Sub specie Absolutus - Under the aspect of Absolute

Articles on Psychology of Creativity

1. Sergey L. Markov. Kvintological approach to the construction of a unified theory of creativity

Markov, S.L. (2012). Kvintologichnyi pidhid do pobudovy edynoi teorii tvorchosti [Kvintological approach to the construction of a unified theory of creativity]. Pravnychyi visnyk universitetu “KROK”, 11, 160 -171.

2. Sergey L. Markov. Сreative approach to security management

Markov, S.L. (2012) Tvorcheskiy podhod k upravleniiu bezopasnostiu [ Сreative approach to security  management].  Izvestiia Rossiiskoi akademii obrazovaniia [News of the Russian Academy of Education]. 2 (22), 403-415.

3. Sergey L. Markov. Creative management and management of creativity in the modern creatological formation

Markov, S.L. (2015) Tvorche upravlinia i upravlinia tvorchistiu v novitniy kreatologichnit formacii [Creative management and management of creativity in the modern creatological formation] In V.K. Gizhevskiy, S.L. Markov (Eds.), Legal and socio-psychological dimensions of modern information society (pp. 252-266). Кyiv: KROK University.

4. Sergey L. Markov. Formation of creative vision of an individual as the universal method of enhancing creativity

Markov, S.L. (2011) Formuvannia tvorchogo bachennia osobystosti jak universalnyi metod aktivizacii tvorchosti [Formation of creative vision of an individual as the universal method of enhancing creativity]. In S.D. Maksimenko & L.M. Karamushka (Eds.), Actualni problemy psichologii. Vol 1. (pp. 374-380). Kyiv: Publishing House “A.C.K”.

5. Sergey L. Markov. A genetic approach to the nature of genius

Markov, S.L.(2011) Genetuchnyi pidhid do pryrody genialnosti [A genetic approach to the nature of genius]. In 2th International scientific conference: Genesis of the personality's existence. Kyiv, 19-20 December 2011. Kyiv: Information and Analytical Agency, Vol.1, pp.255-260.

6. Sergey L. Markov. Mechanisms of creative dialogue with the World

Markov, S. L. (1997) Mechanisms of Creative Dialogue With the World. Paper presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 17, 1997. Chicago, IL.

7. Sergey L. Markov. Sense creation in the structure of processes of meaning dynamics

Markov, S.L. (2013). Smyslotvorchist v structuri procesiv smyslovoi dynamiki [Sense creation, in the structure of processes of meaning dynamics]. Pravnychyi visnyk universitetu “KROK”, 15, 183-192.

8. Sergey L. Markov. Personal mechanisms of sense creation

Markov, S.L. Osobystisni mechanizmy smyslotvorchosti [Personal mechanisms of sense creation]. Pravnychyi visnyk universitetu “KROK”, 16. P.265-274

 

 

Kvintological approach to the construction of a unified theory of creativity

Sergey L. Markov. Kvintological approach to the construction of a unified theory of creativity

Abstract. The model and method for the construction of unified theory of creativity are proposed. The universal principle of the centered penta-structure was laid in the base of the theory formation. This principle allows to construct the system of coherent measurements and categories of creativity and to present a classical model of creativity in the form 4Ps / S - process, product, person, place as well as the sense which generates and integrates them. The deployment of these central categories leads to the creation of such relevant specific theories of creativity as a problem-solving process, productive activity, self-actualization, creative dialogue, creative vision and sensecreation.

Key words: unified theory of creativity, methodological grounds, kvintological approach, pentabasis, model of creativity.


Markov, S.L. (2012). Kvintological pidhid do pobudovy edynoi teorii tvorchosti [Kvintological approach to the construction of a unified theory of creativity]. Pravnychyi visnyk universitetu “KROK”, 11, 160 -171.

Mechanisms of Creative Dialogue with the World

Sergey L. Markov. Mechanisms of Creative Dialogue with the World

Markov, S. L. (1997) Mechanisms of Creative Dialogue With the World. Paper presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 17, 1997. Chicago, IL.

Abstract. The variant of theoretical framework that helps to harmonize and simplify modern creativity theory is suggested. The given conception is based on the idea of universal nature of creativity, and the existence of definite invariant evolutionary principles and mechanisms. 
The framework is built on such universal categories as Interaction, Dialogue and Game. The answer to the question is not only “Where is? “, but both “How is?” creativity is proposed . Thus a hierarchical system of mechanisms is outlined to account for the creative dialogue that may occur between personality and the objective world. It is proposed that every level of creative interaction manifests itself through opposite, mutual complement pairs. These interactions constitute the workings of the mechanisms and include:
The axiological (Idealization vs. Problematization), cognitive (Decentration vs. Simplification), emotional (Identification vs. Meditation), behavioural (Self-actualization vs. Personification).
This unified system of opposite mechanisms manifests itself as a “double helix of creativity” and allows to consider process of bringing into existence as an assembly of complement elements and constructing to the whole.
The system of connected mechanisms allows the creative vision. It is an integral part of the creative attitude toward the world. It can serve as an effective method for the finding and solving of diverse life problems and conflicts, as a method of stimulating creative activity, or as a form of creative self-training and meditation.
Key words: framework for creativity, theories of creativity, creative dialogue, creative mechanisms, double helix of creativity

Read more: Mechanisms of Creative Dialogue with the World

Creativity experts about creativity

Quotes by famous creativity experts
about creativity

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud. Creativity is now something we can turn on and off like a faucet. It is an experience and expression in our lives that must be nurtured. This nurturing process means that creativity is at once a skill, an art, and a life-style.
Alex Osborn (May 24, 1888 – May 13, 1966), American advertising executive, the author of “Brainstorming”.

Each of us has an Aladdin's Lamp which psychologists call creative imagination.
Alex Osborn

It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.
Alex Osborn


Whatever creative success I gained was due to my belief that creative power can be stepped up by effort, and that there are ways in which we can guide our creative thinking.
Alex Osborn


Most ideas are step-by-step children of other ideas.
Alex Osborn


Worry is essentially a misuse of imagination
Alex Osborn

Creative ideas reside in people's minds but are trapped by fear or rejection. Create a judgment-free environment and you'll unleash a torrent of creativity.
Alex Osborn


The ultimate solutions to problems are rational; the process of finding them is not.
William J. J. Gordon (September 9, 1919 – June 30, 2003), American inventor and psychologist, the creator of “Synectics”


The basis of creativity has always been a new connection. To make connections would take hours using words. Your subconscious has to use pictures.
William J. J. Gordon


We need creativity in order to break free from the temporary structures that have been set up by a particular sequence of experience.
Edward de Bono (born May 19, 1933), Maltese author, consultant, expert on creative thinking

Creative thinking - in terms of idea creativity - is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured.
Edward de Bono


As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems.
Edward de Bono

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea
Edward de Bono


Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists.
Edward de Bono

Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea.
Edward de Bono

Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone.
Edward de Bono

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
Edward de Bono


Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.
Edward de Bono


There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.
Edward de Bono


Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.
Edward de Bono


It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
Edward de Bono


Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.
Edward de Bono

The purpose of science is not to analyze or describe but to make useful models of the world. A model is useful if it allows us to get use out of it.
Edward de Bono


People should realize we're jerks just like them.
Edward de Bono


Opportunity ideas do not lie around waiting to be discovered. Such ideas need to be produced.
Edward de Bono


Argument is meant to reveal the truth, not to create it.
Edward de Bono


Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.
Edward de Bono

It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humor, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humor process is involved in changing them.
Edward de Bono


If you wait for opportunities to occur, you will be one of the crowd.
Edward de Bono


Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven.
Edward de Bono


I must say, I don't feel very qualified to be a pop star. I feel very awkward at times in the role.
Edward de Bono


An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.
Edward de Bono

The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas.
Edward de Bono


In the future, instead of striving to be right at a high cost, it will be more appropriate to be flexible and plural at a lower cost. If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.
Edward de Bono

In a sense, words are encyclopedias of ignorance because they freeze perceptions at one moment in history and then insist we continue to use these frozen perceptions when we should be doing better.
Edward de Bono

Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.
Edward de Bono


Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.
Edward de Bono


An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Edward de Bono

Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple.
Edward de Bono


To be successful you have to be lucky, or a little mad, or very talented, or find yourself in a rapid growth field.
Edward de Bono


Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.
Edward de Bono

One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.
Edward de Bono


If you never change your mind, why have one?
Edward de Bono


A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
Edward de Bono


Removing the faults in a stage-coach may produce a perfect stage-coach, but it is unlikely to produce the first motor car.
Edward de Bono

Man owes his success to his creativity. No one doubts the need for it. It is most useful in good times and essential in bad.
Edward de Bono

Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.
Edward de Bono

Learning how to learn is life's most important skill.
Tony Buzan (born 2 June 1942), English educational and creativity consultant, the author of ”Mind Mapping”


We teach mental literacy and radiant thinking; a revolution in human thought.
Tony Buzan


Through using our memory to its fullest we can unlock the vast reservoir of human potential that isn't currently being used.
Tony Buzan


The human brain has left and right brain symmetry with its own nature and can process information which initially appears to have no pattern or order. However, the brain has the ability to process visual information much more efficiently.
Tony Buzan

The best results are achieved by using the right amount of effort in the right place at the right time. And this right amount is usually less than we think we need.
Tony Buzan


Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.
Michael Michalko, American creative thinking expert and the author of “'Thinkertoys”


Perception is demonstrably an active rather than a passive process; it constructs rather than records 'reality.
Michael Michalko


Perception implies understanding as well as awareness.
Michael Michalko


The more possible futures you foresee, the more options you can create; the more options you have, the greater your chances of finding the unexpected opportunity.
Michael Michalko


Paying attention to the world around you will help you develop the extraordinary capacity to look at mundane things and see the miraculous.
Michael Michalko

We build our own reality. Even colors are products of our mind. Vincent van Gogh told his brother he could see twenty-seven different shades of gray.
Michael Michalko

Collaboration over time creates a different understanding of a subject.
Michael Michalko


The principle to remember is that all dualities and opposites are not disjoined but polar. They do not confront each other from afar; they originate in a common center.
Michael Michalko


A first-class idea person can slice and dice challenges into separate, simple attributes and then combine them into new, more complex structures as stars do.
Michael Michalko


Manipulation is the brother of creativity… Remember that everything new is just an addition or modification no something that already existed.
Michael Michalko

By coming up with different combinations of the variations of the parameters, you create new idea.
Michael Michalko


To solve a problem, you have to believe that you already have the answer in your unconscious.
Michael Michalko

Creative thinking is inclusive thinking. You consider the least obvious as well as the most likely approaches, and you look for different ways to look at the problem. It is the willingness to explore all approaches that is important, even after one has found a promising one.
Michael Michalko

Much of creative genius hinges on the willingness to creatively observe the seemingly irrelevant and find the latent potential.
Michael Michalko

Once we have a belief, we tend to look to confirm that belief by what we observe. Psychologists call this phenomenon 'confirmation bias.
Michael Michalko

Habits, thinking patterns, and routines with which we approach life gradually accumulate until they significantly reduce our awareness of other possibilities.
Michael Michalko

Creativity, it could be said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. 
Michael Michalko

All invention and discovery is permeated by the idea of thinking the unthinkable.
Michael Michalko

What you say affects how you feel. How you feel affects how you think, and vice versa. All language, feelings, and thoughts interact with each other, and the entire accumulation of those influences creates your output and behavior
Michael Michalko

To visualize yourself as creative, affirm that you believe it to be true.
Michael Michalko


Dreams are a rich source of ideas, as they often contain combinations and rearrangement of objects, challenges and events that would be almost impossible to come up with while awake.
Michael Michalko


Your inner guide is a manifestation of the higher part of your unconscious. You can evoke your inner guide to come forth as a person or being who can help you meet an solve your challenges.
Michael Michalko

Work on two or more unrelated problems in parallel. When you run into a brick wall with one problem, move to the next.
Michael Michalko

If you change one element - your language - your thoughts and feelings will be changed as well. The cumulative impact will be new patterns of output and behavior.
Michael Michalko

Make it a habit to keep the written record of your creativity attempts in a notebook, on file cards or in your computer. A record not only guarantees that the thoughts and ideas will last, since they are committed to paper or computer files, but will inspire you into other thoughts and ideas.
Michael Michalko

Leonardo da Vinci's technique for getting ideas was to close his eyes, relax totally, and cover a sheet of paper with random lines and scribbles. He would then open his eyes and look for images and patterns, objects, faces, or events in the scribble.
Michael Michalko

“What – iffing” is a great way to learn to direct your imagination toward a desired goal. This technique lets your ego relax, and the playfulness of the ideas it generates will cause it to relax even more.
Michael Michalko

We need ways to unstructure our imaginations to explore the outer limits and dazzling variety of our concepts, so that we can go beyond the typical and concoct wonderfully unusual ideas.
Michael Michalko

When you go through the motions of being creative, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times you act, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become.
Michael Michalko


In school we were not taught how to think; we were taught to reproduce what past thinkers thought.
Michael Michalko 

Ideas are not solutions; they are the raw material of solutions.
Arthur VanGundy (May 24, 1946 - May 5, 2009), American psychologist, creative thinking expert


Throwing away ideas too soon is like opening a package of flower seeds and then throwing them away because they’re not pretty.
Arthur VanGundy


If you fall in love with an idea, you won't see the merits of alternative approaches—and will probably miss an opportunity or two. One of life's great pleasures is letting go of a previously cherished idea. Then you're free to look for new ones. What part of your idea are you in love with? What would happen if you kissed it goodbye?
Roger von Oech (born February 16, 1948), American author, creativity theorist, consultant, and inventor


Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn't work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.
Roger von Oech


It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.
Roger von Oech

The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants.
Roger von Oech

Either you let your life slip away by not doing the things you want to do, or you get up and do them.
Roger von Oech

There is a close relationship between the "ha-ha" of humor and the "aha!" of discovery.
Roger von Oech

Here's my advice: Go ahead and be whacky. Get into a crazy frame of mind and ask what's funny about what you're doing.
Roger von Oech

It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out-of-date.
Roger von Oech

Everyone has a 'risk muscle.' You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.
Roger von Oech 

The Physiology of Laughter

Herbert Spencer. Illustrations of Universal Progress. A Series of Discussions. - New York: D. Appleton and Company. -1865.


IV.
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF LAUGHTER.

Why do we smile when a child puts on a man's hat? or what induces us to laugh on reading that the corpulent Gibbon was unable to rise from his knees after making a tender declaration? The usual reply to such questions is, that laughter results from a perception of incongruity. Even were there not on this reply the obvious criticism that laughter often occurs from extreme pleasure or from mere vivacity, there would still remain the real problem—How comes a sense of the incongruous to be followed by these peculiar bodily actions? Some have alleged that laughter is due to the pleasure of a relative self-elevation, which we feel on seeing the humiliation of others. But this theory, whatever portion of truth it may contain, is, in the first place, open to the fatal objection, that there are various humiliations to others which produce in us anything but laughter; and, in the second place, it does not apply to the many instances in which no one's dignity is implicated: as when we laugh at a good pun. Moreover, like the other, it is merely a generalization of certain conditions to laughter; and not an explanation of the odd movements which occur under these conditions. Why, when greatly delighted, or impressed with certain 195unexpected contrasts of ideas, should there be a contraction of particular facial muscles, and particular muscles of the chest and abdomen? Such answer to this question as may be possible, can be rendered only by physiology.


Every child has made the attempt to hold the foot still while it is tickled, and has failed; and probably there is scarcely any one who has not vainly tried to avoid winking, when a hand has been suddenly passed before the eyes. These examples of muscular movements which occur independently of the will, or in spite of it, illustrate what physiologists call reflex-action; as likewise do sneezing and coughing. To this class of cases, in which involuntary motions are accompanied by sensations, has to be added another class of cases, in which involuntary motions are unaccompanied by sensations:—instance the pulsations of the heart; the contractions of the stomach during digestion. Further, the great mass of seemingly-voluntary acts in such creatures as insects, worms, molluscs, are considered by physiologists to be as purely automatic as is the dilatation or closure of the iris under variations in quantity of light; and similarly exemplify the law, that an impression on the end of an afferent nerve is conveyed to some ganglionic centre, and is thence usually reflected along an efferent nerve to one or more muscles which it causes to contract.
In a modified form this principle holds with voluntary acts. Nervous excitation always tends to beget muscular motion; and when it rises to a certain intensity, always does beget it. Not only in reflex actions, whether with or without sensation, do we see that special nerves, when raised to a state of tension, discharge themselves on special muscles with which they are indirectly connected; but those external actions through which we read the feelings of others, show us that under any considerable tension, the 196nervous system in general discharges itself on the muscular system in general: either with or without the guidance of the will. The shivering produced by cold, implies irregular muscular contractions, which, though at first only partly involuntary, become, when the cold is extreme, almost wholly involuntary. When you have severely burnt your finger, it is very difficult to preserve a dignified composure: contortion of face, or movement of limb, is pretty sure to follow. If a man receives good news with neither change of feature nor bodily motion, it is inferred that he is not much pleased, or that he has extraordinary self-control—either inference implying that joy almost universally produces contraction of the muscles; and so, alters the expression, or attitude, or both. And when we hear of the feats of strength which men have performed when their lives were at stake—when we read how, in the energy of despair, even paralytic patients have regained for a time the use of their limbs; we see still more clearly the relations between nervous and muscular excitements. It becomes manifest both that emotions and sensations tend to generate bodily movements, and that the movements are vehement in proportion as the emotions or sensations are intense.
This, however, is not the sole direction in which nervous excitement expends itself. Viscera as well as muscles may receive the discharge. That the heart and blood-vessels (which, indeed, being all contractile, may in a restricted sense be classed with the muscular system) are quickly affected by pleasures and pains, we have daily proved to us. Every sensation of any acuteness accelerates the pulse; and how sensitive the heart is to emotions, is testified by the familiar expressions which use heart and 197feeling as convertible terms. Similarly with the digestive organs. Without detailing the various ways in which these may be influenced by our mental states, it suffices to mention the marked benefits derived by dyspeptics, as well as other invalids, from cheerful society, welcome news, change of scene, to show how pleasurable feeling stimulates the viscera in general into greater activity.

There is still another direction in which any excited portion of the nervous system may discharge itself; and a direction in which it usually does discharge itself when the excitement is not strong. It may pass on the stimulus to some other portion of the nervous system. This is what occurs in quiet thinking and feeling. The successive states which constitute consciousness, result from this. Sensations excite ideas and emotions; these in their turns arouse other ideas and emotions; and so, continuously. That is to say, the tension existing in particular nerves, or groups of nerves, when they yield us certain sensations, ideas, or emotions, generates an equivalent tension in some other nerves, or groups of nerves, with which there is a connexion: the flow of energy passing on, the one idea or feeling dies in producing the next.
Thus, then, while we are totally unable to comprehend how the excitement of certain nerves should generate feeling—while, in the production of consciousness by physical agents acting on physical structure, we come to an absolute mystery never to be solved; it is yet quite possible for us to know by observation what are the successive forms which this absolute mystery may take. We see that there are three channels along which nerves in a state of tension may discharge themselves; or rather, I should say, three classes of channels. They may pass on the excitement to other nerves that have no direct connexions with the bodily members, and may so cause other feelings and ideas; or they may pass on the excitement to one or more 198motor nerves, and so cause muscular contractions; or they may pass on the excitement to nerves which supply the viscera, and may so stimulate one or more of these.

For simplicity's sake, I have described these as alternative routes, one or other of which any current of nerve-force must take; thereby, as it may be thought, implying that such current will be exclusively confined to some one of them. But this is by no means the case. Rarely, if ever, does it happen that a state of nervous tension, present to consciousness as a feeling, expends itself in one direction only. Very generally it may be observed to expend itself in two; and it is probable that the discharge is never absolutely absent from any one of the three. There is, however, variety in the proportions in which the discharge is divided among these different channels under different circumstances. In a man whose fear impels him to run, the mental tension generated is only in part transformed into a muscular stimulus: there is a surplus which causes a rapid current of ideas. An agreeable state of feeling produced, say by praise, is not wholly used up in arousing the succeeding phase of the feeling, and the new ideas appropriate to it; but a certain portion overflows into the visceral nervous system, increasing the action of the heart, and probably facilitating digestion. And here we come upon a class of considerations and facts which open the way to a solution of our special problem.
For starting with the unquestionable truth, that at any moment the existing quantity of liberated nerve-force, which in an inscrutable way produces in us the state we call feeling, mustexpend itself in some direction—must generate an equivalent manifestation of force somewhere—it clearly follows that, if of the several channels it may take, one is wholly or partially closed, more must be taken by the others; or that if two are closed, the discharge along the remaining one must be more intense; and that, 199conversely, should anything determine an unusual efflux in one direction, there will be a diminished efflux in other directions.
Daily experience illustrates these conclusions. It is commonly remarked, that the suppression of external signs of feeling, makes feeling more intense. The deepest grief is silent grief. Why? Because the nervous excitement not discharged in muscular action, discharges itself in other nervous excitements—arouses more numerous and more remote associations of melancholy ideas, and so increases the mass of feelings. People who conceal their anger are habitually found to be more revengeful than those who explode in loud speech and vehement action. Why? Because, as before, the emotion is reflected back, accumulates, and intensifies. Similarly, men who, as proved by their powers of representation, have the keenest appreciation of the comic, are usually able to do and say the most ludicrous things with perfect gravity.
On the other hand, all are familiar with the truth that bodily activity deadens emotion. Under great irritation we get relief by walking about rapidly. Extreme effort in the bootless attempt to achieve a desired end, greatly diminishes the intensity of the desire. Those who are forced to exert themselves after misfortunes, do not suffer nearly so much as those who remain quiescent. If any one wishes to check intellectual excitement, he cannot choose a more efficient method than running till he is exhausted. Moreover, these cases, in which the production of feeling and thought is hindered by determining the nervous energy towards bodily movements, have their counterparts in the cases in which bodily movements are hindered by extra absorption of nervous energy in sudden thoughts and feelings. If, when walking along, there flashes on you an idea that creates great surprise, hope, or alarm, you stop; or if sitting cross-legged, swinging your pendent foot, the movement 200is at once arrested. From the viscera, too, intense mental action abstracts energy. Joy, disappointment, anxiety, or any moral perturbation rising to a great height, will destroy appetite; or if food has been taken, will arrest digestion; and even a purely intellectual activity, when extreme, will do the like.
Facts, then, fully bear out these à priori inferences, that the nervous excitement at any moment present to consciousness as feeling, must expend itself in some way or other; that of the three classes of channels open to it, it must take one, two, or more, according to circumstances; that the closure or obstruction of one, must increase the discharge through the others; and conversely, that if to answer some demand, the efflux of nervous energy in one direction is unusually great, there must be a corresponding decrease of the efflux in other directions. Setting out from these premises, let us now see what interpretation is to be put on the phenomena of laughter.

That laughter is a display of muscular excitement, and so illustrates the general law that feeling passing a certain pitch habitually vents itself in bodily action, scarcely needs pointing out. It perhaps needs pointing out, however, that strong feeling of almost any kind produces this result. It is not a sense of the ludicrous, only, which does it; nor are the various forms of joyous emotion the sole additional causes. We have, besides, the sardonic laughter and the hysterical laughter, which result from mental distress; to which must be added certain sensations, as tickling, and, according to Mr. Bain, cold, and some kinds of acute pain.
Strong feeling, mental or physical, being, then, the general cause of laughter, we have to note that the muscular actions constituting it are distinguished from most others by this, that they are purposeless. In general, bodily motions that are prompted by feelings are directed to special 201ends; as when we try to escape a danger, or struggle to secure a gratification. But the movements of chest and limbs which we make when laughing have no object. And now remark that these quasi-convulsive contractions of the muscles, having no object, but being results of an uncontrolled discharge of energy, we may see whence arise their special characters—how it happens that certain classes of muscles are affected first, and then certain other classes. For an overflow of nerve-force, undirected by any motive, will manifestly take first the most habitual routes; and if these do not suffice, will next overflow into the less habitual ones. Well, it is through the organs of speech that feeling passes into movement with the greatest frequency. The jaws, tongue, and lips are used not only to express strong irritation or gratification; but that very moderate flow of mental energy which accompanies ordinary conversation, finds its chief vent through this channel. Hence it happens that certain muscles round the mouth, small and easy to move, are the first to contract under pleasurable emotion. The class of muscles which, next after those of articulation, are most constantly set in action (or extra action, we should say) by feelings of all kinds, are those of respiration. Under pleasurable or painful sensations we breathe more rapidly: possibly as a consequence of the increased demand for oxygenated blood. The sensations that accompany exertion also bring on hard-breathing; which here more evidently responds to the physiological needs. And emotions, too, agreeable and disagreeable, both, at first, excite respiration; though the last subsequently depress it. That is to say, of the bodily muscles, the respiratory are more constantly implicated than any others in those various acts which our feelings impel us to; and, hence, when there occurs an undirected discharge of nervous energy into the muscular system, it happens that, if the quantity be considerable, it convulses not only 202certain of the articulatory and vocal muscles, but also those which expel air from the lungs.

Should the feeling to be expended be still greater in amount—too great to find vent in these classes of muscles—another class comes into play. The upper limbs are set in motion. Children frequently clap their hands in glee; by some adults the hands are rubbed together; and others, under still greater intensity of delight, slap their knees and sway their bodies backwards and forwards. Last of all, when the other channels for the escape of the surplus nerve-force have been filled to overflowing, a yet further and less-used group of muscles is spasmodically affected: the head is thrown back and the spine bent inwards—there is a slight degree of what medical men call opisthotonos. Thus, then, without contending that the phenomena of laughter in all their details are to be so accounted for, we see that in their ensemble they conform to these general principles:—that feeling excites to muscular action; that when the muscular action is unguided by a purpose, the muscles first affected are those which feeling most habitually stimulates; and that as the feeling to be expended increases in quantity, it excites an increasing number of muscles, in a succession determined by the relative frequency with which they respond to the regulated dictates of feeling.
There still, however, remains the question with which we set out. The explanation here given applies only to the laughter produced by acute pleasure or pain: it does not apply to the laughter that follows certain perceptions of incongruity. It is an insufficient explanation that in these cases, laughter is a result of the pleasure we take in escaping from the restraint of grave feelings. That this is a part-cause is true. Doubtless very often, as Mr. Bain says, "it is the coerced form of seriousness and solemnity without the reality that gives us that stiff position from which a contact with triviality or vulgarity relieves us, to our 203uproarious delight." And in so far as mirth is caused by the gush of agreeable feeling that follows the cessation of mental strain, it further illustrates the general principle above set forth. But no explanation is thus afforded of the mirth which ensues when the short silence between the andante and allegro in one of Beethoven's symphonies, is broken by a loud sneeze. In this, and hosts of like cases, the mental tension is not coerced but spontaneous—not disagreeable but agreeable; and the coming impressions to which the attention is directed, promise a gratification that few, if any, desire to escape. Hence, when the unlucky sneeze occurs, it cannot be that the laughter of the audience is due simply to the release from an irksome attitude of mind: some other cause must be sought.

This cause we shall arrive at by carrying our analysis a step further. We have but to consider the quantity of feeling that exists under such circumstances, and then to ask what are the conditions that determine the direction of its discharge, to at once reach a solution. Take a case. You are sitting in a theatre, absorbed in the progress of an interesting drama. Some climax has been reached which has aroused your sympathies—say, a reconciliation between the hero and heroine, after long and painful misunderstanding. The feelings excited by this scene are not of a kind from which you seek relief; but are, on the contrary, a grateful relief from the painful feelings with which you have witnessed the previous estrangement. Moreover, the sentiments these fictitious personages have for the moment inspired you with, are not such as would lead you to rejoice in any indignity offered to them; but rather, such as would make you resent the indignity. And now, while you are contemplating the reconciliation with a pleasurable sympathy, there appears from behind the scenes a tame kid, which, having stared round at the audience, walks up to the lovers and sniffs at them. You cannot help joining 204in the roar which greets this contretemps. Inexplicable as is this irresistible burst on the hypothesis of a pleasure in escaping from mental restraint; or on the hypothesis of a pleasure from relative increase of self-importance, when witnessing the humiliation of others; it is readily explicable if we consider what, in such a case, must become of the feeling that existed at the moment the incongruity arose. A large mass of emotion had been produced; or, to speak in physiological language, a large portion of the nervous system was in a state of tension. There was also great expectation with respect to the further evolution of the scene—a quantity of vague, nascent thought and emotion, into which the existing quantity of thought and emotion was about to pass.
Had there been no interruption, the body of new ideas and feelings next excited, would have sufficed to absorb the whole of the liberated nervous energy. But now, this large amount of nervous energy, instead of being allowed to expend itself in producing an equivalent amount of the new thoughts and emotions which were nascent, is suddenly checked in its flow. The channels along which the discharge was about to take place, are closed. The new channel opened—that afforded by the appearance and proceedings of the kid—is a small one; the ideas and feelings suggested are not numerous and massive enough to carry off the nervous energy to be expended. The excess must therefore discharge itself in some other direction; and in the way already explained, there results an efflux through the motor nerves to various classes of the muscles, producing the half-convulsive actions we term laughter.
This explanation is in harmony with the fact, that when, among several persons who witness the same ludicrous occurrence, there are some who do not laugh; it is because there has arisen in them an emotion not participated in by 205the rest, and which is sufficiently massive to absorb all the nascent excitement. Among the spectators of an awkward tumble, those who preserve their gravity are those in whom there is excited a degree of sympathy with the sufferer, sufficiently great to serve as an outlet for the feeling which the occurrence had turned out of its previous course. Sometimes anger carries off the arrested current; and so prevents laughter. An instance of this was lately furnished me by a friend who had been witnessing the feats at Franconi's. A tremendous leap had just been made by an acrobat over a number of horses. The clown, seemingly envious of this success, made ostentatious preparation for doing the like; and then, taking the preliminary run with immense energy, stopped short on reaching the first horse, and pretended to wipe some dust from its haunches. In the majority of the spectators, merriment was excited; but in my friend, wound up by the expectation of the coming leap to a state of great nervous tension, the effect of the baulk was to produce indignation. Experience thus proves what the theory implies: namely, that the discharge of arrested feelings into the muscular system, takes place only in the absence of other adequate channels—does not take place if there arise other feelings equal in amount to those arrested.

Evidence still more conclusive is at hand. If we contrast the incongruities which produce laughter with those which do not, we at once see that in the non-ludicrous ones the unexpected state of feeling aroused, though wholly different in kind, is not less in quantity or intensity. Among incongruities that may excite anything but a laugh, Mr. Bain instances—"A decrepit man under a heavy burden, five loaves and two fishes among a multitude, and all unfitness and gross disproportion; an instrument out of tune, a fly in ointment, snow in May, Archimedes studying geometry in a siege, and all discordant things; a wolf in 206sheep's clothing, a breach of bargain, and falsehood in general; the multitude taking the law in their own hands, and everything of the nature of disorder; a corpse at a feast, parental cruelty, filial ingratitude, and whatever is unnatural; the entire catalogue of the vanities given by Solomon, are all incongruous, but they cause feelings of pain, anger, sadness, loathing, rather than mirth." Now in these cases, where the totally unlike state of consciousness suddenly produced, is not inferior in mass to the preceding one, the conditions to laughter are not fulfilled. As above shown, laughter naturally results only when consciousness is unawares transferred from great things to small—only when there is what we call a descending incongruity.
And now observe, finally, the fact, alike inferable à priori and illustrated in experience, that an ascending incongruity not only fails to cause laughter, but works on the muscular system an effect of exactly the reverse kind. When after something very insignificant there arises without anticipation something very great, the emotion we call wonder results; and this emotion is accompanied not by an excitement of the muscles, but by a relaxation of them. In children and country people, that falling of the jaw which occurs on witnessing something that is imposing and unexpected, exemplifies this effect. Persons who have been wonder-struck at the production of very striking results by a seemingly inadequate cause, are frequently described as unconsciously dropping the things they held in their hands. Such are just the effects to be anticipated. After an average state of consciousness, absorbing but a small quantity of nervous energy, is aroused without the slightest notice, a strong emotion of awe, terror, or admiration; joined with the astonishment due to an apparent want of adequate causation. This new state of consciousness demands far more nervous energy than that which it 207has suddenly replaced; and this increased absorption of nervous energy in mental changes, involves a temporary diminution of the outflow in other directions: whence the pendent jaw and the relaxing grasp.
One further observation is worth making. Among the several sets of channels into which surplus feeling might be discharged, was named the nervous system of the viscera. The sudden overflow of an arrested mental excitement, which, as we have seen, results from a descending incongruity, must doubtless stimulate not only the muscular system, as we see it does, but also the internal organs; the heart and stomach must come in for a share of the discharge. And thus there seems to be a good physiological basis for the popular notion that mirth-creating excitement facilitates digestion.

Though in doing so I go beyond the boundaries of the immediate topic, I may fitly point out that the method of inquiry here followed, is one which enables us to understand various phenomena besides those of laughter. To show the importance of pursuing it, I will indicate the explanation it furnishes of another familiar class of facts.
All know how generally a large amount of emotion disturbs the action of the intellect, and interferes with the power of expression. A speech delivered with great facility to tables and chairs, is by no means so easily delivered to an audience. Every schoolboy can testify that his trepidation, when standing before a master, has often disabled him from repeating a lesson which he had duly learnt. In explanation of this we commonly say that the attention is distracted—that the proper train of ideas is broken by the intrusion of ideas that are irrelevant. But the question is, in what manner does unusual emotion produce this effect; and we are here supplied with a 208tolerably obvious answer. The repetition of a lesson, or set speech previously thought out, implies the flow of a very moderate amount of nervous excitement through a comparatively narrow channel. The thing to be done is simply to call up in succession certain previously-arranged ideas—a process in which no great amount of mental energy is expended. Hence, when there is a large quantity of emotion, which must be discharged in some direction or other; and when, as usually happens, the restricted series of intellectual actions to be gone through, does not suffice to carry it off; there result discharges along other channels besides the one prescribed: there are aroused various ideas foreign to the train of thought to be pursued; and these tend to exclude from consciousness those which should occupy it.
And now observe the meaning of those bodily actions spontaneously set up under these circumstances. The school-boy saying his lesson, commonly has his fingers actively engaged—perhaps in twisting about a broken pen, or perhaps squeezing the angle of his jacket; and if told to keep his hands still, he soon again falls into the same or a similar trick. Many anecdotes are current of public speakers having incurable automatic actions of this class: barristers who perpetually wound and unwound pieces of tape; members of parliament ever putting on and taking off their spectacles. So long as such movements are unconscious, they facilitate the mental actions. At least this seems a fair inference from the fact that confusion frequently results from putting a stop to them: witness the case narrated by Sir Walter Scott of his school-fellow, who became unable to say his lesson after the removal of the waistcoat-button that he habitually fingered while in class. But why do they facilitate the mental actions? Clearly because they draw off a portion of the surplus nervous excitement. If, as above explained, the quantity of mental 209energy generated is greater than can find vent along the narrow channel of thought that is open to it; and if, in consequence, it is apt to produce confusion by rushing into other channels of thought; then by allowing it an exit through the motor nerves into the muscular system, the pressure is diminished, and irrelevant ideas are less likely to intrude on consciousness.
This further illustration will, I think, justify the position that something may be achieved by pursuing in other cases this method of psychological inquiry. A complete explanation of the phenomena, requires us to trace out all the consequences of any given state of consciousness; and we cannot do this without studying the effects, bodily and mental, as varying in quantity at each other's expense. We should probably learn much if we in every case asked—Where is all the nervous energy gone?


Source:
Project Gutenberg's Illustrations of Universal Progress, by Herbert Spencer
gutenberg.org/files/

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