Social Psychology


Floyd Henry Allport

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ONLY within recent years have the psychologists of this country turned their attention seriously toward the social field. With one or two exceptions, the earlier works upon this subject, as well as a number of recent ones, have been written by sociologists. To these writers psychologists owe a debt of gratitude for revealing new and promising opportunities for applying psychological science. Sociological writers, however, have given their attention mainly to the larger aspects, the laws of behavior and consciousness as operative in social groups. In so doing they have naturally adopted as materials the concepts of human nature provided by the older psychologists of good standing. With the recent expansion of psychology and growth of psychological insight, it has become necessary to modify many of these earlier conceptions and to add not a few new ones. Social science has not yet profited by taking account of this advancement, but has lagged behind in its fundamental assumptions regarding human nature. A need has therefore arisen of bringing to the service of those interested in social relationships the most recent psychological investigation and theory. I have written this book as an attempt in the direction of supplying this need. More specifically, there are two main lines of scientific achievement which I have tried to bring within the scope of this volume. These are the behavior viewpoint and the experimental method. A considerable number of psychologists are now regarding their science as one fundamentally, though not exclusively, of behavior. This approach has revealed a wealth of principles for the understanding of human beings —  understanding, that is, in the truest sense, namely, the explanation of their acts. Like every fundamental viewpoint in a science, behaviorism is simply a convenient way of conceiving the facts. Many of its hypotheses are still unproved. Yet, on the whole, it fits the facts so well, and is so replete with possibilities for gaining further knowledge, that it should be of basic value to students of social science.


While the behavior viewpoint has been developing a richer interpretation of the facts, the method of experimentation has been yielding the facts themselves. Psychologists have recently conducted many investigations either social in their setting or suggestive of important social applications. The bearing of these experiments upon social psychology has in some cases been noted; but, so far as I am aware, no attempt has been made to collect them in a systematic way. My second purpose, therefore, has been to fit these experimental findings into their broader setting in social psychology, and to draw from them certain conclusions of value to that science.

In addition to these two main fields of progress, there is a third which deserves especial recognition. I refer to the Freudian contributions to psychology. Notwithstanding its investment in a dogmatism which is repellent to many, psychoanalysis has unearthed facts which are valuable for the understanding of human nature. The bearing of these facts upon social conflict I have discussed in various places throughout the book, and particularly in Chapter XIV.

There are certain innovations in the treatment of the subject for which it may be well to prepare the reader. To one interested primarily in social relations it may seem that I give an unusual amount of space to purely individual behavior. This is in accordance with my purpose, explained in Chapter I, to adhere to the psychological (that is, the individual) viewpoint. For I believe that only within the individual can we find the behavior mechanisms and the consciousness which are fundamental in the interactions between individuals. I have, therefore, postponed until the last chapter almost all the material treated in books which have been written from the sociological viewpoint. If the reader finds that not until the final chapter has he arrived upon familiar ground, I shall venture to hope that his understanding may have been increased through treading the less familiar pathways.

Another deviation will be found in the treatment of instincts. The instinct theory has fulfilled an important mission in discrediting the earlier, mechanical theories of motivation. The notion, however, of complex inherited patterns of behavior is in turn suc-

(vii) cumbing to the process of analysis and closer observation. Some psychologists have, indeed, gone too far in their rejection of instincts, in that they have denied the existence of any definite inborn modes of response. The instinct theory was right in asserting that there is an hereditary basis for behavior; its error lay in its failure to analyze behavior into its elementary components of inheritance and acquisition. The theory of prepotent reactions, developed in Chapter III, aims to combine the virtues and omit the defects of both sides of the controversy.

The book is intended to be used as a text in courses in social psychology and in courses in the various social sciences which give a part of their time to the psychological foundations. I hope also that it may prove of service, not only to college students, but to all who are interested in the social adjustments of individuals and the broader problems of society. For the benefit of those to whom psychology is a new subject, a chapter upon the physiological basis of behavior has been included. Teachers will find it advisable to assign the chapters in the order in which they occur. The closing chapter is to be regarded merely as an outline. It was written primarily to guide the student in his application of the principles of social psychology to sociological questions. It is suggested that, where the book is used for a full year's course, a large portion of the second semester be given to expanding this last chapter with the aid of the references appended. Throughout the course the student should be directed in collecting illustrations and incidents from contemporary social life for the purpose of testing or applying the principles discussed.


For the origin of my interest in social psychology I am indebted to the memory of Hugo Munsterberg. It was he who suggested the setting for my first experiments and who foresaw many of the possibilities which have been developed in this book. To my former teacher and colleague, Professor H. S. Langfeld, my sincere thanks are due for a careful reading of the manuscript and for many valuable criticisms and constructive suggestions. I wish to express equal gratitude to my present colleague, Professor J. F. Dashiell,

(viii) for reading the manuscript and offering effective suggestions concerning the theories advanced. I owe much to my association with Professor W. F. Dearborn and Dr. E. B. Holt, and have used several illustrations derived directly or indirectly from their teaching. In particular, I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to my brother, Dr. G. W. Allport, both for assistance with the manuscript and for stimulating discussions of some of the problems raised. He also kindly furnished me with a number of facts from his own research, of which mention has been made in the text. My thanks are due also to Professor J. F. Steiner for advice regarding the sociological aspects of the last chapter. Valuable comments upon several chapters were given by Miss Ada L. Gould whose kindness I desire gratefully to acknowledge. To our departmental secretary, Mrs. G. Wallace Smith, I am indebted for effective work in preparation of the manuscript, as well as for helpful suggestions in regard to style. The theory of emotion developed in Chapter IV appeared in substantially the same form in the Psychological Review for March, 1922. My thanks are due to the editor of that journal for permission to republish it here. Finally, I wish to thank the various publishers who have given their permission to reproduce certain of the illustrations.

December, 1923


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