passes it over the veto, by a two-thirds vote, the decision of the association is final. The plan made a sudden break from habitual business methods, yet it succeeded. A single instance will show how admirably and reasonably the employees have responded. "The question for vote was whether the store should be closed all day Saturday, June 18, the day pre-ceding being Bunker Hill Day, a State holiday. If this were done it would give the employees a three-day holiday. Agitation had been quite intense during the days preceding the meeting, for the employees naturally were interested in having an additional day's rest with pay; the meeting was to hear both sides of the question and to decide. After those in favor of closing had made their plea, those opposed brought out an argument few had considered, the fact that conditions were not analogous. It was pointed out that a Saturday in the middle of June was much more valuable and costly to lose than one in July, that it was the last Saturday before the bulk of the school graduations and that much more business would in all probability be lost. When the vote was taken the employees voted by an overwhelming majority not to have the extra holiday. The firm considers" [the association] "worth many times what it has cost them in their time and money. It is no longer an experiment; it is a fact, and it has made the interests of employer and employee harmonize."

These practical results from the methods of the Filene Co-operative Association are additional proof of the expediency of selected habits. Observation shows that it is not only inefficient but also unnecessary to settle down into the line of least resistance and adopt habits of ease or tradition. Reservoirs of energy commonly unused reveal themselves in various ways. In physical endurance, for example, it is well known that at a certain point fatigue { ensues. Then, if we persevere, we overcome the resistance and get our "second wind." We feel more vigorous than before and push on to a new achievement, perhaps breaking the record. Under such circumstances we have clearly tapped a new supply of energy, usually concealed/ by the first appearance of ennui and fatigue. "Mental activity," James once said, "shows the phenomenon as well as physical, and in exceptional cases we may find, beyond the very extremity of fatigue-distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength habitually not tapped at all, because habitually we never push through the. obstruction, never pass those early critical points." Evidence of this is seen in the achievements occasionally observed in men suddenly placed in positions of great responsibility. The demand on their ability is worth their best effort and they rise to the emergency. "I did not know that it was in him," is our acknowledgment of his bursting through the barrier. It was not in him until he broke with his old habits of adaptation to an inferior level of accomplishment.

An illustration of the firmness with which habits settle upon us, and of our feeling, when in their grip, that we are working to the limit of endurance, has just been related to the writer. The incident also shows the higher level that one may reach when forced to break through the enveloping crust of custom. The manager of a manufacturing company had the oversight and direction of 9 plants. "I thought that I was working to my limit," he says, "and I never felt quite caught up. Now, as captain in the quartermaster's department, I have the same oversight of 150 plants, and I do the work just as easily as when I had only 9 under my control." The president of one of the large publishing houses in New York City relates a similar experience. Since so many of our men have entered the service of the nation," he said recently, "most of us are obliged to do double work. We make our decisions quicker, and, so far as I can see, they are just as correct as when we took twice the time.' These two instances testify to the relation between energy expended and the resistance to be overcome—the tendency to minimum effort; and they also show that when once the amount of energy has been gauged, habit fixes the output. To excite more energy, additional and urgent demands are necessary.

The first barriers beyond which these men could not go until insistent demands supplied the stimulus-the "early critical points" to which James referred—are usually the result of inertia. Few obstructions are harder to break through than the habit of energizing at a low degree of intensity. Apparent mental fatigue, again, which may set up another barrier, is usually attributable to other causes than excessive work. "A physician of wide experience says that every day men come to him broken down in health, invariably telling him that they have overworked; and yet upon questioning them he finds that none of them work as hard as he. Their breakdown was due to the terrible load of unphysiological habits which they had been carrying—a load so great that scarcely any work could be carried in addition."

Sometimes a severe shock is needed to force men to break through these "early critical points." The manager of a large business sent a young man out to survey and report on a certain territory. It looked like easy work, but when the investigator returned the manager asked so many questions about the people, their occupations, wealth, sports, habits, and other things, that the young man hardly knew whether he had been over the ground. Then, after he was told that his position depended upon more intelligent observation, as he has since informed the writer, he became aware of the habits of ease into which he had unconsciously fallen.

Sir Baden Powell has told of a similar method which he used to awaken plodding recruits in India. He sent them out to forage for themselves for a week or a fortnight. During that time they generally had adventures and troubles enough to bring out whatever they had in them. If nothing came out they were hopelessly stupid. Usually, however, the experiences were sufficiently startling to break up their habits of lethargic ease, and by the time of their return they were able to move under their own steam.

Shocks, in the form of sudden responsibilities to which one feels unequal, disturb the smooth running of the mental processes that have produced a complacency which blinded their possessor to his inadequacy in thought and action. Among the contented who are satisfied with doing their day's work just well enough to escape criticism and discharge, there is no analysis of situations, no appreciation of comparative values, always a tendency toward adjustment to existing conditions, always a tendency to economy in making this adjustment, always a tendency to repetition; and with each repetition resistance is decreased.

Viewed from another angle, habit has acquired immense significance in the last few years because of the greater acceleration with which changes come and go. Today a man's success in the business and professional world depends upon rapid adaptation to varying conditions. Fifty years ago business methods were settled. A young man learned a trade, entered his father's store, spent a year "reading" law, or studied medicine with a physician, and was quite sure of a satisfactory competence. Business methods were static, and scientific knowledge did not go forward with leaps and bounds. Today everything is altered. Change, rapid change, is the conspicuous fact in all occupations; and this reveals new meaning in the utility of habit.

"The fundamental limitation of the majority of men, from the standpoint of availability for promotion," said the manager of a large manufacturing company recently, "consists in lack of capacity to adjust themselves to new requirements. I find very few individuals making any effort to think out better ways of doing things. We need, at the present time, four or five subordinate chiefs in various parts of the factory, and I can fill none of them satisfactorily from material in hand." 1 Yet this "material" consists of over a thousand men. Evidently, habits of doing things, of reacting to situations, reaches far into success and failure.

In both physical and mental activity change reduces to an alteration of habits; and habit, we have found, is concerned with nervous impulses and with the activity of nerve-centres. The function of the nervous system is to coordinate and unify movements so as to adapt them to the needs of the individual. In the lower animals this co-ordination has been, to a large extent, "set" in instinctive actions. In man the same tendency exists for actions to become "fixed." We then call them reflex. There is al-ways a selection of movements, but this selection is rarely conscious. In the more delicate movements it is never conscious. The question then arises, How is the selection made? The determining force is always environmental necessity. Among the lower animals it is the requirements of survival—a relentlessly compelling force—and in man it is also the demands of the situation. Success in the business or profession in which one is engaged is the remote incentive. This, of course, creates immediate motives in the various details of the work. Obviously, unpleasant consequences of certain actions will cause the selection of others. But, as was said before, there is rarely a definite standard of success. Consequently, approximately successful actions and methods are selected, and soon they become fixed habits. A careless paper-hanger makes poor work-men of his apprentices, because, if the employer is satisfied, the consequences of indifferent workmanship are not obviously unfavorable. Habits cease to change and to become more efficient when no practical motive compels improvement,and with human beings improvement leading to more successful adaptation to conditions and situations has largely supplanted the requirements of mere survival as a driving force.

This relation between habit and practical motives for improvement should be remembered, because so-called "bad habits" usually have a restricted meaning. The implication is that those which do not injure our health or morals are good. Much has been written, for example, in appreciation of the social necessity of habits of thought. Habit, we are told, "is the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deck-hand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow. . . . It keeps different social strata from mixing. Already at the age of twentyfive you see professional mannerisms settling down on the young commercial traveller, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counsellor at law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the . `shop,' in a word, from which the man can by and by no more escape than his coat sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again."' The truth in this is that it would play havoc in the world to have no consistency, no stability, no conservatism, to have every one deserting his post and running off on a tangent. Of this there can be no question. The writer ventures to suggest, however, that habit—the tendency to repeat—is so firmly fixed in man's nature that it needs no support of argument.

When Benjamin Franklin, for instance, conceived "the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection," he found that while he was guarding against one fault he was often surprised by another. "Habit took advantage of attention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason." Al Jennings cites a striking case of habit in a clerk in the Ohio penitentiary. "As he began to instruct me in my duties he talked in a monotone from one corner of his mouth. I took it for a little congenital peculiarity. Really it was a habit he had formed while in the shops. Conversation was forbidden to all but first-class convicts. When they want to talk they look past the hearer to a distant object and speak from the corner of the mouth nearest" [the listener]. "You could watch the other side of their faces all day and never see a movement. He had learned the habit so young that he couldn't break it even in the transfer office, where he had no rule of silence."

Habits, then, returning to their utility for progress, do not contain the element of growth. So far as they are handed down through generations they preserve what the race has found serviceable. It is racial preparedness. `Primitive man, having mastered a series of complex actions in one situation, was ready for a similar emergency. The value of this sort of preparation becomes a disadvantage only when life becomes so complex and changeable that the old ways of meeting emergencies are no longer adequate. When man's ancestors first descended from trees, for example, arboreal habits no longer sufficed. It was necessary for them either to change their manner of reacting to dangers or to go back to the trees; and those who went back to the trees, whether figuratively or literally ceased to progress. A recent book, entitled Arboreal Man,' has the significant title for one of its chapters, "The

Failures of Arboreal Life"; and this would be a good motto for business and professional men to hang above their desks. "Different environments," this author says in i another connection, "offer varying possibilities of education, but the full educational possibilities are not necessarily grasped . . . by the animal which becomes completely specialized. This is a fact made clear by a whole sequence of geological types which have seized upon their environmental opportunities and have become specialized in an extraordinary degree to fit their environment, only to arrive at specific senility and be supplanted by less specialized and more plastic types. A complete, early, and all-absorbing specialization is almost synonymous with specific senility. An animal which specializes to the limit in response to its environment becomes a slave to its environment and loses its greatest evolutionary asset of plasticity. This, in the end, spells the end of progress."

These specialized adaptations of which the author whom we are quoting speaks are habits of the species that have become fixed as instincts. The natural history of animals offers many examples of highly specialized failures, so far as progress is concerned; and the same principle applies to man. A highly specialized individual will act more efficiently within the narrow limits of his special training, but he will inevitably fail in meeting the larger, varying problems of life. He lacks the extended view which includes the broader meanings and implications within its range of vision; and he is wanting in flexibility and versatility beyond the boundaries of his habits of thought and action.

Failure because of adamantine habits produced by this same sort of narrow specialization is also indicated in pre-historic man. The Neanderthals were driven from their places of abode and finally entirely destroyed by a race superior in culture, in industry, and invention. "The Neanderthals, no doubt, fought with wooden weapons and with the stone-headed dart and spear, but there is no evidence that they possessed the bow and arrow. There is, on the contrary, some possibility that the newly arriving Cro-Magnon race may have been familiar with the bow and arrow, for a barbed arrow or spear head appears in drawings of a later stage of Cro-Magnon history, the so-called Magdalenian. It is thus possible, though very far from being demonstrated, that when the Cro-Magnons entered western Europe, at the dawn of the Upper Palaeolithic, they were armed with weapons which, with their superior intelligence and physique, would have given them a very great advantage in contests with the Neanderthals." ' At any rate, the new arrivals, with their greater inventiveness and mental flexibility—they were probably the first of the Homo sapiens—produced a tremendous social and industrial change. The Neanderthals, however, during the period of their aggressive adaptation, displayed amazing prowess. "There was a very decided disparity between the strength and resistance of their weapons, and the strength and resistance of the animals which they pursued. .. . The chase even of the horses, wild cattle, and rein-deer was apparently without the aid of the bow and arrow, and prior to the invention of the barbed arrow or lance head." But by the time of the arrival of the Cro-Magnons they had reached the limit of their inventiveness and progress, and were on the decline. The new race, with its superior flexibility, was able to overcome both the severe conditions of the fourth glaciation and the Neanderthals whom they found as enemies. Finally, however, the Cro-Magnons, having run their course, succumbed, in turn, before more flexible and hence more adaptive races. Probably their failure in the contest of life, without any apparent environmental causes, like the similar decline of certain civilized races, after a period of great industrial, intellectual, and martial progress, was due to the inertness that is always associated with mental stasis. It is an illustration of minimum adaptation. The habits which meet the lowest requirements of survival persist, and when an emergency arises requiring rapid readaptation such static races are unequal to the demands.

Habit, we have said, eliminates consciousness. This has been shown to be an advantage in certain matters. It also dispenses with intelligence. And this is bad, unless the habits are selected with discrimination. If a business man were to ask his employees what habits they had consciously formed during the past week he would create a panic among the men. And if he would put the same question to himself he would be unable to find an answer. Efficiency in matters of habit demands an analysis of a given piece of work, as, for instance, of a situation that is to be met, to determine what part of it may best be mechanized and what requires intelligence.

The organic tendency to make adjustments to conditions with the minimum output of effort, of which we have spoken, and the propensity of nervous impulses to continue, subsequently, to follow the path which they first took, with the consequent reduction of effIciency to the lowest level that will "pass," has been found to be as true of mental activity as of the physical; and in thought, with its resulting behavior, release of the brain from supervision by "setting" the mental processes, works disastrously. "Hardly any of us," said William James,' "can make new heads" [for ideas] "easily when fresh experiences come. Most of us grow more and more enslaved to the stock conceptions with which we have become familiar, and less and less capable of assimilating impressions in any but the old ways. Old-fogyism, in short, is the inevitable terminus to which life sweeps us on."

This is not a pleasant picture, but the important question is, Is it true? Unfortunately, Professor James has not overstated the facts. But is there no way out, no way of escaping from the slavery of habit in thinking? Not altogether. Habit is an organic fact. Its justification is the need for conserving successful reactions. Having once learned to react successfully in a given situation, primitive man could best preserve himself and the race by repetition. This was because of his low intelligence. Marked variation was a dangerous innovation. With him reactions were at first chiefly physical, but as he developed and life became more complex the mental became more prominent. But, after all, the basis of habit is the same, whether it bed in acts of skill or in the most intricate processes of the end. The nervous system underlies both, and, fundamentally, habit always goes back to the tendency of nervous impulses to repeat themselves.

One of the chief problems in personal efficiency, it should be emphasized again, is to decide what acts may be most advantageously intrusted to habit. These actions—those of the mechanical type—should then be made automatic. , No exception should be permitted. With other matters—! those requiring intelligence—the difficulty is not in forming habits, for this tendency is always dominant, but in keeping free from them, not in accepting the ideas, beliefs, god and customs of those with whom we live and work, but free in breaking away from them.

As long as we consider present beliefs and the attitude of people toward present conditions or novel ideas, the ad-vantage of the argument concerning habit is with the conservatives; for it is difficult to demonstrate a better condition, or to prove the value of something that has not yet happened. When we look back over history, however, the view clears.

We commonly think that we advance in the ordinary course of events. "Our habitual instructors, our ordinary conversation, our inevitable and ineradicable prejudices," said Bagehot, "tend to make us think that `Progress' is the normal fact in human society, the fact which we should expect to see, the fact which we should be surprised if we did not see. But history refutes this. . . . What is most evident is not the difficulty of getting a fixed law, but of getting out of a fixed law; not of cementing a cake of custom, but of breaking the cake of custom; not of making the first preservative habit, but of breaking through it and reaching something better.

What usually happens is that some one breaks away from conventional, habitual thoughts, is condemned for his erratic ideas, and dies perhaps an outcast from "sane" society. Another age erects a monument to his memory, and people gather there in grateful commemoration of the ideas for which their fathers cast him out; and men continue in the delusion that they are progressive. Men who made the sciences upon which our comfort, our health, our lives depend, have been crucified upon the cross of tradition. In what did their crime consist? In offering something new.

A volume could be filled with examples of the abuse of men because they did a social service. Harvey enjoyed a large practice before he published his book Concerning the Motion and Uses of the Heart and Arteries, because he was a surgeon of wide repute. But after the appearance of his book he "fell mightily in his practice; 'twas believed by the vulgar that he was crack-brained and all the physicians were against him." Harvey himself, speaking of the reception of his discovery, says: "These views, as usual, pleased some more, some less; some chid and calumniated me, and laid it to me as a crime that I had dared to depart from the precepts and opinions of all anatomists. I tremble lest have mankind at large for my enemies, so much doth wont and custom become a second nature."'

Another illustration of habits of thought is furnished by an instance in the life of Benjamin Franklin, who sent an account of some of his experiments in electricity to Mr. Collinson, in England, to have them read in the Royal Society; but the members did not think them of sufficient importance to be printed in the Transactions. Among Franklin's other experimental contributions was a paper on "The Sameness of Lightning with Electricity," which he sent to an acquaintance, Doctor Mitchel, who was a member of the Royal Society. Doctor Mitchel wrote in reply that it had been read before the Society, but had produced only laughter. Some of these papers were later printed in a pamphlet by Cave. "A copy of them happening to fall into the hands of the Count de Buffon, a philosopher deservedly of great reputation in France, and indeed all over Europe, he prevailed with M. Dalibard to trans-late them into French, and they were printed in Paris. The publication offended the Abbe Mollet, preceptor in natural philosophy to the royal family, and an able experimenter, who had formed and published a theory of electricity which then had the general vogue. He could not at first believe that such a work came from America, and said it must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry his system. Afterward, having been assured that there really existed such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted, he wrote and published a volume of `Letters' chiefly addressed to me, defending his theory, and denying the verity of my experiments and the positions deduced from them."

Again, Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes' paper on the Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, published before the idea of infection had gained sufficient standing to be respectable, was bitterly attacked by two of the leading obstetricians of the East. Doctor H. L. Hodge, professor in the University of Pennsylvania, said in an address to his medical students: "The result of the whole discussion will, I trust, serve not only to exalt your views of the value and dignity of our profession, but to divest your minds of the overpowering dread that you can ever convey, in any possible manner, a horrible virus, so destructive in its effects and so mysterious in its operations, as that attributed to puerperal fever."

Doctor Charles D. Meigs, of the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in his book on the nature and treatment of puerperal fever, said, speaking of infection: "I utterly reject and deny it; and of course I shall not be distressed because two very young gentlemen" [of whom Oliver Wendell Holmes was one] "say: `We think the contagiousness . of childbed fever is a fact established on the most irrefragable evidence. . And shall we now go back again to the capabilities of a Celsus, or an Avicenna, or an Avenzoar? Or shall we rather disregard the jejune-dreamings of sophomore writers" [Holmes and others] "who thunder forth denunciations, and would mark, if they might, with a black and ineffaceable spot, the hard-won reputation of every physician."

Galvani was ridiculed as the "frogs' dancing master," Daguerre was put into an asylum for saying that he could transfer the likeness of human beings to a " tin plate." Ohm, also, was thought insane, and Florence pleaded for the dust of Dante, whom only a century before she had ordered to be buried alive. Cuvier angrily threw fossil bones out of his window, and buried their meaning in derision for thirty years. Lavoisier proved that meteorites could not fall from the skies, the Bavarian Royal College of Physicians asserted that railroads would ruin the health of the people because the rapid motion would give the travellers brain disease, and Professor Lovering of Harvard demonstrated mathematically the impossibility of telegraphing three thousand miles under the ocean. Lebon, the discoverer of illuminating gas, died in ridicule because he believed in "a lamp without a wick." Jouffroy, the inventor of steamboats, passed away in poverty, having spent all of his money in vain attempts to change the habits of thought of the people, and Lardner's essay proving the impossibility of the steamboat was brought over from England in the first boat, following Fulton's invention, to cross the Atlantic; Young, a physician, saved his practice by anonymous publication of his theory of light, color, and luminiferous ether, a century after Hooke had first made the discovery; Plenciz observed as early as 1762 that certain diseases and decomposition were caused by micro-organisms, but it was not until Pasteur's discoveries in 1876 that the bitter controversy was ended. And we are still in the midst of the fight against antitoxin serums and animal experimentation.

Doctor Osier, in an address before the Johns Hopkins Medical Society, October 15, 1894, referred to Doctors Hodge and Meigs as "the two leading professors of obstetrics in this country" at the time of this controversy with Oliver Wendell Holmes.

These illustrations could be extended indefinitely, but they are sufficient to indicate the evidence for the statement above that habits of thought do not need nurturing. Resistance to habits, or at least conscious selection of those which we allow to gain a hold, is the first principle of efficiency and progress, and this is what Rousseau seems to have had in mind when he exclaimed: "The best habit to form is to contract no habits whatever."

Man, however, as we have seen, likes to feel that certain questions are answered, certain problems settled. Frequent rearrangement of opinions and of ideas, to make them consistent with new facts, would keep one thinking; and thinking is a strain. So ideas are classified and tied up in bundles, properly labelled. Then when a social or business proposition is laid before us we know at once which bundle to untie. This is classification and "order." Everything is put away in our mental files, and all that is needed to settle a question is to find under what subject it is classified. This is a convenient and easy method. Its only fault is that it leads nowhere. It ends in a blind alley. An excellent illustration is the comments of writers and preachers on the suicide of General Nogi. Obviously, knowledge of the religion and philosophy of Bushido was necessary for an understanding of his act. The Anglo-Saxon classification of ideas was inadequate for its interpretation. The explanation of fossils as models of animals upon which God practised, and with which he was dissatisfied, is another illustration. It was an attempt to make the new conform to the conventional classification of causes, of things, and events.

Organization of ideas is necessary, of course. This is the way in which the laws of science have been gained. But no classification or generalization should be regarded as final. Ideas should be kept in a fluid state, so that they may easily make new combinations. Settled opinions, "filed away," may be as unsuited to the new conditions as were the ideas of Rip Van Winkle when he awoke. "You will never find your way out," angrily cried the chemist Biot to Pasteur, when he refused to give up his researches on spontaneous generation. That was because Biot's opinions were rigidly classified. They could not form new combinations. When Ericsson asked for an appropriation to build the Monitor, Fox,' assistant secretary of the navy, and the naval board, condemned the idea. They said that the heavy armor would sink the vessel. Their opinions were organized and filed away. They would not even test them with arithmetic, as Lincoln wished them to do. The department store, the cost-keeping systems, loose-leaf books, gathering statistics, charting the demand for commodities, adding-machines, card methods, all these things and many more have been condemned by the classified opinions of business men.

"You see all organization, with its implication of finality, is death," H. G. Wells makes Mr. Britling say. "What you organize you kill. Organized morals or organized religion or organized thought are dead morals and dead religion and dead thought. Yet some organization you must have. Organization is like killing cattle; if you don't kill some the herd is just waste. But you mustn't kill all or you kill the herd. The unkilled cattle are the herd, the continuation; the unorganized side of life is the real life. The reality of life is adventure, not performance. What isn't adventure isn't life. What can be ruled about can be machined, and there is always a tendency to organize and then to automatize."

When the relations between the individual and his environment are definite and maintained, habit dominates. Even when these relations are indefinite and subject to alterations, habit still tends to rule. This is shown in acts that involve volition.

Experiments involving choice between different responses carried out by Barrett' illustrate this. We quote his description of the outcome. "Regularity in the reactions," he says, "was manifested in every phase of the choice-process, in the manner of reading the" [different] cards" [to which the persons reacted], "in the manner of reacting, and of realizing the choice. Automatism entered into every detail of the experiment. Even the experimenter came to perform the various functions in a perfectly automatic way, so much so that the salient note of the whole experiment, toward the end of the series, was its mechanical regularity. . . . We see that the natural tendency is toward automatic choosing. The times grow shorter, the number of phenomena" [admitted within the field of choice by the individual] "grows less, only one alternative is considered; there is economy in every sense, and finally the motivation reaches such a point that it never, or practically never, deviates from a certain curve or motivation track."

In Barrett's earlier experiments those who were being tested made many remarks about motives, feelings, and judgments which influenced action, but toward the end they had little to say. "There was nothing to remark. There were no feelings, hesitations, or motives to describe. The mental act had become direct and simple. . . . The will had gradually ceased to expend useless effort. Volitional force was economized. . . . Automatism held sway, and there was nothing to record." That is a pretty good description of stagnation as far as mental activity is concerned; yet it seems to be the final outcome of being possessed by habit. Evidently, if one is to have living thoughts, if, indeed, one is to think at all, it is necessary to set up a determined resistance to the encroachment of habitual modes of thinking and behaving.

Experience gains value to the extent to which intentional thoughtful variation characterizes the range of activities. For, as Rousseau long ago said: "He who has lived most is not he who has numbered the most years, but he who has been most truly conscious of what life is. A man may have himself buried at the age of a hundred years, who died from the hour of his birth. He would have gained something by going to his grave in youth, if up to that time he had only lived."

Measuring up to our possibilities is a troublesome matter, not because of lack of desire—for the vast majority of people are anxious to do so—but because of the difficulty of realizing on our abilities, of turning them into achievement. Man, like his forebears, was made on the plan of adaptation, and adaptation means fitting into conditions. It does not lead to progress, unless external conditions force such a change. Habit is a preservative. It conserves and fixes those types of behavior which help the individual to fit into his environment. But habit is satisfied with the lowest level of "fitness." It must, therefore, be controlled and directed, else it does not serve us well.

We have found that habit eliminates attention. Only those matters, therefore, which finally require no attention should be intrusted to it. Consequently, selection is necessary. Acts of muscular skill, ethical and social behavior should be reduced to habit; and then no deviation should be tolerated. But even here it must be remembered that there is always a tendency to form habits before a high degree of muscular dexterity or of ethical and social attainment has been reached. This makes the difference between poor workmen and skilful artisans, as well as between mediocre tennis and golf players, and those who can qualify for tournaments; and the same distinction exists in behavior in general.

The elimination of attention from habitual processes reveals the activities from which habit should be barred. It is a distinct advantage to relieve the higher brain centres of the supervision of skilful movements which have been acquired during the preliminary apprenticeship in work or games; and one should not need to wait to decide on acts of courtesy. It is disastrous, however, to free these higher centres from control of matters that require intelligence. For habit is a treacherous ally. It takes us off our guard and registers all our acts. Its subtlety is seen in our ignorance of the fact that it possesses us. Those who condemned the discoveries of the men to whom we have referred did not know that their minds had become inflexible. They believed that they were thinking and that they were doing a social service. Freedom from habituation is relative; thoughts, opinions, and beliefs are largely fixed by social groups, and we adjust ourselves to them involuntarily and unintelligently. Then they be-come fixed as mental habits of which we are no ore aware than we are conscious of our professional and family mannerisms. We believe that we see the reason for them, so gentle and insinuating is their mastery.


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