Essentials of Social Psychology

Chapter 3: The Social Personality

Emory S. Bogardus

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We now find ourselves in the field of social psychology proper. We are at once confronted with living, interacting personalities. Personality is the first and in certain particulars the most important phenomenon which is considered by the social psychologist. A finely developed personality is the essence of leadership; and it is for the sake of producing well-balanced and civically-functioning personalities that society exists.

Personality is characterized. by self-determination, or initiative, and by a sense of public responsibility. As stated in Chapter I, personality possesses two phases-individuality and sociality. Individuality and sociality are simply the two poles of the same entitypersonality. Sociality, or the social personality, does not exist by itself; it is that side of one's nature which is most closely related to the welfare of others. It is that phase of human nature which creates and personifies the finest and deepest of social relationships. Sociality enables a person to enter into the problems of others and to embody in himself the best qualities of other persons. Sociality is the quintessence of the welfare of others.

Upon examination, the social personality is found to be comprised of (1) the social instincts, (2) the

(56) social emotions and sentiments, (3) the social self, (4.) the socially reflected self, (5) the communicative self, (6) the mirthful self, and (7) the socially dependable self. The first four of these topics will be presented in this chapter and the remaining three in the chapter which follows.

1. The Social Instincts. There are two groups of social instincts-primary and secondary.[1] The best known and differentiated of the primary social instincts are: (1) gregarious, (2) sex and parental, and (3) play. The impulses of these primary social instincts are closely related. The gregarious instinct is perhaps the oldest of the three. The sex and parental instincts are so closely connected that they should be discussed together. Play is more complex than an ordinary instinct. It is clearly instinctive, however, and is more readily classified under instincts than elsewhere.

The chief secondary social instincts are (1) the inquisitive, (2) the acquisitive, and (3) the combative. In each of these expressions of psychic energy, the instinct develops along anti-social as well as social directions. Despite the individualistic elements in these instinctive tendencies, they are all essential to the development of society.

Then there are the distinctly individual instincts which are closely related to the secondary social instincts and are often inseparable from them. This list includes the self-preservation instinct or what the philosopher calls the "will to live." With this, the self

(57) assertive or "dominating" instinct is connected; it expresses itself in aspiring and striving for power, and is inseparable from the so-called instinct of workmanship, of activity, of constructiveness. On the other hand, there is the so-called submissive instinct. Without this tendency, individuals would perish, and hence, society. In this chapter the discussion will be confined to the primary and secondary social instincts. In a later chapter, recognition will be given to the individual instincts since they are fundamental to invention and leadership.

The gregarious instinct expresses itself in a satisfaction of being one of a herd or group, and in an uneasiness-leading to wild distraction-in being alone or separated from the group. David Hume. one of the first close observers in social psychology, asserted that every pleasure languishes and every pain becomes more cruel when experienced apart from the company of others.[2] "Let all the powers serve one man," declared Hume, and "he will still be miserable till he be given at least one man to enjoy them with him."[3]

The animal which becomes separated from the herd will risk its life in order to re-join the group. On a holiday rural people rush to the places where crowds are expected to congregate. Urban people herd together in the already overcrowded districts. Even mercantile stores which sell the same kind of wares tend to locate on the same street. As a result, for example, every large city has its "automobile row."


Prisoners who are subjected to solitary confinement suffer so greatly that penologists now consider this form of punishment unjustifiably cruel. The insanity rate runs from three to ten times higher in prisons where solitary punishment is used than in other prisons. Solitude for a long time tends to break up and unbalance the strongest personalities.

The gregarious instinct possesses a definite survival value inasmuch as it keeps individuals in the presence of one another and furnishes a basis for co-operative effort. In the long process of the struggle for existence, those individuals survive best who co-operate best. Those families function well in which the cooperative spirit is great. Those nations are the most developed whose spirit of co-operation is the most intelligent and thorough.

The gregarious instinct underlies all fraternal relations between individuals and the establishment and on-going of all fraternal organizations. In the public realm, the nation-state is the chief permanent social institution in which the gregarious instinct has functioned. It is probable that the gregarious instinct furnishes the basis for all our social ideals.

Because the sex and parental instincts are closely connected, they will be discussed together and in order. The sex instincts make the race possible. Without them mankind would pass away with the present generation. Their power is tremendous and the regulation of them constitutes the gravest of social problems. In fact the misuse of the sex instincts is known as the social evil. Illegitimacy and other forms of vice and sin follow the wake of unregulated social

(59) instincts. From the beginning of time to the present hour, all tribes and nations have grappled and struggled with this Hercules among social problems. In the United States a far-reaching conflict is in progress between the persons and organizations which have subtly commercialized the sex instincts of the young, and the forces of individual and public chastity. There is a widespread and appalling use of hotels and apartment houses by "mistresses" who are supported by so-called respectable men. Sexual vice always constitutes a standing menace in the vicinity of army cantonments where sexual prostitutes ply their trade with boldness.

The parental instinct is an outgrowth of the sex instincts. It has produced the venerable social institution of the family. Without parental care, the offspring early begins the struggle for existence, against great odds, and with little opportunity for normal development. With one parent who gives a protecting and directing care, the offspring has a fair chance for self-development and for rendering useful service to society. When both parents intelligently co-operate in the process of family-building, the children are thus given the advantage of the experience of two elders, and are protected from the harsher phases of the struggle for existence, for a time sufficient to enable them to become mature individuals, and to learn the meaning of the fundamental principles of co-operative living.

The loss of the influence of two worthy parents and of the institution of the family is so fundamental that children who grow up outside the family have few

(60) chances to become socialized members of society. In studying the home conditions of delinquents, the writer has found that the broken or unfit home of one type or another [4] a leading factor in the majority of delinquency cases. The loss to a child of a sociallyminded and sympathetic parent is irreparably great, and the loss of two such parents is beyond comprehension. No public or private institution is an adequate or equivalent substitute. It is an established principle of modern philanthropy that the best alternative for the child's own home-if it fails-is a home with foster parents who are wisely selected and who maintain a home that is reasonably well suited to the temperament and needs of the child.[5]

As a member of a family, the child learns fundamental rules of conduct. He acquires respect for law. He learns rudimentary principles of co-operation. In view of the fact that the family is a social microcosm, the child in a family that has a social vision receives an excellent start for constructive participation in public life.

From the standpoint of the parents themselves, the expression of the parental instincts results beneficially.

(61) Parenthood tends to lead to conduct which is essentially altruistic. The parental impulses are constantly coming in conflict with the egoistic impulses and would be worsted in the struggle if it were not for strong reinforcements which society itself has brought to their aid. In order to protect itself and to further the parental tendencies the given group-and society has built up powerful sanctions, for example, the moral rules which were instituted in ancient Hebrew days. The injunction: Honor thy father and thy mother, has served as a bulwark to the parental instincts. Then there is the institution of marriage which was established as a guardian of the parental desires. Taboos upon celibacy, upon divorce, upon immoral sex life are effective social agents which lend support to the family. Ancestor worship has hallowed parenthood and thus helped to give China a long life. Consistent and persistent emphasis upon a sound family life has enabled the Hebrew race to perpetuate itself and assisted it to survive countless obstacles and innumerable destructive factors. In summary, it may be said that the sex and parental instincts run the entire gamut of life from the lowest levels to the planes of highest social usefulness.

The third primary social instinct is play. This human trait is innate, instinctive, and complicated. It is so complex that it permits of various explanations and of markedly different classifications. It possesses such a socially varied nature that it is doubtful whether it should be classified, as is done here, as an instinct. Play often manifests itself in individual effort. In such cases, however, the individual personifies or so-

(62) -cializes the object or objects with which he plays-and thus creates a group, with play manifesting itself as a social phenomenon. Even the kitten that plays with a spool seems to be treating the spool as if it were a toy mouse.

Play and work overlap. Both involve expenditure of effort. But play is expenditure of effort which is intrinsically interesting, or the goal of which is unusually attractive. Effort which in itself produces agreeable feelings is play.

The normal exercise of the play impulses renews life. Play rehabilitates and re-creates life. It offers relaxation and at the same time brings the individual to a balanced attitude toward the world of living, changing, and developing people. No personality in whom the play spirit dies can long remain well-balanced. The play attitude is essential in seeing the humorous side of life, in perceiving the silver linings to the cloudy days of life, and in appreciating the ordinary causes of laughter. The play instinct must remain active throughout life if one would keep his personality in tune with changing social phenomena.

As a member of a play-group, the child learns cooperative lessons of fundamental and life-long importance. At the age of three or thereabouts the child begins to build up a small, selected, and changing playgroup of two to five members. From three to six years of age the child lives in two groups-parental and play. In both, the gregarious instinct operates strongly. Upon entry into school the child's play group increases rapidly in size. It is the play instinct, supported strongly by the gregarious instinct, that

(63) gives the average child his great enjoyment in beginning his school career. For the same reason he begs to attend Sabbath school.

The play groups gradually take on the character of boys' gangs or girls' clubs. Then athletic teams and fraternal societies develop. It is in the team-work that the play group affords that the individual learns some of his most valuable social lessons. Where the family occasionally fails, the team work of a play group will succeed in inculcating a social principle. It is this team play that teaches the individual to obey, to become a leader, and to evaluate himself as a groupmember and a force in society.

The emphasis today is being placed upon eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight hours for leisure of which one-half is to be given over to amusements and recreation. Although this formula is not generally adopted it indicates that a large portion of life is being devoted to amusements. The pace, stress, and complexity of modern urban life demand that regular hours daily be set aside for recreation. The questions arise: Does it matter how one plays? and, Is it anybody's business how one spends his leisure hours? From the standpoint of group welfare it matters decidedly how the individual plays-whether he wastes or builds up his energies. In the case of the young the nature of play means not only construction or destruction, but the formation of lifelong habits.

In this age commercial enterprise has provided amusements of all types and for all classes and ages of individuals. These provisions are made primarily to secure the largest profits, not to build up those per-

(64) -sons whose play impulses are rampant. The kinds of appeals that are being made to the play instincts constitute a problem of vast social moment.[6]

The secondary social instincts are characterized by both socializing and individualizing elements. Because of the social factors, this group of innate tendencies will be discussed here,

The inquisitive instinct underlies all inquiry, all searches after the new, and all forms of prolonged leadership. Inquisitiveness is excited by all phenomena which are moderately different from those that come within one's ordinary experiences. On one hand, events which are different from the usual do not attract special attention at all. On the other hand, phenomena which are especially different from anything that is known arouse fear.[7] But that which is moderately different at once arouses the inquisitive instinct.

Animals which have been led astray by sounds that are very strange have probably been decoyed and consequently have sooner or later lost their lives. Those individuals, either animal or human, which are never attracted by anything that is new remain mediocre or retrograde. Those who are interested in things that are moderately strange avoid violent destruction and also slow decadence. A highly differentiated form of the moderately strange is "signs of concealment or stealth," which immediately arrest attention and make a powerful appeal to inquisitiveness. Reasonably cur-

(65) -ious individuals survive best.

Society prefers individuals with moderately inquisitive minds. The person who is overly inquisitive becomes unpopular and loses his influence; he who never asks questions falls behind his contemporaries into obscurity. He who attends to his own affairs and maintains an alert, active mind regarding social tendencies lays the best foundation for a progressive personality.

Scientific research and genuine intellectual study arise definitely from the curiosity instinct. Many research scholars have testified to the motivating force of curiosity. The statements of Thomas A. Edison indicate that the achievements of the distinguished inventor sprang from an overwhelming desire to find satisfactory solutions to problems. Finding answers to problems represents the highest development of the inquisitive instinct. Finding solutions to social questions is the highest service which that instinct renders. Thus, intellectual progress (primarily) and social progress (secondarily) depend upon the operation of the curiosity impulses.

The acquisitive instinct develops early. One of the most interesting traits of a five-year-old child is his propensity for making collections of articles. Childhood and adolescence abound with expressions of the desire to make collections-of stamps, butterflies, dolls, marbles, bird eggs. This propensity often continues throughout life. To it there may be traced some of the world's finest libraries and art galleries.

The instinct to acquire is fundamental to all acquisitions of land and other forms of material wealth. So strong and persistent is it that men continue to accu-

(66) -mulate riches long after they have acquired enough property for the needs of themselves and of their immediate descendants.

Modern civilization owes its rise in part to private accumulations of wealth. It is reserve wealth which makes leisure from manual labor possible; it is this leisure which has given some individuals opportunities to make socially beneficial inventions. If all persons had to spend all their working time in satisfying the physical needs of life, there would be little leeway for social advance.

The desire to acquire property, especially land, is characteristic not only of the individual but of the group. Every strong nation has manifested the desire to acquire territory-note the territorial expansion of the United States since 1789. Some nations have spent themselves in their desire for more territory. Many of the cruel wars that have been waged by monarchial governments have arisen from the national weakness for more territory. When monarchial forms of government pass away, it is probable that territorial wars will become unpopular. An international institution such as a League of Nations will justify its existence if it can succeed in stifling national desires for territorial aggrandisement.

The regulation of the acquisition instinct when it has succeeded in building up a strongly intrenched system of private property is exceedingly difficult. The acquisitive instinct knows no bounds. A relatively few individuals or coteries may secure control of a major portion of the wealth within a nation and use it arbitrarily. Consequently, socialism, syndicalism,

(67) Bolshevism gain vast recruits from the propertyless classes. The fact that English lands have become concentrated in large estates that are owned by a very small proportion of the population of England, and that the farmers have become a class of tenants [8] has expedited the rise of Bolshevistic feelings, which began in a startling way to be expressed after the signing of the armistice in November, 1918.

To solve the problem, two methods are proposed. Without entering into a meticulous discussion it may be said that on one side are the people who believe that the acquisitive desires should be blocked and crushed out and that the government should own all rent-producing land and all interest-producing capital. On the other side of the question there are the persons who hold that the acquisitive instinct is too deep-seated to be eliminated from human nature; that it would not be wise to stamp out the instinct, even if it were possible; and that this basic set of impulses should be allowed to operate, but trained to an expression in harmony with public welfare.

The acquisitive instinct, however, has acquired such force that at times it defies governmental regulation. The undemocratic attitude and the disrespect for law of vast corporate or inherited bodies of wealth find themselves today matched by the undemocratic and legally disrespectful program of Bolshevism. If civilization is going to survive the world-wide revolutionary and terrorist tendencies that are abroad, there must be a renaissance of respect for law and order on the part of everyone, beginning with the most powerful

(68) and ending with those who possess least. In other words the purely selfish aspects of the acquisitive instinct-individually and nationally-must be eliminated. The acquisitive, or possessive, instinct has made civilization possible. It must be socialized, else it will turn upon its child and destroy it.

Another secondary social instinct is the combative. It is usually accompanied by the spectacular emotion of anger. In a primitive group the fighting leaders survived; the others perished. In early human society the fighting tribes survived longest and succeeded best; the others suffered extinction. Thus, throughout a long period of time-probably extending to the present-the combative instinct has been at a high survival premium. It is deeply ingrained in human nature.

The combative instinct, and its accompanying emotion of anger, is excited whenever any obstacle blocks the operation of the other instinctive tendencies, of the habitual activities, or of the newly aroused and currently conscious desires. The fighting instinct [9] and its emotion energizes the individual, concentrates his energies, and drives him ahead over obstacles. The fighting impulses secure readjustments, both individual and social. In its crudest forms combativeness shows itself in the snarl and rush of the dog, in the clenched and striking fists of the boy, in the lynching atrocities of the mob, in the brutalities which are committed in the name of organized warfare.

The fighting instinct has been undergoing modifications. Its earliest expression was in the form of de-

(69) -struction. If a plant is obnoxious, destroy it. If an animal is dangerous, kill it. If a man gets in your way, knock him down, stab him, shoot him. If a tribe wants your hunting grounds, annihilate that tribe. Then revenge developed out of the fighting instinct. If you cannot destroy at once the thing, person, or tribe that is in your way, bide your time, foster the desire to destroy, and at the opportune moment rise up and slay. If you cannot destroy the person who has wronged you, then kill an innocent relative-thus originated the blood feud.

But if you cannot exterminate, then administer heavy physical and mental punishment. Torture has been considered a satisfactory form of punishment, and as a result, jails and prisons have turned back their inmates to society in a more anti-social state of mind than when the offenders were committed to punishment. The new standard is to allow the rigorous discipline of work to serve as punishment and to set in motion constructive processes of reform. A new criterion involving a high degree of self-control for dealing with anger was set thousands of years ago by the ethical seer who said: "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

Although a heritage from the days of fang and claw, the fighting tendencies, in modified forms, are an essential factor in individual and social progress. In the early days of human society they were commonly expressed in the physical combat between individuals. In the modern civilized nation-state individuals as a rule do not resort to physical clash in order to settle disputes, but turn to discussion and concilia-

(70) -tion or to the organized courts. Their individual fighting energies are thus not used to destroy their fellow beings but are diverted into intellectual contests.

The combative instinct is undergoing intrinsic changes. Its very nature is being transformed by the operation of intellectual factors, such as discussion and education. It may be entirely altered through the continued operation of social organizations, such as courts of justice. Its course may be completely changed through the expression of the highest spiritual virtues, such as love.

The struggle for existence in the biological world which takes place upon the plane of physical strength has its counterpart among human beings in militarism and in commercialism of the highly competitive, destructive types. It is increasingly evident that these struggles will be completely changed in nature through the quiet, creative, pervasive influence of love and other spiritual forces. As a class the "fittest" to survive are undergoing an evolution from the lowest types of brute strength to shrewd forms of mental efficiency and strength, and then to socialized personalities motivated by the principle of love.

A recent evidence of the belief that vital modifications of the fighting instinct are taking place is found in a book entitled, Die Biologie des Krieges by Professor G. F. Nicolai. The volume was published in 1917 and translated into English in 1918.[10] This daring German writer, who was imprisoned during the War for his views and who was rescued from prison by aeroplane, holds that the hitherto ineradicable fighting

(71) instinct is a survival of tendencies which at one time were useful but which are now positively dangerous. The need for the transformation of this instinct is imperative. One species of animals after another has died out before it could change its instinctive ways. Hence, the question is pertinent: Will mankind die out because it can not change the fighting instinct? Will mankind through the pugnacious use of marvelous scientific inventions literally kill itself off? Or can it control the fighting energies of individuals and nations and convert them into constructive forces?

The combative instinct is the chief psychic element in business competition and political campaigning. It is the dynamo which engenders tremendous forces in intellectual realms. It contributes to the pleasure of the participant in and the spectator of competitive games. It leads to contests between ideals and programs and is a primary factor in progress. Additional phases of the combative impulses will be presented in a subsequent chapter on "Group Conflicts."

When war becomes historic, there will still be a far-reaching need for the fighting spirit. Then nations and individuals will still need to fight social evils and sins. They will be constrained to destroy, not the best people of competitive, sovereign groups, but the evil in all peoples, under the supervision of a planetary order. The struggles against social evils will always demand, as far as one can now see, the exercise of the combative instinct in a socialized form. The combative forces are not to be eliminated but to be rationally directed, modified, and made subservient to world welfare.



1. Does the gregarious instinct exist in the hermit?

2. Give an original illustration of the operation of the gregarious instinct.

3. Why do the working classes on holidays rush to the places where the crowds are?

4. Why is the country considered dull by so many people?

5. Why do people become "chummy" when sitting around the hearth fire?

6. Why does a prisoner take a special interest in a flower?

7. Why do people talk aloud to themselves?

8. Explain: It is lonesome to be a college president.

9. Why should one alternate between friendship and solitude?

10. What are the leading forces which are opposing the parental impulses?

11. Why does a child play?

12. Why does an adult go to a prize-fight?

13. Why is it work for a mason to pile up brick and play for a small boy to pile up blocks?

14. Why is work hard and play easy to a child even when the latter requires the expenditure of more energy?

15. Why is it play to a boy to clear brush from a lot for a baseball diamond and work to clear the same lot at his parent's command?

16. What is the chief social value in play?


17. What is curiosity?

18. Are women more curious than men?

19. What is the relation between curiosity and science ?

20. What is the chief value of the acquisitive instinct ?

21. What was the earliest collection of articles that you made, as far as you can recall?

22. Beyond what limits is it wrong to indulge the acquisitive instinct?

23. What instinct impels a person to run to see a fight?

24. Is it necessary to get angry in order to fight well?

25. What is righteous indignation?

26. What has rendered bodily combat unnecessary in order to settle disputes?

27. Is anger a good guide to action?

28. Will the fighting instinct die out?


Ellwood, C. A., An Introduction to Social Psychology, Ch. IX.

Groos, K., The Play of Animals.
——, The Play of Man.

Howerth, I. W., "The Great War and the Instinct of the Herd," Intern. Jour. of Ethics, XXIX: 174-87.

Kirkpatrick, E. A., Fundamentals of Child Study, Chs. VII, IX-XI.

Kropotkin, P., Mutual Aid; a Factor in Evolution.

McDougall, William, An Introduction to Social Psychology, Sect. II.

Patrick, G. T. W., The Psychology of Relaxation, Chs. II, IV.


Ribot, Th., The Psychology of the Emotions, Part II, Ch. VI.

Smith, W. R., An Introduction to Educational Sociology, Ch. V.

Thomas, W. I., "The Gaming Instinct;" Amer. Jour. of Sociol., VI: 650-63.

Trotter, W., The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, pp. 23-66, 101-213.

Veblen, Thorstein, The Instinct of Workmanship.


  1. The terms, primary and secondary, are used here in the sense of first and second, respectively, in importance.
  2. A Treatise of Hunan Nature, (ed. by L. A. Selby-Bigge), Oxford, 1896, p. 363.
  3. Loc. cit.
  4. There are several types of broken or unfit homes, namely: (1) The home entered by death, (2) the home in which the parents are divorced or separated, (3) the home in which prolonged poverty or pauperism exists, (4) the home that is undermined by the extended sickness of a wage-earner, (5) the home characterized by shiftlessness and incapacity, and (6) the immigrant home where the parents in trying to adjust themselves to the strange American environment have lost control of their children.
  5. For the data in this connection, see "A Study of Juvenile Delinquency and Dependency in Los Angeles County for the Year 1912," Jour. of Crim. Law and Criminol., Sept., 1914.
  6. For an elaboration of this point the student is referred to the writer's Introduction to Sociology, Ch. V.
  7. William McDougall, An Introduction to Social Psychology, (eighth edit.), pp. 57 ff.
  8. Cf., William McDougall, op. cit., p. 322.
  9. The combative instinct, the fighting instinct, and the pugnacious instinct are terms which are used synonymously in this chapter.
  10. The Biology of War, Century Co.

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