Psychology in the School-room

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Abstract

THE authors describe their book in the preface as an “attempt to apply the laws of mental and moral science to school work.” If we can hardly look upon the result of this attempt as an unqualified success, it is because Messrs. Dexter and Garlick are by no means as well acquainted with the principles of “mental and moral science” as they evidently are with the practical requirements of the school-room. A psychologist who comes to them solely for practical hints as to methods of teaching, will find much that is suggestive in their treatment of their subject; but we should hardly recommend a teacher who wishes to acquire a sound, even if elementary, know ledge of psychology to take them as his guides. It would, indeed, hardly be going too far to say that “Psychology in the School-room” is a treatise written by persons who know little psychology for readers who know less. Partly this is due to mere defects of information. Thus the account of the “muscular sense,” on p. 63 ff., must have been written in ignorance of the important researches, fully described in so accessible a work as James's “Principles of Psychology,” which have profoundly modified our estimate of the psychological significance of these once-vaunted sensations. The account of space-perception given in the same chapter, again totally ignores the “nativistic” doctrine of such eminent authorities as Hering, Stumpf, and James. It may be, as the authors say (p. 81), that “distance is inferred, not seen”; but, in the present state of the controversy, it is a gross piece of presumption to make the statement without explaining that it is denied by many of the best modern authorities. Still more unfortunate is the habitual inaccuracy and vagueness of the writers' terminology. They tell us, for instance, repeatedly, that “vibrations” of ether, air, &c, are transmitted to the brain, and there “interpreted” by the mind as sensations of colour, sound, &c. This is, of course, fiction, and fiction of the most misleading kind; as we are never aware of the “vibrations” at all, it is nonsense to call the sensations, to which they serve as physical antecedents, “interpretations” of them. The way in which, in the chapter on “judgment,” judgment is said on one and the same page to be a “higher” process than conception, and to be already involved in conception, the very similar way in which in the following chapter definition is spoken of, first, as having to do with “words,” then as concerned with “things,” then once more as of “names,” the double treatment of what are essentially the same facts, once in Chapter viii., under the head of “Association,” and again in Chapter xiii., under the title of “Apperception,” are a few instances, from among many, of the authors' inability to form consistent views of their subject, and to express those views with precision. Such looseness of thought and language is intolerable in any work, however elementary, that professes to describe the principles of a science.

Psychology in the School-room.

By T. F. G. Dexter A. H. Garlick. Pp. viii + 413. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1898.)

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T., A. Psychology in the School-room. Nature 59, 413 (1899) doi:10.1038/059413a0

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