Recent Discussion Regarding Social Psychology
Luther Lee Bernard
Recent discussion in social psychology has emphasized especially the social situation as the primary determinant of the behavior treated in social psychology and has turned attention to the behaviorist point of view, which stresses the physiological and neurological mechanisms underlying the conditioned response to psycho-social stimuli. The social-interactionist school of social psychology has countered with a re-emphasis upon the symbolic and communicatory processes and also with a methodological pro-test against mere mechanical measurement and testing at the expense of sociological interpretation and sympathetic insight. Both schools have contributed toward the growth of an autonomous science of social psychology.
It is now a third of a century since the first textbooks in social psychology appeared, and it would seem to be opportune to review some of the more recent discussions regarding the methods and content of this subject. Space will not permit a complete review covering the last thirty-three years. Elsewhere (14, 15, 16) the present writer has summarized the development and trends in social psychology up to approximately the time at which the present paper takes its start. In these articles it was pointed out that the planes-and-currents school represented by Ross (37) and the instinctivist school of McDougall (32) had largely receded before the school which attempts to describe the growth of the personality in a social adjustment situation and that the social situation conditions the behavior responses which so largely constitute the socially developed personality (3, 11, 23, 24). These two emphases have grown steadily in importance since the time the three articles by the present writer were published, and systematic treatises on the personality (4, 39, 44) have begun to appear as special studies in the general field of social psychology. Some conceive the personality as an isolated field of behavior, and others emphasize the social factors producing the behavior integrations which we call personality.
The most striking development of social psychology in recent
( 14) years has been in the direction of emphasis upon the social situation that produces those adjustment responses in the individual which constitute the chief content of personality. The first texts in the field represented diametrically opposite emphases in this respect. Ross (37), following the French and Italian schools of collective psychology, made collective behavior his almost exclusive theme. He gave us practically no insight into the personalities that participated in what he called "social planes and currents," or collective behavior. On the other hand, McDougall (32) was basically concerned with what went on inside the individual in a social situation. Instead of deriving this behavior from conditioning by environmental stimuli operating in adjustment situations, he sought to produce the social environment or culture from the native social traits of the individual. No one but the psychoanalysts any longer gives credence to this theory of control by instincts, and even they would appear to consider their basic instinct patterns to be the result of experience rather than of direct inheritance. While collective psychology is not now ignored, it has suffered somewhat of an eclipse in the effort of the social psychologists to discover the mechanisms of collective processes in the individual rather than in the social whole. Doubtless major emphasis will again be placed upon the collective processes as discussed by Cooley (24), Ross (37), Martin (33), and Sumner (4o) when the analysis of individual behavior within the collective situation has caught up with the analysis of the collective situation itself.
Trends in this direction of again emphasizing the social situation are already marked, but with chief concentration upon what the social situation does to the behavior of the individual acting in response to that situation. This is, of course, an old point of view for the sociologists, having been exploited by Cooley (24), Mead (34), the present writer (especially in the last two parts of his Introduction to Social Psychology), and by several other later social psychologists following the same general pattern. But this cultural emphasis is relatively new for the psychologists who have written in the field of social psychology. S. L. Pressey (35) has recently made some pertinent remarks about the blindness of the old-line psychologists to the influence of the social situation upon individual behavior., He rightly accuses them of snobbishness and their methods of sterility.
( 15) He points out that college students now desire to know how personal efficiency is achieved, not in a vacuum but in real life; how to make adjustments to environments; how to choose vocations; what attitudes and personality traits to develop; and what produces emotional conflicts and criminal or other abnormal conduct. He further analyzes two standard texts in psychology which devote approximately one-third of their space to biological processes and only a few pages to social relations. He shows that they deal largely with animal behavior, fairly fully with child behavior, but almost not at all with adult behavior. As Pressey remarks, such narrowness in psychology is rendering the subject relatively sterile and is driving students into psychiatry, education, sociology, home economics, and other subjects that will handle the social-psychological processes which people need to understand.
In direct contradiction to this disapproved point of view is that expressed by Ralph Berdie (6), who lists the following general types of applied psychologists: clinical psychologists, psychometricians, specialized teachers, industrial, hospital, and school psychologists. All these, with their several subdivisions, he regards as working in the general field of social psychology, although their several subject matters bear the names of specialized types of psychology. Professor Trow (4.1), in an unpublished paper shown to the present writer, classifies educational psychology as an applied aspect of social psychology. In taking this point of view, he is conscious of a shift from the old emphases in his specialty upon measurement over to the technique of teacher–student–subject-matter relationships. He has drawn up a scheme of content for this conception of educational psychology which emphasizes the functional and behavioristic or operational processes involved in his subject matter (41).
Most of the individual psychologists who write in the field of social psychology are now abandoning the old subjective and individualistic approaches and are centering attention upon the social situation in an endeavor to discover what it does to the individual behavior and personality. Thus F. H. Allport states (2) that psycho-physical experimental studies are giving way in large measure to the study of the social situation which produces behavior and to the study of the behavior of the individuals in that situation. J. F.
( 16) Brown declares (22) that the field-theoretical approach in social psychology is chiefly concerned with the conditions under which an event occurs rather than with the enumeration of the characteristics of classes of objects and behavior. Berdie (6) and Pressey (35);.. s we have already seen, are concerned primarily with the behavior of individuals in the process of functional adjustment to environmental situations, and even the tests that Berdie describes are intended to measure such adjustment or the lack of it. f Blumer, in a paper (19) later to be discussed in another connection, implies the same emphasis. Dunham (25) in his analysis of recent work on attitudes also reveals this emphasis. Dunlap (26) would apparently reduce the content of social psychology to an analysis of historical behavior in ahistorical setting. Heidbreder (27) represents McDougall as at one time in his career adopting the Neo-Hegelian concept of group mind(31), but this is by no means identical with what we are describing here. Janus (28) posits culture as described by Tylor as the chief subject matter of social psychology. Lewin (29) states that psychology must handle the group as well as individual behavior processes. Lippitt (30) contends that
the social atmosphere is one of the outstanding characteristics of the total psychological field of the individual. An adequate field-theoretical approach to socio-psychological investigation seems to demand a simultaneous study of the major characteristics of the social field (e.g., properties of the social group) and the adjustment of the particular individual .... to the quasi-social facts of his total life-space [p. 26].
These are discoveries which are doubtless of the first importance for the individual psychologists who have not read Cooley (23) or my own work of 1926 (II), which is definitely and specifically posited upon this thesis.
It is sometimes difficult to tell what the individual psychologists have read perhaps very little outside of what appears in their own and the biological journals and perhaps not always that. For a group of writers to be awakening to a fundamental truth in social psychology almost forty years after it was stated implicitly by Cooley (23) and fifteen years after it was stated explicitly by myself (II) is retardation and isolation with a vengeance. Britt seems to be inclined to the opinion that the individual psychologists are not so
( 17) ignorant of what other people are doing as they seem, but, being a highly competitive and jealous group, that they prefer to rediscover things for themselves, even if somewhat late, rather than give credit to others outside their field who have already emphasized the facts. This tendency toward a certain type of Pharisaism may be observed in numerous absorptions of criticisms of the instinct hypothesis from a work (9) which some of these psychologists at first criticized severely and later ignored bibliographically, although they used its content freely (10). One of the most striking cases of the ignoring of one type of sources appeared in connection with a certain so-called "experimental social psychology" which used a framework of more or less true experiments on which to hang much material that was not of laboratory origin without giving credit to the actual sources from which it was drawn (14).
Evidently the idea of a strictly autonomous science of psychology, and much less of social psychology, is being abandoned. Berdie (6) points out that in a case of child delinquency no one of the psychologists engaged on the case could solve the problem of the cause until they called in a sociologist, who analyzed the social situation and revealed the conditioning factors (p. 554). Heidbreder (27) discloses the fact that one of McDougall's most serious errors was the result of his attempt to make of psychology a strictly autonomous science by establishing purely psychic causation (pp. 155-56). This effort led him, among other things, into the absurdities of his instinct theory, a defense of animism, a teleological approach, and a belief in telepathy. Britt (20) and Janus (28) go so far as to say that social psychology must draw its data from any pertinent source whatever. Vyscheslavzeff (42), like Pressey (35), emphasizes the close interrelationships of all the social sciences with social psychology. The present writer has called attention in a number of instances to the purely relative and incidental character of boundary lines between the sciences (8, 13) and to the fact that sciences arise out of adjustment-problem situations instead of being supernaturally revealed or inherent in the system of the universe (8, 18). It is therefore not a cause for criticism that, as Reuter (36) claims, social psychology in its early stages borrowed largely from other subjects (p. 394). The important fact is that there were some men capable of realizing the
( 18) need for a selected body of data organized around a new and important point of view which could function in the description and control of human behavior in adjustment situations.
Closely connected with these problems of autonomy and jurisdiction, there has recently appeared an article by an adherent of the Chicago school of social psychology attacking other schools or points of view. Reuter, in this article (36), although stating that he is not a social psychologist, seeks to uphold the social-interactionist point of view and to expose to ridicule what he calls the "behaviorist," or neurological, approach. Because he speaks for the former group, his paper may be taken as a convenient basis for one phase of our analysis. Characteristically enough, some of those who do not realize the identity of meaning between "behaviorism" in psychology and "operationalism" in philosophy possess a much greater tolerance for the latter term.
After pointing out some of the confusion in the early growth of social psychology—which might easily be paralleled in the early history of any scientific discipline—which I will not pause here to discuss, Reuter gets down to a so-called "contrast" between what he calls variously the psychological, neurological, and behavioristic school of social psychology, on the one hand, and the sociological or social.-interactionist school, on the other hand. He says that the latter school emphasizes personality development, which, of course, is true, but so also does the former school, which he in some respects misrepresents. If any school of social psychology should dispense with the personality concept, it would cease to be social psychology, and only sociology or something else would be left. He also says (p.300) that the psychological or neurological school is dominated by a modified behaviorism which derives social behavior and personality from reflex responses. In my Social Psychology I have shown (chap. viii) that personality and social behavior are derived from five different types of antecedent behavior patterns and not from reflexes alone, and yet Reuter classes me with this psychological-behavioristic-neurological group. He next says that this school holds that society is only associated individuals, not an organic unity in itself. I believe he is thinking here of some articles by F. H. Allport (1) which exaggerated an old issue, but which were perhaps more nearly cor-
( 19) -rect in viewpoint than the Neo-Hegelian belief that society is itself a living organism and the individual only a shadow or Platonic imperfect phenomenon, which some of the social-interactionists seem to hold. But if Reuter means that this so-called "neurological" school does not recognize the fact that society is a self-sufficing entity prior to the appearance of any particular individual, he should have eliminated me from the classification, for my Social Psychology states specifically the contrary (chaps. v, vi, and xviii), and so do all other social psychologists, except possibly F. H. Allport (3).
Reuter's third proposition (p. 301) is that this school is forced by its own logic to explain how collective, behavior originates from primitive patterns. This atomistic statement entirely misapprehends the viewpoint of the group he criticizes. No one ever claimed to derive all collective patterns from. one single pattern or set of patterns any more than one could derive all variant biological traits from a singly inherited trait. But, just as bisexual breeding produces an infinite variety of traits, so also the association and selection of unlike responses ("conditioning of responses," the behaviorists call it) are capable of developing all the world's inventions, provided the environment furnishes the appropriate stimuli. Reuter's fourth accusation is that this school has so far been the most approved branch of social psychology because of its objective methods, but he claims that it has outlived its usefulness.
Reuter next turns to what he calls the "social-interactionist" school, which he says dates from Cooley and Baldwin and antedates the school which he has just misinterpreted. He says it was further developed by Thomas, Dewey, Mead, and Faris. A more correct statement would have been that Cooley, drawing heavily on Adam Smith and his successors and contemporaries, really founded both schools in their modern form, which are basically one and the same.
Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (1901) set the pattern for the behavioristic school quite as much as for the so-called "social-interactionist" school. But Cooley was lacking in a neurological and a technical psychological foundation, as he himself often said, and therefore he could not develop the behavioristic point of view to its logical conclusion. But I have letters from him which show that he accepted it essentially as I stated it. Cooley did not do what some of
( 20) his self-styled followers have done. Lacking this foundation and ability to trace the personality concretely back to its roots in the individual response to environmental stimuli, they have substituted vague concepts for psychosocial behavior realities.
Reuter says that "the sociological view conceives of personality and social nature as realities developed through the interaction of original nature and the group mechanisms" (p. 301). So does the behaviorist view, but it tries to find out just how this happens and is not satisfied in saying merely that it does happen. Again he says that the social-interactionist school assumes that the child at birth is largely amorphous in its behavior, with few definite patterns. But who has insisted upon this point more than the behaviorist school? Again, he says, the social-interactionist school regards society as the big reality, not an incident. So do the rest of us when we view society in cross-section at any one moment; but the behaviorist does ,not forget that culture is a growth and that it came to be what it is as the result of the multitudinous deposit and conservation of an infinite number of individual inventions. Furthermore, the behaviorists are not content merely to hold this point of view. They are able to explain how culture or society came to be dominant over the individual, as I for one do in my Social Psychology (chaps. v-vi).
Reuter also says that the social-interactionists tell how the child's behavior becomes organized under the control of its needs and of outside stimuli. I think Reuter mistakes their emphasis upon the fact that this occurs for telling how it happens. Only the behaviorists have actually described the method. Again, he contends, the social-interactionist center their attention upon the act, especially the hidden part or incubation, more than upon the overt aspect (pp, 302-3). Now I submit that the only way in which the inner, or implicit, neuro-psychic of symbolic phases of the act can be studied, apart from the relatively crude method of introspection, is neurologically and behavioristically. Does Reuter mean to confess that in the end all of his social-interactionists must become behaviorists? It was the behaviorists who developed the objective method of studying symbolic behavior, and it is they who have done most in this connection. Finally, he says that these two schools are irreconcilable but that they are not generally recognized to be so. I should say that
( 21) only his group of partisans regard them as irreconcilable. On the other hand, the behaviorists see the so-called social-interactionists of the extreme type described by Reuter as occupying an unduly circumscribed portion of the field of social psychology. The behaviorists are also social-interactionists but without metaphysical preconceptions, and they are sure that the social-interactionists would be behaviorists if they understood what behaviorism in social psychology is doing.
One other statement of Reuter's must be introduced here but without detailed comment. He has created for us another organic analogy. He speaks of the childhood, the adolescence, and the maturity of social psychology (p. 303). It might appear that for the sake of completeness he should have added a fourth stage—that of second childhood or senility, in which group might be included the small contingent of behaviorist phobics.
Finally, he would exclude "trait psychology" as "irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent," and confusing (p. 304). He declares: "It deals with the `individual,' and there is no individual in social psychology—or, for that matter, in any other phase of genuine sociology. The individual is a biological concept, and the traits of the biological organism lie outside the sociological orbit of interest." With this I must give up the argument, for my opponent has denied his own existence and has disappeared from view.
It is far from my purpose to deny any importance to this school of social-interactionists. I think they have much to contribute when they abandon their metaphysics and mysticism and get down to a definite study of social behavior in the concrete. I am merely allowing them to display their own absurdities through one of their disciples,, who, it should be said in justice to them, as he says, is not a social psychologist.
It might be well to approach the last division of our subject that of method in social psychology-by referring again to Knight Dun-lap's repudiation of the old types of data upon which the science has hitherto depended because of the reputed inadequacy of these data to conform to a practicable methodology (26). He says (p. 5o) that it is impossible to found an autonomous science of social psychology upon isolated abstract concepts such as those used by Sighele,
( 22) Le Bon, Tarde, Baldwin, and Ross; upon the instinct concept of McDougall and Dewey; upon the "nebulous concept of personality"; or the ancient concept of the unconscious as revived by the Freudians. He believes that only through" the study of history—presumably historic behavior—can we bring social psychology out of the vicious circle of individual subjectivism where it has now become lost. Evidently Dunlap conceives of social psychology as collective psychology. In the last analysis Lewin (29) would appear also to be gravitating in the direction of emphasis upon group behavior. Lippitt (30) states that groups must be taken and defined as dynamic unities, which would seem to imply a study of collective behavior.
But Dunlap appears to be alone in his insistence that the study of personality is outmoded in social psychology or even that it is a vague concept. Berdie (6) appears to conceive the whole field of applied psychology as resting upon personality analysis and testing. Blumer (19) recognizes that personality is sometimes difficult to analyze or measure adequately, but he regards it as central to social psychology. Reuter (36) also asserts (p. 301) that the study of personality is central in social psychology. Janus (28) insists upon the importance of the study of attitudes in social psychology, especially for purposes of prediction. Vyscheslavzeff (42) gives much the same emphasis when he insists upon the importance of the so-called "archetypes" of attitudes in the collective-unconscious for the interpretation of collective behavior. Among his archetypal attitudes are those of power, authority, the father, the leader, the patriarch, the creative complex, and the insurrectionist attitude. Winslow (43) would appear to emphasize physical archetypes (perhaps those of Kretchmer) rather than those supposedly inherent in the collective unconscious. Although personality measurement has developed in the study of human social behavior before the measurement of animal personality, he believes that the typological study of the simpler lower animals can throw much light upon the differentiation of human personality types (p. 47). He places much emphasis upon the power of the endocrines to shape personality development, which is just the opposite of the approach of the social-interactionists, according to Reuter. If these latter recognize endocrines at all, it would appear from Reuter's statement that they could not regard them as having any meaning for social psychology. The behaviorist group,
( 23) on the other hand, disregard nothing that influences human personality and thus collective behavior.
Schilder (38) emphasizes the greater ease of understanding animal groups after the study of human groups. He also insists that the relations and functions of ants and termites are determined by their anatomy (p. 83), a point of view which, unlike Reuter's, recognizes strongly the influence of the individual personality upon the complex of collective behavior. He also disagrees radically with the point of view of Vyscheslavzeff (42), who believes that the so-called collective unconscious dominates collective behavior (pp. 63-65). Schilder maintains that the idea of collective unconsciousness has no more truth than that of the collective representations of Durkheim (p. 90).
Vyscheslavzeff designates four types of consciousness as important in the control of social behavior: (r) the collective unconsciousness (tradition, the mores, etc.), (2) collective consciousness (rational public opinion), (3) individually conscious acts (contracts, free unions, exchange of services, division of labor), and (4) self-consciousness (p. 61). Although he believes the collective unconsciousness is best fitted to dominate social behavior without friction, he maintains that it should be balanced and corrected by rational types of consciousness (pp. 63-66). He concludes that dialectic deliberation is the highest form of collective consciousness, since it raises personality out of the mass and renders it self-conscious (p. 75).Having a psychoanalytic turn, he insists that it is as important to psychoanalyze a nation as an individual in order to bring its problems into the collective fore-consciousness (p. 65). To most social psychologists this will admittedly sound like vague analogical talk rather than like definite scientific analysis.
Some of the things that Blumer says (19) about personality analysis sound almost as vague (pp. 716-18), but not because he leans toward psychoanalytical mysticism. He would appear to offer no better method of understanding personality than the creation of a more objective subjectivism as a means thereto (p. 71g). He profoundly distrusts numerical methods of measuring personality (p. 712). So did McDougall, who would substitute a mystical terminology instead of an objective one. But Blumer does not go in this direction either. He stays within the realm of common sense if not of quantitative measurement.
There is, of course, much to be said for the common-sense standpoint of Blumer and some other social-interactionists. Anyone who examined the recent work of the so-called experimentalists in social psychology must have been struck by the fact that they have not discovered a single major fact of value in the field by the use of quantitative methods of studying social behavior. They have succeeded in confirming some of the things we already know from direct observation; but, as one of them said recently in my hearing, he supposed he had set up his problem in such a way as to arrive at his conclusions. Blumer (19) points out (p. 712) that the process of simplification necessary to the application of quantitative procedures often eliminates the more important relationships—the imponderables, which Bismarck believed were so much more significant than the accurately measurable in the field of international relations. I have often watched administrators judge men by means of mechanical categories which they had adopted—and how often their judgments go wrong for this very reason! Blumer has more faith in the ability of the "rich personality" to interpret and estimate so complex and subtle a thing as personality than all the quantitative mechanical devices that can be brought to bear in testing and measuring it. With this I agree in general. I should rather trust the genius of a Cooley or a Vincent to detect motives, attitudes, and behavior than nine-tenths of the laboratory equipment. But there are so few Cooleys and Vincents and so many little men who measure in social psychology that they are compelled to use machines and mathematical formulas. And the administrators who pick the social psychologists are no better than the social psychologists they pick. As a result we get statisticians, questionnaire makers and mongers, and machine operators instead of these rich and penetrating personalities for social psychologists.
There is also another very considerable use for this mechanized type of social psychologist: he can do valuable clerical work in testing quantitatively the hypotheses and observations of superior intellects in the field. He is indeed indispensable if not exactly fitted for leadership in the subject.
I am far from wishing to be understood as being opposed to the use of quantitative methods in social psychology. On the contrary I am heartily in favor of their employment. I merely wish to say that I
( 25) think Blumer has a valuable point that is in danger of being over-looked in our present worship of figures, equations, graphs, curves, and quotients. I also wish to protest against the naïve assumption of administrators and others that a second- or third-rate mathematician turned social psychologist has more to offer than the experts in personality observation and analysis. Most of the important things in both collective and individual behavior must first be seen by human eyes, after which perhaps they can be measured by those who wield the instruments and keep the records. In other words, as Dr. Jessie Bernard (7) and others have pointed out, controlled observation of behavior may correct and refine more general observations; but the mathematical technique rarely comes before the general observation. While there is a tendency to allow the instrument—either inside or outside the laboratory—to do the observing, he whom Blumer calls the "rich personality" should select the point of view and control the instrument as well as interpret its results. The results certainly are not self-interpreting. It is much easier also to develop instruments to measure individual personality traits than collective behavior traits and processes. But in time these will also doubtless be measured in some form or other, although not necessarily in the laboratory or by strictly quantitative methods.
In this connection it is interesting to note that the most important trends in the field today-speaking in terms of science rather than of administration-seem to be not in the direction of new quantitative devices but in the development of new lines of interpretive insight. If G. W. Allport (5) can intimate that we might as well turn over to waiters, businessmen, and other practical persons the prediction of behavior in social situations as to leave it to the academically trained (mechanized?) social psychologist, cannot we also say that the quantitative worker in the field of personality analysis can work success-fully only within the categories of personality analysis which the man of insight-the "rich personality" who knows men before machines-sets up for him? Some years ago I protested against taking the artificial situations of the laboratory as the basis of measurement in the study of social behavior (a). No more justified is generalization from oversimplified and distorted data that do not correspond to realistic adjustment behavior.
In this connection also we see less of a tendency to depend on
( 26) arbitrary classifications and artificial categories set up for the purpose of dominating the facts and more of a tendency to drop a good many of the old categories and simplify the classifications. Lewin (29) points out that mere classifications of concepts and enumeration of facts are not adequate; social psychology must show the function-al operation of such facts and concepts (p. 871). Janus (28) warns against the illusion that an arbitrary classification can limit the subject matter of social psychology (p. 391). In this connection Lippitt (30) points out that we cannot solve the problems of social psychology by looking for prototypes of groups but that we should rather seek to discover the laws of the behavior of groups (p. 27). It is the old conflict between the structural and the functional approach over again. Certain methods of interpretation having been built up, it seems important to some people to preserve these interpretations intact by building a fence around them-the process of formalizing them. But further work in the field convinces us that the fence must be torn away in order that additional functional growth of the science may occur. Even McDougall realized that a science that grows must acquire new concepts and principles of classification (27), Lewin (29) also emphasizes this point, contending that it is necessary to develop new terminology in order to bring new data and relation-ships into relief (p. 870). Blumer (19) also (p. 710) recognizes this trend and instances operationalism as one of the emerging terms to fit this new demand.
One more trend needs to be observed in this connection. Behavior-ism no longer shocks our younger social psychologists. To be sure the term itself, thrust out of the back door by the older psychologists who preferred to take their principles from authority or speculative reason rather than to come at them by studying people in action, has appeared again through the front door in the softened guise of operationalism. All the behaviorists in social psychology ever meant by the term "behaviorism" is that we must study what men do in order to discover what patterns they live by and what we may expect from them.
In a word, social psychology is breaking the old bonds with which those who would reduce it to a metaphysical system would bind it. It has properly developed in the direction of quantitative measurement and generalization, and for a while the emphasis upon mechani-
( 27) -cal processes of measurement and classification grew too much at the expense of the study of people and groups as wholes and in action in their normal social situations. But the error of this bias is now being perceived, and partial measurements and quantitative labeling is again being made subsidiary and contributory to a total understanding of both the person and the situation instead of being an end in itself. Neither method can get along adequately without the other and neither should seek to strangle the other.
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