The Concept "Social Forces" In American Sociology
Section VI: Wishes and Attitudes as Social Forces
Floyd Nelson House
University of Chicago
Wishes and attitudes as items in a comprehensive new theory of social behavior, —W. I. Thomas and Park and Burgess have been responsible for the introduction into the literature of American sociology of a fairly elaborate new conceptual system for the analysis and explanation of human social behavior, with particular reference to its motivation. The principal formal terms used to designate the concepts in this system are "attitude," "value," "situation," "definition of the situation," "wish," and the "four wishes" or classes of wishes.
The wish concept.—The wish concept originated with the psychologists; Thomas and Park and Burgess appear to have been influenced especially by E. B. Holt's account of it. Thomas' earlier formulations of the "attitude" concept did not discriminate clearly between attitudes and wishes, but his correlation of attitudes with social values or social objects was later carried over to the definition of the wish concept. A wish is now defined as a wish for something; it involves a motor tendency. All wishes are conceived to fall in four classes, which cannot be substituted for one another.
The attitude as a behavior pattern.—Park has abstracted the attitude concept from the wish concept more clearly than Thomas had done, and has classified attitudes as behavior patterns in four classes: approaching, withdrawing, superordination, superordination.
There is no logical necessity for the linking together of the concept "wish" and the concept "attitude" in a doctrine of soda! forces. As a matter of historical fact, however, the two terms have been used in connection with each other, and have been defined in part by reference to each other. W. I. Thomas seems to have been largely responsible for introducing these concepts into the literature of American sociology and social psychology, in his collaboration with Florian Znaniecki in their monumental work, The Polish
( 513) Peasant in Europe and America. In two methodological discussions in this study the authors have made the effort to define the terms "wish" and "attitude" for the purposes of sociological analysis, and to correlate them with each other. The generalized exposition of the concepts has been carried further in Park and Burgess's Introduction to the Science of Sociology, in Park and Miller's Old-World Traits Transplanted, and in Thomas's The Unadjusted Girl. Probably the last-mentioned work, which presumably contains Thomas's latest thoughts on the subject, is the most satisfactory expression at the date of writing of the conception of wishes and attitudes as social forces which is so influential at present with the Chicago school of sociologists.
As we examine, in the following pages, some of the passages mast in point from the writings of these men, it will appear that the concept "wishes" is not of an entirely different order from Ward's concept "desires." What Thomas has done, in effect, is to redefine somewhat the notion of fundamental, more or less universal human nature motives, and to signalize his revision of the concept by the adoption of a new term, imported from the field of psychoanalysis—the "wish," and of still another, the "attitude," incorporated into a scientific hypothesis from the field of ordinary discourse by giving to it a precise definition. Along with these fundamental motive-concepts, Thomas and his followers have found it necessary to develop some three other closely related ones—that of the social "value," the particular "situation," and the "definition of the situation" made by the individual or provided in the culture of the group. There is not entire agreement among those who have been working with these terms as to the exact meanings to be attached to them, but this will come out in the passages to be quoted below.
By way of introducing more carefully the story of the development of these concepts, it may be observed that there are two possible bases of classification of the fundamental human motives. As an actual research procedure, each of these will involve a method somewhere between systematic induction and a crude process of trial-and-selection. Following the one line of approach, the methodologist will attempt to classify motives according to the ends toward which they are, or appear to be, directed. If the other approach is used, the basis of classification is the actual form of the behavior pattern itself. The former is substantially the method by which Ward's classification of desires and Small's classification of interests were formed. it is also the principle on which the Thomas fourfold classification of "wishes" is based. Park and Burgess, on the other hand, following up rather vague suggestions made in the writings of Thomas, have made a fourfold classification of attitudes as behavior patterns, stating at the same time that a more elaborate classification might be made on the same basis, in the earlier writings of Thomas, however, there are, as we shall see from quotations to be given below, only faint adumbrations of the distinction which we have just noted.
In The Polish Peasant, Thomas and Znaniecki approached the problem of defining their "attitude" concept through a preliminary definition and description of "social values":
By a social value we understand any datum haying an empirical content accessible to the members of some social group, and a meaning with regard to which it is, or may be, an object of activity. Thus, a foodstuff, an instrument, a coin, a piece of poetry, a university, a myth, a scientific theory, are social values . . . . The meaning of these values becomes explicit when we take them in connection with human actions The social value is thus opposed to the natural thing, which has a content, but, as a part of nature, has no meaning for human activity, is treated as "valueless"; when the natural
(515) thing assumes a meaning, it becomes thereby a social value. And naturally a social value may have different meanings, for it may refer to many different kinds of activities.
By attitude we understand a process of individual consciousness which determines real or possible activity of the individual in the social world. Thus, hunger that compels the consumption of the foodstuff; the workman's decision to use the tool; the tendency of the spendthrift to spend the coin; the poet's feelings and ideas expressed in the poem and the reader's sympathy and admiration; the needs which the institution tries to satisfy and the response which it provokes; the fear and devotion manifested in the cult of the divinity; the interest in creating understanding, or applying a scientific theory, and the ways of thinking implied in it—all these are attitudes. The attitude is thus the individual counterpart of the social value; activity, in whatever form, is the bond between them.
In the sentences which follow those just quoted, the authors set forth plainly another feature of their conception of the attitude as they were defining the term; they were making an attempt to establish an objective, behavioristic classification, in place of the subjectively defined categories of motives used by the older psychology:
By its reference to activity, and thereby to the social world, the attitude is distinguished from the psychical state. In the examples quoted above we were obliged to use, with reference to ideas and volitions, words that have become terms of individual psychology by being abstracted from the objective social reality to which they apply, but originally they were designed to express attitudes, not psychological processes. A psychological process is an attitude treated as an object in itself, isolated by an act of reflective attention, and taken first of all in connection with other states of the same individual. An attitude is a psychological process treated as primarily manifest in its reference to the social world, and taken first of all in connection with some social value. Individual psychology may later re-establish the connection between the psychological process and the objective reality which has been severed by reflection; ít may study psychological processes as conditioned by the facts going on in the objective world. In the same way social theory may later connect various attitudes of an individual and determine his social character. But it is the original (usually unconsciously occupied) standpoints which determine at once the subsequent methods of these two sciences. The psychological process remains always fundamentally a state of somebody; the attitude remains always fundamentally an attitude toward something.
In their definition of the concept "attitude," the authors made it very clear that they were attempting to set up a category in the realm of the social, as the preceding passage has shown. That in the attitude as they defined it—an objective, observable process of behavior—they had something essentially social in nature, they further demonstrated by an analysis of the formation of attitudes. Briefly, the course of that analysis was as follows: We have to assume some kind of behavior to start with, of course; activity, and, apparently, to judge from the observations of Watson, several recognizable patterns of activity, are found in the newly born human infant. Let us then label these assumed but little known inborn behavior patterns "temperamental attitudes." Now it is evident that we do not have temperamental attitudes to deal with in our study of the behavior of ordinary persons; for the temperamental attitude is altered to some extent the first time it operates. The infant acts on the prompting of its inborn impulses, but the first time it acts, it acquires as a result of the act some perception of an object or "value," and at the same time the attitude is modified or defined. The next time the impulse occurs, it is an impulse which has in it something of the previous experience—something of the previously experienced object. Hence the attitude which is now operative is a compound of the first "temperamental" attitude and the value with which it came in contact. Similarly, when an object occurs in experience for any time after the first experience of it or something like it, it has in it, humanly speaking, or for that person, a certain quality which it received by the impact of the former act. A child has, let us say, a certain value category, "ball," formed out of its experience with its soft rubber plaything; it has linked with this value a certain attitude or behavior pattern of manipulation. One day some one tosses the child a baseball, and at once both its value "ball" as "something to play with—soft, it won't hurt me" is altered to fit the new experience; while at the same time the attitude called forth by the occurrence of the experience "ball" is correspondingly modified. This line of analysis the authors have summed up in the following propositions:
The fundamental methodological principle of both social psychology and sociology—the principle without which they can never reach scientific explanation—is . ... the following one:
The cause of a social or individual phenomenon is never another social or individual phenomenon alone, but always a combination of a social and an individual phenomenon.
Or, in more exact terms : The cause of a value or an attitude is never an attitude or a value alone, but always a combination of an attitude and a value.
The implication of this, according to Thomas and Znaniecki, is that social science, in its search for working hypotheses and general concepts, is limited primarily to cultural data:
The more generally an attitude is shared by the members of a given social group, and the greater the part it plays in the life of every member, the stronger the interest which it provokes in the social psychologists, white attitudes which are either peculiar to a few members of the group or which manifest themselves only on rare occasions have, as such, a relatively secondary significance, but may become significant through some connection with more general and fundamental attitudes.
On the other hand, scientific generalizations are productive and valuable only in so far as they help to discover certain relations between classes of the generalized data and to establish a systematic classification by a logical subordination and co-ordination of concepts; a generalization which bears no relation to others is useless. Now, as the main body of the materials of social psychology is constituted by cultural attitudes, corresponding to variable and multiform cultural values, such elementary natural attitudes as correspond to stable and uniform physical conditions—for example, attitudes manifested in sensual perception or in the action of eating—in spite of their generality and practical importance for the human race, can be investigated within the limits of this science only if a connection can be found between them and the cultural attitudes—if, for example, it can be shown that sensual perception or the organic attitude of disgust varies with the variation of social conditions. As long as there is no possibility of an actual subordination or co-ordination between the cultural and natural attitudes, the natural attitudes have no immediate interest for social psychology.
The fundamental methodological problem which gives rise to this discussion is, of course, as Thomas and Znaniecki have very clearly seen, that of establishing or discovering valid general categories under which the manifold data of social science can be
( 518) classified. Such general categories they have set up, and Thomas has later refined, in their fourfold classification of wish patterns—without, however, making it at all clear to us by what process of reasoning these categories were arrived at. Presumably it was a matter of trying out first one classification and then another, till one was found which satisfied the logical criteria that had been set up in the beginning. We know from the evidence of some of Thomas' earlier writings that he had dallied with the plan of reducing all human phenomena to explanation in terms of two categories of motives, hunger and sex, and in various sentences in the methodological note from which we are quoting passages there is an assumption of the existence in the human organism of "instincts," from which these classes of wishes are presumably somehow derived. Thomas and Znaniecki give the following as their first rendition of the fourfold classification:
We have assumed throughout this argument that if an adequate technique is developed it is possible to produce any desirable attitudes and values, but this assumption is practically justified only if we can find in the individual attitudes which cannot avoid response to the class of stimulations which society is able to apply to him. And apparently we do find this disposition. Every individual has a vast variety of wishes which can be satisfied only by his incorporation in a society. Among his general patterns of wishes we may enumerate: (1) the desire for new experience, for fresh stimulations; (2) the desire for recognition, including, for example, sexual response and general social appreciation, and secured by devices ranging from the display of ornament to the display of worth through scientific attainment; (3) the desire for mastery, or the "wit' to power," exemplified by ownership, domestic tyranny, political despotism, based on the instinct of hate, but capable of being sublimated to laudable ambition; () the desire for security, based an the instinct of fear and exemplified negatively by the wretchedness of the individual in perpetual solitude or under social taboo.
In the Introduction to Volume III of The Polish Peasant, written apparently some time after the Methodological Note in Volume I, from which the above passages are quoted, we find that the authors have modified both the classification of the wishes and the terms applied to the categories. In this volume the distinction between temperament and character is emphasized; tem-
( 519) perament being used to refer to the sum total of the inborn, "instinctive" attitudes with which the individual is endowed at birth, and character referring to the attitudes which are organized through experience an the basis of the temperament. In this volume there is suggested, rather indefinitely, a new scheme of four categories of wishes, in two pairs. The desire for new experience, resting upon the instinct of curiosity, and the desire for security or stability, resting upon the instinct of fear, seem to be conceived of as nearer to the temperamental basis. The desire for response, i.e., far intimacy, friendship, love, and the desire for recognition, i.e., for superior status, admiration, social position, are conceived of as classes of wishes evolved in a larger degree from forces in the
In The Unadjusted Girl (1923), Thomas has asserted more confidently and clearly the classification as presented in Volume III of The Polish Peasant. In this book the author gives us the fruit of riper reflection and experimentation with the whole scheme of analysis of human social behavior through the concepts "attitude," "value," "situation," "definition of the situation," and "wish," It will be enlightening in this connection to examine two particularly clear passages from this later book.
When a concrete wish of any general class arises it may be accompanied and qualified by any or all of the other classes of wishes. Thus when Pasteur undertook the quest described above we do not know what wish was uppermost. Certainly the love of the work was very strong, the ardor of pursuit, the new experience; the anticipation of the recognition of the public, the scientific fame involved in the achievement was certainly present; he invited response horn his wife and colleagues, and he possibly had the wish also to put his future professional and material life on a secure basis. The immigrant who comes to America may wish to see the world (new experience), make a fortune (security), have a higher standing on his return (recognition), and induce a certain person to marry him (response).
The whole matter, as Thomas saw it at the time of writing, is summed up very clearly in a passage near the close of this book:
All the types of wishes coexist in every person—the vague desire for new experience, for change, for the satisfaction of the appetites, for pleasure; the new experience contained in pursuit; the desire for response in personal
(520) relations; the desire far recognition; and the desire for security—the assurance of the means and conditions for gratifying all the wishes indefinitely. And all of these classes of wishes are general mental attitudes ready to express themselves in schemes of action which utilize and are dependent upon the existing social values. These values may be material . . . . or they may be the mental attitudes of others, as when a bogus nobleman imposes on the desire for recognition of a bourgeois, or a scientist appeals to a philanthropic person to endow an institution for medical research.
The attitudes of a given person at a given moment are the result of his original temperament, the definitions of situations given by society during the course of his life, and his personal definitions of situations derived from his experience and reflection. The character of the individual depends upon these factors.
Any mobilization of energies in a plan of action means that some attitude (tendency to action) among the other attitudes has came to the front and subordinated the other attitudes to itself for the moment, as the result of a new definition of the situation. This definition may be the counsel of a friend, an act of memory reviving a social definition applicable to the situation, or an element of new experience defining the situation . . . .
It can be seen by a comparison of the relevant passages in The Polish Peasant (1917, 1919) with those in The Unadjusted Girl (1923) that Thomas' own interest led him more and more away from the "attitude" concept in the direction of a closer and closer definition of the four classes of wishes. Park and Burgess have made further contributions toward the definition of the "wish" concept, in their Introduction to the Science of Sociology (1921, revised 1924) :
The wishes, as popularly conceived, are as numerous as the objects or values toward which they are directed. As there are positive and negative values, so there are positive and negative wishes. Fears are negative wishes. The speculations of the Freudian school have attempted to reduce all wishes to one, the libido. In that case the wishes, as we know them and as they represent themselves in consciousness, are to be regarded as offshoots, or perhaps better, specifications, of the one wish. As the one wish is directed to this or that object, it makes of that object a value, and the object gives its name to the wish. In this way the one wish becomes many wishes.
Science demands, however, not a theory of the origin of the wishes, but a classification based on fundamental differences which it ís necessary to take account of in explaining human behavior. Thomas' fourfold classification fulfills this purpose. The wish far security, the wish for new experience, the wish
(521) for response, and the wish for recognition are the permanent and fundamental unconscious motives of the person which find expression in the many and conscious wishes. As wishes find expression in characteristic forms of behavior, they may also be thought of in spatial terms as tendencies to move toward or away from their objects
The fundamental value for social research of the classification inheres in the fact that the wishes in one class cannot be substituted for wishes in another. The desire for response and affection cannot be satisfied by fame and recognition, or only partially so. The wholesome individual is he who, in some form or other, realizes all the fundamental wishes. The security and permanence of any society or association depends upon the extent to which it permits the individuals who compose it to realize their fundamental wishes. The restless individual is the individual whose wishes are not realized even in dreams.
E. B. Holt, in The Freudian Wish, has made one of the more helpful statements of the wish doctrine, and also, in effect, of the concept "attitude," although he does not use the latter term as a
label for a scientific concept. Park and Burgess have quoted a passage from this book which embodies in concise form a definition of the wish that does much to clear up the relation of wishes to attitudes, a matter which seems to have occasioned considerable difficulty to Thomas and those of his followers who have tried to use this set of concepts as tools of sociological research.
An exact definition of the "wish" is that it is a course of action which some mechanism of the body is set to carry out, whether it actually does so or does not. All emotions, as well as the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, are separable from the "wishes," and this precludes any thought of a merely hedonistic psychology. The wish is any purpose or project for a course of action, whether it is being merely entertained by the mind or is being actually executed—a distinction which really is of little importance. We shall do well if we consider this to be, as in fact it is, dependent upon a motor attitude of the physical body, which goes over into overt action and conduct when the wish is carried into execution.
In the book from which the foregoing passage is quoted, Holt has set forth at length a theory of human behavior which may be referred to by his term "specific response." He points out that
( 522) the psychology of the past has sought to explain behavior largely in terms of the reflex arc or stimulus-response co-ordination; the human organism has been thought of, as has indeed every other animal organism, as a bundle of potential responses to stimuli. When we observe the behavior of human beings as such, however, we find that the distinguishing feature is what he calls the "specific response," the power to correlate two or mare stimuli and to deal with them in an act which is no longer a response to a stimulus simply, but a "specific response" which has reference to some phase or aspect of the environment. Halt's language in this account has perhaps not been as felicitous as one could wish, but in his "specific response" he has practically the same concept which Park and Burgess have developed as the "attitude." Their most formal definition of the attitude is "the tendency of the person to react positively or negatively to the total situation." Their explanation proceeds as follows:
Attitudes are as many and as varied as the situations to which they are a response. It is, of course, not to be gainsaid that instincts, appetites, habits, emotions, sentiments, opinions, and wishes are involved in and with the attitudes. Attitudes are mobilizations and organizations of the wishes with reference to definite situations. My wishes may be very positive and definite in a given situation, but my attitude may be wavering and undetermined. On the other hand, my attitude may be clearly defined in situations where my wishes are not greatly involved The wishes enter into attitudes as components . . . .The fundamental wishes, we may assume, are the same in all situations. The attitudes and sentiments, however in which the wishes of the individual find expression are determined not only by those wishes, but by other factors in the situation, the wishes of other individuals, for example. 
What we arrive at, then, is this: The wishes — elementary behavior tendencies presumably having some basis in the physical organism in the form of mechanisms which can be set in operation by appropriate external or internal stimuli—are in a certain ultimate sense, from the viewpoint of this theory, the most elementary motives. But we can get at the wishes only by an intellectual process of inference and analysis. In general, it is possible to observe no wishes, and no one has seen the significant nerve connections under the microscope. For purposes of observation, then,
( 523) the attitude is elementary, and attitudes can be observed; for we can define an attitude as an observable behavior pattern, capable of being described in terms of approach, withdrawal, and other simple features of objective performance. Any account of the wishes as elementary neural mechanisms or connections is outside the scope of sociology, and must be left far the further researches of the psychologists. The sociologist, qua sociologist, however, is constrained for his own purposes to make use of such categories of wishes as will stand the pragmatic test—they must be able to account for all forms of social behavior, and they must be such that a wish in one category cannot be entirely realized through values corresponding only to the other categories. The classes of wishes are therefore elementary for sociological purposes; but so also, for another phase of sociological analysis, are the attitudes. Far we can classify attitudes as such, i.e., we can classify them according to their general direction and form. Park and Burgess have made the beginnings of such a classification in the following passage. So far as is known to the present writer, systematic analysis of attitudes along these lines has been carried no further by anyone up to the present time, though doubtless distinctions among the forms of behavior which might be made use of for the amplification of such a classification are to be found in the literature of psychology.
If the attitude may be said to play the role in sociological analysis that the elementary substances play in chemical analysis, then the role of the wishes may be compared to that of the electrons.
The clearest way to think of attitudes is as behavior patterns or units of behavior. The two mast elementary behavior patterns are the tendency to approach and the tendency to withdraw. Translated into terms of the individual organism, these are tendencies to expand and to contract. As the self expands to include other selves, as in sympathy and fellowship, there is an extension of self-feeling to the whale group. Self-consciousness passes over, in the rapport thus established, into group consciousness . . . .
The simplest and most fundamental types of behavior of individuals and of groups are represented in these contrasting tendencies to approach an object and to withdraw it. If, instead of thinking of these two tendencies as unrelated, they are thought of as conflicting responses to the same situation, where the tendency to approach is modified and complicated by the tendency to withdraw, we get the phenomenon of social distance. There is the tendency to approach, but not too near . . . . Where the situation calls forth rival or
(524) conflicting tendencies the resulting attitude is likely to be an accommodation, in which what has been described as distance is the determining factor. When an accommodation takes the form of the domination of A and the submission of В, the original tendencies of approach and withdrawal are transformed into attitudes of superordination and subordínation.
That is, more simply stated, we have a fourfold classification of attitudes: (1) attitudes of approach or expansion; (2) attitudes of withdrawal or contraction; (3) attitudes of domination or superordination; and (4) attitudes of subordination or submission. ideally, if we are to make use of the conceptual equipment thus provided, sociological analysis of behavior would proceed, first to describe and classify the attitudes, and then to analyze the attitudes in terms of the fundamental wishes which underlie them and the definitions of the situation which have reacted with the wishes to produce the attitudes observed.
Before we leave this subdivision of our study, notice should be taken of the attempt which Park has made to standardize for sociological purposes and to correlate with the wish and attitude concepts the notion of sentiments. Like "wish" and "attitude," "sentiment" has long been a term freely used in common-sense and literary descriptions of human behavior. Some yeаrs ago Shand gave an objective definition of "a sentiment" in his Foundations of Character, a definition which was adopted and discussed by McDougall in Social Psychology. That definition is concisely expressed in the following passage:
Mr. Shand points out that our emotions, or, more strictly speaking, our emotional dispositions, tend to become organized in systems about the various objects and classes of objects that excite them. Such an organized system of emotional tendencies is not a fact or made of experience, but is a feature of the complexly organized structure of the mind that underlies all our mental activity. To such an organized system of emotional tendencies centered about some object Mr. Shand proposes to apply the name "sentiment."
Now it is clear that a sentiment involves some sort of tendency to act, and it is also a well-known fact that any particular sentiment —patriotism or parental affection, for instance, frequently be-
( 525) comes embodied in quite definite behavior patterns, so that whenever the sentiment is excited by certain common types of situations which could be described in general terms, the behavior pattern is released quite automatically or spontaneously. In commenting upon the nature of opinions as rationalizations—justifications to one's self and to others of the attitude taken, Park has invented another category for the designation of the type of motivation involved, the "sentiment-attitude. Adding this to the List of terms which we have surveyed in this section, we have then some eight mare or less closely defined categories constituting a theory of human motives as "social forces." These categories are (I) the wishes, (2) the four classes of wishes, (3) the attitudes, (4) the sentiment-attitudes, (5) the social values (objects), (6) situations, (7) definitions of situations, and (8) opinions. It is, of course, quite possible to co-ordinate with these concepts a number of others which could be fitted into a comprehensive theory of social causation, and this is, in effect, one of the tasks which Park and Burgess have attempted in their Introduction to the Science of Sociology. The whale theory is too new to make possible confident prediction as to the influence it may have in the further development of sociological theory and research.
[To be concluded]