Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior
Chapter 16: Language, Thought and Social Reality
A. Language and Thought.
Since the manner of conceiving social reality is largely verbal, and since communication through spoken and written language is so vital to the continuance of social reality, we shall discuss the major features of language and its culture content as introductory to the detailed analyses which follow in subsequent chapters.
The relation of language to thought is an old problem. Like many old problems, it is difficult and elusive. Marett remarks: "If language is ultimately a creation of the intellect, yet hardly less fundamentally is the intellect a creation of language." To prove this is extremely difficult, and we can not try here even to attempt it. Rather we shall show how language and thought are woven together and how in a discussion of social meanings — so important in understanding social behavior— this relation is highly significant. If we examine the evidences of the close interrelation of language and thought, we shall perceive at once how intimately language is bound up with social reality.
1. Language and Brain Mechanisms.— Thought and speech are closely linked. Speech depends decidedly upon the activity of the cerebral cortex, the last division of the central nervous system to develop. The speech centers of the brain are located in close proximity to the higher association areas. In fact the mastery of speech proceeds hand in hand with the development of the higher forms of anticipatory behavior. This means that basically speech is bound up with the capacity for discrimination, judgment, and concept formation which are so essential to thinking in the technical sense. The motor responses of the speech centers are connected with the vocal apparatus. Conditioning and integration in the higher centers ultimately depend upon the sensory impressions that reach them through the afferent neurons from the eyes, ears, and other receptor organs. Likewise the muscular and glandular responses which are set off from the
(400) higher areas are mediated through the effector neurons passing through the lower centers.
Through conditioning and integration, verbal habits are so built into each other that they constitute one of the most important parts of the response system of the personality. As we have already noted, speech is definitely bound up with social stimulation and the response to these stimuli. If, then, the very organization of the mechanism of language is built up by social stimuli and the corresponding response, and if the objects of the conditioning are social-cultural in nature, it follows that the content, the objects of association, will also be social-cultural. Hence the thought or language response connected with objects in experience must likewise be social-cultural in nature. We cannot ignore the fact that the essential situations which give rise to language development in the person are social and cultural. Even the experience with the material world is constantly influenced by the verbalized interpretations furnished us by other people.
There has been a long controversy in philosophy and psychology as to whether thought or language came first. Some writers, such as Max Müller, have held that thought is nothing but a form of inner speech. More recently, from quite another angle, Watson has come to much the same conclusion. For him, thought is nothing but sub-vocal speech. Some psychologists, however, object to Watson's view and maintain that thought is very distinct from its verbal expression. The latter view rests upon the ancient theory of a sharp separation of mind and body. Whether or not any scientific evidence can be mustered to support the older thesis of the duality of mind and body, is a metaphysical problem which need not concern us. In justice to the critics of the behavioristic view it must be said that probably all thought is not sub-vocal speech. Thought may take other forms of substitutive behavior, such as visual images, facial gestures, or kinesthetic movements of the hands. A geometric problem may be solved by incipient drawing movements in two- or three-dimensional space. But even here, no doubt, speech reactions enter into the total anticipatory activity.
Whatever may be said of the independence or identity of thought and language, in their development the two processes are intimately related. We can not consider the one apart from the other. And whenever communication of thought is involved, we are absolutely dependent upon some form of gesture or language. Any social intercourse which is not direct and overt depends upon incipient substitutive response.
2. Language and Symbolism.— It is at once obvious that language is a substitute for certain cruder and more complete overt bodily responses to objects in the environment. Language is linked to covert, internal, and less complete response. When a child grasps an apple and places it in his mouth, his entire organism is more or less integrated in the one activity. Nevertheless his control of apples is decidedly limited in the number he can reach and consume or otherwise dispose of in reference to himself. On the other hand, if the child does not have an apple and calls out the word "apple," the mother may give him the desired object. In this way the substitute response of saying the word "apple," eventually not only stands for the object, but gives the child power to control his social environment. This simple illustration indicates at the perceptual level of behavior both the advantage and the limitations of language reactions. So long as the expression "apple" is used in place of the total bodily response to secure the object, it is a very valuable tool, a splendid instrument for prying one's environment loose through others, and for turning it to one's own use. Yet if the word exists alone, out of context and without reference to the actual object, the mere remark "apple" is socially and personally of less and of different significance.
The important point for us to remember is that speech reactions are fundamentally substitutive reactions, symbolic in nature. They stand for or in place of responses of a more complete bodily sort. They serve the widest range of activities. Often it may be difficult to see how language has any relation whatsoever to overt physical, muscular-glandular action. Yet in the final test of language reactions, it must always be borne in mind that they come down to some sort of bodily reaction which has a wider reach than the language response itself. Even poetry leads to tears, to joy, to heroism. And the most abstract logic of the mathematician or scientist has for its final test its relation to physical or social movement in time and space. We adopt, therefore, the essential thesis that language is symbolic and instrumental in its meaning for the person.
To say that language is necessary for thinking is to say that signs are necessary. Thought deals not with bare things, but with their meanings, their suggestions . . . . Without meaning, things are nothing but blind stimuli or chance sources of pleasure and pain; and since meanings are not themselves tangible things; they must be anchored by attachment to some physical existence. Existences that are especially set aside to fixate and convey meanings are signs or
(402) symbols . . . . In the case of signs we care nothing for what they are in themselves, but everything for what they signify and represent.
Whatever our view of the relation of thought to language, certainly language is the tool of social intercourse out of which meaning is born.B. Language and Reality.
The relation of language to reality has long troubled philosophy. The most bitter controversy of the Middle Ages was over just this problem. Nominalists denied and realists affirmed the objective existence of concepts. We do not propose to go into the problem except to say that the symbolic nature of language, especially of conceptual language, led to a query as to whether concepts were anything but symbols, whether they had any substance whatsoever. For social behavior this question has little or no significance. When men act "as if" concepts had reality, and they always have done so, the differences between nominalism and realism become meaningless.
Men have always been interested in language forms. They have been so affected in their conduct by words and symbols that the social psychologist must take cognizance of the fact, not in terms of metaphysical entities, but in terms of the manner in which verbal concepts modify conduct. Although the major features of the subject will be treated in this chapter, throughout the balance of this volume the profound relationship of language to social meaning and social behavior will be apparent. We must at the outset re-examine the nature of the associative thinking which is intimately bound up with language mechanisms, because the whole of social reality is colored by this intimate conditioning of behavior to verbal concepts.
1. Dual Nature of Associative Thought.— The child's first speech reactions are largely efforts to learn words which stand for; or in place of, objects, situations, movements, and relationships of persons and things. So long as his speech reactions are confined to these simpler substitutive functions, he gets on satisfactorily with his fellows and with physical reality as conditioned by his fellows. Before lung he learns that words bring responses toward him. Even material objects are modified in relation to himself through the acts of other persons. All this enhances his use of words to control his total environment. With the rise of imagery-visual,
(403) auditory, and verbal— the child's whole response system is enlarged. Where once he was limited to rather gross bodily reactions, he now has a rich range of minor but pleasing activities which stand between objects and situations and his final, consummatory bodily responses. This introduces him into a substitutive, expanded world intervening between himself and the crasser, harder reality of direct contact and bodily response. This world depends largely on the field of anticipatory responses. Thus, if children are not able to find knives, forks, spoons, and plates to complete their playhouse materials, they make hastily torn pieces of paper serve as these objects. In the same way verbal responses very soon come to satisfy when the object of desire is no longer to be had. Just as the child dreams at night of the jam denied him in the day-time, so he day-dreams, and increasingly in verbal form, of things he wishes to do or to have when these are refused him. Although he may be weak and powerless in the presence of strength and authority, from day-dreams the child may derive a great sense of power. Freudians refer to this when they speak of the "omnipotence of thought," or, to put it more behavioristically, of the omnipotence of verbal substitutes for immediate reality. These verbal or other covert substitutes are commonly described as escapes from reality, but this description involves us in certain implications about the nature of reality. We believe that it is simpler to consider them an expansion and creation of total reality . With these verbal substitutes a good deal of pleasant emotional toning is generated. In spite of other people the self-feeling is enhanced. The child, denied freedom of action by his own father, imagines the real father to be some one else. He day-dreams of a good, all-powerful, and loving real parent who has left him but may return. He talks to and about this imagined parent. He may even confuse his fantasy and the social situations around him. Here are the beginnings of the fairy tale, for in the fairy story, dreams come true.
All the things we would have are found in fairy tales. We are in reality weak, but in the fairy, talc our heroes are strong and invincible. We arc limited in our activities and knowledge through time and space, but in fairy tales one lives forever and can be in a hundred places at once, see into the future and
( 404) know the past. Thus the fairy tale, as an art product, brings back to the adult the lost feeling of omnipotence.
a. Objective and Dereistic Thought.— The conditioning typified in learning to use the word "apple" in reference to the real object, and the entire range of associative thought in regard to actual situations and relations, we have denoted as objective, directive, logical thinking. There is a logic of overt response behind the association expressed in verbal terms, as when the child learns the names of plants and animals, of toys and tools, of persons and social situations. These verbal conditionings aid him in his adjustment to the world around him. As he grows older, these associations become more and more ordered by his formal training. Finally, in our culture, we have the experience of being introduced into the organized knowledge of our world which we call science. From this we reach into the whole range of technology in material culture. These associations, then, of words and actions together, we saw in Chapter VI, are called "true" or directive thinking. There is a reality of response in the fact that words lead to action. For example, the child discovers that a parent's threat to punish him leads finally to the application of the birch rod. So, too, the primitive man learns early that a spear cuts his flesh and hurts him. Essentially, these objects and situations are named according to what they can do to the individual himself. As the pragmatist puts it, the directive, objective associations "work."
On the other hand, the child learns that he can imagine playthings, or conjure up fairies or goblins who will help him in his struggle with adults, and from these associations he may derive almost as great pleasure as from actual power. This kind of associative thinking we called autistic, dereistic, or fantastic. These fantasy associations may influence overt responses just as profoundly as objective, logical associations.
As the power of imagination grows, language expands its control over physical and social reality. This associative relation follows in the wake of both objective and dereistic thinking. To the child the day-dream or the night-dream may be as realistic as any other experience. Certainly all of us can recall nightmares which were altogether too real. So, too, we may recall pleasant dreams which we regretted, when awakened, as having
( 405) been only dreams. With children and even with adults there is no sharp line distinguishing the day-dream, the fairy tale, the myth, the legend, from other more ordinary, every-day experiences. Many adults accept as true narratives and ideas which to others seem bizarre, if not pathological. Often parents are confused by the tales which their children tell of weird and strange experiences. To the child they are real enough. Frequently the parents call these narratives "lies." They may punish the child or subject him to such ridicule that he hesitates to tell any more of his fantasies. Such social censorship of his fantasies does not mean that the child ceases to have them, but means simply that he expresses them internally and only to himself. Since the bulk of these fancied experiences, these half-real occurrences, are couched in language terms, it follows that the language expression becomes tied up most intimately with these fantasies. Language becomes inseparable from them. In more extreme cases a secret language may be invented to hide the real nature of the daydreams.
b. The Dual Nature of Anticipatory Associative Thought Common to All.— It is not to be imagined that, in one clearly marked division, we have abnormal, psychopathic sorts of thinking and language, and, in another division, distinctly logical, objective types. Rather our entire thought ranges from the extreme of dereistic thinking seen in the dementia praecox or schizophrenic personality to the other extreme seen in the fields of exact science and mathematical logic. The former is surcharged with emotion, with personal, egocentric wishes fulfilled by associative thought pleasing to the person. It is subjective and often meaningless to others. The other form is cold, deliberate, impersonal, non-egocentric and apparently quite detached from personal wishes of any kind. As a matter of fact, most of us, children and adults, primitive or modern, live at all times in varied states of anticipatory responses ranging from one extreme to the other. The very make-up of social reality is woven out of the content of both objective and autistic associations. The differences here really lie in the variations in content and meaning rather than in any profound divergences in the mechanism of association and integration. Perhaps the emotions and egocentric feelings play a larger part in the one than in the other, but it is only a matter of degree. Accept the premises, that is, the interpretative meaning, of the schizoid paranoiac, and almost inevitably we grant the correctness of his suspicions of the plots of other people to undo him. Grant
( 406) the beliefs and premises of the spiritualist, and we can scarcely assail the soundness of his conclusions.
By a series of concrete instances we can illustrate in the range of associations, from autistic to objective, the various points from which people make up their anticipatory responses. As we know, overt activity depends upon these covert beginnings. The schizophrenic patient in the hospital may construct for himself a world of fancy so pleasant, so satisfying, that he needs no one else to help him. So likewise whole groups of normal people have areas in their thinking and acting which are different only in degree from this extreme.
One of the commonest types of dereistic association, and one which exposes the confusion of language with reality, is seen in the following word plays of a dementia praecox patient:
Ho-spit-al . . . . Ho means Hello, spit-all, because all here spit the devil out of them, the spit means just to throw it off.
Here we have an association of names with new meanings, significant only for the patient. The following examples illustrate the sort of things seen not only in schizophrenics but also among children who confuse the word with the reality:
William . . . Will-I-Am. Every person bearing this name contains a portion of the "direct will of God."
Buonaparte, i. e., born apart. (Patient identified himself in part with this personage.) <
A child asked if a Mr. Strong was strong physically. Another did not like a man named Stohl because of the sound association with stealing. Many people object to names because they suggest unpleasant ideas. Puns have much in common with this same sort of mental association. In this same category are those interesting associations of sound combinations found in nonsense rhymes, phrases in popular songs, and in slang, carrying no precise meaning but giving us pleasant emotional-feeling tone. The following remarks by a hebephrenic known to the writer are a type of stereotyped dereistic expressions much like the braggadocio of the small boy:
The patient was asked, "What is your full name?" He replied: "Rebel, amber, emerald, American Golden King, ruler of the world, U. S. A., Uncle Sam, Maurice Farrington." Asked what he meant by "rebel and amber," he answered that it meant "higher than God." "I'm the fourth God myself!" The other three Gods were, first, God, then Jesus Christ, then Daniel Farrington (his father), and then himself. "I'm also Ku Klux Klan leader. One night they appointed me. I paid my fee of $100,000."
We recognize this sort of thing, of course, in the more extreme case. We have no difficulty in detecting the extent to which such individuals have perverted words and their associations in their feeble attempts to reconstruct reality in their own introverted, selfish, and satisfying patterns. And yet, as we shall see, this is not so markedly different in character from some of the ritualistic, magical thinking that pervades every-day life. This boy, twenty-two years of age, built up an entire delusional system that occupied his time and imagination to the exclusion of ordinary social relationships. He lost contact with the external social world and consumed himself in this monotonous round of autisms. It is only in this sense that we speak of such cases as pathological, meaning thereby that the patient has reached such a degree of divergence from the average socialized personality as to need medical attention and protection. Modern psychiatry does not sharply distinguish between the pathological and the normal. It is only a matter of degree. It is social consensus of opinion and behavior that marks us off from the patients whom we confine in mental hospitals. The patients' conception of social reality, their range of meanings in words, differs from our own, but their behavior mechanisms are not different except in the types of objects or internal content to which they respond.
The following case illustrates very well the sort of pathological behavior which, if at times slightly less violent, might pass unnoticed in our society, or which, if only slightly less divergent, at an earlier date might have been accepted as socially significant. If Queen Anna, as she called herself, had had a clever publicity agent and a good campaign manager, she might have started a new religion, for others not markedly different have done lo. In adolescence Queen Anna developed all intense interest in religion. The growth of her system of delusions was gradual. For years she taught school and mingled in social life without undue difficulties. Today, at the age of seventy, she has for more than a generation had a relatively fixed
(408) system in the form of declarations that she is the Church Queen, the Fourth member of the
God-head sent on earth to bring about the final salvation of the world and the triumph of the
church of Christ. Frequently her exposition takes the form of doggerel of which the following
stanzas are samples:
Soon will all nations,
Right here convene
To crown the Queen.
— — — — — —
It has been the plan of ages
To bring forth this Queen of Sages
To recite Supreme Judgment Pages.
— — — — — —
This is the Queen of Exposition.
She's always in the right position.
This is the Queen of Golden Diction
Whose acute pen oft kindles friction.
— — — — — —
Queen of Wisdom,
Queen of Wit;
Sharp Her arrows
And they hit.
This is followed by stereotyped prose selections. These productions are written in red ink, with frequent capitalization. They are addressed to the superintendent, the board of directors, the attending physicians, or chance callers whose address she may secure. The royal insignia, consisting of five maltese crosses arranged as a larger cross, always attest the validity of the documents. Her costumes are elaborate, and decorated with intricate tatting which she herself does. She is allowed to wear a crown and she acts the part of the church queen who dwells, as she says, "among lunatics" while she "triumphs over politics." The accompanying prose selections from one of these documents are typical. We can note the recurrent autistic forms:4 is Our Almighty Supremacy Seal Number, and signifies the Almighty Wedded Supremacy of God the Holy Trinity and Their Almighty Bridal Queen, the Church Queen,
Royal 4 was set upon Our Declaration of American Independence. This land was predestined to become the native land of the Church Queen, Goddess Anna.
We decreed to set Our Almighty Seal Number 4, upon the independence of the Church Queen's native land, July 4, 1776.We also decreed to set our Almighty Supremacy Number Seal Royal Four, upon the Government of the Church Queen's native land, as follows:—
We decreed that United States Presidents should be elected to serve for four years, only, at each election. We also decreed that Presidents of the Church Queen's native land should be inducted into office on the fourth day of March, that month being revered by angel hosts as the Immaculate Conception Month of King Jesus and Queen Anna, nine months before nativity.
There follows a mass of other materials showing the association of four with her delusional system. Under the domination of this deep-rooted mental set or Aufgabe she has built herself an enormous dereistic structure.
While Queen Anna is under the care of the state because of occasional violence, she is not essentially different from many popular leaders in religion, politics, economics, and such social groupings as the magical Ku Klux Klan. For instance, here is a religious tract in common circulation:
SUN OF GOD
"The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."— John 5:25.
The sun is the source of all life and all motion; all of the energy on earth comes from the sun. The Son of God is the Sun of God.
This is modern science and ancient scripture. In the very last book of the Bible gods come down from the sun. The sunphone connects your sun with the sun. You are a sun of God.Modern science says that sunspots are regular periods, about every eleven years, of the rising and falling of tides on the surface of the sun. We are now in the middle of a regular period which will reach its peak in 1928. The next regular period will begin about 1929 or 1930. This is not speculation; it is established science.
The sun is double, male and female. The feminine sun is cool, her brilliance is dimmed and she is kept at such a distance by the male sun that she is hardly discernible. This is up-to-date science and good scripture; the spiritual feminine sun is the inner sun where the dead are now living.
Sunphone treatments, given by either of US, will help you into your own sun, the light of your own divinity.The next is from a book presenting a curious theory of spiritualism:
The breaking down of the rapport between the conceiving personality and the concept-copies of the precipient, owned by the subjective concepts, permits
(410) the intelligences of the concepts to assume control of themselves, instead of being controlled by the precipient, through the concept-copies of him owned by his concepts of humans 
Written by a patient in a hospital, this would be considered valid evidence of a confused mind but there are several hundred pages of this stuff in a serious book. Discussing the relation of meaning to language, James gave the following excerpt from a book entitled Substantialism or Philosophy of Knowledge (1878):
The flow of the efferent fluids of all these vessels from their outlets at the terminal loop of each culminate link on the surface of the nuclear organism is continuous as their respective atmospheric fruitage up to the attitudinal limit of their expansibility, whence, when atmosphered by like coalescing essences from higher altitudes— those sensibly expressed as the essential qualities of external forms— they descend and become assimilated by the afferents of the nuclear organism.There are 784 pages of this kind of material.
One of the favorite occupations of people who see in the Bible a clue to the whole of human history, is to attempt to explain historical events and facts by reference to alleged prophecies in the Bible. Some time ago there appeared a tract in religion which purported to show that the papal system of the Roman Catholic Church was the beast referred to in the Book of the Revelations. This indicates well the relation of symbolism to autistic thinking. Furthermore, it shows how groups of persons conceive the reality of other groups with whom they come into conflict. The article first quotes Revelations 13: 18 as follows:"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man and his number is Six Hundred Three Score and Six."
The words "Vicar of the Son of God" which are inscribed on the crown of the Roman Pope are in Latin "VICARIVS FILII DEL" Recall that in the Roman numeral system I cquals 1; V cquals 5; I_, 5o; C, 100; Ti, 500. Thus, in VICARIVS FILM DEI we find the following number combination:
6 "I's" 6
2 "V's" 10
1 "L" 50
1 "C" 100
Therefore, the total 666 gives one the number of the beast spoken of in the passage above. This is considered seriously to be proof that the Pope represents the beast.
If this sort of thing were produced by a child in play, we might consider it amusing; if produced by a dementia praecox patient, we would put it down as pathological. Yet when thousands of people believe and act upon this sort of interpretation of chance passages in ancient writings, torn out of their context, and certainly at best obscure, the whole problem of verbal meaning and its relationship to social reality takes on another hue. To the materialistically minded such concepts are nonsense; to the "faithful" they mean everything. To the man of science the revelations of Joseph Smith, like the visions of John Bunyan, are the products of diseased minds. But the man of science may well remember that Sir Isaac Newton loved to juggle with the meaning of Biblical prophecies. To a student of social psychology, these phenomena are significant because they indicate not only how one man conceives his world, but how thousands of others are led by training and exposure to culture patterns built on such concepts. Men operate in worlds laid down by meanings.
Primitive and modern magic illustrates the same thing. For man primitive peoples, the universe is composed of benign and malevolent spiritual powers whose business it is to aid or discomfit them. From our cultural standpoint the untrained mind of the savage often has associations which we should consider absurd if not pathological. If an enemy has made away with one's material goods or one's wife, one goes to a wizard or medicine man and by paying a fee secures a service which will bring disaster to the enemy. The medicine man makes a clay effigy of the enemy. If the injured man possesses hair, nail Clippings, or bits of clothing of the enemy, they are used in making the effigy. Then the wizard repeats a spell over the effigy, pierces it with pins or knives, or burns it. This ritual is sufficient to produce the death of the enemy. Here is a Malay magical charm:
Take parings of nails, eyebrows, spittle, and so forth of your intended victim, enough to represent every part of his person, and then make them up into his likeness with wax from a deserted bees' comb. Scorch the figure slowly by holding it over a lamp every night for seven nights, and say:"It is not wax that I am scorching,
It is the liver, heart, and spleen of So-and-So that I scorch."
After the seventh time burn the figure, and your victim will die.The whole basis of superstitions still common in our society rests upon associations of autistic character. In much of this superstition the magical use of words plays a part. As Marett remarks, the spell is one of the most important features of the whole magic-religious ritual. The magical operations will fail if there is the slightest deviation from the precise use of the verbal formula. This sacredness of words is as evident in modern lodge and church ritualism as it is in the ritualism of primitives. Yet our own rituals and our own language seem so natural that we do not recognize their dereistic character.
Tharauds' The Shadow of the Cross shows how the Jewish child is led to worship ancient Hebrew as a sacred language:
What Christian can understand the deep significance that there is for a Jew in the process of learning to read [Hebrew]? For the child of Israel, learning to read means casting away like a worn-out garment the old every-day language, the dear familiar Yiddish, made up of all the dialects of the world and words borrowed from every nation among whom the Israelites have journeyed during their tribulations; it means learning to speak as King David and King Solomon spoke in the ancient days of glory; it means learning the sacred language in which the Master of the world gave the Law to Moses, a language of which each syllable was actually formed by the breath of God, a language of which the slightest sound has power to shake the foundations of the earth. Learning to read is to pray.
So, too, the Jewish boy in this community is taught a belief in the actual power of words and symbolic numbers:
He learned that mysterious numbers rule the destinies of men; that the number three brings happiness and the number nine misfortune, as is proved by all Jewish catastrophies, which happen invariably on the ninth of the month; that the figure seven is neutral, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and that the
lot of mortals changes every seventh year; that the Christians are abandoned, to heathen worship and adore three gods at once, a dove, a man and a lamb, and that one ought to turn away one's face when one passes a church.
To show the magic in numbers we have only to recall the curious superstitions still current about seating thirteen at a dinner table or lighting three cigarettes from the same match. Gamblers have notorious superstitions about lucky and unlucky numbers.
The language of secret societies, their phrases and numerals, are distinct evidence of dereistic thinking in which emotional fervor and the sense of power of symbols are apparent. Just as the small boy uses the largest words he can to impress his fellows, so a man may employ in anger the words "Hell," "Damn," "God," and the like, not because he believes in divine beings, in hell, or in the system of exorcism, but because, after all, these are doubtless the most powerful words he knows. Such words carry unconsciously a sense of power. Early associations probably have a rôle here. The adult who has completely lost his religious and theological interests still vaguely associates these words with events, and this association comes into play when in fear or anger he is temporarily thrown off his normal course of behavior. In like manner the grandiloquent titles of officers and functions in lodges and secret orders give clear evidence of this curious primitive association of word and thing which still pervades our social life and delimits the social reality about us. A letter from the former head of the Ku Klux Klan announcing to his followers the appointment of Mary Elizabeth Taylor as his "Grand Chief of Staff" shows very well the place of magnificant words in the mystery and solemnity which the Klan always throws about itself:
To all Genii, Grand Dragons and Hydras of Realms, Grand Goblins and Kleagles of Domains, Grand Titans and Furies of Provinces, Giants, Exalted Cyclops and Terrors of Klantons, and to all Citizens of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan— in the name of our valiant, venerated Dead, I affectionately greet you . . . . [Then follows the message]
Done in the Aulic of his Majesty. Imperial Wizard. Emperor of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, in the Imperial City of Atlant, Commonwealth of Georgia, United States of America, on this the ninth day of the
(414) year of our Lord, 1921, and on the Dreadful Day of the Weeping Week of the Mournful Month of the Year of the Klan LV.
Duly signed and sealed by his Majesty
(Signed) WILLIAM JOSEPH SIMMONS
This is not very different from Farrington's expression of his own greatness in terms of Rebel, Amber, God, etc., which we have already discussed. The associations brought out by these words are quite apparent: Genii, Grand Dragons, Grand Goblins, Hydras, Furies, Exalted Cyclops, and even Terrors and all the infantile wishes seen in the world's fairy stories. "Majesty," "Imperial Wizard," "Invisible Empire" obviously imply mystery and aristocratic superiority. For thousands of men of ordinary humdrum lives, for men living in a mechanical age, proud of their material civilization with its power over physical forces and its comforts— bathtubs, automobiles, airplanes, and radios— these words and associations are very satisfying. This is not a mere reflection of the lack of higher education, for many members of the Klan are men of real intelligence and considerable education. Rather it indicates an ever-recurring part of our culture, which we have forgotten or ignored in our preoccupation with material things and in our boasting of great progress over other races and of our civilization.
For the psychopathic, reality is rather restricted in area, and is so divergent from our own reality that we lock up such patients for safety. Yet when millions of people fall into the habits of thought and action seen in secret societies, and worship words, we can hardly denote any behavior as essentially psychopathic or abnormal unless we redefine our terms. The whole notion of social reality is decided by common consensus and mutual participation. We must recognize that men and women, children or adults, all live more or less in a world of fancy, of day-dreams, in a "never-never land" which is tremendously satisfying to them. This world of fancy exists side by side with a world of mechanical devices of the most complex sort, a world of Einsteinian relativity, differential calculus, insulin, the germ theory of disease, and the wonders of television, rapid communication, and all the rest of our material culture. Probably the very drabness of the daily life of many persons gives added zest to the donning of white robes with red crosses, and to secret hand-clasps, and mystical purposes of a Pure, White America, freed of the Demon Rum, Negroes, and
( 415) Foreigners. In his excellent picture of the contemporary American scene Merz says:
Here is John Jones, a plain bank-teller of 211 E. Fourth Street, almost anywhere. But here also is John Jones, on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 to II, a Sir Knight Errant of the Mystic Order of Granada. It is characteristic of secret orders that the names they bear are high-spirited and resounding, on a plane above the routine affairs of daily living. The Shriners are not simply Shriners; they are members of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The Grottos are not simply Grottos; they are members of the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm.
There are many other "Mystic" orders. There are many "Illustrious" orders, many "Imperial" orders, many "Exalted" orders. Frequently there are orders which are several of these at once. On the heels of the Illustrious and Exalted Order of Crusaders comes the Imperial and Illustrious Order of the Mystic and Exalted Cross. These are good objectives and possibly by this time some five million Americans have identified themselves with at least one of them. Possibly five million more Americans have identified themselves with two other adjectives which prefix the names of at least fifty thriving orders. These two are "Royal" and "Ancient" and the popularity of each is understandable in a nation which has neither a royalty nor antiquity, but a vicarious enthusiasm for them both.
To live in a modern world and be an ancient; to live in a humdrum world and be a knight; to live in a gabby world and have a secret— all this is possible. It is the essence of fraternalism that it does its best to make it possible. An illustrious name is only a beginning. When the password is given and the inner door swings back, it is upon a world as different from the world outside as ingenuity can make it.
No mere Presiding Officer sits upon the dais; we live in a democracy, but if there is one important secret order which has chosen to pattern itself on the Republic, and call its presiding officer a President, the name of that society is not on record. On the dais sits a Monarch or a Master, a Supreme Seignior, an Illustrous Potentate, a Grand Illuminator or a Maharajah. No secretary is a secretary in this world of dreams come true: he is a Thrice Illustrous Scribe No treasurer is a treasurer: he is an August Keeper of the Strongbox. No citizen is a citizen: he is a knight, a monk, a priest, a dervish, or an ogre .
These high-sounding, mystical, impressive names and phrases make up a reality for us which is vital and alive. The use of capital letters adds weight to the emotions which the phrases set up. As Metz notes, the appeal of all this to a population in a political democracy is but a revelation of
(416) the deep-seated desire in all of us, commoners that we are, for prestige, for the shining armor of fancy names and magisterial duties. For, in a democracy we have Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, an Imperial City in a democratic commonwealth of Georgia, and an Imperial Wizard over an Invisible Empire.
Those well-intentioned intellectuals who imagine this to be mere froth and of no real consequence in a well-organized, rational society suffer from a belated eighteenth-century rationalism. They do not reckon with the emotions and feelings of man which are closely tied to his ego-expression and hence lie nearer to him than anything else in the world. In our treatment of myths and legends, prejudice, public opinion, and crowd behavior we shall have occasion to refer again to this tremendous hold of emotionalized words over people. To fail to realize that this is part and parcel of our culture, of our social reality, is to fall into the egregious error of those who imagine man to be a rational, deliberate fellow in his social life; it is to fall into the error of those who imagine there is a long stretch between the primitive man described in anthropological treatises or current fiction and ourselves who live in apartment houses and possess radios, drive motor cars, and play golf.
In still another dimension of our daily life the dereistic use of language is common. In theological discussions, in the daily press, and in the public forum, hundreds of stereotyped expressions, such as "Atheist," "Sinner," "Bolshevik," "pacifist," "Butter and Egg man," "flapper," etc.— , etc., are used with no careful definitions of situation or person. As James once remarked:
If words do belong to the same vocabulary and if the grammatical structure is correct, sentences with absolutely no meaning may be uttered in good faith and pass unchallenged. Discourses at prayer-meetings, re-shuffling the same collection of cant phrases, and the whole genus of penny-a-line-isms and the newspaper-reporter's flourishes give illustrations of this.
We shall discuss this more fully in the chapters on public opinion. Here it is sufficient to point out that in political campaigns, in drives for philanthropy, in dozens of social situations, words and phrases are employed which carry much emotional toning but little definite meaning. Yet this
(417) very vagueness is part and parcel of the social reality which they express. During the campaign of 1928 a small weekly paper in the Middle West carried a series of items about "The Menace of Al(cohol) Smith." And a cartoon of the same summer had this as a defense of one candidate rather than another:
HOOVER — H2O
We can find further examples in another field. It is evident that language serves as a valuable short-cut between events and meanings. Still it may soon degenerate into an easy way of giving something a name and fool us into thinking that the ever-present puzzle of cause and effect has been solved. Henry Adams once remarked that the Law of Natural Selection in biology was an explanation which somehow did not explain. Nowhere more than in the social sciences and philosophy do we find this tendency to verbal explanations. As Stuart Chase comments on the shorthand of language:
Thus it is easier to say "the public" than to give a census enumeration beginning with Mr. Aaron. But when we go further and come to use the word "public" in a trilogy with the words "capital" and "labor"— as is the habit with all our best minds today— it is to drain it of all sense and meaning. Consider the mutilations of such short-hand words as "democracy," "liberty," "morality," "free speech," "individualism," "human nature," "spiritual," "the Anglo-Saxon race," "the consumer," "metaphysical," "Wall Street." Carefully circumscribed these words often have a function, but hurled around as is their wont in the human sciences, they tend to reduce any honest truth-seeker to insanity.Hobson points out how analogies and metaphors influence thinking in the social sciences. This employment of analogy and metaphor is clearly related to dereistic associations. He remarks:
Common thought and action influence and direct social sciences in another and subtler fashion. All thinking of an abstract order involves the employment of words in a metaphorical sense. The nature of the metaphors employed depends upon the dominant trend of the interests and activities of the common people. The very atmosphere in which social problems are conceived and presented will be saturated with the feelings and thought-processes of this com-
(418)-mon life. Thus, quite independently of the subservience to close practical utilities often forced upon the sciences, there will be this strong tendency of the "disinterested" science to take on the coloring of the activities prevalent in the society where it operates.
This is illustrated by the fact that earlier people believed the State of divine origin; later it was likened to a ship and sailing; later its description was affected by organic and still later by mechanistic concepts. In short, not only are the types of problems of social science affected by dominant practical concern, but the very working concepts and their interpretations are also influenced by analogies drawn from other sciences.
The social sciences are under the spell of semi-autistic terminology partly because our whole conception of social reality is colored by emotional and feeling reactions. We can hardly expect the mass of people to become objective. We may look for a continuation of dereistic thinking so long as emotions and feelings are dominant. The hope of the ultimate emancipation of the social sciences lies in the possibility of developing a set of concepts of social reality which will be definite, consistent, and logically universal. Whether future generations will permit such an ideal to be made practical is a problem which need not concern us here.
In the natural sciences and in mathematical logic the experts have advanced farthest from dereistic associations and dereistic language. The symbolism of logic and of physics or chemistry is stripped of personal, subjective elements. The symbols are universal and objective for all' who know how to employ them. Thus the sign for integration means the same for all scholars familiar with the calculus, and the formula for rate of a falling body is applicable everywhere within the framework of Newtonian physics. Yet individuals using even the symbols of exact science may become emotionally enamored of them. The statistician who announces a new formula may be personally so bound up with his techniques that he fails to see the limitations of his formula, or may attempt to apply it to data where it does not fit. In truth, the fascination of numbers has often been the source of confusion as swell as light in science. The check in science, however, is the possibility of verification by other men who duplicate the exact conditions of the experiment. Hence the final arbiter of objective
(419) reality is the impersonal, non-emotional correlation of phases of reality expressed in symbols universally agreed upon. Men attain to the level of scientific objectivity only in specialized interests. Most of the world's scholars, outside their own fields, are as full of dereistic, emotional associations and expressions as other people. Only an occasional genius can compass objectively the natural sciences. It is very doubtful if any of them ever has grasped or can grasp the whole range of social experience with like objectivity. A man can be objective, at best, only about a very small area of life, and only for a limited period of time each day. His life otherwise is made up of a type of anticipatory associations of phenomena and a range of conduct which lie between objectivity, at one extreme, and the subjectivity of fantasy, at the other. There have been notable scientists who were distinct mystics. Scientific objectivity represents, in truth, a very specialized and selected manner of viewing reality and does not encompass large areas of daily life. The applications of science have so greatly modified our material civilization, that modern man is considered much more objective than primitive man. Still when we observe the mystical attitudes of the ordinary man toward material progress, and especially when we observe the downright primitive worship of the technology and science which produce material changes, we wonder if the masses of mankind simply do not substitute one kind of magic for another. In his delightful book The Mighty Medicine (1929), Giddings shows how the fetish of education still lingers, how superstitions and magical practices persist in our own day. Whether in social conduct we can accomplish alterations in reaction analogous to the alterations accomplished in the material world, remains to be seen. In the meantime it is imperative at least to recognize the wide extent of dereistic thinking and acting in social life. To shut our eyes to this fact is itself a confession of failure to view social reality in all of its ramifications. Even in the exact sciences the verbal conceptions or hypotheses constitute the frame of reference within which the scientist works. When the physicist becomes an absolutist, a dogmatist, he has already slipped into a frame of mind where the worship of words and theories obscures further advances.
We do find workers in science who believe so firmly and dogmatically in scientific hypotheses and theories that they are not to be distinguished from the religions in their devotions . . . . At this level we find Lord Kelvin rudely refusing to have explained to him theories inimical to his conclusions, Sir Oliver
( 420) Lodge satirizing modern relativity sneeringly rather than examining it scientifically.
Many people who essay to apply science, and who glibly talk in scientific jargon, substitute sacred words for a really precise understanding. Thus "relativity," "quanta," "colloids" are applied to physical-chemical phenomena; "genes," "gradients," and "vitamins" to biological phenomena; and "inferiority complex," "libido," or "I. Q." to psychological phenomena. Once more we confuse veneration of language with genuine understanding.
To conclude this section, we may say that social reality is dominated in part by dereistic associative thinking. Language plays an enormous part in delimiting this same reality for us. Phrases, words, and entire series of concepts determine in large measure the levels of our behavior, and they belong essentially to the culture behind us. No one of us is born with a superhuman capacity to conceive a world afresh. We customarily accept as valid the social reality implicit in the culture patterns which we find about us, and seldom do we consciously attempt to change patterns which have been built up in long generations. In the material world our concepts have changed rather rapidly, but in the world of social behavior alterations have come slowly.C. Language and Culture Norms.
1. Language and Technological Knowledge.— In language, especially in the "stored symbols" of books and other writing, we have the heart of modern science and technology. Even among primitive peoples who have no written language and no science, there exists a great store of verbalized information on fishing, hunting, weaving, weapon-making, and so on through the whole range of material culture. These techniques are carried from one generation to another, not only through direct manual learning, but through speech. The verbal lore of the tribe concerns material culture as well as non-material. So today, although the science and engineering which have so profoundly altered our material word, are based on instruments of precise measurement and the use of novel materials, nevertheless there is a counterpart of all these in language concepts. Without the means of preserving their methods and concepts in language form modern sci-
(421) -ence and technology would be hopelessly crippled. Even more significant, of course, is the straight, objective, impersonal thought which has been developed with experimentation, so that the natural material world can be brought under man's control more and more effectively. In place of magic and common sense we have organized science as an aid in getting on in the world of material things. As we know, this is the area where objective thinking has gone the farthest. The cultural counterparts of objective thinking are found not only in the instruments and machines important for science and engineering, but also in the concepts which are communicated through language with the exactitude of mathematics wherever possible.
2. Language and Non-Moral Folkways.— So, too, the non-moral folkways— the conventions of fashion, manners, and social intercourse— are carried from person to person in language terms. What is polite, what is being worn, what is the thing to say or do, is thus communicated. The folkways pass more or less unconsciously from person to person through oral expression. Thus the children of a family are instructed in table manners, in methods of social address, and in all of the social amenities. The very vocabulary of polite society becomes a means of determining social status. Today, with our self-consciousness of culture, we even produce books on etiquette for those not to the manner born. Thus we even codify our manners, just as we communicate our dress styles, in part through language.
With the enormous increase in communication, moreover, we have a widespread standardization of phrase and meaning which we have not had before. It is illustrated in advertising and fashion in the phrases: "Eventually, why not now?" "It's time to re-tire," "Ask the man who owns one." We see the rapid spread of catch phrases, such as "jazz age," which express our current ideas, and the great amount of autism, such as "hitchy kitchy coo" in popular songs. Through it all language becomes inseparable from the behavior of people. As philologists have long known, we may easily study the mutations of folkways and social behavior through a study of language content.
3. Language and the Moral Definitions of Situations.— Nowhere is the importance of language more apparent than in the standardization and communication of the moral codes of the group: family, gang, neighborhood, lodge, community, religious sect, or nation. The mores are carried
(422) in the definitions of situations. These consist largely of phrases, words, and verbalized codes pertaining to conduct. They have been built up largely out of situations defined in crises in the past. Subsequently these same definitions may be carried over into similar or even dissimilar situations. Such words as "scab" in the labor market, "boycott," "lockout," and others, represent a language delimitation of conflict situations between laborers and employers. Words like "whore" and "bastard" define persons who do not fit the conventional codes of morality. "Adultery," "fornication," and like terms, define other situations dealt with by the group. And "thief," "burglar," "arson," "criminal" and ` traitor" indicate still other situations where group pressures are applied. Even the word "delinquent" applied to juvenile offenders has come to carry unsavory meanings.
Among more primitive peoples and even in modern communities in certain wide areas of social conduct, the codes are carried from person to person in verbal form. The place of gossip of the village face-to-face sort, and also in its modern form of pamphlet, newspaper, and radio, is self-evident. The Mrs. Grundys of our society carry the codes with them in their verbal activities. The preachers in their sermons and the village elders around the store or post-office do the same thing. And the terms they apply to persons and situations off color are brought down to them from the past and applied to present difficulties. For example, the codes of conduct of an elementary or high school teacher are determined by the standards of the community. Infractions are commonly talked about, and if the teacher does not openly conform in conduct, he is likely to be removed from his position. A student reports the following illustrative incident:
Miss X and I were teachers in the A high school. The community had very definite notions about what teachers should do and especially what they should not do. There were few opportunities for social life in the town for young people. No school dances were permitted high school boys and girls, and public dances were taboo. This girl and I had ambitions — to go on to college for further work and were .both taking a French course by correspondence from the state university. We decided to do some studying together. On two occasions on Sunday afternoons we took our books and walked down the railroad tracks to the edge of town and sat down in one of the few shady spots in that region to study and talk. The gossips were soon at work and it was not long until the principal of .the school and the president of the board of education warned us that it was not proper for the teachers to be seen together. It would set a bad example to the students. The imaginative ladies of the community were soon
( 423) ready to announce our engagement. The more elaborately minded even extended the myth into realms of intimate relations which existed only in their own immoral imaginations.
The little child learns a host of words about situations which define for him his conduct and thinking in reference to them. This is "naughty," that is "nice" and "proper." Some expressions are immoral, others highly commended. Most social situations tend to be defined in negative terms, and with these terms are associated emotions of fear of authority. The very lack of positive terminology is prima facie evidence of the nature of taboos. They consist of inhibition patterns laid down in the rising generation by those in authority. As we saw in Chapter II, failure to conform to them meets with ridicule, punishment, or other means of enforcing obedience.
It is in the legal codes that the use of highly formalized language is most obvious. In criminal law moral conduct is delimited by the political state. Adultery, fornication, theft, felony, larceny, desertion, divorce, marriage, and other situations are dealt with both by statute and common law and by precedents of court decisions. The Anglo-American common law is a continuation of earlier Anglo-Saxon mores. Likewise in the law of persons, in the law of torts, of contracts and of equity, human relations are defined in relatively definite ways. Here the logic, or illogic, of experience is put into form for universal guidance of behavior. In times of crises like the present, new behavior patterns arise in the economic and political field, on the one hand, and in the field of more personal relations, as of the sexes, on the other. As a result the legal codes are not in harmony with current practices in the community. Court decisions, interpretations, or actual modification of the statutes themselves then gradually change the legal code. The rise of codes regulating public utility corporations is an instance of this from the economic field. In human relations the newer developments seen in the juvenile courts, in courts of domestic relations, in children's codes and welfare legislation, are other alterations which modern life has brought about.
Still, whether in the unwritten more , or in the legal codes, the social situations into which people get are described and delimited in language terms. In the law, moreover, an attempt is made to make these terms more rational and deliberate than are the unconscious and somewhat haphazard unwritten mores. It may be said parenthetically that in spite of some incon-
( 424) -sistencies the unwritten mores often represent the true tenor of the community codes.
4. Language and Definition of Social Status.— Not only are manners, fashions, and moral codes delimited in language terms, but social status is also so defined. The whole of in-group— out-group relationships and of social class lines are indicated in terms which set apart these groups. The expression, "He is not in my class," bespeaks superiority, on the one side, and subordination, on the other. The use of badges, insignia, and other marks of distinction is a mere extension of this. The letter men of a university are a group apart. Though they lack much real solidarity, the honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, possess something of fellowship denoted by their keys. In more highly integrated social groups these distinctions are of great moment. As we noted, fraternal orders are full of such distinctions. The various degrees of an order, the language of the various rituals, the wearing of pins, rings, and watch charms, all speak of class lines. In aristocratic societies this extends to all sorts of honorary orders. Even democracies do not seem to be able to escape these marks of differentiation. In our own day we see crosses or badges of distinction given for meritorious services, we observe the codes of trade unions and of employers' associations. Social distinctions in religious groups inevitably follow ritualism and ecclesiastical hierarchies.
We may say, then, that the whole cast of thought is intimately related to the form and content of language. How a person will think and act in most situations can be determined by a knowledge of the codes of his group. True, behavior varies with group participation, but so do the codes. Really, a consideration of the subject carries us beyond the field of the non-moral folkways, the mores properly speaking, and the techniques of material culture. The whole method of thought, of conceiving the world in which we live, is very largely, if not entirely, fixed for us in our language patterns. We may even contend with a considerable degree of probability that the forms of our thought— whether emotional and subjective or impersonal and scientific— are actually the outcome of habits instilled in us by social groups who initiate us into Systems of language reflecting their culture. As we learn more about primitive peoples, we are struck by the power of magical forms of thought on the entire culture of a people. So, too, an Oriental mystic is amazed at the effects of science and material culture upon the thinking and acting of Western peoples. Kinglake makes the
( 425) following observation of the effect of magical thinking upon the Occidental who comes into a differently organized environment:
[In the East] you might as well dispute the efficacy of grass or grain as of magic. There is no controversy about the matter. The effect of this, the unanimous belief of an ignorant people, upon the mind of a stranger is extremely curious and well worth noticing. The man coming freshly from Europe is at first proof against the nonsense with which he is assailed, but often it happens that after a little while the social atmosphere in which he lives will begin to infect him, and if he has been unaccustomed to the cunning of fence by which Reason prepares the means of guarding herself against Fallacy, he will yield himself at last to the faith of those around him, and this he will do by sympathy, it would seem, rather than conviction. I have been much interested in observing that the mere "practical man," however skillful and shrewd in his own way, has not the kind of power that will enable him to resist the gradual impressions made upon his mind by the common opinion of those whom he sees and hears from day to day.This uncritical attitude, this scientifically untrained mind, is the basis for the easy assumption of the practical man that the magic he sees in the Orient or Africa has objective basis. As a matter of fact, our own society is shot through and through with a kind of mysticism and magic of materialism— but we do not recognize it as such. The whole point is that language and forms of thought furnish the atmosphere of social behavior. They constitute the essence of social reality. Ordinarily we are no more aware of this atmosphere than we are aware of the air we breath. We stress this point at some risk of repetition because through much of this volume, we evidence how subtly and yet profoundly the very form, and the content and meaning, of language give a clue to the behavior of men in groups which no acquaintance with the mere mechanics of stimulus and response would ever afford.
A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter XVI, nos. 116-117, pp 449-58. Cf. also, Chapters XX, no. 157, pp. 572-74, and XXII, no. 174, pp. 647-48.B. Questions and Exercises.
1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter XVI, nos. 12-14, p. 458.
2. Discuss the relation of language to thought. (Cf. Symposium, "Is Thinking Merely the Action of Language Mechanisms?" British Journal of Psychology, 1920-21, Vol. XI, pp. 55-104, in which Watson, Bartlett, Thomson, Pear and others participated.)3. Differentiate between the dereistic thought of the schizophrenic patient and that found among various social groups. What keeps the dereistic thinking of the latter within the bounds of social reality? Show how ideas once considered sound would now be called dereistic if they appeared in our contemporary culture.
4. Collect illustrations of autistic (dereistic) expressions from cartoons, jokes, pseudo-scientific writing, and literature.
5. Illustrate the relation of language to (a) technological material culture; (b) non-moral folkways; (c) moral behavior.
6. Illustrate how words tend to carry emotional freight. (For example, why would most Christians hesitate to name a son "Judas"?)
C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.
1. The Relation of Language and Thought. (Cf. Dewey, How We Think, 1910, and Experience and Nature, 1925; Piéron, Thought and Brain, 1927; Symposium cited above, British Journal of Psychology, 1920-21, vol. XI, pp. 55-104; also, Müller, Science of Thought, and Science of Language, etc.)
2. Report Markey, The Symbolic Process, 1928 on the relation of language to symbolic processes. Report Lorimer The Growth of Reason, 1929, on a similar problem.