Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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Outlines of Psychology

Wilhelm Max Wundt (1897)

Translated by Charles Hubbard Judd (1897)



1. Simple feelings may originate in very many more ways than simple sensations, as was noted in §5. Even such feelings as we never observe except in connection with more or less complex ideational processes, have a simple character (p. 34 sq.). Thus, for example, the feeling of tonal harmony, is just as simple as the feeling connected with a single tone. Several tonal sensations together are required to produce a harmony, so that it is a compound so far as its sensational contents are concerned, but the affective quality of certain harmonious compound clangs is so different from that of the feelings connected with the single tones, that both classes of feelings are, subjectively, equally irreducible. The only essential difference between the two is that the feelings which correspond to simple sensations can be easily isolated from the interconnections of which they form a part in our experience, by the same method of abstraction which we employed in discovering the simple sensations (p. 38). Those, on the other hand, that are connected with some composite ideational compound, can never be separated from the feelings which enter into the compound as subjective complements of the [p. 75] sensations. Thus, for example, it is impossible to separate the feeling of harmony connected with the chord c e g from the simple feelings connected with each of the single tones c, e, and g. The latter may, indeed, be pushed into the background, for as we shall see later (§9, 3a), they always unite with the feeling of harmony to form a unitary total feeling, but they can never be eliminated.

2. The feeling connected with a simple sensation is commonly known as a sense-feeling, or the affective tone of a sensation. These two expressions are capable of misinterpretation in two opposite senses. There is a tendency to think that by "sense-feeling" we mean not merely a component of immediate experience that may be isolated through abstraction, but one that really exists by itself. "Affective tone", on the other hand, may be regarded as an affective quality that must inevitably belong to a sensation, just as "color-tone" is a necessary determinant of a color-sensation. In reality, however, a sense-feeling without a sensation can no more exist than can a feeling of total harmony without tonal sensations. When, as is sometimes the case, the feelings accompanying sensations of pain, of pressure, of hot, and of cold, and muscle-sensations, are called independent sense-feelings, it is due to the confusion of the concepts sensation and feeling (p. 36) which is still prevalent, especially in physiology. As a result of this confusion certain sensations, such as those of touch, are called, "feelings", and in the case of some sensations accompanied by strong feelings, as sensations of pain, the discrimination of the two elements is neglected. In the second place, it would be just as inadmissable to ascribe to a given sensation a definite feeling fixed in quality and intensity. The real truth is that in every case the sensation is only one of the many factors that determine the feeling present at a given moment; besides the sensation, the processes that have [p. 76] gone before and the permanent dispositions -- conditions that we can only partially account for in special cases -- play an essential part. The concept "sense-feeling" or "affective tone" is, accordingly, in the double sense the product of analysis and abstraction: first, we must think of the simple feeling as separated from the concomitant, pure sensation, and secondly, we must pick out from among all the various changing affective elements which are connected with a given sensation under different conditions the one that is most constant and is connected with the sensation after the removal, so far as possible, of the influences, that could disturb or complicate the simple effect of the sensation.

The first of these conditions is comparatively easy to meet, if we keep in mind the psychological meaning of the concepts sensation and feeling. The second is very difficult, and, especially in the case of the most highly developed sensational systems, the auditory and visual, it is never really possible to remove entirely such indirect influences. We can infer what the pure affective tone of a sensation is, only by means of the same method that has already been used for the abstraction of pure sensations (§ 5, p. 28). Here, too, we may assume that only that affective tone which remains constant when all other conditions change, belongs to the sensation itself. The rule is easily applied to sensation, but only with great difficulty to feelings, because the secondary influences referred to are generally as closely connected with the sensation as is the primary occasion of the affective tone. Thus, for example, the sensation green arouses almost unavoidably the idea of green vegetation, and since there are connected with this idea composite feelings whose character may be entirely independent of the affective tone of the color itself, it is impossible to determine directly whether the feeling observed when a green impression is presented, is a [p. 77] pure affective tone, a feeling aroused by the attending idea, or a combination of both.

2a. This difficulty has led many psychologists to argue against the existence of any pure affective tone whatever. They assert that every sensation arouses some accompanying ideas and that the affective action of the sensation is due in every case to these ideas. But the results of experimental variation of the conditions for light-sensations, tell against this view. If the attendant ideas were the only sources of the feeling, it would necessarily be strongest when the sensational contents of the impression were most like those of the ideas. This is by no means the case. The affective tone of a color is greatest when its grade of saturation reaches a maximum. The pure spectral colors observed in surrounding darkness have the strongest affective tone. These colors are, however, generally very different from those of the natural objects to which accompanying feelings might refer. There is just as little justification for the attempts to derive tonal feelings from such ideas exclusively. It can not be doubted that familiar musical ideas may be aroused through a single tone; still, on the other hand, the constancy with which certain tonal qualities are chosen to express particular feelings, as, for example, deep tones to express grave and sad feelings, can be understood only under the condition that the corresponding affective quality belongs to the simple tonal sensation. The circle in which the argument moves is still more obvious when the affective tones of sensations of taste, smell, and the general sense are derived from the accompanying ideas. When, for example, the agreeable or disagreeable tone of a taste-sensation is increased by the recollection of the same impression as experienced before, this can be possible only under the condition that the earlier impression was itself agreeable or disagreeable.

3. The varieties of simple sense-feelings are exceedingly numerous. The feelings corresponding to a particular sensational system also form a system, since, in general, a change in the quality or intensity of the affective tone runs parallel to every change in the quality or intensity of the sensations. [p. 78]

At the same time these changes in the affective systems are essentially different from the corresponding changes in the sensational systems, so that it is impossible to regard the affective tone as a third determinant of sensations, analogous to quality and intensity. If the intensity of a sensation is varied, the affective tone may change not only in intensity, but also in quality; and if the quality of the sensation is varied, the affective tone usually changes in quality and intensity both. For example, increase the sensation sweet in intensity and it changes gradually from agreeable to disagreeable. Or, gradually substitute for a sweet sensation one of sour or bitter, keeping the intensity constant, it will be observed that, for equal intensifies, sour and, more especially, bitter produce a much stronger feeling than sweet. In general, then, every in sensation is essentially accompanied by a twofold change in feeling. The way in which changes in the quality and intensity of affective tones are related to each other follows the principle already stated (p. 33) that every series of affective changes in one dimension ranges between opposites, not, ,as is the case with the corresponding sensational changes, between greatest differences.

4. In accordance with this principle, the greatest qualitative differences in sensations correspond to the greatest opposites in affective quality, and to maxima of affective intensity which are either equal or at least approximately equal, according to the special pecularities of the qualitative opposites. The middle point between these two opposites corresponds to an absence of all intensity, so far as only the single dimension to which the opposites belong is concerned. This absence of intensity can be observed only when the corresponding sensational system is absolutely one-dimensional. In all other cases, a point which is a neutral middle for one particular series of sensational differences, belongs at the same time to another [p. 79] sensational dimension or even to a number of such dimensions, each of which it has a definite affective value. Thus, for example, spectral yellow and blue are opposite colors which have corresponding opposite affective tones. In passing gradually along the color-line from one of these to the other, green would be the neutral middle between them. But green itself stands in affective contrast with its opposite color, purple; and, furthermore, it is, like every saturated color, one extremity of a series made up of the transitional stages of a single color-tone to white. Again, the system of simple tonal sensations forms a continuity of only one dimension, but in this case more than in others it is impossible to isolate the corresponding affective tones through abstraction, as we did the pure sensations, because in actual experience we always have, not only intermediate stages between tones of different pitch, but also transitions between absolutely simple tones and noises made up of a profusion of simple tones. The result of these conditions is that every many-dimensional sensational system has a corresponding complex system of affective tones, in which every point generally belongs at once to several dimensions, so that the feeling corresponding to a given sensation is a resultant of the affective elements due to its position in various dimensions of the sensational system. It follows that discrimination between simple and composite feelings in the sphere of affective qualities, can not be carried out. The feeling that corresponds to a particular sensation, is as a rule, for the reasons given, a product of the fusion of several simple feelings, though it is still as irreducible as a feeling of originally simple nature (cf. §12, 3). A further consequence is that the neutral middle between opposite affective qualities, can be actually found in experience only in the special cases where the affective tone of a particular sensation corresponds to the neutral middle of all [p. 80] the dimensions to which it belongs. This special condition is obviously fulfilled for the many-dimensional sensational systems, especially those of sight and hearing, in just the cases in which it is of special practical value for the undisturbed occurrence of affective processes. In the one case, sensations of medium brightness and those of the low grades of chromatic saturation approximating them, in the other, the auditory impressions of our ordinary environment, which are between a tone and noise in character (as, for example, the human voice), form the neutral indifference-zones of affective quality. On both sides of these zones arise the more intense affective tones of the more marked sensational qualities. The existence of such indifference-zones makes it possible for the complex feelings which correspond to the various combinations of these, sensational qualities, to develop almost independently, without reference to the accompanying sense-feelings.

5. The variations in affective quality and intensity that run parallel to the grades of sensational intensity, are much simpler. They can be most clearly seen in the homogeneous sensational systems of the general sense. Each of these systems is of a uniform quality throughout, and can be fairly well represented geometrically by a single point, so that the only possible sensational changes are those of intensity, and these can be attended only by a one-dimensional series of affective changes between opposites. The neutral indifference zone is, accordingly, always easy to observe in these cases. It corresponds to the medium sensations of pressure, hot, and cold, that are connected with the normal, medium intensity of ordinary sense-stimuli. The simple feelings on both sides of this zone exhibit decidedly opposite characters, and can, in general, be reckoned, on the one side, to pleasurable feelings, on the other, to unpleasurable (v. inf. 6). The unpleasurable feelings are the only ones that can be [p. 81] produced with certainty, by increasing the intensity of the sensation. Through habituation to moderate stimuli, such Iii expansion of the indifference-zone has taken place in these systems of the general sense, that when the stimuli are weak, as a rule only a succession of sensations very different in intensity or quality, can produce noticeable feelings. In such cases, feelings of pleasure always correspond to sensations of medium intensity.

The regular relation between sensational intensity and affective tone, can be better observed without this influence of contrast, in the case of certain sensations of smell and taste. At first a pleasurable feeling arises with weak sensations and increases with the increasing intensity of the sensations to a maximum, then it sinks to zero with a certain medium sensational intensity, and finally, when this intensity increases still more, the feeling becomes unpleasurable and increases until the sensational maximum is reached.

6. The variety of simple affective qualities is exceedingly great, much greater than that of, sensations. This is due to two facts. First, every sensation of the many-dimensional systems 'belongs at once to several series of feelings. Secondly, and this is the chief reason, the different compounds arising from the various combinations of sensations, such as intensive, spacial, and temporal ideas, and also certain stages in the course of emotions and volitions, have corresponding feelings, which are, as above remarked (p. 76), irreducible, and must therefore be classed among the simple feelings.

It is greatly to be regretted that our names for simple feelings are so much more hazy than those for sensations. The proper nomenclature of feeling is limited entirely to the expression of certain general antitheses, as pleasurable and unpleasurable, agreeable and disagreeable, grave and gay, excited and quiet, etc. These designations are usually based on the [p. 82] emotions into which the feelings enter as elements, and are so general that each includes a large number of simple feelings of very different character. In other cases, complex ideas whose affective character is similar, are used in describing the feelings connected with certain simple impressions, as, for example, by Goethe in his description of the affective tone of colors, and by many musical writers in describing the feelings accompanying clangs. This poverty of language in special names for the feelings, is a psychological consequence of the subjective nature of the feelings. All the motives of practical life which give rise to the names of objects and their attributes, are here wanting. To conclude, for this reason, that there is a corresponding poverty of simple affective qualities themselves, is a gross psychological mistake, which is furthermore fatal since it makes an adequate investigation of the composite affective processes impossible from the first.

7. In consequence of the difficulties indicated, a complete list of simple affective qualities is out of the question, even more than is such a list in the case of simple sensations. Then, too, there are still other reasons why it would be impossible. The feelings, by virtue of the attributes described above, do not form closed systems, as do the sensations of tone, of light, or of taste, but are united in a single manifold, interconnected in all its parts (p. 35). Furthermore, the union of certain feelings gives rise to feelings which are not only unitary, but even simple in character (p. 75). In this manifold of feelings, made up, it is, of a great variety of most delicately shaded qualities, it is nevertheless possible to distinguish certain different chief directions, including certain affective opposites of predominant character. Such directions may always be designated by the two names that indicate their opposite extremes. Each name is, however, to be looked [p. 83] upon as a collective name including an endless number of feelings differing from one another.

Three such chief directions may be distinguished; we will call them the direction of pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings, that of arousing and subduing (exciting and depressing) feelings, and finally that of feelings of strain and relaxation. Any concrete feeling may belong to all of these directions or only two or even only one of them. The last mentioned possibility is all that makes it possible to distinguish the different directions. The combination of different affective directions which ordinarily takes place, and the above mentioned (p. 79) influences which are due to the overlapping of feelings arising from various causes, all go to explain why we are perhaps never in ,i state entirely free from feeling, although the general nature of the feelings demands an indifference-zone.

8. Feelings connected with sensations of the general sense and with impressions of smell and taste, may be regarded as good examples of pure pleasurable and unpleasurable forms. A sensation of pain, for example, is regularly accompanied by an unpleasurable feeling without any admixture of other affective forms. In connection with pure sensations, arousing and subduing feelings may be observed best in the case of color-impressions in clang-impressions. Thus, red is arousing, blue subduing. Feelings of strain, and relaxation are always connected with the temporal course of processes. Thus, in expecting a sense-impression, we note a feeling of strain, and on the arrival of the expected event, a feeling of relaxation. Both the expectation and satisfaction may be accompanied at the same time by a feeling of excitement or, under special conditions, by pleasurable or unpleasurable feelings. Still, these other feelings may be entirely absent, and then those of strain and relaxation are recognized as [p. 84] specific forms which can not be reduced to others, just as the two directions mentioned before. The presence of more than one direction may be discovered in the case of very many feelings, nevertheless, simple in quality, just, as much as the feelings mentioned. Thus, the feelings of seriousness and gaiety connected with the, sensible impressions of low and high tones or dark and bright colors, are to be regarded as characteristic qualities which are outside the indifference-zone in both the pleasurable and unpleasurable direction and the exciting and depressing direction. We are never to forget here that pleasurable and unpleasurable, exciting and depressing, are not names of single affective qualities, but of directions, within which an indefinitely large number of simple qualities appear, so that the unpleasurable quality of seriousness is not only to be distinguished from that of a painful touch, of a dissonance, etc., but even the different cases of seriousness itself may vary in their quality. Again, the direction of pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings, is united with that of feelings of strain and relaxation, in the case of the affective tones of rhythms. The regular succession of strain and relaxation in these cases is attended by pleasure, the disturbance of this regularity by the opposite feeling, as when we are disappointed or surprised. Then, too, under certain circumstances the feeling may, in both cages, be of an exciting or a subduing character.

9.These examples lead very naturally to the assumption that the three chief directions of simple feelings depend on the relations in which each single feeling stands to the whole succession of psychical processes. In this succession every feeling has in general a threefold significance 1) It represents a particular modification of the state of the present moment; this modification belongs to the pleasurable and unpleasurable direction. 2) It exercises a certain definite influence on the succeeding state; this [p. 85] influence can be distinguished in its opposite forms as excitation and inhibition. 3) It is determined in its essential character by the preceding state; this determining influence shows itself in the given feeling in the forms of strain, and relaxation. These conditions also render it improbable that other chief directions of feeling exist.

9a. Of the three affective directions mentioned, only that of pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings has generally been recognized; the others are reckoned as emotions. But the emotions, as we shall see in §13, come from combinations of feelings; it is obvious, therefore, that the fundamental forms of emotions must have their antecedents in the affective elements. Some psychologists have regarded pleasurable and unpleasurable feelings, not as collective terms including a great variety of simple feelings, but as entirely uniform, concrete states, so that, for example, the unpleasurableness of a toothache, of an intellectual failure, and of a tragical experience are all regarded as identical in their affective contents. Still others seek to identify the feelings with special sensations, especially with cutaneous sensations and muscle-sensations. Such entirely untenable assertions require no criticism. They indicate, however, the uncertain state of the doctrine of feelings, even at the present time.

10. The question has been raised whether or not particular physiological processes correspond to the simple feelings, as is the case for the sensations. Older psychology was inclined to answer this question in the negative, and to contrast the feelings as inner, purely psychological, states with sensations as processes aroused from without. In modern times, on the contrary, the affirmative answer has generally been given, but for the most part without the support of adequate empirical proof. Obviously, our assumptions in regard to the physiological phenomena accompanying the feelings must be based on [p. 86] actually demonstrable physiological processes, just as our assumptions in regard to the physiological conditions of sensations were deduced from the structure and functions of the sense-organs. In looking for such processes, it follows from the subjective nature of the feelings, that we should not expect to find them among the processes produced in the organism directly by external agents, as the sensations are, but rather in reactions which arise indirectly from these first processes. The observation of compounds made up of affective elements, that is, of emotions and volitions, whose easily perceptible concomitants are always external movements or changes in the state of the organs of movement, also points in the same direction.

The analysis of sensations, and of the psychical compounds derived from them, makes direct use of the impression-method; while the investigation of simple feelings, and of the processes resulting from their combinations, can employ this method only indirectly. On the other hand, the expression-method, that is, the investigation of the physiological reactions of psychical processes, is especially adapted to the examination of feelings and processes made up of them, because as shown by experience, such reactions are regular symptoms of affective processes. All the phenomena in which the inner state of the organism is outwardly expressed, may be utilized as aids for the expression-method. Such are, besides the movements of the external muscles, especially the respiratory and cardiac movements, the contraction and dilation of the blood-vessels in particular organs, the dilation and contraction of the pupil of the eye, etc. The most delicate of these is the beating of the heart, which can be examined as exactly reproduced in the pulse of some peripheral artery. All other phenomena are generally wanting in the case of a simple feeling. It is only for high intensifies, where the feelings always pass into [p. 87] emotions, that we have other, added symptoms, especially changes in respiration, and mimetic expressive movements.

11. Of the chief directions of feeling mentioned above, especially that of pleasarable and unpleasurable feelings can be shown to stand in regular relation to the pulse. When the feeling is pleasurable, the pulse is retarded and intensified, when unpleasurable, the pulse is accelerated and weakened. For the other directions, the accompanying changes can only be inferred with some degree of probability, from the effects of the corresponding emotions (§13, 5). Thus, exciting feelings seem to betray their presence only through stronger pulse beats, and subduing through weaker, without a change of rate in either case. For feelings of strain, we have retarded and weakened pulse, for those of relaxation, accelerated and intensified pulse. Single feelings belong for the most part to several of these directions at the same time; as a result, the action of the pulse is in many cases so complex that the most that can be concluded is the predominance of one or the other direction. The conclusion is, however, uncertain so long as it is not confirmed by direct observation of the feeling.

11a. The relations that seem probable from experiments on the symptoms of feelings and emotions as found in pulse-activity, may be presented in the following scheme.

Exciting and subduing feelings, then, show themselves by simple changes in the pulse, the others by double changes. But [p. 88] this scheme, which is derived for the most part from the effect of complex emotions, needs confirmation from experiments in which attention is paid to the isolation of these various affective directions. Changes in respiration, muscle-tension, etc., also need further investigation. It is obvious from the equivocal character of each symptom, that when a particular feeling is given in psychical experience, we can infer particular resulting innervations from the symptoms which appear, but that we can never infer the presence of particular feelings from the physiological symptoms. It follows that the expression-method can not be as highly valued from a psychological point of view as the impression-method. >From the very nature of the case, the impression-method is the only one that can be used in arousing and varying psychical processes at will. The expression-method gives results that explain only the physiological phenomena which accompany feelings, not the psychological nature of the feelings themselves.

The variations observed in the pulse must be regarded as the results of a changed innervation of the heart, coming from the cardiac centre in the brain. Physiology shows that the heart is connected with the central organs by two kinds of nerves: excitatory nerves, which run through the sympathetic system and originate indirectly in the medulla, and inhibitory nerves, which belong to the tenth cranial nerve (vagus) and also have their source in the medulla. The normal regularity of the pulse depends on a certain equilibrium between excitatory and inhibitory influences. Such influences come not only from the brain, but from the centres in the ganglia of the heart itself. Thus, every increase and every decrease of the heart's energy may be interpreted in two different ways. The first may be due to an increase of excitatory, or to a decrease of inhibitory innervation, and the second may be due to a decrease in excitatory or to an increase in inhibitory innervation, or in both cases the two influences may be united. We have no universally applicable means of investigating these possibilities, still, the circumstance that the stimulation of the inhibitory nerves has a quicker effect than the stimulation of the excitatory, gives us good ground in many cases for conjecturing the presence of the one or the other. Now, the changes in the pulse always follow very quickly the sensations that cause them. It is, therefore, probable that in the case of feelings and emotions, we have [p. 89] chiefly changes in inhibitory innervation, originating in the brain and conducted along the vagus. It may well be assumed that the affective tone of a sensation on its physiological side, corresponds to a spreading of the stimulation from the sensory centre to other central regions which are connected with the sources of the inhibitory nerves of the heart. Which central regions are thus affected, we do not know. But the circumstance that the physiological substrata for all the elements of our psychological experience, are in all probability to be found in the cerebral cortex, leads very naturally to the assumption that the same is true for the centre of these inhibitory innervations. Furthermore, the essential differences between the attributes of feelings and those of sensations, make it probable that this centre is not identical with the sensory centres. If a special cortical region is assumed as the medium for these effects, there is no reason for supposing a special one for each sensory centre, but the complete uniformity in the physiological symptoms goes more to show that there is only one such region, which must then at the same time serve as a kind of central organ for the connection of the various sensory centres. (For the further significance of such a central region, and its probable anatomical position, compare §15, 2a.)