Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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Classics Editor's note: The original page numbers of the Judd translation are given in square brackets. The page numbers given in round brackets are Wundt's own references to earlier parts of the translation.

Outlines of Psychology

Wilhelm Max Wundt (1897)

Translated by Charles Hubbard Judd (1897)



1. In the development of temporal ideas it appears clearly that the discrimination of sensational and affective components in immediate experience is purely a product of abstraction. For time-ideas the abstraction proves impossible, because, in this case, certain feelings play an essential part in the rise of the ideas. Time-ideas may, therefore, be called ideas only when the final results of the process, the arrangement of certain sensations in relation to one another and to the subject, are considered; when their real composition is looked into, they are complex products of sensations and feelings. They are thus to a certain extent transitional forms between ideas and those psychical compounds that are made up of affective elements, and are designated by the general name affective processes. These affective processes resemble time-ideas especially in the impossibility of an abstract sepa- [p. 159] ration of the affective from the sensational elements in the investigation of their rise. This is due to the fact that in the development of all kinds of affective processes, sensations and ideas are determining factors, just as feelings are among the essential factors of temporal ideas.

2. Intensive affective combinations, or composite feelings, must be the first affective processes discussed, because in them the characteristic attributes of a single compound are the products of a momentary state. The description of the feeling, therefore, requires only the exact comprehension of the momentary condition, not a combination of several processes occurring in time and proceeding from one another. In this respect, the composite feelings stand in the same relation to emotions and volitions, which always consist of affective processes extending through periods of time, as intensive ideas do to extensive. Intensive psychical compounds, in the broadest sense of the term, include, accordingly, intensive ideas and composite feelings. Extensive compounds include as special forms of tempora1 arrangements, besides the temporal ideas, also emotions and volitions.

3. Composite feelings, then, are intensive states of unitary character in which single simple affective components are to be perceived. We may distinguish in every such feeling component feelings and a resultant feeling. The last component feelings are always simple sense-feelings. Several of these may unite to form a partial resultant which enters into the whole as a compound component.

Every composite feeling may, accordingly, be divided, 1) into a total feeling made up of all its components, and 2) into single partial feelings which go to make up the total feeling. These partial feelings are in turn of different grades according as they are simple sense-feelings (partial feelings of the first order) or feelings which are themselves [p. 160] composite (partial feelings of the second or higher orders). Where we have partial feelings of higher orders, complicated combinations or interlacings of the component elements may take place. A partial feeling of lower order may, at the same time, enter into several partial feelings of higher order. Such interlacings may render the nature of the total feeling exceedingly complicated. The whole may sometimes change its character, even when its elements remain the same, according as one or the other of the possible combinations of partial feelings takes place.

3 a. Thus, the musical chord c e g has a corresponding total feeling of harmony whose last elements, or partial feelings of the first order, are the feelings corresponding to the single clangs c, e, and g. Between these two kinds of feeling stand, as partial feelings of the second order, the three feelings of harmony from the double clangs c e, e g and c g. The character of the total feeling may have four different shades according as one of these partial feelings of the second order predominates, or all are equally strong. The cause of the predominance of one of these complex partial feelings may be either the greater intensity of its sensational components, or the influence of preceding feelings. If, for example, c e g follows c e g the effect of cb e g will be intensified, while if c e g follows c e a the same will hold for c g. Similarly, a number of colors may have a different effect according as one or the other partial combination predominates. In the last case, however, because of the extensive arrangement of the impressions, the spacial proximity has an influence antagonistic to the variation in the manner of combination and, furthermore, the influence of the spacial form with all its accompanying conditions is an essentially complicating factor.

4. The structure of composite feelings is, thus, in general exceedingly complicated. Still, there are different degrees of development even here. The complex feelings arising from impressions of touch, smell, and taste are essentially simpler [p. 161] in character than those connected with auditory and visual ideas.

The total feeling connected with outer and inner tactual sensations is designated in particular as the common feeling, since it is regarded as the feeling in which our total state of sensible comfort or discomfort expresses itself. From this point of view, the two lowest chemical senses, those of smell and taste, must also be regarded as contributors to the sensational substratum of the common feeling, for the partial feelings that arise from these two senses unite with those from touch to form inseparable affective complexes. In single cases, to be sure, one or the other of these feelings may play such an important part that the others disappear entirely. Still, in the midst of all this change in its sensational substratum, the common feeling is always the immediate expression of our sensible comfort and discomfort, and is, therefore, of all our composite feelings most closely related to the simple sense-feelings. Auditory and visual sensations, on the other hand, contribute to the sensational substratum of the common feeling only in exceptional cases, especially when the intensity is unusually great.

4a. The combination of partial feelings to a composite feeling was first noticed in the case of the common feeling. The psychological laws of this combination were indeed misunderstood, and, as is usually the case in physiology, the feeling was not distinguished from its underlying sensations. Common feeling was, thus, sometimes defined as the "consciousness of our sensational state", or again as the "totality, or unanalyzed chaos of sensations" which come to us from all parts of our body. As a matter of fact, the common feeling consists of a number of partial feeling. But it is not the mere sum of these feelings; it is rather a resultant total feeling of unitary character. At the same time it is, however, a total feeling of the simplest possible composition, made up of partial feelings of the first [p. 162] order, that is, of single sense-feelings which generally do not unite to form partial feelings of the second or of higher orders. In the resultant feeling a single partial feeling is usually predominant. This is regularly the case when a very strong local sensation is accompanied by a feeling of pain. On the other hand, weaker sensations may determine the predominant affective tone through their relatively greater importance. This is especially frequent in the case of sensations of smell and taste, and also in the case of certain sensations connected with the regular functioning of the organs, such as the inner tactual sensations accompanying the movements of walking. Often the relatively greater importance of a single sensation is so slight that the predominating feeling can not be discovered except by directing our attention to our own subjective state. In such a case the concentration of the attention upon it can generally make any partial feeling whatever predominant.

5. The common feeling is the source of the distinction between pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings. This distinction is then carried over to the single simple feelings that compose it, and sometimes even to all feelings. Pleasurable and unpleasurable are expressions well adapted to the indication of the chief extremes between which the common feeling, as a total feeling corresponding to the sensible comfort or discomfort of the subject, may oscillate; though to be sure, this feeling may not infrequently lie for a longer or shorter period in an indifference-zone. In the same way, these expressions may be applied to the single constituents so far as they go to make up one of the total feelings. On the other hand, it is entirely unjustifiable to apply these names to all other feelings, or, as is sometimes done, to make their applicability a necessary factor in the general definition of feeling. Even for the common feeling, pleasurable and unpleasurable can only be used as general class-names which include a number of qualitatively different feelings. This variety among [p. 163] feelings of the same class results from the very great variations in the composition of the single total feelings that we have included under the general name common feeling (cf. p. 82 sq.).

6. The composite character mentioned is the reason why there are common feelings which can not, strictly speaking, be called pleasurable or unpleasurable, because they contain elements belonging to both classes, and under circumstances either the one kind or the other may predominate. Such feelings made up of partial feelings of opposite character and deriving their characteristics from this combination, may be called contrast-feelings. A simple form of such among the common feelings is that of tickling. It is made up of a weak pleasurable feeling accompanying a weak external tactual sensation, and of feelings connected with muscular sensations aroused by the strong reflex impulses from the tactual stimuli. These reflex impulses may spread more or less, and often cause inhibitions of respiration when they reach the diaphragm, so that the resultant feeling may vary greatly in single cases in intensity, scope, and composition.

7. The composite feelings from sight and hearing are commonly called elementary aesthetic feelings. This name includes all feelings that are connected with composite perceptions and are therefore themselves composite. As a special form of feelings belonging to this class defined by the broader meaning of the term 'aisqhsiV, we have those which are the elements of aesthetic effects in the narrower sense. The term elementary does not apply in this case to the feelings themselves, for they are by no means simple, but it is merely intended to express the relative distinction between these and still more composite higher aesthetic feelings.

The perceptive, or elementary aesthetic, feelings of sight and hearing may serve as representatives of all the com- [p. 164] posite feelings that arise in the course of intellectual processes, such as the logical, moral, and higher aesthetical feelings. For the general psychological structure of these complex affective forms is exactly that of the simpler perceptive feelings, except that the former are always connected with feelings and emotions that arise from the whole interconnection of psychical processes. While the extremes between which the common feelings move are chiefly the affective qualities that we call pleasurable and unpleasurable in the sense of personal comfort and discomfort, the elementary aesthetic feelings belong to the same affective direction, but in the more objective sense of agreeable and disagreeable, feelings. These terms express the relation of the object to the ideating subject rather than any personal state. It is still more apparent here than in the caged of pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings, that each of these terms is not the name of a single feeling, but indicates a general direction, to which belong an endless variety of feelings with individual peculiarities for each single idea. In single cases, too, but more variably, the other affective directions (p. 83), those of the arousing and subduing, of the straining and relaxing feelings, may show themselves.

8. If we neglect for the moment this general classification mentioned, according to which the single forms are brought under the chief affective directions, all perceptive feelings may be divided into the two classes of intensive and extensive feelings, according to the relations which exist between the sensational elements and determine the quality of the feelings. By intensive feelings we mean those that depend on the relation of the qualitative attributes of the sensational elements of the ideas, by extensive feelings those that arise from the spacial and temporal arrangement of the elements. The expressions "intensive" and "extensive" do not refer to the [p. 165] character of the feelings themselves, for they are in reality always intensive, but to the conditions for the rise of these feelings.

Intensive and extensive feeling are, accordingly, not merely the subjective concomitants of the corresponding ideas, but, since every idea consists usually of elements that are qualitatively different and of some extensive arrangement of these impressions, the same idea may be at once the substratum of both intensive and extensive feelings. Thus, a visual object made up of different colored parts arouses an intensive feeling through the mutual relation of the colors and an extensive feeling through its form. A succession of clangs is connected with an intensive feeling which corresponds to the qualitative relation of the clangs, and with an extensive feeling coming from the rhythmical or arhythmical temporal succession of the same. In this way, both intensive and extensive feelings are always connected with visual and auditory ideas, but, of course, under certain conditions one form may push the other into the background. Thus, when we hear a clang for just an instant, the.only feeling perceived is the intensive feeling. Or when, on the other band, a rhythmical series of indifferent sounds is heard, only the extensive feeling is noticeable. For the purpose of psychological analysis it is obviously of advantage to produce Conditions under which one particular affective form is present and others so far as possible excluded.

9. When intensive feelings are observed in this way, it appears that those accompanying the combination of colors follow the rule that a combination of two colors whose qualitative difference is a maximum, also gives a maximal agreeable feeling. Still, every particular color-combination has its specific affective character made up of the partial feelings from the single colors, and of the total feeling arising [p. 166] as a resultant, of the same. Then, too, as, in the case of simple color-feelings, the effect is complicated by chance associations and the complex feelings coming from them (p. 76). Combinations of more than two colors have not been adequately investigated.

The feelings connected with combination of clangs are exceedingly numerous and various. They constitute the affective sphere in which we see most clearly the formation of partial feelings of different orders discussed above (p. 160), together with their interlacings varying under special conditions. The investigation of the single feelings that thus arise is one of the problems of the psychological aesthetics of music.

10. Extensive feelings may be subdivided into spacial and temporal. Of these, the first, or the feelings of form, belong mainly to vision, and the second, or the feelings of rhythm, to hearing, while the beginning of the development of 'both are to be found in touch.

The optical feeling of forms shows itself first of all in the preference of regular to irregular forms and then in the preference among different regular forms of those which have certain simple proportions in their various parts. The most important of these proportions are those of symmetry, or 1 : 1, and, of the golden section, or x+1:x = x:1 (the whole is to the greater part as the greater part is to the smaller). The fact that symmetry is generally preferred for the horizontal dimensions of figures and the golden section for the vertical, is probably due to associations, especially with organic forms, such as that of the human body. This preference for regularity and certain simple proportions can have no other interpretation than that t~he measurement of every single dimension is connected with a sensation of movement and an accompanying sense-feeling which enters as a partial feeling into the, total [p. 167] optical feeling of form. The total feeling of regular arrangement that arises at the sight of the whole form, is thus modified by the relation of the different sensations as well as of the partial feelings to one another. As secondary components, which also fuse with the total feeling, we may hive here too associations and their concomitant feelings.

The feeling of rhythm is entirely dependent on the conditions discussed in considering temporal ideas. The partial feelings are here the feelings of strained and fulfilled expectation, which in their regular alternation constitute the rhythmical time-ideas themselves. The way in which these partial feelings are united, however, and especially the predominance of special ones in the total feeling, is, even more than the momentary character of an intensive feeling, dependent on the relation in which the feeling present at a given instant stands to the preceding feelings. This is especially apparent in the great influence that every alteration in rhythm exercizes on the accompanying feeling. For this reason as well as because of their general dependence on a particular temporal form of occurrence, the feelings of rhythm are the direct transitions to emotions. To be sure, an emotion may develop from any composite feeling, but in no other case is the condition for the rise of a feeling, as here, at the, same time a necessary condition for the rise of a certain degree of emotion. The emotion is, however, usually moderated in this case, through the regular succession of feelings (cf. § 13, 1, 7).

11. The immense variety of composite feelings and the equally great variety of their conditions, render any such comprehensive and at the same time unitary psychological theory as that which was possible for spacial and temporal ideas, entirely out of the question. Still, there are even here some common attributes, through which composite feelings [p. 168] may be brought under certain general psychological heads. There are two factors which go to make up every feeling: first, the relation of the combined partial feelings to one another, and second, their synthesis to a unitary total feeling. The first of these factors is more prominent in intensive, the second in extensive feelings. But in reality they are always united, and determine each other reciprocally. Thus, a figure which is all the time agreeable, may be more and more complex the more the relations of its parts accord with certain rules, and the same holds for a rhythm. On the other hand, the union to a single whole helps to emphasize the separate affective components. In all these respects combination of feelings show the closest resemblance to intensive ideas. The extensive arrangement of impressions on the contrary, especially the spacial arrangement, tends, much more to favor a relatively independent coexistence of several ideas.

12. The close intensive union of all the components of a feeling, even in the case of those feelings whose corresponding ideas are spacial or temporal, is connected with a principle that holds for all affective processes, including those which we shall have to discuss later. This principle we will call that of the unity of the affective state. It may be formulated as follows: In a given moment only one total feeling is possible, or in other words, all the partial feelings, present at a given moment unite, in every case, to form a single total feeling. This principle of the unity of affective. states is obviously connected with the general relation between idea and feeling. For the "idea" deals with an immediate content of experience and the properties that belong to it, without regard to the subject; the "feeling" expresses the relation that invariably exists between this content and the subject.