2434 James, William (18421910)

aspirations to success. When formulated in this
ratio, self esteem is low when a person has many
aspirations to success and few actual successes,
and high when a person has many successes and
few aspirations. As a result, self esteem can be
heightened by success or by lowering aspira
tions for success. Charles Cooley and many
modern theorists elaborated this concept.
A related and important, but often over
looked, principle regarding consciousness,
motivation, and conduct developed by James
that bespeaks his principle of ideo motivation
asserts that people will act on the basis of that
image or idea that comes to the forefront of
consciousness. According to this principle,
whether or not a particular idea comes to the
forefront of consciousness and thereby becomes
a matter for thought and discrimination and a
means of directing conduct will be a function of
the intensity of the sensations associated with
that particular idea or image. Due to appercep
tion, all are accompanied by sensations, and
James divides the ideas and images that compose
consciousness into two types, those associa
ted with instincts and drives, and those drawn
from society. The values and beliefs drawn from
society are emotion laden ideas. Paralleling
Freuds discussion of the superego, James
underscores how as part of the spiritual self
these ideas direct conduct in prosocial ways.
However, he notes that because instincts are
associated with survival, they are also associated
with strong sensations, and that when survival is
at stake, an idea associated with an instinct, be it
hunger, thirst, sex, or fear, may dominate con
sciousness and cognition and preempt the Social
and Spiritual Me, and lead to conduct that is
asocial and amoral.
According to James, consciousness is com
posed of ideas about the world and the self.
Whether or not a particular idea or image will
dominate consciousness and become the basis
of cognition, perception, and motivation will be
influenced by the strength of the sensations
associated with it, the relative influence of
instinct, society, the proper functioning of the
central nervous system and the self, and the
situation at hand. Consciousness, cognition,
and the self are influenced by a variety of
factors, but people think, make decisions, and
act on the basis of intention and will. For
James, will or will power, rather than
being an amorphous metaphysical concept, is
simply the individuals conscious attempt to
keep certain ideas at the forefront of conscious
ness and thereby control her or his conduct. As
to the issue of free will, Jamess parallelism
and functionalism, along with his conception of
the self, implicitly imply that will is constrained
by the functioning or dysfunctioning of the
central nervous system and the nature, devel
opment, and health of the self.
While it does not often get the attention that
the I, the Me, and self esteem receive, Jamess
concept of Soul is crucially important because
it is the Soul that facilitates the interaction of
the I and the Me. As defined by James, the
Soul is that part of the I (the knower and
thinker) that, as part of the stream of con
sciousness, functions as an ongoing, combining
medium that allows for change and growth
while maintaining continuity and a consistent
sense of identity and self. While this concept is
somewhat vague, it necessarily refers to the
capacity of the individual to feel, know, learn,
develop, and change. This ability to change yet
maintain a continuous sense of identity is made
possible by memory, learning, cognition, sensa
tion, and, most importantly, the human use of
language, all of which allow people to acquire
new understandings of themselves and the
world they live in, and selectively discard and
forget older, inappropriate views. In terms of
Jamess parallelism and functionalism, this is
made possible by the central nervous system
and the self awareness that consciousness
affords. However, as emphasized by James, the
central nervous system, the Me(s), the Soul, and
consciousness are subject to illness and aberra
tions that may lead to mental illness and human
In Principles of Psychology, James analyzes
abnormal behavior in terms of mutations and
multiplications of the self. These aberrations
may be caused by alterations of memory brought
about by changes, defects, or damage to the
central nervous system or alterations in the
material, social, and spiritual aspects of self. As
conceptualized, a malady, be it a psychological
problem that arises from a physiological deficit
or a purely psychological problem associated
with a damaged, threatened, or overreactive self,