Essentials of Social Psychology
Chapter 2: Psychological Bases of Social Psychology
Emory S. Bogardus
The study of social psychology is based on a knowledge of psychological principles. It is apropos that attention be given here to those facts of psychology which are essential to an understanding of the field.
Psychology may be divided into two branches, structural and functional. The former treats chiefly of the states of consciousness, while the latter describes the mind in action. It is in functional psychology that the social psychologist is directly interested. Functional psychology furnishes the principles for interpreting the social nature of personality and for understanding the interactions of personalities in group life. According to functional psychology there are three general classes of mental reactions, namely, (1) instinctive, (2) habitual, and (3) conscious.
1. Instinctive Reactions. Instinctive tendencies are based on ready-made, inborn co-ordination. They arise from tropistic and reflex activities. They are the organism's stock in trade at birth . They are psychical acquisitions which are biologically transmitted. They are ancestral ways of meeting common problems and conditions of life in primitive times. They have cut so deep into the neural system that they have become
(32) a real part of the organism and hence are biologically passed on from one generation to the next.
An instinct is a neurologically established way of meeting a given situation. It is a tendency to do this or that thing. It is set off automatically, and always in the same way, whenever the organism receives a certain stimulus. It has evolved in the process of adaptation of species to environment. It is a triple alliance of "sense—stimulus, central adjustment, and muscular response." An instinct is a crude, blind, and ready-made unit of behavior for solving frequently recurring problems. It serves the individual well until he finds himself face to face with an absolutely new problem.
An instinct is a way of acting (1) which promotes the welfare of the individual himself, (2) which perpetuates the species, or (3) which may even advance the welfare of the species. These ends, however, are not ordinarily sought consciously. The chick which hears the warning cluck and runs to the mother hen does not stop to inform itself that it must run to cover for self-preservation. The warning cry was the sense-impression to which the chick automatically responded. Chicks that do not respond to warning calls soon lose their lives; those that heed promptly are saved, and become the progenitors of a line of chicks which are characterized by this type of instinctive behavior.
In the same way the instincts which function to perpetuate the species operate blindly, and not because the desire is present to increase the number of the members of the species. The prevalence of large
(33) families a century ago in the United States, or today among the poorer classes, does not mean at all that the parents in question were or are motivated by definite plans to build up the race numerically.
Instincts which serve to advance human welfare function as a rule in unconscious ways. A large proportion of self-sacrificing, altruistic deeds are performed without thought of benefitting the race, e. g., the multitudinous acts of self-sacrifice of the mother in behalf of her infant. It is highly fortunate, in fact, that social conduct can be reduced in a large percentage of instances to instinctive reactions.
The innate, or inherited, tendencies are the essential springs or motive forces of feeling, thought, and action—whether individual or collective. They are the foundations from which personality develops; they are the elementary factors upon which character is constructed. All that we learn and all our mastery of life is built upon the basis of our equipment of instincts. Our later adaptations are modifications of these original, inherited reactions.
An instinct cannot be developed in one's life time; neither can it be rooted out in a life time. It can, of course, be greatly modified, or entirely covered up as far as observers are concerned. The instincts remain exceedingly close to the core of personality—to the inmost citadel of one's self, which is rarely disclosed to others.
The instincts are also at the root of societary life. The interactions between personalities possess in-
(34) -stinctive traits. The leading social structures and institutions have had their origins in instincts. Behind fraternal organizations and even nation-states is the silent, powerful operation of the gregarious instinct. The family as a social institution arises from the sex and parental impulses. The institutions of private property and inheritance developed from the acquisitive instinct.
2. Habitual Reactions. The failure of an instinct to function successfully in a new situation leads to the appearance of consciousness and to the reconstruction of the instinctive ways of acting. The modification of the instinctive reaction may be slight, or it may be so extensive that it changes the course of the instinct. The modification when repeated many times becomes habitual. Both new and old habits themselves may prove faulty under new conditions, and through the action of consciousness may be made over. Hence, habits are modifications of instincts or of previously formed habits.
It should be stated here that the concept of "crisis," as used by W. I. Thomas, is a useful tool. Whenever an established way of doing, either instinctive or habitual, proves inadequate, a crisis has occurred. Attention is at once centered upon the established reaction which has failed, and it is altered to meet the new needs. Repetition of the alteration results in the establishment of a new habit. A "crisis" may be either individual or social or both.
The small boys who lived in one corner of a rural
(35) school district in Illinois were accustomed to walk to and from school in a single, winding file across the farmers' fields. By taking a cross-country route the distance to school was considerably shortened. Further, the boys had the pleasure of making a path across the fields. One spring morning when the boys were moving joyfully along this path which led through a waving oat field, they were unexpectedly intercepted by an irate farmer—the owner of the field. A crisis occurred. Habits were challenged and a new way of going to school was sought, and found.
The actions of the lower forms of animal life are chiefly tropistic, reflex, or instinctive. Within narrow limits, higher animals adapt their instinctive reactions to peculiar or new circumstances, and acquire rudimentary habits. Man modifies his instincts so completely that they operate almost entirely in hidden ways. If his gregarious instinct causes him to concentrate his attention on a few friends, he is dubbed cliquish. If his sex instinct causes him "to make love" in public, he is at once ridiculed. If his acquisitive instinct moves him to express frankly his desire to accumulate wealth, he is referred to insinuatingly as a lover of mammon. In consequence, man conceals the instinctive desires behind camouflaged habits. He suppresses the open expression of instinctive tendencies with a set of habitual ways of doing which meet the demands of propriety and society.
It is the privilege of human beings deliberately to modify their instincts and habits, and to build up new habits which will make them masters of themselves and to a degree of their environment. Within limits,
(36) a young person who has a normal social environment can acquire habits in almost any direction that he wills. It is a fortunate child who has parents and teachers who impress him with the fact that he can plan his habits, and deliberately set out to build up a constructive habitual way of acting.
Virtues and vices are striking illustrations of habit. He who teaches a child to build constructive habits into his neurological system is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind. He who influences a child to develop negative habits, or permits him to do so, is in that regard anti-social.
Habit is a leading factor in accelerating or hindering social advance. Ordinarily too little attention is given to the constructive nature of habit. (1) Habit is a valuable time-saver, both individually and socially. Suppose that the grocer had to learn to read every time that he filled an order for a customer, that an engineer had to learn to operate an engine whenever he started out upon his regular run, or that a banker had to learn the numeral system whenever he transacted business for a patron—these suppositions indicate the almost inconceivable dependence of modern social processes upon habit.
(a) Habit increases both individual and social accuracy. Note the difference between driving a nail the first time and the twentieth. Compare the accuracy of a piano novice and a Paderewski. Observe the difference in movements and despatch of a group of recruits and a trained regiment. It is strangely
(37) true that nothing is well done until it is done by habit. Reliability and thoroughness depend on habit.
(3) Habit enables one to do a large amount of work with a relatively small degree of fatigue. The first hundred miles that one drives an automobile in learning is more wearing upon him than the second thousand miles that he drives. The learning processes in any field are usually very fatiguing until they become habitual. Reduction of new processes to habit releases the energy of the individual for new activities and enables him to accomplish a large amount of work with a minimum expenditure of strength.
(4) Habit releases the mind from the necessity of paying attention to the details of the successive steps of an act. He who has a large number of well-established constructive habits is free to center his whole attention to the best advantage on the problem of the hour. If it is true that the man who is in the grip of habit is a slave, it may be also true that he is the best prepared to advance. He is a slave when the habit is destructive; he is a fortunately free man if the habit is constructive. Destructive habits are often acquired as a result of unconscious adaptation. Unless individuals are taught or are wise enough to build up constructive habits, unconscious and passive adaptation will likely bring about destructive or useless habits. Life is a contest between personality and habit. If we do not acquire constructive habits, destructive habits will acquire us. Herein lies the difference between individual freedom and slavery.
(5) Habit means to have. Habit gives possession; it gives permanency to one's experiences. A
(38) city milkman who left his horse and wagon at the curb for a moment was surprised upon his return to see the horse, with the milk cans rolling from the wagon, pursuing at a gallop the fire department's wagon that had passed. Several years previously the horse had become a well-trained member of the fire department, and on this occasion his former habits had been immediately stimulated by the clanging gong of the fire department's wagon. Although I learned to ride a bicycle several years ago, it has now been five years since I have ridden. But I would not hesitate today to get on a bicycle and start off, and within a few minutes I should expect to feel perfectly at home again upon a "wheel." The process of riding was long ago reduced to a habit which remains with me. To reduce one's constructive ways of doing, of thinking, and of judging to habit is a valuable enterprise. Such a process is the essence of learning.
(6) Habits signify stability. A person with strength of character possesses a number of well-organized habits. The reliability of a person is due to the fact that he has habits and hence acts with a certain uniformity in given situations. His honesty or dishonesty is largely a matter of habit; he who is trusted is ordinarily the person who is honest by habit. Reliable habits are socially negative or positive. According to his habits, a person is entirely dependable —dependable to vote for the saloon, dependable to accept the easy task, dependable to exploit, dependable to beg, dependable to steal. Another person can be depended on to vote for child welfare measures, to refuse bribes, to render public service at the expense
(39) of his own business. The highest type of habits is socialized habits, whereby the individual habitually responds to public welfare or to individual welfare which is in line with public welfare.
But habitual reactions are subordinate in importance to conscious activities. It is through consciousness that personality grows and becomes more useful.
(3) Conscious Reactions. Besides instinctive and habitual tendencies, there are marginal reactions of a conscious nature. Conscious reactions are made chiefly at those points where the neuro-physiological mechanism is incapable of meeting the demands of the environment, that is, where instincts and habits fail. Consciousness appears where changes, or new adjustments are necessary; it is the chief factor in the process which is known as adjustment to environment, and particularly in active adaptation. Conscious reactions have three characteristics: (1) affective, or the feeling phase; (a) cognitive, or the thinking phase; and (3) volitional, or the willing phase.
The feelings are a development of the instinctive side of life. At the council table of consciousness, the instincts have representation in the form of the feelings. Although as old in its origin as the instinctive tendencies, the feeling side of life developed later, phylogenetically, than the instincts. The feelings are the pleasant or unpleasant tones of consciousness. An idea which furthers my momentary interests is at once accompanied by an agreeable tone of
(40) consciousness; while an idea which thwarts those interests is instantaneously undermined by a disagreeable feeling. An act which as a rule has been favorable in the past to the organism or to the race or to both produces an agreeable tone of consciousness. If some one were to suggest to me at the present moment a visit to the dentist's chair, I should suffer an unpleasant tone of consciousness, because my early experiences in the dentist's chair were exceedingly painful. On the other hand if some one were to suggest to me a beefsteak fry in the Rockies, I should experience a highly agreeable tone of consciousness. In fact the simple thought of frying beefsteak gives me a pleasant feeling.
The agreeable or disagreeable tone appears quickly and in far less time than is required to analyze and to evaluate the given suggestion. In other words, the feeling character of consciousness gives a quicker-than-thought evaluation to a proposed activity upon the basis of past experience, not only of the organism itself, but also of the race. It was this conception which Plato undoubtedly had in mind when he said that there are two counsellors in one's bosom, one is pleasure and the other is pain.
A pleasurable feeling that accompanies a given idea indicates that in the history of the organism, or of the race, the group of acts to which the given idea is related has been helpful and constructive. The pleasurable tone implies but does not necessarily prove the present value of a given act. The fact that a certain type of acts in the past has been helpful or harmful
(41) indicates that in all probability this type will continue to be helpful or harmful. If conditions change, however, this implication will probably not be realized.
People are peculiarly alike in their feelings—an observation which is due to the fact that people have had about the same racial experience. In this long racial history, certain ways of doing have proved favorable to race development; and others, unfavorable. A given activity will fall into one of two main groupings of race experience and the reaction in all individuals who come in contact with this idea is the same—a pleasant or unpleasant tone of consciousness in accordance with the favorable or unfavorable race experience with this type of activity.
It is difficult to argue against the feelings. There are many reasons. An important explanation is that the feelings are outside the plane of cognition. Cognition can recognize, describe, and classify the events which lead to the expression of a given feeling, but can not do much else. An idea which is thrown against the feelings by way of an argument travels on an entirely different plane. The best way to "argue" against the feelings is to stimulate counter feelings.
Another cause of the difficulty of arguing against the feelings is the fact that the feelings developed much earlier, phylogenetically, than cognition. The feelings are older and more deep-seated than ideas. They are closer to the inner core of consciousness. Consequently they are not reached by the younger and less deep-rooted thought side of life.
A person who moves according to his feelings acts
(42) usually in harmony with the dictates of race experience. In so far as racial history is similar to present conditions, he thus acts wisely. The conditions of life, however, whether physical or social, are constantly undergoing change. Hence, racial or even individual experience is not always a safe guide. Another factor is necessary, namely, cognition.
Cognition is the central nucleus of consciousness. Cognition developed to aid the organism to adjust itself to new factors in the environment. If there were no new problems to solve, then the feelings — representing past experience—would be adequate. In a social environment, characterized by change and marked by constantly arising new situations, the feelings are insufficient. An additional element is required; cognition meets this need. With the feeling side of consciousness to evaluate acts on the basis of past experience, and with the cognitive phase to evaluate acts on the basis of present conditions and future probabilities, a person is well equipped to solve the problems of life.
As the social environment is more changeable and gives rise to more new problems than the physical environment, cognition in a surprising degree is a social product. Its development has come in response to the changing elements in the social environment. It is probable that an average child who grew from birth to adult life with no social contacts, that is, outside group life, would not advance beyond a state of mental groveling. On the other hand, in the case of an ordinary individual, the effects of an unusually stimulating social and mental environment are clearly
(43) seen. The term, "high potential of the city," coined by È. A. Ross, refers to the relatively large number of mental stimulations which come to an urban resident in a day and which normally result in increased mental activity.
The imagination is a vital phase of cognition. To imagine is to think of reality in terms of images. The purpose of imagination is to make the real seem more real. It operates even in abstract thinking. The public speaker continually utilizes images in order to present his ideas to his audience. The crowd or even the ordinary audience thinks almost entirely in terms of images. The advanced experimenter in the laboratory imagines one possible solution after another to a problem and proceeds to try out the imagined solutions consecutively until he comes upon the correct combination. His success depends in part upon his ability to imagine a variety of experiments.
Imagination enables one to put himself in the place of others. According to Balzac, imagination permits one to slip into the skins of other persons. A selfish man is unable or unwilling to imagine himself in the positions of others. Imagination is a basic element in sympathy, and socialized imagination is essential to social progress.
Remembering is another element of the cognitive phase of consciousness. To remember is to think an idea that one has thought before with the added consciousness that one has thought it before. To remember is to re-create an idea that one has already thought about. The re-creating process means that in remembering, the individual may easily and unconsciously
(44) change the character of the given idea. Hence the frequent inaccuracy in remembering.
Many persons blindly complain of their poor memories. Others patronize the so-called memory training schools and expend more energy in trying to memorize and utilize a set of abstract formulae than is necessary in remembering by the use of natural methods. All who complain of poor memories overlook the fact that they are probably using only a small percentage of the retentive ability which they have inherited. They need to know that they can learn anything that they want to if they get interested in it sufficiently. They need to utilize the law of the association of ideas, that is, to analyze the given new idea and connect it, or some part of it, with an idea, or a train of ideas, that is already established. They need to learn the importance of expressing to others frequently that which they would remember.
The highest form of cognition is reason. Pure reason takes cognizance of factors present in neither time nor space; it considers a larger environment than that which is present to the senses. Reason is a supreme adjustor. It enables a person to adjust himself to the factors of a world environment. It assists an individual in becoming so adapted to his social and universal environments that he develops a perfected and socialized personality.
The third characteristic of consciousness is volition. Consciousness can make evaluations, not only upon the basis of past experience, and with reference to present needs and future probabilities, but it can also choose between several proposed activities and act
(45) upon the given choice. In one sense volition is the choosing phase of consciousness; in another sense, it is the acting side of consciousness, that is, it is the individual acting.
While many choices are probably made upon bases which are largely determined by hereditary and environmental factors, there is left a certain margin wherein the individual may make choices. This margin of freedom in choosing is undoubtedly a result of selection. Individuals with a reserve of freedom survive better and are able to adjust themselves more satisfactorily to their social environment with its changing elements than persons without this advantage. The margin of choice would be useless in a static environment, or in a purely physical, materialistic, and mechanistic universe. Volition has its fundamental roots in the changing factors of social life. If not in its origin then in its development, volition is social.
The margin of freedom in making choices varies. When health conditions are unfavorable, when poverty pinches, when wealth inflates, the margin shrinks. For every person the margin varies from hour to hour. For nearly all persons and at nearly all times, this limited freedom in choosing is in many ways the most significant psychical characteristic that they possess.
The marginal degree of freedom means that personality is not completely plastic. Within limits, personality is independent of environment. Consciously and unconsciously a person continually makes choices among the countless stimuli with which he is bom-
(46) -barded. He acts within the range of his limited freedom and upon the basis of his organic needs and o. his acquired habitual needs. These psychological boundaries denote the field within which personality develops.
Every person is active. Personality is activity. Personality expresses itself and to a degree makes over its environment. Since personality is activity, it possesses force, and it can make over the conditions under which it lives. Personality, moreover, is intelligent force and can exercise wisdom in modifying its environment. The more highly developed the personality, the greater the control that it may exercise over its conditions of life. The more socialized the personality, the greater the influence that it will wield in behalf of public welfare.
A person does not simply make choices, and rest there. He carries out the accepted idea. Every idea is dynamic and tends to carry itself out into action — this is the primary fact in acting and doing. If there are no inhibiting tendencies or obstructive environmental factors, acting and doing are easy. When the given choice arouses inhibitions or encounters environmental obstacles, action is difficult. Consequently, the individual must will to act; he must develop the habit of overcoming. The individual must be trained, and train himself to keep his eye upon and think of the gains which result from overcoming obstacles. The idea of public service may become so strong that individuals will regularly inhibit selfish impulses or overcome socially vicious temptations.
The result of acting and doing is learning. It is in
(47) carrying choices into effect that one really learns the meaning of them. The experimental laboratory surpasses the class room because it offers many more opportunities for carrying out ideas. Discussions are superior to lectures because they provide an open field for expression. Action underlies learning. I could sit beside a chauffeur and watch him carefully in his handling of an automobile every day for a year, but at the end of that time I could not be a safe driver. It is in actual driving that I become trustworthy at the wheel. Action, therefore, leads to learning, achieving, progressing.
The psychological fundamentals of social psychology are instinctive, habitual, and conscious reactions. The latter possesses a complex, three-fold nature — affective, cognitive, and volitional. The discussion of these subjects leads to the theme of the three following chapters, the social personality, which is the first main topic in social psychology proper and one of the most attractive topics in the entire field.
1. What is an instinctive reaction?
2. What is the origin of instincts?
3. What is the most striking example of purely instinctive action that you can give?
4. Why are instincts common to people of every race ?
5. Why can instincts never be eradicated from the mental constitution of the individual?
6. Distinguish between individual instincts and social instincts.
7. What social instincts can you name?
8. Illustrate the statement: Social institutions rest upon the basis of instincts.
9. What is the origin of habits?
10. What is the derivation of the term, habit?
11. What is the underlying purpose of habits?
12. Criticize the statement: He instinctively closed the door.
13. Why are habits so commonly deprecated?
14. Give an original illustration of each of the following statements
(a) Habit is a time-saver. (b) Habit increases accuracy. (c) Habit gives permanency to experience. (d) Habit gives strength of character.
15. Explain: "Habit is the bank into which consciousness puts its deposits."
16. Explain: Speed which is habitual is never hurried.
17. Explain: The population of London would be starved in a week if the flywheel of habit were removed.
18. Why is it true that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well?
19. What is the habit of greatest usefulness that one can form?
20. How can you proceed psychologically to break a habit?
21. What classes of habits are the most difficult to overcome?
22. Which would represent a greater loss to the individual, the loss of his habits or the loss of his instincts ?
23. Explain: "There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision."
24. Which will be used in the following cases, instinct or habit?
(a) By an untrained. puppy when his mistress appears with a plate of scraps.
(b) By a trained puppy under similar circumstances.
(c) By a salmon in a whirling current of a river.
(d) By a fireman who sees a house on fire.
(e) By a mother whose child is in imminent danger.
25. Compare the evils of occasional lying and habitual lying.
26. Name one good habit that you have formed during the past year.
27. When does consciousness arise in the experience of an individual?
28. In a qualitative sense which procedure is the more difficult to learn in each of
the following cases:
(a) Writing or walking;
(b) Thinking or writing;
(c) Deciding "no" or deciding "yes"?
29. What does a pleasant feeling signify?
30. Why is it difficult to argue against the feelings?
31. Why are human beings so much alike in their feelings ?
32. Why do you ever think?
33. Why are you thinking now?
34. When during your waking hours do you think least ?
35. When do you think the most strenuously?
36. When do you do the highest grade of thinking?
37. Does a squirrel need to be more intelligent than a fish?
38. Does an architect need to be more intelligent than a mason?
39. Does a child of the tenements need to be more intelligent than a child of wealthy parents?
40. Is it true that no two persons can think exactly alike while any number can feel alike?
41. Why is it that the feeling side of consciousness expresses itself more quickly than the cognitive phase?
42. What is the imagining phase of cognition?
43. Is it true that the tap-root of selfishness is weakness of imagination?
44. Why are we more moved "by our neighbor's suffering from a corn on his great toe than by the starvation of millions in China"?
45. What is meant by a socialized imagination?
46. Is the intolerant, selfish nation the unimaginative nation?
47. What is remembering?
48. Is the average person today less able to remember than the average person three centuries ago?
49. In what way do adults have an advantage over children in being able to remember?
50. Is it true that the average student habitually begins the study of his lesson by memorizing "with the expectation of doing whatever thinking is necessary later"?
51. Is the examination system in universities psychologically sound?
52. Can one think quickly and well at the same time?
53. Explain: To think is dangerous.
54. What is reasoning?
55. What is the highest function of reasoning?
56. Why do so few people develop the reasoning phase of consciousness to its full extent, when it would be so greatly advantageous to do so?
57. When do you act most rationally?
58. Are the judgments which are made by men more impartial than those made by women?
59. Is it more common for a person to base his decision upon evidence, or to seek evidence to justify his decision?
60. What is volition?
61. Give an original illustration of the statement Thought is motor.
62. Can you distinguish between the statements (a) Thought is motor; and (b) Ideas are dynamic.
63. Explain: We learn to worship through worshipping.
64. What is the meaning of learning by teaching?
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