Direction for Reading Comprehension: The passages given here are followed by some questions that have four answer choices; read the passage carefully and pick the option whose answer best aligns with the passage.

Today we can hardly conceive of ourselves without an unconscious. Yet between 1700 and1900, this notion developed as a genuinely original thought. The "unconscious" burst the shell of conventional language, coined as it had been to embody the fleeting ideas and the shifting conceptions of several generations until, finally, it became fixed and defined in specialized terms within the realm of medical psychology and Freudian psychoanalysis.

The vocabulary concerning the soul and the mind increased enormously in the course of the nineteenth century. The enrichments of literary and intellectual language led to an altered understanding of the meanings that underlie time-honored expressions and traditional catchwords. At the same time, once coined, powerful new ideas attracted to themselves a whole host of seemingly unrelated issues, practices, and experiences, creating a peculiar network of preoccupations that as a group had not existed before. The drawn-out attempt to approach and define the unconscious brought together the spiritualist and the psychical researcher of borderline phenomena (such as apparitions, spectral illusions, haunted houses, mediums, trance, automatic writing); the psychiatrist or alienist probing the nature of mental disease, of abnormal ideation, hallucination, delirium, melancholia, mania; the surgeon performing operations with the aid of hypnotism; the magnetizer claiming to correct the disequilibrium in the universal flow of magnetic fluids but who soon came to be regarded as a clever manipulator of the imagination; the physiologist and the physician who puzzled oversleep, dreams, sleepwalking, anesthesia, the influence of the mind on the body in health and disease; the neurologist concerned with the functions of the brain and the physiological basis of mental life; the philosopher interested in the will, the emotions, consciousness, knowledge, imagination and the creative genius; and, last but not least, the psychologist.

Significantly, most if not all of these practices (for example, hypnotism in surgery or psychological magnetism) originated in the waning years of the eighteenth century and during the early decades of the nineteenth century, as did some of the disciplines (such as psychology and psychical research). The majority of topics too were either new or assumed hitherto unknown colors. Thus, before 1790, few if any spoke, in medical terms, of the affinity between creative genius and the hallucinations of the insane . . .

Striving vaguely and independently to give expression to a latent conception, various lines of thought can be brought together by some novel term. The new concept then serves as a kind of resting place or stocktaking in the development of ideas, giving satisfaction and a stimulus for further discussion or speculation. Thus, the massive introduction of the term unconscious by Hartmann in 1869 appeared to focalize many stray thoughts, affording a temporary feeling that a crucial step had been taken forward, a comprehensive knowledge gained, a knowledge that required only further elaboration, explication, and unfolding in order to bring in a bounty of higher understanding. Ultimately, Hartmann's attempt at defining the unconscious proved fruitless because he extended its reach into every realm of organic and inorganic, spiritual, intellectual, and instinctive existence, severely diluting the precision and compromising the impact of the concept.

Question: 1

All of the following statements may be considered valid inferences from the passage, EXCEPT:

  1. New conceptions in the nineteenth century could provide new knowledge because of the establishment of fields such as anaesthesiology.

  2. Unrelated practices began to be treated as related to each other, as knowledge of the mind grew in the nineteenth century.

  3. Without the linguistic developments of the nineteenth century, the growth of understanding of the soul and the mind may not have happened.

  4. Eighteenth century thinkers were the first to perceive a connection between creative genius and insanity.

Option: 1

This question apparently looks tough because it has the phrase "valid inferences... except". Option 2 can be inferred from the entire second paragraph. From the first paragraph we can infer 3. From the last sentence of second last paragraph we can infer 4. Thus 1 is the best choice, as we don't have any evidence for 1.

Question: 2

Which one of the following sets of words is closest to mapping the main arguments of the passage?

  1. Language; Unconscious; Psychoanalysis.

  2. Unconscious; Latent conception; Dreams.

  3. Literary language; Unconscious; Insanity.

  4. Imagination; Magnetism; Psychiatry.

Option: 1

The question asks us to pick the choice that is closest to mapping the main arguments of the passage. We have to ensure that the three ideas have significant presence in the passage, precisely in the order in which they have come in the passage. Here we can mark the answer by looking at the first word of each choice. The first paragraph and the first few lines of second paragraph talk about how the word unconscious burst the shell of conventional language. This makes choice 1 our best bet. Literary language, in choice 3, is different from language, while the latter means language in general, the former means "highly stylized language". Thus literary language is not the author's idea; it is how the word unconscious burst the shell of conventional language, not literary language.

Latent conception in option 2, and magnetism in option 4 make those choices irrelevant.

Question: 3

Which one of the following statements best describes what the passage is about?

  1. The collating of diverse ideas under the single term: unconscious.

  2. The identification of the unconscious as an object of psychical research.

  3. The discovery of the unconscious as a part of the human mind.

  4. The growing vocabulary of the soul and the mind, as diverse processes.

Option: 1

This question is about the central idea of the passage. If we read the passage twice, we get to know that the author is discussing how over a period of almost 200 years, the term unconscious brought within itself a wide range of related, interconnected things, ideas and concepts. This is precisely what option 1 talks about. In option 2 the phrase "psychical research" is not the core idea of the passage. It might be a small issue of a broad framework, but not the central theme.

Instead of the discovery of the unconscious, it is the evolution of the term unconscious and the various things that fall under it, that is the concern of the passage.

The growing vocabulary is again not the broad idea. It might be factually correct in the context of the passage, but it is not the main idea. The main idea occupies bulk of the passage.

Question: 4

"The enrichments of literary and intellectual language led to an altered understanding of the meanings that underlie time-honored expressions and traditional catchwords." Which one of the following interpretations of this sentence would be closest in meaning to the original?

  1. Time-honored expressions and traditional catchwords were enriched by literary and intellectual language.

  2. The meanings of time-honored expressions were changed by innovations in literary and intellectual language.

  3. All of the options listed here.

  4. Literary and intellectual language was altered by time-honored expressions and traditional catchwords.

Option: 2

To answer this question there is no need to read the passage. The question simply asks you to choose an option that is closest in meaning to the sentence given in the question. 

The sentence has three important words: enrichments of literary language.... led to an....altered understanding of ...the meanings that underlie traditional catchwords.

We have to choose an option that closely resembles this. 1 looks good, but it is not as close as 2 is. If you compare 1 and 2, you will see that 1 misses on "enrichment of literary language”. It also distorts the meaning. The time honoured expressions were not enriched, their meanings were changed or altered. 2 is the best choice.

Option 4 states the exact opposite.

CAT 2021 RC passage with solution