The psychology of attention. By Th. Ribot ... Authorized translation Ribot, Th. (Théodule), 1839-1916

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Ribot, Th. (Théodule), 1839-1916
Attention; Obsessive-compulsive disorder.; Monomania.
"Psychologists have given much study to the effects of attention, but very little to its mechanism. The latter point is the only one that I propose to investigate in the following work. Yet even within these limits the question is important, for it is, as we shall later see, the counterpart, the necessary complement of the theory of association. If the present treatise contributes, be it ever so little, to point out clearly this want of contemporaneous psychology, and to induce others to supply it, it will have accomplished its purpose. It will be conformable to the rule of a sound method only to study cases that are marked and typical; that is to say, those which present at least one of the following two characteristics: intensity and duration. When both these coincide, attention is at its maximum. Duration alone reaches the same result through accumulation: as, for instance, when one deciphers a word or a figure by the light of several electrical sparks. Intensity alone is equally efficacious. The purpose of this series of essays is to establish and prove the following propositions: There are two well-defined forms of attention: the one spontaneous, natural; the other voluntary, artificial. Attention (we here once more and for the last time recall the fact, that we shall only study the clearest cases) consists accordingly in the substitution of a relative unity of consciousness for the plurality of states, for the change which constitutes the rule. Yet this does not suffice to define attention. A very bad toothache, a nephritic colic, or intense enjoyment produce a momentary unity of consciousness, which we do not confuse with attention proper. Attention has an object; it is not a purely subjective modification: it is a cognition, an intellectual state. This is an additional characteristic to be noted. This is not all. To distinguish it from certain states which approach it, and which will be studied in the course of our work (for example, fixed ideas), we must take account of the adaptation that always accompanies it, and which, as we shall attempt to establish, in a great measure constitutes its character. In what does this adaptation consist? For the present, let us limit ourselves to an entirely superficial view. In cases of spontaneous attention, the whole body converges toward its object, the eyes, ears, and sometimes the arms; all motions are arrested. In cases of voluntary attention adaptation is most frequently incomplete, intermittent, without solidity"--Book. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved).
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