William James, "The Principles of Psychology"
William James, The Principles of Psychology, Volume I, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 18901 2
pp. 647-648, Chapter XVI: “Memory”:
When we have been exposed to an unusual stimulus for many minutes or hours, a nervous process is set up which results in the haunting of consciousness by the impression for a long time afterwards. The tactile and muscular feelings of a day of skating or riding, after long disuse of the exercise, will come back to us all through the night. Images of the field of view of the microscope will annoy the observer for hours after an unusually long sitting at the instrument. A thread tied around the finger, an unusual constriction in the clothing, will feel as if still there, long after they have been removed. These revivals (called phenomena of Sinnesgedächtniss by the Germans) have something periodical in their nature. They show that profound rearrangements and slow settlings into a new equilibrium are going on in the neural substance, and they form the transition to that more peculiar and proper phenomenon of memory, of which the rest of this chapter must treat. The first condition which makes a thing susceptible of recall after it has been forgotten is that the original impression of it should have been prolonged enough to give rise to a recurrent image of it, as distinguished from one of those primary after-images which very fleeting impressions may leave behind, and which contain in themselves no guarantee that they will ever come back after having once faded away. A certain length of stimulation seems demanded by the inertia of the nerve-substance. Exposed to a shorter influence, its modification fails to ‘set,’ and it retains no effective tendency to fall again into the same form of vibration at which the original feeling was due. This, as I said at the outset, may be the reason why only ‘substantive’ and not ‘transitive’ states of mind are as a rule recollected, at least as independent things. The transitive states pass by too quickly.