A Study in Ego Functioning: Elimination of Stable Anchorages in Individual and Group Situations.[1]

Muzafer Sherif and O. J. Harvey
University of Oklahoma


This study attempts to investigate the effects of various conditions of situational uncertainty on ego functioning through simple judgmental reactions. By situational uncertainty we mean a stimulus situation surrounding the individual which lacks stable spatial and other anchorages, consequently, making it impossible or hard for the individual to determine his bearings in relation to objects and individuals in the situation.

This is not a study of judgmental process per se. The fundamental conceptual approach of studying attitudes, ego-attitudes, and other internal factors through "cognitive" processes such as judging, perceiving, remembering, etc., is becoming the main approach in the experimental study of these central topics of psychology.[2] The present study is an application of this general approach to the problem of anxiety or insecurity.

A number of experimental findings and observations of man's reactions under varying degrees of instability, confusion and chaos in life situations offer promising leads for testing recent theoretical formulations in ego psychology experimentally. The present study is regarded as a preliminary attempt in this direction. Since the experiment is developed from leads implicit in these experimental findings and concrete observations of life, implications of the experimental part acquire significance only against this background.

At this early stage of the development of ego psychology, which en-

( 273) compasses problems of identifications with individuals and groups, problems of anxiety, security-insecurity, etc., it will be very immature to plunge into the abstractions of laboratory situations without a constant effort to relate relevant laboratory situations and life situations. Such a constant effort will be more than rewarding because by so doing we avoid the danger of finding mere artifacts, good only on paper, and can obtain valid findings which can be translated into the world of reality in life situations.


The reactions of individuals to stimulus situations with relatively little objective structure are largely determined by variations in social and internal (motivational, attitudinal) factors. For this reason the autokinetic situation is admirably suited for studying such variables experimentally. In the middle thirties, Sherif (28) showed the effects of certain social factors in judgments of extent of apparent movement and characteristic variations from subject to subject in distribution of judgments. The subject in the autokinetic situation finds himself in a room completely dark except for the periodic appearance of a tiny pinpoint of light. Since he has no way of knowing whether or not his judgments are correct, the subject feels uneasy (29, p. 107). Seated in the dark room, uncertain of whether or not he is reacting appropriately, "at times he feels insecure about his spatial bearing ... some subjects report that they are not only confused about the location of the point of light; they are even confused about the stability of their own position." (29, p. 92)

When the individual's judgments of movement differ considerably from those of a prestigeful partner, he may, as in Sherif's study of attitude formation (30), become disturbed and uneasy, especially if no common norm is achieved or maintained. Murphy (23) has suggested that under these circumstances "the insecurity of the untrained observer, the need to see as a trained observer did, was the chief dynamic factor involved ... " (p. 4).

In short, insecurity or anxiety of varying degrees is situationally aroused in the autokinetic experiment. In this unstable, uncertain situation, establishment of or convergence toward a common norm is accompanied by a reduction of these insecurity feelings (29, p. 110). As Kelman says, in his study of experimentally induced success and failure, "the establishment and use of a standard give the individual a basis for his judgments and therefore reduce his anxiety." (17, p. 279).

As Sherif's experiments showed, the individual facing the situation alone establishes a more or less characteristic range and norm for his judg-

( 274) -ments; and individual variations in reaction to the judgments of others in a group situation are striking. In extending the work on individual characteristics, Bovard (7) found that changes in scatter and means between individual sessions and sessions with a prestigeful partner on the same day were highly correlated with the degree to which the social norm was carried over in an individual session four weeks later.

In the clinical area, pronounced individual differences have been found among various patients in mental hospitals by Voth (39). Patients in anxiety states were among those perceiving "more pronounced" movement. Following metrazol shock treatments, patients frequently show "very distinct reduction in movement." (p. 800)

Klein and Schlesinger (18) found significant quantitative and qualitative differences in reactions to apparent movement of forms among groups previously selected as "form-labile" and "form-bound" on the basis of criteria from Rorschach scores and protocols.

F. Schumer (27) showed that individuals who were found to be "movement oriented" on the basis of a Rorschach index revealed significantly less convergence toward a group norm in the autokinetic situation than "nonmovement oriented" individuals.

In Kelman's study of "suggestibility" in the autokinetic situation (17), differential insecurity was produced experimentally by telling one group of subjects that most of their judgments in an individual session were correct, and another group that most of their judgments were incorrect. Individuals in the "success" group were subsequently less susceptible to the judgments of a "planted" subject than individuals in the "failure" group.


Experimental study must ring true to the characteristics of situations and behavior in the run of things in men's lives. For our problem we are specifically concerned with life situations of little structure, that is, situations with few stable anchorages. An example is the battlefield in modern, mechanized war. In his description of the modern battlefield, Marshall (20) wrote, "The harshest thing about the field is that it is empty. No people stir about. There are little or no signs of action. Over all there is a great quiet which seems more ominous than the occasional tempest of fire." (p. 44) This is in contrast to the recruit's expectations after being trained in the presence of great numbers of men and massive mechanical power all around him. But "he finds himself suddenly almost alone in his hour of greatest danger, and he can feel the danger, but there is nothing out there, nothing

( 275) to contend against." (p. 45) "There is nothing to be seen. The fire comes out of nowhere. But that is all that he knows for certain." (p. 47) As the men scatter under fire, they may even be out of sight of one another. And, as Vilfroy's account of the early days of the war in France (1940) puts it, he feels utterly alone, "forward and isolated." (38, p. 105)

Another example is the situation of soldiers on board ship, bound for an invasion. The present situation is clear-cut enough, but the future is unknown. It was Ernie Pyle's insightful observation that "I don't believe one of us was afraid of the physical part of dying. That isn't the way it is. The emotion is rather one of almost desperate reluctance to give up the future. I suppose that's splitting hairs and that it really all comes under the heading of fear. Yet somehow there is a difference. . . . When we huddled around together on the dark decks, it was these little hopes and ambitions that made up the sum total of our worry at leaving, rather than visualization of physical agony to come." (24, p. 4. Italics ours.)

As Stouffer et al. (35) indicated, the result of such situations is anxiety and insecurity for the individual. In behavioral terms, one fruit of such unstructured situations of stress is a decrease, at least temporarily, in behavior governed by group standards for action or by possible realistic requirements of the situation and an increase in behavior aroused by the individual's anxieties. Marshall (20) observed that as men spread apart under fire they move "Individually to whatever cover is nearest or affords the best protection." Some may use their equipment, timidly at first. Others do nothing, either because lacking instructions they don't know what to do or because "they are wholly unnerved and can neither think nor move in sensible relation to the situation." (p. 48) When the men cannot see one another under enemy fire, "all organizational unity vanishes temporarily. What has been a force becomes a scattering of individuals." (p. 129)

Those who have spent considerable time in prisoner-of-war camps report that the uncertainty of present and future life led frequently to increased individual fantasy and increasingly difficult relations with fellow prisoners.[3] At a simpler level, Pyle (24) contrasted the behavior of infantry men, who were most exposed to continuing chaos and uncertainty even as to where and when they would sleep or eat, and sailors, who at least had a ship to call home. The sailors were "more like themselves. They didn't cuss as much or as foully as soldiers. They didn't bust loose as riotously when they hit town." (p. 3.)

( 276)

The individual, in a situation having few or no anchorages to guide him, caught in the throes of anxiety, tries to establish some level of stability. He seeks to find some standard and is susceptible to accepting a standard from another source. Take, for example, the pilots preparing to take off from a ship before daybreak. On a completely dark deck, they must find their ships. "Old hands get used to memorizing the relative positions of all the planes the afternoon before the next morning, which helps." (40, p. 26.) It is a common enough observation that some conclusion to awaiting an indefinite future, even finally entering combat, may bring intense relief and stabilization, in spite of objective dangers in the certainty. (33, p. 4.)

Marshall (20) investigated the problem of why enemy fire against an advancing infantry line invariably caused a delay of from 45-60 minutes. His observations (of 11 infantry companies and one reconnaissance troop) led him to conclude that the line did not proceed until effective communication was restored. This might be simply one bold individual standing up and shouting "`Follow me! We're going on!" (p. 130.) If withdrawal becomes necessary, but is not coupled with some brief explanation (e.g. "Get the hell out of here and follow me to that tree line on the far side of the creek."), panic is likely to result.

In such stress situations, where the individual perceives only confusion, he may long for something or someone to provide standards of conduct. Thus soldiers caught in a hasty withdrawal of British forces after the breakthrough by Rommel's army in Libya, completely surrounded by confusion "bewilderment and fear and ignorance" wanted to receive orders (21, pp. 69-71). Here is the statement of a veteran wounded in the North Africa campaign: "One time we begged our lieutenants to give orders. They were afraid to act because they didn't have the rank. We took a beating while they were waiting for orders-how did they know the commander hadn't been knocked off?" (35, p. 117.)

In the absence of other anchors or standards for anticipating the future, men put their faith in the wisdom and experience of the captain of their vessel or the pilot of their plane (e.g. 24, p. 4; 25, p. 7). In such situations, the individual becomes increasingly dependent upon his own group for feelings of security (e.g. 35, p. 144; 20, pp. 129-130).

In short, the effect of extreme stress, uncertainty, lack of stable anchorages may be to increase suggestibility-in the sense of increasing the likelihood of accepting a standard for behavior from a source other than the individual's own. When shared with others, this increasing desire for some stable anchorage leads in group process to the rise and spread of rumors, as

( 277) the study and reports of rumor have amply shown (e.g. 2; 10; 19, p. 66; 26, p. 64; 24, pp. 9-10; 11, 107-109; 15, pp. 93-94; 6, p. 196; 37, pp. 133-34).

Rumor may, of course, be based on some specific event or action which is not defined for those watching. Marshall (20) who investigated the sources of panic which occurred in battle during World War II concluded that in every case the "common denominator" was that "somebody failed to tell other men what he was doing" (p. 146). Thus, in one case, a sergeant wounded during battle dashed back to a first aid station without telling his squad why. They took after him, and the rumor spread through the whole line, "The order is to withdraw."

The acceptance of an inappropriate or erroneous standard in a situation of intense stress and uncertainty often leads to panic. Turning to examples more familiar to social psychologists, it is no coincidence, as Cantril (9) pointed out, that the panic following Orson Welles' "Invasion from Mars" followed the tense, jittery days of the war crisis of September, 1938, while this country was still in a period of depression. Similarly, the "phantom anesthetist of Mattoon" Illinois (16) made his appearance during the war and predominantly among women of lower economic and occupational groups, many of whom (among those who responded) indicated trouble with "nerves."


The concepts of anxiety, insecurity, inadequacy, aloneness, etc., which all express personally felt, painful experiences of being out-of-tune, uneasy with oneself, have become at present central topics in the writings of authors seriously concerned with the plight of man living under the strains of the modern world. Such concepts are central in the analysis of modern man presented by Fromm, Horney, Murphy, Harry Stack Sullivan and others.

The present investigation is undertaken as an experimental approach to the study of some phases of ego problems. As recently stated by Mullahy in a symposium devoted to the topic of anxiety to which various authors contributed, there is no agreement as to what is meant by anxiety (22). For example, "some include fear under anxiety, others do not. This is no mere matter of terminology. Until we decide precisely what we are talking about, we can have little agreement on what causes anxiety, and what function or functions anxiety serves. . . " (p. 44).

If there is no differentiating criterion between fear and anxiety, between fear and insecurity, or between fear and experience of aloneness, then in the interests of parsimony we should list them all under fear and not unneces-

( 278) -sarily multiply terms in such a complicated area. We have, therefore, to justify anxiety, insecurity and similar concepts with some differentiating criterion. Traditionally some authors defined fear in terms of stimuli which are definite and identifiable, and anxiety in terms of indefiniteness of stimulus situations. If such were the case, the most convenient way to deal with the problem might be to speak of fears caused by definite stimulus situations and fears caused by indefinite stimulus situations.

It seems to us that the differentiating psychological criterion between fear on the one hand and such states referred to as anxiety, insecurity, etc., on the other hand, is furnished by those who study these problems in the developmental sequence of the individual.

Developmentally the appearance of fear in the human infant is prior to the appearance of anxiety. In order for anxiety to appear there has to be a certain degree of ego development. To this effect Harry Stack Sullivan (36) writes:

Along with learning of language, the child is experiencing many restraints on the freedom which it had enjoyed up till now. Restraints have to be used in the teaching of some of the personal habits that the culture requires everyone should show, and from these restraints there comes the evolution of the self system-an extremely important part of

the personality-with a brand-new tool, a tool so important that I must give you its technical name, which unhappily coincides with a word of common speech which may mean to you anything. I refer to anxiety. With the appearance of the self system or the self dynamism, the child picks up a new piece of equipment which we technically call anxiety. Of the very unpleasant experiences which the infant can have we may say that there are generically two, pain and fear. Now comes the third (pp. 273-274).

Likewise, the state of insecurity, in a strict sense, does not appear until a certain degree of ego development in the form of formation of certain interpersonal ties has taken place. To this effect another insightful student of ego development and functioning (Ausubel) states: "Security needs, of course, cannot arise until some notion of self is formed and until the infant is mature enough perceptually to appreciate his executive dependence" (3, p. 333).

It seems to us that the above line of developmental observations gives us leads to make clear-cut differentiations as to the nature of anxiety, insecurity and the like. In such states there is always ego reference, whether it be conscious or not. The study of anxiety or insecurity, will lack its main component if the concept of ego is not brought into the picture and made

( 279) central in the handling of these problems. Hence our understanding of anxiety, insecurity will increase hand in hand with increase of our understanding of ego development and functioning.

A host of empirical observations leads us to define ego as a developmental formation or "sub-system" in the psychological make-up of the individual consisting of functionally interrelated attitudes which are acquired in relation to his own body, members of his family, social groups, objects, values and institutions which define and regulate his relatedness and hence behavior in so many concrete situations.

Ego consists of ego-attitudes formed in the life history of the individual defining, regulating his relatedness to situations, objects, individuals, groups, etc. His personal stability, personal security, then, consists of the stability and continuity of these relations defined and regulated by these developmentally acquired and functionally interrelated ego-attitudes. When the stability of these relations defined by ego-attitudes is disrupted, when the ties between the individual and other persons and groups defined by his ego-attitudes are impaired, when values implied in these ego-attitudes are threatened, or when activities of the individuals towards goals determined by his ego-attitudes are thwarted with subsequent experience of failure, the consequence is ego-tension, the degree and consequences of which will vary from case to case. We use ego-tension as a generic term to refer to painful, unpleasant experiences such as anxiety, insecurity, personal inadequacy, aloneness, shame, etc., none of which can be accounted for without bringing the ego-system into the picture. When ego-tension is caused by failures or potential failures crushing or threatening our sense of adequacy, our sense of self-esteem, or by actual or potential blockage of the individual's ego-involved goals, the appropriate term for ego-tension in such cases may be anxiety. When the ego tension is the outcome of the disruption of the stability of our bearings or ties (ties of belongingness) in relation to our physical or social surroundings, when it is the consequence of blows suffered in the course of status strivings, the more appropriate term may be insecurity. When the ego-tension is due to physical or psychological isolation from individuals or groups we are identified with or aspire to be identified with, the appropriate term for this psychological state may be aloneness. When ego-tension is aroused by being caught in a situation in which our action or predicament is negatively at variance from the level of ego values, the resulting product may be referred to as shame. In cases in which the variance or deviation of experience and behavior is related to the few most central, fundamental ego values the resulting ego-tension may be appropriately termed the experience of guilt.


We should also mention ego-tensions due to conflict. These cases of ego-tensions are due to our being caught in a situation which demands contradictory roles in relation to that situation. These kind of ego-tensions, which are so frequently encountered in "casually patterned" societies with contradictory values existing side by side, have been treated extensively in the writings of sociologists, psychologists and novelists who are seriously concerned with the plight of modern man. One good illustration of the point is the case of the professional woman who cherishes the notion that her accomplishment is on a par with the top-notch males in her area but who cannot participate in a convention to share the honors with her male colleagues because of the demands of her husband (the demands of the husband reinforced by the prescriptions of social norms concerning the female role in society). Another example of the point is the case of the minority group member who constantly tries to be treated in harmony with the values embodied in the constitution of the country, but who is constantly frustrated because of these claims. Or, take the case of the minority group member whose identification is split between the country of which he is formally a member and another group physically far away, thus trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time.

We have to limit this discussion of ego-tensions to the lines of the particular problem of the present experimental study. The particular ego-tension in question is insecurity. It should be said, at this point, however, that there are cases of ego-tensions in which it is difficult to decide whether anxiety or insecurity would be a more appropriate label. For example, in the case of the present study the conditions are such that both the bearings of the person in relation to his surroundings and his sense of adequacy in the given task are involved.

Anxiety in its milder or neurotic form expresses a state of ego-tension which is the by-product of experienced threats or uncertainties, real or imagined (for present or future) which are felt as directed at our personal goals, personal values, hopes of success in relation to these goals and values which constitute the core of personality. Or when, under critical circumstances, the stability of our physical and social bearings are disrupted with the subsequent experience of not being anywhere definitely, of being torn from social ties of belongingness, or when nothing but a future of uncertainty or blockages is experienced as our lot, the by-product is the experience of insecurity. The individual tossing in such a state of anxiety or insecurity flounders all over in his craze to establish for himself some stable anchorages. The fluctuations of his experience and behavior are greatly increased. In

( 281) our opinion great fluctuations or variability in experience and behavior occur first, even in cases of persons who may eventually turn into themselves to build internally paranoid anchorages which are completely out of line with the facts of reality surrounding them.

The consequences of the ego-tensions, anxiety or insecurity are a state of restlessness, floundering all over to find some stable anchorages, heightened fluctuations of behavior. If these states of anxiety or insecurity are widespread among the individuals of a group, the result is an increased degree of suggestibility, the increased credulity for events that are bizarre and unexpected, a greater degree of susceptibility to the spread of wild rumors, the greater likelihood of panics. In the experimental findings presented previously, we gave evidence of the greater variability of reactions and greater suggestibility under conditions of uncertainty and failure. We gave various illustrations of some consequences of conditions of uncertainty and confusion.

In line with the illustrations already presented, the following passage from The American Soldier: Combat and Its Aftermath sums up clearly what we have tried to state regarding the effects of conditions of confusion, uncertainty which lack stable anchorages:

In combat, the individual soldier was rarely sure of what had just happened, what was going on at the moment, or what was likely to occur next. He was subject to continual distraction by violent stimuli, and lived always under the tension of expecting the unexpected. This kind of unceasing confusion-the lack of firm constants to which behavior could be oriented-exposed the individual to insidious anxieties. All people need some stability in their environment; it has been repeatedly shown that personality integration and the development of regularized patterns of behavior are strongly conditioned upon the existence of stable referents for activity. One of the prime functions of any sort of social organizations is to provide the individual with a dependable set of expectations. Unless one knows, at least within broad limits, what behavior to expect from others, the very concept of adjustment becomes meaningless. So it is that the uncertainties and confusions of combat were themselves identifiable sources of stress. The frictions of battle, the mistiness of knowledge that goes under the name of "the fog of war," could be minimized by good provisions for transportation and communication, and by good discipline and administrative organization; but uncertainty always remained (35, p. 83-84, italics ours).


The problem is the experimental production of a state of anxiety or insecurity through elimination of stable anchorages in the situation. If this first part of our problem is demonstrated, then our next task will be to reduce

( 282) ego-tension (anxiety, insecurity) thus produced through the introduction of a few salient stable anchorages.

From a methodological point of view if we can exactly specify the course of elimination of stable anchorages and if the criterion of the appearance of anxiety or insecurity can be expressed in a clear-cut way in terms of the spread of judgments rather than in descriptive phrases, we shall be on a firmer ground in the study of the complicated matters of ego-tensions.

The statement of the problem as a production of a state of anxiety or insecurity through elimination of stable anchorages in the situation is too general a statement for an experimental study. It has to be specified to lead us concretely to the particular study and the appropriate procedures to be used. In psychological and especially psychiatric literature, the general case is neurotic anxiety or neurotic insecurity when these problems are dealt with. Besides these extreme cases, there are cases of anxiety or insecurity which are experienced for the duration of a temporary threat or potential threat to our ego values and goals, which are experienced for the duration of a temporary state of loss of our physical or social bearings under confusing and uncertain conditions. Ausubel, a keen student of ego problems, included a section on situational anxiety in his recent book on Ego Development and the Personality Disorders (3). He shows that when an individual faces a situation that constitutes a challenge to his sense of adequacy, the result is the experience of anxiety which may last for the duration of the situation at hand. In our experimental procedure, we aimed to produce a state of situational anxiety or insecurity through eliminating spatial anchorages as much as possible for the subjects in a task that requires spatial orientation. (This is especially true in the case of condition C, see pp. 288-291.) The psychological basis underlying this assumption is the following: One of the earliest phases of ego development in infancy is the delineation of bodily self from surrounding objects. Henceforth, the bodily self is a main anchorage in making spatial localizations as pointed out by W. Stern years ago. But this main anchorage (viz., the delineated bodily self) is not independent of the stability or instability of other anchorages in the surroundings. As the surrounding space relations become more unstructured or surrounding space anchorages are eliminated, the stability of the spatial bearings of the bodily self become increasingly difficult. So much so that some of the S's in our situation with least structure spatially lost their orientation. They reported walking towards West while they were actually moving South, or even a few reported moving West while they actually were moving East. The discovery on their part that their actual direction was at variance with

( 283) their experience of direction in such a seemingly simple task of finding their seats in complete darkness was conducive at least to a mild degree of situational anxiety.

The importance and implications of this general tendency for ambiguity and unstructuredness to lead to some degree of insecurity or anxiety for ego psychology has been emphasized previously:

Even in cases of relatively simple events, ambiguity or unstructuredness delays the judgment time and renders judgmental activity rather tense and difficult. This is not a pleasant experience even on its simplest level. The ego is no exception to the general principle. Once it is formed with all its diverse ties in relation to goal objects, persons, and groups which stand in different degrees of affective relationship to it, the ego has to be anchored safely in many capacities. When these ties are disrupted, we experience insecurity and loss of personal identity. In fact, the feeling of personal security consists mainly of the stability of these ties which originally constitute the formation of the ego (31, p. 273).

The above line of psychological bases of our problem recently received a clear confirmation from a clinical psychologist. To this effect AM states: "Clinical experience with a number of the projective methods has established my conviction that when any psychological task is ill defined, and when in addition the stimulus field is either quite ambiguous or new in the experience of the subject, the testee tends to react with anxiety, which may be either minimum or strong (1, p. 56-57). . . . I suspect, on the basis of certain experimental findings arising both from the laboratory and from social psychology, that as the stimulus field becomes progressively more and more unstructured-a process that forces the individual to rely increasingly upon internal or subjective factors in perception-there is a tendency for his anxiety level to increase markedly" (1, pp. 53-54).


On the basis of the experimental findings presented, empirical observations reported, and the theoretical leads developed, it seems plausible to advance the following hypotheses to be tested:

The more unstructured and uncertain (with fewer definite anchorages) is the stimulus situation which the individual faces —

(a) The wider is his range or scale of judgments, thus revealing greater variability in judgments of the individual;

(b) the greater is the magnitude of the norm around which the individual scatters his judgments;


(c) the more accentuated are the differences between the judgments of individuals, this tendency being considerably reduced in group situations;

(d) the greater is the degree of convergence of judgments between individuals in group situations.


Altogether, 85 subjects took part in the present experiment.[4] Each of the final experimental groups for the three experimental conditions consisted of 20 subjects (half male, half female). Each of these 60 subjects participated in two sessions, one individual and one group session under the appropriate condition.

The remaining 25 subjects were used in pre-testing the experimental conditions which were finally adopted in this study. Of this number, 9 were utilized in pre-tests of Conditions A and B, and 16 were pre-tested under Condition C.

All subjects were college students who were not familiar with the autokinetic phenomenon. Subjects were paired on the basis of a criterion of homogeneity. In all cases, males were paired with males, and females with females. Subjects were placed together who did not differ markedly in age, college classification, or ethnic background. To exclude the effects of prior relationships among the subjects, subjects paired in the group sessions were not acquainted with one another. Subjects were assigned to one of the three experimental conditions on a random basis.


The general disposition of the apparatus, which consists mainly of a small pin point of light exposed through a circular hole one millimeter in diameter, and a subject identification system, is essentially the same as that used by Sherif in earlier work. Two major improvements were made on the apparatus: The exposure time of three seconds (constant for all conditions) and signal to the experimenter (five seconds before the appearance of the

( 285) autokinetic light) were altogether automatically controlled instead of being manually operated.[5] The source of the autokinetic light, was a small radio dial bulb burning at approximately normal brilliance on 6-8 volts.

The appearance of the autokinetic light, the exposure time and signal to the experimenter were controlled by relay circuits which were set in operation by the contact of electrically sensitized copper bosses mounted on Paklite disks with stationary spring loaded plungers. The three Paklite disks on which the bosses were mounted at appropriate locations to regulate automatically the timing of the autokinetic light, exposure time and signal to the experimenter, were driven by a Telechron synchronous motor at one revolution per minute.


All subjects participated first in an experimental session alone, and then (after an interval of from 2 to 7 days) they were placed in a group session in pairs of two. The explanation given all subjects for being paired was that it should make the task easier as well as taking less time.

In both the individual and group sessions of the three conditions, each subject gave 50 judgments at a distance of 21 feet from the autokinetc light. If the subject, or subjects, failed to report movement of the light within 30 seconds after it appeared, the estimate was recorded as zero and the experimenter pressed a control key causing the light to disappear. There was a time interval of 1 minute between the disappearance of the light and its reappearance for a new judgment. The exposure time for all subjects was 3 seconds, i.e., there was a 3 second interval between the time the subject pressed his key indicating perceived movement and the disappearance of the light. All judgments, pertinent remarks and other behavior of the subjects were recorded by the experimenter.

After the second, or group, session, each subject filled out a questionnaire which contained items concerning his opinion on the positive or negative effect of another person's presence and estimates upon his own judgments, and his feeling of certainty accompanying the judgments. All subjects were then paid for both sessions at the rate of 65 cents an hour.

Conditions A, B, C: Since the purpose of the study was to examine the effects on judging an ambiguous stimulus of three degrees of experimentally induced uncertainty, the three conditions were made to represent gradations or degrees of difficulty in the form of fewer anchorages in the

( 286) situation. Physical anchorages were eliminated as described below. The role of the experimenter was defined differently for the three conditions, since preliminary exploratory work indicated that the experimenter, through friendly conversation and directions, was providing (social and spatial) anchorages in an uncontrolled way.

The three conditions ranged from A, the relatively easy and simple, through B, of intermediate difficulty, to C, the most uncertain and difficult.

Condition A

This condition was intended to produce the least uncertainty among the subjects. To effect this, the experimental situation was made relatively simple and the role assumed by the experimenter was one of informality and friendliness. The experimental room for this condition (15 by 28 feet) was much smaller than for the other conditions (81 by 54 feet). Subjects had a brief glimpse of the interior, the seat, table and of the space relations in the room. Thus the subject in Condition A had some opportunity to orient himself in relation to definite anchorages, such as walls, chair, table, etc.

Individual Session: The attempt was made to establish rapport by spending several minutes with each subject in informal and friendly conversation before the experimental session. The subject was assured the task was simple and easy, that there was no doubt that he would do well. In short, in Condition A the experimenter was as friendly and encouraging as possible. After ascertaining if the subject "was about ready to try your luck at judging distance," he was instructed: "Now I will take you to a dark room where I will show you your chair. Your only task will be to judge how far a point of light moves."

The subject was then taken to the experimental room. As he entered he was, by a brief flash of light, shown his seat and table on which there was a switchbox connected to the autokinetic apparatus. He could dimly see the walls of the room. As soon as he reached his chair, the door was closed, leaving the room in total darkness. The curtain, which prevented the subject's seeing the end of the room containing the apparatus, was then withdrawn and the experimenter went to the apparatus in a confident manner.

Approximately 5 minutes elapsed before the subject began his judgments in order that the degree of dark adaptation would approximate that of subjects in the other conditions (especially Condition C) in which a longer period was required for the subject to find his seat. During these few minutes, the experimenter continued to carry on informal and friendly conversation with the subject.

( 287) Then the subject was instructed:

You will be shown repeatedly a point of light like this. (The light was shown.) It shall always appear in this same place. Several seconds before the light is to appear I shall say "Ready," then the light will appear. After a short while, the light will begin to move. As soon as you see it move, press the button. Remember, do not press the button when you first see the light, but press it as soon as you see the light begin to move. After you have pressed the button, release it. Presently the light will disappear. After the light has disappeared, tell me the total distance the point of light moved, trying to make your estimates as accurate as possible.

We are not interested in the direction of the movement, but only in your estimate of the total distance the point of light moved.

Is there anything that is not clear?

Subjects were instructed to give only the total distance and not the direction so that in the group session they would not be reporting movement in different directions, which would have aroused strong suspicions among them.

After 2 practice trials, each subject gave 50 judgments. Throughout the experimental session, the experimenter remained friendly and responsive to the subject.

Group Session: The procedure here differed from the individual session only to the extent necessary for adaptation to a group situation. The experimenter tried to perpetuate any rapport established in the first session, as well as attempting to contribute to a positive interaction between the subjects. After several minutes of conversation among the subjects and experimenter, the subjects were taken to the experimental room. The only difference in the instructions was that the subjects were instructed that after they had pressed their keys and the light had disappeared, they were to:

Give your estimates of the distance the light moved, one of you at a time. As you give your estimate, press the key in front of you again and release it immediately. (This permitted the subject to be identified by signal on the apparatus before the experimenter.) It does not matter which of you gives your estimate first; but in order that you will not be influenced by the other person's estimate, let the same person not give his (her) estimate first every time.

Condition B

This condition was between A and C in difficulty. The greatest difference between Conditions A and B was in the size of the experimental room. This room, 81 by 54 feet, was formerly a theater on a Navy base. It was located

( 288) in a larger, vacated building in which there was no activity except the experimentation. On the way to the experimental room, it was necessary to traverse a dimly lighted corridor. The experimenter sought to establish rapport with the subject in the same way as described for Condition A, but this was undoubtedly made more difficult because of the less pleasant setting in the abandoned recreation hall.

Individual session: Before going to the experimental room, the subject was instructed: "I will take you into a dark room where I will lead you to your chair. Your only task will be to judge how far a point of light moves."

Unlike Condition A, the subject never saw the space relations inside the experimental hall. The experimenter entered the darkened room ahead of the subject, and taking his hand, led him to his chair, which was 10 feet from the door. To reassure the subject, the experimenter acted very confidently in the dark, especially in leading him to his chair. After about 5 minutes of dark adaptation, the same procedure was followed as for the individual session in Condition A.

Under Condition B, the subject had little idea of his relationship to the room. The fact that the room was so large produced such acoustical conditions that the subjects had a difficult time estimating their distance from the experimenter (an important index employed by many in their attempts to find some means to aid them in the accuracy of their judgments).

Group Session: The procedure for this situation was practically identical to that described for Condition A, group session, the exception being that the subjects held hands and were led to their seats by the experimenter. The instructions were the same as for the group session, Condition A.

Condition C

This was intended to be the situation in which spatial anchorages were eliminated as much as possible, hence the most difficult. The experimenter made no attempt to establish rapport with the subjects, being matter of fact instead of warm and cordial, and engaging in only the necessary minimum of conversation throughout the sessions. More significant than the changed air of the experimenter was the increased difficulty in the experimental conditions. The experimental room was the same one used for Condition B, but several factors were introduced which made it much more difficult (See Figure 1).

At a distance of 12 feet from the entrance, stairs were placed containing 4 steps in the front and 3 steps down in the back. The area of the room was marked off with ropes so that the only way the subject could reach his chair was by passing over the stairs (unless he crawled through the ropes,

( 289)Figure sketch layout of laboratory

( 290) which none did). The ropes were introduced after preliminary work showed that the subjects in search of their chairs usually ended up at the right or left wall. They tended to stick by the wall despite instructions from the experimenter on how to find their goal. Therefore, in order to eliminate vertical anchorages as much as possible, rope barriers at hip level were used. It should be pointed out, however, that when subjects lost their way and came to the ropes, the ropes did not provide any definite anchorage as to their exact location.

After finding the stairs and passing over them, it was necessary for the subject to turn exactly 45 degrees to his left and proceed straight for 39 feet before reaching his goal (chair). There was nothing between the stairs and the chair but space.

Certain landmarks in simple relation to the subject's chair were set up in order that the experimenter could direct him to his seat when he became completely lost (See Figure 1).

Individual session: Before going to the dark room the subject was instructed:

You are to enter a dark room. (The subject had been shown the entrance he was to use previously.) After you have gone through the door, you are to pull it tight behind you and pull the curtains closed, too. (The curtains were used to insure against light leakage.) Then place your back to the door which you have just entered and walk straight ahead. You will come to some stairs. When you have passed over the stairs, stop and turn left 45 degrees, and walk straight in the direction you are then facing. You will come to your chair and a table in front of it. After you find your chair, sit down and face directly forward.

Is there anything that is not clear?

The subject was then left in an office, several doors from the experimental room, while the experimenter made his way to his chair in the experimental room. He then called the subject, who could not tell from where in the experimental room the sound had come. As soon as the subject had closed the door of the experimental room, the experimenter started recording by stop clock the time it took for him to reach his chair, as well as all pertinent remarks of the subject. The experimenter maintained complete silence despite frequent attempts of the subjects to establish contact by asking for direction and aid. The experimenter's silence was broken only after the subject had wandered for 3 minutes without finding his chair, had expressed the fact twice that he was lost and had given up, or had reached his chair. When the subject became lost the experimenter directed him to

( 291) his chair by explaining the relationship of certain landmarks to the subject's table.

After the subject had reached his chair, either through his own ability or by directional aid, he was instructed:

There is a table in front of you. On this table there is a box with a button on it. You will be shown a point of light like this. (Light was shown.) It shall always appear in this place. Several seconds before it is to appear I shall tap like this. (Experimenter tapped the table with a pencil.)

The tapping was substituted for saying "ready" to reduce further the contact between experimenter and subject.

The rest of the procedure was the same as that for the individual sessions in Conditions A and B.

Group session: Here the subjects sought their seats in pairs. Before entering the dark room, the same instructions as for the individual session of Condition C were given. After the subjects had reached their chairs, the same procedure as for the other group sessions was followed except that instead of saying "ready" before the appearance of the light, the experimenter tapped his pencil.


In line with the statement of the problem and the hypotheses advanced, the treatment of the data is made in terms of comparison of ranges and norms of judgment under Conditions A, B, and C in individual and group situations. Attention should be called to the fact that the crucial comparisons are between data obtained under Condition A (relatively easy condition) and Condition C (the condition of greatest uncertainty).

The formulation of our problem and hypotheses derived from experimental and empirical findings indicated that the more uncertain, the more chaotic the situation the individual faces, the greater the likelihood of individuals floundering around. In view of this, the gross measure of statistical range acquires special importance. Figure 2 shows striking differences in the scope within which individuals distribute their judgments under Conditions A, B, and C. Under Condition C, in which all anchorages were eliminated as much as possible, this scope becomes startlingly large when compared with that of the more usual autokinetic situation (Condition A), which though vague and indefinite affords a few anchorages for the individual.

Method of Analysis. Since the frequency distributions under nur various conditions are not normally distributed, it was decided that non-

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Figure 2.
Figure II. Spread of Individual Judgment Ranges Under Conditions A, B, C in Individual and Group Situations

 -parametric tests (i.e., tests which do not depend upon the form of the frequency distribution) be used wherever feasible. It was found that this could be done in comparing the judgment ranges and medians of individuals under the various conditions. The non-parametric test used is the so-called sign test (13). Our use of this test is in modified form. The test as used by us, with the modifications explained, is as follows:

Suppose a random variable has a certain probability distribution, and two samples A and B of the same size N are taken at random and are both ordered according to size from the smallest to the largest:

A: XI< X2< . . . < XN

B: YI< Y2< . . . < YN

Consider the set of differences:

D: XI-Y1, X2-Y2XN -YN

The expected values of the number of positive entries and the number of negative entries in D are the same. The sign test given in Dixon and

( 293) Massey, Table 10, may accordingly be used. Our modification, a minor one, is in noting that an arbitrary prescribed method of pairing the observations from the two samples may be used, without impairing the validity of the sign test. The method of pairing used here is obtained by ordering the sample values from the smallest to the largest.

Regarding the comparison of variation of judgment ranges and medians between individuals under the various conditions, the standard F test was used. This was done with reluctance, since, there seems to be no nonparametric test available at the present time for comparing measures of spread. In crucial comparisons, from the point of view of hypotheses, the F ratios are so large that, at least in these cases, the deviation from normality is not likely to affect the conclusions.

Comparison of judgment ranges for individuals under Conditions A, B, C. Table I gives ranges in judgments for 20 individuals in alone situation and

Table 1

The ranges in individual situations (Session I) and group situations (Session II) under Conditions A, B, C. The ranges under alone and group sessions are arranged in ascending order and the rows do not represent the ranges obtained from the same subject in individual and group sessions. Range in inches.

( 294)Table 1a

group situation under each of Conditions A, B, and C. These will be labeled A1, AG, B1, BG, C1, and CG. The test outlined above is applied to comparisons between AI and B1, A1 and CI, B1 and C1, AG and BG, AG and CG, and BG and CG, and also between AIand AG, B1 and BG and C1 and CG . The results are shown in Table la.

From the results presented in Tables 1 and la, it may be inferred that:

1. The greater the uncertainty and stress, the more individuals fluctuate in their judgments.

2. The results for the comparison of C1 and CGindicate that the fluctuation of judgment is significantly reduced in the situation of greatest stress, Condition C, by group interaction, while this is not true in the comparison of group and individual sessions under Conditions A and B.

Comparison of variation of judgment ranges between individuals under Conditions A, B, C. It is also of interest, regarding Table 1, to see whether

( 295)Table 1b

there is more variation between individuals in situation C than, say, in situation A. Table lb gives the results of F tests applied to the data of Table 1.

The results of Table lb permit the following inferences:

1. These results indicate considerably more variation of judgment ranges between individuals under Condition B than under Condition A and even more strikingly greater variation under Condition C than under Condition A in both alone and group situations.

2. They also indicate more variation of judgment ranges under Condition C than under Condition B; and more variation in alone situation than in group situation, under each of Conditions A, B, and C, but not nearly in the same degree as, say, between Condition A and Condition B.

Comparison of .medians of judgments under Conditions A, B, C in alone and group situations. The medians of judgments of individuals under Conditions A, B, and C in alone and group situations are presented in Table 2.

The results of the sign test comparing medians of judgments of individuals under Conditions A, B, and C in alone and group situations are presented in Table 2a.

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Table 2

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Table 2a

From the results presented in Table 2a, the following inferences can be drawn:

1. The results indicate that individuals have significantly higher medians under condition of maximum uncertainty (Condition C) as compared with conditions of less uncertainty (Conditions A and B). The greater the uncertainty and stress the greater the median value of judgments.

2. Under the condition of greatest stress (Condition C) the medians of judgments are significantly reduced by group interaction; while this reduction is not nearly as high under Conditions A or B.

The results of F tests comparing fluctuation of judgment medians between individuals under our various Conditions A, B, and C in individual and group situations are presented in Table 2b.

The following inferences can be drawn from the results in Table 2h:

1. The results indicate greater variation of medians of judgments between individuals under Condition B than under Condition A, and more variation under Condition C than under Condition A to an even greater degree, in both alone and group situations. Thus, the greater the degree of uncertainty and stress the greater the fluctuation of judgments between individuals.

2. They also indicate significantly more variation between the medians

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Table 2b

 of judgments of individuals in alone situation than in group situation under Condition C. The same effect is observed under Conditions A and B but not to the same degree as under Condition C.

During the group sessions, the judgments of the subject pairs converged toward one another in varying degrees under each of the three experimental conditions (A, B, C). The medians of blocks of 10 judgments were plotted serially for each subject in individual and group sessions. These curves revealed convergence throughout the course of the group sessions. It should be noted, however, that convergence did not always result in a lowering of the individual's norm (median) as would be expected if a general "leveling effect" were operant as the chief factor. The individual medians were raised or lowered in the group interaction depending upon the relation between subjects established in the group session.

As the results in Tables la, 2a, and 2b indicate, variability and medians of judgment of individuals were reduced in the group situation under all experimental conditions, the differences between individual and group situations being most significant for Condition C. (However, this tendency is not clear in Table lb.) Since the direction of these shifts was toward the partner's norm, these results indicate convergence of judgment in the group situation, especially under Condition C.

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Further suggestive indication of this greater convergence under conditions of greatest uncertainty is revealed in the percent shift in medians from the individual to the group session(Mdn.1- Mdn.G) / Mdn.1).  (This method of computation is open to obvious and serious criticism, since it assumes that the proportion has some psychological validity regardless of the absolute values of differences and initial medians.)

The mean of these percent shifts for Condition A was 41.8% and that of Condition C was 53.4%. In Condition A, 12 subjects had less than 35% shift; in Condition C, 5 subjects had less than 35% shift. For the reasons mentioned above, these findings are considered merely suggestive. Another interesting trend in the results of Condition C was for the greatest percent shift in medians to be found among the subjects with the largest initial median and Q (individual session) of the pair. With one exception, this was the case for every pair under Condition C.

Observations of the experiment and the reactions of subjects on the questionnaire indicated certain complications in the group situation under Condition C which are relevant to any conclusions drawn from the above results and which will be discussed below.

Other data of particular significance: In the study of a complex problem such as ours (viz. ego problems), it is not sufficient to present only statistical analysis of results, no matter how impressive our confidence levels. We have to look for supporting evidence as well. In our opinion, some of the behavior of the subjects and their own perceptions as to what happened during the course of the experiment are at least equally revealing. Responses to the questionnaire items, spontaneous remarks of the subjects and their behavior confirm and sharpen the statistical analysis revealing significant differences, especially between Conditions A and C.

One questionnaire item concerned the subject's difficulty in making judgments. Under Condition A (relatively easy), 14 or 70% of the subjects indicated that "estimates were easy" or "no major difficulty in any estimates." In contrast, 90% of subjects in Condition C (with fewest anchorages) reported difficulty in half, the majority, or most of their estimates, only 2 subjects indicating that their "estimates were easy."

Content analysis of answers to an open general question asking for the subject's reactions to the individual session revealed increasing uncertainty and confusion from Condition A to Condition C. In Condition A, 5 (25%) subjects indicated uncertainty as contrasted to 9 (45%) in Condition B and 13 (65%) in Condition C. Typical comments of subjects in each

(300) condition reveal qualitative differences even in this experienced uncertainty, among those who spontaneously included it in their responses:

Condition A: "I felt ill at ease, but curious."

Condition B: "Bewildered. I don't ever remember even being in such complete darkness. And it was a little nerve wracking."

"Very unsure and a little afraid, not of anything in particular, just of a strange and totally unexplained situation."

Condition C: "Felt helpless and ill at ease-was very puzzled." "Completely confused. Lost as heck."

Further spontaneous remarks of the subjects substantiated this supposition that uncertainty and instability were not only experienced more frequently under Condition B and especially C, but that such uncertainty was more intense in the latter conditions. For example, one subject in Condition B remarked: "The first time when I was there by myself, it sometimes seemed as if the room was moving with me. Sometimes it seemed like my chair was turning over to one side. When I would move my feet away from a spot and replace them, it seemed like the floor was laying at an angle."

In Condition C, the most difficult and uncertain condition, there were frequent attempts by the subjects to anchor themselves to some physical point in the vast space of seeming emptiness. It was the usual practice, when finding a line, to hold on to it and follow it back and forth several times. Some found an object and then would radiate out from this, going a counted number of steps in one direction, retracing these steps to the object and going a certain number of steps in another direction or an increased number of steps in the same direction. There seemed to be a tendency to hang on to an object once discovered. One female subject typifies the more extreme behavior of those who reluctantly gave up their physical anchorages to continue in their search for the chair. This girl, after having difficulty in finding and crossing the steps, wandered back and forth several times following a line and then exclaimed: "I can't tell which way is forward." Finally she bumped back into the stairs and just gave up. After she stood still and completely quit for three minutes, the experimenter, with much difficulty, directed her to her seat.

Subjects under Condition C in the alone situation often asked the experimenter for directions and aid to their goal. In this condition, as well as in Condition B, subjects frequently asked their distance from the experimenter in an effort to have some yardstick for judging their location and that of the light.

( 301)

In the group situation, subjects often remembered from the first (individual) session some physical anchorage in the room and its relation to the chair. Such subjects tried to make their way to these remembered points and to get their bearings from there, with varying degrees of success. As a result of this and the presence of another person, about half of the subjects in Conditions A and B stated in response to an open question that they felt more at ease in the group situation than the individual. Seven subjects in Condition C volunteered that they felt more at ease in the group situation. There is some evidence that some subjects in the group situation under Condition C felt new uneasiness and some resentment. While 65% of subjects in Condition A preferred to make their judgments in the group situation, only 35% of those in Condition C preferred the group situation. Another 35% in Condition C preferred to judge alone as compared with 20% preferring the individual session under Condition A. (The remaining subjects were "indifferent." The above percentages for Condition B are 45% and 30% respectively.)

Similarly 45% of subjects in Condition C felt that their partner's estimates were a hindrance in making their own estimates, as compared to 10% in Condition A and 30% in Condition B. One subject in Condition C, for example, remarked: "I'm afraid I wasn't accurate on that (group session). I didn't feel as alone but I wondered if she (her partner) were criticizing my estimates."' Another wrote that he preferred to be alone because "presence of another hinders me in being sure of estimates."

Such representative data indicate rather clearly that some subjects in Condition C were made to feel insecure when their rather unstable norms from the individual session were assailed or disagreed with by another person. Because of wide individual differences between medians and ranges in the individual sessions of Condition C and the relatively small number of subjects, subjects of several pairs initially had widely differing norms when they entered the group situation. As indicated on p. 298, subjects under Condition C actually tended to converge toward the judgments of their partners to a relatively greater degree than did those in Condition A. However, the above data indicate that some subjects in this condition of greatest uncertainty (C) gave ground begrudgingly, but did so nevertheless because of the greater insecurity of their grounds.

While there is no doubt that in some conditions of extreme uncertainty, actual clashes may occur traceable to widely differing standards of individuals, we do not believe this would be the case if the relationship between the individuals were one of mutual dependence, rather than one of annoyance or

(302) resentment. The present experimental set-up was not sufficiently conducive to the establishment of mutual dependence between subject pairs. For this reason, our hypothesis (e) predicting greater convergence in the group situation under conditions of greater insecurity and uncertainty has probably not been adequately tested in spite of favorable statistical results (only the results of Table lb are not clear in indicating this tendency). As a first step in doing so, we would want, in a condition of great uncertainty, to establish a relationship of mutual dependence between subjects prior to their judgments. In short, this hypothesis should hold true when individuals in a condition of great uncertainty find another person or group as their main anchorage in the situation. In lieu of establishing such a relationship, a person of considerable prestige as partner would be an interesting possibility. A negative test of this general hypothesis would be to create between two individuals a relationship of mutual distrust and suspicion or resentment prior to the judgment.


This study is presented as an experimental contribution to an aspect of the psychology of ego functioning. Specifically, it attempts to investigate the effects of situational uncertainty on ego functioning. The basic assumption is that the ego of the individual, which implies his characteristic relatedness to his surroundings as reflected in his characteristic reactions, is built up in relation to physical and social anchorages from childhood on. The stability of his ego, hence the consistency of his reactions, is dependent upon the stability of these physical and social anchorages. As the physical and social anchorages become more unstable, more uncertain, the individual's personal bearings become more unstable, more uncertain. This condition of instability, of uncertainty is thus at the basis of the experience of insecurity. Psychological states of anxiety or insecurity always involve ego-reference. Insecurity is that state of ego tension produced by actual or perceived shattering of physical or social anchorages, or actual or perceived
uncertainty of one's physical or social grounds in the present or in the future.
The psychological consequences of the actual or experienced loss of physical and social bearings are at least initially increased fluctuations, variations in reactions, floundering around in search of something to hold on to, strivings to re-establish some level of stability through available anchorages.
The specific problem of the study was to produce situational insecurity by elimination of spatial anchorages, thus affecting the stability of some of

( 303) the developmentally earliest ego relationships, viz., spatial anchoring of the self. Variability of behavior was tapped through simple judgmental reactions, with the assumption that even the most complicated motivational states are reflected in such reactions.

In line with the leads derived from our previous work, the autokinetic situation was utilized. On the basis of preliminary trials, three conditions representing three degrees of uncertainty were chosen. In the main experiment, 60 subjects took part. All were normal university students who were not previously acquainted with the autokinetic situation or with one another. Under all conditions, each subject took part in an individual session, and later a group session. There were 10 subject groups under each experimental condition.

In line with our hypotheses, it was found that:

(a) The more uncertain the situation, the greater the scale within which judgmental reactions are scattered.

(b) The more uncertain the situation, the greater the magnitude of the norm or standard around which judgments are distributed.

(c) The more uncertain the situation, the larger the differences between the scales and norms of judgment of different individuals.

(d) The more uncertain the situation, the greater the tendency, on the whole, toward convergence in group situations.

The tendency under (d) is stated with qualifications due to the nature of specific procedures in the present study and the perceived relationship between the subjects.

This approach to the complicated ego problems, which are considered more and more as central in understanding human personality under various conditions of life, has the advantage of tying together (a) findings and theoretical formulations concerning ego formation and functioning, (b) empirical observations concerning the effects of actual conditions of uncertainty and stress on human experience and behavior, and (c) the study of motivational and attitudinal factors through the paradigm of relatively simple judgmental and perceptual reactions developed during the past two decades.


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  1. The study reported here was made possible by financial aid under a contract between the Office of Naval Research and the Research Institute of the University of Oklahoma. The authors are grateful to ONR, to Dean Laurence H. Snyder, director of organized research in the University, and to Dr. L. E. Swearingen, director of the Research institute at the time of the main experiment. All experimental work reported here was carried out by O. J. Harvey. Preliminary work was done by D. Swander. Norman Walter participated in pre-testing trials of the main experiment. Charles Shedd made a survey of literature on anxiety which was useful in the writing stage. We are grateful to Professor Caspar Goffman, formerly of Oklahoma, now professor of mathematics at Wayne University, for advice and work in the treatment of results.
  2. This approach is well represented in references (4), (5), (8), (12), (14), (28), (29), (31), (32).
  3. E.g. Vaughan (37) describing a civilian concentration camp in the Philippines, pp. 133-134.
  4. These 85 subjects include only those used in the pre-test and experimental session of the main experiment reported here, the procedures of which were formulated for pre-testing after extensive preliminary work. This preliminary work, which was an exploratory attempt to find appropriate procedures, was carried out by D. Swander. The present report does not include any subjects or results from this preliminary work, which was presented as an experimental term paper in a graduate course at the University of Oklahoma, May, 1951.
  5. The apparatus was designed and constructed by Mr. Ralph Fearnow, formerly of the Physics shop of the University of Oklahoma.

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