A Hundred Years of Psychology, 1833-1933

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE BEGINNINGS OF ANIMAL PSYCHOLOGY

ONE of the most immediate effects of the new outlook due to the doctrine of evolution was to direct attention to the minds of animals; and during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century the foundations of animal psychology were laid by Schneider in Germany and by a whole series of writers in England, all of whom were inspired more or less directly by the work of Spencer and of Darwin. To Spalding belongs the credit of being one of the very first to apply the experimental method to this sphere. He was interested particularly in the question of the extent to which the more complicated actions of animals could be accounted for in terms of pure instinct, as distinct from experience or imitation. Thus in one of his experiments, reported in 1872, he took young swallows at the moment of hatching and confined them in cages away from the sight of their companions until they had reached the flying age; he then released them, and discovered that they very soon learnt to fly, although they had not had the opportunity of observing the flight of other birds. G. H. Schneider, whose pioneering works appeared in 1880 and 1882, was an early exponent of the theory of "recapitulation", according to which the development of the individual is an epitome of the evolution of the race, a theory which was later on to play a large part in the writings of Stanley Hall. In 1883 Weismann propounded his theory of the continuity of the germ plasm, according to which "part of the germ plasm in the parent egg-cell is not used up in the construction of the body of the offspring,

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