Abstract: Behavior and Experiment in Social Psychology

Floyd Henry Allport

It is our purpose to present a brief program for the observation of social behavior and the experimental analysis of social response. Social psychology, we may say, studies responses which are conditioned in whole or in part by the social environment. These responses are either (1) caused by social stimuli, or (2) influenced by social stimuli.

A social stimulus may be defined as the stimulation resulting from some movement, sound, gesture, or attitude of another individual of the same or somewhat closely related species. Social and individual psychology, from the genetic viewpoint, show a close interpenetration through gesture, language and thought. In practice however it is possible to separate them by distinguishing between social and non-social stimuli.

The direct response to a social stimulus occurs at least as low in the animal scale as the arthropoda. It achieves great importance in the behavior of primates, giving rise to responses which might be termed "social intelligence." This type of action Prof. G. H. Mead has effectively characterized as a "conversation of attitudes."

The response influenced by a social stimulus has been experimentally studied by the writer under conditions of co-working, co-feeling, co-thinking, etc. The individual in the group performed the same sort of task that the others were doing, or he experienced the same feeling or suggestion. The results indicate an important set of influences of the group upon the general attitude of the subject toward his task. There are to be noted (1) a facilitation of movement, (2) a compulsion toward haste at the expense of quality,(3) an objective direction of attention, (4) experiences of rivalry,

(76) and (5) an important attitude toward social conservatism in the returning of judgments.

The direct response to social stimulus means the assumption of an attitude or disposition toward reaction of a given type; the response influenced by social stimuli is evinced by a modification of the subjects general attitude. Progress in social psychology as an empirical science demands Observations and experimental analysis of both these forms of influence of the group. To understand the crowd we must first learn the social behavior of the individual.


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