Social Psychology as Counterpart to Physiological Psychology

There is the widest divergence among psychologists as to the nature of Social Psychology. The most recent text-book under this title--the Social Psychology of Professor Ross--opens with this sentence: "Social Psychology, as the writer conceives it, studies the psychic planes and currents that come into existence among men in consequence of their association." That is, it must confine itself to the "uniformities in feeling, belief, or volition -- and hence in action -- which are due to the interaction of human beings." Here we find a certain field of human experience cut off from the rest, because men and women influence each other within that field. There result certain uniformities from this interaction and this makes the subject matter of the science of social psychology. In the same manner one might investigate the psychology of mountain tribes because they are subject to the influence of high altitudes and rugged landscape. Sociality is for Professor Ross no fundamental feature of human consciousness, no determining form of its structure.

In the Social Psychology of McDougall, which appeared but a few months before the treatise we have just mentioned, human consciousness is conceived of as determined by social instincts, whose study reveals sociality not as the result of interaction but as the medium within which intelligence and human emotion must arise.

If we turn to standard treatises on Psychology, we find the social aspect of human consciousness dealt with in very varying fashion. Royce, both in his psychology and in the volume, Studies in Good and Evil, makes out of the consciousness of one self over against other selves the source of all reflection. Thought, according to Professor Royce,

(402) in its dependence upon symbolic means of expression, has arisen out of intercourse, and presupposes, not only in the forms of language, but in the meanings of language, social consciousness. Only through imitation and opposition to others could one's own conduct and expression gain any meaning for oneself, not to speak of the interpretation of the conduct of others through one's own imitative responses to their acts. Here we stand upon the familiar ground of Professor Baldwin's studies of social consciousness. The ego and the socius are inseparable, and the medium of alternative differentiation and identification is imitation. But from the point of view of their psychological treatises we feel that these writers have said too much or too little of the form of sociality. If we turn to the structural psychologists we find the social aspect of consciousness appearing only as one of the results of certain features of our affective nature and its bodily organism. The self arises in the individual consciousness through apperceptive organization and enters into relation with other selves to whom it is adapted by organic structure. In Professor James's treatise the self is brilliantly dealt with in a chapter by itself. Within that chapter we see that, as a self, it is completely knit into a social consciousness, that the diameter of the self waxes and wanes with the field of social activity, but what the value of this nature of the self is for the cognitive and emotional phases of consciousness we do not discover. In the genetic treatment given by Professor Angell, the last chapter deals with the self. Here indeed we feel the form of sociality is the culmination, and the treatment of attention, of the impulses, and the emotions, and finally of volition involves so definitely a social organization of consciousness, that in the light of the last chapter the reader feels that a rereading would give a new meaning to what has gone before. If we except Professor Cooley, in his Human Nature and the Social Order, and his Social Organization, the sociologists have no adequate social psychology with which to interpret their own science. The modern sociologists neither abjure psychology with Comte, nor determine what the value of the social character of human consciousness is for the psychology which they attempt to use.

To repeat the points of view we have noted, some see in social consciousness nothing but uniformities in conduct and feeling that result from the interaction of men and women, others recognize a consciousness that is organized through social instincts, others still find in the medium of communication and the thought that depends upon it, a social origin for reflective consciousness itself, still others find the social aspect of human nature to be only the product of an already organized

(403) intelligence responding to certain social impulses, while others find that an organized intelligence in the form of a self could arise only over against other selves that must exist in consciousness as immediately as the subject self, still others are content to recognize necessary social conditions in the genesis of volition and the self that expresses itself in volition.

Now it is evident that we cannot take both positions. We cannot assume that the self is both a product and a presupposition of human consciousness, that reflection has arisen through social consciousness and that social intercourse has arisen because human individuals had ideas and meanings to express.

I desire to call attention to the implications for psychology of the positions defended by McDougall, by Royce and Baldwin respectively, if they are consistently maintained. The positions I have in mind are the following: that human nature is endowed with and organized by social instincts and impulses; that the consciousness of meaning has arisen through social intercommunication; and finally that the ego, the self, that is implied in every act, in every volition, with reference to which our primary judgments of valuation are made, must exist in a social consciousness within which the socii, the other selves, are as immediately given as is the subject self.

McDougall lists eleven human instincts: flight, repulsion, curiosity pugnacity, subjection, self-display, the parental instinct, the instinct of reproduction, the gregarious instinct, the instinct of acquisition, and the instinct of construction. Six of these are social, without question: pugnacity, subjection, self-display, the parental instinct, the instinct of reproduction, and the gregarious instinct. These would probably be the instincts most widely accepted by those who are willing to accept human instincts at all. Four of the others, repulsion, curiosity, acquisition, and construction, would be questionable, or conceivably to be resolved into other instincts. The fact is that McDougall has his doctrine of instincts so essentially bound up with a doctrine of emotions and sentiments that he is evidently forced to somewhat strain his table of instincts to get in the proper number of corresponding emotions. But the fact that is of moment is that the psychologist who recognizes instincts and impulses will find among them a preponderating number that are social. By a social instinct is meant a well defined tendency to act under the stimulation of another individual of the same species. If self-conscious conduct arises out of controlled and organized impulse, and impulses arise out of social instincts, and the responses to these social stimulations become stimuli to corresponding social acts on the

(404) part of others, it is evident that human conduct was from the beginning of its development in a social medium. The implication is highly important for its bearing upon the theory of imitation, which, as is indicated above, plays a great part in current social psychology.

There are two implications of the theory that important social instincts lie behind developed human consciousness — two to which I wish to call attention. The first is that any such group of instincts inevitably provides the content and the form of a group of social objects. An instinct implies first of all a certain type of stimulus to which the organism is attuned. This sensuous content will attract the attention of the individual to the exclusion of other stimuli. And the organism will respond to it by a certain attitude that represents the group of responses for which such an instinct is responsible. These two are the characteristics of an object in our consciousness — a content toward which the individual is susceptible as a stimulus, and an attitude of response toward this peculiar type of content. In our consciousness of this sensuous content and of our attitude toward it we have both the content of the object as a thing and the meaning of it, both the perception and the concept of it, at least implicit in the experience. The implication of an organized group of social instincts is the implicit presence in undeveloped human consciousness of both the matter and the form of a social object.

The second implication has to do with the theory of imitation. Social instincts imply that certain attitudes and movements of one form are stimuli in other forms to certain types of response. In the instinct of fighting these responses will be of one sort, in that of parental care another. The responses will be adapted to the stimulus and may vary from it or may approach it in its own form or outward appearance. It may be that, as in the case of the gregarious instinct, the action of one form may be a stimulus to the other to do the same thing -- to the member of the herd, for example, to run away in the direction in which another member of the herd is running. We have no evidence that such a reaction is any more an imitation than if the instinctive response were that of running away from an enemy which threatened the animal. Furthermore, a group of well organized social instincts will frequently lead one form to place another under the influence of the same stimuli which are affecting it. Thus a parent form, taking a young form with it in its own hunting, subjects the instincts which the child form has inherited to the same stimuli as those which arouse the hunting reaction in the parent form. In various ways it is possible that the action of one form should serve directly or indirectly to

(405) mobilize a similar instinct in another form where there is no more question of imitation than there is in the case in which the action of one form calls out, for the protection of life, a diametrically opposite reaction. Another phase of the matter is also of importance for the interpretation of the so-called imitative processes, in lower animal forms and in the conduct of young children. I refer to what Professor Baldwin has been pleased to call the circular reaction, the instance in which, in his terminology, the individual imitates himself. One illustration of this, that of mastication, which sets free the stimuli which again arouse the masticating reflexes is a purely mechanical circle, similar to that which is responsible for the rhythmical processes of walking, but which has no important likeness to such processes as that of learning to talk. In the latter experiences the child repeats continually a sound which he has mastered, perhaps without being perceptibly influenced by the sounds about him -- the da-da-da, the ma-ma-ma, of the earliest articulation. Here we have the child producing the stimulus which in a socially organized human animal calls for a response of another articulation. We see the same thing probably in a bird's insistent repetition of its own notes. The child is making the first uncertain efforts to speak — in this case to himself, that is, in response to an articulate sound which operates as a stimulus upon his auditory apparatus as inevitably as if the sound were made by another. The bird is responding to the note he sings himself as definitely as if he responded to a note uttered by another bird. In neither case is there any evidence that the sound which is the stimulus operates by its quality to induce the child or the bird to produce a sound which shall be like that which is heard. Under the influence of social instincts, animals and young children or primitive peoples may be stimulated to many reactions which are like those which directly or indirectly are responsible for them without there being any justification for the assumption that the process is one of imitation — in any sense which is connoted by that term in our own consciousness. When another self is present in consciousness doing something, then such a self may be imitated by the self that is conscious of him in his conduct, but by what possible mechanism, short of a miracle, the conduct of one form should act as a stimulus to another to do, not what the situation calls for, but something like that which the first form is doing, is beyond ordinary comprehension. Imitation becomes comprehensible when there is a consciousness of other selves, and not before. However, an organization of social instincts gives rise to many situations which have the outward appearance of imitation, but

(406) these situations — those in which, under the influence of social stimulation, one form does what others are doing -- are no more responsible for the appearance in consciousness of other selves that answer to our own than are the situations which call out different and even opposed reactions. Social consciousness is the presupposition of imitation, and when Professor Royce, both in the eighth chapter of Studies of Good and Evil, and in the twelfth chapter of his Outlines of Psychology makes imitation the means of getting the meaning of what others and we ourselves are doing, he seems to be either putting the cart before the horse, or else to be saying that the ideas which we have of the actions of others are ideo-motor in their character, but this does not make out of imitation the means of their becoming ideo-motor. The sight of a man pushing a stone registers itself as a meaning though a tendency in ourselves to push the stone, but it is a far call from this to the statement that it is first through imitation of him or some one else pushing stones that we have gained the motor-idea of stone-pushing.

The important character of social organization of conduct or behavior through instincts is not that one form in a social group does what the others do, but that the conduct of one form is a stimulus to another to a certain act, and that this act again becomes a stimulus to first to a certain reaction, and so on in ceaseless interaction. The likeness of the actions is of minimal importance compared with the fact that the actions of one form have the implicit meaning of a certain response to another form. The probable beginning of human communication was in cooperation, not in imitation, where conduct differed and yet where the act of the one answered to and called out the act of the other. The conception of imitation as it has functioned in social psychology needs to be developed into a theory of social stimulation and response and of the social situations which these stimulations and responses create. Here we have the matter and the form of the social object, and here we have also the medium of communication and reflection.

The second position to which I wish to call attention, and whose implications I wish to discuss, is that the consciousness of meaning is social in its origin. The dominant theory at present, that which is most elaborately stated by Wundt in the first volume of his Volkerpsychologie, regards language as the outgrowth of gesture, the vocal gesture. As a gesture, it is primarily an expression of emotion. But the gesture itself is a syncopated act, one that has been cut short, a torso which conveys the emotional import of the act. Out of the emotional signification has grown the intellectual signification. It is evi-

(407)-dent that but for the original situation of social interaction the bodily and vocal gestures could never have attained their signification. It is their reference to other individuals that has turned expression, as a mere outflow of nervous excitement, into meaning, and this meaning was the value of the act for the other individual and his response to the expression of the emotion, in terms of another syncopated act, with its social signification, gave the first basis for communication, for common understanding, for the recognition of the attitudes which men mutually held toward each other within a field of social interaction. Attitudes had meanings when they reflected possible acts. And the acts could have meanings when they called out definite reactions which call out still other appropriate responses; that is, when the common content of the act is reflected by the different parts played by individuals, through gestures -- truncated acts. Here is the birth of the symbol and the possibility of thought. Still, thought remains in its abstractest form sublimated conversation. Thus reflective consciousness implies a social situation which has been its precondition. Antecedent to the reflective consciousness within which we exist, in the beginnings of the society of men and in the life of every child that arises to reflective consciousness, there must have been this condition of interrelation by acts springing from social instincts.

Finally, Professor Baldwin has abundantly exemplified the interdependence of the ego and the socius, of the self and the other. It is still truer to say the self and the others, the ego and the socii. If the self-form is an essential form of all our consciousness it necessarily carries with it the other-form. Whatever may be the metaphysical impossibilities or possibilities of solipsism, psychologically it is non-existent. There must be other selves if one's own is to exist. Psychological analysis, retrospection, and the study of children and primitive people give no inkling of situations in which a self could have existed in consciousness except as the counterpart of other selves. We even can recognize that in the definition of these selves in consciousness, the child and primitive man have defined the outlines and the character of the others earlier than they have defined their own selves. We may fairly say a social group is an implication of the structure of the only consciousness that we know.

If these positions are correct it is evident that we must be as much beholden to social science to present and analyze the social group with its objects, its interrelations, its selves, as a precondition of our reflective and self-consciousness, as we are beholden to physiological science to present and analyze the physical complex which is the pre-condition

(408) of our physical consciousness. In other words, a social psychology should be the counterpart of physiological psychology. In each case the conditions under which certain phases of consciousness arise must be studied by other sciences, because the consciousness which the psychologist analyzes presupposes objects and processes which are pre-conditions of itself and its processes. It is true that our reflection can sweep the very physical and social objects which the physical and social sciences have presented within itself, and regard then, as psychical presentations. But in doing this it is presupposing another brain that conditions its action, and whose defection would bring collapse to the very thought that reduced the brain to states of consciousness. In the same manner we may wipe the alteri out of existence and reduce our social world to our individual selves, regarding the others as constructions of our own, but we can only do it to some other audience with whom our thought holds converse, even if this self is only the I and the Me of actual thought, but behind these protagonists stand the chorus of others to whom we rehearse our reasonings by word of mouth or through the printed page.

The evolutionary social science which shall describe and explain the origins of human society, and the social sciences which shall finally determine what are the laws of social growth and organization, will be as essential for determining the objective conditions of social consciousness, as the biological sciences are to determine the conditions of consciousness in the biological world. By no possibility can psychology deal with the material with which physiology and the social sciences deal, because the consciousness of psychological science arises within a physical and a social world that are presuppositions of itself. From a logical point of view a social psychology is strictly parallel to a physiological psychology.


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2