The student who will master the principles underlying the incidents related in detail in the preceding chapter should be able to invent, and to prescribe, exercises in perceptive efficiency for himself; for the principles are so general and universal that a wealth of practical forms of applying them will be thought of by the student possessing the constructive imagination.
But, inasmuch, as many persons prefer to be positively told "just how," instead of discovering the road for themselves after the general direction has been pointed out to them, we have thought it well to insert here a number of detailed exercises, and additional rules, for the practice of the student. These exercises and rules are chiefly compiled from the work on "Memory Training," written by the writer of the present book, but are, of course, adapted and arranged for the special purpose now before us in the present book. It may be mentioned, in this connection, that as the strength of an impression upon the memory depends materially upon the degree of perceptive power and energy bestowed upon the impression, therefore the subject of Efficient Perception is very closely bound up with that of Efficient Memory; and that whatever tends to promote one of these, will necessarily tend to promote the other.
Exercise. Enter a room, and take a careful look around you, endeavoring to perceive and observe as many things as possible that are contained therein. Then leave the room, and write down a list of what you have remembered. After a time, return to the room, and compare your list with the articles actually in the room. Then go out of the room, and make up a second list, including the old as well as the new things observed. Repeat this a number of times, taking care, always, not to fatigue yourself—take time to rest yourself at any stage of the exercise. As you progress, note not only the articles in the room, but also the shape, size, and general form of the room; the location of doors and windows; the location of pictures and decorations; the wallpaper, window shades, fireplace, etc. In short, persevere until you can furnish a complete diagram of the room, as well as a complete list and description of its contents. Try this experiment in your own room, if you like; by so doing you will discover how little you really know about its real appearance or contents. Get acquainted with your room, and at the same time develop your power of Perception, and your memory—for that will be the actual result.
Exercise. Walk along the street, and observe closely some building which you pass— a house, or shop, or your own residence, for that matter. Then return to your room and note carefully on paper all that you have observed about that building. Then, later on, return to the building and make a comparison with your list. Then make a new list, including old and new points discovered, and so on as we have directed in the preceding exercise. In this and similar exercises you will find it advisable and helpful to proceed from simple to complex—from general aspects to details. You will also find it a great aid to classify as you proceed, making groups and classes of observed details and points. For instance, first take in the general appearance of the building, its size, shape, and form. Then regard its general color-scheme, etc. Then take note of its doors, its windows, working down to greater and greater degree of detail, and to smaller classes, as you proceed. In short, proceed to analyze your object, and then build it up as a whole from your analysis. After you have finished your consideration of one building, take up the one next to it, and so on, until you can correctly describe every building on the block. Or, if you like, confine yourself to corner buildings, and thus make a mental geography of any street or locality you may select.
You will be surprised to see how rapidly you will acquire efficient Perception in this work. After a time you will become able to "size up" a building fairly well at a single glance, and almost unconsciously. In fact, many builders, architects, and others interested in buildings, do this very thing from acquired habit, and without conscious intention. Likewise, the shoemaker generally takes a hasty glance at the feet of the passers-by, without consciously realizing just what he is doing, but nevertheless taking full notes of anything and everything of importance concerning your footgear. The hatter does the same thing in relation to the headgear of the passers-by. The explanation, of course, lies in the fact of interest-attention and attention-interest, manifesting in Perception directed toward objects connected with the observer's general or particular interest. It is safe to say that you, yourself, already have acquired this habit of observation concerning the things most intimately connected with your business or professional interests, or your particular trade or occupation. The things which bring you a profit, in money or in pleasure, invariably hold your interest, and therefore attract your attention, and thus cause you to manifest more or less efficient Perception concerning them.
The study of faces is an excellent training and exercise for the development of effective Perception. The study of the general outward characteristics of persons, their manner of walking, speaking, etc., as well as their clothing, will be found to be excellent material for exercises of this kind, and will besides be of practical value to you in your ordinary everyday business or professional life in which you meet different persons.
Ear Perception. As the majority of perceptive impressions are received through the channel of the eye, it is natural to devote more time and space to a consideration of visual perception. But we must not neglect the second great channel of impressions— the channel of the ear. The same principle of mastery and development hold good here also. Some persons have excellent eye-perception but poor ear-perception. Modern teachers note this difference in children, and adapt their instruction accordingly. Many persons manifesting a poor ear-perception are apt to think that they have deficient hearing. In many cases, however, this is a mistake, for their trouble arises simply from a lack of attention and interest—a poor condition of ear- perception naturally follows in the train thereof. Many persons fall into the habit of inattention to what is being said to them, allowing their attention to be caught or held by their visual impressions. This is often excused on the ground of "poor hearing," "slight deafness," etc. Such persons may not perceive ordinary remarks made in a loud tone of voice, but will catch the slightest whisper of others if they think that the others are gossiping about them or whispering a secret withheld from themselves. A person may catch the murmured words of love addressed to himself, or the whispered remark concerning his money affairs, but he still will be "slightly deaf" to ordinary remarks.
A well-known psychologist once said: "It cannot be doubted that fully one-half of the deafness that exists is the result of inattention." And another has said: "What is commonly called deafness is not infrequently to be attributed to inattention—the sounds being heard, but not interpreted or recognized." Sounds may be distinctly heard when the attention is directed toward them, that in ordinary circumstances would be imperceptible; and people often fail to hear what is said to them, because they are not paying attention.
The present writer personally knows a very excellent lady who constantly complains that "something must be the matter with me, for I cannot hear a thing that is told me—my hearing must be failing." But one observing her expression of countenance when she is listening to the whispered secrets of others in her near vicinity can see at once that she is fully cognizant of what is being said. He once played a rather mean trick upon this lady—purely as a matter of scientific interest, however. In the midst of our conversation he interjected a French "nonsense verse," uttered in a monotonous, solemn, emphatic tone—the verse being something like one of "Mother Goose," only if anything still more nonsensical. The good lady, looking at him earnestly, replied: "I perfectly agree with you, Professor; in fact, I have always held precisely the same views." She had not really "heard" a word that had been said. A few moments later, he lowered his voice so that it was little more than a murmur, and, attracting her close attention, told her a little bit of spicy gossip about one of her rivals. She heard every word distinctly, without the slightest trouble, and answered him quite intelligently. It was all a matter of the degree of attention given to the remarks in either case. We trust that the reader will see the point of this, and will profit by the moral contained therein.
Here is the secret of developing ear-perception, contained in a single sentence: Use your ears—practice, exercise, and observe—with attention-interest and interest- attention. Study tones, expressions of voice, accents, inflections, etc. If you see fit, endeavor to mimic and imitate the peculiarities of vocal expression observed by you (never imitate or mimic a stammerer, though, for this trait is "catching"). Your growing interest in the subject of vocal expression will awaken your perceptive powers of attention, and your Perception will develop as a consequence. Practice in the direction of "picking up" scraps of conversation of passers-by on the street, and afterward repeat them to yourself. Follow the same course in attending lectures, church services, and plays at the theatre—try afterwards to recall the exact words if possible. Listen carefully to what is said to you, with the fixed idea of recalling the exact words afterward. Also study the voices of different persons, so that you can identify an unseen person by his voice previously heard by you.
In all of the foregoing exercises and suggestions, you will notice ever present the one same principle, i.e., the principle of attention-interest, and interest-attention. Add to this exercise and diligent practice, and you will have the whole thing in a nutshell. The very simplicity of the secret causes many to fail to value it properly—but here, as in many other things, the greatest truths are the simplest at the last analysis.
The following general rules, and the comments thereon, regarding the Practice of Perception Development, will be found very useful to the student if carefully studied and the principle thereof grasped.
Rule 1. The value of our idea concerning an object depends materially upon the degree of clearness and strength of our perception of the object.
The student should remember this important rule, for it lies at the very foundation of the subject. The idea concerning an observed object is like the record on a phonographic roll, or upon the photographic film. A faint perceptive-impression can never produce a reproduction clearer than itself. A blurred and indistinct perceptive impression will bring forth a blurred and indistinct idea. Perceptions are the things from which ideas are manufactured. Like produces like.
Rule 2. The depth and clearness of a perceptive-impression is in direct proportion to the interest-attention, and attention-interest, bestowed upon the object or subject producing the impression.
There is no perceptive-impression without attention; and attention depends materially upon the interest in, or liking for, the subject or object producing the impression. It is necessary to cultivate interest in the things which you desire to understand and know. Interest may be stimulated by concentrated voluntary attention. And also by habit. And, also, in a secondary way, by attaching your thought or ideas concerning the thing to that of some other thing which has an interest for you, or to the thought of the pleasant and desirable results to be attained by you as a consequence of your mastery of the subject in question. By connecting the idea of the uninteresting thing with that of an interesting one, a secondary interest attaches to the former.
Rule 3. Build a strong primary foundation perceptive-impression of a thing which you wish to know and understand, upon which you can erect a structure of subsequent perceptive-impressions.
The best psychologists agree that it is of prime importance to build a good, strong, foundation of perceptive-impressions, upon which subsequent impressions may be built into a structure of thought. Add to these primary impressions from time to time. Be careful of your foundation work. Let it be strong and firm. A week foundation of perceptive impressions has wrecked many a promising thought structure. Build on solid rock, and not upon the shifting sands. Upon the perceptive-impression of the main principles of the thought in question, you can afterward build layer after layer of perceptions concerning the details, incidents, and associated facts concerning the main principle.
Rule 4. Let your primary perceptions consist of the main facts, points, principles, form, and characteristics of the thing observed, avoiding too many unimportant details at that moment.
In acquiring perceptive-impressions of a thing which you wish to understand and know, select the "big facts" for your primary work. Or, changing the figure of speech, you should draw in your mind the broad, wide, outlines of the thing, into which you can fill the little details of subsequent perceptions. In learning about a house, begin with the general outlines and appearance, and then fill in the details of your picture. In studying a tree, first see it as a whole, then study its trunk, then its branches, then its twigs, then its leaves, etc., in natural order. Study the whole family, then the groups thereof, and then the particular individuals. All subjects or objects may be studied in this way, for the principle is capable of universal application.
Rule 5. Classify your perceptions of details into divisions, sub-divisions, and then smaller ones; make your whole impression consist of classified parts; let your unity be composed of units.
This rule embodies a very important law of thought. Knowledge properly classified is available knowledge. An idea, with the details thereof properly classified, is available knowledge. An idea with its details thus classified is not only a strong, well established idea, but one which is valuable for the purpose of being combined with other ideas. Without classification of details, the idea of anything is more or less blurred and indistinct, and cannot be well employed in the office of thought.
Rule 6. A perceptive-impression may be intensified by frequent revival in consciousness.
The above constitutes a very important principle in the cultivation of memory, but it is equally applicable to the processes of perception in general. The principle operates so that when you revive in conscious attention (by recollection) an original perceptive-impression, you actually intensify it in consciousness, and cause it to become deeper and stronger. A little thought will show you that most things that you know well you have learned in obedience to this great law of mental activity. Herein lies the importance of "review work" in one's studies. A familiar application of this principle is found in the well-known illustration of remembering the features of a new acquaintance. It is a fact that even if you spend a full hour with the person at the first interview, you may fail to recognize him the next time you see him, whereas, if you see him twelve days in succession, for only five minutes at a time, you will feel that you know him very well indeed, and will have no trouble in remembering him thereafter. Thus, the frequent revival of the perception of a popular song may tend to become a nuisance in time, for you will know it far too well for comfort.
Rule 7. In reviving perceptive-impressions, do not be content with merely repeating the actual perception of the object itself; but also review and revive the impression in consciousness, without actual perception of the original object.
It is, as has been said, a great benefit to re-examine an object for the purpose of intensifying our original impression of it. In this way the original impression is strengthened, and we also add new details of perceptive impression by this repeated reference to and examination of the object itself. In fact, one may practically educate himself on a subject or object in this way. But this form of the revival of the perceptive impressions, important as it is, may be materially reinforced by the simple revival in consciousness of the original impressions, without a reference to the object itself. By taking the impression into the field of consciousness, by the action of the memory, the impression is given depth and strength which it would otherwise lack. We need not enter into a technical consideration of the psychological reason for the fact just stated; it is enough to say that all psychologists realize that the depth and strength of a perceptive-impression are greatly added to by this revival in consciousness without reference to the original object.
We may appreciate the importance of this rule if we will but turn to some familiar examples of its employment; therefore, let us take two familiar examples to illustrate this point. Let us consider two boys learning the multiplication table. The first boy refers to the printed tables whenever he wishes to know how much is "seven times eight," or "five times six." The second boy reviews his memorized work, and, whenever he wishes to know the product of 7x8 or 5x6 he recalls the memorized result and applies it to the case before him. Or, again, let us consider the difference between two persons wishing to spell correctly; one refers to his dictionary without any attempt to draw on his stored-away impressions concerning the subject, while the second does so draw upon his stored-away impressions, and refers to the book only when he is unable to recall the former. Which class of persons will acquire the deepest and strongest impressions of the particular subjects referred to? Can there he any doubt as to the correct answer?
The best way to intensify a perceptive-impression of any subject or object, under the present rule, is as follows: (1) first revive in consciousness the original impression of the thing, endeavoring to recall everything originally included and contained in that general impression. Then note on paper what you can recall of the original impression. You will discover that the use of the pencil will greatly facilitate your collection of the thing. (2) Then refer once more to the object itself, comparing it with your written list of the incidents of the impression; you will thus discover what you have omitted, and this perception will tend to strengthen and deepen the original one. In doing this you will also probably discover some new items concerning the thing, which will naturally be added to the original general impression.
In the application of this rule will be found the proof of the old school room adage that "An unrecited lesson is only half learned, and is soon forgotten."
Rule 8. In storing away a perceptive impression, endeavor to link and associate it with as many old impressions as possible, for each link of association is a tie which bind the impression to other items of knowledge concerning the general subject.
We shall defer our comments on this rule until we consider the Principle of Association, in another chapter of this book. We call your attention here, however, to the fact that in forming these associative links and ties you are also "classifying" the impression, as advised in Rule 5.
Rule 9. Strive to impress a perceptive-impression upon the mind through as many channels of sense perception as possible. If you are weak in any particular form of perception, then rivet the impression received through this weak channel by means of another perceptive-impression received through a channel of stronger perception— clinch the weaker by using the stronger in connection with it.
The rule embodies a well-established psychological principle. Common experience proves that in many cases a perceptive impression is greatly intensified if it is built up of perceptions arriving through different sense channels. This is well illustrated by the processes of memorizing certain forms of perceptions. For instance, the majority of persons find it easier to remember names, numbers, etc., if they also are able to see the printed or written word at the same time that they hear the name or number spoken. Many persons have learned the advantage of writing down names, numbers, etc., which they wish to memorize, after having heard them spoken—the written memorandum then being destroyed. There are three senses involved in such a process of impression-storing, viz.: (1) the sense of hearing, (2) the sense of sight, and (3) the sense of muscular motion, which is a form of touch sensation. The first two are familiar to you, but the third is likely rather unfamiliar. But you really receive and store away impressions received through this channel; for instance, we could not write, walk, skate, or use the needle, knife and fork, or the typewriter, did we not acquire and recall impressions through this channel. "We learn to perform motions habitually and almost unconsciously simply by means of the perceptive-impressions received and increased in strength and power by repetition through this channel.
In the same way, it is found to be of advantage to visualize a thing with which you wish to become well acquainted, and to understand and know thoroughly. By creating a mental picture of the object, you will be greatly aided in recalling your perceptive impressions concerning it. The picture recalled in addition to the name of a thing often enables us to think very clearly and efficiently concerning it. In the same way, many have found it of advantage to recall the name or title of an object when they were viewing it through the channel of the sight. If your eye-perception is weak, you may add to the strength of your perceptive-impression concerning a thing by means of repeating to yourself its name or title when you are examining it visually. Even the other senses may be called in operation in this connection, in some cases. For instance, the perceptive-impression of Limburger Cheese certainly is heightened and deepened if the person adds to his sight-impression, and sound-impression of the name, the smell-impression arising from a close contact with it. Or, again, one is apt to have a much clearer and deeper impression of Quassia, if he has not only seen it, and heard its name, but has also experienced its bitter taste.
In my work on "Memory Training" I have called attention to the case of a pupil—a medical student preparing for examination—whose sense of the perception of names was weak, and who, consequently, had a poor memory for the names of things. This student, however, had a remarkably strong sense of eye-perception. I took advantage of the latter fact, and really enabled him to pass his examination with flying colors by reason of the same, whereas, otherwise, he would undoubtedly have failed. I fixed in his mind a clear perception of the names of the principal muscles of the body, the principal nerves, and the bones of the human skeleton, by having him prepare a large chart of these things, each in its proper place, with the names of each clearly marked in large letters upon it so as to positively identify it. I then taught him to make a strong, clear, positive visualization of this chart so prepared, so that he could call the whole picture, or series of pictures, before his mental vision at will. When examination-day arrived, he simply called before his mental vision the series of pictures, one at a time when needed, each bone, muscle, and nerve having its proper label affixed in the picture. The young man was practically "letter perfect" in those particular branches. I had also prepared for him a system of charts relating to other subjects, in which a system of classification was followed, and he managed to visualize these also, with excellent results. It is pleasant to be able to report that his future life showed that this system had greatly strengthened his perceptive powers and, naturally, also his memory.
Rule 10. In forming perceptive-impressions of an object or subject, endeavor to associate the same with as many pleasant "feelings" as possible, thus adding to the interesting quality of the impressions. We find it usually much easier to think of pleasant and interesting things, than the reverse.
This rule will be referred to in subsequent portions of this book. It has a direct relation to the subject considered under the head of Rule 2.
Rule 11. In analyzing and classifying an object or subject, for the purpose of obtaining clear and strong perceptive-impressions regarding it, endeavor to NAME the minor points or details whenever possible—if you do not know the correct name, at least give it some name of your own to identify it.
Names may be said to be crystallized perceptions, and the idea of the name usually brings into consciousness the ideas of the several details and characteristics of the thing expressed by the name. It is very much harder to think of things for which we have no names, than of those associated in our minds with names. Names and words are the counters with which we play the game of thinking. Without words it would be very difficult, if not indeed impossible, to think intelligently upon most subjects. As thought progresses, names are coined to crystallize the ideas. Avoid the "thingamabob," or ''what-you-may-call-em'' methods of thinking. Think in as clear terms as possible, and your thought currents will be likewise clear.
Note. As clear, deep, and strong Perception is one of the essential elements of an Efficient Memory, it follows that whatever will cultivate Perception will tend to improve the Memory. Therefore, the practice of the principles and rules of Efficient Perception, as given in this chapter, will inevitably result in greatly improving the Memory of the student.