Review of The Symbolic Process and Its Integration in Children: A Study in Social Psychology by John F. Markey

Herbert Blumer

The Symbolic Process and Its Integration in Children: A Study in Social Psychology. By JOHN F. MARKEY, PH.D. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1928. Pp. xii+192. $3.50.

Amid the zigzags and meanderings taken by psychology in its historical development one can discover an inevitable return to the problem of thinking. Dr. Markey's treatment represents an approach from the behavioristic tangent. His central tasks are two: to show that reflection is part of a "complex social act," that is, it presupposes co-operative activity and is an aspect of this interlocking behavior; to explain the thought process in terms of an extended and elaborate conditioning pro-

( 927) -cedure. The concrete material is provided by studies of the appearance of word-symbols among children.

The merit attached to the execution of the first task comes merely from re-emphasizing that symbols arise in joint activity. Of course, this point of view is not novel; it has been held for a long time particularly by the pragmatists in philosophy and psychology. Dr. Markey adds nothing to it, but does restate the position very neatly. Much more interesting is the treatment of the second task. As a behaviorist Dr. Markey shuns the "psyche" as an explanatory principle. Thinking is to be explained by the familiar "conditioning" principle. The task is difficult, but we are presented with an ingenious and interesting interpretation: An individual comes to respond to his own verbal stimulus in the way that he has responded to the verbal stimulus of another, and, in turn, as he has responded to the act of the other. Thus, his verbal stimulus calls out the behavior originally called out by the act of the other. However, his verbal stimulus evokes a second response, by reason of the fact that in addition to being a substitute stimulus, it has a primary value of its own. Then, these two response systems interact in the individual, and in so doing give rise to the integration of the symbol, or the appearance of the thought. Dr. Markey assures us that this is so, although, despite his elaborate and detailed treatment, it is not made evident how the interaction goes on nor how the symbol emerges from it. Where a response is immediate there is no symbol; a symbol always implies an inhibited reaction. Yet there is no place in Dr. Markey's account of the conditioning process, for this inhibited phase or, as he terms it, for the individual to tend to respond to the substitute stimulus.

While Dr. Markey is to be admired for his valiant attempt to give a behavioristic explanation of "thinking," one must recognize its inadequacies and weaknesses. It is the opinion of the reviewer that Dr. Markey has added little in theory to what Dewey and Mead have said of the reflective process, and has missed much of what they have written.



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