The Foundations of Social Psychology

Knight Dunlap
The Johns Hopkins University

Social psychology has been long in search of a foundation. In this respect, the orphan subject is like the hero of Marryat's novel : `Japhet in Search of a Father.' The chief and important difference between Japhet and social psychology is in the fact that Japhet, whether he were or were not able to identify his paternal reason for existence, knew that his existence was actual, whereas social psychology, unless it should discover a foundation on which it might rest, has been in danger of being declared an illusion.

Several years ago, when I first began to give a course in social psychology, I felt constrained to warn my class that I didn't know what social psychology was, and didn't even know certainly if there were such a subject. But I thought there were certain matters of psychological interest which could conveniently be discussed under that title, and I pro-posed to discuss them. In more recent years, I have felt justified in telling my classes that I believe there is such a thing as social psychology, but that I can't define or describe it more accurately than to say that it is the attempt to analyze certain social problems from the point of view of. the psychologist. And I am well aware that, although this definition fits my course, it doesn't fit a number of books which have the words `Social Psychology' stamped on the covers.

If we take as `social psychology' everything which calls itself by that name, I have to admit my colossal ignorance


( 82) of the subject; an ignorance which has been increasing of late years, but which has not seriously disturbed my tranquillity, since I am confident that I have a great deal of company in my ignorance, even among the members of this Association. When I read the books of a certain group of sociologists who use freely the name of psychology, most of what I read passes through my mind like wind through the trees. And the reason for this seems to me to be because this literature is in part speculation, with neither foundation nor means of checking, in part a collection of platitudes stated in imposing words, and in part the mere grouping of phenomena under new names; none of which excite my interest to any great degree, because this doesn't seem to get us anywhere.

The reason why, on the other hand, I have been interested in McDougall's `Social Psychology' to the point of rudely attacking it, is that I can see what McDougall is talking about, and I can see that it is really important, although I am not always sure just what he is saying about it, and don't agree with all that I do clearly understand he is saying. There is, for me exhilarating sport in a fight with a definite and doughty antagonist, such as McDougall, but none in a combat such as Don Quixote staged with the `thirty or more monstrous giants.

As a matter of fact, we have had all sorts of social psychology written by all sorts of people: historians, sociologists, physicists, mathematicians, and men who are almost nothing intellectually. And most of it, it seems to me, is no more psychology than Christian Science is science. Until McDougall came along, we had very little social psychology written by psychologists. And whatever else I may say about McDougall's `Social Psychology,' I will admit it is psychology.

But I suppose we can reasonably admit that all those who have written social psychology were longing to write psychology and would have written psychology if they had known any. And, certainly, in the broad sense, social psychology had its beginnings long before the name was applied. I don't know when the name was invented, nor by whom


( 83) first used, but it was not used in a technical sense either by Tarde or by Sighele, who are, nevertheless, to be counted among its founders.

The three great theories of historical importance by which attempts were made to supply a foundation for what is now called social psychology, were the metabiological theory of Spencer and Schaeffle, the repetition theory of Tarde, the crowd mind theory of Sighele. Many other foundations have been proposed; but these are the three of greatest importance, because of their persistent effects in recent times.

The metabiological theory, formulated by Schaeffle [2] in 1874, and independently in much more definite detail by Spencer[3] in 1877, has been almost unanimously repudiated by psychologists. The theory carries with it the implication, at least, of a super-consciousness, in which the individual does not participate; and such an implication arouses the antagonism of the individual who bases his system of values on individuality or personality. Furthermore, to those who cherish the western desire for individual immortality, the doctrine of a super-consciousness is distinctly a menace, threatening the doctrine of an indestructible, individual soul. Aside from these objections, which are manifestly due to prejudices, and not to scientific considerations; but which have, nevertheless, been very weighty; there was a more scientific difficulty to the acceptance of the theory of a super-consciousness, due to the acceptance of the phrenologists' theory of the dependence of consciousness on the function of brain cells in a simple manner.

On the old psycho-physiological doctrine, the hypothesis of a group-consciousness is objectionable, both because the analog of the cerebral cortex is not to be discovered even in highly organized social groups, and because, further, even if the hypothesis were tentatively accepted, there would be no definite criterion of group-consciousness, and hence the theory would be always a merely speculative one.

In spite, therefore, of the remarkable analogies between


( 84) the association and specialization of cells in the vertebrate animal body and the association and specialization of individuals in highly organized social groups, the metabiological theory has either been totally rejected, or else accepted as by Munsterberg as an interesting and perhaps useful device, comparable to the fourth dimension as held by mathematicians; a concept which is not to be confused with reality.

Concerning the first and second objections to the meta-biological theory, there is nothing to be said, since science systematically proposes to pay no heed to such considerations. Whatever jar a hypothesis may give to our prejudices and sentiments, its acceptance or rejection is not supposed to be affected thereby.

The last two objections to the theory, while scientifically pertinent twenty years ago, no longer seem so to me. Our criterion of consciousness is not now tied up with brain localization, but is based on integrative activity. While it is perhaps true that some American psychologists still think of the mind in terms of brain areas, and even localize visual consciousness in the occipital lobe, and describe a single center for the comprehension of speech; the apparent evidence for the phrenological conception has been so thoroughly shot to pieces, that the procession is moving rapidly away from that position, and today the views of Dr. Franz, instead of being radical, are distinctly conservative.

As a matter of fact, the difficulty in finding a criterion for the existence of consciousness in a social group is of the same order as the difficulty in finding a criterion for the existence of consciousness in a lower animal, or even in another adult human being, and the form of the criterion outlined in one of these cases must apply to the others. We base our inferences on integrated activity of the organism, and we have not as yet a detailed criterion which the individual may apply to his own activities. You would all, for example, hesitate to say that the knee-jerk is a strictly unconscious phenomenon; and the grounds for the affirmation or denial of the existence of consciousness in the white rat or the oyster,


( 85) while they can be formulated in outline, are not detailed enough to be practically applicable. Even in the case of your fellow psychologist, although you may assume he has consciousness (while doubting his intelligence at times), the grounds for your assumption are no more definite than they are in the case of the lower animal or the social group. The metabiological theory is, therefore, far from being a dead issue at present, and while I have no vital interest in the theory, I think it is a serious error to assume that it may easily be ignored. In fact, certain prevalent present-day assumptions, which I shall mention in a moment, very distinctly raise the old issue.

The theory of Tarde, with its reduction of all social phenomenon to invention, opposition, and repetition, was enormously stimulating. In America, it was developed in two somewhat different directions by J. Mark Baldwin and by E. A. Ross, and the sale of their books alone has been an index of the importance of the movement. But the interest of psychologists in this type of social psychology has waned, apparently because the mere classification of social phenomena under general names, while useful for certain purposes, can not in itself replace analysis and explanation of the phenomena, but may even inhibit such analysis and explanation, since many persons are so dazzled by abstract terms that classification seems to be explanation. We have a striking illustration of this fact in the recent uses of the term `conditioned reflex' and the term `intelligence.' I think I am safe in saying that the imitation theory, however much it may have advanced the cause of social psychology in the past, is no longer to be reckoned with.

This is not the case with the group mind theory, derived apparently from the work of Sighele through Le Bon. At-tempts at the analysis of social activities, either in the explicit terms of crowd mind, mob mind, and group mind, or in less explicit terms of group activities, are plentiful.

All references to, and uses of, the `group mind' or the `crowd mind' are open, it seems to me, to a vital question. Do you mean, by the group mind, anything more than the


( 86) individual minds of the individuals in the group treated abstractly? If not, then social psychology reduces to a minor, although important, subdivision of general psychology. We admit that the individual is stimulated by other human individuals, and that his reactions to these other individuals are important. We can, then, in theory at least, construct three other and co÷rdinate branches of psychology, which we might call ` zo÷logical psychology', `botanical psychology,' and `mineralogical psychology,' in which would be studied the reactions of human beings to lower animals, to plants, and to inorganic objects respectively.

Social psychology, in other words, would not be differentiated from general psychology in the specific materials (that is, types of processes) studied, as child psychology and abnormal psychology. are differentiated from general psychology. Social psychology would study the same type of reactions of the same types of individuals as are studied by general psychology. It would be differentiated only by the situations in which the individual is studied, that is, by the type of environment to which he is reacting. If I may be allowed to coin a term, because none exists; social psychology would be a particular psychology, like the psychology of religion, and not a special psychology, like abnormal psychology and child psychology.

But I doubt if any considerable number of social psychologists are willing to delimit the subject in such a way. On the contrary, there seems to be an assumption, or positive assertion, that the group is more than the sum of the individuals, and the group mind more than the minds of the individuals in the group. As an illustration of this point of view, I think I may fairly instance McDougall's book on `The Group Mind.'

Now, those who hold this view of the group mind seem to me to be attempting to find a supporting plane on a razor's edge. I can well understand the position of one who should claim that the group is nothing more than the sum of the individuals, and the group mind nothing more than an abstract term which we use for convenience in referring to


( 87) phenomena which occur in this, that, and the other mind in the group: and I can understand the position of Herbert Spencer, who would assert that through the organization of the group, there does come into existence something over and above the sum of individual members and individual actions. But there seems to me to be no middle ground between these positions. Hence, I am greatly puzzled by certain types of use of the term `group mind' on the part of writers who seem to claim the benefits of the organic theory and the benefits of the abstraction theory, while officially denying both. At present, we can hardly regard a social psychology stated in terms of `group mind' or `crowd mind' as more than a vague formulation of problems still to be analyzed.

I am not sure but that there is now in the making a theory of social psychology which will attempt to found the subject on mental measurements, or, rather, I should say, on the statistical treatment of mental measurements. The co-efficient of correlation has glittered before the dazzled vision of psychologists as a magic key which would unlock many doors, and the indications are that in the natural march of events, it would be viewed as the key to the enclosure of social psychology. There is, however, a strong probability that before such a type of social psychology has time to become coherent, the present na´ve attitude towards the results of the correlation method will have passed away, and Pearson's coefficient will be regarded not as an ultimate result but as a d !tail in problems requiring much further detailed analysis. If the present attitude, which assumes a significance of the coefficient of correlation without analysis of the details of correspondence in the arrays correlated, were to continue, the foundation of a social psychology on this basis would be inevitable.

But I may postpone consideration of future possibilities and attend to the present. And the present condition of social psychology is indeed interesting. With the publication of McDougall's `Social Psychology' arose a new school, which, free from the plague of abstract interpretation on the one hand, and from the pitfalls of metabiology on the other, has


( 88) had a significant and extended vogue, and which is today the dominant school, in spite of recent questionings. Although the psychologists may be today abandoning the instinct-psychology, the sociologists are enthusiastically taking it up. As an illustration of the high approval given the instinct-psychology a few years ago, by those officially recognized as psychologists, I may quote from Dewey's address before this Association in 1916.

"I hope I may find general agreement," says Dewey, "in pointing to the work of McDougall and Thorndike as indicative of the next great force in social psychology."[4] And in the same paragraph he continues: "Henceforth our Social Psychology is placed upon the sure ground of observation of instinctive behavior."[5] A few pages farther on Dewey remarks that "The advent of a type of psychology which builds frankly on the original activities of man and asks how these are altered, requalified, and reorganized in consequence of their exercise in specifically different environments, brings with itself the experimental attitude."[6]

The instinct theory of social psychology seems to me to proceed on the general assumption that the explanation of social relations and social interactions is to be found, not in the total psychological life of the individual, but in a limited aspect of that life, namely, the instincts.

Now, we must admit that the conception of instincts held by McDougall is not the traditional one, nor the one most current. But, McDougall's principles seem to have been largely interpreted by others, including Dewey, in terms of the current signification of 'instincts,' a signification definable in terms of complexes of activities; and it was really against this interpretation that I launched a feeble bolt three years ago in my paper before this Association, in which I questioned the existence of instincts, except as arbitrary classification-groups. I must admit that the results of my attack were at first extremely dis-


( 89) -couraging. But we have travelled far in three years, and I think that Dewey's more recent statements in `Human Nature and Conduct,' in which he seems to adopt completely the view I expressed in 1919, that instincts are only classifications for a purpose,[7] not only indicate an about-face in Dewey's own views, but also represent a new `general agreement,'or at least a position on which agreement is rapidly becoming general.

I have, therefore, no further interest on this point, which we can reasonably believe is practically conceded. Although finding legitimate use for the abstract terms `instinct' and `instinctive,' we can now turn the `instincts' in the traditional sense over to the sociologists, who, it appears from the current sociological literature, will gladly accept them, along with the other deus ex machina `intelligence,' which I am optimistic enough to believe the psychologists will also exorcise shortly: and we will have a new and thriving sociology worshipping the trinity of instincts, intelligence, and climate.

But, for McDougall, an instinct is not to be defined as a systematic group of activities, although, I still insist, in his `Social Psychology' he discusses the instincts at various times as if they were to be so defined, and in spite of his own definition. As defined by McDougall, 'an instinct,'as ex-pressed at least, is a threefold thing, involving an `afferent,'an 'efferent,' and a 'central' part. These terms are, perhaps, unfortunately applied, since they do not seem to refer to the afferent, efferent, and central neural activities. As other-wise described by McDougall, the 'afferent' part of the 'instinct' is perception, or what used to be called 'simple apprehension'; and the 'efferent' part is appetition, al-though I should call it motor activity. The 'central' part, which is, for McDougall, the essential part, and, I think I may say, the real instinct, is something whose nature is not at all clear to me. According to McDougall, the 'afferent' part may be modified by the substitution of quite different stimulations and perceptions; the 'efferent' part may be modified by the substitution of quite different activities;


( 90) and yet, if the 'central' part is perchance not modified, the instinct. is essentially unchanged.

If I may give a somewhat exaggerated illustration, the non-essentiality of the afferent and efferent parts of the instinct may be shown. A cat, when confronted by an aggressive dog, `instinctively' arches its back and fluffs up its tail. The cat in this case is exhibiting `an instinct.' Suppose we train the cat, now, through a careful course of substitution, to react in this way to a different stimulus pattern, namely, a mouse. The cat now arches it back and fluffs up its tail at the sight of a mouse. Next, by another course of habit formation, we train the cat to lie down and roll over, instead of arching its back and fluffing up its tail. The cat, then, on lying down and rolling over at the sight of a mouse, is exhibiting the same instinct as formerly in fluffing up its tail and arching its back at the sight of a dog, provided the `central' part of the instinctive performance remains the same.

If we ask, now, What is this highly important central part; we find two answers suggested. First, we seem to be told that it is an emotion. Second, that it is a neural pre-disposition, which is accompanied by an emotion. But, since it is obvious that in altering the connections of afferent and efferent, the neural predisposition has been altered, the first suggestion seems to be the more reasonable; and I now understand that McDougall really means that the emotion is the `central' portion of the instinct: in other words, it is the true instinct.

If this statement does represent McDougall's actual view, then it seems that an enormous amount of confusion might have been obviated if the term `emotion' had been used in-stead of `instinct,' and the question whether an adequate basis of social psychology is to be found in the emotions might be discussed on its own merits. If my statement is not accurate, then I am thrown back into a state of uncertainty as to what is meant by the term `an instinct.'

I do not care to enter here upon an extended discussion of the emotions. I do wish to say, however, that I do not


( 91) for a moment believe that there are a number of typical emotions of the order of those listed by McDougall, sufficiently distinct and separate from each other to be treated as independent units. The emotions seem, on the contrary, to be a -vast and poly-dimensional continuum, within which, for convenience, we mark off certain ranges and apply names to them. I do not believe that there is a single unique type of `fear,' or that there are two, four, six, or more discrete types of fear. Nor do I believe that there is a sharp line of demarcation between fear and anger, nor between fear and rage, nor between fear and disgust. If I apply the term `fear' to the reactions of a ten months old babe, when these reactions are somewhat like those I show at times, I apply the term with the distinct understanding that the babe's fear is, perhaps, as different from various fears of mine as my fears are from my sorrow, or as the babe's speech is different from mine.

But it does not seem to me, at present, that either in instinct, or in emotion,, in the general sense of the term emotion,we have the most vital factor in social interactions. Admitting the great importance of instinct and emotion, yet these aspects of mental life seem no more important than other aspects, among which are habit, perception, and ideation.In fact, it may be possible that there is no one aspect of individual mental life which is of predominant importance in social relations, and that, therefore, social psychology is reallyonly what I have called a particular psychology. This conclusion is really an attractive one, and I am by no means willing to deny its potential importance. But before adopting it, I should like to see one more attempt made to found social psychology on specific processes, because there is one aspect of mental life, an aspect woefully neglected during the last sixty years, which seems to me of enormous importance in social life, and which may possibly be of primary importance. This aspect is desire.

With the erection of psychology into a separate discipline, and its divorce from philosophy, desires have been largely ignored by certain schools of psychology. For the definite


( 92) recognition of desire as an important fact of life, one must turn to the philosophers, or to the Catholic psychologists, or to certain old-fashioned psychologists, among whom I should have to be included. In examining five widely used American textbooks of psychology, I find that one author[8] ignores desire completely; one[9] merely touches on the topic very briefly and vaguely, in an inserted section of fine print, in which desire is identified with suggestion; one[10] introduces the words `craving,' `desire,' and `wish' abruptly in the latter part of his book, with no explanation of whit they represent; and two authors [11] devote about a page each to a serious discussion of the topic.

It will probably be understood by this audience that in what I have to say here about `desire' I am not discussing the psycho-analysts' wish or libido, but that I am dealing with a topic which has been discussed by psychologists for centuries, and which is treated by such texts as those of Stout and Maher, who derived their conceptions of desire from the older psychologists before the advent of Freud. I may add that I outlined my own conception of desire in a book which I published before I had ever heard of Freud or his doctrines. This explanation, unnecessary here, would be necessary if my remarks should come before a wider audience, because there are many persons, and even some popular writers on psycho-analysis, who assume that the Freudians discovered all the psychological principles they have woven into their scheme. It is, however, very probable that an important basis for the popular appeal of psycho-analysis has been its recognition, in however distorted a fashion, of desire, together with the ignoring of this topic by the orthodox schools of psychology which have been in the ascendency.

It must not be supposed that in desire I am offering a mere formal substitute for the instincts. The instincts are not concrete facts, but are points of view from which we classify the mass of activities; and these same activities we also clas-


( 93) -sify from the converse point of view of habit. Desires, on the other hand, are not principles of classification, but are actual facts in the organism of the same order as the muscular and glandular activities which are classified now as instincts, now as habits. And they are as directly observable, by the animal which has them, as are his movements of arms and legs.

We may classify desires among the feelings or affections, and we may considerfeelings as being states, conditions, or changes in the self. This point of view has been very widely held from the scholastic period down to the present day, however much various theorizers may have differed in their descriptions of the self. Now, under the influence of the modern theory of the feelings as somatic and visceral states and processes, this point of view is still held, because the fundamental self is, for modern psychology, the body as it is experienced.

In what follows I shall assume that feelings are literally conditions and processes in the soma and viscera; including the skeletal and visceral muscles, connective tissues, and epithelia. I shall proceed on the assumption that it is theoretically possible to identify each distinguishable feeling with a definite condition or process in some tissue or tissues; and that desires, as one subclass of feelings, have their spatial locus and their potential chemical and physical formulŠ. I shall assume here, also, as everywhere in the domain of psychology, that the discovery of the physiological conditions depends on and waits upon the discovery and analysis of the psychological facts, and hence shall proceed to deal with the desires as they actually occur, without waiting for the more remote physiological interpretation.

I must repeat, that the desires and the other feelings are objective facts of immediate experience, just as real and just as objective as are the colors, sounds, and other facts in the environment. They are just as capable of interpretation in the mathematical symbols of physics and chemistry as are the `external'sense data. Sense data arc perceived by reactions initiated through the receptors of the so-called `special senses'; feelings are experienced by reactions initi-


( 94) -ated principally in receptors of the afferent visceral branch of the nervous system; but this difference is no greater than the difference between the mechanisms for vision and olfaction.

While we are considering the feelings as experienceable objects, we must not ignore their dynamic effects. A feeling is always a real stimulus pattern which is the beginning of a reaction pattern, and the reactions thus initiated are among the most important determining influences in the total reaction system. The afferent current[12] derived from feelings must go efferently somewhere, to some muscles and glands; and because of the strength of the supply, must have important results. If perceptual reactions and thought reactions concurrent with the feeling reactions `drain' off this efferent current into their channels without seriously altering the course of these channels, the reactions may be extended and intensified, sometimes usefully. In this case, the feelings are said to be `under control.' The affective discharge may, however, modify the normal discharge pattern of the perceptual and ideational reactions and seriously interfere with their efficacy in making proper adjustments to the environment, or even blocking the channels altogether, turning the efferent discharge into the channels for the evoking of new emotional responses. In this case, the feelings are said to be `uncontrolled.'

In any case, the feelings are not only the background, against which external objects are experienced; they con-tribute also a driving force, which makes the reactions initiated from `external' stimulus patterns more efficacious, or less so, as the case may be; but in either case, energizing and activating the whole reaction system. This activation is not the function of desire alone, but is also the work of manyother feelings and emotions. Hunger, fear, rage, pain, joy, and localized sex feeling are illustrations of feelings which have `driving force.' But none of these have social value except in so far as they involve, also, or are derived from,


( 95) desire; and even in so far as individual life is concerned, it is doubtful if man would be able to adjust himself effectively to the environment without desire.

To construct a list of desires in the present stage of investigation is a rash act. Yet, it is important that we should have a tentative list, and I have not hesitated at rashness. The tentative list includes nine desires: alimentary desire, excretory desire, desire of rest, desire of activity, desire of shelter, amatory desire, parental desire, desire of preŰminence, and desire of conformity. At least four of these desires (amatory, parental, preŰminence, conformity) seem to be of supreme social importance, because of the actions, emotions, ideas, and discriminations they determine and regulate. While we might guess at the tissues in which certain of these desires occur, I do not consider their physiological assignment the matter of primary importance at present.

I am using the term, desire, perhaps, somewhat rashly. I do not mean, for example, by the `desire of conformity,' either the varied acts of conformity to the group or to the leader, nor do I mean the ideas and perceptions of difference and agreement in thought and action. I mean the feeling which lies at the root: of the development of these ideas and activities, and which I believe runs through our complex emotions of embarrassment over being peculiar, of fear of seeming odd, or conspicuous in certain ways, or pleasure in being in fashion. I believe there is such a feeling, which I name from the situations in which its effects are characteristically obvious, but which I believe can exist in isolation from the acts and ideas to which it usually leads. Perhaps I should not call it the desire, but rather the radical of the desire; but the shorter designation seems at present permissible. The existence of such a simple feeling may seem less plausible in the cases of preŰminence and conformity than in the cases of the other desires; but I am at least assuming it in these cases.

If we consider social interrelations, we notice three out-standing forms, represented by the family, the state, and the church; as well as various minor forms of interrelation


( 96) which are sometimes included in these, but which sometimes are in conflict with them. The problem of the family involves not only the producing and rearing of children, but also a much more complicated set of problems involving the psychological differences of sex, and the organization of two or more individuals with these differences into a group. In accordance with the exact forms the family takes, various of the first seven desires are involved in the organization. But always, and essentially, the amatory and parental. The adjustments and activities requisite to afford satisfaction of these desires, and the consequence of incomplete or in-adequate or unbalanced expression of these desires, constitute the fundamental network of family problems.

The problems of courtship and marriage and divorce, and the problems of prostitution and promiscuity, can not be settled without thorough analysis of the play of these desires. It is only on the basis of an understanding of the essential difference in the conditions and forms of amatory desire between men and women that many unsuccessful families are harmonized and made successful.

In so far as the family organization suffices for the satisfaction of all of the types of desire, no further organization is necessary. And this is the situation in small primitive groups. But with increasing population, satisfaction of the first seven desires increasingly demands another type of organization, the State, which, as it arises, is necessarily in conflict with the family.

In the State, whether it be the tribe, the clan, the nation, or the less determinate group, the desires for preeminence and for conformity are given their maximal satisfaction. The satisfaction of desires of alimentation, rest, activity are regulated by the State, and for the maintenance of its own organization, it interferes in the family group, some-times for better, sometimes for worse.

With the increasing complexity of the state organization it becomes inadequate. It becomes impossible for a single organization to provide for all desires, and the failure to satisfy adequately the desire for conformity and for activity


( 97) leads to new organizations within, and also independent of the State. The Church and secret societies are at first mere aspects of the State. But eventually these emerge as independent or quasi-independent organizations for the satisfaction of the desires of conformity, of preeminence, and of activity. These organizations not only provide opportunities for leadership and for conformity, in addition to thoseprovided by the State, but they also provide activity, which may be indulged in for its own sake; in other words, play. For the desire for activity does not grow less with increasing age of civilization, or increasing individual age; and play, in the form of religious ceremonials, or ritual `work' of secret societies, or sports, or of many other sorts, must be provided.

These venerable institutions furnish but a fraction of the problems of social psychology in our complex civilization. The recognition of desires as psychological facts and forces opens up fields of investigation which I believe can not other-wise be cultivated adequately. Problems of criminality, criminal tendency, and criminal types; problems of cultural and vocational education; of the development and maintenance of conventions and laws; of the raising of ethical standards; of the determination of the nature and conditions of feeble-mindedness, are typical features of the fields which lie before us. It is with difficulty that I resist the temptation to discuss in detail the analysis of desires in connection with some of the problems arising in these topics.

In my opinion, it is idle to discuss instinct, or emotion, or any other factors in social relations, without taking account of desire. Without desires, there are no social relations. One organism might act upon others and be acted upon by them, just as pebbles on the beach grind on each other. But this action, even if conscious, is not what we mean by social relations. If the pebbles on the beach were conscious, we might call their action-tendencies instincts in the same sense in which our action-tendencies are called instincts. But such a collection of conscious pebbles would still not be a society. Even cattle in the herd are associated through desire.


( 98)

If there is a basis for a non-particular social psychology, that basis can not be found elsewhere than in the social de-sires. In short, it may be true that social psychology must be the discussion of the effects of these social desires on thought, emotion, and conduct.

Let us suppose that we have a social psychology, either on the basis I have mentioned, or on some other basis. The question of the value of such a subject still remains to be determined. The sort of foundation I have been discussing so far is a foundation in theory only, and in order to have value, the subject must have a foundation in method. If it is true that a subject without a theoretical basis is chaotic, it is also true that a subject without a method is sterile. Hence, the examination of the methods of social psychology is of vital importance.

I have no interest in social psychology, except in so far as it may promise to become a science. Social philosophy, social history, social anthropology, economics, politics; these are all very well, and in my leisure moments I find them interesting. But as a psychologist, I must expect to find social psychology a science, or else I must abandon it.

The essential thing about science is its experimental method. On this we are all agreed, even though we are not agreed upon details of this method. We probably agree, also, that general psychology can employ the experimental method, and that in so far as it does so, it is a science. Thus, in our principles at least, we magnify the experimental method and experimental work, although it is a grim jest, much bandied about among psychologists, that the only way in which one can obtain standing and fame is to abandon experimental work and write textbooks.

Is social psychology a science? Or can it become such? Can it employ a truly experimental method? I am optimistic enough to think it can. Not only would any really experimental work on desire be a contribution to the structure of social psychology, but it may employ types of experimentation which are peculiar to its own field and not merely the application of the methods of general psychology.


( 99)

I do not refer here to social experiments in the ordinary sense, although such experiments are indeed bound to be more and more employed, in the future. The French revolution and the Russian revolution have been, in a loose sense, experiments. But they have not been experiments in any true scientific sense, because of the lack of definite means of observation and record, and because, indeed, although pre-arranged in a certain. way, they were largely natural developments, whose time and form could not be foreseen because of the very lack of experimental knowledge concerning such phenomena.

The rise and fall of the Shaker settlements was indeed a phenomenon which :night have been made an experiment in social psychology, since it was indeed an actual experiment in family life, a putting to the proof of certain theories in regard to the control of sexual desire and the instinctive and emotional activities which these desires regulate. But, unfortunately, the Shaker experiment was not so utilized. And the Zion City enterprise is a closed experiment, so far as the psychologists are concerned.

As an illustration of one type of difficulty encountered by those proposing experimental work on social problems, I may mention an attempt I made some years ago to obtain an opportunity to study certain features of the Billy Sunday revivals, then in full swing. My actual problem, which I wished to investigate, was quite simple; in fact, it was quite ridiculously naive, as you will see in a moment, since it involved obtaining the names and addresses of the `trail-hitters,' in order to find out later something about their early religious training. I ran up against a brick wall, of course; the one thing I couldn't be allowed to do was to obtain the lists of trail-hitters. None had been kept in any city, and none were going to be made. in explanation of this situation, I can say nothing beyond asking a question which forced itself upon me as a result of my further observations. If, from the list of trail-hitters, we should eliminate children under twelve, repeaters, jokers, and church members in good standing, would any considerable number of trail-hitters have remained?


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I might mention a long list of social experiments, in the loose sense, which might, theoretically, be made psychological experiments, and I suppose that some of these will some day be carried through. But the practical difficulties are so great that not much progress can be made in this direction. In this respect, educational psychology is more fortunately situated than is social psychology, because there is no obstacle in the way of actual educational experiments, except the obstacles common to all our sciences, namely, lack of vital hypotheses and lack of money.

Some educational experiments are actually in progress, in scientific form, and there are many others which can be carried out when funds are forthcoming. I fear, however, that the really experimental side of education is far too little emphasized at present, and even the name `experimental education' is widely applied to a range of topics which are not actually experimental education at all.

Social psychology, on the other hand, even if it had the funds and the forces to carry out direct experiments, would run against so many prejudices and fixed interests, that its projects of greatest interest would be practically unfeasible.

The great, and hitherto little used, experimental laboratory for social psychology seems to me conveniently at hand, ready to be utilized, in the theater. We cannot bring about actual domestic crises for exact study of the amatory and parental desires. We cannot control experimentally real situations in which the desires of conformity or of preŰminence are involved in ways suitable for precise observation. But we can present to large numbers of people plays in which these situations are sharply involved, and it only remains for us to devise methods of obtaining data on the composition of our audiences, and on their reactions to these situations. And I am sufficiently optimistic to feel confident that these methods can be devised and applied.

When I say we can present plays, I speak loosely. We do not need to have plays written to suit our specific problems, nor do we need to present these plays. The theatrical profession is doing all that for us. All we need to do is to


( 101) select, among the multitudes of presentations, the plays which do present situations on which we wish data. The control of conditions is there. All we need to do is to select the particular controls which fit our experimental needs. And if the methods of which I spoke are developed, the application of these methods may fully satisfy the scientific cause of experiment.

As an illustration of my meaning, I may cite a problem which is not as specific as we should ultimately require, but which is sufficiently clear for present purposes. How, in the scale of moral values, does incest compare with other sex offenses, in the estimation of various sections of the populace? Direct questioning of large groups of people is not only impossible, but the judgments, if they were obtainable, would be difficult to evaluate. But through a study of a selected group of comedies and tragedies, and a study of the effects of these plays on the public, including among other data those obtainable from the box office, we can obtain a mass of evidence which leaves us in no doubt whatever.

In making use of the theater, there are, of course, a number of problems concerning the theater itself which have to be solved before we :.an make use of theatrical data in a wider way. As an illustration of this, I may cite the opinion which is shared by many eminent producers and actors, and which I have found firmly held by a doorman who has been longer in this position than any other I have found: the opinion that the raison d'ŕtre of the type of respectable musical comedy in which the female members of the cast are lightly or sketchily clad, is the fact that the exposure of the female form, provided it is beautiful, makes an especial appeal to the women; and the theater, like the church, depends primarily upon the interest and influence of the women.

Here is a point on which some data have already been collected. The preliminary inspection of these data apparently shows that the theatrical people are wrong, because the percentages of attendance of the two sexes are against them. Greater exposure of the females of the cast does go with greater percentage of male attendance, as well as greater


( 102) total attendance. But upon close analysis of the audience and the show, the opinion of the theatrical people is shown to be correct. I shall not go farther into the details of the experiment, because it is not complete, but it is a matter which has bearing not only on theatrical problems, but also on other problems which superficially seem remote from it, especially on fundamental problems of sex psychology.

The important consideration in regard to this sort of experimental work is the co÷peration of theatrical people. And of this I wish to speak last, because it is of the utmost importance. At present, this co÷peration is full and hearty. This is true of the manager, impresario, and principal of the concert and operatic stage, and of orchestras. These persons do not always know what we are driving at, but if we think we can get something of scientific value, we can go the limit in investigation, so long as we don't actually interfere with the performance. I have found no group of people in practical life more willing to open their field to investigation than those of the theatrical profession. But I already have good and sufficient evidence that this may be changed. One wild psychologist, or one who is unintelligent and unsympathetic in this particular field, or who raises the suspicion of not being absolutely straight, may easily put the whole profession, from gatekeeper to leading lady, in a condition where the word psychologist acts upon them as the tune `Boyne Water' does on the Sinn Fein. The field is one into which the psychologist must enter not without preparation, under-standing, and due humility.

In conclusion, let me revert to the general problem with which this paper began, and towards the solution of which my discussion is intended to be a contribution. Is social psychology hopelessly illegitimate? I think it is not. I think we need not disown it, nor relegate it to the class of particular psychologies; nor need we regard it as a dummy, clothed in a motley of pieces stolen from various sciences. It is a vital and respectable subject, to which we can give an honorable place in the family of special psychologies.

Notes

  1. Address of the president, before the American Psychological Association, Cambridge Meeting, December, 1922.
  2. 'Bau and Leben des Socialen K˘rpes.'
  3. "Principles of Sociology,' Vol. I., Pt. II.
  4. `The Need for Social Psychology,' PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW, 1917, 24, 267.
  5. Loc. cit., p. 268.
  6. Loc.cit., p. 274.
  7. Dewey, `Human Nature and Conduct' (1922), p. 132.
  8. Pillsbury, `Essentials of Psychology.'
  9. Titchener, 'Textbook of Psychology.'
  10. Woodworth, 'Psychology.'
  11. Angell, 'Psychology.' Warren, 'Human Psychology.'
  12. It is to he understood, of course, that the term `current' is here used in the customary metaphorical sense, To say that the afferent neural activities derived from feelings must bring about the activities of efferent neurons is more exact but less clear.

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