An Introduction to Social Psychology


William McDougall

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IN this little book I have attempted to deal with a difficult branch of psychology in a way that shall make it intelligible and interesting to any cultivated reader, and that shall imply no previous familiarity with psychological treatises on his part for I hope that the book may be of service to students of all the social sciences, by providing them with the minimum of psychological doctrine that is an indispensable part of the equipment for work in any of these sciences. I have not thought it necessary to enter into a discussion of the exact scope of social psychology and of its delimitation from sociology or the special social sciences ; for I believe that such questions may be left to solve themselves in the course of time with the advance of the various branches of science concerned. I would only say that I believe social psychology to offer for research a vast and fertile field, which has been but little worked hitherto, and that in this book I have attempted to deal only with its most fundamental problems, those the solution of which is a presupposition of all profitable work in the various branches of the science.

If I have severely criticised some of the views from

( vi) which I dissent, and have connected these views with the names of writers who have maintained them, it is because I believe such criticism to be a great aid to clearness of exposition and also to be much needed in the present state of psychology ; the names thus made use of were chosen because the bearers of them are authors well known for their valuable contributions to mental science. I hope that this brief acknowledgment may serve as an apology to any of them under whose eyes my criticisms may fall. I owe also some apology to my fellow-workers for the somewhat dogmatic tone I have adopted. I would not be taken to believe that my utterances upon any of the questions dealt with are infallible or incapable of being improved upon ; but repeated expressions of deference and of the sense of my own uncertainty would be out of place in a semi-popular work of this character and would obscure the course of my exposition.

Although I have tried to make this book intelligible and useful to those who are not professed students of psychology, it is by no means a mere dishing up of current doctrines for popular consumption ; and it may add to its usefulness in the hands of professional psychologists if I indicate here the principal points which, to the best of my belief, are original contributions to psychological doctrine.

In Chapter II. I have tried to render fuller and clearer the conceptions of instinct and of instinctive process, from both the psychical and the nervous sides.

In Chapter III. I have elaborated a principle, briefly enunciated in a previous work, which is, I believe, of the first importance for the understanding of the life of emotion and action—the principle, namely, that all

( vii) emotion is the affective aspect of instinctive process. The ,,adoption of this principle leads me to define emotion more strictly and narrowly than has been done by other writers ; and I have used it as a guide in attempting to distinguish the more important of the primary emotions.

In Chapter IV. I have combated the current view that imitation is to be ascribed to an instinct of imitation ; and I have attempted to give greater precision to the conception of suggestion, and to define the principal

conditions of suggestibility. I have adopted a view of the most simple and primitive form of sympathy that has been previously enunciated by Herbert Spencer and others, and have proposed what seems to be the only possible theory of the way in which sympathetic induction of emotion takes place. I have then suggested a modification of Professor Groos's theory of play, and in this connection have indulged in a speculation as to the peculiar nature and origin of the emulative impulse.

In Chapter V. I have elaborated the conception of a " sentiment " which is a relatively novel one. Since this is the key to all the constructive, as contrasted with the more purely analytical, part of the book, I desire. to state as clearly as possible its relations to kindred conceptions of other authors. In the preface to the first edition of this book I attributed the conception of the sentiments which was expounded in the text to Mr. A. F. Shand. But on the publication of his important work on The Foundations of Character in the year 1914,I found that the conception I had developed differed very importantly from his as expounded at length in that work. I had to some extent misinterpreted the very brief state-

( viii) -ments of his earlier publications, and had read into them my own meaning. Although I still recognise that Mr. Shand has the merit of having first clearly shown the need of psychology for some such conception, I must in the interests of truth point out that my conception of the sentiment and its relation to the emotion is so different from his as to be in reality a rival doctrine rather than a development of it. Looking back, I can now see that the germ of my conception was contained in and derived by me from Professor Stout's chapter on " Emotions " in his Manual of Psychology. At the time of writing the book I was not acquainted with the work of Freud and Jung and the other psycho-analysts. And I have been gratified to find that the workers of this important school, approaching psychological problems from the point of view of mental pathology, have independently arrived at a conception which is almost identical with my notion of the sentiment. This is the conception of the " complex " which now occupies a position of great importance in psycho-analytic literature. Arrived at and still used mainly in the attempt to understand the processes at work in the minds of neurotic patients, it has been recognised by some recent writers on mental pathology (notably Dr. Bernard Hart) that the " complex," or something very like it, is not a feature of mental structure confined to the minds of neurotic patients, and they are beginning to use the term in this wider sense as denoting those structural features of the normal mind which I have called sentiments. It would, I venture to suggest, contribute to the development of our psychological terminology if it could be agreed to restrict the term

(ix) " complex " to those pathological or morbid sentiments in connection with which it was first used, and to use " sentiment " as the wider more general term to denote all those acquired conjunctions of ideas with emotional-conative tendencies or dispositions the acquisition and, operating of which play so great a part both in normal and morbid mental development.

In Chapter V. I have analysed the principal complex emotions in the light of the conception of the sentiment and of the principle laid down in Chapter II. respecting the relation of emotion to instinct. The analyses reached are in many respects novel ; and I venture to think that, though they may need much correction in detail, they have the merit of having been achieved by a method very much superior to the one commonly pursued, the latter being that of introspective analysis unaided by any previous determination of the primary emotions by the comparative method.

In Chapters VI., VII., VIII., and IX. I have applied the doctrine of the sentiments and the results reached in the earlier chapters to the description of the organisation of the life of emotion and impulse, and have built upon these foundations an account which is more definite than any other with which I am acquainted. Attention may be drawn to the account offered of the nature of active or developed sympathy ; but the principal novelty contained in these chapters is what may, perhaps, without abuse of the phrase, be called a theory of volition, and a sketch of the development of character conceived as consisting in the organisation of the sentiments in one harmonious system.

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Of the heterogeneous assortment of ideas presented in the second section of the book I find it impossible to say what and how much is original. No doubt almost all of them derive from a moderately extensive reading of anthropological and sociological literature.

Since the original publication of this book I have added three supplementary chapters, one on " Theories of Action " to the fifth edition in 1912, one " On the Sex Instinct " to the eighth edition in 1914, and the third on " The Derived Emotions " to the present edition. These additional chapters give the work, I think, more the character of a complete treatise on the active side of man's nature, a character at which I had not aimed in the first instance ; for I aimed chiefly at setting out my own views so far as they seemed to me to be novel and original. I feel now that yet another chapter is required to complete the work, namely one on habit, and I hope to attempt this as soon as I may achieve some degree of clearness on the subject in my own mind. Since the first publication of this book, there have appeared several books dealing in part with the same topics and offering some criticism of my views. Of these I have found three especially interesting, namely Mr. Shand's Foundations of Character, Professor Thorndike's Original Nature of Man, and Dr. J. Drever's Instinct in Man. With Mr. Shand's aims and with his ransacking of the poets for psychological .evidence I have much sympathy, but I find myself at variance with him over many matters of fundamental importance for the understanding of character. He regards the emotions as highly complex innate dispositions, within which the instincts are organised as merely

( xi) so many sensory-motor dispositions to particular bodily movements. A second important difference is that he regards the sentiments as innately organised systems of emotional dispositions ; thus for him both love and hate are innate sentiments, and each of them consists of the dispositions of four emotions, joy, sorrow, anger, and fear, linked together to form one system. In my view the sentiments are acquired through individual experience, and where two or more emotional dispositions become conjoined in the structure of one sentiment, as when fear and anger are combined in the sentiment of hate, we have to regard these two dispositions as connected, not directly with one another, but only indirectly through the association of each with the particular object of this particular sentiment of hatred. Those are, I think, the most deep-lying differences between his view and mine ; but there are many others which cannot be discussed here. Some of these differences have been set out and discussed in a symposium on " Instinct and the Emotions," published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society for 1914. Those readers who are interested in contrasting these views may find some assistance there. Other differences are discussed at some length in the new chapter which I have added to the present edition of this book.

Mr. Thorndike's view of the constitution of man differs from mine in the opposite way from Mr. Shand's. While I postulate a few great primary instincts, each capable, like those of the animals, of prompting and sustaining long trains of thought and action ; and while Mr. Shand postulates still more complex systems of

( xii) innate dispositions, such as preformed sentiments of love and hate, each comprising an array of emotional dispositions and many instincts (in his sense of the word), Mr. Thorndike, on the other hand, lays it down that our innate constitution consists of nothing more than a vast number of simple reflex tendencies. How we are to conceive character and intellect as being built up from such elements I utterly fail to grasp. This multitude of reflexes corresponds to Mr. Shand's many instincts ; these two authors, then, agree in postulating a great number of very simple instinctive or reflex motor tendencies as given in the innate constitution ; they differ in that for Mr. Thorndike they are a mere unorganised crowd of discrete unconnected tendencies to movement ; while for Mr. Shand they are somehow subordinated to and organised within vast systems of emotional dispositions and still more comprehensive systems of innate sentiments.

I am encouraged to find that my own position is midway between these extreme views, that which postulates vastly complex innate organisations comprising many emotional and conative dispositions, and that which denies all but the most rudimentary conative reflexes to our innate constitution. And I am further encouraged to believe that my scheme of our innate conative endowment approximates to the truth by Dr. Drever's recent essay on Instinct in Man. For Dr. Drever has given us a careful historical survey of this question, and, after critically considering the various views that have been put forward, comes to the conclusion that the one set out in this book is the most acceptable. He is not content with it in certain particulars ; for example, he would prefer to

( xiii) class as appetites certain of the tendencies which I have classed with the instincts, such as the sex and the food-seeking tendencies ; but I am not convinced that it is possible to draw any clear line of separation, and I would prefer to continue to regard instinct as the comprehensive class, or genus, of which the appetites are one species. The distinction that Dr. Drever would have us sharply draw may seem to be fairly clear in the human species ; but it seems to me to break down when we attempt to apply it at all rigidly to animal life. What shall we say, for example, of the nest-building, the brooding, and the migratory tendencies of birds ? Are these instincts or appetites ? I am glad to note that Dr. Drever agrees with me also in respect of the other most fundamental feature of this book, namely, he approves and accepts the conception of the sentiment that I have attempted to develop. He, however, makes in this connection a suggestion which I am unable to accept. I have pro-posed as the essential distinction between an instinct and a sentiment the view that in the instinct the connection between the cognitive and the conative dispositions is innate, while in the sentiment this connection is acquired through individual experience. Dr. Drever proposes to substitute for this the distinction that " the instinct 'disposition' is perceptual, that is, involves only perceptual consciousness, while the sentiment ' disposition ' is ideational, and is a sentiment because it is ideational." I cannot accept this for two good reasons. First, I believe and have argued elsewhere that some instincts (for example, some of the complex nest-building instincts of birds) are ideational. Secondly, some animals which

( xiv) seem to be incapable of ideation or representation seem nevertheless capable of acquiring through experience connections between particular perceptions and certain conative-affective dispositions, as when they acquire a lasting fear of an object towards which they are natively indifferent. Such an acquired tendency is essentially of the nature of a sentiment, and I cannot see why we should refuse to class it as a very simple perceptual sentiment.

Yet another of Dr. Drever's suggestions I am unable to accept, namely, that " the instinct-emotion is not an invariable accompaniment of instinctive activity, but that the instinct interest is ; that the instinct-emotion is due to what we previously called 'tension,' that is, in the ordinary case, to arrest of the impulse, to the denying of immediate satisfaction to the interest." In maintaining this thesis Dr. Drever seems to be putting forward independently a view which Professor Dewey has long taught. But I have never felt that Dewey's reasoning carried any conviction to my mind, nor can I see that Drever has added anything to it. If the instinctive disposition is so constituted as to be capable of generating the appropriate emotion when its impulse is denied immediate satisfaction, it is difficult to see any theoretical ground for denying it this capacity when its activity is unobstructed ; nor does inspection of the facts seem to me to yield any more evidence in support of this view than the theoretical consideration of the possibilities. Surely, it is merely a matter of degree of intensity of the emotional excitement ! Some of Dr. Drever's criticisms I am happy to be able to accept, Especially I have to admit that he has con-

(xv) -victed me of injustice to some of the philosophers of the Scottish school, notably Dugald Stewart and Hutcheson, who had in many respects anticipated me in my view of the place of instinct in human nature. In my defence I can only plead sheer ignorance, and I may attempt to throw off the blame for this by saying that I had fallen a victim to the recent English fashion of over-rating the German schools of philosophy and psychology at the expense of our British predecessors. I am grateful to Dr. Drever for having corrected me in this matter.

In this part of psychology it is only by the consensus of opinion of competent psychologists that any view or hypothesis can be established or raised to the status of a theory that may confidently be taught or used as a basis for further constructive work. And the only method of verification open to us is the application of our hypothesis to the control and guidance of human conduct, especially in the two great fields of education and medicine. I am therefore much encouraged by the fact that in both these fields my sketch of the active side of human nature and its development in the individual has been found useful Several writers on educational psychology have acknowledged its value, and some of them have incorporated the essence of it in books written for students of education. I have noticed above that the doctrines of the psycho-analytic school contain much that coincides with my views. This school has realised the fundamental importance of instincts in human nature ; and though it has devoted an excessive, and in some cases an almost exclusive, attention to the sex instinct, it recognises the existence of other human instincts and is realising more fully that they, as

( xvi) well as the sex instinct, may play a part in the genesis of the psycho-neuroses. Other workers in this field have applied, and in various degrees approved, my sketch, notably Dr. Morton Prince, who in his important work, The Unconscious, published in 1914, has made large use of it and furnished new evidence in support of it. In spite of these encouraging indications that the substance of this book presents an approximation towards the truth, it can by no means be claimed that it has secured general acceptance. The greater number of the more influential of psychologists seem still to give a very small place to instinct in human nature, admitting as instinct, at most only some simple and rudimentary tendencies to particular forms of movement, such as the crawling, sucking, and lalling of the infant. I may perhaps be allowed to testify that during five years of military service, devoted almost wholly to the care of cases of psycho-neurosis among soldiers and their treatment by the various methods of psycho-therapy, I have found no reason to make any radical alterations in my view of the innate constitution of man.

Some critics have complained of this book that it hardly begins to treat of social psychology. One writes : " He seems to do a great deal of packing in preparation for a journey on which he never starts. "I confess that the title of the book lays me open to this charge. It should rather have been called " Propædeutic to Social Psychology," for it was designed to prepare the way for a treatise on Social Psychology. When I came to attempt the writing of such a treatise, I found that the psychology of the active and emotional side of our nature was in so

(xvii) backward a condition that it was impossible to go on without first attempting to attain to some clear and generally acceptable account of the innate tendencies of human nature and of their organisation under the touch of individual experience to form the characters of individual men. I hoped that this book would provide such an agreed basis for Social Psychology. In that I have been disappointed. Its substance was more remote from con-temporary opinion than I had supposed. However, in spite of this, I have decided at last to start on the journey for which I have done my packing as thoroughly as my powers permit, and I am glad to report that I have now in the press a book entitled The Group Mind, which does actually make some attempt to deal with a part of the large field of Social Psychology

W. McD.
OXFORD, September 1919



IT is natural that, in the seventeen years that have elapsed since the first publication of this book,

my views have undergone certain changes. These changes have not been of any radical kind ; they have rather been of a nature to supplement, consolidate, and define more clearly the views expounded in the first edition. Some of these changes have been expressed in the three supplementary chapters that have been added at intervals to the book. I have felt that the plan of adding such chapters, embodying such further under-standing as I seem to have attained, would be more instructive to the reader than any rewriting of the chapters previously published. In pursuance of this plan I now add two further chapters. They contain a further supplementation of the account of the human instincts contained in earlier editions, and a brief review of the present state of opinion upon the problems of instinct. Although the book as first written made no pretence to ennumerate and describe all the instinctive tendencies of the human species, it has been widely regarded as attempting that task. I feel, therefore, under some obligation to attempt to respond to that expectation. The most

(xix) important of the instincts now discussed for the first time in this volume is the instinct of laughter ; the section on this topic presents in very concise form a new theory of laughter and of humour which I have propounded else-where. I have added a few comments on the bearing of recent advances in psychology on other of the principal topics discussed in this volume.

December 1925


IN accordance with the plan followed in earlier editions of this book I have added a supplementary chapter without making any other substantial change. The new chapter, entitled " The Hormic Psychology," is reprinted from the volume Psychologies of 1930, published by the Clark University Press, and I have to thank Dr. Carl Murchison, the editor of that volume, for his permission to reproduce the chapter. The chapter should help the reader to understand the relations of the views expressed in this book to psychologies of other types, and may, I hope, make new friends for those views and confirm the good opinion of them implied by the demand for a new edition.

I have adopted the descriptive title " Hormic Psychology," and regret that I did not do so at the first publication. For such a title might have led to a more general recognition of the fact that this book propounds

( xx) the essentials of a psychology of distinctive type, a general view of mind and personality radically different from the views and theories prevalent at the date of its first publication.

Since the whole field that belongs to psychology has been cultivated by schools of widely divergent principles and theories, and seems likely to continue to be so cultivated for some considerable time, it is of very great advantage to any one of these schools to have a distinctive banner under which it may march, to which its recruits may repair, and which they may use as their badge. I hope that henceforth the title "Hormic Psychology " or " Hormicism " may serve as such a banner and badge, and thus do something to consolidate the adherents of this way of thinking into a coherent school that may then play its part more effectively in the war of schools that seems to be the inevitable road of progress.

The chapter, having been written for an American volume, contains some special criticisms of American authors, but since their works are well known in Great Britain, it has not seemed advisable to excise these passages.

W. McD.

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IT is now nearly thirty years since I wrote this book, and it is time that I made my bow to the public which has so greatly encouraged me by demanding successive new impressions. Messrs. Methuen tell me that some sixty-two thousand copies of the English language edition have been disposed of, as well as various editions in foreign languages. I am duly grateful to the public, and feel the weight of the responsibility that is mine. In this edition I endeavour to live up to that responsibility by adding yet another supplementary chapter, in which my account of Instinct is rectified in certain particulars, and a gap in my account of the active side of our nature is filled by the section on Tastes and Distastes.

Since the only one of my books to find a larger public than this one has done is a small book in a popular series, the verdict of the public would seem to be that this is the best of my books. And I am convinced that in this the public is right. My knowledge and my critical power are very much greater than when this book was written, in my thirty-sixth year. But I have never again reached the same level of original productivity. The substance of this book will continue to be my best contribution to

(xxii) psychology. It is therefore very gratifying that .I can now report further convergence of various schools and groups and individuals towards the type of psychology here put forward. The Psycho-analysts, the Gestaltists, the Behaviourists, the Connectionists, the Characterologists, the Social Psychologists of America, the cautious middle-of-the-road men, all these have moved further towards the acceptance of the principles first clearly propounded in the first edition of this book. But we are still very far from a general agreement.

For myself I am more than ever convinced that these principles are valid, and that, after the lapse of some few years, when my name shall have been entirely forgotten, these principles will be generally accepted as main pillars of a psychology which will serve as the indispensable basis of all the social sciences—provided, of course, that our civilization shall contrive to endure for so long a period.

W. Mc D.
October 1936


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