The Foundations of Social Science
Chapter 23: The Field of Social Psychology
James M. Williams
THE purpose of the discussion of the relation of social psychology to other sciences was stated, at the beginning, to be to justify the claim of social psychology to recognition as a distinct science by showing that it has a distinct field which can be treated scientifically. The preceding chapters have shown that the assumptions of the social sciences relate to a field distinct from that of each social science. Each social science starts with certain habitual social relations and analyses the functioning of the institutions developed therefrom, while social psychology aims to explain social relations that are assumed by each science without analysis, and, perhaps, without any consciousness of the psychological significance of its assumptions. It is not the task of social psychology to formulate for any social science its particular assumptions. It is the task of social psychology, however, to analyse the psychological aspects of the assumptions of a particular social science. It does this with reference to its own problems, and not with reference to those of the particular social science; but all social scientists need a knowledge of social psychology in formulating their assumptions. This knowledge is needed also by social scientists in making their predictions or recommendations for progress. Predictions in social science, as explained in the Introduction, cannot pretend to the exactness of predictions in natural science. But we should not, for that reason, accept the view of sociologists who would limit the task of the social scientist to merely showing an orderly development in past and present, through use of the formulas of biological evolution. This view is inevitable if the sociologist denies the assistance that social psychology may render sociology. But if he grants it, the possibilities of interpretation are immensely enlarged. It becomes possible by noting changes in social-psychological processes, to infer changes in social organization, and thereby to make recommendations as to necessary changes
( 428) which are also predictions of inevitable changes. These predictions require a knowledge of human nature that is wider than the assumptions of any particular social science. Because of the intricate relation of all the social sciences to human nature and to one an-other, predictions require a knowledge of the co-ordinating science of human nature, social psychology.
Social psychology was defined as the science of the motives of the behaviour of men living in social relations. That it is possible to analyse social relations in this intensive sense and to generalize as to the motives of behaviour may seem incredible, but it is the purpose of the present chapter to show that that is what people are doing all the time, that it is inevitable that it should be done and that it needs to be done intelligently. People are doing it every day in their relations with one another, and even in their judgments of individuals and groups they never saw, — of public men, corporations and labour groups they read about. These necessary judgments are made haphazard, with little intelligence, with little thought of their significance or seriousness, and will continue so to be made until people are trained to make them more intelligently. For the impulse to judge the motives of others persists in spite of the injunction, " Judge not! " It persists with a naïve unconsciousness of its limitations. In spite of the personal element involved, and the Socratic warning, " Know thyself," the judgments tend to be made with all the cocksureness of a judgment of objective facts.
Judgments as to the motives of others are inevitable because behaviour involves self-consciousness. What we find in human society are men animated by more or less conscious motives, and their reactions to others are affected by what they believe others' motives to be. However difficult it may be to understand the motives of their associates, men do reflect as to what these are and discuss them ; and they consider that their associates have the same interest in their own motives. A man's estimate of himself is determined by what others think of him, as well as, in many cases more than, by what, in his heart of hearts, he, knows himself to be. Only the great moral character cares supremely for the approval of the man within the breast.
Because of the importance attached to another's estimate of
( 429) one's motives, one resents a misrepresentation of one's motives. Men differ in their reactions to misrepresentation. The reaction will depend on the disposition of the individual. In case of a misrepresentation in the press, the first annoyance for the man of intellectual disposition is that the statement is untrue. Most people will think : " How will it strike people? " Or " What was the motive of the misrepresentation?" But the first and strongest reaction in a man of intellectual disposition is that the report is false or incomplete or garbled or otherwise untrue. If he takes up a misrepresentation with another, the latter may argue : " I can't see anything in this to object to. What if it is untrue? There was evidently no malice in it because there is nothing in it which could hurt you in the community. Furthermore I can imagine how it might appreciably further your interests here." The reply of the man of intellectual disposition is apt to be, " That may all be true but is neither here nor there. The fact is, the statement is untrue and that is why I object to it." The argument may continue, but no agreement will be reached because the men are essentially different in disposition. In one, the predominating impulses are the intellectual so that he is most annoyed by the untruth; in the other, the strongest impulses are not the intellectual so that he will pass over an untruth with comparatively little feeling of annoyance unless it annoys other impulses which are strong within him, as the impulse to avoid social contempt or to gain social superiority or to satisfy some other impulse that involves a consideration of the motives of others toward him. Most men are supremely interested in the attitude of the community and particularly of associates, but the intellectual person has less of this interest. Even for him, how-ever, these vague phenomena raise problems of adjustment; and the rank and file are not primarily intellectual. They take an impulsive interest in the motives of others, in what others are saying about them, and in its social effect. Wherefore conscious motives are an important part of the subject matter of social psychology. The social psychologist must take men as they are. Though the problem, because of its vagueness, is annoying to the intellectual impulses, yet the problem is there, fundamental, exceedingly difficult, and its analysis must be attempted.
Right at the start it is necessary to emphasize the difference between the intellectual and the non-intellectual attitude in the esti-
( 430) -mate of the motives of others. Where there is an absence of that intellectual vigour and integrity that insists on scrupulous accuracy, there is a carelessness in interpreting the motives of others. It is common to misrepresent the words or worth of others, usually without any deliberate intent. It is done in satisfaction of sub-conscious impulses. Thus, among business and professional men the work or motives of those who are liked often are misrepresented in a " favourable light," and the work or motives of those not liked in an unfavourable light. This is often, perhaps usually, done more subconsciously than consciously. Men subconsciously satisfy the sympathetic impulse to make happy those they like, and they do so by giving them undue credit. Less often, they subconsciously satisfy the impulse to injure men they do not like, and they. do so by failing to give them due credit. The one and the other are done subconsciously as well as consciously, in little reflective ways, by expression of face or by a casual word when the work of a man is mentioned; and the effect of the expression or word on others, perhaps the higher officials of the business establishment or educational institution, may be as subconscious as the stimulus. It is none the less effective. The man thus favoured by being given undue credit is not annoyed by the lack of truth, that is, the lack of justice in such behaviour unless he is primarily of an intellectual disposition. He is usually not far-sighted enough to realize that the same untruthful behaviour which satisfies him when he is liked, may make for his annoyance, if he becomes disliked. As opposed to this impulsive valuation of others' behaviour, we have the strictly impartial intellectual valuation; many men make it a principle of their behaviour to be just to another, whether he is liked or disliked. Only the man of intellectual disposition insists on judging others according to their merits and demerits, regardless of his likes and dislikes, and on being judged himself in the same way. The ability so to use the intellect depends on native intellectual vigour, and on the training of the intellect in a way to develop the habit of intellectual integrity as the essential attitude of character. It depends also on training in social psychology. When once our knowledge of motives has ceased to be vague intuition, men will not so naïvely ascribe to others this or that motive, and estimate their worth as suits their likes and dislikes.
While the interest of most men in each other's motives is pri-
( 431) -marily impulsive, the reactions of close association necessitate a more or less intimate and certain knowledge of the character of those with whom we are associated. This necessity begets an insistence on sincerity. Men are annoyed by a profession of motives that seems insincere and strongly attracted by an associate of whose sincerity they feel absolutely certain. Sincerity is valued apart from the motives in which a man is sincere. Sometimes one hears it said of another: " He is narrow and domineering but you know where he stands. He is absolutely sincere and I like him for that." Owing to the vagueness of motives, the intellectual uncertainty in these problems is very trying, and it is with a grateful sense of relief that one feels an associate is what he appears to be. Then, too, absence of pretence is apt to show a character whose motives are so estimable that pretence is uncalled for.
Sincerity is, in the nature of the case, imperfect. " Almost all men deceive themselves as well as their associates with conventional phrases, with expressions which, though quite devoid of insincerity, yet are far from genuine." In addition to this unconscious insincerity men get into the habit of saying not what they think but what they are willing to have repeated. In the exercise of this " discretion " the intellect is used to serve the instinct to avoid disapproval and win approval. Obviously any teaching into which this motive enters is worthless. It is the motive of the administrator who works with an eye to pleasing superiors and to maintaining the enthusiastic loyalty of subordinates. The different positions in society enlist different instincts, which, repeatedly stimulated, develop different types of mind and character. The problem for each individual is to ascertain what combination of instinctive reactions conduces to the highest efficiency in this and that position, and then to choose the position for which his instinctive capacities fit him. The highest efficiency means of course the state of being able to render the maximum service for the public welfare. This requires a maximum of sincerity as to motives, whatever the position. Doubtless sincerity will increase as social psychology takes a more important place in public and higher education. It has notably increased with the development of science and of political freedom. But governmental censorship still continues, and there continues
( 432) also the more subtle control of the expression of opinion exercised by the dominant social class and operating, through fear of that class, or through the allurement of the satisfactions in the gift of that class— industrial, political, academic and ecclesiastical position, income and flattering associations. Hence the temptation to please that class or avoid displeasing it, as may be done by a plausible use of language and by discreet mental reservations. Nothing will so promote sincerity in social relations and in teaching as the training given by a thoroughly scientific study of human motives.
What are the methods of this scientific treatment? They include observation of behaviour, studies of behaviour through use of documentary sources, and inference as to the motives of behaviour. Testimony as to the motives of behaviour by itself is of little importance. For instance, business men are apt to mention as causes of their success traits that commend their success, or unexpected traits that give them still greater prestige, for instance, a love of music that gave them needed recreation, or traits that will make them exemplars of the young or will endorse the old-time virtues. Their testimony may be true as far as it goes, without: indicating the relative importance of the traits cited, and without including all the traits that are essential to business success. While„ therefore, the statements of business men as to their motives are interesting, the prevailing motives of business, behaviour must be inferred from an extensive and intensive analysis of business practices. Professed motives must be considered in the light of the actual behaviour of the business man under the conditions in which he is doing business. For instance, if a corporation professes to run its business in such a way as to enable the workman to realize his highest and best self, and yet continues to pay wages and pro-vide working conditions that make such realization impossible, while large dividends are declared, the conclusion must be that the professed motive is not the essential one, that the essential motive is the prevailing profit-seeking motive of business enterprise.
An adequate interpretation of human behaviour requires intimate observation of typical men and groups. It must include a study of conscious motives and must be given in terms of conscious as
( 433) well as subconscious processes. It is said that we know the motives of others only through observation of their behaviour,—of what they do " in giving us things, in writing what we may read, in speaking what we may understand," that the thoughts we attribute to them are essentially our thoughts with reference to their behaviour, that we cannot have their thoughts any more than they can have our thoughts, that the best we can do, therefore, is to develop a science of behaviour without reference to conscious motives. It is said that " only conduct counts. Motives derive their sole value from the conduct which they produce." In answer to this we can only repeat that the members of a social group discuss, and believe that they understand each other's motives, think of each other " almost exclusively " in terms of motives, estimate their own worth according to others' attitudes to them, and act according to what they believe the motives of others to be. Men and nations fear nothing more than lest damaging motives that are attributed to them become generally accredited. Whatever may be the ultimate formulas of human behaviour, therefore, the analyses and interpretations of the social psychologist cannot ignore the conscious motives.
The essential distinction in consciousness is that between focalized states and those states of which one is not clearly conscious — the marginal and subliminal states, which may be termed subconscious states. " The general contrast between the apperception by quick, total, merged, affective impressions, and the successive and separate attention to logically selected detail, falls in large measure within the contrast of the subconscious to the conscious." Social experience is more largely subconscious than conscious. The instinctive consciousness is subconscious except when. annoyance or satisfaction of instinctive impulses becomes intense. Instinctive annoyances may be so serious as to injure health while still subconscious, undiscriminated, and requiring psycho-analysis on the part of the physician. States originally focal, in the course of experience become subconscious. For, just as we get used to seeing familiar
( 434) things, to hearing familiar sounds, and to experiencing familiar organic sensations, and as we come to react subconsciously, even though they are the most vital reactions of our lives, so we get used to our social environment, and our social reactions become subconscious. Only on the withdrawal of a familiar stimulus does the idea of the stimulus and reaction rise to the focus of attention. Thus, happily married couples know that, as they grow older, they are less conscious of their love for each other than at first, though they love each other none the less, rather much more. They realize that the essential thing in their happiness is not impulse, but the more vaguely conscious attitude of affection with its feeling of contentment in each other's company. If they are separated for a time, this dimly conscious attitude becomes a vividly conscious idea. " I never know how much I love you until I go away," is a common confession of married people. Social attitudes are dimly conscious until the relation is threatened, or for the time being broken, when the removal of the habitual stimulus causes the attitude to become clearly conscious.
Because of the importance of subconscious states in social relations, the social psychologist must attend carefully to these states. The task is difficult because of the inferential aspect of social-psychological method, which is inherent in the fact that we can experience only our own motives directly; in learning the motives of others we have to infer from the reactions we see, the motives we do not see. The inferred, subconscious, instinctive movements are the elemental
( 435) psychological processes of the individual consciousness; but they could hardly be grasped introspectively by the individual in his own consciousness, were it not for the many reactions in his fellows that point to and assist introspection to a clearer understanding of these instinctive processes. As conscious processes, therefore, they are in a sense social before they become individual, though they occur in individual minds. They are social processes in that people generally are moved by these instinctive processes. But people are apt to be unconscious of these essential motives of behaviour, so that the social psychologist may' understand the behaviour of his fellows better than they understand their own behaviour; and his inferences will very often meet with indignant denial, when his analyses are uncomplimentary. Probably no individual would feel complimented with a thorough analysis of the motives of his behaviour. This is due not only to the subconscious or unconscious nature of instinctive processes but also to the fact that motives that win social approval are prominent in our consciousness, while we ignore or disavow motives that are less complimentary. Wherefore, the task of the social psychologist is a disillusioning and by no means pleasant one. No thorough psychological study of a group will please that group, and the principles of social psychology will not please society. This, together with the vague nature of the sub-conscious processes of society, and the apparent assumption involved in an attempt to show society itself, has, until recently, inclined social scientists to interest themselves only in the more clearly conscious motives, the motives of leaders, the creditable motives of the distinguished, and to ignore those vague instinctive processes that are essential in the determination of social behaviour. The vagueness of motives does not warrant the social psychologist in eliminating them from his consideration. To be sure, " The shades of the rain-bow are not so nice . . . as are all the subtle, shifting, blending forms of thought and of circumstances that go to determine the character of us and of our acts." But we are not studying the subtle, shifting, blending forms of thought of the individual mind; we are studying the essential motives of social relations.
Crises bring conscious motives to the fore; this is true whether
( 436) the crisis arises in the relations of individuals or of groups. In a crisis, the question is raised as to the motives of those who precipitated it; and those who are involved seek to understand the motives of those who are responsible in order to formulate their attitude. For instance, on the occasion of the dismissal of Professor Scott Nearing of the University of Pennsylvania, the motives of the trustees who favoured the action were challenged by Professor Nearing's friends,  who were deliberating what attitude to take to this violation of freedom of teaching. Again, Rev. Henry E. Jackson says of the incident which eventually resulted in his leaving the Presbyterian Church of which he was pastor: " Two years before I left the church, a preconcerted and systematic outburst of criticism broke over me totally unexpectedly and without warning.. . . . Some of the criticism was true, much of it false, and most of it foolish. This made me suspicious, for I knew that when men hide their real purpose and need to invent reasons for their actions, they naturally twist and falsify facts to such an extent as to be ridiculous." The author describes the process through which he analysed the motives of his critics and concludes : " Thus, by a long process of examination and elimination, I was compelled to conclude that the reason for the disturbance was just what I believed at the beginning it must be. It was this: I differed fundamentally with two small but influential groups of men in the church on. two big questions, dogma and money."  Again, the motives of the German government for precipitating a world war were constantly challenged and discussed in the news-papers and magazines of the United States during the first years of the war, when the United States was deliberating what attitude to take to the European conflict. Whenever habitual social relations are broken people enquire as to the motives of those who are responsible for the break. There develops a keen interest in motives. On unerring insight into motives depends social survival in a crisis, as well as the social adjustments that are required in every-day life.
Social adjustment raises questions of the just treatment of men, and just treatment requires that we discriminate the essential
( 437) motives of behaviour. It is precisely because of the difficulty of doing this that men often lack the capacity for patient thoughtfulness that is necessary in order to do justice to others. For instance, the failure of the courts, in interpreting the constitutional right of free speech, to give sufficient attention to the intent of those indicted has resulted in doing, as Justice Holmes put it in one case, " a great wrong " to the accused.  It is not true either in law or in everyday life  that only conduct counts. It is important to know the motives. These may not be clearly evident in the behaviour, and the rough-and-ready, easy way is to consider merely external conduct.
Just treatment of nations also requires that we consider their motives. For instance, much more important than the question as to which nation started the World War is the question as to the essential motives of the different nations that were engaged therein. A national aim is never as simple as it appears from the words of those who speak for the nation, because of the diverse interests of different classes within the nation. To ascertain the instinctive processes which constitute the undercurrents of a national purpose is a
social-psychological problem of the utmost importance for just dealing between nations. The instinctive processes of a nation, which have been subconscious, may be brought by a crisis into clear consciousness. The war against Germany made us clearly conscious of the political attitude of domination-obedience as the thing fought against, and also of the democratic political attitude of resistance to domination and the preservation of liberty as the thing fought for. We awakened to the existence of domination-submission wherever it existed among us, in our industrial organization, our academic organization, even in our family organization, and in our boss-ruled political parties. A crisis brings into clear consciousness instinctive processes that are at other times subconscious.
The leaders of a nation are anxious to have other nations interpret their motives in a favourable light, and diplomacy has as one of its purposes the creation of situations that will convey an impression of commendable motives. For instance, statesmen realize that there is an instinctive antipathy toward a nation which is an aggres-
( 438) -sor and instinctive sympathy for a nation which is aggressed and fights in self-defense; and a wise statesman, like Lincoln  or Bismarck,  avoids a conflict until circumstances so transpire that the enemy becomes or may be made to appear the aggressor. We are familiar with the efforts made by the nations to show that the enemy was the aggressor in the World War. At the outbreak of the war, the German emperor issued a manifesto to the effect that Germany declared war against Russia because Russia was mobilizing, which meant an attack. The Russian emperor then issued a manifesto declaring the war was started by the Austrians, who first attacked Servia and by the Germans, who first invaded Russia, and that the Russians were " forced by the situation " to arms. The First Lord of the Admiralty of England declared that the aggressor was the Prussian military aristocracy, to which the German ambassador to the United States replied that England " is known to have proposed an attack on the German fleet before the war had begun."  Each nation thus tried to make it appear that its fight was on the defensive. The United States was little influenced by any of these manifestos inasmuch as it was generally known that the immediate cause of the war was Austria's aggression against Servia, and that Austria was backed by Germany. The sentiment against Germany, in the United States, from the first was due, in part, to the belief that the Teutonic allies were the aggressors, which a critical survey of all the evidence shows to have been the fact. Nevertheless, Germany persisted in professing the defen-
( 439) -sive attitude. Thus the German Chancellor said in December, 1915 : " We are battling in this struggle, forced upon us, not to subjugate foreign nations, but to protect our life and freedom. This war remains for the German government what it was in the beginning and what has been maintained in every proxiunciamento — a defensive war of the German nation for its future. This war can only be ended in a peace which, so far as human foresight reaches, will give us security against a recurrence. We are all united in this aim. That is our strength and shall remain so to the end." When the United States entered the war, President Wilson, in his address to Congress asking for a declaration of war, said:" While we do these things, these deeply momentous things, let us be very clear, and make very clear to all the world what our motives and our objects are." He then stated that the purpose of the war did not spring from antipathy for the German people: " We have no feeling towards them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval." The United States entered the war, he said, from the necessity of self-defence against the ruthless aggression and secret plotting of the German autocracy, and also for the sake of the progress of democratic government everywhere, which was menaced by that autocracy. Thus nations are solicitous as to what other nations think of their motives because nations react to other nations according to what they think the motives of others to be.
It is evident that problems of motives are by no means the merely personal problems which they have been thought to be. The behaviour of nations, as well as individuals, is determined by inferences as to the sincerity and the essential motives of the groups with reference to which the nation is called upon to act. As President Wilson said in his address to Congress, the American nation had been a long time in making up its mind as to just what were the motives and the intentions of the German government; having made up its mind, it was ready to act. This same interest in motives, with the gradual making-up of the public mind, is seen in connection with conflicts that arise within the nation. Successive revelations by governmental commissions of combinations to raise prices, result
( 440) in a gradual making up of the popular mind about the motives that actuate the corporations in question. The people become con-winced of the greed of the corporations and this reprehensible motive causes popular support of governmental regulation. In like manner repeated newspaper stories about radical labour groups cause readers to think the behaviour of those groups is due to hatred, and, their minds thus made up, they acquiesce in repressive governmental measures.
The increasing intimacy of infra-national relations and of relations between nations is making the subject of motives not less, but more important. When a misunderstanding as to motives may lead to a disastrous strike or to a war between nations, it is evidently important to understand motives. The more intimate our relations with others the more certain we have to be as to their motives in order to behave understandingly towards them. Furthermore, the more intimate association becomes, the less easy it is to evade the question of motives or to deceive as to essential motives. This is true both between individuals and between groups, even between nations. One lesson taught by the World War was the greater difficulties than formerly that confront a nation that is intent on deceiving other nations as to its motives. Less secret diplomacy, more publicity of business transactions, are some of the lessons learned from the World War and the profiteering that accompanied and followed it. The trend of social evolution is in the direction of a more conscious and rational direction of the processes of evolution, and this involves a more accurate and thorough knowledge of its motivation.