Chapter 2: Of the Recognition of Images. Memory and the Brain
[Margin Note: The two forms of memory: the past survives as a bodily habit, or as an independent recollection]
WE pass now to the consideration of the consequences for the theory of memory, which might ensue from the acceptance of the principles we have laid down. We have said that the body, placed between the objects which act upon it and those which it influences, is only a conductor, the office of which is to receive movements, and to transmit them (when it does not arrest them) to certain motor mechanisms, determined if the action is reflex, chosen if the action is voluntary. Everything, then, must happen as if an independent memory gathered images as they successively occur along the course of time; and as if our body, together with its surroundings, was never more than one among these images, the last, that which we obtain at any moment by making an instantaneous section in the general stream of becoming. In this section our body occupies the centre. The things which surround it act upon it, and it reacts upon them. Its reactions are more or less complex, more or less varied, according to the number and nature of the apparatus which experience has set up within it. Therefore in the form of motor contrivances, and of motor contrivances only, it can store up the action of the past. Whence it results that past images, properly so called, must be otherwise preserved; and we may formulate this first hypothesis:
The past survives under two distinct forms first, in motor mechanisms; secondly, in independent recollections.
But then the practical, and consequently the usual function of memory, the utilizing of past experience for present action, – recognition, in short, – must take place in two different ways. Sometimes it lies in the action itself, and in the automatic setting in motion of a mechanism adapted to the circumstances; at other times it implies an effort of the mind which seeks in the past, in order to apply them to the present, those representations which are best able to enter into the present situation. Whence our second proposition:
The recognition of a Present object is effected by movements when it Proceeds from the object, by representations when it issues from the subject.
It is true that there remains yet another question: how these representations are preserved, and what are their relations with the motor mechanisms. We shall go into this subject thoroughly in our next chapter, after we have considered the unconscious, and shown where the fundamental distinction lies between the past and the present. But already we may speak of the body as an ever advancing boundary between the future and the past, as a pointed end, which our past is continually driving forward into our future. Whereas my body, taken at a single moment, is but a conductor interposed between the objects which influence it and those on which it acts, it is, on the other hand, when replaced in the flux of time, always situated at the very point where my past expires in a deed. And, consequently, those particular images which I call cerebral mechanisms terminate at each successive moment the series of my past representations, being the extreme prolongation of those representations into the present, their link with the real, that is, with action. Sever that link, – and you do not necessarily destroy the past image, but you deprive it of all means of acting upon the real and consequently, as we shall show, of being realized. It is in this sense, and in this sense only, that an injury to the brain can abolish any part of memory. Hence our third, and last, proposition:
We pass, by imperceptible stages, from recollections strung out along the course of time to the movements which indicate their nascent or possible action in space. Lesions of the brain may affect these movements, but not these recollections.
We have now to see whether experience verifies these three propositions.
The two forms of memory.– I study a lesson, and in order to learn it by heart I read it a first time, accentuating every line; I then repeat it a certain number of times. At each repetition there is progress; the words are more and more linked together, and at last make a continuous whole. When that moment comes, it is said that I know my lesson by heart, that it is imprinted on my memory.
I consider now how the lesson has been learnt, and picture to myself the ‘successive phases of the process. Each several reading then recurs to me with its own individuality; I can see it again with the circumstances which attended it then and still form its setting. It is distinguished from those which preceded or followed it by the place which it occupied in time; in short, each reading stands out before my mind as a definite event in my history. Again it will be said that these images are recollections, that they are imprinted on my memory. The same words, then, are used in both cases. Do they mean the same thing?
[Margin Note: To learn by heart is to create a cerebral mechanism, a habit of the body]
The memory of the lesson, which is remembered in the sense of learnt by heart, has all the marks of a habit. Like a habit, it is acquired by the repetition of the same effort. Like a habit, it demands first a decomposition and then a recomposition of the whole action. Lastly, like every habitual bodily exercise, it is stored up in a mechanism which is set in motion as a whole by an initial impulse, in a closed system of automatic movements which succeed each other in the same order and, together, take the same length of time.
[Margin Note: To recall the successive stages of learning by heart is to appeal to an independent memory]
The memory of each several reading, on the contrary, the second or the third for instance, has none of the marks of a habit. Its image was necessarily imprinted at once on the memory, since the other readings form, by their very definition, other recollections. It is like an event in my life; its essence is to bear a date, and consequently to be unable to occur again. All that later readings can add to it will only alter its original nature; and though my effort to recall this image becomes more and more easy as I repeat it, the image, regarded in itself, was necessarily at the outset what it always will be.
It may be urged that these two recollections, that of the reading and that of the lesson, differ only as the less from the more, and that the images successively developed by each repetition overlie each other, so that the lesson once learned is but the composite image in which all readings are blended. And I quite agree that each of the successive readings differs from the preceding mainly in the fact that the lesson is better known.
But it is no less certain that each of them, considered as a new reading and not as a lesson better known, is entirely sufficient to itself, subsists exactly as it occurred, and constitutes with all its concomitant perceptions an original moment of my history. We may even go further and aver that consciousness reveals to us a profound difference, a difference in kind, between the two sorts of recollection. The memory of a given reading is a representation, and only a representation; it is embraced in an intuition of the mind which I may lengthen or shorten at will; I assign to it any duration I please; there is nothing to prevent my grasping the whole of it instantaneously, as in one picture. On the contrary, the memory of the lesson I have learnt, even if I repeat this lesson only mentally, requires a definite time, the time necessary to develop one by one, were it only in imagination, all the articulatory movements that are necessary: it is no longer a representation, it is an action. And, in fact, the lesson once learnt bears upon it no mark which betrays its origin and classes it in the past; it is part of my present, exactly like my habit of walking or of writing; it is lived and acted, rather than represented: I might believe it innate, if I did not choose to recall at the same time, as so many representations, the successive readings by means of which I learnt it. Therefore these representations are independent of it, and, just as they preceded the lesson as I now possess and know it, so that lesson once learned can do without them.
[Margin Note: Habits formed by repeated actions are amassed in the body: these do not represent the past, they merely act it]
Following to the end this fundamental distinction, we are confronted by two different memories theoretically independent. The first records, in the form of memory-images, all the events of our daily life as they occur in time; it neglects no detail; it leaves to each fact, to each gesture, its place and date. Regardless of utility or of practical application, it stores up the past by the mere necessity of its own nature. By this memory is made possible the intelligent, or rather intellectual, recognition of a perception already experienced; in it we take refuge every time that, in the search for a particular image, we remount the slope of our past. But every perception is prolonged into a nascent action; and while the images are taking their place and order in this memory, the movements which continue them modify the organism, and create in the body new dispositions towards action. Thus is gradually formed an experience of an entirely different order, which accumulates within the body, a series of mechanisms wound up and ready, with reactions to external stimuli ever more numerous and more varied, and answers ready prepared to an ever growing number of possible solicitations. We become conscious of these mechanisms as they come into play; and this consciousness of a whole past of efforts stored up in the present is indeed also a memory, but a memory profoundly different from the first, always bent upon action, seated in the present and looking only to the future. It has retained from the past only the intelligently coordinated movements which represent the accumulated efforts of the past; and it recovers those past efforts, not in the memory-images which recall them, but in the definite order and systematic character with which the actual movements take place. In truth, it no longer represents our past to us, it acts it; and if it still deserves the name of memory, it is not because it conserves bygone images, but because it prolongs their useful effect into the present moment.
[Margin Note: Such is the animal’s memory, as a rule, even when the animal recognizes]
Of these two memories, of which the one imagines and the other repeats, the second may supply the place of the first and even sometimes be mistaken for it. When a dog welcomes his master, barking and wagging his tail, he certainly recognizes him; but does this recognition imply the evocation of a past image and the comparison of that image with the present perception? Does it not rather consist in the animal’s consciousness of a certain special attitude adopted by his body, an attitude which has been gradually built up by his familiar relations with his master, and which the mere perception of his master now calls forth in him mechanically? We must not go too far; even in the animal it is possible that vague images of the past overflow into the present perception; we can even conceive that its entire past is virtually indicated in its consciousness; but this past does not interest the animal enough to detach it from the fascinating present, and its recognition must be rather lived than thought. To call up the past in the form of an image, we must be able to withdraw ourselves from the action of the moment, we must have the power to value the useless, we must have the will to dream. Man alone is capable of such an effort. But even in him the past to which he returns is fugitive, ever on the point of escaping him, as though his backward turning memory were thwarted by the other, more natural, memory, of which the forward movement bears him on to action and to life.
[Margin Note: But true representative memory records every moment of duration, each unique, and not to be repeated]
When psychologists talk of recollection as of a fold in a material, as of an impress graven deeper by repetition, they forget, that the immense majority of our memories bear upon events and details of our life of which the essence is to have a date, and consequently to be incapable of being repeated. The memories which we acquire voluntarily by repetition are rare and exceptional. On the contrary, the recording, by memory, of facts and images unique in their kind takes place at every moment of duration. But inasmuch as learnt memories are more useful, they are inure remarked. Acid as the acquisition of these memories by a repetition of the same effort resembles the well-known process of habit, we prefer to set this kind of memory in the foreground, to erect it into the model memory, and to see in spontaneous recollection only the same phenomenon in a nascent state, the beginning of a lesson learnt by heart. But how can we overlook the radical difference between that which must be built up by repetition and that which is essentially incapable of being repeated? Spontaneous recollection is perfect from the outset; time can add nothing to its image without disfiguring it; it retains in memory its place and date. On the contrary, a learnt recollection passes out of time in the measure that the lesson is better known; it becomes more and more impersonal, more and more foreign to our past life. Repetition, therefore, in no sense effects the conversion of the first into the last; its office is merely to utilize more and more the movements by which the first was continued, in order to organize them together and, by setting up a mechanism, to create a bodily habit. Indeed, this habit could not be called a remembrance, were it not that I remember that I have acquired it; and I remember its acquisition only because I appeal to that memory which is spontaneous, which dates events and records them but once. Of the two memories, then, which we have just distinguished, the first appears to be memory Pay excellence. The second, that generally studied by psychologists, is habit interpreted by memory rather than memory itself.
[Margin Note: The normal consciousness calls up only those memory images which can usefully combine with the present situation]
It is true that the example of a lesson learnt by heart is to some extent artificial. Yet our no whole life is passed among a limited number of objects, which pass more or less often before our eyes: each of them, as it is perceived, provokes on our part movements, at least nascent, whereby we adapt ourselves to it. These movements, as they recur, contrive a mechanism for themselves, grow into a habit, and determine in us attitudes which automatically follow our perception of things. This, as we have said, is the main office of our nervous system. The afferent nerves bring to the brain a disturbance, which, after having intelligently chosen its path, transmits itself to motor mechanisms created by repetition. Thus is ensured the appropriate reaction, the correspondence to environment- adaptation, in a word – which is the general aim of life. And a living being which did nothing but live would need no more than this. But, simultaneously with this process of perception and adaptation which ends in the record of the past in the form of motor habits, consciousness, as we have seen, retains the image of the situations through which it has successively travelled, and lays them side by side in the order in which they took place. Of what use are these memory-images? Preserved in memory, reproduced in consciousness, do they not distort the practical character of life, mingling dream with reality? They would, no doubt, if our actual consciousness, a consciousness which reflects the exact adaptation of our nervous system to the present situation, did not set aside all those among the past images which cannot be coordinated with the present perception and are unable to form with it a useful combination. At most, certain confused recollections, unrelated to the present circumstances, may overflow the usefully associated images, making around these a less illuminated fringe which fades away into an immense zone of obscurity. But suppose an accident which upsets the equilibrium maintained by the brain between the external stimulation and the motor reaction, relax for a moment the tension of the threads which go from the periphery to the periphery by way of the centre, and immediately these darkened images come forward into the full light: it is probably the latter condition which is realized in any sleep wherein we dream. Of these two memories that we have distinguished, the second, which is active or motor, will, then, constantly inhibit the first, or at least only accept from it that which can throw light upon and complete in a useful way the present situation: thus, as we shall see later, could the laws of the association of ideas be explained. But, besides the services which they can render by associating with the present perception, the images stored up in the spontaneous memory have yet another use. No doubt they are dream-images; no doubt they usually appear and disappear independently of our will: and this is why, when we really wish to know a thing, we are obliged to learn it by heart, that is to say, to substitute for the spontaneous image a motor mechanism which can serve in its stead. But there is a certain effort sui generis which permits us to retain the image itself, for a limited time, within the field of our consciousness; and, thanks to this faculty, we have no need to await at the hands of chance the accidental repetition of the same situations, in order to organize into a habit concomitant movements; we make use of the fugitive image to construct a stable mechanism which takes its place. – Either, then, our distinction of the two independent memories is unsound, or, if it corresponds to facts, we shall find an exaltation of spontaneous memory in most cases where the sensori-motor equilibrium of the nervous system is disturbed; an inhibition, on the contrary, in the normal state, of all spontaneous recollections which do not serve to consolidate the present equilibrium; and lastly, in the operation by means of which we acquire the habit-memory, a latent intervention of the image-memory. Let us see whether the facts confirm this hypothesis.
For the moment we will insist on neither point; we hope to throw ample light upon both when we study the disturbances of memory and the laws of the association of ideas. We shall be content for the present to show, in regard to things which are learnt, how the two memories run side by side and lend to each other a mutual support.
[Margin Note: Therefore automatism has a wide range, and representative memory is often superseded or masked by habit memory.]
It is a matter of every-day experience that lessons committed to the motor memory can be automatically repeated; but observation of pathological cases proves that automatism extends much further in this direction than we think. In cases of dementia we sometimes find that intelligent answers are given to a succession of questions which are not understood: language here works after the manner of a reflex. Aphasics, incapable of uttering a word spontaneously, can recollect without a mistake the words of an air which they sing. Or again, they will fluently repeat a prayer, a series of numbers, the days of the week, or the months of the year. Thus extremely complex mechanisms, subtle enough to imitate intelligence, can work by themselves when once they have been built up, and in consequence usually obey a mere initial impulse of the will. But what takes place while they are being built up? When we strive to learn a lesson, for instance, is not the visual or auditory image which we endeavour to reconstitute by movements already in our mind, invisible though present? Even in the very first recitation, we recognize, by a vague feeling of uneasiness, any error we have made, as though from the obscure depths of consciousness we received a sort of warning. Concentrate your mind on that sensation, and you will feel that the complete image is there, but evanescent, a phantasm that disappears just at the moment when motor activity tries to fix its outline. During some recent experiments (which, however, were undertaken with quite a different purpose), the subjects averred that they felt just such an impression. A series of letters, which they were asked to remember, was held before their eyes for a few seconds. But, to prevent any accentuating of the letters so perceived by appropriate movements of articulation, they were asked to repeat continuously a given syllable while their eyes were fixed on the image. From this resulted a special psychical state; the subjects felt themselves to be in complete possession of the visual image, although unable to produce any part of it on demand: to their great surprise the line disappeared. According to one observer, the basis was a Gesammtvorstellung, a sort of all-embracing complex idea in which the parts have an indefinitely felt unity.
Robertson, Reflex Speech (Journal of Mental Science, April, 1888). Cf. the article by Ch. Féré, Le langage réflexe (Revue Philosophique, Jan. 1896).
Oppenheim, Ueber das Verhalten der musikalischen Ausdruchsbewegungen bei Aphatischen (Charité Annalen, xiii, 1888, p. 348 et seq.).  Ibid., p. 365.
See, on the subject of this sense of error, the article by Miller and Schumann, Experimentelle Beitrage zur Untersuchung des Gedacthtnisses (Zeitschr. f . Psych. u. Phys. der Sinnesorgane (Dec., 1893, p. 305).
W. G. Smith, The Relation of Attention to Memory. (Mind, Jan. 1895. )
Ibid. loc. cit., p. 23.
This spontaneous recollection, which is masked by the acquired recollection, may flash out at intervals; but it disappears at the least movement of the voluntary memory. If the subject sees the series of letters, of which he thought he retained the image, vanish from before his eyes, this happens mainly when he begins to repeat it the effort seems to drive the rest of the image out of his consciousness. Now, analyse many of the imaginative methods of mnenomics and you will find that the object of this science is to bring into the foreground the spontaneous memory which was hidden, and to place it, as an active memory, at our service; to this end every attempt at motor memory is, to begin with, suppressed. The faculty of mental photography, says one author, belongs rather to subconsciousness than to consciousness; it answers with difficulty to the summons of the will. In order to exercise it, we should accustom ourselves to retaining, for instance, several arrangements of points at once, without even thinking of counting them: we must imitate in some sort the instantaneity of this memory in order to attain to its mastery. Even so it remains capricious in its manifestations; and as the recollections which it brings us are akin to dreams, its more regular intrusion into the life of the mind may seriously disturb intellectual equilibrium.
Something of this nature appears to take place in that affection which German authors call Dyslexie. The patient reads the first words of a sentence aright, and then stops abruptly, unable to go on, as though the movements of articulation had inhibited memory. See, on the subject of dyslexie: Berlin, Eine besondere Art der Wortblindheit (Dyslexie), Wiesbaden, 1887, and Sommer, Die Dyslexie als functionelle Storung (Arch. f. Psychiatrie, 1893). We may also compare with these phenomena the remarkable cases of word deafness in which the patient understands the speech of others, but no longer understands his own. (See examples cited by Bateman, On Aphasia, p. 200 ; by Bernard, De l’aphasie, Paris 1889, pp. 143 and 144 ; and by Broadbent, Case of Peculiar Affection of Speech, Brain, 1878-9, p. 484 et %eq.).
Mortimer Granville, Ways of remembering. (Lancet, Sept. 27, 1899, P. 458•)
Kay, Memory and how to improve it. New York, 1888.
What this memory is, whence it is derived and how it works, will be shown in the next chapter. For the moment, the schematic conception will be enough. So we shall merely sum up the preceding paragraphs and say that the past appears indeed to be stored up, as we had surmised, under two extreme forms: on the one hand, motor mechanisms which make use of it; on the other, personal memory-images which picture all past events with their outline, their colour and their place in time. Of these two memories the first follows the direction of nature; the second, left to itself, would rather go the contrary way. The first, conquered by effort, remains dependent upon our will; the second, entirely spontaneous, is as capricious in reproducing as it is faithful in preserving, The only regular and certain service which the second memory can render to the first is to bring before it images of what preceded or followed situations similar to the present situation, so as to guide its choice in this consists the association of ideas. There is no other case in which the memory which recalls is sure to obey the memory which repeats. Everywhere else, we prefer to construct a mechanism which allows us to sketch the image again, at need, because we are well aware that we cannot count upon its reappearance. These are the two extreme forms of memory in their pure state.
[Margin Note: Thus memory-image and motor habit are distincti in kind, though they may coalesce in life. Reasons why a thorough study of recognition is necessary.]
Now we may say at once that it is because philosophers have concerned themselves only with the intermediate and, so to speak, impure forms that they have misunderstood the true motor nature of memory. Instead of dissociating the two elements, memory-image and movement, in order to discover subsequently by what series of they come, having each abandoned some part of its original purity to fuse one with the other, they are apt to consider only the mixed phenomenon which results from their coalescence. This phenomenon, being mixed, presents on the one side the aspect of a motor habit, and on the other that of an image more or less consciously localized. But they will have it that the phenomenon is a simple one. So they must assume that the cerebral mechanism, whether of the brain or of the medulla oblongata or of the cord, which serves as the basis of the motor habit, is at the same time the substratum of the conscious image. Hence the strange hypothesis of recollections stored in the brain, which are supposed to become conscious as though by a miracle, and bring us back to the past by a process that is left unexplained. True, some observers do not make so light of the conscious aspect of the operation, and see in it something more than an epiphenomenon. But, as they have not begun by isolating the memory which retains and sets out the successive repetitions side by side in the form of memory images, since they confound it with the habit which is perfected by use, they are led to believe that the effect of repetition is brought to bear upon one and the same single and indivisible phenomenon which merely grows stronger by recurrence: and, as this phenomenon clearly ends by being merely a motor habit corresponding to a mechanism, cerebral or other, they are led, whether they will or no, to suppose that some mechanism of this kind was from the beginning behind the image and that the brain is an organ of representation. We are now about to consider these intermediate states, and distinguish in each of them the part which belongs to nascent action, that is to say of the brain, and the part of independent memory, that is to say of memory-images. What are these states? Being partly motor they must, on our hypothesis, prolong a present perception; but, on the other hand, inasmuch as they are images, they reproduce past perceptions.
[Margin Note: What then is recognition?]
Now the concrete process by which we grasp the past in the present is recognition. Recognition, therefore, is what we have to study, to begin with.
Of recognition in general: memory-images and movements. There are two ways in which it is customary to explain the feeling of ‘having seen a thing before.’ On one theory, the recognition of a present perception consists in inserting it mentally in its former surroundings. I encounter a man for the first time: I simply perceive him. If I meet him again, I recognize him, in the sense that the concomitant circumstances of the original perception, returning to my mind, surround the actual image with a setting which is not a setting actually perceived. To recognize, then, according to this theory, is to associate with a present perception the images which were formerly given in connexion with it. – But, as it has been justly observed, a renewed perception cannot suggest the concomitant circumstances of the original perception unless the latter is evoked, to begin with, by the present state which resembles it. Let A be the first perception; the accompanying circumstances B, C, D, remain associated with it by contiguity. If I call the same perception renewed A’, as it is not with A’, but with A that the terms B, C, D are bound up, it is necessary, in order to evoke the terms B, C, D, that A’ should be first called up by some association of resemblance. And it is of no use to assert that A’ is identical with A. For the two terms, though similar, are numerically distinct, and differ at least by this simple fact that A’ is a perception, whereas A is but a memory. Of the two interpretations of which we have spoken, the first, then, melts into the second, which we will now examine.
See the systematic treatment of this thesis, supported by experiments, in Lehmann’s articles, Ueber Wiedererkennen (Philos. Studien Wundt, vol. v, p. 96 et seq., and vol. vii, p. 169 et seq.).
Pillon, La formation des idées abstraites et générales (Crit. Philos. 1885, Vol i, p. 208 et seq.).-Cf. Ward, Assimilation and Association (Mind, July 1893 and Oct. 1894).
[Margin Note: It is not a mere blend of perception and memory]
It is alleged that the present perception dives into the depths of memory in search of the remembrance of the previous perception which resembles it: the sense of recognition would thus come from a bringing together, or a blending, of perception and memory. No doubt, as an acute thinker has already pointed out, resemblance is a relation established by the mind between terms which it compares and consequently already possesses; so the perception of a resemblance is rather an effect of association than its cause. But, along with this definite and perceived resemblance which consists in the common element seized and disengaged by the mind, there is a vague and in some sort objective resemblance, spread over the surface of the images themselves, which might act perhaps like a physical cause of reciprocal attraction. And should we ask how it is, then, that we often recognize an object without being able to identify it with a former image, refuge is sought in the convenient hypothesis of cerebral tracks which coincide with each other, of cerebral movements made easier by practice, or of perceptive cells communicating with cells where memories are stored. In truth, all such theories of recognition are bound to melt away, in the end, into physiological hypotheses of this kind. What they were aiming at, first, was to make all recognition issue from a bringing together of perception and memory; but experience stands over against them, testifying that in most cases recollection emerges only after the perception is recognized. So they are sooner or later forced to relegate to the brain, in the form of a combination between movements or of a connexion between cells, that which they had first declared to be an association of ideas; and to explain the fact of recognition, – very clear on our view – by the hypothesis, which seems to us very obscure, of a brain which stores up ideas.
Brochard, La lei de similarité (Revue Philosophique, 1880, vol. ix, p. 258). M. Rabier shows himself also of this opinion in his Leçons de Philosophie, vol. i, Psychologie, pp. 187-192.
Pillon, loc. Cit., p. 207. Cf. James Sully, The Human Mind, London, 1892, vol. i, p. 331.
Hoffding, Ueber Wiedererkennen, Association and Psychische Activitat (Vierteljahresshrift f. wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 1889, p. 433.
Munk, Ueber die Functionen der Grosshirnrinde. Berlin, 1881, p. 108 et seq.
But the fact is that the association of a perception with a memory is not enough to account for the process of recognition. For if recognition took place in this way, it would always be obliterated when the memory images had disappeared, and always happen when these images are retained. Psychic blindness, or the inability to recognize perceived objects, would, then, never occur without an inhibition of visual memory; and, above all, the inhibition of visual memory would invariably produce psychic blindness. But neither consequence is borne out by facts. In a case studied by Wilbrand, the patient could describe with her eyes shut the town she lived in and, in imagination, walk through its streets: yet, once in the street, she felt like a complete stranger; she recognized nothing and could not find her way. Facts of the same kind have been observed by Fr. Müller and Lissauer: the patients can summon up the mental picture of an object named to them; they describe it very well; but they cannot recognize it when it is shown to them. The retention, even the conscious retention, of a visual memory is, therefore, not enough for the recognition of a similar perception. Inversely, in Charcot’s case, which has become the classic example of a complete eclipse of visual images, not all recognition of perceptions was obliterated. A careful study of the report of the case is conclusive on this point. No doubt the patient failed to recognize the streets and houses of his native town, to the extent of being unable to name them or to find his way about them; yet he knew that they were streets and houses. He no longer recognized his wife and children; yet, when he saw them, he could say that this was a woman, that those were children. None of this would have been possible, had there been psychic blindness in the absolute sense of the word. A certain kind of recognition, then, which we shall need to analyse, was obliterated, not the general faculty of recognition. So we must conclude that not every recognition implies the intervention of a memory image; and, conversely, that we may still be able to call up such images when we have lost the power of identifying perceptions with them. What then is recognition, and how shall we define it?
Die Seelenblindheit als Herderscheinung, Wiesbaden, 1887, p. 56.
Ein Beitrag zur Ken-nlniss der Seelenblindheit (Arch, f, Psychiatrie, vol. xxiv, 1892.)
Ein Fall von Seelenblindheit (Arch. f. Psychiatrie, 1889).
Reported by Bernard, Un cas de suppression brusque et isolée de la vision mentale (Progrès Médical, July 21, 1883).
[Margin Note: In one kind of recognition the basis of the sense of familiarity is the consciousness of a well-ordered motor accompaniment]
There is, in the first place, if we carry the process to the extreme, an instantaneous recognition, of which the body is capable by itself, without the help of any explicit memory-image. It consists in action and not in representation. For instance, I take a walk in a town seen then for the first time. At every street corner I hesitate uncertain where I am going. I am in doubt; and I mean by this that alternatives are offered to my body, that my movement as a whole is discontinuous, that there is nothing in one attitude which foretells and prepares future attitudes. Later, after prolonged sojourn in the town, I shall go about it mechanically, without having any distinct perception of the objects which I am passing. Now, between these two extremes, the one in which perception has not yet organized the definite movements which accompany it, and the other in which these accompanying movements are organized to a degree which renders perception useless, there is an intermediate state in which the object is perceived, yet provokes movements which are connected, continuous and called up by one another. I began by a state in which I distinguished only my perception; I shall end in a state in which I am hardly conscious of anything but automatism: in the interval there is a mixed state, a perception followed step by step by automatism just impending. Now, if the later perceptions differ from the first perception in the fact that they guide the body towards the appropriate mechanical reaction, if, on the other hand, those renewed perceptions appear to the mind under that special aspect which characterizes familiar or recognized perceptions, must we not assume that the consciousness of a well-regulated motor accompaniment, of an organized motor reaction, is here the foundation of the sense of familiarity? At the basis of recognition there would thus be a phenomenon of a motor order.
To recognize a common object is mainly to know how to use it. This is so true that early observers gave the name apraxia to that failure of recognition which we call psychic blindness. But to know how to use a thing is to sketch out the movements which adapt themselves to it; it is to take a certain attitude, or at least to have a tendency to do so through what the Germans call motor impulses (Bewegungsantriebe). The habit of using the object has, then, resulted in organizing together movements and perceptions; and the consciousness of these nascent movements, which follow perception after the manner of a reflex, must be here also at the bottom of recognition.
Kussmaul, Die Storungen der Sprache p. 181, Allen Starr, Apraxia and Aphasia (Medical Record, Oct. 27, 1888). -Cf. Laquer, Zur Localisation der Sensorischen Aphasie (Neurolog. Centralblatt, June 15, 1888), and Dodds, On some central affections o f vision (Brain, 1885).
There is no perception which is not prolonged into movement. Ribot and Maudsley long since drew attention to this point. The training of the senses consists in just the sum of the connexions established between the sensory impression and the movement which makes use of it. As the impression is repeated, the connexion is consolidated. Nor is there anything mysterious in the mechanism of the operation. Our nervous system is evidently arranged with a view to the building up of motor apparatus linked, through the intermediary of centres, with sense stimuli; and the discontinuity of the nervous elements, the multiplicity of their terminal branches, which are probably capable of joining in various ways, make possible an unlimited number of connexions between impressions and the corresponding movements. But the mechanism in course of construction cannot appear to consciousness in the same form as the mechanism already constructed. There is something which profoundly distinguishes and clearly manifests those systems of movements which are consolidated in the organism; and that is, we believe, the difficulty we have in modifying their order. It is, again, the preformation of the movements which follow in the movements which precede, a preformation whereby the part virtually contains the whole, as when each note of a tune learnt by heart seems to lean over the next to watch its execution. If, then, every perception has its organized motor accompaniment, the ordinary feeling of recognition has its root in the consciousness of this organization.
Les mouvements, et leur importance psychologique (Revue Philosophique, vol. viii, p. 221 et seq.).-Cf. Psychologie de ”attention, Paris, 1889, p. 75.
Physiology of Mind, p. 206 et seq.
In one of the most ingenious chapters, of his Psychologie (Fails, 1893, vû1. i, p. 242), Fouillée says that the sense of familiarity is largely due to the diminution of the inward shock which constitutes surprise.
In fact, we commonly act our recognition before we think it. Our daily life is spent among objects whose very presence invites us to play a part: in this the familiarity of their aspect consists. Motor tendencies would, then, be enough by themselves to give us the feeling of recognition. But we hasten to add that in most cases there is something else besides.
[Margin Note: And these movements prepare the choice among memory-images, when memory-images intervene]
For, while motor apparatus are built up under the influence of perceptions that are analysed with increasing precision by the body, our past psychical life is there: it survives – as we shall try to prove – with all the detail of its events localized in time. Always inhibited by the practical and useful consciousness of the present moment, that is to say, by the sensori-motor equilibrium of a nervous system connecting perception with action, this memory merely awaits the occurrence of a rift between the actual impression and its corresponding movement to slip in its images. As a rule, when we desire to go back along the course of the past and discover the known, localized, personal memory-image which is related to the present, an effort is necessary, whereby we draw back from the act to which perception inclines us: the latter would urge us towards the future; we have to go backwards into the past. In this sense, movement rather tends to drive away the image. Yet, in one way, it contributes to its approach. For, though the whole series of our past images remains present within us, still the representation which is analogous to the present perception has to be chosen from among all possible representations. Movements, accomplished or merely nascent, prepare this choice, or at the very least mark out the field in which we shall seek the image we need. By the very constitution of our nervous system, we are beings in whom present impressions find their way to appropriate movements: if it so happens that former images can just as well be prolonged in these movements, they take advantage of the opportunity to slip into the actual perception and get themselves adopted by it. They then appear, in fact, to our consciousness, though it seems as if they ought, by right, to remain concealed by the present state. So we may say that the movements which bring about mechanical recognition hinder in one way, and encourage in another, recognition by images. In principle, the present supplants the past. But, on the other hand, just because the disappearance of former images is due to their inhibition by our present attitude, those whose shape might fit into this attitude encounter less resistance than the others; and if, then, any one of them is indeed able to overcome the obstacle, it is the image most similar to the present perception that will actually do so.
[Margin Note: Therefore one kind of psychic blindness may be due to a disturbance of motor habits, not to the loss of memory-images]
If our analysis is correct, the diseases which affect recognition will be of two widely differing forms, and facts will show us two kinds of psychic blindness. For we may presume that, in some cases, it is the memory-image which can no longer reappear, and that, in other cases, it is merely the bond between perception and the accompanying habitual movements which is broken, – perception provoking diffused movements, as though it were wholly new. Do the facts confirm this hypothesis?
There can be no dispute as to the first point. The apparent abolition of visual memory in psychic blindness is so common a fact that it served, for a time, as a definition of that disorder. We shall have to consider how far, and in what sense, memories can really disappear. What interests us for the moment is that cases occur in which there is no recognition and yet visual memory is not altogether lost. Have we here then, as we maintain, merely a disturbance of motor habits, or at most an interruption of the chain which unite them to sense perceptions? As no observer has considered a question of this nature, we should be hard put to it for an answer if we had not noticed here and there in their descriptions certain facts which appear to us significant.
The first of these facts is the loss of the sense of direction. All those who have treated the Subject of psychic blindness have been struck by this peculiarity. Lissauer’s patient had completely lost the faculty of finding his way about his own house. Fr. Miller insists on the fact that, while blind men soon learn to find their way, the victim of psychic blindness fails, even after months of practice, to find his way about his own room. But is not this faculty of orientation the same thing as the faculty of coordinating the movements of the body with the visual impression, and of mechanically prolonging perceptions in useful reactions?
0p. cit., Arch. f. Psychiatrie, 1889-go, p. 224. Cf. Wilbrand, op. cit. p. 140, and Bernhardt, Eigenthumlicher Pall von Hirnerkrankung (Berliner klinische Wochenschrift, 1877, p. 581).
0p. cit., Arch. f. Psychiatrie, vol. xxiv, p. 898.
There is a second, and even more characteristic fact, and that is the manner in which these patients draw. We can conceive two fashions of drawing. In the first we manage, by tentative efforts, to set down here and there on the paper a certain number of points, and we then connect them together, verifying continually the resemblance between the drawing and the object. This is what is known as `point to point’ drawing. But our habitual method is quite different. We draw with a continuous line, after having looked at, or thought of, our model. How shall we explain such a faculty, except by our habit of discovering at once the organization of the outlines of common objects, that is to say, by a motor tendency to draft their diagram in one continuous line? But if it is just such habits or correspondences which are lost in certain forms of psychic blindness, the patient may still perhaps be able to draw bits of a line which he will connect together more or less well; but he will no longer be able to draw at a stroke, because the tendency to adopt and reproduce the general movement of the outline is no longer present in his hand. Now this is just what experiment verifies. Lissauer’s observations are instructive on this head. His patient had the greatest difficulty in drawing simple objects; and if he tried to draw them from memory, he traced detached portions of them chosen at random, and was unable to unite these into a whole. Cases of complete psychic blindness are, however, rare. Those of word-blindness are much more numerous cases of a loss, that is, of visual recognition limited to the characters of the alphabet. Now it is a fact of common observation that the patient, in such cases, is unable to seize what may be called the movement of the letters when he tries to copy them. He begins to draw them at any point, passing back and forth between the copy and the original to make sure that they agree. And this is the more remarkable in that he often retains unimpaired the faculty of writing from dictation or spontaneously. What is lost is clearly the habit of distinguishing the articulations of the object perceived, that is to say, of completing the visual perception by a motor tendency to sketch its diagram. Whence we may conclude that such is indeed the primordial condition of recognition.
0p. cit., Arch. f. Psychiatrie, 1889-90, p. 233.
But we must pass now from automatic recognition, which is mainly achieved through movements, to that which requires the regular intervention of memory-images. The first is recognition by inattention; the second, as we shall see, is attentive recognition.
This form also begins by movements. But, whereas, in automatic recognition, our movements prolong our perception in order to draw from it useful effects and thus take us away from the object perceived, here, on the contrary, they bring us back to the object, to dwell upon its outlines. Thus is explained the preponderant, and no longer merely accessory, part taken here by memory-images. For if we suppose that the movements forego their practical end, and that motor activity, instead of continuing perception by useful reactions, turns back to mark out its more striking features, then the images which are analogous to the present perception, – images of which these movements have already sketched out, so to speak, the form, will come regularly, and no longer accidentally, to flow into this mould, though they may have to give up much of their detail in order to get in more easily.
[Margin Note: Transition to attentive recognition. Whey the problem of attention should be considered. Two possible interpretations of the effect of injuries to the brain]
III.-Gradual Passage o f recollections into movements. Recognition and attention.
Here we come to the essential point of our discussion. In those cases where recognition is attentive, i.e. where memory-images are regularly united with the present perception, is it the perception which determines mechanically the appearance of the memories, or is it the memories which spontaneously go to meet the perception?
On the answer to this question will depend the nature of the relation which philosophers will have to establish between the brain and memory. For in every perception there is a disturbance communicated by the nerves to the perceptive centres. If the passing on of this movement to other cortical centres had, as its real effect, the upspringing of images in these, then we might in strictness maintain that memory is but a function of the brain. But if we can establish that here, as elsewhere, movement produces nothing but movement, that the office of the sense- stimulation is merely to impress on the body a certain attitude into which recollections will come to insert themselves, then, as it would be clear that the whole effect of the material vibrations is exhausted in this work of motor adaptation, we should have to look for memory elsewhere. On the first hypothesis, the disorders of memory occasioned by a cerebral lesion would result from the fact that the recollections occupied the damaged region and were destroyed with it. On the second, these lesions would affect our nascent or possible action, but our action alone. Sometimes they would hinder the body from taking, in regard to the object, the attitude that may call back its memory-image; sometimes they would sever the bonds between remembrance and the present reality; that is, by suppressing the last phase of the realization of a memory – the phase of action – they would thereby hinder the memory from becoming actual. But in neither case would a lesion of the brain really destroy memories.
The second hypothesis is ours; but, before we attempt to verify it, we must briefly state how we understand the general relations of perception, attention and memory. In order to show how a memory may, by gradual stages, come to graft itself on an attitude or a movement, we shall have to anticipate in some degree the conclusions of our next chapter.
[Margin Note: Attention is, first, an adaptation of the body. Negatively, it is the inhibition of movement]
What is attention? In one point of view the essential effect of attention is to render perception more intense, and to spread out its details; regarded in its content, it would resolve itself into a certain magnifying of the intellectual state. But, on the other hand, consciousness testifies to an irreducible difference of form between this increase of intensity and that which is owing to a higher power of the external stimulus: it seems indeed to come from within, and to indicate a certain attitude adopted by the intellect. But just here begins the difficulty, for the idea of an intellectual attitude is not a clear idea. Psychologists will here speak of a ‘concentration of the mind,’ or again of an ‘apperceptive’ effort to bring perception into the field of distinct intelligence. Some of them, materializing this idea, will suppose a higher tension of cerebral energy, or even the setting free of a certain amount of central energy which reinforces the stimulation received. But either the fact observed psychologically is merely translated thereby into a physiological symbolism which seems to us even less clear, or else we always come back to a metaphor.
Marillier, Remarques sur le mecanisme de l’attention (Revue Philosophique, 18ft vol. xxvii). — Cf. Ward, art; PSYCHOLOGY In the Encyclopaedia Britannica; and Bradley, Is there a Special Activity of Attention 7 (Mind, 1886, vol. xi, p. 305.)
Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics, vol. i, p. 247.
Wundt, Grundzuge der physiologischen Psychologie, vol. iii, p. 331 et seq.
Maudsley, Physiology of Mind, p. 299. Cf. Bastian, Les processus nerveux dans ”attention (Revue Philosophique, vol. xxxiii, p. 360 et seq.).
W. James Principles of Psychology, vol. i, p. 441.
[Margin Note: But the positive side of attention is the effort which seeks past memory-images to insert them into the present perception]
Stage by stage we shall be led on to define attention as an adaptation of the body rather than of the mind, and to see in this attitude of consciousness mainly the consciousness of an attitude. Such is the position assumed by Ribot in the discussion, and, though it has been attacked, it appears to have retained all its strength, provided, however, that we are content to see, in the movements described by Ribot, only the negative condition of the phenomenon. For, even if we suppose that the accompanying movements of voluntary attention are mainly movements of arrest, we still have to explain the accompanying work of the mind, that is to say, the mysterious operation by which the same organ, perceiving in the same surroundings the same object, discovers in it a growing number of things. But we may go farther, and maintain that the phenomena of inhibition are merely a preparation for the actual movements of voluntary attention. Suppose for a moment that attention, as we have already suggested, implies a backward movement of the mind which thus gives up the pursuit of the useful effect of a present perception: there will indeed be, first, an inhibition of movement, an arresting action. But, upon this general attitude, more subtle movements will soon graft themselves, some of which have been already remarked and described, and all of which combine to retrace the outlines of the object perceived. With these movements the positive, no longer merely negative, work of attention begins. It is continued by memories.
Psychologie de l’attention, Paris, 1889.
Marillier, op. cit. Cf. J. Sully, The Psycho-physical Process in Attention (Brain, 1890, p. 154).
N. Lange, Beitr. zur Theorie der Sinnlichen Aufmerksamkeil (Philos. Studien, Wundt, vol. vii, pp. 390-422).
For, while external perception provokes on our part movements which retrace its main lines, our memory directs upon the perception received the memory-images which resemble it and which are already sketched out by the movements themselves. Memory thus creates anew the present perception; or rather it doubles this perception by reflecting upon it either its own image or some other memory-image of the same kind. If the retained or remembered image will not cover all the details of the image that is being perceived, an appeal is made to the deeper and more distant regions of memory, until other details that are already known come to project themselves upon those details that remain unperceived. And the operation may go on indefinitely; – memory strengthening and enriching perception, which, in its turn becoming wider, draws into itself a growing number of complementary recollections. So let us no longer think of a mind which disposes of some fixed quantity of light, now diffusing it around, now concentrating it on a single point. Metaphor for metaphor, we would rather compare the elementary work of attention to that of the telegraph clerk who, on receipt of an important dispatch, sends it back again, word for word, in order to check its accuracy.
But, to send a telegram, we must know how to use the machine. And, in the same way, in order to reflect upon a perception the image, which we have received from it, we must be able to reproduce it, i.e. to reconstruct it by an effort of synthesis.
It has been said that attention is a power of analysis, and it is true; but it has not been sufficiently shown how an analysis of this kind is possible, nor by what process we are able to discover in a perception that which could not be perceived in it at first. The truth is that this analysis is effected by a series of attempts at a synthesis, i.e. by so many hypotheses: our memory chooses, one after the other, various analogous images which it launches in the direction of the new perception. But the choice is not made at random. What suggests the hypotheses, what presides, even from afar, over the choice is the movement of imitation which continues the perception, and provides for the perception and for the images a common framework.
[Margin Note: Thus an attentive perception is a reflexion, on the present object, of chosen images from the past]
But, if this be so, the mechanism of distinct perception must be different from what it is usually thought to be. Perception does not consist merely in impressions gathered, or even elaborated, by the mind. This is the case, at most, with the perceptions that are dissipated as soon as received, those which we disperse in useful actions. But every attentive perception truly involves a reflexion, in the etymological sense of the word, that is to say the projection, outside ourselves, of an actively created image, identical with, or similar to, the object on which it comes to mould itself. If, after having gazed at any object, we turn our eyes abruptly away, we obtain an `after image’ of it: must we not suppose that this image existed already while we were looking? The recent discovery of centrifugal fibres of perception inclines us to think that this is the usual course of things and that, beside the afferent process which carries the impression to the centre, there is another process, of contrary direction, which brings back the image to the periphery. It is true that we are here dealing with images photographed upon the object itself, and with memories following immediately upon the perception of which they are but the echo. But, behind these images, which are identical with the object, there are others, stored in memory, which merely resemble it, and others, finally, which are only more or less distantly akin to it. All these go out to meet the perception, and, feeding on its substance, acquire sufficient vigour and life to abide with it in space. The experiments of Münsterberg and of Külpe leave no doubt as to this latter point any memory-image that is capable of interpreting our actual perception inserts itself so thoroughly into it that we are no longer able to discern what is perception and what is memory. The ingenious experiments of Goldscheider and Miller on the mechanism of reading are most interesting in this regard. Arguing against Grashey, who, in a well-known essay, maintained that we read words letter by letter, these observers proved by experiments that rapid reading is a real work of divination. Our mind notes here and there a few characteristic lines and fills all the intervals with memory- images which, projected on the paper, take the place of the real printed characters and may be mistaken for them. Thus we are constantly creating or reconstructing. Our distinct perception is really comparable to a closed circle in which the perception-image, going towards the mind, and the memory-image, launched into space, career the one behind the other.
Beitrage zur experimentellen Psychologie, vol. iv, p. 15 et seq.
Grundriss der Psychologie. Leipzig, 1893, p. 185.
Zur Physiologie and Pathologie des Lesens (Zeitschr. f. Klinische Medicin, 1893).-Cf. McKeen Cattell, Ueber die Zeit der Erkennung von Schriftzeichen (Philos. Studien, 1885-86).
Ueber Aphasie and ihre Beziehungen zur Wahrnehmungen (Arch. f. Psychiatrie, 1885, vol. xvi).
[Margin Note: The number and complexity of these images will depend on the degree of tension adopted by the mind]
We must emphasize this latter point. Attentive perception is often represented as a series of processes which make their way in single file; the object exciting sensations, the sensations causing ideas to start up before them, each idea setting in motion, one in front of the other, points more and more remote of the intellectual mass. Thus there is supposed to be a rectilinear progress, by which the mind goes further and further from the object, never to return to it. We maintain, on the contrary, that reflective perception is a circuit, in which all the elements, including the perceived object itself, hold each other in a state of mutual tension as in an electric circuit, so that no disturbance starting from the object can stop on its way and remain in the depths of the mind: it must always find its way back to the object whence it proceeds. Now, it must not be thought that this is a mere matter of words. We have here two radically different conceptions of the intellectual process. According to the first, things happen mechanically, and by a merely accidental series of successive additions. At each moment of an attentive perception, for example, new elements sent up from a deeper stratum of the mind might join the earlier elements, without creating thereby a general disturbance and without bringing about a transformation of the whole system. In the second, on the contrary, an act of attention implies such a solidarity between the mind and its object, it is a circuit so well closed, that we cannot pass to states of higher concentration without creating, whole and entire, so many new circuits which envelop the first and have nothing in common between them but the perceived object. Of these different circles of memory, which later we shall study in detail, the smallest, A, is the nearest to immediate perception. It contains only the object O, with the after-image which comes back and overlies it. Behind it, the larger and larger circles B, C, D correspond to growing efforts at intellectual expansion. It is the whole of memory, as we shall see, that passes over into each of these circuits, since memory is always present; but that memory, capable, by reason of its elasticity, of expanding more and more, reflects upon the object a growing number of suggested images,-sometimes the details of the object itself, sometimes concomitant details which may throw light upon it. Thus, after having rebuilt the object perceived, as an independent whole, we reassemble, together with it, the more and more distant conditions with which it forms one system. If we call B’, C’, D’, these causes of growing depth, situated behind the object, and virtually given with the object itself, it will be seen that the progress of attention results in creating anew not only the object perceived, but also the ever widening systems with which it may be bound up; so that in the measure in which the circles B, C, D represent a higher expansion of memory, their reflexion attains in B’, C’, D’ deeper strata of reality.
The same psychical life, therefore, must be supposed to be repeated an endless number of times on the different storeys of memory, and the same act of the mind may be performed at varying heights. In the effort of attention; the mind is always concerned in its entirety, but it simplifies or complicates itself according to the level on which it chooses to go to work. Usually it is the present perception which determines the direction of our mind; but, according to the degree of tension which our mind adopts and the height at which it takes its stand, the perception develops a greater or smaller number of images.
[Margin Note: So there are different planes of memory; the largest includes all our past, and is the plane of dream]
In other words, personal recollections, exactly localized, the series of which represents the course of our past existence, make up, all together, the last and largest enclosure of our memory. Essentially fugitive, they become materialized only by chance, either when an accidentally precise determination of our bodily-attitude attracts them, or when the very indetermination of that attitude leaves a clear field to the caprices of their manifestation. But this outer most envelope contracts and repeats itself in inner and concentric circles, which in their narrower range enclose the same recollections grown smaller, more and more removed from their personal and original form, and more and more capable, from their lack of distinguishing features, of being applied to the present perception and of determining it after the manner of a species which defines and absorbs the individual. There comes a moment when the recollection thus brought down is capable of blending so well with the present perception that we cannot say where perception ends or where memory begins. At that precise moment, memory, instead of capriciously sending in and calling back its images, follows regularly, in all their details, the movements of the body.
[Margin Note: While, on the plane of action, memory is narrowed down to become one with action]
But, in the degree that these recollections draw nearer to movements, and so to external perception, the work of memory acquires a higher practical importance. Past images reproduced exactly as they were with all their details and even with their affective colouring, are the images of idle fancy or of dream: to act is just to induce this memory to shrink, or rather to become thinned and sharpened, so that it presents nothing thicker than the edge of a blade to actual experience, into which it will thus be able to penetrate. In truth, it is because psychology has failed to separate out the motor element in memory, that we have sometimes overlooked and sometimes exaggerated what is automatic in the evocation of remembrances. According to our view, an appeal is made to activity at the precise moment when perception gives rise to imitative movements which scan it, as it were, automatically. A sketch is thereby furnished to us, into which we put the right details and the right colouring by projecting into it memories more or less remote. But such is not the usual way of describing the process. Sometimes the mind is supposed to be absolutely independent of circumstances, to work exactly as it likes on present or absent objects; and then we can no longer understand how it is that the normal process of attention may be seriously impaired by even a slight disturbance of the sensori-motor equilibrium. Sometimes, on the contrary, the evocation of images is supposed to be a mere mechanical effect of present perception; it is assumed that, by a necessary concatenation of processes supposed to be all alike, the object calls forth sensations and the sensations ideas which cling to them; – but then, since there is no reason why the operation, which is mechanical to begin with, should change its character as it goes on, we are led to the hypothesis of a brain wherein mental states may dwell to slumber and to awaken. In both cases the true function of the body is misunderstood, and as neither theory teaches how and why the intervention of a mechanism is necessary, neither of them is able to show where such intervention should stop if it is once brought in.
But it is time to leave these general considerations. We must ascertain whether our hypothesis is confirmed or contradicted by the facts of cerebral localization known at the present day. The disorders of imaginative memory, which correspond to local lesions of the cortex, are always diseases of the faculty of recognition; either of visual or auditory recognition in general (psychic blindness and deafness), or of the recognition of words (word blindness, word deafness, etc.). These disorders we lave now to examine.
[Margin Note: Hence we may infer that lesions of the brain affect the automatic movements of inattentive recognition, or the voluntary movements of attentive recognition, but nothing else]
If our hypothesis is well founded, these failures of recognition are in no sense due to the fact that the recollections occupied the injured region of the brain. They must be due to one of two causes: sometimes our body is no longer able automatically to adopt, under the influence of the external stimulus, the precise attitude by means of which a choice could be automatically made among our memories; sometimes the memories are no longer able to find a fulcrum in the body, a means of prolonging themselves in action. In the first case, the lesion affects the mechanisms which continue, in an automatically executed movement, the stimulation received: attention can no longer be fixed by the object. In the second case, the lesion involves those particular cortical centres which prepare voluntary movements by lending them the required sensory antecedent, centres which, rightly or wrongly, are termed image-centres: attention can no longer be fixed by the subject. But, in either case, it is actual movements which are hindered or future movements which are no longer prepared: there has been no destruction of memories.
Now pathology confirms this forecast. It reveals to us two absolutely distinct kinds of psychic blindness and deafness, and of word blindness and deafness. In the first kind, visual and auditory memories are still evoked, but they cannot apply themselves to the corresponding perceptions. In the second, evocation of the memories themselves is hindered. Is it true that the lesion involves, as we said, the sensori-motor mechanisms of automatic attention in the first case, and the imaginative mechanisms of voluntary attention in the second? In order to verify our hypothesis, we must limit demonstration to a definite example. No doubt we could show that visual recognition of things in general, and of words in particular, implies a semi-automatic motor process to begin with, and then an active projection of memories which engraft themselves on the corresponding attitudes. But we prefer to confine ourselves to impressions of hearing, and more particularly to the hearing of articulate language, because this example is the most comprehensive. To hear speech is, in fact, first of all to recognize a sound, then to discover its sense, and finally to interpret it more or less thoroughly: in short, it is to pass through all the stages of attention and to exercise several higher or lower powers of memory. Moreover, no disorders are more common or better studied than those of the auditive memory of words. And, lastly, acoustic verbal images are not destroyed without a serious lesion of certain determined convolutions of the cortex: so that we are here provided with an undisputed example of localization, in regard to which we can enquire whether the brain is really capable of storing up memories. We have, then, to show in the auditory recognition of words: first, an automatic sensori-motor process; secondly, an active and, so to speak, excentric projection of memory-images.
[Margin Note: Evidence from everyday life. What we mean by listening and hearing. The ‘motor diagram’]
I listen to two people speaking in a language which is unknown to me. Do I therefore hear them talk? The vibrations which reach my ears are the same as those which strike theirs. Yet I perceive only a confused noise, in which all sounds are alike. I distinguish nothing, and could not repeat anything. In this same sonorous mass, however, the two interlocutors distinguish consonants, vowels and syllables which are not at all alike, in short, separate words. Between them and me where is the difference?
The question is, how can the knowledge of a language, which is only memory, modify the material content of a present perception, and cause some listeners actually to hear what others, in the same physical conditions, do not hear. It is alleged, indeed, that the auditory recollections of words, accumulated in memory, are called up by the sound-impression and come to strengthen its effect. But if the conversation to which I listen is, for me, only a noise, we may suppose the sound increased as much as we like: the noise will be none the more intelligible for being louder. I grant that the memory of a word will be called up by the sound of that word: yet it is necessary, for this, that the sound of the word should have been heard by the ear. How can the sounds perceived speak to memory, how can they choose, in the storehouse of auditory images, those which should come to rejoin them, unless they have been already separated, distinguished, – in short, perceived, – as syllables and as words?
This difficulty does not appear to have been sufficiently noticed by the theorists of sensory aphasia. For in word deafness the patient finds himself, in regard to his own language, in the same position as we all are when we hear an unknown tongue. He has generally preserved intact his sense of hearing, but he has no understanding of the words spoken to him, and is frequently even unable to distinguish them. The explanation generally given of the disease is that the auditory recollection of words has been destroyed in the cortex, or that a lesion, sometimes transcortical, sometimes sub-cortical, hinders the auditive memory from evoking the idea, or the perception from uniting with the memory. But in the latter case, at least, the psychological question has still to be answered what is the conscious process which the lesion has abolished, and what is the intermediary process that we go through in our normal condition in order to discern words and syllables which are, at first, given to the ear as a continuity of sound?
The difficulty would be insuperable if we really had only auditory impressions on the one hand, and auditory memories on the other. Not so however, if auditory impressions organize nascent movements, capable of scanning the phrase which is heard and of emphasizing its main articulations. These automatic movements of internal accompaniment, at first undecided or uncoordinated, might become more precise by repetition; they would end by sketching a simplified figure in which the listener would find, in their main lines and principal directions, the very movements of the speaker. Thus would unfold itself in consciousness, under the form of nascent muscular sensations, the motor diagram, as it were, of the speech we hear. To adapt our hearing to a new language would then consist, at the outset, neither in modifying the crude sound nor in supplementing the sounds with memories; it would be to coordinate the motor tendencies of the muscular apparatus of the voice to the impressions of the ear; it would be to perfect the motor accompaniment.
In learning a physical exercise, we begin by imitating the movement as a whole, as our eyes see it from without, as we think we have seen it done. Our perception of it is confused; confused therefore will be the movement whereby we try to repeat it. But whereas our visual perception was of a continuous whole, the movement by which we endeavour to reconstruct the image is compound and made up of a multitude of muscular contractions and tensions; and our consciousness of these itself includes a number of sensations resulting from the varied play of the articulations. The confused movement which copies the image is, then, already its virtual decomposition; it bears within itself, so to speak, its own analysis. The progress which is brought about by repetition and practice consists merely in unfolding what was previously wrapped up, in bestowing on each of the elementary movements that autonomy which ensures precision, without, however, breaking up that solidarity with the others without which it would become useless. We are right when we say that habit is formed by the repetition of an effort; but what would be the use of repeating it, if the result were always to reproduce the same thing? The true effect of repetition is to decompose, and then to recompose, and thus appeal to the intelligence of the body. At each new attempt it separates movements which were interpenetrating; each time it calls the attention of the body to a new detail which had passed unperceived; it bids the body discriminate and classify; it teaches what is the essential; it points out, one after another, within the total movement, the lines that mark off its internal structure. In this sense, a movement is learnt when the body has been made to understand it.
So a motor accompaniment of speech may well break the continuity of the mass of sound. But we have now to point out in what this accompaniment consists. Is it speech itself, repeated internally? If this were so, the child would be able to repeat all the words that its ear can distinguish; and we ourselves should only need to understand a foreign language to be able to pronounce it with a correct accent. The matter is far from being so simple. I may be able to catch a tune, to follow its phrasing, even to fix it in memory, without being able to sing it. I can easily distinguish the peculiarities of inflexion and tone in an Englishman speaking German – I correct him therefore, mentally; – but it by no means follows that I could give the right inflexion and tone to the German phrase, if I were to utter it. Here, moreover, the observation of every-day life is confirmed by clinical facts. It is still possible to follow and understand speech when one has become incapable of speaking. Motor aphasia does not involve word deafness.
[Margin Note: But this motor accompaniment of heard speech indicates only its salient outlines]
This is because the diagram, by means of which we divide up the speech we hear, indicates only its salient outlines. It is to speech itself what the rough sketch is to the finished picture. For it is one thing to understand a difficult movement, another to be able to carry it out. To understand it, we need only to realize in it what is essential, just enough to distinguish it from all other possible movements. But to be able to carry it out, we must besides have brought our body to understand it. Now, the logic of the body admits of no tacit implications. It demands that all the constituent parts of the required movement shall be set forth one by one, and then put together again. Here a complete analysis is necessary, in which no detail is neglected, and an actual synthesis, in which nothing is curtailed. The imagined diagram, composed of a few nascent muscular sensations, is but a sketch. The muscular sensations, really and completely experienced, give it colour and life.
[Margin Note: Evidence from certain forms of sensory aphasia, in which the motor diagram seems to be affected]
It remains to be considered how an accompaniment of this kind can be produced, and whether it really is always produced, we know that in order effectively to pronounce a word the tongue and lips must articulate, the larynx must be brought into play for phonation, and the muscles of the chest must produce an expiratory movement of air. Thus, to every syllable uttered there corresponds the play of a number of mechanisms already prepared in the cerebral and bulbar centres. These mechanisms are joined to the higher centres of the cortex by the axis-cylinder processes of the pyramidal cells in the psycho-motor zone. Along this path the impulse of the will travels. So, when we desire to articulate this or that sound, we transmit the order to act to this or that group of motor mechanisms selected from among them all. But, while the ready-made mechanisms which correspond to the various possible movements of articulation and phonation are connected with the causes (whatever these may be) which set them to work in voluntary speech, there are facts which put beyond all doubt the linkage of these same mechanisms with the auditory perception of words. First of all, among the numerous varieties of aphasia described in clinical reports, we know of two (Lichtheim’s 4th and 6th forms) which appear to imply a relation of this kind. Thus, in a case observed by Lichtheim himself, the subject had lost, as the result of a fall, the memory of the articulation of words, and consequently the faculty of spontaneous speech; yet he repeated quite correctly what was said to him. On the other hand, in cases where spontaneous speech is unaffected, but where word deafness is absolute and the patient no longer understands what is said to him, the faculty of repeating another person’s words may still be completely retained. It may be said, with Bastian, that these phenomena merely point to a fatigue of the articulatory or auditive memory of words, the acoustic impressions only serving to awaken that memory from its torpor. We may have to allow for this hypothesis, but it does not appear to us to account for the curious phenomena of echolalia, long since pointed out by Romberg, Voisin and Forbes Winslow, which are termed by Kussmaul (probably with some exaggeration) acoustic reflexes. Here the subject repeats mechanically, and perhaps unconsciously, the words he hears, as though the auditory sensations converted themselves automatically into movements of articulation. From these facts some have inferred that there is a special mechanism which unites a so-called acoustic centre of words with an articulatory centre of speech. The truth appears to lie between these two hypotheses. There is more in these various phenomena than absolutely mechanical actions, but less than an appeal to voluntary memory. They testify to a tendency of verbal auditory impressions to prolong themselves in movements of articulation; a tendency which assuredly does not escape, as a rule, the control of the will, perhaps even implies a rudimentary discrimination, and expresses itself, in the normal state, by an internal repetition of the striking features of the words that are heard. Now our motor diagram is nothing else.
Lichtheim, On Aphasia (Brain, Jan. 1885, p. 447).
 Ibid., p. 454.
Bastian, On Different Kinds of Aphasia (British Medical Journal, Oct. and Nov. 1887, p. 935).
Romberg, Lehrbuch der Nervenkrankheiten, 1853, vol. ii.
Quoted by Bateman, On Aphasia. London, 189o, p. 79.- Cf. Marcé, Mémoire sur quelques observations de physiologie pathologique (Mém. de la Soc. de Biologie, 2nd series, vol. ii, p. 102).
Forbes Winslow, On Obscure Diseases of the Brain. London, 1861, p. 505.
Kussmaul, Die Storungen der Sprache, Leipzig. 1877, pp. 55 et seq.
Arnaud, Contribution d l’étude clinique de la surdité verbale (Arch. de neurologie, 1886, p. 192). Spamer, Ueber Asymbolie (Arch. f. Psychiatrie, vol. vi, pp. 507 and 524).
Considering this hypothesis more closely, we shall perhaps find in it the psychological explanation, which we were just now seeking, of certain forms of word deafness. A few cases of word deafness are known where there was a complete survival of acoustic memory. The patient had retained, unimpaired, both the auditive memory of words and the sense of hearing; yet he recognized no word that was said to him. A subcortical lesion is here supposed, which prevents the acoustic impressions from going to join the verbal auditory images in the cortical centres where they are supposed to be deposited. But, in the first place, the question is whether the brain can store up images. And, secondly, even if it were proved that there is some lesion in the paths that the acoustic impressions have to follow, we should still be compelled to seek a psychological interpretation of the final (pg 143) result. For, by hypothesis, the auditory memories can still be recalled to consciousness; by hypothesis also, the auditory impressions still reach consciousness; there must therefore be in consciousness itself a gap, a solution of continuity, something, whatever it is, which hinders the perception from joining the memories. Now, we may throw some light on the case if we remember that crude auditory perception is really that of a continuity of sound, and that the sensori-motor connexions established by habit must have as their office, in the normal state, to decompose this continuity. A lesion of these conscious mechanisms, by hindering the decomposition, might completely check the up-rush of memories which tend to alight upon the corresponding perceptions. Therefore the ‘motor diagram’ might be what is injured by the lesion. If we pass in review the cases (which are, indeed, not very numerous) of word deafness where acoustic memories were retained, we notice certain details that are interesting in this respect. Adler notes, as a remarkable fact in word deafness, that the patients no longer react even to the loudest sounds, though their hearing has preserved all its acuteness. In other words, sound no longer finds in them its motor echo. A patient of Charcot’s, attacked by a passing word deafness, relates that he heard his clock strike, but that he could not count the (pg 144) strokes. Probably he was unable to separate and distinguish them. Another patient declares that he perceives the words of a conversation, but as a confused noise. Lastly, the patient who has lost the understanding of the spoken word recovers it if the word is repeated to him several times, and especially if it is pronounced with marked divisions, syllable by syllable. This last fact, observed in several cases of word deafness where acoustic memories were unimpaired, is particularly significant.
See, in particular – P. Sérieux, Sur un cas de surdité verbale pure (Revue de Médecine, ISO, P. 233 et seq.) ; Lichtheim, loc. cit., p. 461 ; and Arnaud, Contrib. d l’étude de la surdité verbale (2° article), Arch. de Neurologie, 1886, p. 366.
Adler, Beitrag zur Kenntniss der seltneren Formen von sensorischer Aphasie (Neurol. Centralblatt, 18gi, p. 296 et seq.).
Bernard, De l’Aphasie. Paris, 1889, p. 143.
Ballet, Le langage intérieur. Paris, 1888, p. 85.
See the three cases cited by Arnaud in the Archives de neurologie, 1886, p. 366 et seq. (Contrib. clinique d l’étude de la surdité verbale, 2° article). Cf. Schmidt’s case, Gehors- and Sprachstorung in Folge von Apoplexie (Allg. Zeitschriften f. Psychiatrie, 1871, vol. xxvii, p. 304).
Stricker’s mistake was to believe in a complete internal repetition of the words that are heard. His assertion is already contradicted by the simple fact that we do not know of a single case of motor aphasia which brought out word deafness. But all the facts combine to prove the existence of a motor tendency to separate the sounds and to establish their diagram. This automatic tendency is not without (as we said above) a certain elementary mental effort: how otherwise could we identify with each other, and consequently follow with the same diagram, (pg 145) similar words pronounced on different notes and by different qualities of voice? These inner movements of repeating and recognizing are like a prelude to voluntary attention. They mark the limit between the voluntary and the automatic. By them, as we hinted before, the characteristic phenomena of intellectual recognition are first prepared and then determined. But what is this complete and fully conscious recognition?
Stricker, Studien über die Sprachvorstellung. Vienna, 1880.
[Margin Note: Transition to the general problem of interpretation. Why is it impossible to reduce interpretation to a mechanical process]
We come to the second part of our subject from movements we pass to memories. We have said that attentive recognition is a kind of circuit, in which the external object yields to us deeper and deeper parts of itself, as our memory adopts a correspondingly higher degree of tension in order to project recollections towards it. In the particular case we are now considering, the object is an interlocutor whose ideas develop within his consciousness into auditory representations which are then materialized into uttered words. So, if we are right, the hearer places himself at once in the midst of the corresponding ideas, and then develops them into acoustic memories which go out to overlie the crude sounds perceived, while fitting themselves into the motor diagram. To follow an arithmetical addition is to do it over again for ourselves. To understand another’s words is, in like manner, to reconstruct intelli- (pg 146) gently, starting from the ideas, the continuity of sound which the ear perceives. And, more generally, to attend, to recognize intellectually, to interpret, may be summed up in a single operation whereby the mind, having chosen its level, having selected within itself, with reference to the crude perceptions, the point that is exactly symmetrical with their more or less immediate cause, allows to flow towards them the memories that will go out to overlie them.
Such, however, is certainly not the usual way of looking at the matter. The associationist habit is there; and, in accordance with it, we find men maintaining that, by the mere effect of contiguity, the perception of a sound brings back the memory of the sound and memories bring back the corresponding ideas. And then, we have the cerebral lesions which seem to bring about a destruction of memories; more particularly, in the case we are studying, there are the lesions of the brain found in word deafness. Thus psychological observations and clinical facts seem to conspire. Together they seem to point to the existence, within the cortex, of auditory memories slumbering, whether as a physico-chemical modification of certain cells or under some other form. A sensory stimulation is then supposed to awaken them; and, finally, by an intra-cerebral process, perhaps by trails – cortical movements that go to find the complementary representations, they are supposed to evoke ideas.
[Margin Note: If auditory images, for example, were really stored in the brain, there would be thousands of images for each single word: and then they would be useless]
(pg 147) Now consider for a moment the amazing consequences of an hypothesis of this kind. The auditory image of a word is not an object with well-defined outlines; for the same word pronounced by different voices or by the same voice on different notes gives a different sound. So, if you adopt the hypothesis of which we have been speaking, you must assume that there are as many auditory images of the same word as there are pitches of sound and qualities of voice. Do you mean that all these images are treasured up in the brain? Or is it that the brain chooses? If the brain chooses one of them, whence comes its preference? Suppose, even, that you can explain why the brain chooses one or the other; how is it that this same word, uttered by a new person, gives a sound which, although different, is still able to rejoin the same memory? For you must bear in mind that this memory is supposed to be an inert and passive thing and consequently incapable of discovering, beneath external differences, an internal similitude. You speak of the auditory image of a word as if it were an entity or a genus: such a genus can, indeed, be constructed by an active memory which extracts the resemblance of several complex sounds and only retains, as it were, their common diagram. But, for a brain that is supposed – nay, is bound – to record only the materi- (pg 148) – ality of the sounds perceived, there must be, of one and the same word, thousands of distinct images. Uttered by a new voice, it will constitute a new image, which will simply be added to the others. But there is something still more perplexing. A word has an individuality for us only from the moment that we have been taught to abstract it. What we first hear are short phrases, not words. A word is always continuous with the other words which accompany it, and takes different aspects according to the cadence and movement of the sentence in which it is set:
just as each note of a melody vaguely reflects the whole musical phrase. Suppose, then, that there are indeed model auditory memories, consisting in certain intra-cerebral arrangements, and lying in wait for analogous impressions of sound: these impressions may come, but they will pass unrecognized. How could there be a common measure, how could there be a point of contact, between the dry, inert, isolated image and the living reality of the word organized with the rest of the phrase? I understand clearly enough that beginning of automatic recognition which would consist, as I have said above, in emphasizing inwardly the principal divisions of the sentence that is heard, and so in adopting its movement. But, unless we are to suppose in all men identical voices pronouncing in the same tone the same stereotyped phrases, I fail to see how the words we hear are able to rejoin their images in the brain.
[Margin Note: The phenomena of sensory aphasia do not point to the existence of such images, but suggest a very different hypothesis]
(pg 149) Now, if memories are really deposited in the cortical cells, we should find in sensory aphasia, for instance, the irreparable loss of certain determined words, the integral conservation of others. But, as a matter of fact, things happen quite differently. Sometimes it is the whole set of memories that disappears, the faculty of mental hearing being purely and simply abolished; sometimes there is a general weakening of the function; but it is usually the function which is diminished and not the number of recollections. It seems as if the patient had no longer strength to grasp his acoustic memories, as if he turned round about the verbal image without being able to hit upon it. To enable him to recover a word it is often enough to put him on the track of it, by giving him its first syllable, or even by merely encouraging him. An emotion may produce the same effect. There are, however, cases in which it does indeed seem that definite groups of representations have disappeared from memory. I have passed in review a large number of these facts, and it has seemed that they could be referred (pg 150) to two absolutely distinct categories. In the first, the loss of memories is usually abrupt; in the second, it is progressive. In the first, the recollections detached from memory are arbitrarily and even capriciously chosen: they may be certain words, certain figures, or often all the words of an acquired language. In the second, the disappearance of the words is governed by a methodical and grammatical order, that which is indicated by Ribot’s law: proper names go first, then common nouns, and lastly verbs. Such are the external differences. Now this, I believe, is the internal difference. In the amnesias of the first type, which are nearly always the result of a violent shock, I incline to think that the memories which are apparently destroyed are really present, and not only present but acting. To take an example frequently borrowed from Forbes Winslow, that of a patient who had forgotten the letter F, and the letter F only, I wonder how it is possible to subtract a given letter wherever met with, – to detach it, that is, from the spoken or written words in which it occurs, – if it were not first implicitly recognized. In another case cited by the same author, the patient had forgotten languages (pg 151) he had learnt and poems he had written. Having begun to write again, he reproduced nearly the same lines. Moreover, in such cases the patient may often recover the lost memories. Without wishing to be too dogmatic on a question of this kind, we cannot avoid noticing the analogy between these phenomena and that dividing of the self of which instances have been described by Pierre Janet: some of them bear a remarkable resemblance to the ‘negative hallucinations,’ and suggestions with point de repère, induced by hypnotizers. – Entirely different are the aphasias of the second kind, which are indeed the true aphasias. These are due, as we shall try to show presently, to the progressive diminution of a well-localized function, the faculty of actualizing the recollection of words. How are we to explain the fact that amnesia here follows a methodical course, beginning with proper nouns and ending with verbs? We could hardly explain it if the verbal images were really deposited in (pg 152) the cells of the cortex: it would be wonderful indeed that disease should always attack these cells in the same order. But the fact can be explained, if we admit that memories need, for their actualization, a motor ally, and that they require for their recall a kind of mental attitude which must itself be engrafted upon an attitude of the body. If such be the case, verbs in general, which essentially express imitable actions, are precisely the words that a bodily effort might enable us to recapture when the function of language has all but escaped us: proper names, on the other hand, being of all words the most remote from those impersonal actions which our body can sketch out, are those which a weakening of the function will earliest affect. It is a noteworthy fact that the aphasic patient, who has become as a rule incapable of finding the noun he seeks, may replace it by an appropriate periphrasis into which other nouns, and perhaps even the evasive noun itself, enter. Unable to think of the precise word, he has thought of the corresponding action, and this attitude has determined the general direction of a movement from which the phrase then springs. So likewise it may happen to any of us. that, having retained the initial of a forgotten name, we recover the name by repeating the (pg 153) initial. Therefore, in facts of the second kind, it is the function that is attacked as a whole, and in those of the first kind the forgetting, though in appearance more complete, is never really final. Neither in the one case nor in the other do we find memories localized in certain cells of the cerebral substance and abolished by their destruction.
Bernard, op. cit., pp. 172 and 179. Cf. Babilée, Les troubles de la mémoire dans l’alcoolisme. Paris, 1886 (medical thesis), p. 44.
Rieger, Beschreibung der Intelligenzstorungen in Folge einer Hirnverletzung. Wumburg, 1889, p. 35.
Wernicle, Der aphasische Symptomencomplex. Breslau 1874. P. 39.-Cf. Valentin, Sur un cas d’aphasie d’origine traumatique (Revue médicale de l’Est, 1880, p. 171).
Ribot, Les maladies de la mémoire. Paris, 1881, p. iii et seq.
Forbes Winslow, On Obscure Diseases o f the Brain London, 1861.
 Ibid., p. 372
Pierre Janet, Etat mental des hystériques. Paris, 1894, Vol. ii, p. 263 et seq. — Cf. L’Automatisme Psychologique, by the same author, Paris, 1889.
See Grashey’s case, studied afresh by Sommer, and by him declared to be inexplicable by the existing theories of aphasia. In this instance, the movements executed by the patient seem to me to have been signals addressed by him to an independent memory. (Sommer, Zur Psychologie der Sprache, Zeitschr. f. Psychol. u. Physiol. der Sinnesorgane, vol. ii, 1891, p. 143 et seq.)-Cf. Sommer’s paper at the Congress of German Alienists, Arch. de Neurologie, vol. xxiv,1892).
Wundt, Grundzuge der physiologische Psychologie. Leipzig, 1903, vol i, 314-315,
Bernard, De l’aphasie. 1889, p. 171 and 174.
Graves cites the case of a patient who had forgotten all names but remembered their initial, anal by that means was able to recover them (quoted by Bernard, De l’aphasie, p. 179).
But let us question our own consciousness, and ask of it what happens when we listen to the words what intro- of another person with the desire to understand them. Do we passively wait matter’ for the impressions to go in search of their images? Do we not rather feel that we are adopting a certain disposition which varies with our interlocutor, with the language he speaks, with the nature of the ideas which he expresses, – and varies, above all, with the general movement of his phrase, as though we were choosing the key in which our own intellect is called upon to play? The motor diagram, emphasizing his utterance, following through all its windings the curve of his thought, shows our thought the road. It is the empty vessel, which determines, by its form, the form which the fluid mass, rushing into it, already tends to take.
But psychologists may be unwilling to explain (pg 154) in this way the mechanism of interpretation, because of the invincible tendency which impels us to think on all occasions of things rather than of movements. We have said that we start from the idea, and that we develop it into auditory memory-images capable of inserting themselves in the motor diagram, so as to overlie the sounds we hear. We have here a continuous movement, by which the nebulosity of the idea is condensed into distinct auditory images, which, still fluid, will be finally solidified as they coalesce with the sounds materially perceived At no moment is it possible to say with precision that the idea or the memory-image ends, that the memory-image or the sensation begins. And, in fact, where is the dividing line between the confusion of sounds perceived in the lump and the clearness which the remembered auditory images add to them, between the discontinuity of these remembered images themselves and the continuity of the original idea which they dissociate and refract into distinct words? But scientific thought, analysing this unbroken series of changes, and yielding to an irresistible need of symbolic presentment, arrests and solidifies into finished things the principal phases of this development. It erects the crude sounds heard into separate and complete words, then the remembered auditory images into entities independent of the idea they develop these three terms, crude perception, auditory image (pg 155) and idea, are thus made into distinct wholes of which each is supposed to be self-sufficing. And while, if we really confined ourselves to pure experience, the idea is what we should start from since it is to the idea that the auditory memories owe their connexion and since it is by the memories that the crude sounds become completed, on the contrary, when once we have arbitrarily supposed the crude sound to be by itself complete, and arbitrarily also assumed the memories to be connected together, we see no harm in reversing the real order of the processes, and in asserting that we go from the perception to the memories and from the memories to the idea. Nevertheless, we cannot help feeling that we must bring back again, under one form or another, at one moment or another, the continuity which we have thus broken between the perception, the memory and the idea. So we make out that these three things, each lodged in a certain portion of the cortex or of the medulla, intercommunicate, the perceptions going to awaken the auditory memories, and the memories going to rouse up the ideas. As we have begun by solidifying into distinct and independent things what were only phases – the main phases – of a continuous development, we go on materializing the development itself into lines of communication, contacts and impulsions. But riot with impunity can we thus invert the true order, and as a necessary consequence, introduce into each term of the series elements which (pg 156) are only realized by those that follow. Not with impunity, either, can we congeal into distinct and independent things the fluidity of a continuous undivided process. This symbolism may indeed suffice as long as it is strictly limited to the facts which have served to invent it: but each new fact will force us to complicate our diagram, to insert new stations along the line of the movement; and yet all these stations laid side by side will never be able to reconstitute the movement itself.
[Margin Note: Illustrations from the history of theories of aphasia]
Nothing is more instructive, in this regard, than the history of the diagrams of sensory aphasia. In the early period, marked by the work of Charcot, Broadbent, Kussmaul and Lichtheim, the theorists confined themselves to the hypothesis of an `ideational centre’ linked by transcortical paths to the various speech centres. But, as the analysis of cases was pushed further, this centre for ideas receded and finally disappeared. For, while the physiology of the brain was more and more successful in localizing sensations and movements, but never ideas, the diversity of sensory aphasias obliged clinicians to break up (pg 157) the intellectual centre into a growing multiplicity of image centres – a centre for visual representations, for tactile representations, for auditory representations, etc., – nay, to divide sometimes into two different tracks, the one ascending and the other descending, the line of communication between any two of them. This was the characteristic feature of the diagrams of the later period, those of Wysman, of Moeli, of Freud, etc. Thus the theory grew more and more complicated, yet without ever being able to grasp the full complexity of reality. And as the diagrams became more complicated, they figured and suggested the possibility of lesions which, just because they were more diverse, were more special and more simple, the complication of the diagram being due precisely to that dissociation of centres which had at first been confounded. Experience, however, was far from justifying the theory at this point, since it nearly always showed, in partial and diverse combinations, several of those simple psychical (pg 158) lesions which the theory isolated. The complication of the theories of aphasia being thus selfdestructive, it is no wonder that modern pathology, becoming more and more sceptical with regard to diagrams, is returning purely and simply to the description of facts.
Bernard, De l’aphasie, p. 37
Broadbent, A Case of Peculiar Affection o/ Speech (Brain, 1879, p. 494)
Kussmaul, Die Storungen der Sprache. Leipzig, 1877, p. 182.
Lichtheim, On Aphasia (Brain, r885). Yet we must note the fact that Wernicke, the first to study sensory aphasia methodically, was able to do without a centre for concepts (Der aphasische Symptomencomplex. Breslau, 1874).
Bastian, On Different Kinds of Aphasia (Brit. Med. Journal, 1887).-Cf. the explanation (indicated merely as possible) of optical aphasia by Bernheim : De la cécité Psychique des choses (Revue de Médecine, 1885).
Wysman, Aphasic and verwandte Zustande (Deutches Archiv. /fir Klinische Medecin, 1880). – Magnan had already opened the way, as Skwortzoff’s diagram indicates, De la cécité des mots (Th. de Med., 1881, pl. i).
Moeli, Ueber Aphasie bei Wahrnehmung der Gegenstande dutch das Gesicht (Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift, 28 Apr., 1890).
Freud, Zur Auffassung der Aphasien. Leipzig, 1891.
Sommer, Addressing a Congress of Alienists. (Arch. de Neurologie, vol. xxiv, 1892).
But how could it be otherwise? To hear some theorists discourse on sensory aphasia, we might imagine that they had never considered with any care the structure of a sentence. They argue as if a sentence were composed of nouns which call up the images of things. What becomes of those parts of speech, of which the precise function is to establish, between images, relations and shades of meaning of every kind? Is it said that each of such words still expresses and evokes a material image, more confused, no doubt, but yet determined? Consider then the host of different relations which can be expressed by the same word, according to the place it occupies and the terms which it unites. Is it urged that these are the refinements of a highly-developed language, but that speech is possible with concrete nouns that all summon up images of things? No doubt it is, but the more primitive the language you speak with me and the poorer in words which express relations, the more you are bound to allow for my mind’s activity, since you compel me to find out the relations which you leave (pg 159) unexpressed: which amounts to saying that you abandon more and more the hypothesis that each verbal image goes up and fetches down its corresponding idea. In truth, there is here only a question of degree: every language, whether elaborated or crude, leaves many more things to be understood than it is able to express. Essentially discontinuous, since it proceeds by juxtaposing words, speech can only indicate by a few guide-posts placed here and there the chief stages in the movement of thought. That is why I can indeed understand your speech if I start from a thought analogous to your own, and follow its windings by the aid of verbal images which are so many sign-posts that show me the way from time to time. But I shall never be able to understand it if I start from the verbal images themselves, because between two consecutive verbal images there is a gulf which no amount of concrete representations can ever fill. For images can never be anything but things, and thought is a movement.
[Margin Note: Attempts to localize images in the brain are thus contradicted by psychological analysis]
It is vain, therefore, to treat memory-images and ideas as ready-made things, and then assign to them an abiding place in problematical centres. Nor is it of any avail to disguise the hypothesis under the cover of a language borrowed from anatomy and physiology; it is nothing but the association theory of mind; it has nothing in its favour but the constant tendency of discursive (pg 160) intellect to cut up all progress into Phases and afterwards to solidify these phases into things; and since it is born a Priori from a kind of metaphysical prepossession, it has neither the advantage of following the movement of consciousness nor that of simplifying the explanation of the facts.
[Margin Note: And moreover contradict themselves]
But we must follow this illusion up to the point where it issues in a manifest contradiction. We have said that ideas,
pure recollections summoned from the depths of memory, develop into memory-images more and more capable of inserting themselves into the motor diagram. In the degree that these recollections take the form of a more complete, more concrete and more conscious representation, do they tend to confound themselves with the perception which attracts them or of which they adopt the outline. Therefore there is not, there cannot be in the brain a region in which memories congeal and accumulate. The alleged destruction of memories by an injury to the brain is but a break in the continuous progress by which they actualize themselves. And, consequently, if we insist on localizing the auditory memory of words, for instance, in a given part of the brain, we shall be led by equally cogent reasons to distinguish this image-centre from the perceptive centre or to confound the two in one. Now this is just what experience teaches.
For notice the strange contradiction to which (pg 161) this theory is led by psychological analysis on the one hand, by pathological facts on the other. On the one hand, it would seem that if perception, once it has taken place, remains in the brain in the state of a stored-up memory, this can only be as an acquired disposition of the very elements that perception has affected: how, at what precise moment, can it go in search of others? This is, indeed, the most natural hypothesis, and Bain and Ribot are content to rest upon it. But, on the other hand, there is pathology, which tells us that all the recollections of a certain kind may have gone while the corresponding faculty of perception remains unimpaired. Psychic blindness does not hinder seeing, any more than psychic deafness hinders hearing. More particularly, in regard to the loss of the auditory memory of words – the only one we are now considering – there are a number of facts which show it to be regularly associated with a destructive lesion of the first and second left temporo-sphenoidal convolutions, though not a single case is on record in which this lesion was the cause of deafness properly so-called: (pg 162) it has even been produced experimentally in the monkey without determining anything but psychic deafness, that is to say, a loss of the power to interpret the sounds which it was still able to hear. So that we must attribute to perception and to memory separate nervous elements. But then this hypothesis will be contradicted by the most elementary psychological observation; for we see that a memory, as it becomes more distinct and more intense, tends to become a perception, though there is no precise moment at which a radical transformation takes place, nor consequently a moment when we can say that it moves forward from imaginative elements to sensory elements. Thus these two contrary hypotheses, the first identifying the elements of perception with the elements of memory, the second distinguishing them, are of such a nature that each sends us back to the other without allowing us to rest in either.
The Senses and the Intellect, p. 329. Cf. Spencer, Principles of Psychology, vol- i., p. 456.
Ribot, Les maladies de la mémoire. Paris, 1881, p. 10.
See an enumeration of the most typical cases in Shaw’s article, The Sensory Side of Aphasia (Brain, 1893, P. 501). – Several authors, however, limit to the first convolution the lesion corresponding to the loss of verbal auditory images, See, in particular, Ballet, Le langage intérieur, p. 153.
Luciani, quoted by J. Soury, Les fonctions du cerveau. Paris, 1892, p. 211.
[Margin Note: The memory-image passes, by a dynamic progress, into the perception in which it becomes actual]
How should it be otherwise? Here again distinct perception and memory-image are taken in the static condition, as things of which the first is supposed to be already complete without the second; whereas we ought to consider the dynamic progress by which the one passes into the other.
For, on the one hand, complete perception is (pg 163) only defined and distinguished by its coalescence with a memory-image, which we send forth to meet it. Only thus is attention secured, and without attention there is but a passive juxtapositing of sensations, accompanied by a mechanical reaction. But, on the other hand, as we shall show later, the memory-image itself, if it remained pure memory, would be ineffectual. Virtual, this memory can only become actual by means of the perception which attracts it. Powerless, it borrows life and strength from the present sensation in which it is materialized. Does not this amount to saying that distinct perception is brought about by two opposite currents, of which the one, centripetal, comes from the external object, and the other, centrifugal, has for its point of departure that which we term `pure memory’? The first current, alone, would only give a passive perception with the mechanical reactions which accompany it. The second, left to itself, tends to give a recollection that is actualized – more and more actual as the current becomes more marked. Together, these two currents make up, at their point of confluence, the perception that is distinct and recognized.
This is the witness of introspection. But we have no right to stop there. Undoubtedly there is considerable risk in venturing, without sufficient evidence, into the obscure problems of cerebral localization. But we have said that to separate from one another the completed per- (pg 164) -ception and the memory image is to bring clinical observation into conflict with psychological analysis, and that the result is a serious antinomy in the theory of the localization of memories. We are bound to consider what becomes of the known facts when we cease to regard the brain as a storehouse of memories.
The theory which is here sketched out resembles, in one respect, that of Wundt. We will give the common element and the essential difference between them. With Wundt, we believe that distinct perception implies a centrifugal action; and thereby we are led to suppose with him (although in a slightly different sense), that the so-called image centres are rather centres for the grouping of sense-impressions. But whereas, according to Wundt, the centrifugal action lies in an ‘apperceptive stimulation,’ the nature of which can only be defined in a general manner, and which appears to correspond to what is commonly called the fixing of the attention, we maintain that this centrifugal action bears in each case a distinct form, the very form of that ‘virtual object’ which tends to actualize itself by successive stages. Hence an important difference in our understanding of the office of the centres. Wundt is led to assume: 1st, a general organ of apperception, occupying the frontal lobe; 2ndly, particular centres which, though most likely incapable of storing images, retain nevertheless a tendency or a disposition to reproduce them. Our contention, on the contrary, is that no trace of an image can remain in the substance of the brain, and that no such centre of apperception can exist; but that there are merely, in that substance, organs of virtual perception, influenced by the intention of the memory, as there are at the periphery organs of real perception, influenced by the action of the object. (See Grundzuge der physiologische Psychologie, vol. i, pp. 320-327.)
[Margin Note: If any image-centre really exists, it is likely to be a kind of keyboard, played upon by memories, as the sense-organ is played upon by objects]
Let us admit, for the moment, in order to simpli- (pg 165) -fy the argument, that stimuli from without give birth, either in the cortex or in other cerebral centres, to elementary sensations. In fact, every perception includes a considerable number of such sensations, all co-existing and arranged in a determined order. Whence comes this order, and what ensures this co-existence? In the case of a present material object, there is no doubt as to the answer: order and co- existence come from an organ of sense, receiving the impression of an external object. This organ is constructed precisely with a view to allowing a plurality of simultaneous excitants to impress it in a certain order and in a certain way, by distributing themselves, all at one time, over selected portions of its surface. It is like an immense keyboard, on which the external object executes at once its harmony of a thousand notes, thus calling forth in a definite order, and at a single moment, a great multitude of elementary sensations corresponding to all the points of the sensory centre that are concerned. Now, suppress the external object or the organ of sense, or both: the same elementary sensations may be excited, for the same strings are there, ready to vibrate in the same way; but where is the keyboard which permits thousands of them to be struck at once, and so many single notes to Unite in one accord? In our opinion the ‘region of images,’ if it exists, can only be a keyboard of this nature. Certainly it is in no way incon- (pg 166) -ceivable that a purely psychical cause should directly set in action all the strings concerned. But in the case of mental hearing – which alone we are considering now – the localization of the function appears certain, since a definite injury of the temporal lobe abolishes it; and, on the other hand, we have set forth the reasons which make it impossible for us to admit, or even to conceive, traces of images deposited in any region of the cerebral substance. Hence only one plausible hypothesis remains, namely, that this region occupies with regard to the centre of hearing itself the place that is exactly symmetrical with the organ of sense. It is, in this case, a mental ear.
But then the contradiction we have spoken of disappears. We see, on the one hand, that the auditory image called back by memory must set in motion the same nervous elements as the first perception, and that recollection must thus change gradually into perception. And we see also, on the other hand, that the faculty of recalling to memory complex sounds, such as words, may concern other parts of the nervous substance than does the faculty of perceiving them. This is why in psychic deafness real hearing survives mental hearing. The strings are still there, and to the influence of external sounds they vibrate still; it is the internal keyboard which is lacking.
In other terms, the centres in which the elementary sensations seem to originate may be actu- (pg 167) -ated, in some sort, from two different sides, from in front and from behind. From the front they receive impressions sent in by the sense-organs, and consequently by a real object; from behind they are subject, through successive intermediaries, to the influence of a virtual object. The centres of images, if these exist, can only be the organs that are exactly symmetrical with the organs of the senses in reference to the sensory centres. They are no more the depositories of pure memories, that is, of virtual objects, than the organs of the senses are depositories of real objects.
We would add that this is but a much abridged version of what may happen in reality. The various sensory aphasias are sufficient proof that the calling up of an auditory image is not a single act. Between the intention, which is what we call the pure memory, and the auditory memory-image properly so called, intermediate memories are commonly intercalated which must first have been realized as memory-images in more or less distant centres. It is, then, by successive degrees that the idea comes to embody itself in that particular image which is the verbal image. Thereby mental hearing may depend upon the integrity of the various centres and of the paths which lead to them. But these complications change nothing at the root of things. Whatever be the number and the nature of the intervening processes, we do not go from the perception (pg 168) to the idea, but from the idea to the perception; and the essential process of recognition is not centripetal, but centrifugal.
Here, indeed, the question arises how stimulation from within can give birth to sensations, either by its action on the cerebral cortex or on other centres. But it is clear enough that we have here only a convenient way of expressing ourselves. Pure memories, as they become actual, tend to bring about, within the body, all the corresponding sensations. But these virtual sensations themselves, in order to become real, must tend to urge the body to action, and to impress upon it those movements and attitudes of which they are the habitual antecedent. The modifications in the centres called sensory, modifications which usually precede movements accomplished or sketched out by the body and of which the normal office is to prepare them while they begin them, are, then, less the real cause of the sensation than the mark of its power and the condition of its efficacy. The progress by which the virtual image realizes itself is nothing else than the series of stages by which this image gradually obtains from the body useful actions or useful attitudes. The stimulation of the so-called sensory centres is the last of these stages: it is the prelude to a motor reaction, the beginning of an action in space. In other words, the virtual image evolves towards the virtual sensation, and the virtual sensation towards real movement: this (pg 169) movement, in realizing itself, realizes both the sensation of which it might have been the natural continuation, and the image which has tried to embody itself in the sensation. We must now consider these virtual’ states more carefully, and, penetrating further into the internal mechanism of psychical and psycho-physical actions, show by what continuous progress the past tends to reconquer, by actualizing itself, the influence it had lost.