Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 2: The Nature of Group Life and Human Culture

Kimball Young

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A. Evolution and Group Life.

1. Group Life in Lower Animal Forms.— Social life did not begin with man; it was only expanded and enriched by him. Some species of the insect world are witness to an amazing development of social life. While much of the literature about the social life of the bees, the ants, and other insect orders is permeated with fancy and anthropomorphic imagination, there is nevertheless a sound body of data which indicates a high degree of social organization and considerable interdependence with other species. For instance, some species of ants, aside from distinct division of function, keep under their care a particular species of aphid in order to obtain the syrupy-like substance exuded by these insects. The ants guard their aphids, move them about with them, and "milk" them by gently stroking the dorsal spines which give forth this liquid. Again, not only do the ants have something like a division of labor and even social arrangements between species, but some species carry on a kind of warfare with other species. Throughout the whole range of the social insects there is clear evidence of the fact that living in social groups modifies the behavior of the individual members of the group.

It may rightly be said that the social and communal life of the lower forms serves merely as an analogy for human social groups. Nevertheless there is some merit in indicating that it is not alone among higher mammals that nature has produced forms of communal living. The following selection from McGee serves to illustrate the interdependence of individuals on one another in a desert environment producing a kind of community configuration distributed both as to space and as to function:

A mesquite springs up on the plain; within two or three years the birds resting in its branches drop the seeds of cacti, some of which, like vines, are unable to stand alone; and the cactus and the mesquite combine their armature of thorns for mutual protection. Then wind-blown grass seeds lodge about the

(16) roots, and grasses grow and seed beneath the sheltering branches; and next small mammals seek the same protection and dig their holes among the roots, giving channels for the water of the ensuing rain and fertilizing the spot with rejectamenta. Meantime the annual and semi-annual plants which maintain a precarious existence in the desert take root in the sheltered and fertilized soil beneath the growing cactus and mesquite, and in season it becomes a miniature garden of foliage and bloomage. Then certain ants come for the seeds, certain flies and wasps for the nectar, and certain birds to nest in the branches. In this way a community is developed in which each participant retains individuality, yet in which each contributes to the general welfare. So advantageous is-the communal arrangement that few organisms of the dryer portions of Papagueria pursue independent careers; the vast plains are dotted with communities or colonies from a few rods to some furlongs apart, while the intermediate stretches are practically lifeless; and the very soil is molded into a succession of hillocks with bare glades between, which persist even after the extermination of the colonies through climatal change or through human intervention. Thus do a large part of the plants and animals of the desert dwell together in harmony and mutual helpfulness; for their energies are directed not so much against one another as against the rigorous environmental conditions growing out of dearth of water.[1]

2. Group Life in Higher Animal Forms.— The data of biological evolution show that among the mammals the social group was in many cases an evolutionary unit. The herding of sheep, the banding of wolves for hunting, the rudimentary forms of social grouping observed, for instance, among wild horses on the western plains— all are cases of rudimentary associations. If the members of a species become accustomed to one another in the course of their life history, so that the gestures and actions of one become a cue to the behavior of the others, we have the roots of social groupings. Protection, securing of food and shelter, and a number of fundamental wants may be better attained in cooperation with others of one's species than alone. Moreover, in the relation of mother to young the reactions of protection and dependence are decidedly forms of interaction., As we reach the anthropoid apes, the evidence of the importance of social life becomes stronger. Köhler has shown that there is a rudimentary type of group organization among the apes based apparently on feelings of familiarity, and that within this group of apes, moreover, there is some tendency for closer "friendships" to grow up. Often, for instance, a weaker chim-

(17) -panzee attached itself to a stronger one and followed him about throughout the day. Then, too, the appearance of a strange ape in the group was a signal for a concentrated attack upon the newcomer. In contrast, the separation of one of the apes from the others led to a great hubbub in the group. Yet, curiously enough, this disturbance lasted only so long as the fellow-apes could see and hear the isolated ape. When he disappeared or no longer cried out, they lost interest and concern in him. Thus, as Köhler points out, we are not to imagine, as some people do, that the apes have human intelligence. There is not yet that independence of memory images which marks man, just as there is no true language development among the apes.

The significance of the study of the apes is that we find here the rudiments of sociability which, in turn, seems to root in the gregariousness of the lower mammalian forms. Gregariousness may be thought of as involving a certain instinctive tendency to common aid, to the herding together of like members of a species, while sociability is an additional growth which involves something of sympathy and imaginative appreciation of the others' situation. It seems to arise with an extended period of infancy, and is probably correlated with what McDougall calls the tender emotions. In the human being it certainly involves imagery and memory in a degree not seen in the lower forms.

The more highly developed the group life in the higher mammals seems to be, the higher is the development of prehuman traits of behavior. While articulate speech is a distinctly human characteristic, we find among the apes an extensive range of vocalization; for example, in fear the voice is different from that in anger or in love-making.

Associated with the rise of group life, there occurred other changes in the organism which ultimately played an important part in the evolution of human intelligence and higher social life. As the mammalian forms began more and more to assume an erect posture, distinctly significant changes were imminent. The erect posture afforded, first of all, an increased range of visual attention, thus greatly expanding the environment. The musculature of the mouth and throat regions became freed from the immediate demands of holding and rending food or of holding the mate, because the forepaws now became modified in the direction of hands capable of grasping and manipulating food or shelter objects, sexual mates or enemies. The muscles of the throat and mouth began to be more and

(18) more specialized in the direction of gesture rather than of act. They came to have significance for the other members of one's species as clues to oncoming behavior. The foundations of speech were thus laid down in the development of an erect posture, as are also the foundations of skill in manipulation of the physical environment more particularly. If the hand may be said to have now become correlated with the eye in the additional control of the material world, the speech mechanisms and the facial movements became definitely correlated with the control of other members of one's species and ultimately with the control of the group culture itself. Further on we shall discuss more particularly the place of language. Here, however, we have only to note that these changes in posture and the play of vocal-facial functions with the related modifications of brain organization have been of great importance in the evolution of group as well as individual life.

B. Types of Groups in Human Social Behavior.

While we do not know at what point anthropoid groups became human, we have indirect evidence of a gradual but nevertheless continuous evolution toward higher intelligence, more developed social life, and more complex culture. As will appear again and again in this book, it is evident everywhere that man is not a solitary but a social animal, playing a rôle now in this group, now in that. His attitudes, ideas, and habits are affected everywhere by his membership in a family, a church, a club, a business or a labor group, a nation, and so on. Without attempting to arrange the types of groups in historical sequence, since we know really nothing about the matter of origins, we may note briefly the essential kinds of groups, some of their characteristic functions, and the effects of these upon the individuals who compose their membership.

1. The In-group or We-group versus the Out-group or Others-group. —  Perhaps the most universal and most characteristic division of group attachment lies in the distinction between the in-group or we-group and the out-group or others-group. Our membership and participation in group life, running from the family on to such large groups as church or state, are marked by certain attitudes and values which are more or less common to all.

a. The In-group.— The in-group is that association of persons toward whom we feel a sense of commonalty and mutuality, with whom we par-

( 19) -ticipate in the group's social function, with whom we carry out the group standards. It is characterized by a feeling of "we belong," "we believe," "we feel." The simplest in-group, perhaps, is the family, where in face-to-face relationships we develop attitudes of sticking together against outsiders. It is marked throughout by the feelings of we-ness, or our-ness. The attitudes and habits of the members of the in-group are those of mutual aid, coöperation, sense of familiarity, and, above all, loyalty and social unity or solidarity. We understand the gestures, the words, the actions of those of our own we-group. Thus the members of a family long separated may at a family reunion find themselves soon reminiscing over common childhood and youthful experiences. Little jokes are repeated which have a meaning only for the members of the family, and in everyone there is a sense of well-being and expansiveness.

J. O. related how he had just returned from the funeral of his mother where he met again, after many years, a number of his brothers and sisters. The family members had drifted apart in the course of time, and during the reunion, for a day or two, particularly at meal times, the conversation consisted very largely of narrating stories of hikes, hunting trips, events, and situations shared by brothers and sisters during childhood. As adults these persons had little in common; on reuniting their universe of discourse focused largely on family in-group experiences of long ago.

At another level the members of a trade union have a common slang. They have similar ideas. They have a sense of loyalty to one another. So, too, in time of war or national danger the citizens of a nation forget their differences of opinion and divergent ways of life, and unite for the preservation of values which they hold sacred in the name of the state. The flag, the map, the national heroes serve as stimuli to set off these unified patriotic attitudes and actions.

b. The Out-group.— The out-groups or others-groups, in contrast, constitute those groups which are outside the range of the face-to-face or secondary participation, the coöperation, the loyalty, of which we have just spoken. The family across the street is not quite "in our class." The hits that Mrs. Jones wears are not in the latest mode as "are those of our girls." The morals of the other family may not be so high as ours. The neighborhood down the street has a set of values distinctly inferior to our own. Our attitudes are those of mild avoidance or actual dislike for the members of the out-group. Again, at another level, the out-group may consti-

( 20) -tute an actual conflict group for the in-group. This is the case of trade unions as opposed to employers' associations. It is the situation when one nation is arrayed against another in war. Toward the out-group the attitudes are those of avoidance, of ridicule, of competition, of dislike, perhaps of actual conflict. The sentiments of superiority always exist in reference to our own group in contrast with the out-group. In tribal or national life this sentiment of superiority is called ethnocentrism. Every tribe— or nation believes itself, at least in some matters, superior to all others— if not in military or economic strength, possibly in scholarship, art, or morals.

c. Interrelation of In-group versus Out-group Attitudes and Habits. —  The emotions of love and the feelings of pleasure are correlated with attachment to the we-group. The emotions of fear and anger are directed toward the out-group. Around the we-group one may integrate one's habits, attitudes, and emotions just noted, and toward the others-group the opposite habits, attitudes, and emotions. In fact, the life situations wherein a person may at the same time both love and hate, both condemn and praise, both avoid and approach, are those involving in-group-out-group relationships. The matter is nicely illustrated in time of war between nations. Toward his own people, toward their standards and behavior, the patriotic citizen feels expansive, loyal, coöperative, and sympathetic. His sentiments are those of love and pride. Toward the enemy, toward their standards and behavior, he feels only superiority, disgust, fear, hate, and desire to injure and, in the most violent forms, to destroy. This is a case emotionally of having one's cake and eating it too, something which is denied us ordinarily in life situations. Upon the enemy we load all of the atrocities and villainies imaginable, as most of us did during the World War. At the same time we paint our own country and her ideals in beautiful and humanistic colors. It is the old conflict of good and evil, of the Devil and God, of Satan and Jehovah, with righteousness, truth, and all of the virtues on our side, and the corresponding vices and sins on the other side. True enough, in ordinary life the contrast does not stand out so boldly, but wherever conflict comes into play there is a tendency for this ambivalence to assert itself. The integration of antagonistic attitudes and habits is one of the most significant psychological facts to be noted in analyzing social behavior.

2. Primary and Secondary Groups: Another dimension in group life is found in the contrast of primary and secondary or derivative groups.

(21) Here we are concerned really with forms of group organization within the in-group or out-group.

a. The Primary Group.— Cooley, who has so well discussed the function of the primary group, remarks:

By primary groups I mean those characterized by intimate face-to-face association and co-operation. They are primary in several senses, but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual. The result of intimate association, psychologically, is a certain fusion of individualities in a common whole, so that one's very self, for many purposes at least, is the common life and purpose of the group.[2]

The primary group is characterized by its unconscious growth, its spontaneous formation in an area inhabited by people of more or less homogeneous blood and culture. We might say, with Ross, that the primary groups refer to the "natural order" of society. The primary groups with which we are most familiar are the family, the play-group, out of which grow the gang and congenial group, and the neighborhood or small village group. The primary groups are the literal nursery of the personality. It is here that the fundamental personal-social experience is acquired, here that the fundamental culture patterns, at least on the side of moral conduct and many fundamental attitudes, are impressed on the growing boy or girl. Social interaction takes place at a face-to-face level. The social stimuli are direct; that is to say, voice, facial gestures, touch, smell, and visual stimuli are involved.

Without doubt the family is the basic social group. It is the matrix in which the most significant habits and attitudes are laid down in the individual. Here he acquires his personal habits, his primary conditioning to his mother, father, brothers and sisters, and other relatives. Here he gets his first training in the moral codes of his society. Here he obtains most of the fundamental values which are woven into his life organization. Moreover, the family is the only social group which integrates the biological and the socio-psychological aspects of human behavior. The family is rooted in the procreation and rearing of children. Perhaps, at the outset, the family unit revolved around the mother and her children, with the male playing in the situation as protector of the mother as a sexual object. At any rate the biological foundations of the family unit are apparent.

(22) On this substructure the personal-social and cultural elements were later developed.

The play-group is another important primary group. At play the child meets his fellows on a natural, that is, personal-social rather than cultural basis. The play-group is more or less spontaneous in its formation. At its . best it is conducted outside the stimulation and formulation by adults. The play of children in a neighborhood is, of course, not unaffected by adult attitudes. Yet children, unless spoiled by their elders, do tend to form natural social attachments and to develop their spontaneous capacities in the play-group. The play-group of small children in time gives rise to two other groups which are largely primary groups in nature, but which are somewhat more consciously formed. The first of these are those small congenial groupings formed by children, young men and women, and even adults, in which common interest, mutual pleasure, and sense of intimacy play a large part. The older congenial groups often run over into clubs and more formalized organizations and thus tend to move completely out of the range of the primary groups. The congenial group often originates from the play-group and is in a sense transitional to the secondary associations.

The second of these groups which arise out of play-life is the gang. This group has, at the outset, the features of the primary group, but again it may later become rather more formalized, with rituals, codes, and standards which carry it over to the borderline of the derivative groups. Primary group virtues are emphasized in the gang life, and participation in the gang is an important step in many a boy's personal development. In some instances the adult never rises above the morality of the close-knit gang organization, even though he may be no longer a member of a gang but of a club, fraternity, labor union, or employers' association.

The neighborhood or village group of elder persons constitutes a third illustration of the primary group which is important in the development of social personality. The group of elders carry the folkways and moral codes, the techniques of getting a living, and the whole range of manners and conventions which are thrust upon the rising generation and which compress them into the mold laid down by the older ancestral generations. The neighborhood or small village group in many instances was an outgrowth of earlier small locality units of tribe or clan. It serves as the modern survival of these more primitive forms of social grouping. Today the

(23) neighborhood and small village are disappearing before the changes in production and distribution associated with rapid communication and transportation.

b. The Secondary or Derivative Group.— The secondary group is characterized by the fact that it is much more consciously organized than the primary group. Its organization rests upon the existence of common interests more or less well recognized. Often these groups are called "interest groups." The secondary group does not depend altogether on face-to-face contacts. While actually most secondary groups operate more or less at the face-to-face level for at least some of the members, much of the interaction depends upon long-distance communication of stimuli and response. Easy transportation, the postal system, telephone and telegraph, the press, and other means of conveying materials, ideas, and attitudes, are important for the development of derivative groupings.

While the primary group tends to be more or less involuntary, the secondary group is voluntary. Modern culture is distinctly characterized by the growth of secondary associations. The larger political state, trade unions, employers' associations, clubs, fraternal orders, religious sects, political parties, and scientific societies— all are examples of secondary groups. True, many of the attitudes and habits of the primary group are carried over into the secondary group. These attitudes of morality and interstimulation of the face-to-face sort are lost, in part, in the expansiveness and ritual of the larger organization. The secondary group is marked by the development of formal codes and social rituals, as also of techniques for securing the objects of common interest, be it increased wages, shorter hours, greater profits, more liberal interpretation of academic freedom, or what not. Secondary groupings, moreover, very easily run over into institutional forms. Sometimes the fundamental distinctions of social groups are made in terms of institutional or non-institutional characteristics. Certainly the primary groups do not, on the whole, take on any high degree of institutionalization, whereas secondary groups lend themselves easily to this sort of organization.

c. Temporary Quasi-Primary and Secondary Groups. The distinction between institutional and non-institutional is not precisely the same as that between primary and derivative. Mobs and temporary street crowds may scarcely be called primary in the sense of the family, the play-group, or the neighborhood; yet they are not secondary groups. These temporary

( 24) contiguous groups, however, must be reckoned with as types of relatively unorganized groups. These forms of collective association may distinctly influence personality. So, too, the non-contiguous crowd or public is a form of grouping highly significant in our society. As we shall see, the public, or better said, the publics, are closely related to secondary interest groups.

We need not further discuss the general sociological features of groups, as in subsequent chapters we shall have occasion to consider group backgrounds of personality development. It is important for our standpoint to realize, at all times, that the personality development of the individual is constantly modified and directed by his participation in groups of other persons somewhat similar to or different from himself.

C. Nature of Culture.

1. Morality, Socialization, and Group Life.— Rather more important for us than any elaborate treatment of the sociology of groups, is the need of pointing out that modern life has come to be dominated more and more by secondary and institutionalized groups. Division of labor— meaning specialization— rapid communication and transportation, and the enormous expansion of organized business enterprise have completely altered the forms of human relationships. The primary groups of family, neighborhood, and village have steadily been losing ground as the major groups in our society. In their place the urban community, the specialized institution of education, the industrialized and commercialized types of association, dominate our life organization. Throughout this volume we shall have occasion to indicate how these newer forms of associate life affect the personality of the individual and, his relations with his fellows.

In the field of moral codes these changes are most apparent. Most of our moral codes were formulated under the impetus of the primary group organization of society. It is self-evident that moral codes and other psychological aspects of our culture patterns persist far longer than changes in the material civilization. The upshot is that, while we have made tremendous changes in our physical comforts, in our standards of living, in our means of travel and communication, the socio-psychological aspects of our culture have lagged behind these changes. In other words, as our material universe has expanded enormously under the guiding hand of science and engineering, our moral codes remain largely those devised in

(25) the days of superstition, hand manufacture, the stagecoach, and the pioneer. This has produced the strain of inconsistency between the material aspects of social life and the codes of social conduct. Every student of juvenile delinquency and crime realizes the influence of, say, the automobile in the problems of anti-social conduct, just as modern business methods have made possible newer forms of dishonesty. The whole range of what is considered worth while in life has changed under the new influences. For instance, the church codes, which embody many of the social mores, seem to have little weight with people, largely because other values have arisen. All this leads naturally to the necessity of considering briefly at this point the relation of culture patterns to group life and social control.

2. Culture Patterns, Group Life, and Social Control.— We shall have to treat briefly the rise and course of culture patterns as they influence the personality.

a. Crises and Culture Patterns. Personal-social experiences, as defined in the first chapter, are no doubt antecedent to all our culture patterns. The latter are formalized, standardized, and commonly accepted ways of doing and thinking in various groups, particularly communities of families and political states. When man meets the daily problem of securing his food supply, notes the existence of certain regularities in the seasons and in the climate, discovers basic sources of food, he develops more or less uniform methods of securing his living. Social techniques of fishing, hunting, herding, and horticulture come to be common to groups securing their food in these various manners. Likewise techniques of making tools and instruments to assist in this process arise and are handed down in what is often called the "social heritage," but in what is, following modern anthropology, coming to be termed "material culture patterns." The formation of habits is thus effective in making the solution of life situations simpler. So there arises a natural conservatism, a tendency always to perform acts in the traditional manner. It takes a new situation, that is, a novel arrangement of stimuli, to give rise to new methods of getting a living. For example, the techniques of farming the peasant land in Europe, which go back to the feudal order, may not apply in pioneer America, Australia, or South Africa. The European settler in these parts had to develop new ways of doing things. Likewise, in the whole range of food habits, in standards of living, and in attitudes of thrift, new methods may arise. New situations demand new habits, which, when made more or less common to

( 26) a group, we may call, in sociological terms, folkways or culture patterns. In our own society the invention of a new machine for doing manual or skilled labor may throw thousands of men and women out of employment and demand a radical reorganization of their lives. This was a common phenomenon during the Industrial Revolution, beginning with the introduction of power machinery into England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The profound and extensive changes inaugurated in this period, and the awful social misery caused by these changes, are commonplaces of economic history.[3]

Not only in the field of material culture patterns do crises produce alterations in social organization and personal development, but in the field of moral codes which conserve the values of social conduct the same phenomenon is apparent. Changes in the forms of the family, in the nature of political government, in religious organizations, always take place under novel conditions. The present abolition of polygyny in Turkey is an instance of the first; the shift toward political democracy in the nineteenth century, an instance of the second; and the rise of the Reformation churches in northern Europe of the third.

b. Folkways and Mores as Definitions of Situations.— All of these methods of meeting environmental situations may be termed forms of definition of the situation. That is to say, the individuals in their group life come to delimit the stimuli in certain standardized, stabilized ways. These socially accepted definitions, moreover, are kept alive by the elders of the group, be they medicine men, chieftains, priests, labor leaders, or executives of the modern state. It is true, as Thomas, Malinowski, and others have shown, that individuals usually incline to a hedonistic or pleasurable interpretation of life, the group to one of utilitarianism or usefulness for all. This produces a conflict between the individual definition and the codified one which is apparent in most societies. It is particularly true in our time when the older codes are breaking down.

Some of the definitions of situation do not possess any moral value. These may be called the non-moral folkways. Such details of our culture as table manners, styles of dress, and use of various sorts of machinery illustrate this dimension of culture patterns. Infraction of these non-moral folkways by the individual leads simply to ridicule and avoidance. Thus among some

( 27) American Indian tribes it is the practice for the guest at a meal to make as much noise as possible while eating. This is supposed to show his appreciation of the hospitality of his host and his group. With us, such conduct would be distinctly frowned upon. The college boy or girl who so acted on being invited to a fraternity dinner would be forever ostracized in polite society; on the other hand, he would not be put in jail or driven out of college.

Infractions of those definitions of situations which are called moral codes or mores lead, however, to more severe social pressures. The mores involve those codes which are related to group welfare, which are considered sacred to social stability. They cover the concepts of right or wrong in conduct. Here the non-conformist is looked upon as anti-social. Ridicule, physical punishment, imprisonment, ostracism or banishment from the group, even death, are penalties. Murder, stealing, perjury in court, dishonesty, sexual irregularity as defined by the respective codes, being traitor to the group's existence, particularly in time of warfare— these illustrate the fields of behavior in which the more severe group pressures are applied.

The situations which bring about such action on the part of others are defined in terms of taboos. Definitions of situations and taboos are phrased ' largely in language terms. Thus certain terms, such as, "scab," "traitor," "adulterer," "thief," "criminal," "immoral," come to be applied to persons who infringe the code. And the situations are defined in the unwritten moral codes or, else, in our society, are embodied in the formal statute law; or again they acquire, through legal decisions, the force of statute law by what is known as legal precedent.

c. Social Rituals.— Associated both with non-moral folkways and with the mores are the social rituals. This term, while often applied only to the standardized form of behavior in the church or the secret fraternity, really may comprehend the whole range of those more or less standardized, institutionalized situations which recur in business, education, family life, church activities and even recreation. Graduation from college is marked by certain sucidl formalities. Initiation into a church group or worship in a church has other formalities. Voting is carried on in certain standardized ways. Other illustrations may be observed all about us. Some cultures seem to be more highly colored by intensive ritualism than others. The Hebrew people furnish a familiar example. The Tharauds illustrate this very well

( 28) in their book, The Shadow of the Cross. Ritualism with the Jews reaches into hundreds of life situations where it does not affect Christians. These authors describe a group of village lads, all Christian but one, who is a Jew, on a walk through the country. The boys spy a clump of berry bushes hung with ripe fruit, and they all, except the Hebrew boy, clamber over the low stone wall. The Hebrew boy hesitates because he is uncertain, not whether he should or should not help himself, but rather whether he should eat the fruit. The following paragraph presents the picture:

"Why aren't you eating?" asked the bold Micha.

Ah, yes; why? How should that little Christian know that for every act in our lives there is an appointed benediction: the benediction to be said on getting up and lying down, at the beginning of a meal and the end of it, on taking rest and on starting our work; one to be said when we see the lightning, one when we hear the thunder; one when we stand before a tree or flowering bush; another when we breathe the scent of an aromatic plant or the perfume of spices; one to be said when we see the rainbow or look upon some very beautiful thing; another when we put on a new garment or throw away an old caftan; one to be said on seeing. an eminent rabbi, a distinguished scholar, or a king or a giant or a dwarf (praise be to Thee, Eternal, for the diversity of Thy creatures!) and among a thousand more there is one to be said before eating the fruit of a tree and another for the products of the ground. . . [Doubt as to raspberry being a bush or a tree.]

"Is the raspberry a bush, a tree or a plant of the ground?"

"The raspberry is a tree," answered the baker's son, for whom the world had no mysteries.

"Blessed be Thou, Eternal, our God, King of the universe, Who hast created the fruits of the tree!" the pious child murmured in his heart.

And having said the benediction, he joined his comrades, and plundered his neighbor's raspberry bushes without remorse.

Yet even though our present-day life is not so carefully circumscribed by social rituals as this, such rituals are constantly forming. Some of them are highly stabilized, like the manners of polite society and the rituals of the church; others, such as extending road courtesies in driving a car, are less conventionalized. Institutionalisation, in fact, is another way of stating that along with definite code, with corporate existence under the law, and often with the erection of certain buildings on a particular locality, and the establishment of a hierarchy of authority, there usually goes the development of formal social rituals.

Some historical periods and some peoples seem much more characterized

(29) by extensive and intensive social ritual than others. The Hebrews we have mentioned. The medieval period was rich in rituals. The Hindu and Chinese cultures are also markedly so. Cooley in his brilliant discussion of formalism in society holds that in modern democracy there is much less of it. He believes that the true democratic ideal (value) tends to destroy it. Yet in our own day we see about us a distinct movement toward ritualism and formalism in certain fields of behavior. The universal standardization of dress, speech, literary tastes, food habits, commercialized recreation, etc., expose its growth in the field of non-moral folkways. The increased tendency witnessed in our own country, at least, toward putting the moral codes concerning liquor, sexual behavior, and the whole range of more personal habits into formal law, indicates a movement in that direction in the mores. Machine production and capitalistic business enterprise with their emphasis on regularity of all habits, on punctuality, honesty in payment of debt, stability of working habits, carry these ritualizations over into all of the attitudes and habits concerned with dress, food, recreation, and sexual morality.

Ritualism or formalism in social behavior means predictability of responses. When the individual member of a group is permitted to make his own private definitions of situations and to carry these out in action, predictability of his response is difficult if not impossible. Social rituals of all sorts thus cut across private or personal interpretations or meanings and produce those uniformities of behavior which make social interaction simpler and less likely to produce strain and disorder. They are the heart of culture patterns.

d. Authority, Social Control, and Definitions of Situations.— One can scarcely mention taboo, social ritual, and social control without considering the place of authority in social life. Authority is carried in verbal tradition, in crystallized law or other forms of codes. Actual authority, that is, the power of coercion, is exercised by priests, warriors, police officers, or other such executives who personify authority for the rest of us. The forms of authority differ in various culture periods. They are related to the forms of culture, and change as the latter change. Ross, in his Social Control, mentions the various types of prestige-bearers, or the élite, in all periods who carry forward the codes of their society. Pareto has also exposed the importance of the élite who crystallize, as it were, the social codes and who are the bearers of authority. We must not lose sight of the importance of

(30) the prestige-bearer and the person vested with power in carrying out the codes of the group, those involving the mores as well as the non-moral folkways.

Aside from personal leadership and vested authority as factors in social control, we may mention the great importance, in historical periods, of other carriers of the mores, such as sacred writings. The Bible, the Koran, and all history, literature, science, and philosophy furnish additional bases for our control.

e. The Ethos.— Any particular culture, if it persists over a long period and has a certain degree of isolation, that is, it is only slightly diffused with other cultures, ultimately comes to possess certain distinctive characteristics which set it off from others. For example, the Spartan group in ancient Greece possessed some distinguishing features which were lost to the more cosmopolitan Athenian peoples. Likewise Venice in the Middle Ages and early modern period acquired cultural features which rather marked it off from Italy and the rest of southern Europe. Sumner employed the word ethos to describe this "totality of characteristic traits by which a group is individualized and differentiated from others." We can easily differentiate the Occidental cultures of the present age from those of the Orient, especially in the case of China and India. The cultures diverge in philosophy, in modes of thinking, in life organization, in the scheme of values— material and intellectual and emotional. With the diffusion of Occidental culture into the Orient, these distinctions, in time, will probably fall away. Still, the ethos of a country represents its most abiding features, and while modern comforts and standards may reach the Orient in the field of materialistic culture patterns, the anthropologist and the historian have taught us that in other fields the alteration goes on much more slowly. For example, it may not be difficult to introduce improved lighting, sanitation, and western methods of manufacturing into the Orient, but whether we can so rapidly change the family institutions, or the . religious and philosophical formulations, is quite doubtful. These patterns change but slowly and may, in fact, have a definite repercussion upon the intruding material culture itself. That is to say, a sort of syncretism of Western and Eastern culture characteristics may result. Something like this is already taking place in Japan.

Since the ethos of a people constitutes their most fundamental patterns, it seems to them one of the most sacred, universal, and immortal aspects

( 31) of their life and valuations. One of the benefits of an objective study of various cultures and the socio-psychological processes correlated with them is the recognition of the relativity of various systems of cultures and their schemes of values. We must always realize in our socio-psychological analysis that we are viewing our data from the angle of the Western World with its curious faith in science, in industry, in commercial expansion, in formalized missionary religions, in political democracy, in universal education. When we attempt to project our own schemes of values on other cultures and on persons living under them, we at once lay ourselves open to serious criticism. Unless we adopt the view of relativity in our study of both culture and personality we shall never come to grips with the fundamental facts of that interrelation of human organism and personal-social and cultural stimuli which produces the subject-matter of social psychology, namely, the person in his social and cultural environment.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapters II, Section B, pp. 17-27; IV, pp. 56-75; V, pp. 78-116.

B. Questions and Exercises.

I. Discuss questions and exercises in assignment in Source Book, Chapters II, p. 28; IV, p. 76; V, p. I I7.

2. Why do our in-group out-group attitudes and habits furnish a balance in the personality? Illustrate.

3. Distinguish between primary and secondary groups. Illustrate each.

4. What do we mean by culture? Illustrate.

5. Distinguish between a personal definition of situation and a cultural or group-sanctioned one.

6. List some of the distinguishing social rituals: (a) in our educational institutions; (b) in the democratic political state; (c) in our economic order.

7. What are the outstanding features of our Euro-American ethos?

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

I. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapters Il, p. 28; IV, p. 76; V, p. 117.

2. What light does the study of social life among animals throw on the evolution of human behavior? (Cf. Alverdes, Social Life Among Animals, and references to Park and Burgess, Kohler, Wheeler and Yerkes cited in Source Book, Chapter 11.)

3. Study of immigrant personality documents as a revelation of how immigrants meet new definitions of situations when they come to America. (Cf.: Bibliography of Chapter V in Source Book.)

4. Contrast of Oriental and Occidental ethos.


  1. W. I. Thomas, Source Book for Social Origins, 1909, pp. 55-56 from W. J. McGee, "The Beginnings of Agriculture," American Anthropologist, vol. VIII pp. 362 ff.
  2. C. H. Cooley, Social Organization, 1909, p. 23. Courtesy of Chas. Scribner's Sons.
  3. Cf. Ernst Toller's The Machine Wreckers, and Hauptmann's The Weavers. These two dramas depict the situation, one for England, the other for Germany.

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