Review of Social Psychology by F. H. Allport

Luther Lee Bernard

Professor Allport has made the most distinctive contribution to the growing list of textbooks on social psychology which has yet appeared. In one sense it may be said to be the only social psychology yet written, for it is the only textbook which sticks rigorously to the viewpoint that social psychology is the psychology of the individual behaving in and with reference to social situations. Whether we agree with the proposition that it is the only social psychology, strictly speaking, depends on the definition of that subject. If we assume that social psychology is a special phase of individual psychology, the assertion is entirely capable of being defended.

Professor Allport is decidedly consistent in his viewpoint regarding the scope of the science of social psychology. It is the consciousness of the individual that is being studied in social psychology as well as in individual psychology. " There is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of individuals. . . . There is likewise no consciousness except that belonging to individuals." In this contention he is undoubtedly sound. In his first chapter he makes war rather strenuously against the " group mind " fallacy, and those who speak of the collective behavior of groups as if the groups themselves had consciousness and behaved as conscious organisms. He tells us that there is no "crowd mind " or " collective, or class, mind." All of the other social psychologists would doubtless agree with him in regard to this proposition. Where, then, is the difficulty, where is the conflict of views?

The conflict is only an apparent one. When analyzed, it disappears. Professor Allport is concerned with different subject matters than the other writers on social psychology. The latter have approached the subject from the sociological and the anthropological angles. They have been concerned with the explanation of sociological phenomena in psychological terminology. This can be said of Professor Cooley in his Human Nature and the Social Order less

( 286) than of any of the other writers, but it is true (if the latter part of that book and also of his Social Organization. These books have had the problem of accounting for collective or group phenomena, and they have for the most part taken over the terminology which applies properly to the behavior of the individual and have applied it to uniformities of behavior in groups as wholes. Hence, the group fallacy.

Professor Allport, on the other hand, like the psychologist he is, has begun at the individual behavior end, and has attempted to explain the behavior of individuals in groups and in other social contacts. Ultimately, it would seem, the social psychologists with the sociological interest must build upon work of the type Allport is doing. Doubtless they would have been willing to do this, if such work had existed when they wrote. But social psychology did not begin in that way. It was initially the product of the social sciences groping for some explanation of collective behavior in the terminology of antecedent sciences before those antecedent sciences were equipped to offer the information and terminology required of them. This sort of premature demand of the social sciences, especially of sociology, upon antecedent sciences has occurred with reference to biology almost as insistently as with reference to psychology. And biology has been as little prepared to make an adequate answer in terms of theory. But,& error which arose out of the premature demands of sociology and education upon biology was a very different one from that which occurred in connection with the demands of sociology upon psychology. Sociology asked of biology an explanation of the behavior of the individual and received the theory of instincts. Biology had not adequately studied human behavior, and its reply, made from the standpoint of the biologists' researches in connection with lower forms of life, proved erroneous. In this case the sociologists and the psychologists corrected the biologists' error in revising the theory of instincts as it applied to human behavior. But in the other case the sociologists themselves made the error of misapplying psychological terminology, and it remained for the psychologists to correct this error. The work of Allport in offering a new approach to the study of collective behavior will be adequately appreciated by the sociologists and they will make use of it fully for this purpose.

Allport's definition of social psychology as " the science which studies the behavior of the individual in so far as his behavior stimulates other individuals, or is itself a reaction to their behavior; and which describes the consciousness of the individual in so far as it is a

( 287) consciousness of social objects and social reactions," has aroused some controversy and criticism. Does this definition assume that it is not the province of social psychology (as Allport understands that team) to study the behavior of groups ? The reviewer does not understand that Allport would make any such contention, although he would probably prefer to speak of the behavior of men in groups. In fact, in his last chapter he does undertake analyses, rather brief to be sure, of collective aspects of behavior, and I believe it is no secret that he intends at some time to produce a second volume which will carry his analyses further in this direction.

The reviewer has spent so much time on questions of scope and method because most criticism of this book has been directed against these points. Allport has himself definitely raised the issue in his first chapter, as well as in other writings. I believe the difficulty has been exaggerated. The problem is primarily one of the adjustment of terminology and of causing the two extremes of social psychology represented by Allport and the sociological writers of social psychology to make connections on a common ground between. This is another one of those cases in which the first stages of the analysis of the subject came after what should have been, logically, the later stages of the development of the science. This was so because there was, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries an overwhelmingly insistent demand for sociological analysis to make clear to men the meaning of their society and of the social forms and processes in which they found themselves involved.

Of the plan of treatment of the book—within the limits set for himself by the author—there has been but little criticism and, I think, rightly. Some have found fault with his " prepotent impulses," under cover of which they claim to find the old instincts hiding. I do not understand this to be the case. Where lie conceives of the prepotent impulses as native he undoubtedly thinks of them as reflexes and as physiological conditions which render the organism active. The environment is by no means disregarded. However, one sometimes wonders just how clearly he sees the influence of environmental pat-terns in determining what impulses are to be released and what ones repressed.

The treatments of emotion and of the organization of the personality are among the strongest assets of the book. Much of his work as a psychologist has been in the field of analyzing and measuring personality traits. His classification is one of the best and his sug-

( 288) -gestions for personality analysis and control are very clear and practical, as well as sound. The slight leaning toward some of the interpretations of the psychoanalysts has been criticised, but the reviewer believes more on the basis of prejudice than of fact. It would be very surprising if psychoanalysts had not made some valuable practical observations as a result of their intimate contacts with cases of neurosis, however poor their theoretical explanations may be. Professor Allport has not accepted, any of this theory uncritically.

The emphasis in this book upon language as a means of social stimulation is entirely in keeping with the better and more recent tendencies in social psychology. The emphasis upon language has previously been largely from the sociological and anthropological standpoints. Its importance for social psychology is now beginning to be seen. The development of social psychology in the future will probably be more rather than less strikingly in this direction.

Other modes and forms of contact—sympathy, imitation, suggestion, laughter—come in for analysis. In common with most psychological writers, Professor Allport sees little justification for the retention of the concept of imitation. Psychologically he is doubtless correct in believing that the phenomena of imitation can be distributed to other categories. But sociologically the concept is still very useful. In fact it is, and always has been, a sociological concept and grew up because of its use in the science of sociology. Perhaps Professor Allport would not deny this, but would reply that he has written a social Psychology, not a sociology. Much of the feeling of irritation of the sociologists toward this book is doubtless due to the way in which the author ignores or contends against sociological concepts. If there were more clearness with regard to the delimitations of the two fields much of this irritation would perhaps disappear.

The analysis of the attitudes built up in individuals under the influence of group stimuli is, the reviewer believes, the best composite presentation in the literature of social psychology, although it might well be greatly expanded.

The book is a very marked contribution to the literature of the field and sets a standard which must be lived up to by future writers. But, as the writer himself probably recognizes, it covers only one aspect of the general subject. It does not go beyond the account of behavior patterns in individuals. It does not offer an adequate

( 289) account of how individuals behave collectively. Perhaps a second volume from the same writer will do this. Or, will the sociologists take the cue and supply this omission? As it stands, it is a textbook for classes in psychology rather than for classes in social psychology in departments of sociology.



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