Curiosities Of Memory
( Originally Published 1921 )
Not long ago one of our leading monthly magazines exhibited a tragic scene. A man with wild despair pictured in his face was tearing his dishevelled hair in a most indiscreet manner, and under the picture were emblazoned the portentous words, "I forgot." The advertisement then went on to inform the readers where they might purchase a memory system with which they could remember five thousand facts.
The success of such advertisements in selling the lessons indicates that remembering is, to a large extent, a "lost art," and that people commonly regard information as the most important factor in memory and intelligence. But what should we do with five thousand isolated facts if we had them? We all have many more now than we are able to use.
The first problem in connection with memory, therefore, is to learn how to make use of facts. Memory of so much information as can be used will then take care of itself, for facts that are applied are retained. "Information is of value only to the extent to which it enters into one's thinking. It is the raw material out of which thoughts are made. But thinking, we have seen, is not a mechanical process. It does not come from merely piling up facts. Not even when the facts are put together in some sort of order, after the manner of the bricks that make a house, does thinking occur. An artistic arrangement of facts may produce day-dreams, but thinking is directed toward a definite end, like solving a problem or reaching a conclusion.
At its lowest terms thinking requires selection of material with reference to its service in promoting a reasonable conclusion. Mere facts have no significance. Only as they have meaning in relation to other facts do they gain importance. Evidently, then, understanding an event re-quires for its interpretation the aid of all available information. In this way facts acquire meaning and the significance of the event is understood. This, of course, frequently calls for extensive knowledge and seems to imply that everything which one finds in the course of one's study and reading should be remembered. This is not true, however, as we shall see if we go a little further. The use of the material of knowledge and its accurate recall are two very different matters. One may, for ex-ample, remember the conclusion reached without recalling all the details leading to the conclusion. "Intuitions" are another illustration. To a large extent they are the residua of experiences which were not, and perhaps could not be, analyzed. They are the "impressions" left in memory, but not recognized as facts of personal experiences. Their source is much the same sort of submerged memories as some of the more spectacular instances to which reference will be made in this chapter. Again, selection of material is always for a definite purpose. Consequently, only certain facts from among those actually conserved in memory are desired at any given moment. But let us go a little further in our consideration of the use of memory.
Information from the standpoint of memory is of two kinds: That which we need so constantly that it must be kept "in mind," and that which we may look up as occasion arises. Some things should not be remembered. Efficiency requires, among other things, that the mind be not overloaded. It is as important to forget as to remember. But we must forget the right things. Here is where selection begins. A lawyer should remember the trend of important court decisions, but when he needs the details he knows where to find them. What one should remember is a matter of judgment. The important thing, how-ever, is that this selection be a thoughtful act and not left to chance, as is so frequently the case.
Interest is usually said to be the determining factor in deciding what one shall remember. This interest may be racial—spontaneous, or involuntary. A boy can tell you at once the record of national baseball-clubs and the batting average of the individual players. Again, this interest may be acquired from the necessities of a situation. The writer once watched a young negro take the hats of over two hundred strangers as they entered the dining-room of a large hotel. So far as could be observed no system was followed in arranging the hats on the rack. Indeed, a system itself would have been an exceedingly difficult feat of memory, since the guests did not come out in the order in which they entered, and only a few of the dining-tables could be seen by the attendant. Yet he did not make a single mistake in distributing the hats. As soon as he saw a man approaching he went at once to the rack and got the right hat.
Many facts, however, indicate that interest is only a partial explanation. It is clear that many more experiences are conserved than come into conscious memory under any circumstances of normal, everyday life. Sometimes these conserved experiences affect our behavior without our being aware either of the experiences or of their influence. We do not recall the events. Even when we do they may not be connected in our minds as causal factors of our actions. purpose in the present chap-ter is, first, to describe briefly a few of these singular phenomena of memory, and, second, to show that these conserve experiences, even though we are not conscious of them, may profoundly affect our thinking and acting.
Helen Keller has reported an incident in her life which shows the indelible record that experience may write upon the mind and its irresistible though unconscious influence. At about the age of twelve Miss Keller wrote a little story which she called Autumn Leaves. "I thought then," she says, "that I was `making up a story,' as children say, and I eagerly sat down to write it before the ideas should slip from me. My thoughts flowed easily; I felt a sense of joy in the composition. Words and images came tripping to my finger ends, and as I thought out sentence after sentence I wrote them on my Braille slate... .
"When the story was finished I read it to my teacher, and I recall now vividly the pleasure I felt in the more beautiful passages, and my annoyance at being interrupted to have the pronunciation corrected. At dinner it was read to the assembled family, who were surprised that I could write so well. Some one asked me if I had read it in a book.
"The question surprised me very much, for I had not the faintest recollection of having had it read to me. I spoke up and said: `Oh, no, it is my story, and I have written it for Mr. Anagnos.'
"Accordingly, I copied the story and sent it to him for his birthday. It was suggested that I should change the title from Autumn Leaves to The Frost King, which I did. I carried the little story to the post-office myself, feeling as if I were walking on air: .. .
"Mr. Anagnos was delighted with The Frost King, and published it in one of the Perkins Institution reports... . I had been in Boston only a short time when it was discovered that a story similar to The Frost King, called The Frost Fairies, by Miss Margaret T. Canby, had appeared before I was born in a book called Birdie and His Friends. The two stories were so much alike in thought and language that it was evident Miss Canby's story had been read to me, and that mine was—a plagiarism. It was difficult to make me understand this; but when I did understand I was astonished and grieved. No child ever drank deeper of the cup of bitterness than I did. I had disgraced myself ; I had brought suspicion upon those I loved best. And yet, how could it possibly have happened ? I racked my brain until I was weary to recall anything about the frost that I had read before I wrote The Frost King; but I could remember nothing except the common reference to Jack Frost and a poem for children, The Freaks of the Frost, and I knew I had not used that in my composition. . . .
"Miss Sullivan' had never heard of The Frost Fairies or of the book in which it was published. With the assistance of Doctor Alexander Graham Bell she investigated the matter carefully, and at last it came out that Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins had a copy of Miss Canby's Birdie and His Friends in 1888, the year that we spent the summer with her at Brewster. Mrs. Hopkins was unable to find her copy, but she has told me that at that time, while Miss Sullivan was away on a vacation, she had tried to amuse me by reading from various books, and although she could not remember reading The Frost Fairies any more than I, yet she felt sure that Birdie and His Friends was one of them.
"The stories had little or no meaning for me then, but the mere spelling of the strange words was sufficient to amuse a little child who could do almost nothing to amuse herself; and although I do not recall a single circumstance connected with the reading of the stories, yet I cannot help thinking that I made a great effort to remember the words, with the intention of having my teacher explain them when she returned. One thing is certain, the language was ineffaceably stamped upon my brain, though for a long time no one knew it, least of all myself. . . .
"I have read The Frost Fairies since, also the letters I wrote in which I used other ideas of Miss Canby's. I find in one of them, a letter to Mr. Anagnos, dated September 29, 1891, words and sentiments exactly like those of the book. At the time, I was writing The Frost King, and this letter, like many others, contains phrases which show that my mind was saturated with the story."
Evidently, the mind absorbs vastly more from reading and conversation than has been supposed. Miss Keller's experience reveals undreamed-of possibilities for indirect and incidental training of literary style and for imparting ideas and incentives to action. Past thoughts which return to mind—old friends yet unrecognized—exert a profound influence upon belief and conduct. This is one phase of what is called experience. We grow unconsciously into opinions, the source of which we are often unable to discover. But, while "forgotten" experiences at times play a leading role in mental development, there is a good deal of evidence to show that the voluntary
memeory of most people is hardly one-half efficient. Seneca is said to have been able to repeat in exact order 2,000 disconnected words which he had heard spoken but once; Cyrus and Caesar knew the names of all the soldiers in their respective armies, and Themistocles could address by name 21,000 Athenian citizens. Probably these stories exaggerate the facts, as is usual after men have become famous, but at any rate they indicate that these men possessed remarkable memories. There were, of course, incentives which are, perhaps, not so, strong to-day. The personal factor, doubtless, loomed larger than in this day of long-distance connections. Nevertheless, the memorial achievements of these men, even after the proper discount has been made, was probably exceptional, and they reveal possibilities which may be approximated if not fully attained.
The statement is sometimes made that no experience is irretrievably lost, that everything which one hears or sees is conserved as potential memories. This is probably not true, yet remarkable instances are cited which indicate that very much more is conserved than is commonly supposed. Coleridge has related a case which, if correctly reported, is one of the most remarkable of which we have any knowledge.
A year or two before Coleridge's arrival at Gottingen something happened which "had not then ceased to be a frequent subject of conversation" in the town. "A young woman of four or five and twenty, who could neither read nor write, was seized with a nervous fever, during which, according to the statements of all the priests and monks of the neighborhood, she became possessed, and, as it appeared, by a very learned devil. She continued incessantly talking Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in very pompous tones and with most distinct enunciation. . . . The case had attracted the particular attention of a young physician, and by his statement many eminent physiologists and psychologists had visited the town and cross-examined the" [persons] "on the spot. Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth, and were found to consist of sentences, coherent and intelligible each for itself, but with little or no connection with each other. Of the Hebrew, a small portion only could be traced to the Bible; the remainder seemed to be in the Rabbinical dialect. All trick or conspiracy was out of the question. Not only had the young woman ever been a harmless, simple creature, but she was evidently laboring under a nervous fever. . . . The young physician deter-mined to trace her past life step by step. . . . He, at length, succeeded in discovering the place where her pa-rents had lived . . . and" [learned from an uncle] "that the patient had been charitably taken by an old Protestant pastor at nine years" [of age], "and had remained with him some years. . . . Anxious inquiries were then, of course, made concerning the pastor's habits; and the solution of the phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared that it had been the old man's custom for years to walk up and down a passage of his house into which the kitchen-door opened, and to read to himself with a loud voice out of his favorite books. . . . Among the books were found a collection of Rabbinical writings, together with several of the Greek and Latin fathers; and the physician succeeded in identifying so many passages with those taken down at the young woman's bedside, that no doubt could remain in any rational mind concerning the true origin of the impressions made on her nervous system." One of the amazing features of this case, if correctly reported, is that, the woman could not have understood any of the sentenced which she heard and afterward, according to Coleridge, repeated.
Under certain unusual conditions a flood of "forgotten"' memories may sweep through our mind. Apparently a channel must be cut into the series of submerged experiences to give the flow an outlet. Then some connection with the present mental content is needed. As we shall soon see, the channels are nervous paths. Analogies are always imperfect, but the facts seem to justify some such description of the process. Sometimes no reason for the stupendous burst of memories can be discovered beyond the impressiveness of the moment. At such times no cause can be assigned except the favorable mental attitude.
When one is drowning, for example, the events of one's past life sometimes rush with incredible swiftness and ac-curacy through the mind. Many of these details have not been recalled for years, and some of them have been long forgotten, in the ordinary acceptance of the word. Such an experience of Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beauford is related by Harriet Martineau. During the brief period in which he was sinking for the third time it seemed as if every event of his past life was reviewed. "The course of those thoughts I can even now in a great measure retrace," he told Miss Martineau. "The event which had just taken place; the awkwardness which had produced it; the bustle it must have occasioned; the effect it would have on a most affectionate father; the manner in which he would disclose it to the rest of the family, and a thousand other circumstances minutely associated with home, were the first series of reflections that occurred. Then they took a wider range: our last cruise; a former voyage and ship-wreck; my school, the progress I had made there, and the time I had misspent, and even all my boyish pursuits and adventures. Thus travelling backward, every past incident of my life seemed to glance across my recollection in retrograde succession; not, however, in mere outline, as here stated, but the picture filled up with every minute and collateral feature. In short, the whole period of my existence seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic review, and each act of it seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of right or wrong, or by some reflection on its cause or its consequences; indeed, many trifling events which had been long forgotten then crowded into my imagination, and with the character of recent familiarity."
Admiral Beauford was convinced that this extensive and detailed review lasted only during submersion. In that case it was completed in about two minutes. If it continued until he was restored to consciousness it lasted twenty minutes. It will be observed that something more than a biographical review was given. There were filial and moral reflections. In some ways it is a striking picture of the mind at its best, judging motives, cause and effect, and untrammelled by the restraints and inhibitions of normal, conscious thinking.
There are other ways, however, in which "lost" memories may disclose themselves. Not infrequently those accustomed to follow trails through dense woods are unable again set out upon the same trip, the journey is a continuous succession of familiar objects and vistas. Here half a dozen trails cross; but a stone or tree, or some other familiar object, indicates the route, though so far as the traveller is aware he gave no unusual attention to these landmarks when he first took the trip. But more striking instances are sometimes observed.
William B. Carpenter has given an interesting case which shows how experiences of childhood may be impressed and conserved though the "memory" reveals nothing of them. Later, when a part of the same child-hood's experience is again witnessed, the entire scene, in all its details, is reproduced as a vision.
"Several years ago," says Carpenter, "the Reverend S. Hansard, now rector of Bethnal Green, was doing clerical duty for a time at Hurstmonceaux, in Sussex; and while there he one day went over with a party of friends to Pevensey Castle, which he did not remember ever to have previously visited. As he approached the gateway he became conscious of a very vivid impression of having seen it before; and he `seemed to himself to see' not only the gateway itself but donkeys beneath the arch, and people on the top of it. His conviction that he must have visited the castle on some former occasion—although he had neither the slightest remembrance of such a visit nor any knowledge of having been in the neighborhood before going to Hurstmonceaux—made him inquire from his mother whether she could throw any light on the matter.
She at once informed him that, being in that part of the country when he was about eighteen months old, she had gone over with a large party, and had taken him in the pannier of a donkey; that the elders of the party having, brought lunch with them had eaten it on the roof of the gateway, where they would have been seen from below, while he had been left on the ground with the attendants and donkeys." Evidently, even at this early age, impressions were so deeply made as to be preserved through long years of forgetfulness; and when they reappeared they had no place in Mr. Hansard's experiences. They did not belong with his personal memories.
Some of these facts of memory seem incredible. Aside from the apparent accuracy of the reports, however, they are made plausible through the reproduction of forgotten events by automatic writing, crystal vision, and hypnosis. These latter cases reveal possibilities of conservation and reproduction of experiences hitherto hardly fancied even in the most reckless imaginative literature. We cite a few instances for illustration.
Doctor Morton Prince has described two experiments in crystal vision .2 The subject was a young woman, who at the time was one of Doctor Prince's patients. A glass ball such as is commonly used not being at hand, an ordinary electric-light bulb, disconnected from the wires, was substituted. When Miss X, who had not been hypnotized, looked into the bulb, she saw and described a scene which had no place in her memory, and hence had no meaning to her. Under hypnosis she repeated the description of the occurrence, with the addition of further details, including its time and place. Afterward, on carefully going over the events of that period, she recalled the event. It was a trivial incident of too little importance for voluntary recall.
At another time, disturbed because she had absent-mindedly torn up two ten-dollar bills and thrown the pieces away, she arose in her sleep, shortly after discovering her loss, and hid the remainder of her money under the tablecloth. She also placed two books, a red and a green one, as she afterward found, over the place of its concealment. The next day, unable to find this money, she was greatly distressed, since it was all she had. She said nothing to Doctor Prince about her loss, but he meanwhile had learned of it while she was under the influence of hypnosis. Without disclosing his knowledge he handed her the electric bulb—she was not hypnotized at the time—told her to look into it, think of her money, and she would learn what had become of it. "She looked into the globe and saw herself in bed in her room. She then saw herself get up, her eyes being closed, and walk up and down the room; then she saw herself going to the bureau drawer, taking out her money, going to the table, taking up the table-cloth with the books, putting the money on the table, covering it with the cloth and putting the red book and the green book on the top of it. . . . Miss X reported on her next visit that she had found the money where she had seen it in the globe."
The glass ball used in such experiments is merely a device for stimulating suggestions that arouse associations which have not recently been active; perhaps, indeed, they have never acted in connection with the event that furnishes the motive for the effort to revive them. The glass ball also aids in concentrating attention and produces hallucinatory visions that start associative processes which may awaken forgotten memories. The writer hastens to add that there is not the slightest evidence for an occult ex-planation of crystal vision or of automatic writing., These revived memories are memories of actual experiences—things that the person has done, heard, or seen-which have left their record in just the same way as do ordinary memories. The difference between the two lies in the difficulty of recall in the case of so-called "forgotten" memories. For this reason artificial means of stimulating revival must be employed, and a crystal or electric-light bulb serves this purpose.
Let us now turn to another sort of device for recovering lost memories. A few years ago Mrs. A. W. Verrall, a teacher of Latin and Greek in England, became interested in automatic writing and, after repeated failures, acquired considerable proficiency. In her published experiments,' Latin, Greek, and English were at times mixed, as might be expected of an Englishwoman fairly conversant with the ancient languages. Her automatic composition is replete with selections which she had "forgotten." These quotations are not always strictly accurate, and here again the resemblance to the defects of ordinary memory is evident. Even when she was acquainted with the quotations they were rarely, if ever, those with which she was most familiar. "The Latin and the Greek of the script are," Mrs. Verrall says, "at once more fluent and more faulty than my own; the vocabulary is larger, embracing words unknown to me, though often tolerably obvious in meaning and correctly formed; the grammatical construction is less strict than in classical writers, and in the case of the Latin the whole turn of phraseology is often mediaeval, or at least very `late'; the mistakes are frequent, and often of a type quite unlikely to be made by myself; in fact, the suggestion, especially of the Latin, is that the language used is one in which the writer habitually expresses him-self, and is certainly not the language of the classical writers known to me."
An interesting feature about some of Mrs. Verrall's automatic writing was that it wrote Greek and English verse; yet "I am no poet," she says, "and I have great difficulty in producing even a short set of verses in English." Again, some of her automatic script was replete with puns; but "I have hardly ever made a pun in my life," she continues.
"I do not easily see analogies between words, and I am seldom amused by comic puns. But it is otherwise with the automatic script. It is fond of punning, and especially of punning upon names."
Further, by the automatic device, Mrs. Verrall wrote stories and tales. One, she felt quite certain, was reminiscent of the first Idyll of Theocritus, which she had read twenty-five years before and had not seen since. Another tale, the Garden of the Hesperides, was due, as she was convinced, to another literary reminiscence not recognized till much later. Though she did not remember the references at the time, she afterward discovered in a round-about way that she had read a book containing some of them a number of years before they were reproduced through automatic writing. Much of the material she was unable to account for at the time of the writing, but diligent search supplied the source in a number of these cases, and then she remembered having previously seen it.
The present writer admits quite freely that finding the data of the automatic productions, in tales and in other material which Mrs. Verrall had read years before, or upon which her eye had incidentally fallen, does not ex-plain the phenomenon of automatic writing; but it brings it into line with other more common facts of memory, and then it becomes no more mysterious than ordinary retention, about which, to be sure, no one can pretend to very definite knowledge. It is well known, however, that our eye frequently runs over pages of a newspaper, and, though we read little or nothing, we may find months or years later that some of it, perhaps much, returns to memory with amazing fulness, if not with complete accuracy.
Mrs. Verrall's automatic Latin composition suggests two interesting observations. First, since her compositions were largely composed of selections long forgotten, lost memories were recovered; and, second, among these revived memories were passages with a noticeable resemblance to mediaeval Latin. As Mrs. Verrall was not accustomed to use these language forms and structures a new element other than memory seems to be introduced. The explanation, however, appears to be as follows: medieval Latin has a larger vocabulary of abstract terms than has classical Latin, and many English abstract words came to us from the schoolmen through the medium of late mediaeval Latin. It would therefore be quite natural for Mrs. Verrall's forgotten memories to be expressed in mediaeval forms. A bit of evidence that this might be expected is found in the Latin expressions commonly used by college students. Early college Latin compositions are likely to be literal translations of English abstract words into the Latin from which they were derived and for this reason they resemble the mediaeval rather than the classical. In other words, Mrs. Verrall's revived memories, without the restraint of conscious selection of words, took the line of least resistance—mediaeval Latin, with which she was not wholly unacquainted.
There are also other ways in which forgotten experiences may be recovered. Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson has reported' an instructive case of recall through hypnotism. The subject, Miss C., "purported to meet a certain lady, Blanche Poynings, who lived in the time of Richard the Second. This lady was described as a friend of the Earl and Countess of Salisbury, and a great many details were given about these and other personages of the time, and about the manners and customs of that age. The personages referred to, the details given in connection with them, and especially the genealogical data, were found on examination to be correct, though many of them were such as apparently it would not have been easy to ascertain without considerable historical research. Miss C. had not studied the period, and could not recall reading any book bearing upon it other than a novel called John Standish, which has been examined and found not to contain the information she had given. Ultimately, however, the source on which she had unconsciously drawn was discovered through a planchette. Miss C., writing with the planchette, received communications purporting to come from Blanche Poynings, which finally, by a very circuitous route, and after much evasion, gave the name of a book by E. Holt, entitled The Countess Maud, as being the book in which she, Blanche, and the other people referred to would be found. Miss C. then remembered that there was such a book and that it had been read to her" [when she was eleven years old], "but she could not remember that it had anything to do with Blanche Poynings, or with the other characters as to whom she had given information. On examination, however, the book proved to contain all of the personages and facts she had given."
Much of the information which Miss C. gave was contained in the appendix. This was exceedingly dull. So it is highly improbable that she read it at eleven years of age or that her aunt should have read it to her. "It would seem, therefore, that a good deal of information must have been left in her mind while she was simply turning over the leaves in the process, which she now recalls, of coloring some of the illustrations."
Accurate observation, it is usually said, is the prerequisite for recall; but even observation, as we ordinarily use the word, does not seem to be always necessary for impressing and conserving facts and details. Doctor Morton Prince gives the following instance which he himself observed: "I asked B. C. A. (without warning and after having covered her eyes) to describe the dress of a friend who was present, and with whom she had been conversing for perhaps some twenty minutes. She was unable to do so beyond saying that he wore dark clothes. I then found that I myself was unable to give a more detailed description of his dress, although we had lunched and been together about two hours. B. C. A. was then asked to write a description automatically. Her hand wrote as follows (she was unaware that her hand was writing) : `He has on a dark greenish-gray suit, a stripe in it—a little rough stripe; black bow-cravat; shirt with three little stripes in it; black laced shoes, false teeth; one finger gone; three buttons on his coat.'
"The written description was absolutely correct. The stripes in the coat were almost invisible. I had not noticed his teeth or the loss of a finger, and had to count the buttons to make sure of their number, owing to their partial concealment by the folds of the unbuttoned coat. The shoe-strings, I am sure, under the conditions, 'would have escaped nearly every one's observation."
Were it the intention of the author to write a "Wonder Book" on memory, cases such as have been given could be multiplied to fill a volume. The purpose thus far, how-ever, has been to show the almost incredible extent* to which one's experiences may be conserved. The instances which have been quoted are so amazing that the credulous are inclined to seek at once for an occult explanation. The release of submerged memories in such cases, however, is no more enigmatical than their recovery in less spectacular instances. It is not uncommon for the sight of a childhood acquaintance to bring to mind a succession of memories which have not been recalled for fifty years. Indeed, objects and persons wholly unconnected with the childhood events may accomplish this through a similarity so remote and obscure as, to wholly elude discovery.
Another illustration of the renewal of associations long lost to voluntary control was recently related to the writer, A friend says that her brother spoke Spanish al-most exclusively when a young child. Later in life he forgot the language so completely as to be unable to recall voluntarily more than a few isolated 'words. Yet, when sleeping, he frequently talked intelligibly and extensively in the language. If these less unusual instances do not explain the more spectacular, they at least bridge the illusory chasm between retention and recall of every-day life, and the sensational cases at which the uncritical, who are seeking supernatural causes, stand agape; and the exceptional manifestations are thus removed from the realm of the occult.
Let us now try to find an explanation for the loss of memories and their occasional recovery through the strange ways of crystal vision, automatic writing, and hypnotism. It should be emphasized, however, that our attempt must be speculative and can yield at best only a working hypothesis. All that we can hope to do is to get a picture of one of the possible explanations for these singular phenomena.
In searching for our explanation no argument is needed to show that ideas which have passed from mind return under suitable conditions. It is also clear that to be remembered, experiences must be registered in some way. This record must also be preserved and, finally, it must be possible to reproduce it. Recognition—the assurance that we have had the experience before—is not essential. This is necessary only when what is recalled is to be recognized as a phase of one's own past life. Psychological text-books include recognition in their definition of memory, that a distinction may be made between it and imagination. Suppose, however, that you "recall" an event and are uncertain whether you actually experienced it, but later find that you did. Does the corroboration of its feeling of familiarity transform an imagined event into memory? Recall of events without the knowledge that they have been a part of one's own experience may occur in automatic writing, crystal vision, and in hypnosis. Re-call, with or without recognition, however, depends upon association. But ideas which have passed out of mind are not retained as ideas. Retention, nevertheless, implies something to be retained, and, since this something cannot be the ideas, thoughts, and feelings themselves, the questions at once arise: Where does retention take place, and what is it that is retained?
To understand this it must be remembered that every mental process is accompanied by a physiological process in the brain. When we have an experience of any sort a change is produced in the cerebral neurones. There are indications that one of these changes is of a chemical nature. Investigation has shown that "a resting nerve gives off a definite quantity of carbon dioxide," that "stimulation increases CO2 production," and that "CO2 production from the resting nerve proportionally decreases as irritability diminishes. These facts prove directly that the nerve continuously undergoes chemical changes and that nervous irritability is directly connected with a chemical phenomenon."
In applying to memory the theory that mental processes are always accompanied by physiological processes, it should also be noted that neurones correlated, through activity, with past experiences are re-aroused by the ex-citation of associated nervous processes. Through this concomitant activity of mental and physiological processes, and by the correlation of sets of neurones through association, neurones become organized into functionally united systems. A functionally united system of neurones is a group which has been active during an experience, and which consequently conserves whatever record of the experience remains after it has passed. These systems of neurones are distinct from other groups only in the functional sense. The action and interaction among their cells is the physical basis and physiological accompaniment of the experience in which they originally participated. These systems of neurones are not wholly independent of one another. If they were they could be made active only from within themselves. They are in physiological connection with one another, and this larger connection constitutes the unity of the mind—of the "self." It makes each thought and experience a personal matter-i. e., my experience. The functional `connection of these systems of neurones with one another, however, is not as intimate as their connections within themselves. Once a system is broken into by its associative connection with the processes of another system it yields a flood of memories. But the trouble is to break through the barrier. This is the problem of recall, and we see here that it is also the problem of association of ideas. These functionally united systems of neurones cannot always be aroused voluntarily. An artificial device, like crystal vision or hypnotism, is sometimes necessary.
Experiments in hypnotism seem to support the view that there are groups of functionally united neurones, since certain facts which cannot be recalled in one stage of hypnosis may be brought back in another stage. Recall, however, whether produced by hypnotism, crystal vision, automatic writing, or by voluntary effort, is always the outcome of associative processes. The problem, then, is to start the associations which will awaken the desired memories. The truth of this is frequently seen in daily life. The sight of so insignificant a thing as a pencil will suddenly call to mind where one laid some notes for which one has spent weeks hunting. This experience of breaking through obstructions is at times observed in the normal mental state when one tries to recover a line of thought. Not infrequently the writer is unable to recall such thoughts even with the aid of the notes made at the time. But once the cue is found, the thoughts follow, one, after the other, with amazing accuracy and fulness. The mental attitude has much to do with success or failure. And this attitude includes, among other things, the marginal as well as the focal nervous activity and thoughts.
Severe effort to recall by force of "will" is not always the best method. Not infrequently by relaxing the bodily muscles and fixing the attention upon an event connected with what he desired to recall and allowing associations free play, the writer has succeeded in recalling details which refused to yield to voluntary effort. The play of associations in this case is promoted by putting oneself in the place in which the event occurred, physically, if possible; if not, then through the imagination. The writer has recalled the place of mislaid monographs, and the authors of books from which citations had been made, by sitting at his desk, fixing his attention upon some phase of the subject, and giving free rein to the interaction of associations. Critical examination of any portion of the stream of memories that float through the mind at this time inhibits the flow.
This method of recall resembles a condition which Doctor Morton Prince calls "abstraction." By way of illustration he tells of a young woman, a university student, who had lost some money which she wished to recover. "In abstraction she remembered with great vividness every detail at the bank-teller's window, where she placed her gloves, purse, and umbrella, the checks, the money, etc.; then there came memories of seating herself at a table in the bank, of placing her umbrella here, her purse there, etc.; of writing a letter, and doing other things; of absent-mindedly forgetting her gloves and leaving them on the table; of going to a certain shop, where, after looking at various articles and thinking certain thoughts and making certain remarks, she finally made certain purchases, giving a certain piece of money and receiving the change in coin of certain denominations; of seeing in her purse the exact denominations of the coins which remained; then of going to another shop and similar experiences. Then of numerous details which she had forgotten. . . . Through it all ran the successive fortunes of her purse until the moment came when, looking into it, she found one of the five-dollar gold pieces gone."
Recall of forgotten details when under the influence of the conditions of the original experience has been noted by commentators on criminal jurisprudence. Gross, writing on the investigation of crime, says that the best way to help a witness to remember accurately is to place him in the same circumstances as existed when he experienced the events. "We especially recommend this procedure in complicated transactions," he says, "when, for example, the order of events is important, or when there are several actors in the same, and the part played by each must be determined. . . . Following this course, we often obtain the most astonishing results; people who in the magistrate's chambers remember nothing, change completely when they find themselves on the spot; they recall first the accessory details and subsequently some most important facts."
We are now ready to answer the first of the two questions asked above, i. e., Where does retention take place? The registration of ideas or experiences, and the conservation of these records occur in the neurones of the brain. Some change is produced in the nerve-cells as the result of their activity during an experience. A permanently altered nervous disposition is established. Quite likely, some change also takes place in the nerves themselves. At any rate, certain nervous pathways become more permeable because of the experience; and these changes, with the increased permeability, reduce the physiological resistance for nervous impulses. The tendency is, therefore, toward the re-arousal of the cerebral activity that occurred during the original experience when any of these neurones are excited through their associative connections. Retention is a property of neural tissue. It is the cortical law of habit.
In answer to the second question—What is retained ?—several answers have been given. F. W. H. Myers' and' his followers assume a sort of psychological repository—the subliminal mind—in which ideas and experiences are preserved in their original form, and from which they occasionally sally forth into the realm of consciousness. Myers' suggestive work at once became strikingly popular and started a host of unscientific writers along his trail. Unfortunately, however, these followers could not interpret Myers' blazes. The result was a repetition of his words, with little or no intelligible meaning. But, aside from the fact that a subliminal psychological storehouse does not tally with physiological data, memory is too extensive to be explained in this way. There would not be shelves enough to hold the countless number of ideas, and they would surely get mixed up while in cold storage.
The view which satisfies the psychological and physiological requirements is, as we have seen, based on changes in the neurones. Various theories have been offered to account for the changes produced in the brain by experiences, and to define the residua left in the neurones after stimulation. For our purpose, however, it is sufficient to say that memory has a physiological basis, and is primarily dependent upon processes which go on in the cortex. This is a repetition in terms of memory of what has already been said of mental processes in general. One proof of this physical basis of memory is that injury of sensory or association areas affects memories. Further evidence is furnished by temporary amnesia from a blow on the head, as in a football-game, and by cerebral localization. If the visual centre is injured visual memories are impaired or lost. Now let us see the bearing of these facts upon the second question, 'i. e., What is retained as the basis of memory?
When the ideas which are to be recalled were first in the mind there was an accompanying and underlying neural activity. As a consequence of this activity some effect was produced upon the cerebral neurones. One of these effects is quite certainly the establishing of functional connections. Then, later, when the recall of the original idea is desired, these functional connections facilitate the pas-sage of nervous impulses along the path traversed before. If recall is successful the same nerve-structures which participated in the original experience are again active, and the same mental processes that accompanied the original neural activity reoccur. The result of the change caused in neurones by an experience is, then, first, a disposition to react in the same way whenever these neurones are stimulated by associated nervous impulses, and, second, a tendency, when they do act again, to reproduce the same or similar mental content. In this way thoughts, ideas, and experiences are repeated as memories. Memory is thus the mental aspect of a habitual response of nerve-centres, a repetition of processes which were active in the original experience. The record of ideas and experiences which have passed from mind but may be recalled as memories is thus conserved as physiological, functional complexes. But why is the repetition of these physiological processes so often suppressed? Why do we forget?
We are accustomed to say that we forget the things to which we do not give attention, that the attention is selective, that it fastens upon certain impressions, and that what it ignores is forgotten; and there is undoubtedly much truth in these statements. Al Jennings tells an amusing story that shows how he forced a district attorney and several others to fix their attention upon a wrong date, and in this way established an alibi for one of his crimes. He and his gang robbed a train on the 1st of October. On the morning of the 2d of October [the following day] he walked into the office of the district attorney, Mr. Pittman. I now quote from Mr. Jennings. "Pittman," he said, "I've been hearing a lot of fool talk about my robbing trains and going on the dodge. I'm tired of it. I intend to surrender, face the music, and clear myself. I've a few things to settle up first, then I'm coming in. This is October 1st; two weeks from to-day, October 15th, I'll return. Have your officers ready. And as I left his office I repeated:
"Make a note of it—this is October 1st, and I'm coming back on the 15th.
"According to expectation, Pittman was so excited at seeing me and hearing of my intentions that the date impressed itself on his mind only as an inconsequential de-tail. He never thought to look it up at the time, and when I had use for him it was fixed in his mind—wrong.
"Going to the saloon of Ike Renfrow, I got him to send for Bob Motley, the sheriff, my father, and my brother John. Motley was my friend; I knew he wouldn't arrest me without a warrant. To them I talked just as I had to Pittman, getting the false date—October 1st-into their minds. Every one was delighted, and no one thought to verify my statement of the date. This made a perfect alibi, for the robbery had occurred eighty miles away at noon of October 1st."
Attention, however, frequently does not satisfy the requirements of an explanation for memory. The following from Arnold Bennett's Old Wives' Tales appeals to common experience. Sophia Scales, during her sojourn in Paris, gave painful attention to the bitter struggle for the privilege of living. Yet, as she was leaving, it was "astonishing with what liquid tenderness she turned and looked back on that hard, fighting, exhausting life in Paris. For, even if she had unconsciously liked it, she had never enjoyed it. She had always compared France disadvantageously with England, always resented the French temperament in business, always been convinced that `you never knew where you were' with French trades-people. And now they flitted before her endowed with a wondrous charm; so polite in their lying, so eager to spare your feelings and to reassure you, so neat and prim. And the French shops, so exquisitely arranged ! Even a butcher's shop in Paris was a pleasure to the eye, whereas the butcher's shop in Wedgwood Street, which she remembered of old, and which she had glimpsed from the cab—what a bloody shambles ! She longed for Paris again. She longed to stretch her lungs in Paris. These people in Bursley did not suspect what Paris was." Curious tricks the memory plays us. We forget the unpleasant features of a past experience and remember the pleasant things. Man is always looking back to a golden age, not merely in history, but also in his own life. Attention does not explain the freaks of memory.
Under certain conditions, indeed, attention may pro-duce confusion and cause one to say the very thing or commit the act that one is striving to avoid. Freud mentions a young physician "who timidly and reverently introduced himself to the celebrated Virchow with the following words: `I am Doctor Virchow.' The surprised professor turned to him and asked: `Is ybur name also Virchow?"' The young man had evidently fixed his attention on what he would say and, perhaps, on what he should not say, and then said the wrong thing.
An acquaintance of the writer relates a similar instance from his own experience. The husband of one of his friends died and, in the course of time, the widow married again. After the second marriage, when addressing her, he continually caught himself with her former name half spoken. This tendency has not ceased even after the lapse of several years. He ascribes it to his fear lest he make the mistake and to the fact that before addressing her he thinks her new name and then cautions himself against speaking that of her former husband. Her former name is thus unintentionally emphasized.
Another bit of evidence indicative, also, of the inadequacy of the attention theory as a complete explanation is that in well-organized minds memories do not owe their existence to their own content alone. It is always a question of the relation of that content to other memories, active or suppressed. We recall by association. Since associations may be real or fancied, pleasant or unpleasant, they leave the door open to all sorts of emotional conflicts with a resulting repression of memories. This suppression of thoughts and experiences may nullify the influence of attention. Charles Darwin, with his keen, analytic mind, observed this tendency to forget disagreeable thoughts in himself. "I had during many years followed a golden rule," he says in his Autobiography, "namely, that when-ever a published fact, a new observation or thought, came across me which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favorable ones." Nietzsche also noted the tendency of disagreeable thoughts to vanish from memory."`I have done that,' says my memory. `I cannot have done that, says my pride, and remains inexorable. Finally my memory yields."
Curiosities of memory would hardly be complete without reference to some of the equally strange instances of forgetfulness. The two are really one, and, of the two aspects of this unitary process, forgetfulness probably requires explanation rather than memory itself. Recently Freud' has undertaken an analysis of why we forget and has found, as he believes, abundant evidence in support of the view that forgetfulness is the result of conflict and repression.
"The motive of forgetting," he says, "is always an unwillingness to recall something which may evoke painful feelings. . . . This motive universally strives for expression in psychic life, but is inhibited through other and contrary forces from regularly manifesting itself. . . . A different factor steps into the foreground in the forgetting of resolutions; the supposed conflict resulting in the repression of the painful becomes tangible, and in the analysis of the examples one regularly recognizes a counter-will which opposes but does not put an end to the resolution. ... The same conflict governs the phenomena of erroneously carried-out actions."
In speaking of erroneous actions Freud continues: "The first question (as to the origin of thoughts and emotions which find expression in faulty actions) we can answer by saying that in a series of cases the origin of the disturbing thoughts can readily be traced to repressed emotions of the psychic life. Even in healthy persons, egotistic, jealous, and hostile feelings and impulses, burdened by the pressure of moral education, often utilize the path of faulty actions to express in some way their undeniably existing force which is not recognized by the higher psychic instances" [impulses or ideals].
Freud gives an illustrative instance from his own experience: "While taking an examination in philosophy as a minor subject I was questioned by the examiner about the teaching of Epicurus, and was asked whether I knew who took up his teachings centuries later. I answered that it was Pierre Gassendi, whom two days before, while in a cafe, I happened to hear spoken of as a follower of Epicurus. To the question how I knew this I boldly replied that I had taken an interest in Gassendi for a long time. This resulted in a certificate with a magna cum laude, but later, unfortunately, also in a persistent tendency to forget the name of Gassendi. I believe that it is due to my guilty conscience that even now I cannot retain this name despite all efforts. I had no business knowing it at that time." "In former years," continues Freud in this same connection, "I observed that of a great number of professional calls I only forgot those that I was to make on patients whom I treated gratis, or on colleagues."
A similar tendency to forget what has unpleasant associations has been mentioned by Doctor Ernest Jones: "In my own life," he says, "I have noted numerous instances of a purposeful forgetting of appointments, particularly with patients. If a given patient is very tedious and uninteresting, I am very apt to forget that I have to see him at a certain hour, and if a doctor telephones to ask whether I can see an interesting case at that hour I am more likely than not to tell him that I shall be free then. Indeed, I can recall several annoying quandaries that this habit has led me into."
An instance illustrating the same tendency to forget the unpleasant has recently been reported to the writer by an acquaintance. This man has reached his fiftieth birth-day, but still has a large amount of work laid out and is loath to think that he has passed the meridian of life. The unpleasantness of this thought makes it impossible for him to remember his age. When required to give it he must invariably figure it out from the year of his birth. Even then he has difficulty because he is always uncertain of this date. His birthday frequently passes without the fact coming into consciousness.
This tendency to repress unconsciously the unpleasant sometimes results in curious displacements and substitutions. The disagreeable thought may then be unintentionally expressed. An interesting experience is reported by Brill.
A wealthy but not very generous host invited his friends to an evening dance. "Everything went well until about 11.30, when there was an intermission, presumably for supper. To the great disappointment of most of the guests, there was no supper; instead, they were regaled with thin sandwiches and lemonade. As it was close to election day, the conversation was centred on the different candidates, and as the discussion grew warmer one of the guests, an ardent admirer of the Progressive candidate, remarked to his host: `You may say what you please about Teddy, but there is one thing you must admit, he can always be depended upon to give one a square meal'—wishing to say deal.
Freud also cites a similar instance from his own experiences: "While writing a prescription for a woman who was especially weighted down by the financial burden of her treatment, I was interested to hear her say very suddenly: `Please do not give me big bills, because I cannot swallow them.' Of course she meant to say pills."
According to Freud, the same psychological causes underlie the forgetting of proper names, and the recalling of trivial, irrelevant experiences of childhood instead of the more important ones that profoundly affected us at the time. In each of these apparently different instances, in Freud's opinion, repression of certain memories and substitution of others occur. "In both cases we deal with the failure of remembering; what should be correctly reproduced by memory fails to appear, and instead something else comes as a substitute. . . . The stopping and straying of the reproducing function indicates more often than we suppose that there is an intervention of a prejudicial factor, a tendency which favors one memory and at the same time works against another." And this prejudicial factor, Freud thinks, is the displeasure which the arousal of the suppressed memory would cause.
Mislaying objects is, of course, an instance of forgetting, and Freud brings these mistakes under the same general principle. "If one looks over the cases of mislaying it will be difficult to assume that mislaying is anything other than the result of an unconscious intention."
"A man was urged by his wife to attend a social function in which he not only took no interest, but which he was sure would actually bore him. Yielding to his wife's entreaties, he began to take his dress-suit from the trunk when he suddenly thought of shaving. After accomplishing this he returned to the trunk and found it locked. Despite a long, earnest search, the key could not be found. A locksmith could not be found on Sunday evening, so the couple had to send their regrets. On having the trunk opened the next morning the lost key was found within. The husband had absent-mindedly dropped the key into the trunk and sprung the lock. He assured me," says Brill, " that this was wholly unintentional and unconscious. It must, however, be borne in mind that he did not wish to go. There was a motive, as we see, in the mislaying."
Forgetting, then, in Freud's opinion, resolves itself into repression of memories through conflict. Ideas associated with strong emotions suppress experiences the thought of which is repugnant to the dominating emotion. In other words, it is a defense against recalling experiences unpleasant in themselves or which are associated directly or indirectly with disagreeable memories. The associated interaction, however, sometimes goes astray, and while we wish to forget one thing we actually forget that which we desire to recall. This may happen when what we are anxious to forget forms an associative connection with what we wish to remember. Names may be forgotten, according to Freud, who seems to regard name-forgetting as typical, in this respect, of forgetting in general, "when the name itself touches something unpleasant, or when it is brought into connection with other associations which are influenced by such effects. So names can be disturbed on their own account or on account of their nearer or more remote associative relations in the reproduction." ' An illustration will make this clear.
"During the weeks just before Christmas," says Doctor Frink, "a gentleman was asked by two or three different people where certain books could be purchased. He happened to know that the books in question were kept in stock by a firm of publishers on Twenty-third Street, but though he recalled the exact location of this store, and was able to give accurate directions for finding it, he could not remember the name of the firm.
"A few days later, when he mentioned the circumstances to me, I was able to supply the missing name (Putnam), and we attempted to analyze his forgetting, with the following results:
"Upon concentrating his mind upon the name in question he immediately recalled that some years before he had gone to Putnam's in search of a certain book which he wished to present to a young lady he much admired. Having obtained the book, he called upon her, but, contrary to his hopes, she received him and his gift in a manner so cold and forbidding as to occasion him not only extreme embarrassment but also a degree of wrath.
"This memory, together with others of a similar kind, which furnished mortifying evidence of his inability to win a high place in the lady's esteem, formed a complex of such an undoubtedly painful nature that one might readily suppose it capable of causing resistances against remembering that the above-mentioned firm of booksellers exists. But this complex does not account for the fact that after he had recalled the existence of this firm, as he did without apparent difficulty, the name of the firm still eluded him. It was evident, then, that the resistance to the name belonged to some complex still undiscovered, and I, therefore," says Frink, "urged him to continue his associations.
"After a short pause, during which he felt that he was `thinking of nothing,' he stated that he had a very vague mental picture of some person with a round, red face and wearing a blue coat, but he was quite unable to say who this person might be. Next he found himself thinking of a tall cupboard in a house where he had lived up to his eighth year. Then came a memory of himself as a child, sitting with his younger brother on the floor before this cupboard and playing with a colored picture-book. At. this point he suddenly realizes the identity of the red face. In the picture-book was a representation of General Israel Putnam, with a very red face and a very blue coat, making his famous escape from the British by riding on horse-back down a flight of stone steps.
"Then there occurred to him the incident by which the forgetting is apparently determined. When he was about seven years of age, he and his brother, stimulated by the picture of the doughty general's exploit, decided to `play Israel Putnam, by carrying each other down the stone stairs which led to the cellar of their house. But while carrying out this plan it occurred to the older boy, who at this moment was acting the part of Putnam's horse, that to drop his brother upon the stone steps would add greatly to the zest of the proceedings. This happy inspiration was no sooner received than put into effect. The small brother, suddenly finding himself at the bottom of the steps in a very contused condition, set up a wail which promptly brought the mother of the children upon the scene and placed the elder brother in imminent danger of chastisement. But in this emergency the same fertility of invention which got him into trouble got him out again. For by lying with great power and persuasiveness he convinced his mother that his brother's fall was purely accidental and escaped being punished.
"To this incident the forgetting of the name of Putnam may, I think, be attributed. I realize, however, that some may doubt whether the memory of this episode, though of evident significance at the time it was formed, could have any effect whatsoever after a lapse of more than twenty years. But in this connection it should be borne in mind that the memory must not be regarded as an isolated one, but as a part of great complexes which concern the telling of lies, the subject's family, and the malicious pleasure derived from making other people suffer. It is perhaps worthy of note, also, that the forgetting occurred just before Christmas—that is, in a period which sets the entire family complex on the qui vive, and not only stimulates feelings of affection and good-will, but, because of the sometimes painful necessity of furnishing expensive material evidence of regard, occasionally inspires sentiments of a less noble and benevolent character. In view of this latter fact, one may conceive that the subject's first association may perhaps not be so irrelevant as it seems."
It must not be thought that failure to recall is intentional. The defensive tendency is a subconscious process. "I have collected the cases of neglect through forgetting which I have observed in myself," says Freud,' "and endeavored to explain them. I have found that they could invariably be traced to some interference of unknown and unadmitted motives—or, as may be said, they were due to a counter-will. In a number of these cases I found myself in a position similar to that of being in some distasteful service; I was under a constraint to which I had not entirely resigned myself, so I showed my protest in the form of forgetting."
"Ignorance of the law is no excuse" is thus seen to have a psychological basis, because the wish to do the forbidden act makes it easy to forget the prohibiting law.
It need hardly be said that the defensive tendency which underlies Freud's theory does not always gain the upper hand. The realm of thoughts and emotions is too extensive and complex for that. Amid the play of psychic forces, thoughts, and especially emotions, may arise in opposition to the suppression of the disagreeable. Moral convictions may, according to circumstances, tend to suppress or recall a memory. The desire to boast, for example, in a man of low moral standards, may cause him to remember and even to tell of an occurrence which in another would be suppressed.
It is evident from Freud's analysis that forgetting is not an accidental occurrence. It always has a cause, and this cause involves a motive. We may or may not be able to discover the motive, but it is there. Freud has rendered a service by the clearness with which he has demonstrated the vagueness of the usual explanation. His analysis, whether correct in particular instances or not, reveals the amazing intricacies of the mental life, and pictures certain causes of memory failures as well as of errors in speech and action. The explanations usually given, as inattention, absent-mindedness, lack of interest, etc., do not explain. If the writer were to venture a criticism of Freud's theory, however, it would be that it is too limited. Is the motive of forgetting "always an unwillingness to recall something which may evoke painful feelings"? The writer doubts it. That we tend to forget the unpleasant is undeniable. But to assume this to be practically the only motive of forgetting makes the mental processes too restricted, too consistently uniform. Conflict, suppression, reinforcement, and integration are operative, in turn and together, but the mental life is not so simple as to have essentially one motive. It is well known, for instance, that men are prone to become offensively autocratic when suddenly promoted from a subordinate position to one that places them over those among whom they formerly worked. They usually forget the causes of earlier dissatisfaction and follow the objectionable practices of their earlier foremen or managers, with, however, this difference—they are inclined to be more offensive in their exactions. Of course it may be said that they wish to forget their former condition of servitude, but there are other factors, such as pride in ostentatious display of authority, letting loose all of the suppressed desires to dominate—the pleasure that man feels in commanding others, the primitive elation in merely ordering and seeing the orders executed.
The writer, in his analysis of his own memory failures in thoughts and actions, has found much evidence to support Freud's theory. Conflict there certainly is, and repression as well. It is probable, indeed, that all forgetting is due to conflicts and suppressions of one sort or another. There seem, however, to be many causes of these conflicts, some of which, perhaps, are more common than the others, but any one of which may serve as an underlying motive. The instance of the man who locked his key in his trunk, for example, which Freud quotes approvingly from Brill, impresses one as fitting the explanation to the theory.
Whatever was the cause in that case, it is entirely conceivable that a man may look forward to a social event with keen anticipation, but may also have work on hand that occupies his mind, and which he is anxious to finish. In such a case the conflict is between enjoyable thoughts, and the final repression is motived by other causes than the disagreeable. To say that the greater zest for the one than the other makes one, by comparison, unpleasant, is only playing with words. But, notwithstanding criticism, Freud's contribution is of inestimable value. He has gone below the general causes of forgetfulness, and shown that there are specific motives which may be discovered, and one of these motives, perhaps the most frequent, he has isolated and examined.'
Memory, then, is a process—a complex nervous process and, like all processes, it can be furthered or hindered. The inclusion of conscious experience in the definition of memory, as when we say that to be remembered an event must be recognized as a part of our past experience, limits it by definition to the facts which have been in our personal consciousness. It begs the question. All experiential modifications of the nervous system which are retained and can be reproduced so as to exert an influence upon subsequent action are memory. As a matter of fact, conscious memory is only one type of memory. Many experiences which do not become a part of our conscious mental content influence our actions as truly as those of which we are aware. Our "feeling" and "intuitions" regarding people are illustrations. We are convinced that a man is not frank and open, but can give no reason for our belief. The only intelligible explanation for this conviction is that some look or movement, or something else in his past relations with us, made an impression without coming into clear consciousness. So-called organic memory, with all of its ramifications, is an illustration in a wider field.
Then, again, the actions of the lower animals are suggestive. Feed a dog an appetizing dish made intensely bitter, and he is likely soon after to decline the food served in the same way but without the bitter ingredient. Is this not memory? Yet few would say that the dog consciously recalled his past experience.
This view of memory brings it into line with the curious instances that we have quoted, and in which the element of "recognition" did not enter. Considering memory as a process, all of these facts seem clear. A nervous process has varying degrees of intensity. Some are too weak to become factors in consciousness, though they may exert an influence upon the individual; indeed, later, they may rise above the level of consciousness. This is seen in those occasional moments when one is spoken to while reading an interesting book. A person thus absorbed does not hear the words, does not even know that he is addressed. Yet half an hour later he may suddenly become aware of the fact. There are all sorts of memory variants, some of which are so spectacular as to suggest occult explanations to those seeking supernatural causes. But these unusual variants can be matched by facts from everyday life which, because of their commonness, are not believed to require an explanation.
Memory regarded as a process is also consistent with the strange cases of forgetfulness to which reference has been made. A nervous impulse traversing certain pathways is exposed to many interferences. Disturbance of nervous processes has been proven in such cases as associative and reproductive inhibition, and in assuming further conflicts and repressions we are only enlarging the field of interference. Memory and forgetfulness are evidently subject to certain principles, some of which have already been discovered; and to the extent to which they are known memory can be improved. To this phase of the subject we accordingly turn.