Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario
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Functional Periodicity

Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1914)
Posted July 2000

[p. 32] IV


This test is fully discussed in Whipple's "Manual of Mental and Physical Tests." It was carried out in the present instance exactly as described by Hollingworth [1] in his recent monograph. The subject, standing, was required to hold at arm's length and unsupported, a brass rod, 2.5 mm. in diameter, in a hole 6 mm. in diameter, which was formed in a brass plate. The time in this test remained constant, the subject being required to hold the rod for 30 seconds, making as few contacts as possible. Each contact was registered by an automatic electric counter. A measure of the involuntary movements of the right arm in a horizontal plane was thus obtained. Any increase in nervousness would, presumably, be apparent in the number of involuntary contacts registered.

The complete daily records of the seven subjects are found in Table VII. In the case of F3 and F6 the fraction (always .5) Was retained when averaging the two daily records; in the case of the other subjects it was dropped. This slight difference in treatment was simply incidental to the fact that the records were treated on different occasions. These records converted into averages as described in this paper in connection with the tapping test, are given in Table VIII. The variability of these averages is so great as to render them very unreliable, the M. V. being in a majority of cases above 20 per cent, and often reaching as high as 45 per cent. Hence any conclusions drawn from these records cannot bear great weight. The test is very apt to be affected by purely external and accidental factors, such as taking a breath, coughing, hearing a noise.

According to expert opinion, as already quoted in this paper, we should expect to find greatly increased agitation at the critical periods in the case of the women subjects. An examination of the figures as they stand does not support this opinion.[p. 33]

A table similar to Table III under the tapping test was not compiled for steadiness, partly because the great variability of the averages would make such a table of little value, and partly because, owing to circumstances connected with starting the test, the records are somewhat irregular at the beginning. (See Table VII.)

When curves are platted from Tables VII and VIII, and are examined to determine whether a cycle of efficiency is discernible, it appears that there is no definite suggestion of such a cycle. It is true that in a practice curve of this kind there must always be fluctuations which are of a more or less accidental nature, and which are not at all a matter of a fundamental "cycle" of efficiency. In the very nature of the case, regardless of concomitant phenomena, there will be high and low points on the curve, within each month or within any limits of time we may wish to specify.

The pain suffered by F2 for a few hours on the first two first days seems to have had no characteristic effect. On the whole the only statement that may be made with certainty on the basis of the steadiness test is, that it does not indicate increased agitation at menstrual periods.[pp. 34-35, Table VII]

[pp. 36-37]


[1] H. L. Hollingworth, op. cit., p. 44.