Psychologie. Wien u. Prag. 1897.
operations which only served to show that the woman had merely imagined it all. A similar case is that of a man who believed himself to have swallowed his false teeth. He even had serious feelings of choking which immediately disappeared on the discovery of the teeth under his night-table. A prominent oculist told me that he had once treated for some time a famous scholar because the latter so accurately described a weakening of the retina that the physician, in spite of his objective discoveries, was deceived and learned his mistake only when it appeared that the great scholar fortunately had been made game of by his own imagination. Maudsley tells how Baron von Swieten once saw burst a rotten corpse of a dog, and, for years after, saw the same thing whenever he came to the same place. Many people, Goethe, Newton, Shelley, William Black, and others, were able completely to visualize past images. Fechner tells of a man who claimed voluntarily to excite anywhere on his skin the feeling of pressure, heat, and cold, but not of cut, prick or bruise, because such imaginations tended to endure a long time. There is the story of another man who had a three days' pain in his finger because he had seen his child crush an analogous finger.
Abercrombie tells of an otherwise very excitable person who believed in the reality of the luck that a fortune-teller had predicted for him, and some authorities hold that practically everybody who eagerly awaits a friend hears his step in every sound. Hoppe's observation that pruritus vulv
Taine describes the splendid scene in which Balzac once told Mad. de Girardin that he intended to give Sandeau a horse. He did not do so, but talked so much about it that he used to ask Sandeau how the horse was. Taine comments that it is clear that the starting point of such an illusion is a voluntary fiction. The person
in question knows it as such in the beginning but forgets it at the end. Such false memories are numerous among barbarous peoples and among raw, untrained, and childish minds. They see a simple fact; the more they think of it the more they see in it; they magnify and decorate it with environing circumstances, and finally, unite all the details into a whole in memory. Then they are unable to distinguish what is true from what is not. Most legends develop in this way. A peasant assured Taine that he saw his sister's soul on the day she died,--though it was really the light of a brandy bottle in the sunset.
In conclusion, I want to cite a case I have already mentioned, which seems to me significant. As student I visited during vacation a village, one of whose young peasant inhabitants had gone to town for the first time in his life. He was my vacation play-mate from earliest childhood, and known to me as absolutely devoted to the truth. When he returned from his visit, he told me of the wonders of the city, the climax of which was the menagerie he had visited. He described what he saw very well, but also said that he had seen a battle between an anaconda and a lion. The serpent swallowed the lion and then many Moors came and killed the serpent. As was immediately to be inferred and as I verified on my return, this battle was to be seen only on the advertising posters which are hung in front of every menagerie. The lad's imagination had been so excited by what he had seen that day that the real and the imagined were thoroughly interfused. How often may this happen to our witnesses!
If the notion of imagination is to be limited to the activity of representation, we must class under it the premonitions and forewarnings which are of influence not only among the uneducated. Inasmuch as reliable observations, not put together a posteriori, are lacking, nothing exact can be said about them. That innumerable assertions and a semi-scientific literature about the matter exists, is generally familiar. And it is undeniable that predictions, premonitions, etc., may be very vivid, and have considerable somatic influence. Thus, prophecy of approaching death, certain threats or knowledge of the fact that an individual's death is being prayed for, etc., may have deadly effect on excited people. The latter superstition especially, has considerable influence. Praying for death, etc., is aboriginal. It has been traced historically into the twelfth century and is made use of today. Twelve years ago I was told of a case in which an old lady was killed because an enemy of hers had the
death-mass read for her. The old lady simply died of fright. In some degree we must pay attention to even such apparently remote questions.
Section 106. (I) Verbal Misunderstandings.
Here too it is not possible to draw an absolutely definite boundary between acoustic illusions and misunderstandings. Verbally we may say that the former occur when the mistake, at least in its main characteristic, is due to the aural mechanism. The latter is intended when there is a mistake in the comprehension of a word or of a sentence. In this case the ear has acted efficiently, but the mind did not know how to handle what had been heard and so supplements it by something else in connection with matter more or less senseless. Hence, misunderstandings are so frequent with foreign words. Compare the singing of immigrant school children, ``My can't three teas of tea'' for ``My country 'tis of thee,'' or ``Pas de lieu Rhone que nous'' with ``Paddle your own canoe.''