Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 5: Habits and Social Behavior

Kimball Young

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A. Importance of Habits in the Social Life of the Individual.

As we noted in the foregoing chapter, the new-born infant is provided with a vast array of reflexes which are the basis of his later learning. In contrast with the lower animals, man does not, at the outset, possess ready-made and highly-organized patterns for stimulus and response. He is helpless in the hands of his group of elders— the family or sib organization which takes him over at birth. This very unorganized feature of his makeup, this capacity to learn, ultimately proves to be man's greatest asset. We have noted that this looseness of organization of original patterns is correlated with the high development of the fore-brain or cerebrum which so distinctively marks off man and the anthropoids from the lower animal orders.

Fiske, in his admirable essay on The Meaning of Infancy, points out that this very plasticity, which makes the new-born child so dependent on his elders, is of the greatest ultimate significance. He writes:

This steady increase of intelligence, as our forefathers began to become human, carried with it a steady prolongation of infancy. As mental life became more complex and various, as the things to be learned kept ever multiplying, less and less could be done before birth, more and more must be left to be done in the earlier years of life. So instead of being born with a few simple capacities thoroughly organized, man came at last to be born with the germs of many complex capacities which were reserved to be unfolded and enhanced or checked and stifled by the incidents of personal experience in each individual . . . .

It was through the lengthening of his infancy that the highest animals came to be Man,— a creature with definite social relationships and with an element of plasticity in his organization such as has come at last to make his difference from all other animals a difference in kind.[1]


In addition to the basic reflex patterns of hunger, thirst, elimination, withdrawal, rejection, rudimentary sex behavior, sensitive zone responses, anger, and fear, there are innumerable less highly-organized reaction arcs which later become connected in the process of maturation and learning. We have described the basic prepotent reflexes as constituting drives of the first order upon which drives of secondary or tertiary orders are built up by this further organization. As a matter of fact, we need some term to describe these fundamental organizations of reaction which constitute such permanent phases of personality, but which are not, strictly speaking, to be called instincts or prepotent reflexes. We shall follow common practice, however, and refer to these as basic or fundamental habits. But habits frequently refer merely to skills of various sorts, such as those involved in learning to write or in acquiring vocational training, as in carpentering, typing, typesetting— in fact, all of the manual dexterities of the skilled occupations. Also related to these are the techniques of artistic production —  piano playing, painting, sculpturing, and architecture. Too often in the traditional academic psychology, we think of habit only in terms of these acquired skills, or in terms of psychological experiments in ball-tossing, typing, or mastering telegraphy, or in learning to recall nonsense syllables. But the term habit comprehends more than merely acquiring these proficiencies. It applies to the development of fundamental traits of personality: attitudes toward oneself, toward others, and toward the physical universe. It involves acquisition of behavior patterns which lie at the root of curiosity, acquisitiveness, desire for prestige, desire for new experience, and all sorts of wishes expressed in social interaction and participation. It is basic to one's conception of oneself.

In studying the social behavior of the adult, it is necessary to recall both the narrow and the broader concept of habit. We might call the latter social habits to distinguish them from habits in the narrow sense. Dewey has made clear the tremendous importance of habit in the broad sense:

The essence of habit is an acquired predisposition to ways or modes of response, not to particular acts, except as, under special conditions, these express a way of behaving. Habit means special sensitiveness or accessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing predilections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of specific acts. It means will. [2]


Furthermore, attitudes must not be considered essentially different from habits except as to completeness of response. Attitude, as we shall see, is a tendency to act, but its relation to habit is well stated by Dewey.

Attitude and, as ordinarily used, disposition, suggest something latent, potential, something which requires a positive stimulus outside themselves to become active. If we perceive that they denote positive forms of action which are released merely through removal of some counteracting "inhibitory" tendency, and then become overt, we may employ them instead of the word habit to denote subdued, non-patent forms of the latter.[3]

Habits and attitudes, therefore, are basic for social psychology. Throughout this book we shall note how habits and attitudes are formed and how they affect the social behavior of persons in various situations. While we may not with scientific impunity ignore the power of the physiological demands of the organism,, the direction which the satisfaction of these takes is dependent on habit. And although we must give a place to intelligence and the higher mental functions, we shall see that even the methods of interpreting social behavior on the part of ourselves and others, and the meaning of the physical universe, for that matter, are dependent upon habits of thought. The balance of this chapter will be given over to an examination of the mechanism of habit formation. Subsequent chapters will indicate the place of the social environment in determining the course that such habit formations take.

B. The Mechanisms of Habit Formation.

It is not necessary in a general treatise in social psychology to discuss extensively or intensively the mechanisms of habit formation. These can be found in the standard textbooks in psychology. All we need here is a summary of the generally accepted concepts. The field of habit formation, or learning, is to be thought of as an active dynamic process of modification and elaboration of the unlearned stimulus-response patterns rooted at the outset in the physiological needs of the organism. The individual is not a mere passive creature of the environment, as the old associationist school taught, or as some behavorists would have us believe. The organism is concerned with keeping alive. In a sense, it actually goes out to meet the environment, to draw the forces of the environment into itself in order

(77) to keep going. Learning begins, as we have seen, with the fundamental reflexes concerned with bodily survival. Throughout this discussion we must bear in mind the dynamic nature of learning. A structural description of the learning process may give one an idea that the whole affair is one of simple association and coördination. But these very processes are not passive; they are active and involve the organism in its totality.

1. Fundamental Factors in Learning.— For social psychology the two most important principles of learning are the mechanism of conditioned responses and the attendant integration of these responses into larger patterns. The older psychologies had much to say in regard to repetition, recency, and vividness in learning, but these terms merely refer to certain aspects of conditioning. They do not describe the mechanisms themselves: Yet surely the frequency, the recency, and the intensity or vividness of stimulus-response relationships must be taken into account in a discussion of learning. Of course, some reactions are acquired without any repetition, such as great fear; some are made without reference to intensity, as responses to tickling; and perhaps some phases of learning are retained without regard to recency. But the associative or conditioning processes, however important, must be taken into account, together with the manner in which they are correlated in the formation of order and sequence and in reference to other patterns. The integrative function of the cerebral cortex system is apparently basic to this process.

The speed, quality, and permanence of learning are also important. There are marked individual differences in learning capacity. Some individuals acquire new responses much more rapidly and much more adequately than others. Learning the social code may be much more difficult for a moron than for a bright girl or boy. Ruch has shown, for example, that in materials of simple motor-perceptual sort, such as card-sorting, differences in learning ware not great among three groups of students measured by standardized intelligence tests as bright, average, and dull or borderline. In material of more difficult sort, like learning a secret code of writing, the divergences among the three groups were much more noticeable. The dull pupils fell considerably behind the average and the bright groups. In connection with still more complex material, involving abstract problems of logical reasoning, the differences were extreme. The dull group accomplished little if anything with this material, while the average group made but slight improvement. Only the bright

( 78) pupils were able to show marked progress. The importance of differences in intelligence will be noted in more detail in another chapter, but the universal fact of variability in intelligence must be borne in mind throughout the discussion of habit formation.

The whole learning process is affected by social suggestion, both favorably and unfavorably. The fond mother leaning over her child may produce in him such a state of anxiety as to curb his acquisition of the multiplication table or his mastery of piano technique. Many a bright boy or girl has been spoiled for an appreciation of literature by the overbearing and sarcastic attitude on the part of the school teacher. In turn, the positive suggestion of a group of playmates may be a great factor in a boy's learning to swim, to skate, to smoke, or to play truant from school. There is, in truth, considerable experimental evidence to show that students do better in certain kinds of learning when working in the presence of others. Weston and English report that higher scores were achieved in certain intelligence tests when their subjects worked in a group than when they worked alone. Other experiments show similar facilitation when individuals are working in a group. Perhaps competition and heightened attention play a part in this increased efficiency.

2. Mechanism of the Conditioned Response.— Most readers of social psychology today are familiar with the famous conditioned response experiments of Pavlov. If one presents a dog with a piece of meat, the salivary glands are stimulated and a copious flow of saliva into the mouth follows. This secretion can be rather easily measured by the use of proper laboratory apparatus. The meat is a biologically adequate stimulus to set off the reaction of salivation, the first step in the digestive process. If on another occasion one should ring a bell in the neighborhood of the dog, he might wiggle his ears, or bark, or turn his head toward the sound, but he would not begin salivation. But Pavlov found by simultaneous stimulation of the dog with the meat and the bell, that after a number of trials he was able to produce salivation by ringing the bell alone. The artificial or biologically inadequate stimulus will now give the reaction originally associated with stimulation of a natural sort, such as meat: Moreover, the amount of saliva secreted from the gland by the bell stimulus will equal the amount called forth by the meat. If the bell is rung a second time alone, the salivation will continue but the amount will fall off. A third time, the saliva will still flow but not in such quantities as the second

( 79) time. From this point on the bell has less and less effect on salivation until the novel association of stimulus and response disappears. Pavlov has characterized the simple conditioned reaction as relatively temporary and unstable.

If, after the new association has disappeared, one again introduces the meat, or the original biologically adequate stimulus, the conditioning takes place more rapidly, that is, with fewer repetitions than on the first occasion. Moreover, the persistence of the new association is longer. An occasional introduction of the meat will finally make relatively permanent the new stimulus-response connection.

We may define the conditioned response, in the words of Morgulis, as "a reaction to an indifferent stimulus, occasioned merely by a repeated coincidence of the latter with a physiologically active stimulus." [4]

Now whereas the simple reflexes, such as salivation, swallowing, and reactions to tactile, tonal, and visual stimuli of unlearned sort, are mediated through the lower brain centers and the spinal cord, these new reflexes call into play and are dependent upon the cerebral cortex of the fore-brain.. Krasnogorski, a follower of Pavlov, states it in this manner:

The conditioned reflex differs from the ordinary unconditioned reflexes only in that in them the stimulation of the centripetal and centrifugal paths (afferent and efferent) is carried on by a fixed mediating activity of the higher centers of the central nervous system.[5]

This merely restates the facts brought out in Chapter III, that the whole range of learning is carried on through the medium of the cerebral cortex with its vast extension of association fibers and its wide possibility of elaborating and modifying unlearned responses.

Not only are conditioned reflexes built up by simultaneous stimulation, but Pavlov has shown also that simple associations may be built up if the stimuli are successive. One of Pavlov's students introduced a scratching stimulus to a dog two minutes prior to the presentation of the physiologically active stimulus and produced a conditioned response. Furthermore, he found that he could introduce the artificial stimulus after the biologi-

( 80) -cally adequate one and still condition the animal. That is to say, on the basis of reactions already set up and their continuance after the stimulus is removed (memory traces), the conditioning is still possible. The higher the animal is in the scale of organic complexity, the longer may be the stretch of time between the successive stimuli. In the case of children the time may be considerably extended as they grow older.

The range of conditioning in animals is very large indeed. The salivary reflex has been associated by a number of experimenters to a wide variety of artificial stimuli such as a tone, a whistle, odors, cooling of skin, warming of skin, mechanical stimulation of skin, and use of various acids. Furthermore, the rapidity of the formation of the conditioned response depends upon the nature and intensity of the stimuli. For example, the sound of an electric clock began to call forth a secretion of saliva without simultaneous direct stimulus after 111 feedings of the dog with meal powder and the simultaneous sounding of the clock. The smell of camphor produced the conditioned reflex after 19 simultaneous stimulations, a red light after 100 feedings. In some of the conditionings to temperature stimuli, the results were obtained with much fewer stimulations. Intensity and repetition of stimulation are the two fundamental factors at the outset in making for the permanence of the association. It is clear that emotional accompaniments, under intensity of stimulation, often enhance the fixation of the new connection. This factor will be dealt with below. Some conditioned stimuli may be considered more closely related to native stimulus-response patterns than others. Krasnogorski remarks that those involving sight and hearing form more slowly and disappear more rapidly, in the case of salivation, than those artificial stimuli which are drawn from the field of smell or mechanical stimulation. In one experiment where a whistle was used as the learned stimulus, it excited the secretion of saliva alone only after practice of two and one-half months. As a result of the association of salivation with the smell of camphor, one could still observe the conditioning, although greatly weakened, it is true, nine months after the learning period.

Not only do tactile, auditory, visual, taste, and smell stimuli serve as conditioning possibilities, but more significant is the fact that the locomotor organs, the muscles themselves, may become conditioned stimuli for native reactions. This throws new light on the tremendous importance of kinesthesis in the integration of habits or skills into more complex pat-

( 81) -terns. No doubt much of the learning of rats in mazes may be related to a series of conditioning where kinesthetic sensations are associated with certain successful responses. Krasnogorski found that he could establish the conditioning for salivation from the movement of the knee of the hind leg of the dog. This was definitely shown not to be due to the stimulation of the tactile areas by the failure of the once established connection to take place after the extirpation of the muscles involved in the flexion of the hind legs.[6]

The principle of conditioning is nicely illustrated in the field of animal training. Teaching a dog to come when one whistles is a case of successive association. The trainer whistles to the dog and then feeds him, either at the same time or immediately afterwards. Soon the dog will come to the trainer whenever he whistles. He need not feed the animal every time. Hunting dogs in similar manner are taught to fetch in game without injuring it. So, too, a dog may be conditioned to hundreds of verbal commands by both simultaneous and successive stimulation. The dog does not understand language in the human sense, but is conditioned to various vocal sounds.

3. Inhibition of the Conditioned Reaction.— Suppose that one has conditioned a dog to salivate when scratched on the side. After this new pattern has been established, one introduces a tonal stimulus and finds that the salivation ceases. The second inadequate or artificial stimulus inhibits the action of the first one. This inhibition of the conditioned response is highly important, as it indicates a means of blocking or changing the first conditioning. Experimental literature presents many instances of this sort. Almost any second new stimulus seems sufficient to break up a pattern of the simple conditioned response.

Now suppose that after the conditioning has been broken up, one introduces still a third artificial stimulus, say, a pressure or heat stimulus. The inhibition disappears and the first conditioned reaction reappears. That is, in the case cited above, the dog will salivate again. Here we have the inhibition of an inhibition. This raises still further complications of learn-

( 82) -ing, for with this mechanism at hand one may be able to reproduce some desirable conditioning which has been temporarily blocked by the breaking-in of a second inadequate stimulus-response pattern. This sort of conditioning is nevertheless much less durable in effect than is the primary conditioning. Morgulis remarks:

The results of all investigations point strongly to the conclusion that the process of internal inhibition is much less stable than the process of conditioned stimulation and can be offset by the least outside disturbance.[7]

Inhibition, however, is as important a function of the central nervous system as is conditioning. Anrep makes the following pertinent theoretical statement on the matter:Each extra stimulus in turn inhibits the conditioned activity of the brain, superimposing itself on the process it encounters in every part of the same. If it meets excitation, it inhibits the excitatory process; if it meets with inhibition, it inhibits the inhibition.[8]

Morgulis points out various types of internal inhibition which are possible largely because of the unstable character of conditioned reactions generally. He writes:

There are several kinds of internal inhibition. Waning conditioned reflexes, due to a repeated application of the conditioned salivary stimulus without the aid of an unconditioned stimulus, are one kind. Another kind is the delayed reflex which appears if the conditioned stimuli are regularly followed by feeding a few seconds or even minutes after the conditioned stimulation has ceased. Conditioned inhibition is likewise a form of internal inhibition arising when an irrelevant factor is added to the conditioned stimulus, the combination not being reinforced by feeding. In such a combination the conditioned stimulus is quite ineffective, but alone it exerts the usual influence. The process of differentiation and concentration . . . represents a still other type of internal inhibition— the inhibition of differentiation. Furthermore, it is a very common and very important occurrence that one inhibition checks another inhibition, the result being a reactivation of the inhibited reflex.[9]

Pavlov distinguishes two sorts of inhibition, internal and external. External inhibition arises when new stimuli reach the cortex from other

( 83) stimulation-reaction patterns. Those just described are of this kind. The internal types may be divided into four major classes: (1) The disappearance or extinction of the conditioned response from disuse and from failure to recondition by the introduction of the original physiologically adequate stimulus. (2) The delayed or so-called memory reflex where the unconditioned stimulus is not presented until a lapse of time after the conditioned stimulus is given. (3) The conditioned inhibition, as where a tone combines with another mechanical stimulation such as a tactile or electrical stimulus applied to the skin. Burnham remarks regarding this:

In this case the conditioned stimulus gradually loses its effect completely in this combination, but is still effective without it. That is, whenever the tone is given at the same time with the stimulation of the skin its effect is inhibited.[10]

(4) The inhibition of differentation which may be described as follows:

Mechanical stimulation of a definite part of the skin is used as a conditioned stimulus. Then likewise stimulation of other parts of the skin, more so the nearer it is to the definite place, has the same effect, that is, acts as a conditioned stimulus. This generalization of the stimuli has a definite biological significance and represents the externalization of the irradiated stimulus in the mass of the cortex. In case of repetition of stimulation of this definite part of the skin with the accompaniment of feeding, and with repeated application to other parts without feeding, the latter parts gradually lose their stimulating effect. This form of inhibition Pavlov calls the differentiating inhibition; and with this the analyzing ability which produces the fine adjustment of the organism to the elements of its internal and external world attains its acme.[11]

The cerebral cortex is thus not only the seat of the important association mechanism of conditioning, but also the seat of inhibitions. While some associations of new stimuli and responses may facilitate and enhance each other, others definitely block or inhibit each other. In the process of recasting and elaborating unlearned behavior into socially acceptable frameworks of habit, these two principles of facilitation and inhibition are of great importance.

4. Conditioning, in Children.— Taking his cue from the work of Pavlov, Krasnogorski began a series of experiments upon conditioning in children. Employing a simple device for recording the swallowing reflexes produced

( 84) by inserting a stick of candy in the child's mouth, he made a number of experiments conditioning the children to various artificial stimuli: tones, scratchings, etc. As in the case of animals, at the outset the conditioned responses were marked by their instability; they rather quickly disappeared unless the original conditioning was repeated. One divergent feature became apparent. This was the greater range of individual differences among children than among the animals used in Pavlov's laboratory. Mateer, who followed up Krasnogorski's method in this country, has shown a close relationship between general intelligence and learning capacity through conditioning. With mentally normal children, in a certain experiment, the acquirement of the new reaction took from three to nine trials. With mental defectives the range of trials was from three to fifteen. Furthermore, the number of trials necessary to produce the learned response decreased with the increase in age. [12]

A second important feature became evident. The range of association of the conditioned stimuli was markedly greater for children than for animals. In the case of dogs, for example, the pitch discrimination is very highly developed. Such conditioning is very specific. In some cases changing the tone as much as one-eighth of a note failed to elicit the conditioned reflex. In children, in contrast, tones lying adjacent to the original note brought out the acquired reaction. Likewise with scratching, in the dog this must be repeated on a very specific area. In children, at the outset, there is a marked carry-over of stimulation, so that scratching on any other area will produce the conditioned reaction. However, if the first spot chosen is repeatedly stimulated, and no other, a localization develops and other areas subsequently will not serve as the conditioned stimulus point. Krasnogorski thus remarks:

In this manner the conditioned reflexes to mechanical stimulation are not in children distinguished by a clearly localized zone of functioning, but they can easily acquire it, if the mechanical stimulation of a given spot is constantly reinforced through the working of the conditioned stimulus, and if with that, the repeated mechanical stimulation of other parts of the body is left without reinforcement.[13]

The phenomenon of inhibition is shown very readily in children. The introduction of a second conditioning stimulus during the operation of the

(85) first blocks its action and prevents the desired response. Mateer reports that the number of trials needed for developing the inhibition "ranged from three to twelve." With children there was a much wider range of interfering stimuli than with animals. The human being is much more plastic. He possesses more complex possibilities for both conditioning and inhibition than the lower forms of life.

5. Emotions and Conditioning.— We noted above that the intensity of a stimulus had some influence on the persistence of the conditioning. One of the most significant findings of the Pavlov school is that the conditioning which takes place during emotional disturbance of the organism is far more lasting and effective than that which takes place in a calm and undisturbed state. We have already discussed the place of the emotions in the unlearned behavior of the organism. Equally significant for us is the fact that the emotional-affective states profoundly influence the process of conditioning. This is highly important in building up social habits and attitudes. If ordinary conditioning is relatively unstable, the conditioning under emotional excitement may persist over long periods of time. There is ample clinical evidence of this. Cases of phobias and anxieties are reported in which the source has been but one occasion of great fear. Everyone who knows children realizes how easily they are conditioned to fear, anger, and love.

The whole matter is made clear by the case of Albert, studied by the Watsons. Albert was a thoroughly normal baby of eleven months when the experiment was undertaken. His fear reactions were confined, as with other unconditioned children, to stimulation of loud, sharp sounds, to loss of support, and to shaking when in light sleep. He showed no fear responses to the dark, to furry animals, or to anything except the definite stimuli just mentioned.

A rat was presented to him and at the same time a sharp, loud sound was produced by striking a steel bar. He jumped and showed other fear reactions. A second trial produced whimpering as well as violent jumping. Five days after he had shown the full effects of two previous sets of trials, he was first shown some blocks. To these he reacted by grasping and playing as usual. Likewise the room, the table, acid other such objects did not seem associated with the fear response. Then the rat was shown him. There followed whimpering, withdrawal of the hand, turning the head and the torso away from the rat. This was repeated twice. The blocks

( 86) were again introduced, but without the conditioned stimulus. It was clear that the conditioning to the rat persisted, but that the association of fear did not carry over to the room, the table, or the blocks. Through subsequent trials he became completely conditioned to starting and crying when presented with the rat only.

The next step was to test the possible transference of the conditioning to objects which were similar to but not identical with the conditioned stimulus. For this purpose a rabbit was used. The fear reaction appeared. So, too, with a dog, a sealskin coat, and to some extent with cotton wool. The experimenters remark:

The transfer was immediate and without any additional experience in connection with these other objects. In these transferred emotional reactions we thus would find a reason for the widespread change in the personality of children and possibly even in adults once a strongly conditioned emotional reaction has been set up to any object or situation. It accounts for the many unreasoning fears and for a good deal of the sensitiveness of individuals to objects for which no adequate ground for such behavior can be offered in the past history of that individual.[14]

This experiment is important not only in showing the place which emotion plays in conditioning, but also in indicating the transfer of emotionally toned conditioned responses to allied types of stimuli.

6. Transfer of Conditioning.— We see here a difference between animals and human beings. In the case of dogs used by Pavlov and his students, we saw that their reactions to visual or auditory stimuli were very specific. Dogs can discriminate between the fractions of a full tone. In the case of infants and young children no such sharp discrimination is possible. The differentiated conditioning was much less specific. So, too, in the case of the furry object, it was the quality or attribute of furriness which was significant in setting off the fear response, not the rat alone. This diffusion of the association to new objects, illustrated by the more generalized response to furriness, is highly significant for human behavior. This flexibility of human association is basic to the rise of concepts and abstractions; and concepts are important for man's more complex life.

This fundamental transfer is due not only to the employment of the more

( 87) complicated cortical "analyzers," to use Morgulis' term; it is due also, in part at least, to the additional factor of irradiation of impulses through the cortex. According to Pavlov, the differentiating function of the cortical analyzer may be broken down by the irradiation produced by the action of some other stimuli, especially an emotional one. In the case of the dog where the differentiation in tone is very sharp, another tone as near the first as one-eighth of a note will not ordinarily arouse the conditioned reaction. Morgulis, however, states:

If . . . some unusual noise should be made during the experiment which excites the animal, the differentiation of the auditory conditioned reflex will be temporarily lost and the salivary reflex will occur in response to any tone. This state of affairs may last fifteen to thirty minutes, when the differentiation becomes once more very rigid . . . .

Psychologically speaking, the animal was in a state of affectation. Physiologically, the strong irradiation radiated over a large territory in the brain and so affected the tonus of its nervous elements .that all signs of inhibition were temporarily masked.[15]

The emotional toning in the cortex, then, serves to heighten the conditioning by the principle of irradiation. It has been shown that conditioning to pain is greatly facilitated by feeding the animal at the same time, so that a little later intense electric shocks will produce the salivary reflex. The following case of Pavlov is cited by Morgulis:

The skin of a dog is irritated by an electric current of such strength as to cause a painful sensation (or a destructive action, in accordance with the objective terminology). Each time this stimulus is applied the mechanism of self. defense is set into vigorous reaction; the animal attempts to break loose from the stand, to snatch the instruments, and so on, in other words, a strong defensive reflex results. If food is given to the dog at the same time (this must frequently be done through the stomach tube) it sooner or later comes about that the defensive reaction is gradually subdued and at last vanishes altogether, while the electrical irritation becomes a conditioned stimulus of the salivary gland. Two important things must be considered in this connection. First, the blocking of the irritation of one centre (defensive) by the activity of another (nutritive) and, secondly, the diversion of the stimulus into a new channel towards a point in the cortex of more intense function. The nutritive centre which is physiologically very important, draws to itself the available nervous energy, leaving thereby other centres ineffective. The force of this interpreta-

(88) -tion is easily recognized by a modification of the above experiment. If, instead of food, an acid is used in stimulating the salivary gland— the acid likewise being an unconditioned stimulus of salivary secretion, but one which is ordinarily rejected by the animal— the painful sensation of the electric current can not be overcome nor can a conditioned salivary reflex be developed under these circumstances. Many seemingly miraculous events of human experience become intelligible in the light of these experiments. The mutilation of the body practiced by certain sects in an ecstasy of religious fervor, the apparent insensitiveness to excruciating pain demonstrated by many martyrs of a creed or ideal, absolute disregard of fatal injuries when the nervous energy is mustered in a life or death struggle— these and many others are phenomena obeying definite physiological laws.[16]

Thus pain, fear, rage, love, and any other emotional state will have much to do with the direction which conditioning takes. It is now clear why the prepotent reflexes, internal and external, are so significant for later behavior. Those which in the course of their expression have a distinctly autonomic component of emotion and feeling will be those which in the process of social conditioning will become the most significant for behavior. While thousands of reflexes are associated in a general way, those which are linked up through the emotions are the most persistent and dominant in the personality. This fact will be illustrated in our treatment of images, ideas, and attitudes, in patriotic and crowd behavior, in prejudice, in leadership, in fads and fashions, and in public opinion.

We are now in a position to summarize the features of the conditioned response mechanism. First, there is a wide range of possible conditioned stimuli and responses. Second, the associations are built up rapidly. Third, there is a ready disappearance of the conditioning, unless the physiologically adequate stimulus is re-introduced from time to time in order to reinforce the first conditioning, or more significant, when the conditioning is greatly facilitated by emotional-affective accompaniments. Fourth, one conditioned response may inhibit another, and a third conditioned stimulus may inhibit the inhibition. Fifth, simultaneity of the two stimuli, native and artificial, is not necessary; that is to say, conditioning may occur with. successive as well as simultaneous stimulation. Sixth, the pathways mediating the nervous discharge from the conditioned stimulus to native response pass through the cerebral cortex. They are thus under the domi-

( 89) -nation of the fore-brain, which is the most recent acquisition in animal evolution and the seat of man's intelligence and skill.

The conditioned reflex mechanism is one of the most significant in the learning process. This is particularly so in the field of social behavior, where emotional-affective factors play such an important part. Not only are people conditioned to fear of all sorts of objects ant! persons, but anger, love, and the compound emotions of grief, awe, jealousy, and others come to play a distinct rôle in the acquisition of attitudes and habits.

C. The Integrative Function of the Neural-Muscular-Glandular System.

We noted above the influences exerted on simple conditioning by the introduction of second and even third new stimuli. The inhibition of the conditioned response by another, and the inhibition of the inhibition by still a third stimulus-response pattern, make it clear that the whole process of habit formation is not so simple as it at the outset appears. Throughout the whole conditioning process the cerebral cortex plays a very important part. It acts as the dominant gradient in revamping the native or unlearned behavior of the individual.

1. The Mechanism of Integration.— Another of the major facts of habit formation is the building-up of simpler units of learning into larger and larger patterns of reaction. This process may be called integration. Not only is the cerebral cortex, with its widespread synaptic correlation, fundamental to the formation of conditioned reflexes, but the associative areas of the cortex seem to have the function of tying the units of behavior together into ever larger wholes. Let us consider a few examples of coordination and integration in the field of human learning. From these we may draw some parallels for social behavior.

Many years ago Bryan and Harter made a study of learning to send and to receive telegraphic messages. In receiving, for instance, they showed that at the outset only letters were recognized and written down; later on, combinations of letter sounds into words were made. Such a combination was not a mere series of letter sounds added together, but the whole word was recognized as a unit. Still later, words in the form of short sentences were recognized and taken down, again not as a series of words added together, but as a unity— a whole sentence carrying meaning. In time, longer sentences could be taken in the same manner, and soon the whole

( 90) mechanism of receiving messages became more or less unconscious. Likewise in learning to send messages, one begins with the single letters, passes on to words and then at the end comes to the sending of whole sentences. In each step there is an integration of the individual units of learning into a larger pattern. From time to time there appeared in the learning process certain periods when the progress in time and the elimination of errors practically ceased, to be followed by increased facility thereafter. These plateaus in the learning periods have been interpreted as periods in which the integrations at new levels are being formed.[17]

Similarly in learning to type, in acquiring the technique of piano playing and in hundreds of games and skilled occupations, the same principle applies. For instance, in mastering handball, tennis, or golf, at the outset there is considerable muscular cramping, much attention to particular items in the methods used in striking the ball, to hand-eye relations, to the matter of position of feet, arms, and torso. Sometimes one attempts to improve one aspect of one's form, at other times another. Frequently there are long periods when improvement seems impossible, to be followed by a spurt of success. Often, when least expected, the stroke one has been working for comes easily, naturally, and without conscious effort. The rest periods between practice seem to be very important in this learning; and while it is not literally so, there is a deal of truth in James' comment that we learn to swim in winter and to skate in summer. That is to say, the integrative functions of the neural-muscular system get in their work during the rest periods between practice.

The hangover from practice affects the future stimulus-response pattern of the organism. Retention or memory refers to this persistence of effects. In the field of habits the retentive power of the brain is active and dynamic. In other words, the brain recasts the single items of the learning, largely conditioned reflexes, into larger patterns of response which we may call the integrated habit systems. Thus in typing, in playing golf, and in the operations of the skilled mechanic the behavior is not an additive process, of first one single item of stimulus-response, then a second, then a third;

( 91) but the whole reaction system is synthesized together into a larger schema. One is not aware that the writing of the words and sentences on a type writer is a matter of individual finger movements, but the fact is that both hands have become synchronized to brain changes. This makes possible the writing of sentences, so far as the actual spelling and typing is concerned, without a thought of the mechanics of the operation. Instead, the attention is focused wholly upon the expression of the meaning. It would be a mistake to fail to see that the organism responds as a whole to its environment. This unified response system itself is made possible both by the integrative mechanisms of the neuro-muscular system itself and by the nature of the stimuli, which come to us in configurations.

In the case of social interaction of persons, we find this principle in operation. The commands of the officer are stimuli to the integrated movements of marching on the part of the military squad. In building up one's reactions to parents, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies, the single items in the process become linked together into unified wholes. Gestures, physical appearance, bodily habits, ideas and attitudes of these others, constitute a configuration of stimuli. On the side of the individual, the responses to these stimuli are distinctly woven together into organized habits and attitudes. For example, the reaction of the speaker to his audience is conditioned by the form of the audience— number, seating, and so on. The response of the listeners to him is determined by the integration of his voice, his facial and manual gestures, his posture, and his expressed thoughts. In the field of social interaction, the rapid shifting of the environment, that is, the change in other persons, often makes for rapid shifting in the integrative centers of our own behavior. For example, suppose we have met an individual of importance in our social world and some weeks or months later we see this person again in another social gathering. We approach the individual, offer him our hand and in a pleasantly-toned voice begin to greet him. We are thus integrated to a certain kind of response pattern. This anticipatory phase of behavior is highly significant in social intercourse. It is a distinct phase of the cycle of social behavior. But suppose the great man, instead of firming us in a friendly manner, turns away with a curt nod, or with a remark that he does not recall a previous meeting, or with some other gesture of avoidance. The whole environmental situation changes, and with it the center of our integrated reaction changes. We are no longer expansive. We flush in embarrassment

( 92) and turn away in anger and usually with a sense of inferiority. The reaction pattern then has shifted from one correlation center to another because of a shift in the environment.

In any case the complete response of the individual to a situation is unified and coördinated. The integration of habits and reactions is a phase of the whole principle of complete or consummatory response. In all major activities of the organism the whole reaction system participates.

D. Ambivalence of Habits and Attitudes.

It must be recognized, of course, that some patterns of our behavior are suited for some types of action, some for others. One can not, at the same time, fight and run. One can not at the same time secure food and make love. There rests within our organism, therefore, the possibility of dissociation, or disparate or opposite types of reaction. The psychoanalysts have used the term ambivalence to describe this principle in reference to the emotions. For instance, the opposite of hate is love, of sorrow is joy. The significant point for us is that when the flight patterns are in operation, success in flight consists in not being inhibited by any tendencies to stop and fight. When engaged in food-seeking, any gestures in the direction of love-making may result in someone else securing the wanted food.

Activity seems to be divided into forms of approach or withdrawal in reference to all situations, physical or social. As a result of conditioning we are often at a loss to know which sort of activity to undertake. For example, patriotic attitudes toward our country incite us to follow the lead of statesmen into war, but knowledge of the injustice of war or horror at killing other human beings may inhibit us from doing so. Again, a person's early theological training may impel him to join a fundamentalist church, but his later college education and wider experience may cause him to develop antagonistic attitudes toward such affiliations. If a man's parents and early friends belong to a conservative church, his emotional attitudes toward them may make it difficult for him to discontinue his relationship. Yet other friends, whom he emulates, holding opposite views, impel him to the other direction. Or a man may have accepted the romantic code of love, been married under it, and later develop other attitudes to find himself in conflict whether to divorce his wife or to accept the conventional code with its implications of ethical duty. Examples could be multiplied. It is evident that in the ambivalence of habits and attitudes we

( 93) have the source of mental conflicts. Such conflicts lie at the root of a great deal of neurotic conduct and have distinct reverberations in one's relations with other persons. However, participation in various groups, fostering different standpoints, usually affords a measure of personal stability without recourse to that more fundamental integration of personality which has been the concern of philosophers and wise men throughout the ages. For example, a man may be friendly and coöperative as a church member but severe and exacting as an employer. So long as these divergences do not clash too badly, a person may get on fairly well in his social contacts.

There is a social situation, however, wherein even ambivalent or opposite patterns of behavior may become closely integrated. Group conflict furnishes for us a situation in which the organism most completely fulfils itself, except possibly in eating or in sexual embrace. Where there is conflict between the in-group and the out-group, there is the possibility of carrying within oneself, antagonistic and kindly emotions and tendencies at the same time. An easy example is afforded by war. Toward one's fellows of the in-group or nation, there is an attitude of loyalty, coöperation, sacrifice, and common endeavor which is pleasant and whole-hearted. Toward the members of the out-group, there is hatred, fear, desire to injure, or to kill and destroy. All of the virtues of social life are attributed to the in-group. The out-group is the arch-demon of the world and filled with all manner of evil. This is one situation in which individuals in a group may emotionally have their cake and eat it too. It gives a psychological clue to conflict reactions running all the way from minor controversies concerning neighbors or members of other political, religious, or fraternal groups, to more distinctly conflict groups such as trade unions versus employers' associations or nation versus nation. Further on we shall have occasion to call attention to this principle as it operates in developing the personality and in crowd behavior, in public opinion, and elsewhere in social activity.


A. Further Reading: Source Books for Social Psychology, Chapters IX, no. 57, pp. 208-10; X, Pp. 219-40.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises in assignment in Source Book, Chapter X, Pp. 240-41.

2. Contrast the behavior of the young of one of the domesticated mamma-

(93) -lian forms with that of the human infant in order to show the differences as well as likenesses in dependence of young offspring on parental care.

3. What is the significance of inhibition of conditioned responses in social-cultural learning? Illustrate.

4. Why is the integration process as important as that of conditioning?

5. What is the social significance of the fact that conditioning is more effective when accompanied by emotional toning?

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter X, p. 241.


  1. John Fiske, The Meaning of Infancy, 1909, pp. 11, 13. Used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, 1922, p. 42. By Courtesy of Henry Holt and Company.
  3. Ibid., p. 41.
  4. S. Morgulis, "Pavlov's Theory of the Function of the Central Nervous System," etc., Journal Animal Behavior, 1914, vol. IV, p. 363.
  5. N. Krasnogorski, "Conditioned Reflexes in Childhood," Paper from the Children's Hospital of the Prince of Oldenburg, Petrograd. Translated by Florence Mateer at Clark University.
  6. Morgulis writes: "It was a simple matter to prove that the conditioned reflex thus formed was actually associated with an internal motor and not with an external tactile stimulation . . . . If in a dog with such a reflex to the bending of the leg, the gyrus sigmoidens was excised the reflex immediately vanished, although a salivary response to the stimulation of the skin still persisted. If, on the contrary, the gyri coronarius and ectosylvius were removed, the knee conditioned reflex could be obtained while the tactile reflex completely disappeared." Op. cit., p. 365.
  7. Op. cit., p. 372.
  8. G. V. Anrep, "Pitch Discrimination in Dogs," Journal of Physiology, 1919-20, vol. LIII, p. 384.
  9. Op. cit., p. 372.
  10. W. H. Burnham, The Normal Mind, 1924, p. 73. Courtesy of D. Appleton and Company.
  11. Ibid., pp. 73-74
  12. Cf. B. Mateer, The Behavior of Children, 1918, especially Chapter VIII.
  13. Op. Cit. See footnote 5 above.
  14. J. B. and R. R. Watson, "Studies in Infant Psychology," Scientific Monthly, 1921, Vol. XIII, pp. 513-14. Cf. also, "Conditioned Emotional Reactions," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1920, Vol III, pp. 1-14.
  15. Morgulis, op. cit., pp. 369, 373.
  16. Op. cit., pp. 374-375.
  17. There is some evidence from the work of Snoddy and others that the plateaus, at least in motor learning, may be a function of the distribution of the practice periods. Snoddy believes that by a properly spaced series of practice periods correlated with rest periods, the plateaus may be eliminated. But his work does not invalidate the possible interpretation of the place of the rest periods in integration; in fact, his work rather confirms it. Cf. his monograph: "An Experimental Analysis of a Case of Trial and Error Learning in the Human Subject," Psychological Monographs, 1920, vol. XXVIIl, No. 2, Whole No. 124

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