Familiarization

So far we have contented ourselves with simple exercises of the imagination. Let us now see what part imagination plays and can play in the grasping and remembering of ideas which are new to us.

Suppose that we have to learn the letters of a foreign alphabet, the appearances and names of plants, minerals or persons, the outlines or forms of countries, or other such things, which are new to us. It is exceedingly difficult to remember these unfamiliar things, unless we first make them familiar with the aid of imagination.

In this part of my subject I will follow the excellent teaching of a certain Major Beniowski, who expounded the art of familiarization a century ago. He pointed out that to himself the notion "table" was very familiar, meaning that it had been well or frequently impressed upon his mind and he knew a great many properties and circumstances relating to a table. The notion "elephant," he said, was less familiar. He indicated the familiarity of different things in six degrees, according to the following symbols—

The idea or mental image is represented by the circle, and its degree of familiarity, which will, of course, vary with different persons, according to their various experience, is indicated by the number of radiating lines

Major Beniowski proceeded to give examples from his own mind, conveying the idea of the comparative degree of

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