Fundamentals of Social Psychology

Chapter 31: Group Control Products

Emory S. Bogardus

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EACH of the control agencies operating in direct and indirect ways and appealing to the feelings, desires, and attitudes, produces a multitude of behavior responses. Behavior is the most important product of social control. It ranges from stagnant behavior and antisocial behavior to preeminently social behavior.


Control applied too heavily crushes human initiative, mental ambition, and social change. If those in control use the bullet and guillotine on all who dissent from the established order, and are able to keep up the policy for two or three generations, they become almost absolute, and initiative not in harmony with the enthroned special privilege dies. "The Kechuas were the sustainers of the Inca civilization, and it is suggested that their long subjection to the patriarchal régime of the Incas had the effect of taking the iron out of their blood. The strong-willed old variant individuals sooner or later bumped up against the established order and came to grief, while the pliant and docile survived. Certain it is that the will of the Kechua is strong only in a passive way."[1] A striking illustration of this point is given by Reuter in referring to population control in Spain : [2]

She undertook, more systematically than most of the West European nations, to control the type of her population. The Moors, her industrious and prosperous but religiously and racially heterodox citizens, she expelled in the interests of racial and religious unity. The undesigned result was the destruction of the possibility of industrial development. In the interests of religion and the redistribution of financial power, she expelled the Jews with results disastrous to her business and commercial prosperity, and finally, and again in the interests of a decadent religious orthodoxy, she destroyed her intellectuals and thereby insured herself a long period of religious orthodoxy

( 359) and intellectual stagnation. Not all official efforts at population control have been as systematically stupid as the efforts of the Spanish, but few have been effective is the way intended.[3]


One way of appreciating the effect of group control is to observe situations where it has not operated or only to a small degree. The product in these cases is non-social behavior. The infant seems to be self-centered in his overt behavior, being contented if fed and bodily comfortable, and crying loudly when anything goes wrong with himself. He is not against other individuals, neither is he for them; he is simply for himself, responding to social and group stimuli to be sure, but in the light of his own organic demands. He is of the group but not consciously in it.

When his parents attempt to hush his wailing or refuse to pick him up and rock him when he squalls, social control has begun to operate and its products become evident. Irrespective of who may be disturbed, of what time of the night it may be, or how tired and ill the parents are, or how parents and others may try to hush him up, he cries loud and hard. His failure to respond to an elementary form of social control at once brings upon his innocent head the appellations of "naughty child," "little imp," and "young autocrat,"—if not from the parents, then from disturbed neighbors. In the meantime there is no evidence that the infant has deliberately set himself "against society" or is otherwise guilty of morally bad conduct.

Mental defectives illustrate "non-social" behavior.[4] They are of the group but not responsible for it. They are individuals incapable of developing a normal social responsibility, and hence no matter what the pressure upon them may be they do not show signs of responding fully to social stimuli. The product of social control in their cases is never more than a vague sense of responsibility. Their social nature develops under stimulation only to a limited degree. Perhaps it is phlegmatic and could never be aroused to do harmful things to others; on the other hand, it may be highly impulsive and in an unexpected moment of rage commit serious offences.

In small children and the mentally defective, social control cannot

( 361) function normally and hence their behavior fails to show signs of social responsibility. There may be present unawakened social responses or the sense of responsibility may be untouched. At any rate social control has not yet begun to operate successfully.


Control may produce a falsely social behavior. The small child often learns to "work" his parents. The son or daughter may discover the parents' weaknesses and cater to these in order to secure coveted favors. The pupil seeks to please the teacher, not always for wholesome reasons, but sometimes in order to secure grades. The salesman looks for his prospective customer's whims and flatters the "prospect."

Beggars may feign a social spirit. Where charity grants are regularly made, a percentage of applicants will not be truly in need, but will claim themselves worthy of aid. Street mendicants easily prey upon the sympathies of passers-by, and thus secure large sums in gratuities annually. By this method, a mendicant may not only support himself but also two or three able-bodied relatives or friends. In the meantime all live without learning a useful trade or otherwise becoming social producers.

Politicians quickly learn how to stimulate the feelings of the voters. Slogans that appeal to basic emotions are invented and secure votes. The politician tells the people how he serves them; for example, the slogan of Andy Gump: "100 per cent for the people, wears no man's collar." Church pews are rented and occupied by persons desiring "trade," to work up a "practice," or otherwise to secure the support of church people.

Feigned "social behavior" is one of the common byproducts of group control. It cannot be prevented and yet it is most troublesome, leading to all types of hypocrisy and exploitation of others. There is only one sure way of determining whether behavior is social or only sham, and that is to judge it over a long period of time and to observe how often it has been performed at personal cost.

Paternalism produces a certain amount of pseudo-social conduct. Under paternalism the tendency is to train people to look to others for help which by exertion and persistence they might render themselves. A whole nation under either monarchy or socialism may develop a falsely social behavior. In one case they are abruptly forced to look to their "owner" for such privileges as the monarch may see fit to dole out; in the other instance, a somewhat similar result is obtained by educational

( 362) processes. Under state socialism there is danger that the people learn to lean on the state whenever they get into trouble and that they even look to the state to support them not only when they are accidentally out of work but when they refuse to work. State socialism may fail to encourage thrift and thus have to support a considerable portion of the people. Another mischievous element is the fact that state-given aid is easily accepted and if repeated becomes sought after as a matter of course.

It thus becomes clear that only under that form of democracy which encourages thrift and self reliance can a state be protected against the wholesale production of pseudo-social behavior. Democracy, of course, must see to it, that its economic and social order embodies justice and that producers of social values are paid according to some rational plan and able-bodied, non-producing adults given special treatment. England's experience with her Poor Law reveals the problem of helping the weak without creating pseudo-social attitudes. To help and not produce false conduct is one of the most difficult phases of social control.

The principle of anticipation [5] operates strongly. When it becomes known that certain philanthropic persons will aid individuals under specific conditions, there is a tendency for some persons to qualify in order to procure aid. Social control that would be sympathetic and helpful and yet not produce pseudo-social conduct must prescribe rules whose observance will lead to true social behavior.


The assumption is that all persons are capable of both social and anti-social conduct. The latter becomes conspicuous and predominant in those persons where there has been undue repression of normal impulses and where social control has been synonymous with unfair coercion. The born-criminal theory (of Lombroso) is not acceptable, although there are doubtless moral imbeciles and others incapable of making moral judgments and hence not morally responsible.

Every normal child finds himself repeatedly in conflict with group control. He revolts time and again, but the way in which he is "handled" when he revolts is all-important. If he feels that he is being abused, treated unjustly, and not given a fair hearing, his antisocial impulses soon become organized into dangerous habits. On the other hand, if the error of his ways is carefully explained and punishment is administered in

( 363) the spirit of justice, not of anger or revenge, he is apt sooner or later to admit its wisdom and settle into social reactions.

Antisocial behavior sometimes roots in pure counter suggestion. A youth with an exceptionally strong individuality tends to react against any and every form of onerous social restraint. In such instances social control, unless it be exercised with a high degree of sympathetic understanding, is apt to produce recalcitrancy and even violent criminal attitudes.

A flabbiness or the absence of control is often followed by antisocial conduct. Parents fail to discipline sufficiently or properly ; they may allow children to have their own way, with the result that the children never learn a wholesome respect for law and order and justice. They remain "spoiled children" of society.

Adequate social control is in essence a process of developing a sense of social responsibility in the lives of individuals. An infant has no social responsibility. A delinquent feels social responsibility toward a few selected individuals. Antisocial behavior is destructive conduct in relation to persons and institutions toward which one feels spite. Misunderstanding and lack of vision and responsibility often produce antisocial behavior. Controls which do not prevent misunderstanding, which do not give vision and arouse responsibility are inadequate and their product is antisocial behavior.


Group control normally should produce social behavior. Individuals cannot grow up in groups without learning to make many responses to group stimuli and without these becoming habitual and a vital phase of acquired human nature. Individuals who respond to group stimuli have better chances of survival than others, and hence a social nature is a natural product. Everyone, therefore, is social toward certain individuals called friends but in varying degrees. An atmosphere of good will and confidence produces social behavior, and expands the ordinary person's social reactions so that they become more and more inclusive and socially helpful.


Certain persons are aroused by social stimuli to give their lives unstintingly to the welfare of other persons. By a single stimulus they may lay down their lives, or through a series of social situations they

( 364) may repeatedly sacrifice themselves without so much as once raising the question of personal gain. These somewhat isolated illustrations of preeminently social behavior do not relate wholly to a peculiar inheritance but include specially strong social stimuli. They demonstrate what might be accomplished by a scientific social control ; they prove that it is possible to shift the axis of behavior towards, if not into, the field of preeminently social behavior. The nearest approximation of this goal is found in the lives of self-sacrificing mothers and fathers and of those who give up their lives for the cause of freedom and justice. There is much evidence that a preeminently social control is possible. This is the task of education, but the technique remains to be worked out.


Group control produces standards of behavior. Every group favors certain behavior activities and penalizes other types of conduct. By these favoring and frowning processes, certain activities become crystallized into accepted codes or standards, and other activities become tabooed standards. The social determination of standards is usually effected in a hit-and-miss, unscientific fashion. A few strong individuals, advocates of certain interests, lead the way in creating opinion and crystallizing judgments—and the result is a standard by which the conduct of a whole group is measured. The force of law and the police power are brought to the support of these adventitiously derived standards. If a standard is codified in the form of a law, then it becomes supported by all the resources of the group. It cannot easily be challenged or changed. If the standard achieves recognition to the extent of being put into the decalogue or the "constitution" of the group, then it becomes a super-standard, a standard by which other standards are judged; it achieves a position at the very heart of social control.

A standard is a group-derived and enforced measure of personal behavior. It is a type of conduct which is adjudged advantageous for the members of the group. "Freedom of speech" is a standard derived from democratic opinion for the purpose of protecting group members from autocratic and secret control by a self selected minority who wish to protect their positions of special privilege. Standards are types of behavior that all normal group members may follow—for their individual good and for the group welfare alike. Democratic standards seem to be the most advanced and useful products of group control.

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Among the more objective and concrete products of social control are institutions. Groups wish to protect the parental impulses, and marriage as an institution is created and supported. Persons manufacture articles of worth, save objects of personal interest, accumulate material things, and the group recognizing the merit in this procedure creates the institution of private property. Groups recognizing the need of law and order so that individuals may not continually get in each other's way, and even destroy one another, develop institutions of government, which become differentiated into executive, judicial, and legislative bodies.

By group action institutions are modified ; corporations are not only created but made over and even destroyed. Every institution of society is continually undergoing forceful manipulation by group control. Now and then when an institution gets in the way of group opinion it is suddenly overthrown. Even a government or an economic system may become so repressive that revolution will break out and when the privileged few "at the top" grow weak enough or make enough vital mistakes, the revolution succeeds and new institutions are set up.

Since institutions are conserving in character they easily become the chief agents of social control. They are used as "big sticks."Because of their tangible, formal character, they acquire social prestige and become symbolic of the group itself and hence agencies as well as products of control. It is here that a vicious circle often occurs and that institutions become more dangerous than helpful.

Institutions are either private or public. A private institution can function as an originator and experimenter. Its membership remains voluntary. It is free to produce new activities and ideas ; it may openly criticize public agencies. On the other hand, public institutions are more distinctly products of the majority opinion rather than of a minority. They often make membership compulsory and carry forward activities that are widely recognized as elevating the common welfare. They are most successful where activities can be standardized, and where this standardization creates socialized persons.


In summary, the major traits of a scientific social control may now be stated. (I) In the first place a scientific control will be based on as

( 366) accurate knowledge as can be obtained concerning the nature of human association, of intersocial stimulation, and of the laws of personal, group, and social growth. (2) This knowledge will be disseminated to all the constituents, together with full explanations of the need of wisely planned controls, and of the limits beyond which personal liberty cannot go without destroying that degree of social unity which is essential to progress.

(3) A scientific social control will curb selfishness, but do far more, namely, stimulate in every new generation the development of habits of responding naturally on behalf of social welfare first and individual welfare second. (4) It will encourage spontaneity of action along socially constructive lines, further creative living without permitting pig-trough licentiousness, and attempt to make permanent a democratic responsiveness from all persons all the time. (5) It will secure efficiency and standardization but leave plenty of room for individual variation and initiative. It will shun that "appalling uniformity" with which the French national educational system is credited and which is implied in the facetious statement that "the minister of public instruction can look at his watch and tell what verb is being conjugated at that time in all the schools of France."(6) It will maintain simplicity by evaluating individuals according to character and behavior rather than "looks" and adornment, and will frown on class or caste systems. (7) It will economize energy expenditure, although at the same time it will encourage enough experimentation to guarantee the widest possible range of personal and social growth. (8) It will maintain a wholesome balance between group organization and personal initiative. (9) It will be applied directly enough to be perceived and respected, and indirectly enough to give persons a sense of responsibility. (10)It will maintain a balance between socialization and individualization, emphasizing habits of socialized achievement.


1. Behavior is the most common and important product of social control.

2. Where social control has not begun to operate, there is non-social behavior, as in the case of newborn infants.

3. A person may take advantage of social controls by feigning observance in order to secure social favors—the resultant is a form of pseudo-social behavior.

4. By encouraging persons to rely on the state a paternalistic government produces pseudo-social behavior.

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5. Social controls too strong or misapplied tend to create antisocial reactions and conduct.

6. Controls flabbily applied engender non-social behavior.

7. A healthy group life naturally creates social behavior.

8. Certain social stimuli acting on given persons bring out preeminently social behavior in the form of sacrifice of life either by a single act or through a sequence of acts.

9. The subtlest product of social control is found in standards or codes of behavior, which determine what behavior activities shall be permissible and which banned.

10. Social control becomes organized into institutions, which, when they exist chiefly to perpetuate themselves, are dangerous to personal liberty.

11.A scientific social control is characterized by a full knowledge of human associations, widely disseminated, and so organized and applied as to produce thoroughly socialized persons.


I. Give the most recent example of non-social behavior you have noticed.

2. What produces falsely social behavior?

3. Give a new illustration of pseudo-social behavior.

4. Why is paternalism guilty of producing false expressions of conduct?

5. Explain the operation of the principle of anticipation.

6. What are the main basic causes of anti-social behavior?

7. Why is a large amount of behavior normally social?

8. Under what circumstances is preeminently social behavior produced?

9. What is a social standard?

10. What is a human institution?

11. Why should both public and private institutions be encouraged in any field?

12. What is the main phase of scientific social control?


1. Define behavior.

2. What percentage of the behavior of an average adult unskilled laborer would you estimate to be non-social?

3. Of an average educated business man?

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4. How may a sympathetic government prevent its members from manifesting pseudo-social or favor-seeking behavior?

5. What is the best antidote for the false operation of the principle of anticipation?

6. Which is more apt to produce antisocial conduct, too abrupt application of social control, too much control, too little control, or the wrong type of control?

7. When do you feel the most antisocial?

8. How may the quality of preeminently social behavior be improved?

9. How far are standards of behavior the result of the careful thought and reflective judgment of all the group members in a democracy such as the United States?

10. Why is institutional control dangerous?

11. Why are so few controls scientifically determined even in civilized society?

12. How generally are individuals aware of being under group control?

13. Wherein would lie the need for social control if every group member were thoroughly socialized?

14. What is the best way to estimate the volume of social control at any time in society?

15. Illustrate : "There never has been a society that did not tolerate or approve some conduct that was bad for it."


Bristol, J. M., Social Adaptation (Harvard Univ. Press, 1915), Part V. Case, C. M., Non-Violent Coercion (Century, 1923), Ch. XXI. Ellwood, C. A., Introduction to Social Psychology (Appleton, 1917),

Ch. XII.

Follett, M. P., The New State (Longmans, Green: 1918), Ch. XV. Giddings, F. H., Studies in the Theory of Society (Macmillan, 1922), Ch. XV.

Ross, E. A., Social Control (Macmillan, 1901).

———,    Principles of Sociology (Century, 1920), Part IV.

———, Sin and Society (Houghton Mifflin, 1907).

Williams, J. M., Principles of Social Psychology (Knopf, 1922), Ch. XXX.

Wissler, Clark, Man and Culture (Crowell, 1923), Ch. XII.


  1. E. A. Ross, South of Panama (Century, 1918), p. 247.
  2. E. B. Reuter, Population Problems (Lippincott, 1923), p. 10.
  3. Lecky supports Reuter's contention, for he says : "The ruin of Spain may be traced chiefly to the expulsion or extirpation of her Moorish, Jewish, and hereticalsubjects." (History of England in the Eighteenth Century I: 186.)
  4. See Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (Scribners, 1923), pp. 43 ff., for an explanation of the uses and abuses of the term "social."
  5. E. A. Ross, Principles of Sociology (Century, 1920), Ch. LVII.

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