The Beginning Of Reason

We found feeling by far the strongest factor in producing action in

babyhood and childhood. Our instinctive doing, we learned, is the result

of a race impulse. Will acts chiefly at emotion's bidding. But very

early the baby's experience operates as a partial check to feeling's

exclusive sway. It keeps him from touching the fire, no matter how its

brightness attracts. It may be merely the sense memory of hurt when

s and that bright thing came together; and one such impression

will probably prevent him from ever again touching it. Or it may be the

brain-cell's retention of the painful feeling of slapped hands when the

fingers reaching out to the flame had not yet quite touched. These

punishment experiences are only effective in many children after more or

less repetition has set up an automatic prohibition from brain to motor

nerves; but right here intellect begins to assert itself in the form of

sense memory. The baby does not reason about the matter. His nerve-cells

simply remember pain, and that particular brightness and glow, and

finger touch--or that reaching out to the glow--and slapped hands, as

occurring together. In the same way he early connects pleasure with the

taste of certain forbidden things. He does not know they are sweet. He

only knows "I want." Even here his desire to taste may be checked in

action by a vivid memory of what happened when he tasted that other

time, and was spanked or put in his little room all alone with only milk

and bread to eat for a long time.

Later on the child may think, from cause to effect, thus: "Sweet, good,

want, taste, spank, hurt (or no dinner, all by self, lonely), spank hurt

more than sweets good. Not taste." But long before he can work this out,

consciously, two distinct memories, one of pleasure and one of pain, are

aroused by the sight of the sweet. And what he will do with it depends

upon which memory is stronger. In other words, his action is governed

altogether by his feeling, though memory, which is an intellectual

factor, supplies the material for feeling.