Man's physical universe

xanabras

30 THE INTELLIGENT SOLUTION OF PROBLEMS

senses, in part, at least, because they make it possible to isolate observations.

The Reduction of Errors in Observation Is One of the Major Problems

in the Search for Truth.

1. The Senses May Be Made More Reliable through Training.

James G. Taylor {Popular Psychological Fallacies, Watts and Company,

London, 1938) points out that the minimum distance on the back

of the shoulder at which one can discriminate between two points is

nearly two and one-half inches. After a week of practice, however,

one can feel two points at less than one inch apart when placed on either

shoulder, although only one shoulder has been used in practice. It

appears that practice is just as important as the number of sense organs

in the skin.

Through training, one may learn how to identify wines by tasting

them, to test teas by sipping them, to test the freshness of eggs by

smelling them, to tune instruments by ear, to match colors by comparison,

or to tell when a batch of steel is ready to be poured by looking

at it.

One of the most important objectives of laboratory work in the

physical sciences is to develop techniques, i.e., the ability to make

accurate observations with different types of instruments.

It is important to remember, however, that practice never makes

perfect and that even the most experienced observers may make mistakes

because the human organism is continually changing.

2. Alertness May Be Increased by Conscious Effort. Scientific

observation is not an aimless gazing at things. It is genuine work

because it

requires nervous energy to be alert not only to the things

for which one is looking or in which one is interested but also to things

in which one is not interested.

Few people even attempt to see what there is present to see because

their interests are restricted. The reason specialists often arrive at

erroneous conclusions is because their interests cause them to select the

observations which they make.

Some people notice the colors or types of clothing displayed in show

windows, whereas other people will notice the lighting arrangements

or the type of construction of the building. Still others may be so

absorbed in their thoughts that they will walk right into the window.

No wonder that a group of people cannot agree in their description of

an accident which every member of the group has witnessed.

In spite of the determination to do so, no one can be alert to everything

that goes oh around him, and every man will be influenced by his

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