Review of Elements of Social Psychology by Herbert Gurnee
Luther Lee Bernard
Social psychology, as every sociologist knows, was first developed by the social science people as a means of interpreting social processes with the aid of psychology. For a long time the psychologists shied away from it, preferring to develop their subject in the direction of biology rather than toward sociology. While several texts with the sociological slant were appearing, only two social psychologies from the psychological viewpoint—those by McDougall and Allport—won any noteworthy recognition. But now that the psychologists have gained administrative control of social psychology in many universities—mainly because "social" is an adjective and "psychology" is a noun—the psychologists themselves have begun, under publisher stimulus, to produce a considerable number of texts. The title at the head of this review belongs to the exhibit, and may be counted among the better of those with the psychological emphasis.
This text illustrates quite well the preference of the psychologists for the biological over the sociological interpretation. That is, of course, a matter of their training. Many psychologists have not yet gone west of the Hudson, i.e., they have not discovered sociology. Gurnee gives many anonymous evidences of having made excursions into this land, but he has left almost no landmarks to show where he has been. In chapters xi to xiv, inclusive, he crowds together many observations and generalizations regarding group behavior, crowds, leadership, social misconduct, art standards and appreciation, and religious phenomena. These are but fragmentary, however, in comparison with his treatment of the individual, his learning processes, motivations, motions, temperaments, personality traits, language, suggestion, and social attitudes. There is a very good chapter on methods usable in social psychology, but there is no marked connection between this chapter and the rest of the book. He defines the field of social psychology as the study of adjustment behavior, as do the behavioristic sociologists. The chapter on learning is excellent. He treats motivation like a denatured instinctivist, which I think he is, having been formerly a student of McDougall, to whom he often refers, but mainly without point. He fights shy
( 830) of the term instinct, but is careful not to commit himself. The chapters on emotion and temperament are moderately good, that on language better, and those on suggestion and social attitudes rather mediocre.
The book as a whole lacks "grasp" or breadth of vision and is much better in details than in its general outlook upon the field. This is perhaps a general criticism to be applied to social psychologies written from the individual psychology point of view. They have not learned to see psycho-social processes very well. The two Alports, Binet, Freud, Katz, May, McDougall, and Thurstone are most frequently cited. Even Bergson, LeBon, Tarde, and Trotter come in for mention in the text. But Faris, Folsom, Krueger, Reckless, Brown, Bernard, Ross, and Young do not appear in the index. Yet there is very definite evidence that material and viewpoint from some of these writers have been used. Such omissions are, however, the general rule among psychological writers of social psychologies. I formerly believed that they were due to a sort of intellectual and laboratory snobbishness on the part of the psychologists—and in some cases they may be—but I now believe that they are usually the result of an inadequate knowledge of the whole field of social psychology. Whereas the sociological writers on social psychology will usually treat the individual as well as the collective aspects of the subject, and meticulously give credit to psychologists and to social scientists alike, the average psychologist is frequently so uncertain of the relative merits of the social scientists that he is afraid to risk citing any of them. Consequently he merely uses their material and says nothing about it. In the final chapter on religious activity the author's lack of familiarity with the social science field is made particularly manifest. He treats religion almost wholly as a subjective and mystical phenomenon, whereas the trend since Durkheim is pre-dominantly toward the social and collective emphasis.