Essentials of Social Psychology

Chapter 11: The Nature of Groups

Emory S. Bogardus

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Man is gregarious. He lives and moves and has his being in associations. Human groups may be classified as either temporary or permanent. All are in transition—even the so-called permanent groups.

1. Temporary Groups. Temporary groups are represented by the crowd, the mob, the assembly, and by the public (a quasi-temporary form of association).

Some crowds are heterogeneous, i. e., are composed of persons who at the given time possess conflicting purposes. A number of persons at a busy street corner are a heterogeneous group—they have varied purposes and are going in different directions. The real crowd is homogeneous; its members have a common aim. Further, each member is aware that the other individuals are stirred by the wine purposes as he is.

The homogenous crowd must have a leader. It moves frantically until it gets a leader. The members of a homogeneous crowd ordinarily suffer a lessened sense of individual responsibility, because responsibility is distributed among all. Anonymity tends to prevail. Excitement reigns, feelings rise, and the rational processes of thought are hindered. The members experience a heightened state of suggestibility.

(203) People act less rationally when under crowd influence than as individuals. Feelings rather than reason secure control. Crowds act quickly but reason slowly. The crowd is recidivistic; its members revert to lower standards than ordinarily.

Freedom of speech is rarely tolerated by a crowd; anyone who attacks the follies of the crowd is hooted. A crowd of capitalist financiers would refuse to listen to the harangue of a Bolshevist; and a crowd of Bolshevists would not sit supinely under the lashing of a capitalist.

A person who makes an important decision while under the influence of the crowd has a hard struggle before him. Such decisions must usually be followed consistently by personal, thoughtful, and sincere attention on the part of interested people.

To get people together in a crowd offers a quick way to unify them. But the charlatan and mountebank are prone to manipulate people through crowd influence, whereas the educated advocate confines himself to addressing assemblies. To address a crowd one must usually belittle himself and reap a harvest of unstable decisions.

More wild enthusiasm for a given project can be created in a crowd than anywhere else. But such enthusiasm is generally swift to vanish—it lacks the depth which is worthy of any important enterprise.

There are spectator crowds and participator crowds. The spectator group may be single- or double-minded; it may be united or bi-partisan. The bi-partisan spectator crowd is in constant danger of degenerating, An athletic contest brings out two spectator

(204) crowds. First one spectator crowd and then the other will give vent to expressions such as these: "Kill them," "Give them the axe," "They are a rotten bunch." If the contest is close, the members of both spectator crowds will likely give way to their feelings and revert to blindly biased and almost savage partisanship—forgetting that the fundamental element in the contest is to afford physical training to all the members of both teams and exhibitions of skill for the enjoyment of the onlookers. The evils of intercollegiate athletics thrive because of recidivistic tendencies of spectator crowds. There would be no intercollegiate football games were it not for the presence of spectators—hence the responsibility of spectator crowds is grave. If the influence of such a crowd causes students literally to hate neighboring educational institutions, then the main functions of athletics and education alike have been prostituted.
The participator crowd is a mob. It is a group of people who stone, smash, frighten, burn, kill. The participator crowd may be constructive, but usually becomes vicious. The mob is a group of persons in an unusually high state of suggestibility. It is a crowd that has become frantic. It is not necessarily a group of ignorant or wicked persons, but often is a group of ordinarily intelligent individuals who for the time being have resigned their individual standards. The mob is a monster, possessing gigantic power which causes it to throb throughout its being. It is a tornado, using its pent-up forces irresponsibly and ruthlessly.

The snob curve rises by a succession of curves until

(205) the objective of the snob is attained or until its force is spent. Then the curve falls rapidly, almost helplessly perpendicular.

Panic is a mob phenomenon that is caused be sudden and overwhelming fear. Napoleon was right when he instructed his officers to tell their men of danger beforehand in a quiet, non-exaggerated way. In a panic the self-preservation instinct rules absolutely and violently.

On September 28, 1919, when the mayor of Omaha attempted to quiet the mob that was searching for a Negro, the mob threw a rope around the neck of the mayor, dragged him, and attempted to hang him—the chief executive of a metropolitan city and the elected representative of law and order. It is clear, therefore, that such a mob is a relic of barbarism; it has no useful function in a democratic state, built upon principles of legal justice. The atrocities which a mob will commit, whether it be a mob of Russian or Polish peasants in a "pogrom" or a mob of American citizens in a lynching escapade are execrable. They can successfully be prevented only by a new birth of respect for social order and systematic progress.

An assembly is a group of people in which ideas rather than feelings are struggling with one another for supremacy. An assembly is characterized by dignity, order, and thoughtfulness. It is so closely related to the crowd that it is subject to reversion at any moment to the crowd or mob. An assembly is a group of people who are controlled by cultural habits and by parliamentary rules of order. On occasion an assembly as dignified as the United States Senate de-

(206) -fies the controlling sense of individual and social decorum and the rules of order.

Parliamentary rules have been compared by E. A. Ross to a straightjacket upon a monster which is in constant danger of breaking loose.[1] Rules of order function in keeping feelings down and the reason in charge. Personalities are taboo, the chair must always be addressed, the voting must be by aye and nay, and order must at all times be observed. Parliamentary rules at best are brittle hoops and easily snap. Let one man contradict another sharply and the two may rush together with clenched fists and angry shouts, even though the assembly be a Chamber of Deputies. Let the smell of smoke and a ringing cry of "Fire" enter a crowded church and the solemn assembly will burst the bonds of decorum, custom, rules, and reverence, and transform itself into a fighting mob, trampling women and children under foot.

The assembly is a very useful social institution. Time, expense, and energy are saved by getting people to come together and by addressing them as a unit rather than as separate individuals who are scattered over a large territory. To assemble people and explain thoughtfully a program to them secures better results than to yell at them in a crowd. They gain sufficient stimulus to jar them out of lethargy and yet not such an amount that they effervesce in unstable promises.

The assembly not only arouses people from social drowsiness and repose, but gives them new desires and interests. An assembly often shakes people loose

(207) from selfish habits and secures their open, thoughtful committal to group aims, to financial support of group movements, and participation in group activities. When in an assembly, the socially reflected self of an individual affects him powerfully. He adopts a broader viewpoint than he would accept at home. He is influenced also by the personality of the leader, who is usually an individual of character. Through the spoken word, clothed in the richness of his personality, the speaker can exert a powerful and constructive influence.

An assembly can be addressed frequently to better advantage than an individual. The speaker does not experience the embarrassment which he feels when conversing upon a delicate phase of the individual's conduct. He can suggest to an assembly moral and social changes which would be taken as an insult if made personally to certain offenders who may be in the assembly. There is just enough anonymity to enable individuals who need reprimand to say to themselves, "He means some one else," and yet there is enough force in the speaker's remarks to penetrate their lives deeply. There is sufficient anonymity to enable them to look unconcerned and to prevent their anger from rising, thereby allowing the new and higher standards of conduct a thoughtful and fair hearing. Similar criticism of personal conduct, if administered individually or vehemently in a crowd, would arouse an angry storm or a long-standing antagonism.

Despite its worthy traits, an assembly of size is rarely a satisfactory deliberative or executive body.

(208) A committee of thirty is too large for effective work because the chief points for decision become lost in the idiosyncrasies of thirty different personalities. Five or seven well-selected persons will constitute a group large enough to bring forward all the main factors in a given problem and at the same time work expeditiously. Each will assume more responsibility than the individual members of a committee of thirty.

Discussion is necessary, but too much talk hinder progress. A large committee produces an excess of talk. To safeguard a committee against wasting its energies in verbiage as well as to guarantee a strong sense of individual responsibility, the members mint be few.

The public is a quasi-temporary group. It lacks the structure and prescribed limits of a permanent group and the face-to-face or bodily presence characteristics of the assembly or crowd. It is a group "without presence." Although without the physical presence of its members, it possesses a substantial degree of permanence. It is made possible by the development of the modern means of communication. Consequently, individuals feel, think, and even act alike, without coming together. The public is a recently developed communicating group without physical presence.

The public is made possible by the invention of the printing press, the railroad, the telegraph, and the telephone. The printing press has been given primary credit by Sighele for creating the public and substituting it for the crowd.[2] The railroad shortens

(209) distances and enables newspapers to reach the outskirts of cities and even remote rural localities in a comparatively short time. Further, the telegraph has almost eliminated distance, permitting any news to travel thousands of miles in a few minutes. Hence the railroad and the telegraph give wings to the printing-press and the feeling of actuality to the public.[3]

Each reading public tends to develop its own type of journalism and to produce newspapers which have its own good and bad qualities and which are its own creatures.[4] Large numbers of people who are scattered over a wide territory regularly read the news organs of the given publics to which they belong, feel simultaneously the same way in regard to the wanton attack upon anything which belongs to a given public, and express their feelings and opinions simultaneously, being aware that at the same time the other members of that public are experiencing the same feelings and giving expression to the same opinions.

A staunch member of the Republican party subscribes only to Republican newspapers. If handed a socialist journal, he would feel insulted. The socialist subscribes faithfully to the socialistic press, but tears up Republican newspapers without deigning to look at their headlines. The churchman peruses regularly the religious journals of his choice, but casts out the free-thinking publications, while in the same neighborhood the free-thinker scoffs at religious papers.

(210) Each public, therefore, creates and fosters its own instruments of communication. What would happen in the United States if for one year all Republicans were to read only socialist newspapers and all socialists were to read only the Republican press?

Within the public the newspaper is tempted to cater to the lower nature of its members. The commercial newspaper finds that it pays financially to become sensational, to appeal to prejudices, or to stimulate morbidity. The daily press is prone to omit the publication of vital social facts, or to minimize them, and to elaborate the minor details of burglaries, divorce scandals, prize fights.

The newspaper often plays its own public against other publics. Consequently, the näive reader gets a biased view of his own group and an erroneous impression of opposing groups. What labor newspaper relates the good deeds of employers, and what capitalist paper extolls the long-suffering and heart-yearning of the wage-earner and his family?

The public is deficient in some of the virtues of the assembly and is not subject to all the weaknesses of the crowd. To the extent that newspapers suppress the truth or play upon the feelings, or by "scare" headlines create false sentiments, the public is the victim of the foibles of the crowd. To the degree in which the members of a public can sit quietly in the home or office and think logically, they possess advantages superior even to those of the assembly.

An individual can belong to only one crowd or assembly at a time, but he usually claims membership in several publics at the same moment. He may

(211) belong simultaneously to a Taft public, a Billy Sunday public, a Ty Cobb public, and a John McCormack public. His interests as a member of one public may run counter to his interests as a member of another; hence, he will be compelled to pair off impulses and to act more rationally than if a member of a face-to-face group. The twentieth century is becoming "an era of publics"; the public is succeeding the crowd as a prevalent form of grouping.

In times of national danger from without, an entire nation becomes a public. Smaller publics subordinate their interests to the larger cause. Instead of several publics, each with its own set of opinions, or public opinions, there arises suddenly one vast public, and one powerful public opinion.

The subject of group, or public, opinion will be presented in Chapter XIV, as an agent of group, or social, control. The public is the transition group between temporary and permanent aggregations or organizations of people, and public opinion is the source from which arise fundamental group values.

2. Permanent Groups. There are at least fourteen different important types of permanent groups, ranging from an association of two persons to the world group. These types are the family, the play group, the neighborhood group, the school group, the occupational group, the employees' and the employers' groups, the fraternal, the political and governmental, the religious, the racial, and the sex groups, and the planetary group. These collectivities suffer changes fluctuating between slow and rapid, and exhibit organizations varying from closely knit and exclusive

(212) to coherent and intangible.

Permanent groups are the outgrowth of temporary, groupings—the relationship is filial. The order of development is as follows: first, human needs, then a temporary group to meet those needs, finally, the evolution of a permanent group or social organization. Out of countless temporary groupings, a few permanent types have attained historical prominence, but continuously subject to change and to the laws of social evolution.

The family, for example, has developed in response to the needs of race continuance; it has gone through the metronymic and patronymic stages and is now in a transitional period, from ,vliich there is arising a co-operative commonwealth of the two contracting parties. The family has run the gauntlet of polyandry, polygyny, and other forms of marriage, and has achieved a worthy degree of usefulness through monogamy.

An occupational group, likewise, shows an evolution, which is of the following order: human needs, crude ways of meeting these needs, the invention of methods and tools, the rise of specialization, the conscious, unconscious, or accidental gravitating of certain individuals into the given occupational group, the appearance of a definite occupational or caste consciousness, and the establishment of an occupational ethics and of occupational organizations. In societary beginnings, men were hunters and fighters, and later, herdsmen; women were untrained home-makers, crude hoe-culturists, and crass manufacturers. Under settled social conditions men transferred their atten-

(213) -tion to hoe-culture and transformed it into agriculture, and to manufacture and ultimately changed it into machinofacture. The higher needs of life, freedom from manual toil, and the demand for specialization produced the professions.

Occupations prejudice. The banker depreciates the ministry, and vice versa. The theologian tends to be come dogmatic. The business man is prone to judge by money standards. Since lawyers continually come in contact with anti-social individuals who must be dealt with vigorously, they are apt to overrate force as a social factor. vigorously, Further, the lawyer is an advocate. After a time the habit of taking sides may hinder him from becoming judicial. When he reaches the bench, he may tend to argue cases for the lawyers, or lie may make up his mind habitually early in the case and before the evidence is all in. "I have no objection, your Honor, to have you argue this case for me," said a prosecuting attorney, "but I hope that you won't lose it, for I have a mighty good case." This attorney was gently protesting against the occupational habit which the given judge had carried over into his judicial days from his previous training as an advocate.

When a college professor applied to a labor union for membership, he was told that he must teach in the class-room eight hours a day— if he would be admitted. The skilled workmen could not understand hove less than eight hours of actual teaching could constitute a day's work. The social psychology of occupations and professions shows that occupational and professional habit of thought are danger-

(214) -ous to one who would be just and courteous in his attitudes toward those who are employed differently.

Permanent groups vary from purely instinctive to socially purposive.[5] The best illustration of purely instinctive grouping is found among animals, e. g., insect societies. The primitive horde and the family are less instinctive than an insect society. The modern family including courtship is often instinctive, although showing a few signs of conscious purpose that are worthy of these institutions. The modern state is largely instinctive, although Germany recently showed a national purposiveness of anti-social character. Economic organizations, such as corporations and labor unions, are distinctly purposive. Educational associations are strikingly telic. Purposive groups vary from organizations which struggle vigorously for their own advancement irrespective of the welfare of other groups or of society to those which wholeheartedly and unselfishly strive to serve whereever they may.

Permanent groups, thus, begin with the purely instinctive aggregations at the lowest extremity of the social scale, include transitional types, and end with the purely telic groups with social purposes. Nationstates are still far below the highest stage of unselfish telic development, and hence the difficulty in establishing a stable League of Nations.

Permanent groups are either sects, castes, classes,

(215) or states.[6] The sect is a group of individuals who differ markedly but who are united by a common ideal and faith—such as religious denominations and political parties.

The caste arises from identity of profession; it is the most compact of all social organizations. After a person has become established in a profession he has become a member of an existing caste and is under its esprit de corps. Consider how difficult it is for a man to change from one recognized profession to another line of activity and what contumely is heaped upon the clergyman who changes to the insurance business, upon the lawyer who shifts to bricklaying, upon the teacher who becomes a dairyman. It is disgraceful to change from a higher to a socalled lower calling, even though a mistake was made in the initial choice of an occupation. It is even a doubtful or questioned procedure for a person who has reached middle life to change from a lower to a so-called higher calling, even though the individual has been converted to an entirely new view of life. Nevertheless, this inelasticity in public opinion is on the whole justifiable, despite the fact that in the broad sense it creates castes.

The class possesses a psychological bond that is found in a unity of interests. The class is less precise in its limits but more "formidably belligerent" in its attitudes than the caste. Observe the outstanding class divisions of the day, such as the distinction between the laboring and capitalistic classes, with their bickerings, strifes, intrigues, and underlying hatreds.

States are the most extensive group organizations

(216) with strong prerogatives that have yet evolved. They possess common bonds of language, national values, and national prestige. National loyalty, which is somewhat synonymous with patriotism, will be considered in Chapter XIII. Conflicts between nations and the social psychology of war will be discussed in Chapter XII. The natural climax of the state idea is now taking form in a world organization or world state, which among permanent groups will eventually occupy the chief position.



1. Define a crowd.

2. Are the people in a railroad station a heterogeneous or homogeneous crowd?

3. Why does the crowd generally have a leader

4.. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of organized cheering?

5. Why is one's individuality wilted in a dense throng?

6. Why do feelings run through a crowd more readily than ideas?

7. In order to unify people why is it necessary to touch the chord of feeling?

8. Why is the crowd-self irrational?

9. Explain: "In a psychological crowd people are out of themselves."

10. Explain: A crowd is recidivistic.

11. Why does a crowd refuse to tolerate freedom of speech?


12. Why is the crowd-self ephemeral?

13. Explain: "The squeeze of the crowd tends to depress the self-sense."

14. Where did parliamentary rules of order originate?

15. Is a jury a crowd or an assembly?

16. Are your highest emotions aroused when you are alone or a member of a crowd?

17. Do you feel a serious loss more keenly when roll are alone or in a group of friends?

18. Will the news of personal success cause you greater joy when you are alone or in a group?

19. What effect will your study of the social psychology of the crowd have upon your attitude toward the crowd?

20. What is your present attitude toward a lynching mob?

21. What is the meaning of the term, mob?

22. Have you been in a mob? If so, how did you act?

23. Is a holiday jam in a railroad station a mob?

24. Is the social psychology of a mob of Hottentots the same as the social psychology of a mob of college professors?

25. Where can the blame for mob action justly be placed?

26. What are the best means for bringing a mob to a rational point of view?

27. What is your attitude regarding an assembly?

28. What is the chief characteristic of an assembly ?

29. Name three types of assemblies.


30. Why is it easier to speak to an audience of 200 people than. to a group of twenty persons?

31. Is it easier to address 200 persons in a hall that seats 1000 or in one which seats 150 ?

32. What are the outstanding characteristics of a public?

33. Name three leading publics to which you now belong.

34. Explain the statement that this is an era of publics.

35. What is mass attention?

36. What are the different ways by which an individual can secure mass attention?


37. Define a group.

38. Distinguish between permanent and temporary groups.

39. In what permanent groups have you participated today

40. Name one temporary group in which you have been a member today.

41. How are the two sex groups different psychically ?

42. How is a fraternal group different psychically from a neighborhood group?

43. What is meant by the social psychology of an occupation ?

44. What are the psychical differences between a rural and an urban group?

45. Explain: "The high potential of a city."


46. Should the capital of a commonwealth be "its chief city or some centrally located town"?

47. Distinguish between the psychical characteristics of Boston, New York, and Washington, the intellectual, business, and political capitals, respectively, of the nation.



Christensen, Arthur, Politics and Crowd-Morality.

Conway, Martin, The Crowd in Peace and War.

Cooley, C. H., Social Organization, Ch. XIV.

Davenport, F. M., Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals.

Eltinge, Le Roy, Psychology of War, Part II.

Galsworthy, John, The Mob.

Gardner, C. S., "Assemblies," Amer. Jour. Of Sociol., XIX:531-55 ; and in Psychology and Preaching, Chs. XI, XIII.

Hamilton, C., "Psychology of Theater Audiences," Forum, XXXIX : 234-48.

Howard, G. E., "Social Psychology of the Spectator," Amer. Jour. Of Sociol., XVIII: 33-50.

Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd.

"Psicologia della folla," Riv. ital. di sociol., III: 168-95.

Ross, E. A., Social Psychology, Chs. III-V.
——, Foundations of Sociology, Chs. V, VI.

Sedwick, H. D., "The Mob Spirit in Literature," Atlantic Mon., XCVI : 9-r5.

Sidis, Boris, "A Study of the Mob," Atlantic Mon,, LXXV : 18897.

Sighele, Scipio, La foule criminelle.

Tarde, Gabriel, The Laws of Imitation, pp. 154-73.
——, L'opinion et la foule,
Chs. I, II.

Tawney, J. A., "The Nature of Crowds," Psychological Bul., II: 329-33



Brinton, D. G., The Basis of Social Relations, Part I, Chs. II-IV.

Cooley, C. H., Social Organization, Ch. III, Part IV'.

Fouillée, A., Equisse psychologique des peoples européans.

Giddings, F. H., Democracy and Empire, Ch. XIX.

LeBon, Gustave, The Psychology of Peoples.

MacIver, R. M., Community, Bk. I, Ch. II; Bk. II, Chs. II, 111.

McComas, H. C., The Psychology of Religious Sects.

Ross, E. A., Foundations of Sociology, Ch. V1.

Simmel, G., "The Persistence of Social Groups," (tr. by A . Small), Amer. Jour. of Sociol., 111:662-59, 829-36, 1`v-: 35-50.

Smith, W. R., An Introduction to Educational Sociology, Chi. IV-VI.

Thomas, Helen T., "The Psychology of Sex," Psychological Bul., XI: 353-79.

Wallas, Graham, Human Nature in Politics, Part II, Ch. I


  1. Social Psychology, p. 57.
  2. La foule criminelle, p. 225.
  3. Ibid., pp. 225, 226. Cf. Gabriel Tarde, L'opinion et la foule, Ch. I.
  4. Ibid., p. 241. "Sans doute chaque public produit les journalistes que ont ses instincts, ses tendencies ses qualities, et ses defauts, qui sont, in un mot, ses creatures."
  5. J.M. Baldwin in The Individual and Society, pp. 36 ff., classifies groups as instructive, spontaneous, and reflective.
  6. This classification has been outlined by Continental writers, such as Tarde (L'opinion et la foule, pp. 177 ff.), and Sighele (Psychologie des sectes, pp. 45 ff.)

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