Thought-Culture or Practical Mental Training



Sensation and Perception, as considered in the preceding chapter, are what are called by psychologists “Processes of Presentation.” By Presentation is meant the direct offering to the consciousness of mental images or objects of thought. If there were no faculty of the mind capable of retaining and _re_-presenting to the consciousness the impression or record of Perception, we could never progress in knowledge, for each percept would be new each time it was presented and there would be no recognition of it as having been previously perceived, nor would there be any power to voluntarily recall any percept previously acquired. In short, we would be without that power of the mind called Memory.

But, fortunately for us as thinkers, we possess the power of Representation; that is, of reproducing past perceptions and experiences in the shape of _mental images_ or pictures, “in the mind’s eye,” so to speak, which relieves us of the necessity of directly and immediately perceiving an object each time we desire or are required to think of it. The processes whereby this becomes possible are called the processes of Representation, for the reason that by them past experiences of Perception are _re_-presented to the consciousness.

The subject of Representation is closely bound up with that of Memory. Strictly speaking, Representation may be said to be one phase of Memory; Association of Ideas another; and the authorities prefer to treat the whole subject under the general head of Memory. We have written a work on “Memory” which forms one of the volumes of the present series, and we have no intention, or desire, to repeat here the information given in that work. But we must consider the subject of Representation at this point in order to maintain the logical unity of the present general subject of Thought-Culture. The student will also notice, of course, the close relation between the processes of Representation and those of the Imagination, which we shall consider in other chapters of this work.

Memory has several phases, the usual classification of which is as follows: (1) Impression; (2) Retention; (3) Recollection; (4) Representation, and (5) Recognition. Each phase requires the operation of special mental processes. _Impression_ is the process whereby the impressions of Perception are recorded or stamped upon the subconscious field of mentality, as the impress of the die upon the wax. _Retention_ is the process whereby the subconsciousness _retains_ or holds the impressions so received. _Recollection_ is the process by which the mind _re-collects_ the impressions retained in the subconsciousness, bringing them again into consciousness as objects of knowledge. _Representation_ is the process whereby the impressions so re-collected are _pictured or imaged_ in the mind. _Recognition_ is the process whereby the mind _recognizes_ the mental image or picture so re-presented to it as connected with its past experience.

As we have stated, we have considered the general subject of Memory in another volume of this series and, therefore, shall not attempt to enter into a discussion of its general subject at this place. We shall, accordingly, limit ourselves here to a brief consideration of the phase of Representation and its cultivation.

Representation, of course, depends upon the preceding phases of Memory known as Impression, Retention and Recollection. Unless the Impression is clear; unless the Retention is normal, there can be no Representation. And unless one _recollects_ there can be no Representation. Recollection (which is really a re-collection of percepts) must precede Representation in the shape of mental images or pictures. Recollection re-collects the mental materials out of which the image is to be constructed. But, as Brooks says: “It is not to be assumed that knowledge is retained as a picture; but that it is _recreated_ in the form of a picture or some other mental product when it is recalled.” The process is analogous to the transmutation of the sound-waves entering the receiver of a telephone, into electrical-waves which are transmitted to the receiver, where they are in turn re-transmuted to sound-waves which enter the ear of the listener. It will be seen at once that there is the closest possible relation between the processes of Representation and those of Memory–in fact, it is quite difficult to draw a clear line of division between them. Some make the distinction that Representation furnishes us with an exact reproduction of _the past_; while Imagination combines our mental images into _new products_. That is, Representation merely _reproduces_; while Imagination _creates_ by forming new combinations; or Representation deals with a reproduction of the Actual; while Imagination deals with the Ideal.

Wundt speaking of this difficult distinction says: “Psychologists are accustomed to define _memory images_ as ideas which _exactly reproduce_ some previous perception, and _fancy images_ as ideas consisting of a combination of elements taken from a whole number of perceptions. Now memory images in the sense of this definition simply do not exist…. Try, for instance, to draw from memory some landscape picture which you have only once seen, and then compare your copy with the original. You will expect to find plenty of mistakes and omissions; but you will also invariably find that you have put in a great deal which was not in the original, but which comes from landscape pictures which you have seen somewhere else.”