American Social Psychology

Chapter 9: Summary and Conclusions

Fay Berger Karpf

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This survey of the modern social-psychological movement as viewed from the standpoint of the development of American social-psychological thought has now been brought to a close. We have seen how from its indefinite beginnings in nineteenth century philosophical thought and the incidental conclusions and borrowed conceptions of such related techniques as folk psychology and anthropology on the one hand, and evolutionary biology, introspective psychology, and early sociology on the other, social psychology has gradually been taking on much more definite and distinctive form. It has been passing on gradually from attention chiefly to the spectacular, the striking, and the merely formally conceived in the beginning of its modern scientific career (the objective manifestations of so-called "social mind," mob and crowd behavior, the generalized evolutionary treatment of mental and social development) and by degrees approaching the study of the less apparent but more fundamental aspects of its field of problems (the social-psychological analysis of personality, mind, motivation, etc.). Also, it has been advancing gradually from procedure by common-sense conceptions and methods or those uncritically taken over from other fields to the development of conceptions and methods more or less specifically growing out of its own viewpoint and problems and more or less fitted to its particular needs and purposes. This process of differentiated social-psychological development is still, of course, in its infancy. It has, however, put social psychology in the way of the more carefully considered scientific development upon which it is at present quite clearly beginning to enter, as is evident even from such an incomplete review of current tendencies in the field as has been incorporated here, especially in our survey of American social-psychological thought.

It may be said that the first notable attempt to build up a "social" psychology, in contradistinction to the individualistic general psychology which had held practically undisputed ground during the early nineteenth century, was made in Germany by the folk psychologists. From the founding of the Zeitschrift fir Völkerpsychologie and Sprachwissenschaft in 1860 by Lazarus and Steinthal to Wundt, it was the aim of the folk psychologists to develop a "social" psychology alongside of and supplementary to the current general psychology. This was because they felt

( 417) that the methods of the latter were inadequate to deal with the more complex products of human mental life with which they sought chiefly to concern themselves.

The conception of social psychology which the folk psychologists sought to work out tended principally, however, toward the gradual building up of a "history of civilization" rather than toward the development of social psychology as we know it today, more particularly in this country. In any event, folk psychology has become more closely identified with anthropology than with social psychology as specialized fields of investigation. Furthermore, during the early period when we are most concerned with folk psychology as a direct factor in the modern social-psychological movement, it was so far dominated by the presuppositions of Hegelian philosophy and the individualistic conceptions of its associated introspective psychology that it in large measure remained apart from the main current of modern social-psychological development outside of Germany. Nevertheless, folk psychology had some very important results for the modern social-psychological movement as a whole, and even as it has taken form in this country. In the first place, folk psychology brought conspicuous support to the growing dissatisfaction with the traditional purely individualistic psychology and to the resulting interest in the study of human phenomena from more adequate social standpoints. Then, folk psychology was on fundamental social-psychological ground in its attempt to relate the objective elements of culture with the mental development of the individual. In addition, folk psychology was not only a factor in the modern social-psychological movement because, like cultural anthropology and early sociology generally, it was helping to bring the social aspect of mental life more clearly into view but also because its analysis had a distinct psycho-social rather than a merely psychological reference. It thus sought to direct attention to the cultural significance of such collective mental phenomena as it designated by the terms "folk soul," "group mind," "social consciousness," "collective will," etc., phenomena which have ever since occupied psycho-social thought, and the gradual investigation of which must be looked upon as a leading factor in the differentiation of modern social psychology. In all these ways, then, folk psychology introduced a challenging social and collectivistic emphasis into its work, which must be recognized as one of the sources of modern social-psychological development, though for the most part an indirect one in so far as American social psychology in particular is concerned.

The social-psychological aspects of folk psychology were supplemented by the early sociological students of social organization, in Germany and Austria. The term "social psychology" was first widely used by the latter group of students. It was Schäffle, specifically, who first gave wide currency to this term in his Bau and Leben des socialen

( 418) Körpers (1875-1878), where he used it co-ordinately with the terms "social morphology" and "social physiology" in connection with his analogical treatment of society.

The standpoint of early sociology, more especially of German sociology, was definitely "objective" in the sense that its interest was chiefly directed to the analysis of objective social organization, rather than psychological. Its analysis of society, essentially in objective institutional and group terms, corresponded in a general way, in so far as social psychology is concerned, to the analysis of the individual mind by introspective psychology. Both are logically more or less distinct from social psychology, which came into being primarily as an attempt to bridge these two fields of investigation and which, despite some isolated exceptions, is characteristically psycho-social in its procedure in consequence. Because of the background of individualistic thought upon which social psychology began to take form, the analysis of the objective social environment was, however, historically a necessary step in the development of social psychology. The connection between sociology and social psychology has therefore been very close from the beginning, and German sociology in particular, with its insistence on the group approach and its emphasis upon the reality of social life must thereby be noted as an important factor in bringing the need of a social psychology into recognition. Of greater consequence in this respect than Schäffle's analogical "social psychology" are the less imposing but more substantial contributions to the group analysis of society which were made by Ratzenhofer, Gumplowicz, and, especially for the purposes of this survey, by the more recent psycho-social analyses of Simmel.

More important still, however, for the direct advance of modern social psychology was the development of psychological sociology in France. To the psycho-social theories of Tarde, Durkheim, Le Bon, and Lévy-Bruhl must be attributed much of the forceful impulse of the modern social-psychological movement, both as regards social-psychological criticism of individualistic psychological theory and as regards its more constructive attempts to build up an adequate orientation of psycho-social interpretation.

Certainly the widespread interest and discussion which these theories stimulated could hardly have been called forth by the less spectacular development of social-psychological thought elsewhere. And in order to force a hearing during the early period of its development, social psychology needed just such spectacular support. There is no question here of the complete validity of the special theories in terms of which these writers sought to describe the operation of such basic psycho-social phenomena as custom, convention, control, constraint, etc. The consideration of importance as regards the development of social psychology is that their treatment of these phenomena brought the role of psycho-

( 419) social interaction so forcefully into evidence that their influence expressed itself in a wave of heightened social-psychological interest, which leads directly into the modern period of more organized endeavor in the field of social psychology.

Nowhere, moreover, has the influence of these writers been more fruitful for the advance of social-psychological thought than in this country. Social psychology as it is represented here by such works as Ross' Social Psychology and his Social Control and also, though less conspicuously, by Ellwood's Sociology in Its Psychological Aspects and his Introduction to Social Psychology is in large part a development of the direction of psycho-social analysis which they so prominently brought into view. And these works are in turn intimately connected with the other type of social psychology which has become so popular in this country since the appearance of Cooley's Human Nature and the Social Order (1902), and which leads out especially to the consideration of English social-psychological thought as a factor of determining importance in American social psychology. In fact, the connection here is of such a nature that it seems best for our purpose to follow out the next two steps of our restatement in conjunction with each other.

So far, social psychology was very largely receiving a one-sided development from the side of the study of social life. It was practically a synonym for psychological sociology. From this one-sided development social psychology was recalled by the rise into prominence of instinct psychology on the one hand and by the development of the genetic study of personal growth on the other. In the first connection, besides the basic work of Darwin, Spencer, and Bagehot, the more specific social-psychological formulations of McDougall, Shand, Trotter, and Wallas stand out, in the second connection, it is necessary to recall, besides James' suggestive treatment of the "social self," especially the work of Baldwin, Cooley, Mead, Dewey, and Thomas, to say nothing further at this point of the growing number of their more recent followers in this country.

The central impulse for the development of instinct psychology in its modern form came from early English evolutionary thought with its biological emphasis and its phylogenetic outlook, in the light of which the study of the hereditary bases of behavior loomed as the problem of central importance in the investigation of human conduct, while the latter direction of social-psychological development, as already indicated, is intimately connected with social-psychological thought in this country. It has resulted in the formulation of a point of view which might, for the want of a better designation, be termed "interaction" psychology or, rather, "interaction"[1] social psychology, since it ought to be made evident

( 420) that this point of view is distinctively and emphatically social-psychological in its emphasis on interaction and not merely psychological or sociological in the usual understanding of these terms.

Instinct psychology, it is today generally recognized even by its severest recent critics, was a most important development from the standpoint of the advance of social-psychological thought. For it was not only in itself a distinct social-psychological advance on the older purely intellectualistic type of psychology, at least by possible implication, but the new outlook which it introduced into psychology provided the essential mechanism even for the more characteristic social-psychological interpretations of human behavior which have recently come into conflict with it. As instinct psychology has been developed by its outstanding exponents, however, it has given expression to the social-psychological motive which it clearly embodies, more through the recognition of the basic role which social life plays in racial evolution than in personal development. Its interpretation of the latter has definitely relegated the social factor to a place of secondary importance as compared with the biological factor. In fact, in this connection, it has practically replaced the old type of intellectualistic individualism with a new type of biological individualism, which it has been the more difficult to dislodge because it has seemed to be so firmly grounded in the most influential current of thought in recent scientific history. The implications for a broader social interpretation of personal development and social conduct, which the trend of thought upon which instinct psychology rests clearly incorporated, have been brought out not by instinct psychology itself but by that variant of the instinct approach in social psychology which has been termed "interaction" social psychology here.

Interaction social psychology may be said to be a synthesis of the currents of thought represented by instinct psychology and psychological sociology as outlined above. It began to take form in an atmosphere of protest against biological determinism and laissez-faire doctrine in human affairs. It has incorporated instead as practical social motives an intense interest in education and in the scientific control of human conduct. It took its departure from the orthodox position of the instinct theory of human conduct, in the first place, through a broader social interpretation of the evolutionary process as it bears on human development; but gradually it has been building up its position through the direct functional analysis of the processes and mechanisms of personal growth and social action.

While seeking to give due place to the factor of original nature by recognizing that social environment acts through native equipment,

( 421) this approach to the study of human conduct has aimed not to overlook the equally important fact that before biological heredity becomes concretely expressive on the level of social conduct, it incorporates social heredity as a basic component factor. Concrete conduct, it has maintained, is thus basically a complex phenomenon combining both biological and social components. It is basically both original and acquired, both individual and social, both a matter of biological heredity and a matter of social environment. Without necessarily bringing up the question as to which of these factors is the more important in human life, it has insisted that the instinct theory of human conduct does not leave room for this basic role of the social factor and that instinct as it is commonly under-stood is therefore an inapt tool of analysis in social psychology. Accordingly, it has suggested alternative tools of analysis which have a more distinct social reference: habit, attitude, impulse, wish, desire, etc.

Since interaction social psychology, which, as we have seen, defines so large a part of American social-psychological thought that it may be said to establish its distinctive frame of reference,[2] has recently come into sharply defined conflict with instinct psychology, and controversy in the field of social psychology in this country has in the last few years centered about this conflict, it is worth while to pause long enough here to indicate more clearly the chief line of departure between them. In so far as social psychology is concerned with the analysis of personal behavior, it is centrally concerned, as McDougall more than anyone else has aimed to establish, with the problem of the basic springs to human action. In answer to the question, " What is their essential nature?" instinct psychology has replied that they are innate, i.e., basically a matter of biological heredity and only secondarily a matter of social heredity. As against this view, interaction social psychology has held that they are basically a matter of social as well as biological heredity; that they are social "in the germ," so to speak, in consequence of the fact that they are socially defined, conditioned, and directed and by virtue of the very process of social give-and-take in which they function and come to concrete expression. In the terms suggested by one writer recently, they are social products, not biological data.[3] Or, as the issue has been stated by another writer, human impulses are not first biological and then social; they are " socio-biologic " from the first.[4]

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This is not a matter of mere difference in degree of emphasis. On the contrary, we are dealing here with a fundamentally different conception of human nature which is of the most far-reaching social-psychological importance, both theoretically and in its bearing on the practical problems of social control. This has nowhere been brought out more forcefully than in the social-psychological writings of Dewey. We accordingly close this part of our summary with the following short passage, repeated from our previous outline of his social-psychological position :

The ultimate refuge of the standpatter in every field, education, religion, politics, industrial, and domestic life, has been the notion of an alleged fixed structure of mind. As long as mind is conceived as an antecedent and ready-made thing, institutions and customs may be regarded as its offspring. By its own nature the ready-made mind works to produce them as they have existed and now exist. There is no use in kicking against necessity. The most powerful apologetics for any arrangement or institution is the conception that it is an inevitable result of fixed conditions of human nature. Consequently, in one disguise or another, directly or by extreme and elaborate indirection, we find the assumed constitution of an antecedently given mind appealed to in justification of the established order as to the family, the school, the government, industry, commerce, and every other institution. Our increased knowledge of the past of man, has, indeed, given this complacent assumption a certain shock; but it has not as yet seriously modified it. Evolution in the sense of a progressive unfolding of original potencies latent in a ready-made mind has been used to reconcile the conception of mind as an original datum with the historic facts of social change which can no longer be ignored. The effect on the effort at deliberate social control and construction remained the same. All man could do was to wait and watch the panorama of a ready-formed mind unroll . . . The new point of view treats social facts as the material of an experimental science, where the problem is that of modifying belief and desire—that is to say, mind—by enacting specific changes in the social environment. Until this experimental attitude is established, the historical method, in spite of all the proof of past change which it adduces, will remain in effect a bulwark of conservatism. For, I repeat, it reduces the role of mind to that of beholding and recording the operations of man after they have happened. The historic method may give emotional inspiration or consolation in arousing the belief that a lot more changes are still to happen, but it does not show man how his mind is to take part in giving these changes one direction rather than another.[5]

What is necessary for the advance of this type of social psychology are detailed studies of the organization of specific types of reaction patterns in specific types of social situations. This is, of course, not peculiarly true of interaction social psychology, but it is peculiarly evident in its case, since in its criticism of instinct psychology it has constantly stressed the need of such concrete investigation. Also,

( 423) refusing to accept the current instinct basis of procedure, it is left practically only with a point of view which has so far been used, except in a very few instances, as a basis for valuable constructive criticism and broad interpretation rather than as a basis for the building up of the factual foundation upon which this position must after all squarely rest. In this, as suggested, interaction social psychology has, however, not been alone, for social psychology as a whole has so far concerned itself more with constructive criticism and generalized reinterpretation than with specific and detailed investigation, and for the most part necessarily. But these considerations explain the recent turn of interest toward research technique among this group of students, as has been noted in due course in the latter part of this survey. This matter, however, will be taken up again for further comment in a later connection. At this point, it is necessary to direct attention to some more general considerations of far-reaching import.


It is clear from the foregoing summary as well as from our more detailed survey of the development of modern social-psychological thought, that nothing is as yet settled in the field. Social psychology has not yet had time to reach a settled point of view on any of the basic issues involved in its position. It is still essentially in the stage of "schools" of thought and even, in parts, of pioneer explorations of the field. Only here and there has it begun to enter seriously upon a career of systematic research and investigation. One cannot expect as yet, therefore, to find in the field of social psychology the characteristics of a well-established science or even as solid a scientific foundation as some of the older related sciences present. But to compensate for this still undeveloped state of its theory, social psychology has to offer, as has been noted in detail especially in the second part of this survey, a very meaningful and very hopeful approach in the study of personality and social conduct from the standpoint of our practical interests in them and our possibilities of socially controlling them. It is the growing recognition of this fact which is bringing social psychology into prominence alongside of the better established fields of investigation and which is providing the incentive for the expanding program of research activity upon which it is at the present time quite obviously entering.

Nor is social psychology, even in its present state of development, quite so unorganized as is sometimes likely to appear, when attention is directed chiefly to the state of controversy which at present obtains in the field in connection with certain fundamental questions that bear on the field of psychology and social science in general almost as much as on the field of social psychology in particular and that consequently are of very far-reaching interest. Controversy is, after all, a whole-

( 424) -some and needful condition in a new field of investigation, and it should, therefore, not blind us to the progress which social psychology has made and to the accomplishments to which it can lay claim, even though the latter are rather more significant as a basis for further advance than from the standpoint of their established scientific value in themselves.

And whether we regard the accomplishments of social psychology so far as considerable or as of comparatively little account depends largely on the particular outlook from which we view them. In the light of historical perspective they seem considerable; from the standpoint of our present-day ideal of what social psychology as a science of human nature and social behavior ought to be, it seems as if social psychology were only just becoming conscious of its real task. But from whichever of these standpoints the work of social psychology so far is viewed, the fact cannot be overlooked that it has covered indispensable preliminary and preparatory ground. It has tentatively mapped out the field of social-psychological operations; it has crystallized points of view, defined problems, indicated issues, formulated preliminary hypotheses, theories, and principles; and developed a considerable body of literature, almost all of it of unknown scientific validity, it is true, but yet invaluable as a means of orientation and as a basis on which to proceed. Above all, it has dispossessed us of many disqualifying conceptions, and it has gradually built up a genuine appreciation of the social-psychological approach. In other words, whatever absolute scientific value may be attached to the accomplishments of social psychology so far, from the standpoint of further progress in the field, they alone stand between the undefined and undirected feeling of dissatisfaction with individualistic psychological and social theory a few decades ago and the present more or less secure and many-sided attack upon the problems of social psychology.


It is obviously, however, not to be expected at the present time, in view of the still wholly fluid state of social psychology and the not altogether dissimilar state of the fields most intimately related to it, that there should be social-psychological agreement on such matters as the place, scope, methods, and relations of social psychology to the rest of the developing field of psychological and social thought. Indeed, the field reveals in this regard all the divergence of emphasis and conception which the several directions of social-psychological development outlined have made possible. It seems necessary, therefore, in conclusion, since there is a persistent display of interest in these matters, to touch upon them at least very briefly in a more general way than has heretofore been consistent with our treatment.

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What is social psychology? This question may be answered in two ways: historically and descriptively, and logically. Logical definitions of the field of science are helpful and often very useful, but they for the most part constitute the orderly superstructure not the foundation of scientific progress. Furthermore, they are largely subjective. One's logical view of what social psychology is depends on his particular conception of the place of social psychology in the system and classification of the sciences, especially of the psychological and social sciences, and these conceptions, as we know from the history of thought, are in large part a matter of philosophical leaning and conviction. In the case of a new field like social psychology, which needs most of all for progress to shift emphasis from philosophical exposition to factual investigation, such definitions tend to set up more or less artificial and irrelevant issues that divert attention from the really significant and determining problems of the field. It is for this reason that we shall rather consider the above question from the historical and descriptive standpoint. And from this standpoint, it is of course evident that social psychology is all that has been included in this survey and much more besides, which, for one reason or another, was regarded as falling without its scope. In this country, for example, there are side by side the views of McDougall and Ross, of Ellwood and Allport, of Mead, Dewey, and Thomas, etc. These writers, it will be recalled, have variously defined social psychology as the science of the social aspects of individual behavior (Allport) ; as the basic science of human nature and social personality in general, in so far as these phenomena are conceived to be human rather than merely biological products (Mead) ;[6] as psychological sociology (Ellwood); as the science of the "psychic planes and currents" of human uniformity which are due to specifically social causes (Ross); as the general science of the subjective side of culture (Thomas); as group psychology and the study of the social development of individual behavior from its bases in the native equipment of man (McDougall). The views of these authors on the scope, methods, and relations of social psychology are, of course, correspondingly varied.

But whatever be the diversities of emphasis and conception which thus come to view, there is over and above them an essential unity which brings social psychologists, after all, into a more or less well-defined group in their common emphasis of the "individual-social" as over against the essentially "individual" which biology and psychology for instance emphasize and the essentially "social" which sociology and cultural anthropology primarily emphasize. Were one to attempt to formulate, however, a sufficiently representative and inclusive view of social psy-

( 426) -chology, to give place even to the most current conceptions, as Bogardus for example attempted especially in his earlier formulations of the subject,[7] one would find that the resulting broadly conceived view would necessarily make social psychology overlap to a very considerable extent on both of the related fields of psychology and sociology as commonly thought of. But this is precisely the situation as it presents itself at the present time, and it is clearly an inevitable outcome of the diverse course of modern social-psychological development as it has been traced out here.

Social psychology came into being, as we have seen, in consequence of the fact that the scientific techniques already on the ground, especially psychology and early sociology, left uncared for an important field of human problems. As the social-psychological movement gathered force, however, it tended both to psychologize the point of view of sociology and, to a considerable extent, also to socialize the point of view of psychology and thereby to direct their attention increasingly to the field of problems with which it was itself concerned and which originally called it into being. The overlapping of these fields on what has come to be common territory has thus followed in the natural course of events.

But this situation, far from giving concern because of the philosophical questions of jurisdiction and possible conflict in approach and interpretation which it raises, should give encouragement that by combined effort the problems of common interest will be the better illumined. Such overlapping of effort at points of particular scientific interest is to be expected. There are similar types of overlapping even in the sciences which have had a much longer history in working out effective lines of division of labor than the psychological and social sciences. The concentration of endeavor about the important border-line fields of biophysics and biochemistry are conspicuous cases in point. And the progress of recent inquiry in these fields is proof of the value of such concentration of scientific effort. As regards the complex problems of human conduct, therefore, it is well to encourage the concentration of as many points of view and scientific divisions of labor as possible—not only psychology, sociology, and social psychology, but as many more as can direct them-selves to this admittedly most important field of study.

It seems idle and fruitless to attempt to speculate at the present time, furthermore, on what the outcome is likely to be in the matter of the division of labor between psychology, sociology, and social psychology. The progress of investigation in these fields will gradually, no doubt, establish effective lines of cooperation between them, as it has in the case of other closely related fields of scientific investigation. And

( 427) since it is no longer considered necessary to predetermine divisions and relations in science, social psychology can go on developing alongside of psychology, sociology, and the other sciences which are closely related to it and safely leave to the progress of events the more exact determination of its formal relations to these fields.[8]

The same, in substance, may be said in regard to the question of method in social psychology. Here, again, it is fruitless to argue abstractly that either one or the other of the established scientific methods is best adapted to social-psychological investigation. So far, as a matter of fact, experiment, systematic observation, testing and rating techniques, case and monographic study, the statistical method, the historico-genetic and ethnological methods have all been successfully used in the field, and seemingly each is supplementary to the others. Experiment is needed, for instance, for verification; case and monographic study, for the investigation of processes and the setting up of causal hypotheses; statistics, for the establishment of norms; etc. Only the further application of these various methods in the investigation of concrete problems can determine more clearly than appears now what are the most effective lines of cooperation between them in so far as the field of social psychology is concerned.

The question of method is, however, of such basic importance from the standpoint of real advance in the factual upbuilding of the field that it merits careful separate treatment on the basis of concrete problems of research and investigation that are at present social-psychologically in view, and probably no better introduction to social psychology can be had than a careful and detailed study of the field from this standpoint. This, as stated, is however a matter for separate consideration and cannot be gone into in detail here.[9]

But it is clear enough from what has already been said that the need which is at present most in evidence all along the line in the field of social psychology is for more verified fact and experience in concrete investigation. There has been enough abstract theorizing and broad generalization in social psychology, though these have had an important place in the social-psychological movement. What is needed now is more fact. For social-psychological theory has now so overrun reliable fact that further progress demands a compensating emphasis on the

( 428) latter. It is, for instance, so much time lost at present to continue expounding abstractly the values of the social-psychological approach, when the demand for applicable social-psychological principles which are not yet available is already being re-echoed from every field of intimately related theoretical and practical endeavor. The day for that sort of social psychologizing is past, and along with it the day of "arm-chair" generalization and made-to-order one-man systems of social-psychological theory. Instead, we are inevitably on the eve of a period of specialized research and investigation; of the rule of fact, proof, and careful scientific procedure; and of the patient and painstaking cooperation of many in the task of the gradual inductive reconstruction of the field of social-psychological theory. This new trend of social-psychological development, this new emphasis on research and investigation according to recognized methods of scientific procedure as over against simple descriptive analysis on the basis of random and unverified personal observation and impression is only just beginning to gain a firm foothold in social psychology. In it lies, however, the sole promise of social psychology as the science of human nature and social conduct, which social psychologists for some decades now, have been anticipating, and the vision of which has gained for this field of thought the expanding interest and popularity which it at present enjoys, especially in this country.


In every department of human endeavor, alert thought is becoming conscious of the ever more pressing problems of social behavior which this age is facing, In consequence, there has been a general intensification of interest, more especially since the World War, in scientific theory that appears to give promise of help in the solution of these problems. Along with this new attitude of receptivity toward psychological and social science in general, there has naturally been a rise of interest in social psychology. Parents, teachers, reformers, social workers are all beginning to turn a sympathetic ear toward the teachings of social psychology. Whether social psychology, by riding on the wave of this new interest in its scientific possibilities, will be able in the next few years to make a measurable degree of progress toward meeting the high expectations which it has aroused remains, of course, to be seen. Very largely, this must naturally depend on the earnestness with which it applies itself to the expanding task of research and investigation which is now clearly before it. And encouraging indications are at present not lacking that social psychology is beginning to enter upon such a period of accelerated scientific research and investigation as the situation demands. Certainly the need for scientific work has never been more pressing in any field, nor the promise of high reward for effort

( 429) expended, in terms of human benefit, more challenging. Whatever, in fact, be the obstacles against rapid progress in this field of investigation, they are more than compensated for by the importance which attaches to it. What more does a courageous and a scientifically inventive age need as a spur to the highest type of effort?

As regards the present social-psychological situation in this country in particular, there is certainly much that appears hopeful for the consistent advance of social psychology. Nowhere is the positive standpoint more firmly established, or the need for an applicable social psychology more keenly felt, or the variety of material for social-psychological study more easily at hand. It is not surprising, therefore, that this country should be producing a considerable part of present-day social-psychological literature and, more particularly, that social psychology as a specialized endeavor should be more definitely launched here than elsewhere.[10] Seemingly, too, both from the standpoint of general interest and the scientific preparation of the field, we are just at the point of a new pace of social-psychological development here. The most convincing evidence of this is to be found in the concentration of social-psychological activity reflected in the current periodical literature of the field. But even in the more formal literature which has chiefly come under consideration in this survey, there is a notable accumulation of evidence in support of this view. How to put these advantageous features of the situation best to account is the immediate practical consideration before American social-psychological thought.

Perhaps the need that stands out most strikingly at the present time in respect to this consideration as well as in respect to American social-psychological thought more generally is that of securing a broadened outlook on the problems of social psychology. As long as workers in the field proceed as if social psychology begins anew with each one of them and hence in total disregard of related endeavor, as is still so largely the case at the present time, orderly advance in thought and investigation remains impossible, and bias and partisanship have full play. The result is the crystallization of artificial issues which interfere with a coordinated attack on more basic problems.

Social psychology has reached the point of development at which, in its larger outlines at least, it presents a fairly well-defined front. It is highly important that workers in the field view themselves in relation to and as a part of the larger movement. This consideration has been basic to the purpose of this survey. It is the hope of the writer that it will .help to bring the present-day problems and tasks of social psychology into more significant social-psychological perspective.


  1. This term is suggested by the emphasis which this approach has placed on the determining importance of the process of social interaction in the interpretation of human nature and social behavior and as over against the corresponding characteristic development of folk psychology in Germany, collective psychology in France, and instinct psychology in England.
  2. Despite the varied forms and connections in which, it will be recalled, inter-action social psychology, as here used, has been worked out from Baldwin and Cooley on, it possesses sufficient common ground as over against instinct psychology, in opposition to which it has chiefly crystallized its position, to enable us to consider it as a more or less unified outlook in this connection. It is in this way and from this standpoint that its position is contrasted here with instinct psychology, which is similarly unified for this purpose (see in this respect also note p. 419).
  3. FARIS, "Are Instincts Data or Hypotheses?" Amer. Jour. Sociol., vol. 27, 1921.
  4. COOLEY, Human Nature and the Social Order, 1922 ed., Introduction.
  5. Supra, p. 348.
  6. Dewey's statement that "all psychology is either biological or social psychology" ("The Need for Social Psychology," Psychol. Rev., vol. 24, p. 276, 1917) indicates the general position here.
  7. See his Essentials of Social Psychology, 2d ed., pp. 17-18, and supra, pp. 394ff.; also other synthetic views of the subject, such as those of Bernard and Young (supra, pp. 407, 413).
  8. Perhaps as good a working definition as any at the present time, in view of the above considerations, is to say in a general way that social psychology studies both the social aspects of individual behavior and the psychic aspects of group behavior and social interstimulation and that a more distinctive determination of its scope is still in process of crystallization.
  9. See in this connection supra, p. 399, note 5. The first step in the survey of social psychology from this standpoint has already been taken in Murphy and Murphy, Experimental Social Psychology. Other treatments of the subject from this standpoint are bound to follow.
  10. See also Pub. Amer. Sociol. Soc., vol. 21, pp. 71-81, 1927.

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