Recent Trends in Social Psychology

Luther Lee Bernard

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY. By F. H. Allport. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1924, pp. xiv + 453.

FUNDAMENTALS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY. By E. S. Bogardus. New York : Century Co., 1924, pp. xiv + 479.

SOCIAL DISCOVERY. By E. C. Lindeman. New York: Republic Pub. Co., 1924, pp. xxix + 375.


The Relations of Sociology and Social Psychology, by Charles A. Ellwood, The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, Volume XIX, Number 1, pp. 3-12;


Can Sociology and Social Psychology Dispense with Instincts? by William McDougall, Ibid., pp. 13-41; Discussion of Professor McDougall's Paper, by L. L. Bernard, Ibid., pp. 42-45; The Institutional Foundation of a Scientific Social Psychology, by J. R. Kantor, Ibid., pp. 46-56; Discussion of Professor McDougall's and Professor Kantor's Papers, by William F. Ogburn, Ibid., pp. 57-59; The Group Fallacy in Relation to Social Science, by Floyd H. Allport, Ibid., 60-73; Discussion of Professor Allport's Paper, by Alexander Goldenweiser, Ibid., 74-76.

THERE ARE two outstanding fields of interest in these various essays, of diverse lengths, in social psychology. Both are controversial and both apparently are about to be "settled" in the academic mind. One is the problem of the place of instinct in individual character development and social control, and the other refers to the basic character of social psychology itself. Is its proper field that of the behavior of individuals reacting to social stimuli, as Allport contends, or should we extend it to include a sort of collective psychology of the group? To understand the significance of these two controversies it is necessary to recall that three separate schools of social psychology have developed with in the last two generations. The oldest of these is the study of group behavior in its psycho-social aspects of planes and currents. It is sometimes called group psychology and was developed by Bagehot, Tarde, Sigehle, LeBon, and Ross, among others. The second school has attempted to account for the development of a socialized individual under the dominance of inherited qualities or instincts. The outstanding representative of this viewpoint is William McDougall of Harvard University, but he has a rapidly diminishing cohort behind him. The third characteristic type of social psychology is the one which attempts to explain the socialization of the individual in terms of environmental pressures and learning. Professor Cooley is our foremost representative of this viewpoint. There are, of course, many crosses among these schools.

Professor McDougall makes a sort of last stand in defense of the instincts in his paper, which appears in much more extended form than that in which it was read at the Washington meetings of the American Sociological Society. Perhaps it should be called a flank attack upon some of his numerous critics, for he resorts to the ingenious device of counter criticism of writings by Professors Dewey, Dunlap, Giddings, and Josey. Nowhere does he take up his problem of the indispensability of instincts for sociology and psychology in a direct frontal attack and discuss it on its own merits.[1] He closes his paper with the statement that he believes the concept of instinct still has its uses and counters criticism with, "It is perhaps worth while to point out that behaviorism enjoys the appearance of a much larger popular success than it can truly claim" (p. 41). Is this the beginning of the end?

Not one of the other works here cited defends the instinctivist viewpoint. Allport dispenses with complex types of instincts altogether and substitutes prepotent impulses (ch. 3), which are apparently in the main basic reflexes which are conditioned into habit adjustments through learning, that is, conditional responses to environmental pressures. Habit sets also become prepotent and basic to further learning (p. 338). While the child's consciousness of himself is largely made up of his understanding of the attitudes of others toward him (p. 3,33), thus evidencing character development under social pressures, the drives to action and adjustment come rather from within than from without (pp. 69 ff., 310). It is the readiness (inherited or acquired) of the organism for food, sex, familial, or other contacts or satisfactions which produces action in the presence of proper releasing stimuli. Some may mistake this type of statement for another (and disguised) form of the now unpopular instinct theory. Two facts, however, must be noted in this connection. The author specifically rejects the complex instincts of the older writers, such as a general fighting instinct (pp. 58, 401), gregariousness (p. 163), or the social instinct (p. 167). Also, specifically and in great detail he offers a substitute explanation of the origin of such complex dispositions in the form of the theory of the conditioned response. Scarcely any other American writer has made such extended and successful use of this theory of learning. Not the least convincing aspect of Allport's book is that, by this means of explanation of the de

( 739) -velopment of the individual's character or personality, he puts a degree of concreteness and reality into his writing which is to be found in no other social psychologist. Even Professor Cooley, with the wealth of illustration which he has employed in his Human Nature and the Social Order has not been able to make so clear to the reader just how we come to be what we are. The treatments of Watson and Woodworth, in their respective psychologies, are briefer and less well worked out from the standpoint of the mechanisms of learning or character growth considered.

Ellwood, Bogardus, and Lindeman, though formerly instinctivists, have now dropped the category or handle it with the gravest suspicions, remembering its former stings. Ellwood finds that the individual is the product of habit. Civilization is not inborn, but acquired by every individual through communication in the group. While "animal groups . . . are undoubtedly dominated by the hereditary or instinctive element . . . human society, on the other hand, is characterized from its earliest beginnings by acquired uniformities due to habit" (p. 7). Professor Ellwood has for several years shown definite signs of making the transition from the instinctivist to the environmentalist camp. Each new book which he has published within the past twelve years, since the appearance of his Sociology in Its Psychological Aspects (which has more than four hundred references to instinct) has shown more moderation in applying the term.

Bogardus, however, has made a much more rapid reversal. Although an instinctivist of the instinctivists in his previous work on social psychology appearing about three years ago, he now consistently avoids the term. In fact, in this volume of nearly five hundred octavo pages he has but one instinct, (the herd instinct, used twice, pp. 47, 48), and even this he applies to animals rather than to men. In no other respect has Bogardus so largely changed his concept of the content of social psychology. His critics have literally made his viewpoint over for him in this regard.[2] Yet he makes no acknowledgement to this source of his information. He dismisses the whole subject of his change of viewpoint—or, rather, he avoids it—with the following brief statements : "The assertion that inherited tendencies are essential springs or motive forces of feeling, thought, and action, whether individual or collective, has probably been overstressed by William McDougall. The rôle played by habituation has clearly been neglected" (p. 7). As evidence of this change of viewpoint in general he cites two articles by Dunlap and Faris criticizing the instinct concept (presumably his sources of information).

While Bogardus avoids the term instinct, the fact comes back through the kitchen door in such terms as "innate potential impulses" (p. 8), "tendencies" (p. 35), etc. These are not the same as Allport's prepotent reflexes, for they lack the specific definition of the latter. Sometimes Bogardus appears to think of them as general drives and at other times one gathers that they are vague substitutes for unanalyzed forces.

Kantor is most virulent in his attack upon the concept instinct. He is opposed to all types of "animisms." He urges that psychology and sociology adopt the objectivity of the natural sciences (p. 46), declaring that "we find the field of human sciences literally weighted down with conceptions of psychic forces and psychic processes," which he regards as subjective and non-measurable. "It so happens that the instincts are among the most obnoxious of these animistic conceptions now in use. Whichever of the numerous meanings of instincts one may accept the least harm that any one of them can do is to absolve us from the arduous investigation of numerous but essential psychological facts, necessary for the understanding of human conduct" (p. 47).

Thus at last the fight to free sociology and psychology from one of the most cloying metaphysical concepts from which they have suffered since they were relieved of the theory of an innate conscience two generations ago is within sight of being accomplished. Leading, and formerly rather militant, advocates of the theory are obviously revising their views.[3]

Of course works using the concept will still continue to appear, at least for some years; but its prestige is gone and uncritical acceptance of it will be fatal to any book of scientific pretensions in the future. The

(740) concept itself has been for the most part used uncritically, even in serious works, and one could imagine McDougall truthfully saying of the habit and value complexes which are being substituted for his so-called instincts : "This is just exactly what I meant to say, but in my day we called all institutionalized habits instincts, so that I have still to bear the brunt of a bad usage, although I am no more culpable than many another."

The second historical type of social psychology, the instinctivist school, having in effect been despatched by its enemies, schools number one and two are now in turn struggling for supremacy. As far as our citations are concerned, it was McDougall against the whole field in the matter of the instinctivist brand of social psychology. In the second struggle for supremacy, it is almost equally the whole field against Allport. The latter reiterates, again and again, that the proper field of social psychology is the science or study "of the social behavior and social consciousness of the individual" (p. 382). "Social behavior comprises the stimulations and reactions arising between an individual and the social portion of his environment ; that is, between the individuals and his fellows" (p. 3). Ellwood, on the other hand, points out that there would be little content in any sort of psychology which would not come under this description. To him, social psychology means the subject which deals with "the psychic aspects of social groups and social life generally" (p. 9). Its subject matter falls particularly in the field of "mental interstimulation and response, especially in the form of intercommunication," and takes on the aspect of such psychic processes as suggestion, imitation, and sympathy. These, he conceives, fall within the range of acquired uniformities due to habit (p. 7). In other words, he accepts essentially the Tarde-Ross viewpoint.

But, according to Ellwood, the province of sociology is also the study of mental interstimulation between individuals in groups in order to understand the group and its behavior (pp. 8, 10). How then are sociology and social psychology to be distinguished, if they deal with the same subject matter? By their problems (p. 9). But the relationship is also inclusive : "Social psychology, in the sense of the psychology of group behavior, is accordingly a part of sociology" (p. 9). Allport, of course, might, with equal appropriateness, maintain that his brand of social psychology also is distinguished from psychology by its problems and that it, by analogy, is included under the more general field of psychology. Obviously this sort of controversy gets us nowhere, since, as Lindeman would say (p. 313) there is no agreement as to facts.

The net result is that we have in practice two schools of social psychology, so called, both with their enthusiastic followers. Lindeman would, however, be willing to leave the term social psychology to the psychologists and to adopt in its stead the term collective or crowd psychology. This separation of the fields is well illustrated by the contents of Allport's and Bogardus' texts. The one may almost be said to leave off where the other begins. Bogardus' definition[4] is sufficiently general not to conflict essentially with Allport's definition, except that the latter studies the psychic processes by which the development posited by Bogardus is attained. One is concerned with psychic processes, the other apparently with all types of processes which can contribute to the total result, i. e., the building of socialized character and psycho-social adjustment. Allport never deals directly with institutions and objective or realized social values, but only with the psychic mechanisms by which these are achieved and with tests by which they can be measured. Thus, those chapters which approach most closely to the sociological (those included under the second part, called "social behavior," which is always the behavior of individuals, not of groups) bear such titles as Social Stimulation —Language and Gesture—Facial and Bodily Expression ; Response to Social Stimulation, in the group and in the crowd ; Social Attitudes and Social Consciousness; Social Adjustments; and Social Behavior in Relation to Society. On the other hand, Bogardus devotes more than 80 per cent of his book to the study of groups and leadership and those more or less institutionalized carriers of "interstimulation and response," such as custom, tradition, fashion, imitation, sugges-

(741) -tion, which Allport only briefly explains and treats as largely static concepts. From Allport's standpoint Bogardus' book would consist mainly of sociology. Also, being a behaviorist, he is not particularly interested in forms, but in processes, of activity; in the making of adjustments rather than in their fixation.

Allport would justify his limitation of the field of social psychology, without disparaging the importance of the group treatment, by pointing out that each science is based upon the findings of the science next antecedent to it, whose business it is to formulate conclusions for utilization in explanations of its phenomena by the science next above it : "Thus the sociologist describes social or collective phenomena and explains them in terms of individual behavior; the psychologist describes behavior and explains it in terms of reflex mechanisms ; the physiologist describes the reflex mechanism and explains it in terms of physical and chemical change (Journal, p. 71).

Is Allport able to make good with his viewpoint? Does he give to the sociologist categories of behavior, operating under social stimuli, which are of value to him? Most decidedly, yes. Here again he brings in the method of learning by conditional response and develops it to such a degree that he is able to transform the traditional psychological treatment of language, gesture, groups, crowds, conflict situations, and the like. Language and gesture communication, including facial expression, are methods of getting words, actions, and expressions tied up, arbitrarily or otherwise, with meanings. These associations become institutionalized, that is, are conditioned largely uniformly in each new individual who comes under the social pressures of the group. In this way the achievements of the race are made the common possession of all its members. The conditioning phenomena may work out with bad as well as with good results for society, especially where learning is affected by the pressure of others. What he calls social facilitation (conditioning of responses in the presence of others) and the illusion of universality, which comes from crowd contacts, may easily work for superficial results or even anti-social behavior. In his last chapter he applies his categories (of social psychology as he conceives it) to the explanation of the behavior of people in various social situations and throws them into relation with the accepted categories of sociology. This chapter is really a sample demonstration of the uses that can be made of social psychology, and even his opponents must admit that he has made a remarkably good showing.

The strong point of Allport's method is always his concreteness. He takes discussion out of the realm of vagueness. He is not content to tell you that a thing happens. He tells you exactly how it happens, or at least, how he thinks it happens. His method is always convincing. Bogardus, on the other hand, tells the reader but little of the mechanism and deals primarily with the results. So often he leaves one with a feeling of vagueness and uncertainty, with a suspicion that he has listened to rationalization or gossip instead of to demonstrated fact. He gives no means of testing his results. He speaks as one with the all-seeing eye who reveals the wisdom pertaining to social relations and values, but he does not, as a rule, let you into the method by 'which he became possessed of this wisdom or these conclusions.

To be sure, Bogardus cites authorities. But one frequently gets the impression that this does nothing to clarify the method, that he is only paying compliments and exchanging amenities with other seers and prophets.[5]

There is a marked contrast in this respect with Allport, who never cites an authority to pay a compliment, but instead refers to an investigation. One is the essayist in social psychology; the other the scholar. By way of extenuation, it should be said that it is more difficult to give the sanction of concreteness to the more general and less well worked material with which Bogardus has to deal. Nor would the reviewer give the impression that Bogardus' book is rendered valueless by his faults or the limitations of method. Especially in the latter part there are many chapters which appeal to the present writer as containing most excellent material and analyses, from his point of view. This is especially the case with the discussions of group opinion, patriotism, conflict, group control, fash-

(742) -ion imitation, etc. Bogardus is essentially a compiler. He works extensively rather than intensively, for the most part, and amasses opinions, classifications, more or less tested data, about almost everything within the range of his subject, but the reader feels sometimes that he would be willing to sacrifice some of the advantages of the cyclopaedia for definiteness, discrimination, and depth. He is weakest where he deals with human nature or the individual, and strongest where he analyzes groups and group processes objectively. Allport and Bogardus might be used together to cover a synthetic view of the field if there were any way to adjust their categories or to balance the one's precision of method with the other's lack of it. But Bogardus would inevitably suffer from the resulting enforced comparison.

What Bogardus does not do in defining his concepts and in relating them inductively to something tangible in the individual and social processes, Lindeman attempts to accomplish, and frequently with a large degree of success. While he does not profess to write a social psychology,[6] he draws from his first hand analytical study of coöperative associations some of the best characterizations and definitions of group categories and processes which we have. At times he suffers from an overly intellectualistic interpretation of his material, but this can be corrected by the careful reader. In spite of the fact that I closed the book with the feeling that I should have read it from the back towards the front, and despite the fact that he has by no means justified some of the rather extravagant claims made for the work as a transformer of the field of social science, his final chapters have actually made a worthy beginning in the inductive processes of removing generalizations regarding group behavior from speculation to the plane of fact. One peculiar slip in his definition of terms should not be allowed to pass unnoticed. He makes tradition of essentially the same character as custom, instead of drawing the usual distinction between them on the basis of the mental and overt aspects of behavior (p. 237).

While Allport has made a very striking contribution with his method and has maintained this method rigorously, the candid critic must concede something to the contentions of the opposing school of social psychology. Goldenweiser characterizes his discussion of the group mind fallacy as forced and as an anachronism (p. 74). Allport, however, does show that such a concept is used symbolically and analogically (Journal, pp. 63-70). But after all, does not Allport leave out something essential in placing the whole emphasis upon the consciousness of the individual? To be sure, all social adjustments are conditioned in the consciousness or the subconsciousness of the individual, and therefore all social adjustments which are also psychic must in the last analysis be made here. This is really the heart of his contention, to put it in commonplace language, and it is true (Journal, pp. 60-62). And as an individual behaviorist dealing with the mechanisms of conduct, that is perhaps all he needs to see. But the sociologist, and the social psychologist, who see processes from the standpoint of social behavior or dynamics, rather than from the standpoint strictly of the individual, are impressed with the fact that we can understand neither the transformations of society nor the springs of behavior in the individual until we study also the stimuli which produce individual behavior immediately and social change and adjustment ultimately. It is some such notion as this, I think, which Kantor has in the back of his mind when he speaks of institutional stimuli and institutional psychology (pp. 49 ff.). He is more interested in the causes of that behavior which has significance for social processes than he is in the mechanisms of conditional response under social stimuli. Thus, has not Allport really fallen into his own pit of the substitution of description for explanation which he dug for the sociologists (Journal, pp. 70-71) ? Although he differentiates social psychology from psychology by distinguishing the stimuli to behavior with which it deals as social, he is merely content to describe the resulting behavior mechanisms without adequately explaining the causal relation of the social stimuli to the character of the behavior or thought content. In other words individual behavior is a function of the social environment. It is the organization of the social environment—groups, if you will—which determines individual behavior in the immediate instance and "socializes" this

(743) behavior in the long run. Allport criticizes the group psychologists, saying, "The `group mind' in the same sense employed by its exponents is a static mind. It is a result, not a cause, of individual behavior" (Journal, p. 62). But neither is the individual mind or behavior such a cause. It is only the method or mechanism by which the factors and forces operating back of groups (economic, physical, biological, all sorts of phenomena or environmental pressures, in fact) operate through the human consciousness or the unconscious behavior to produce social changes. And surely the accumulated psycho-social environment [7] is one of the prime movers of individual behavior. It is this need of emphasis upon the causal or environmental and stimulus aspect as well as upon the mechanism of conditioning responses which Goldenweiser has in mind when he demands a study of the cultural factors involved in social transformations as a phase of social psychology (p. 75).

This almost exclusive emphasis by Allport upon the vastly important concept of conditioning also leads him to discredit some of the categories of the Tarde-Ross type of social psychology, especially imitation (p. 239). To the sociologist, imitation is an extremely valuable term when employed as a short cut symbol for certain processes ; and when brought into adjustment with the category of conditional response, i. e., when explained as a phase of conditional response, it can be defined as accurately as any other category in social science.

The net result of this struggle between the "individual" and the "group" schools of social psychology need not mean the elimination of either. The latter may gain immensely in accuracy and definiteness and adequacy of explanation by getting down to the analysis of processes in behavior which Allport offers them. In this way much of the vagueness which suffuses Bogardus' text, especially in earlier parts, might be removed. Likewise, those who follow Allport may gain in breadth by concerning themselves with stimuli as well as with transformation. Perhaps they still carry much of the subjectivism of the old instinctivist theory and its limitations, and in finding a substitute for instinct in the conditional response, they have not yet expanded their viewpoint to take in the environmental pressures which set up the conditionings.


  1. A criticism of Professor McDougall's paper by the writer of this review is cited above. The argument need not be repeated here.
  2. See for example review of his Essentials of Social Psychology in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 27, p. 412 (Nov.,1921).
  3. For an account of the extent of the use of the term instinct and the forms of usage, as well as detailed criticisms of the viewpoint, see Instinct: A Study in Social Psychology, by the author of this review (Holt and Co.. New York. 1924).
  4. "Social psychology studies intersocial stimulation and response, social attitudes, values and personalities. It begins with individual human beings and original human nature and traces their growth through intersocial stimulation into persons with socialized attitudes" (p. 3).
  5. Bogardus' method of citing is sometimes at fault. In some cases he repeats an initial statement from an author and cites it by page and then continues to use his material for sometime without further citations, thus unwittingly leading the reader to infer that what follows is Bogardus' own material.
  6. Only part two of his volume, the part dealing with groups, is reviewed here.
  7. See "The Significance of Environment as a Social Factor," in the Publications of the American Sociological Society, 1921, pp. 84-112, and "Neuro-psychic Technique," Psychological Review, Nov., 1923, for an analysis of this phase of environment and of environment in general.

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