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October 17, 1896

A NOTE ON THE PATHOMENTAL EFFECTS OF DEGENERATIVE HABIT.

JAMA. 1896;XXVII(16):842-845. doi:10.1001/jama.1896.02430940012001d

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Abstract

In his play, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Shakespeare makes Valentine say—

"How use doth breed a habit in a man."

In this remark we have an expression of psychological truth, that three centuries of later observation has not been able to gainsay. The disciples of heredity have availed themselves of the apparent effects of habit impression in formulating their creed, employing them as evidence of a double meaning, especially if they were of a degenerate nature. "Evidence here," they would say, "of congenital predisposition, to think and act in lines that enfeeble mind and pervert body." The pessimistic speculations of a Schopenhauer or a Nordau may echo the opinions of medieval prophets of a fate-bound destiny, and find a hearing in a certain class, but the cheerful sunlit view of a better future for him who seeks it earnestly is finding a larger recognition among the sober and thoughtful year

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