Review of Experimental Social Psychology by Murphy, Murphy and Newcomb

Ernst T. Krueger

EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY. Revised Edition. By Gardiner Murphy, Lois Barclay Murphy and Theodore M. Newcomb. Harper and Brothers, 1937. 1121 pp. $4.00.

Going beyond the first edition (1930, which was a handbook of research findings, the present edition is an interpretation of research, brought up to date. It is more than this. In a real sense it is an attempt to present a systematic social psychology in so far as research reveals it, prefaced and interlarded with solid theory gleaned from such disciplines as have contributed to knowledge of human behavior.

The authors marshal, in almost dizzying profusion, the evidences, as they call them, "from every type of careful research known to us, regarding the relations of individual human beings to one another in our own culture," and set them in order under appropriate headings touching most phases of human relations. This procedure has permitted a mobilization of tested theory growing out of a winnowed series of research findings as to just what may be taken as discovered and found sound.

The volume moves through a logical presentation: a chapter on Field and Methods, three chapters on the Interpretation of the Process of Socialization, seven on the Genetic Study of Social Behavior, these thus far from the hands of the Murphys, and two chapters on the Quantitative Studies of Individual Differences in Adult Social Behavior, written by Newcomb. Within these thirteen long, almost encyclopedic, chapters of more than a thousand tightly printed pages lies a mine of precious knowledge, the ore smelted before our eyes in the furnace of scientific method and criticism. It is impossible to review content here and one can only suggest that students of human behavior, whether they be psychologists or sociologists, will need to reckon with the amazing array of materials and their interpretation which the industrious and adroit authors have brought together.

Sociologists will be interested in many things in this volume, among them method, and particularly because the latter is presented in the form of what might be called method in operation.


( 573) That is, specific research is analyzed as to its soundness, its advantages, its limitations and its sources of error with reference to specific problems. The result is a sort of clinic in method, exceedingly useful to students who are seeking greater precision and skill in their own research.

While stress is placed upon experimental and hence quantitative method as the scientific ideal, the authors see need of integrating the experimental with such methods as prolonged observation and interviewing in studying the personality as a whole (pp. 200 ff.). One suspects, as do the authors, that measures of components may lead to spurious interpretations unless the researcher is also skilled in observation and qualitative analysis. Indeed, there is some tendency for less mature scholars to turn to the use of statistical manipulations without an acquaintance knowledge and a perspective of the human material they seek to measure, especially in dealing with the complications of trait interrelation and prediction. In this respect psychologists because of ready access to nursery schools seem to be in a more favorable position than are most sociologists in promoting exacting personality research, though there is no final reason why the situation should so remain.

Sociologists will also be interested in the place accorded social psychology among the social sciences (pp. 1518), although the topic has grown tiresome. Social psychology is defined as "the way in which the individual becomes a member of, and functions in, a social group." Thus the social psychologist is "in large degree a genetic psychologist." The concept of culture as refined by the anthropologists does not solve psychological problems but sets limits to social psychological problems (p. 7), in that the human specimens studied turn out to be bundles of "attitudes and habits which are a part of the historical process." The historians and sociologists are concerned with the pattern of interaction existing among a group of persons but seemingly have only incidental interest in individuals (p. 15). The physiological psychologist takes into account the changes in organisms as these occur in specific situations, and even though his problems have social implications, he is primarily concerned with the organism as such. The psychology of the child and of personality are not social psychology, since these are variations of physiological psychology. Neatly then, social psychology falls between sociology and physiological psychology and, in the minds of the authors, stands as one of the psychologies. It seems doubtful that a division of labor can take place on an individual and group basis. Individuals interact with other individuals, and therein lie group phenomena; groups are composed of interacting individuals, and therein lies individual phenomenon of importance.

Sociologists will be greatly interested in the basic interpretation of the relation of nature and nurture, the organism and the environment. The older "doctrine of innate pattern actions" is discarded ("... man's intrinsic biological nature can tell us little as to what the man as a social being will do," p. 20) but complete plasticity of the organism is also found untenable ("To be human is not to be diffusely stimulable in all directions, it is to be selective, to be oriented toward particular classes and modes of stimulation," p. 96 ff.). This is firm ground. The individual is an animal with visceral activity and aesthetic drives (Chapter III). Sociologists in their eagerness to give full significance to cultural patterning have too often unwittingly conveyed the impression that the organism could be ignored, even as an older psychology


( 574) seemed to conceive of all behavior in terms of innate patterns and a maturation process. Happily we may now more clearly relate nature and nurture.

We have no quarrel with the authors' point of view that cultural events may be thought of as "activities of organisms" and that the social is an "aspect of the biological" (p. 19), since the physicists and chemists may press the matter even into their own conceptual framework.

The reviewer agrees with the authors that the field theory of personality is subject to grave difficulties (pp. 876 ff.). It involves a pictorial separation of organism and environment, in b-polar form, with a nebulous area of interaction between, as the personality. The authors' suggestion to substitute "organism-in-environment" seems to restore reality to personality, although what we really have is neither organism as such nor environment as such but an emergent bundle of qualities.

Of importance in this connection is the analysis of what may be called the process of socialization, which is seen as three fixation processes: conditioning, canalization, and the integration of values (Chapter IV). This analysis will prove exceedingly useful to sociologists who have been restless with an all inclusive conditioning explanation. Some concept is needed, though the word canalization is awkward, for the process by which a "non-specific craving" is fixated toward a specific satisfaction (pp. 190-198). The process of integration of values then opens the way for a thorough statement of objects as values and the inner organization of the individual as a preparation for response, to which the concept of attitude has usually been applied (pp. 198-107). The self (pp. 107-116) becomes a value and also is a means or an instrument by which all social values are served. We miss in the analysis of the self any reference to George H. Mead with his penetrating insight concerning the self as object when one plays in imagination the rle of another. Cooley, however, is freely drawn upon.

We think the authors do well to plant their social psychology "in our own culture." There is a universal psychology, no doubt, and, as the authors indicate, a possibility of laws of social psychology which cut across cultures, but we still know too little about cultures and so little of social psychology that it is well to limit conclusions to our own culture for a starting point.

The last chapter in the volume on Social Attitudes and Their Measurement is a highly significant contribution. To sociologists, who have long dealt with the concept of attitudes, the discussion will prove exceedingly useful, not only from the standpoint of measurement but of definition and nature, interrelation with group and individual factors, modification, determinants in life experiences, and relation to the total personality. The section on attitudes as determined by life experiences, such as race, nationality, family, religious institutions, social-economic levels, and urban-rural communities will be especially interesting to sociologists (pp. 980-1017).

The patterning of attitudes, i.e. clusters as contrasted with specific attitudes, is considered to be the effect of "prestige-endowed groups," though it is to be remembered that clustering is never completely consistent. Psychological factors are largely effective due to their selective power over group affiliation and "the social psychology of attitudes is the sociology of attitudes illuminated by an understanding of the psychological factors which determine individual susceptibility to group influences" (pp. 1045-1046).


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We may note in passing that the authors seem constantly to confuse method and point of view when they speak of psychological or sociological method or methods. Assuredly scientific method is without partisanship, and psychology and sociology are points of view. The authors have introduced summaries of research in brief tabular form in the context in which they are discussed that proves useful. The necessity of a double reference index to research is fairly cumbersome but we know of no other solution to the problem of linking discussion with references without spoiling the readability of the volume.

E. T. KRUEGER
Vanderbilt University

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