LAWS OF CONNECTIONS, • We now proceed to our second object (§ 18), 'viz. to point out and illustrate some of the leading laws of that class of associations which we term connections ; premising that many of the observations which follow are, as the reader will rea dily perceive, equally applicable to that class which we term compositions.— These laws regard, 1. The strength of connections ; 2. The disunion of connec tions; 3. The formation of connections by means of intermediate links (which we may call the law of transference) ; and 4. Habitual biases to particular kinds of connections.
1. The Strength of Connections.
31. The strength and durability of con nections depend partly upon the degree of attention with which the connected senso rial changes have been attended, and part ly upon the frequency with which they have recurred in connection ; less gene rally, partly upon the vividness of the con nected ideas ; and partly upon the fre quency with which the connected ideas, or muscular actions, have recurred in con nection.—We may adduce, as an illustra tion of the former cause of strength and durability, that circumstances of a light and trivial nature, which have occurred while our minds were occupied with sub jects of a strongly pleasing nature, form no connection with the concurring train of ideas, even if the attention were drawn off by them. For instance, suppose we were attending to an interesting discourse, if our attention were for a moment called off by the coughing of a person near us, the train of thought suggested by the sermon Would form no connection with the cause of the interruption, and it would pass in the mind without the idea of the interrup tion being introduced. But suppose a poor than to have fallen down in a fit of apoplexy, the circumstance would strongly interest our sympathy and excite our attention ; many feelings would be brought into ac tive exercise ; and the ideas which were at that time in the view of the mind, would probably ever after present with them those of the scene which so strongly af fected us.—llence the importance that those who have the care of education, should seize the happy moments when circumstances have peculiarly interested the mind, to connect with them those re. lated maxims of prudence, benevolence, and piety, which so introduced may have a lasting effect in regulating the disposi tion ; but which, brought in a form less interesting, will have no permanent bond of union, and will soon be obliterated.— Hence, too, the importance of instilling into the mind those principles which are designed to have a constant operation in the thoughts, and feelings, and actions, of life, in such a form that they shall become connected with those thoughts and feel ings which have already a firm hold on the mind, and thus be brought into view and excited into action much more frequently and uniformly.--The effect of frequent re currence in producing strength and dura. bility of association, may be best explain ed by the associations which take place between words and their corresponding ideas. These connections are not in ge
neral attended with any particular cause of association, except frequency of recur rence, and therefore they are the most un exceptionable instances. Now, other things being equal, we find that those words which are most frequently called up in the mind in connection with the ideas to which they belong, have a closer connection with those ideas ; that is, the idea suggests the word, and the word sug gests the idea, with greater certainty, and the association is more permanent. The following remarks of Dr. Percival will il lustrate this general principle. " Slight paralytic affections of the organs of speech," says the doctor, " sometimes occur without any corresponding disorder of the other parts of the body. Hence the effort to speak succeeds the volition of the mind slowly and imperfectly, and words are uttered with faltering and he sitation. These are facts of common no toriety : but I have never seen it remark ed, that in these local palsies the pro nunciation of proper names is attended with peculiar difficulty ; and that the re collection of them becomes very obscure, or is entirely obliterated, while the recol lection of persons, places, and things, re mains unchanged. This confirms the theory of associations, and at the same time admits of an easy solution by it. For as words are arbitrary marks, and owe their connection with what they impart to established usage, the strength of this connection will be exactly proportioned to the frequency of their recurrence, and this recurrence must be more frequent with specific terms." 33. Besides these two universally ope• rating causes of the strength and durabi lity of association, it is proper to observe, that they depend also upon the predispo tion of the mind, the habitual bias of thought and feeling, and the prevailing cast of the associations already formed. This may in some part be resolved into the first cause, the degree of vividness of the connected ideas ; but in part it must be considered as separate. Where there are associations of a contrary tendency, the production of the new association im plies the destruction of the old one ; and hence it is that persons who have passed the prime of lite, feel it so exceedingly difficult to acquire new associations which are in opposition to those long formed. Hence it is that all those improper biases of thought and feeling, which oppose the best regulation of thought and feeling, should be carefully shunned; all those associations carefully prevented, which lead the mind away from God and duty, or which simply check the reception of those which accord with the dictates of religion. They do more than directly in jure by their own existence ; they injure, also, and this in no small degree, by pre venting the formation of those associations which directly prompt to the course which duty points out.