IMBECILITY (from Lat. imbecillitas, weak ness, from imbecillus. weak). (1) Mental weak ness or defect. Imbecility and idiocy are compara tive terms. They are both states due to similar processes, consisting of imperfect development of the brain, and due to congenital influences or acquired injury or disease. (See IDIOCY.) Thus it is almost impossible to determine the dividing line that separates an idiot from an imbecile, and such differentiation may entail much study and careful following of the mental development. In general understanding, an idiot is unable to at tend to the simple primary affairs of his organi zation. An imbecile is able to attend to these. At the other end of the scale the imbecile shades into the normal average human mind by imper ceptible gradations, and it may be just as diffi cult to separate the imbecile from weak-minded, dull, and stupid individuals as it is to separate the idiots from imbeciles. There are large num bens of weak-minded, useless persons in every COMM unity ".0 ho differ from the more robust in tellects solely in degree. But the more marked and recognizable imbecility is characterized by many of the following signs: The vacant expres sion, (lull senses, small head, deformed body, vacil lating and restleus gait; pendent, thrown back, or agitated head; escaping saliva, limited and infantile language. The ideas may be few, and consist of mere sensuous impressions; the temper, timid, facile, and vain; and the passions are little susceptible of control. The affection has
been regarded as general, or involving the whole mind; or as partial, when the intellect only, or the sentiments only, or a particular faculty, may be feeble and ineducable.
(2) As a generic legal term, a weakness of mind falling short of idiocy (q.v.) on the one hand and full mental capacity to contract or to distinguish between right and wrong on the other. The victim of imbecility, using the word in this sense, is not absolutely incapable of binding him self by contract or of committing crime. If his weakness is taken advantage of by another, any contract or conveyance so secured may be set aside, but the mere fact that a man is of weak understanding, or that his intellectual capacity is below the average of mankind, if no fraud, or no undue advantage he taken, is not of itself an adequate ground to set aside a transaction. It should be added that a lower degree of intelli gence is required for a valid will than a business contract or conveyance. In various jurisdictions imbeciles are more or less protected against the fraud of others or their own acts of indiscretion by placing them more or less under the control of others, as in Scotland by interdiction, or by the appointment of a committee or guardian, See INTERDICTION; COMMITTEE; GUARDIAN; also see IDIOCY; INSANITY; LUNACY; and the au thorities there referred to.