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motor impulse does not necessarily constitute a very favorable condition of learning.

Our procedure is more nearly identical with certain educational methods of instruction in vogue in teaching such acts of skill as writing and dancing in which the subject is forcefully guided by manual means.

Our problem also raises the theoretical question of the value of errors or mistakes in the learning process,—a question which has never received any extended discussion in the literature on learning. It is usually assumed that errors have a value in an adaptive problem in that they aid the quick discovery of the proper means of solution. The greater the amount of random movements,—the greater the exploration, the sooner will the successful act be discovered. After the solution has been discovered, however, general opinion would probably contend that errors are no longer useful but actually detrimental, inasmuch as they represent tendencies to action which must be slowly eliminated by repeated trials.

Our provisional results do not support the above assumption that errors are invariably detrimental in the process of fixation; rather, they indicate that the process of fixing an association may be hastened by the inhibition of wrong responses. Given any problematical situation consisting of two alternatives, it is possible that an animal may not always react to these paths as two separate objects which have no relation to each other; they may at times react to two diverging paths as a unitary situation consisting of two related aspects. In the latter event it is possible that the correct choice is effective in part because the antagonistic tendency was inhibited, as well as because the animal performed the proper act. In such a situation, rejection and selection are relative terms and the process of rejection will emphasize the act of selection. The mere doing of a sequence of acts will tend to associate them to some extent, but their fixation will be further facilitated by the process of selection and rejection. The situation may be envisaged more easily in the problem of memorizing where mistakes when noted may be much more effective in establishing the desired association than a considerable number of repetitions. The conception may also explain in part the effectiveness of an active attitude in memorizing; in the passive attitude the subject experiences the items to be associated as they are presented; with the active attitude the subject may either review the syllables previously exposed or attempt to anticipate the coming ones. In either case errors may be made and subsequently noted, and the effectiveness of the method may be due in part to this process of comparison of the proper associates as contrasted with the erroneous suggestions.

In this paper we wish to refrain from any general conclusions. Owing to the indecisiveness of our experiment, the factual results must be accepted with caution. Granted their validity, however, it is possible that an external control may be effective in one type of problem and not in another. The effectiveness of such a control may vary with the degree to which it is used during the learning process. It is also conceivable that an external control may be very effective when utilized only at certain critical stages in the development of a habit system. Miss Koch is now engaged in investigating these questions with the use of the maze and the latch box problem. She also plans to use human subjects with a pencil maze and employ various modes of control including that of verbal directions. This work has progressed to the point where we are able to say that a limited amount of control introduced at a certain stage of the learning is extremely effective in the mastery of the maze problem.



The following test were designed as an application to human beings of the multiple choice method of testing, suggested by experiments which Major Yerkes once tried on pigs, crows and monkeys. In his account of his experiments,2 he announced his intention of trying them upon human beings at a later date. But in the absence of any published data, we devised a choice experiment which seemed to embody the same principles as those employed in the animal work. Our experiment consisted merely in the choice of certain cards, instead of the choice of food boxes, as in the original experiments. These card-choices increased in difficulty, just as the series increased in difficulty in the Yerkes experiments. After applying the series to 100 children in the public schools, the resulting figures were correlated with the results of Binet intelligence tests. The Pearson coefficient was used.

It will be remembered that the Multiple Choice experiment was devised by Yerkes in order that a series of problems ranging from the simple to the complex might be applied to organisms of different types and conditions and at different stages of development. In the accounts published, Yerkes tried four different choices on three different types of animal. The animal was placed before a series of open mechanisms, and was induced to enter and to learn their relative positions, because he found that food was only in the correctly chosen box. He was taught to avoid the wrong choice, because food was not in any of the other boxes. He was entrapped by the door when he entered the wrong mechanism, and therefore unpleasant associations were established with the wrong choice.

1 From the Reed College Psychological Laboratory.

1 Yerkes, R. M., and Coburn, C. A. 'A Study of the Behavior of the Pig, Sus Scrofa, by the Multiple Choice Method,' /. of An. Beh., 1915, 5, 185-225.

Coburn, C. A., and Yerkes, R. M., 'A Study of the Behavior of the Crow, Conus Amerieanus Aud., by the Multiple Choice Method,' ibid., 75-114.

Yerkes, R. M., 'The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes: A Study of Ideational Behavior,' Beh. Monog., 1916, 3, No. 12, pp. 145.

The tests used were the following:

1. First mechanism to left of subject

2. Second mechanism to right of subject

3. First mechanism to left and right alternately

4. Middle of group

The animal tests of Yerkes are fully described in his own publications cited above, and will not be discussed further here except to say that the mental development of the three types of animal upon which he experimented was compared by their ability to grasp and remember the relation of the food boxes to each other, so that eventually the right box might always be chosen by its position.

Obviously in giving the same type of tests to human beings, some different variety of technique had to be devised. In the first place, the series had to be much enlarged. To this end, a series of fifteen choices was planned, of which the first four were the same as in the animal series of Yerkes.

Secondly, there was no necessity of rewards and punishments in order to make the subject take the tests, and wish to excel in them. Therefore, the choice was made from relative positions of cards arranged on a table before the subject, from which he was asked to select the 'right one.' His success in discovering which was the right one, and interpreting the choice scheme, was stimulus enough for interest, and for the attempt to do his best. The comparison was made of the number of trials needed to select the right card, rather than of length of time taken in choosing, for the length of time taken seemed to be more a temperamental factor, involving greater or less timidity, greater or less effort expended, etc., rather than difference in ability to perceive relationships. Our first problem was to increase the series of tests, from the four given by Yerkes, to a longer series, and to be certain that they increased gradually in difficulty. Our second problem was to apply this graded series to enough subjects to make our figures in any way reliable. We devised eleven additional tests, and in order to place them in a series of increasing difficulty, we applied our series of fifteen tests to sixty children in the public schools. A norm was established by giving this list of fifteen tests, and forming a curve of increasing difficulty, as judged by the increased number of failures in solving the various tests.

The list that was finally adopted was the following:

1-4. Identical with Yerkes tests.

5. Second card from each end alternately.

6. Third card from right of subject.

7. First and third; second and fourth cards from left


8. Second and fifth cards from left, alternately.

9. First card to right of middle (even number in series).

10. Fourth card from left and third card from right,


11. Fifth card from right.

12. Fifth card from left.

13. First card to left of middle (odd number in series).

14. Second card from left of the series and the middle card.

15. Third card from right^ and fifth from the left; and fifth

card from the right, and third from the left alternately.

The relative difficulty of the scale is shown by the curve plotted of the number of failures in each test. The whole scale was given to each child, and failure to solve the test in twenty-five trials was counted as failure.

The tests were given in the following manner. The series of nine cards (corresponding to the nine food boxes) was laid on the table. When the child entered the room, the experimenter addressed him, "I have some puzzles to show you. [Calling the tests 'puzzles' immediately aroused his interest.] Please choose one of these cards." Since the first choice was purely random, and probably wrong, he was asked to choose again, until the correct card was chosen.

The random choices until the card was first correctly

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