"Interesting ideas stick in the mind by the associations which give them interest."

— Bagehot, William (1826-1877)

April, 1871
"Interesting ideas stick in the mind by the associations which give them interest."
Metaphor in Context
And upon this theory we perceive why the four tendencies to irrational conviction which I have set down, survive, and remain in our adult hesitating state as vestiges of our primitive all-believing state. They are all from various causes "adhesive" states--states which it is very difficult to get rid of, and which, in consequence, have retained their power of creating belief in the mind, when other states, which once possessed it too, have quite lost it. Clear ideas are certainly more difficult to get rid of than obscure ones. Indeed, some obscure ones we cannot recover, if we once lose them. Everybody, perhaps, has felt all manner of doubts and difficulties in mastering a mathematical problem. At the time, the difficulties seemed as real as the problem, but a day or two after a man has mastered it, he will be wholly unable to imagine or remember where the difficulties were. The demonstration will be perfectly clear to him, and he will be unable to comprehend how any one should fail to perceive it. For life he will recall the clear ideas, but the obscure ones he will never recall, though for some hours, perhaps, they were painful, confused, and oppressive obstructions. Intense ideas are, as every one will admit, recalled more easily than slight and weak ideas. Constantly impressed ideas are brought back by the world around us, and if they are so often, get so tied to our other ideas that we can hardly wrench them away. Interesting ideas stick in the mind by the associations which give them interest. All the minor laws of conviction resolve themselves into this great one: "That at first we believe all which occurs to us--that afterwards we have a tendency to believe that which we cannot help often occurring to us, and that this tendency is stronger or weaker in some sort of proportion to our inability to prevent the recurrence". When the inability to prevent the recurrence of the idea is very great, so that the reason is powerless on the mind, the consequent "conviction" is an eager, irritable, and ungovernable passion.
William Bagehot, "On the Emotion of Conviction," from The Contemporary Review vol. 17 (1871): 32-40. <Link to Google Books>

Text from The Liberty Fund
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.