American Social Psychology

II. Emory S. Bogardus (1882)

Fay Berger Karpf

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The next writer, in chronological order, to concern himself with the systematic treatment of social psychology in this country has been Bogardus. Having started out in his Essentials of Social Psychology (1918, 1920), from a position not unlike Ellwood's—especially in so far as his emphasis upon the biological and instinctive basis of social behavior is concerned,[1] Bogardus gradually passed on in his Fundamentals of Social Psychology (1924) to a reformulation of his position based chiefly on Park and Burgess' Introduction to the Science of Sociology (1921).[2] In conjunction with this reformulation of his position, Bogardus also undertook in his New Social Research (1926) to formulate what he conceived to be essential in the research technique which Park and Burgess and those associated with them have employed in their concrete investigations. Finally, he set about to work out some of the concrete applications of this viewpoint and research procedure in first-hand investigation of his own.[3] In the latter connections, it is thus clear, Bogardus' work links up very intimately with the work of the group of investigators considered in the Thomas-Faris section, and it should accordingly be reflected upon the background of our previous consideration of these activities [4]

It is notable that in his recent reformulation of his social-psychological position, Bogardus has worked out, like Ellwood, an expansion of point of view in the direction of a greater emphasis on the group aspects of social life. In his case this emphasis also takes on a further significance,

( 395) not only because he sought to incorporate it methodologically as well as interpretively but also because it is associated in his work with a bipolar conception of social psychology which bears directly on the reinterpretation of individual as well as group behavior and of the psychological as well as the sociological foundations of his thought.[5] The following brief passages will bring these comments more clearly into view and serve to indicate how Bogardus' broadening social-psychological perspective is reflected in his conception of the subject.

Already in the first edition of his Essentials, Bogardus said in commenting on the different conceptions of social psychology current at the time :

To some writers, social psychology consists chiefly of a study of the social nature and the social activities of the individual; to other authors, the subject consists largely of an analysis of the psychic interactions of the members of groups. The first emphasis is essentially subjective, genetic, psychological, the second is chiefly objective and sociological.

Contrasting his own view with both of the above, he stated:

But the new science of social psychology must develop its own methodology and speak from its own vantage ground. Its sector of the field of the social sciences is that important territory where the activities of psychology and sociology overlap. Instead of allowing its advance to be directed from either psychological or sociological headquarters, it must develop its own methods and programs, but remain subject, of course, to the rules of scientific and of social procedure. It is true that according to another view, social psychology has no distinct field and must be either psychology, or sociology; but the probabilities are that time will prove this conception to have been a mistaken one.[6]

With this conception of the subject in view, he outlined the plan of his work at the time as follows:

It is the plan of this book ... to begin the discussion with the psychological bases of social psychology, to analyze the social characteristics of the individual, to consider the social operation of these characteristics, to study the group, the types of groups, and the nature of group conflicts, to investigate the psychology of leadership, as well as the psychology of social control, and to close with an analysis of world progress. The method is inductive, evolutionary, cumulative; it moves from the particular to the general, from the individual to the group, and from the group to mankind, and it culminates in the subject of social progress.[7]

( 396)

In his further comment on this plan of procedure, Bogardus suggested that "social psychology as at present considered is based upon the fact. and principles of general psychology." "It is necessary, first of all," he explained, "to consider the characteristics of the human mind in action," which involves "an understanding of the nature and types of the instinctive, of the habitual, and of the conscious reactions of the human mind."[8]

Social psychology being thus, according to Bogardus, "based on a knowledge of psychological principles," he proceeded, like Ellwood, to stress the special importance of functional psychology as a starting point for social psychology. "Functional psychology," he stated, "furnishes the principles for interpreting the social nature of individuals and for understanding the interactions in group life."[9]

Consistently with the above views, Bogardus gave the following definition of social psychology at this time:

Social psychology is the scientific study of the social nature and reactions of the mind, of the interactions of individuals within groups, of group conflicts, of group leadership and control, and of the nature of group and societary progress. Social psychology approaches the problems of life from the psychological view-point; it draws conclusions and offers programs with reference to societary ends. Social psychology studies the social phases of personality, the interactions of personalities within groups, and the nature of group control and progress.[10]

The nature of the subject matter with which Bogardus sought to concern himself in his original treatment of social psychology, as well as his organizing viewpoint and conception, are indicated clearly enough in these statements. It is evident that despite formal differences, in the actual working out of his conception, Bogardus was in the first place on much the same ground as Ellwood, his treatment as outlined being obviously in large part modeled upon Ellwood's early social-psychological views. His two-sided conception of social psychology, with its increasing emphasis upon the study of personality and the processes of social interstimulation, led out, however, to a different expansion of his view-point from that of Ellwood.

On the basis of the above citations, the modifications of outlook and emphasis which Bogardus introduced into his later work will readily

( 397) appear. The following passages from the second edition of his Essentials will give his point of view in transition:

Social psychology is the study of the interactions of personalities in groups .. .Upon the conclusions of functional psychology, the social psychologist builds. The first independent step is to analyze and to understand the traits of human personalities. In the vocabulary of social psychology, personality is the first outstanding term.[11]

Social psychology approaches the problem of life from its own viewpoint which is psychological in origin and sociological in outlook. It begins with the socio-functional conclusions of psychology and ends in the presentation of societary principles, which underlie all sound reasoning in sociology. Social psychology is the scientific study of the social nature and reactions of the human mind, of the interactions of minds, of group conflicts and change, and of social control and progress. The quintessence of social psychology is found in personalities interacting within groups.[12]

To the writer, social psychology begins with the psychological analyses of human personality. It centers attention upon the social traits of personality as they express themselves under group stimuli, and upon the resultant group activities. It concludes its work by evaluating the method of group, or social, control in terms of socialized personalities. In brief, the interactions of personalities in groups is the interesting and attractive field which the student of social psychology is invited to explore.[13]

From this intermediate position, Bogardus passed on to the following restatement of his conception of the subject in his Fundamentals of Social Psychology, where he definitely aligns himself with the Thomas "attitudes-values" view and with the emphasis upon the process of social interaction as a determining consideration in social psychology, which is implied in this and the related views of Mead, Dewey, etc. He tells us here:

Social psychology is more than an application of the psychology of the individual to collective behavior. It is more than an imitation theory, an instinct theory, a herd instinct theory, or a conflict theory of social life. It is developing its own approach, concepts, and laws. It treats of the processes of intersocial stimulation and their products in the form of social attitudes and values. It obtains its data by analyzing personal experiences.[14]

The quintessence of social psychology [he tells us again here] is found in the study of intersocial stimulation and response and of the resultant social attitudes, values, and personalities.[15]

In explanation of this reorientation of his thought, Bogardus says:

( 398)

Human beings begin life as simple organic units and develop into personalities with complex spiritual qualities. From a helpless beginning they grow into spiritual dynamos, capable of mastery of themselves and of their social environment. The process is largely one of intersocial stimulation and response, and the product is human personalities with their attitudes and values of life. According to this analysis social psychology studies intersocial stimulation and response, social attitudes, values, and personalities. It begins with individual human beings and original human nature and traces their growth through intersocial stimulation into persons with socialized attitudes."[16]

Bogardus accordingly adjusts his treatment of the subject in his Fundamentals to a central emphasis upon the consideration of the chief forms and processes of social interstimulation. A large part of his work is directly concerned with this subject, and the other parts are definitely reflected from the standpoint of this central part of his discussion, in the course of which he brings under review the following interaction processes: isolation, stimulation, communication, suggestion, imitation, fashion imitation, custom diffusion, convention diffusion, discrimination, discussion, accommodation, assimilation, socialization.[17]

This procedure necessarily implies a somewhat different view of the relation between the several parts of his previous treatment, and this is brought out suggestively in the following two passages which indicate how his new approach incorporates the respective standpoints represented by his previous bipolar conception of social psychology. Bogardus says in connection with his discussion of human nature:

Human interstimulation plays continually upon original human nature, modifying it beyond recognition and organizing it into social patterns or institutions. It is the modification of original human nature by social stimulation that transforms it into the personality traits that we know.[18]

Again he says in connection with his discussion of social groups:

Group life is the medium in which all intersocial stimulation occurs. Human nature, personal attitudes, and social values emerge only out of group life. Groups provide all social contacts and stimuli. Once formed the group is prior to the individual. Into groups all individuals are born; up through them personality emerges; and in turn persons dominate and create groups ... Group environment is the matrix of all intersocial stimulation .[19]

( 399)

With this conception of the relation between organic human nature, social interstimulation, and group life as a basis, Bogardus presents a treatment of human nature and social life in his Fundamentals[20] which is clearly in line with the positions traced out by such writers as Cooley, Mead, Dewey, Thomas, Faris, and other representatives of the social-psychological viewpoint which has been followed out here in some detail, particularly in the preceding section. It is this viewpoint which he has projected into his discussion of research technique in his New Social Research and which supposedly gives point to his characterization of this discussion as "new." For it is new, if at all, in standpoint of interpretation and not in technical detail.

On the basis of the preliminary approaches to the systematic treatment of social psychology by Ross and McDougall and the later attempts in this direction by Ellwood and Bogardus[21] there has recently been, in conjunction with the intensification of interest in social psychology since the World War,[22] such a pronounced increase in the output of this type of social-psychological literature in this country as to make the further individualized consideration of these works a task entirely beyond the limits of this closing section of our survey. Furthermore, the significance and characteristic features of these works can best be brought out in terms of another mode of approach than the one which has been found to serve our purposes best so far.[23] Accordingly we shall consider this group of works only illustratively here, postponing for another occasion their more detailed treatment and analysis,[24] and confine ourselves to the further consideration only of such of the group as are especially important in filling out the picture of American social-psychological thought as so far presented.


  1. This work is essentially an attempt to harmonize the previous treatments of Ross, McDougall, and Ellwood.
  2. It is difficult to see why one of these works should be entitled "sociology" and the other "social psychology." Such is the present-day state of psychological, sociological, and social-psychological development, however, that there is at the present time a very decided overlapping of these fields upon each other. The discussion of Ellwood and Bogardus on the one hand and Allport on the other will serve to bring this strikingly into view. There are, of course, also any number of other equally telling illustrations of this point.

  3. See, for example, The New Social Research, especially Chap. X; also the reports of research on social distance, Jour. Appl. Sociol., Vol. 9, 1925 and subsequent vols.
  4. See supra, especially p. 379; also The New Social Research, Preface, Introduction.
  5. Conceiving of social psychology as psychological sociology, Ellwood could naturally not regard the study of the social aspects of individual behavior as a part of social psychology, as did Bogardus, who aimed from the first to integrate the psychological and the sociological approaches to the subject in a single inclusive view of the subject-matter of social psychology (see on this point, ELLwooD, The Psychology of Human Society, p. 17).
  6. Essentials of Social Psychology, 1st ed., pp. 10-11. Quotations from this work are reprinted by permission of the University of Southern California Press, publishers.
  7. Ibid., p. 11.
  8. Ibid., p. 13.
  9. Ibid., p. 22. The essential similarity of Bogardus' and Ellwood's original views respecting the dependence of social upon individual psychology is clearly brought out here.
  10. Ibid., p. 14. This is one of the most inclusive definitions of social psychology which we have. It was obviously Bogardus' aim to make his definition broad enough to cover completely the more important conceptions of the subject current in the field at the time.
  11. Ibid., 2d ed., p. 13.
  12. Ibid., p. 18.
  13. bid., p. 27.
  14. Fundamentals of Social Psychology, Preface. Quotations from this work are reprinted by permission of The Century Company, publishers.
  15. Ibid., Introduction, p. xi.
  16. Ibid., p. 3.
  17. See ibid., Chaps. VIII—XX. This is undoubtedly the most notable part of Bogardus' treatment. It suggests immediately the intimate connection between his work and Park and Burgess, Introduction to the Science of Sociology, and through the latter it recalls also the approach to the study of social life which was outlined here especially in connection with our treatment of Simmel.
  18. Ibid., p. 8.
  19. Ibid., p. 241.
  20. See ibid., especially Chaps. I, IX, XXI.
  21. Ross, Social Psychology (1908); MCDOUGALL, Introduction to Social Psychology (1908); ELLWOOD, Introduction to Social Psychology (1917); BOGARDUS, Essentials of Social Psychology (1918).
  22. Another attempt in this direction which should be mentioned here along with the above, inasmuch as it played a considerable role in this country during the period immediately following upon Ross' work, was the outline organization of the subject made by G. E. Howard in his elaborate analytical reference syllabus, Social Psychology, 1910 (see VINCENT, "George Elliott Howard Social Psychologist," Sociol. and Soc. Res., vol. 13, pp. 108-118, 1928-1929).
  23. It is notable that of the five works mentioned above, all but McDougall's are developed from the sociological standpoint.
  24. Here, as everywhere, there has been a decided intensification of interest in social and psychological science since the war, and social psychology, like many related fields of investigation, has reflected this new interest.
  25. See infra, p. 413.
  26. The writer expects to treat these works, as well as other current developments in the field, in greater detail in a supplementary monograph on Current Developments in American Social Psychology.

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