General Psychology
Chapter 4: Social and Racial Psychology

Walter  S. Hunter


General Problems and Points of View.—Men and most animals show marked differences of behavior when in the presence of other organisms, notably members of the same species. This is the fundamental fact of social psychology—interstimulation and response. A strange ant entering an ant neighborhood calls forth characteristic behavior in the environment. A monkey, confined in a cage alone, becomes a different animal upon the introduction of a companion. In man we find such responses as shyness, coyness, and either a comfortable relaxation or a strained effort to make an appearance. These are all instances of social behavior. Social psychology seeks to describe and explain all such cases. It studies customs, traditions, fads, fashions, conventions, the crowd, the public, and the mob. Furthermore it analyzes law, religion, morals, language, and art, in order to indicate and appraise the psychological groundwork of these institutions. The prime prerequisite for carrying forward these investigations is an understanding of the nature of certain traits of the individual. Thus the social psychologist must understand original human and animal nature—the instincts and emotions—and must know how and to what extent it is possible to modify this original nature through the individual's experience. He must be familiar with the nature and workings of suggestion, imitation, and sympathy; and he must appreciate the activities of imagination and thought. Out of this social study of the individual grows a conception of the self as it is determined by a social environment—a condition of living from which none can escape.

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So far we have stated the problems of social psychology in objective, behavioristic terms with no reference to consciousness. Very little attempt is made to approach these problems from an analytical, structural point of view. The descriptions of experiences that are given, however, often recognize very explicitly consciousness and its right to a place in the field of psychology. Studies of conscience, of conversion, and religious experiences in general, descriptions of mobs and analyses of the social self, are cases where consciousness occupies a prominent place.

The Nature of Society.—Ellwood has emphasized the view that by the term society is meant any psychic, or mental, inter-action of individuals. Mere physical proximity and interaction are not sufficient to constitute social behavior. Paramecia may congregate in a drop of chemical, but they are not thereby a society; nor does the fact that human beings are herded together in a city make of them a society. Whether the marvelously complex activities of the ants and bees are social will depend, according to Ellwood, upon whether or not the inter-actions are conscious. This is a very important point of view and one into all of whose implications we cannot go. It is the distinction between consciousness and behavior meeting us again at a new angle. Current psychology includes both. The error comes, apparently, from the effort made to delimit sharply the social from the non-social. Inasmuch, however, as we have no certain method of detecting the presence and absence of consciousness in animals below man, we shall view as social behavior all cases where the conduct and behavior of an organ-ism is modified as the direct result of the action of another organism. The responses of one individual are themselves the stimuli for the responses of another individual. Accordingly, we may say that all animals enter into social relations. The most primitive cases are possibly the food and sex reactions of protozoa. In the account that is to follow, however, we shall

( 86) confine our attention to certain selected topics from human social behavior. We shall, in fact, be led to see that practically all human responses are social.

The Origin of Society.—It was held by Hobbes and Rousseau that society is an artifact arising from a mutual contract between individuals when this finally becomes necessary for protection against mutual depredations. Such a view pre-supposes that there was a time when society, or social relations, did not exist and that social relations are to be limited to the fact of organized society and its phenomena. The present view would list as social even the "anti-social" facts of conflict.

Society is as old as man himself. (We are now ignoring the animals below man.) It is implicit in mating, and is prominent when the family—or a permanent union of the sexes with the consequent care of children—arises. Whether primitive or advanced, society's phenomena revolve about the fundamental instincts of food and sex. Suggestion has already been made concerning the rôle of sex. It is necessary to point out further that the term sex must be interpreted in the broadest way, covering courtship, mating, family life, and the rearing and education of offspring. Even the most casual inspection will show to what an enormous extent social phenomena are concerned with these activities. The place of the food-getting impulse is equally prominent. In primitive times individuals and tribes migrated from localities where food was scarce and sought more fruitful areas. Permanent villages grew up in these places and in locations possessed of trade advantages. Farming, dairying, horticulture, and animal-breeding—all are occupations arising for the production of food. Distribution, requiring the necessary means of transportation, and the final consumption tell the story of all but a very minor portion of social activities. Back of all of them is the machinery of social forces and motives, the names of which (imitation, suggestion, etc.) we have already canvassed.

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In our further discussion of social facts we shall work under two main headings: "The Self as Social" and "Social Institutions." In the study of the former topic we shall attempt to secure 'a thorough understanding of the social individuals whose behavior makes the social institutions. Under the latter topic we shall describe briefly only customs and mobs, leaving aside other topics of great importance such as religion, law, and morality.


The Place of Instincts in Social Life.—Any thorough account of the self must include a study of instincts because these are the fundamental forms of all behavior. By virtue of his membership in the species each individual possesses certain characteristic inherited modes of acting called instincts. Here belong such responses as fear, anger, joy, sorrow, grief, jealousy, gregariousness, acquisitiveness, food-getting, sex responses, etc. Once again, as in the chapter on "Animal Psychology," we must postpone the detailed consideration of instinct to Part II, and continue to think of it in the fairly general sense of any inherited form of response in animals possessed of a nervous system. The instincts are termed fundamental because all of the later developments in conduct (character) are composed of modifications of this original stuff of human nature. In a very true sense the entire field of psychology centers upon this question of adjustment to environment, whether the adjustment be inherited or acquired. In the process of change and growth that goes on in each instinct, social factors are always effective. I learn to fear what my neighbor fears. I secure my food and mate in the ways prescribed by social usage. My curiosity and jealousy are aroused and satisfied in the conventional manner prescribed by the group in which I live. Wherever one turns he is met by social guidance and compulsion. In this respect—and it is an important one—all instincts are social. One may,

( 88) however, consider the instincts not so much from the stand-point of their conformity to social standards (or vice versa) as from the point of view of the types of situations that arouse them or of the primary functions that they serve. From such an angle sex, gregariousness, jealousy, the parental instinct, fear, and anger are social in a way that hunger, curiosity, and joy seldom are. The former instincts are aroused in situations where other persons are usually integral parts. Even in the case of anger where the social element is less uniform, there exists an inevitable tendency to personify the offending object. The elusive collar-button and the threatening cloud alike tend to become persons at the moment of the arousal of the instinct. This is also equally true of fear. The latter instincts of our foregoing list are not so essentially social.

The chief importance of instinct for society lies in two directions: (r) The instincts furnish the fundamental driving-springs to action in the individual. They represent solutions for typical recurrent difficulties as they have been worked out in the past history of the species. Customs, traditions, conventions, fads—all must take this fact into account. These habits are built upon the basis of instinct and represent habitual modifications found desirable by the group of individuals. Thus marriage in its various forms is built upon the basis of the sex and parental instincts. Customs of food production and distribution involve the instincts of hunger-satisfaction, rivalry, acquisitiveness, etc. These modifications and elaborations of instinctive responses are transmitted from generation to generation by education, i.e., by social as opposed to physical heredity.(z) Not only do instincts represent the fundamental responses made by an individual to certain situations that constantly recur within his lifetime, but furthermore they are types of behavior that cannot be eliminated. One may repress or modify an instinct so that it seldom recurs or so that it appears in a highly modified form, but one cannot eradicate the instinct

( 89) totally. Social customs and usages, when they are successful, recognize this fact. The sex instinct cannot be eliminated or successfully repressed. The Middle Ages saw the failure of such a doctrine, and Freudianism at the present time is contributing further data. Hostility, jealousy, rivalry, and the other instincts are likewise permanent features of the organism's behavior system. Social groups can modify but cannot destroy these tendencies. Hostility may be sublimated from sheer animal attack as in war to the more subtle conflicts or competitions of wit and cleverness; yet ever and anon the repressed animal form of the combative instinct comes to the surface and dominates behavior. Indeed we might proceed to trace in detail not only the place hostility assumes in social life, but also the places that the other instincts occupy, whether they be essentially social or not. We must turn, however, to an account of three forms of behavior that have a peculiarly significant position as socializing forces.

Socializing Influences in the Individual.

1. Sympathy.—Sympathy is fellow-feeling. It is, when strictly defined, more than a mere cognitive appreciation of the emotions of another. To sympathize one must himself experience the emotion of another to a greater or lesser degree. To sympathize with joy, anger, fear, and sorrow means that the observer himself is aware of similar emotions from perceiving them in others. The term sympathy, therefore, designates a certain relationship between the emotions of two or more individuals, and does not refer to a particular feeling or emotion in one person. The relationship, accordingly, can occur only in a social situation. Its importance in the development of society has been stressed by Giddings (1905) in particular. It is important to note that sympathy not only depends upon a conscious interstimulation or social arousal, but it usually comes forth only when individuals of a kind are involved. The greater the similarity of the organisms the keener the sympathy.

( 90) A man may project personality into his dog or his horse and share its feelings; but ordinarily sympathy is the stronger between man and man. Its greatest value lies in its function as a powerful cohesive factor among members of a group.

Two forms of sympathy may be distinguished: passive sympathy, which gets no farther than the bare experiencing of similar emotions, and active sympathy, which, as Bain points out, leads its possessor to act out these emotions in behalf of another as though they were in reality his own. It is this latter form that is socially meritorious and adaptive. To see a neighbor in pain and distress is certain to arouse distressing emotion in the normal person. The passive type hurries on with averted face, or quickly turns to more pleasing topics in the paper, if the emotional situation has arisen from reading. Such an individual erects a defense mechanism of inattention and forgetfulness. The active type responds with aid if the situation is painful, and with joyful acclaim if it is pleasant. The differences between the two are due in part to custom and convenience, and in part to the individual's innate organization by virtue of which he may be chiefly interested in self. Much passive sympathy exists from sheer lack of sufficient energy to meet actively all of the demands made upon one's fellow-feeling.

Both forms of sympathy depend for arousal chiefly upon two factors: (1) one's experience in the past with such joys and sorrows as now demand sympathetic response; and (2) the consciousness that the individual to be sympathized with is a member of one's own kind. Both, therefore, wait upon one's power of imagination. (Imagination, let it be said, is here given its popular meaning.) It is difficult to sympathize fully with abject grief unless one has suffered it himself. The woes of poverty and the pangs of hunger can at best strike but a feeble response in the continuously prosperous and well-fed.

( 91) The influence of the second factor is equally clear and perhaps even more striking. Our inability to sympathize with some distant and unfamiliar group of people is largely due to our inability to appreciate clearly their similarity to ourselves. They are strange and unknown and we cannot well vividly portray their human characteristics, the deep human nature that makes the whole world of man akin. (There is, of course, the opposite fault which leads one to sentimentalize the convict and the international offender.) Our enemies, those hostile not only to me personally but to my clan, tribe, or group, those who are not for us, we explicitly place outside our "kind." Such limits as imagination sets to sympathy are both good and bad—bad to the extent that worthy persons are excluded from the sphere of fellow-feeling, but good to the extent that they enable one to keep a hostile and uncompromising front to otherwise likable people who persist in violating international and social laws. Immediate face-to-face encounters with suffering individuals act as so powerful a stimulant to sympathy that the aims of justice, which must be rational, are often deflected. A criminal or one who has broken custom and is cast out of the group is not only an offender; he is also a man and a former member of the group. The sympathy aroused by the stimulus of the latter fact may succeed in offsetting the non-sympathetic responses to his antisocial actions.

The problem raised by the question of sympathy is essentially that of the place of emotion in social life. Emotions possess the great function of uniting by powerful associations the objects which are experienced with them. Two individuals (two persons, or a man and his dog) who pass through the same emotional situations are in the future bound together with "sympathetic" ties. They become, by virtue of that fact, henceforth members of a kind, of a clan, of a group.

2. Imitation.—Among sociologists Tarde and Baldwin in particular have stressed the influence exerted over the conduct

( 92) of the individual by imitation. In general to imitate is to duplicate the actions of another, as to sympathize is to duplicate the feelings of another. The child imitates its parents. One sparrow imitates another by flying when the other flies. The adult person imitates others in his conformity to fashions and conventions. It must be clear, therefore, that imitation may involve a greater or lesser degree of consciousness and a greater or a lesser amount of reasoning. There is no valid ground for assuming that imitation in animals involves rational processes. In a pack of wolves one animal sets up a howl and the rest chime in. In a flock of birds one flies and the rest follow. Terror in one member of a herd will stampede the entire group. These are the so-called cases of instinctive imitation, i.e., cases where one individual is said to be aroused to perform an act x by perceiving its occurrence in another animal. These are the most primitive forms, the most widespread and automatic forms of imitation. There is no minimizing its importance in the preservation of the group through its effect upon team work and uniformity of action. Cattle that did not stampede after their leaders would in time fail to survive. Social groups whose members did not act as other members act would disintegrate. This is all true, and yet there is little ground for the assumption of an instinct of imitation. Such a statement assumes that by heredity one or more instincts may be aroused not only by dangerous objects (fear), or by annoying objects (anger), but by the perception of the instinct itself as it occurs in another. Thus to speak of an "instinct of imitation" is to say that by heredity the awareness of fear in another arouses fear in the beholder, the awareness of anger itself arouses anger, etc. But the awareness of fear in another may arouse joy, shame, anger, or almost any other action in the beholder. The fact that fear is often contagious does not indicate that fear is itself the stimulus which brings about its spread throughout the group.

( 93) The keenest criticism of such a point of view we owe to Thorn-dike (1913). He writes:[1]

The spectators of an infuriated man, or of two men raging at each other, are not thereby provoked to similar acts and feelings. They manifest rather "curiosity-wonder," forming a ring to stare, the world over. So with other mammals. When Professor McDougall wrote that "anger provokes anger" he probably had in mind the fact that angry behavior of A toward B provokes angry behavior of B toward A. But that is irrelevant to his purpose, since he surely does not wish to contend that A's fleeing from B makes B flee from A, that A's shrinking from B makes B shrink from A, that A's self-abasement before B makes B abase himself before A.

The whole difficulty lies in making sure in any particular case of imitation whether the similar responses are not due to the fact (1) that each animal concerned receives the stimulus that affected the first or imitated animal, or (2) that the imitated behavior itself contains a signal or stimulus for its repetition by others. So Thorndike continues:[2]

Under present conditions children would usually learn by training to run from what others ran from, to look at whatever others looked at, and the like, even if there were no original tendencies to do so. Moreover the object or event, the perception of which causes A to respond by a certain instinctive behavior which then spreads to B, is likely to be perceived by B also, so that whether his behavior is a response to A's behavior or to the object itself is often in doubt. For example, A's fear at a snake may arouse B's fear indirectly by merely calling B's attention to the snake. Finally A's response may, upon his perception of B, be modified to include certain behavior which acts as a special signal to provoke approach, fear, or whatever the response may be, in B. Thus the danger-signal might be given by A when frightened in company, though not when frightened alone; and B might respond, not to A's general fright, but to the danger signal.


We are unable to point out the exact mechanism by which all cases of imitation are brought about. In the chapter on "Animal Psychology" we had occasion to present a typical experiment upon rational imitation in monkeys. In this form of imitation the individual is supposed consciously to conform his actions to those of the imitatee. We indicated at that time that the monkey's behavior was understandable in terms of two factors, (a) the heightened interest due to the presence of a second member of the same species, and (b) the focusing of the animal's behavior, or attention, upon the essential features of the problem. The fact that man and many animals below man do act as they perceive others acting is beyond doubt. The reasons for this form of response will vary with different situations, as we have indicated in the quotation from Thorn-dike and in the discussion of animals. Perhaps the strongest reason for imitative activities in general lies in the sense of helplessness, loss, and fear that comes with the isolation from (non-conformity with) the group. Later in the discussion of custom we shall meet certain of the methods adopted by the group to compel conformity to, or imitation of, its ways.

3. Suggestion.—Suggestion is the third factor upon which particular stress has been laid in explaining the social behavior of the individual. It is difficult and unnecessary to keep it separate and distinct from the imitative process. Ordinarily suggestion is defined as the process of uncritically accepting an idea that is encountered in social situations; but the line which separates that which is accepted and believed from that which is merely performed in common with others is exceedingly fine. Sympathy, imitation, and suggestion all refer to uniformities, to similarities among individuals of a kind. In all cases the arousal of the feeling, act, or idea in the second person proceeds in a manner practically automatic and unconscious. One hears the cry and is instantly sharing to some extent the sorrows of his neighbor. One sees his friend's new spring suit, and with little

( 95) or no deliberation procures one of the same style when it comes time to buy. One reads that his country has made a great contribution toward the winning of the war. "The wish is father to the thought," and the idea is uncritically welcomed with open arms. The similarity between the three processes is partly based upon the intimate connection between consciousness (or better, the neural activities accompanying it) and action. To sympathize is to feel as your neighbor does, but this involves no inconsiderable amount of similar responses or imitation. The same is true of suggestibility. It is but a short and fairly inconsequential step from belief in an idea to action in accordance with that idea. If the idea is shared by two or more individuals, the action will be shared likewise and is then termed imitation.

We have already encountered the phenomena of suggestion in our study of abnormal psychology. Suggestibility is favored by any factors that tend to put the critical powers of the individual off guard and that permit an idea to obtrude itself into consciousness with little or no critical consideration. Resistance to suggestion goes along with a wide and highly organized experience. As a result, women, children, and members of the more primitive races are in general more open to suggestion, to the uncritical acceptance of ideas, than are men, adults, and the more cultivated races. We may follow Ross, in the main, in listing the factors that aid suggestion: prestige, age, race, sex, emotional excitement, repeated stimulation, and the feeling of being but one person out of many. By prestige we refer to the effect of authority in securing the unresisting acceptance of an idea. Let a high critic of art pronounce a picture poor, and immediately for many the picture is no longer artistic. Let custom through some of its representatives say that such and such conduct is wrong and the edict is unquestioningly accepted by most people. I write an account of suggestion, and the students more or less uncritically accept it as true because as a

( 96) writer of books I have prestige and authority! This factor is a valuable and unavoidable aid in the dissemination of ideas among a group of people, the chief safeguard, however, being that the prestige emanate from ability. In many cases prestige depends upon the age, race, or sex of the leader; thus we may group these factors as subordinate ones under the main one of authority. Insistent, insidious repetition will also break down and overcome resistance and cause ideas to be accepted as correct. Familiarity breeds acquiescence. The effects of the other two factors, emotion and numbers, we may best illustrate under the topic of mob action to be discussed below.

The Nature of the Self.—Under the present topic we shall consider the self only as it appears in consciousness. In a very true sense the self is identical with the individual organism. From this point of view an account of the self would involve a discussion of all its characteristics as an individual apart from, though related to, other individuals. Psychology as a whole is the study of the individual's consciousness and behavior. Consequently, the entire account of the present book is directed toward drawing the outlines of the individual in so far as he may be subject to psychological analysis. The present section, however, deals only with a very limited part of the topic, viz., the nature of self-consciousness. In our discussion we shall follow along the road mapped out by James.

I am, it is true, a part of all that I have met. But within my total consciousness there are certain elements that are more intimately and peculiarly "me" than others. My body is probably first. It is represented in consciousness fundamentally as sensations from the muscles, skin, and viscera. These sensations persist from moment to moment and form a major portion of the consciousness of continued bodily existence.Organized in this manner and supplemented by memories of the past, they may be termed the bodily-self. There is also a self-as-others-know-me which includes my awareness of

( 97) myself as I think others believe me to be. It may be quite different from my self-as-I-know-myself. Then there is the club-self, the religious-self, and in fact a self for each of the fundamental situations of life which I have been accustomed to meet. James states the situation as follows:[3]

In its widest possible sense, however, a man's self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands, and horses, and yacht,and bank account Its own body, then, first of all, its friends next, and finally its spiritual dispositions, MUST be the supremely interesting OBJECTS for each human mind.

Each of these fairly numerous selves has a certain distinctness and individuality. Each is an organized unit dominated first by the standards of conduct applicable to the specific situation, and second by the awareness or consciousness of itself as in that situation. Ordinarily and normally all of these selves are so closely interrelated that they are felt as one. Yet when my club-self is dominant I tend to forget and ignore what I am as a professor-self and vice versa. So the week-day-self forgets or ignores the Sunday-self. These forgettings are defense mechanisms erected by the dominant self to save it from self-criticism or from other inconvenience. Ordinarily the amnesia (forgetting) is not so complete as to be termed pathological. Occasionally, however, it may be so, as we have seen. Then we have the cases of multiple personality, i.e., extreme splits in a normally slightly divided self. Freud has taught us to hold that the exaggeration in the amount of division is due to a relatively strong need for a defense mechanism.

The Development of the Self.—Each of the selves that we have so briefly mentioned is changing from the time of its initial inception to its final death. This change may be either

( 98) a growth or a decay. Perhaps few of the average individual's many selves continue their existence until the time of his bodily death—in fact the bodily-self is the only one that usually does so. The content of this self—interest in the welfare of the body as represented largely through kinaesthetic, cutaneous, and organic sensations—as a rule changes but little. As opposed to this instance the contents of one's social selves are in constant flux. The child's family increases, decreases, and varies in its many fortunes. Likewise does one's family as a man. The circle of one's friends and acquaintances is now large, now small, now intellectual, now plodding. With the average individual (at least in the cities) this fluctuation in content is incessant. It is more difficult to generalize in the case of that social sell termed the religious. Many individuals find this content stable and unvariable. Others are tossed about for most of their lives upon the thorny beds of religious unrest, repudiating first this and then that content, refusing to be an orthodox self, rebelling at an unorthodox self, and perhaps never reaching a decision. This religious-self after its first appearance in early childhood persists throughout the greater part of the physical lifetime of the individual. Undoubtedly few if any normal human beings exist after childhood who do not place themselves in relation to a power greater than themselves. The content of such a religious-self will vary widely, depending upon whether the individual conceives this Greater Power as Absolute, as only superhuman, as spiritual or material, as solicitous or indifferent, as good or evil, etc. The content of this self will include all of one's behavior and standards governing that behavior so far as it involves a relation to this Power greater than the self. It should now be stated in amplification of our foregoing comments upon the bodily-self that, although normally it is the most persistent and lasting self, instances do at times arise where it is totally repudiated in the interests of a social self. Asceticism is the attitude which dominates when the

( 99) bodily-self is denied and destroyed so far as consciousness is concerned. Extreme cases are on record where apparently hardly a vestige of interest and concern for the bodily-self remains. The social self which thus more or less totally excludes any other may be a religious one or it may be a devotion to the more secular ideals of justice and fair play. The successful growth of any of one's selves involves the adjustment to or elimination of its other competing selves.

What we have just written can be best illustrated from James:[4]

I am often confronted by the necessity of standing by one of my empirical selves and relinquishing the rest. Not that I would not, if I could, be both handsome and fat and well dressed, and a great athlete, and make a million a year, be a wit, a bon-vivant, and a lady-killer, as well as a philosopher; a philanthropist, statesman, warrior, and African explorer, as well as a "tone-poet" and saint. But the thing is simply impossible. The millionaire's work would run counter to the saint's; the bon-vivant and the philanthropist would trip each other up; the philosopher and the lady-killer could not well keep house in the same tenement of clay. Such different characters may conceivably at the outset of life be alike possible to a man. But to make any one of them actual, the rest must more or less be suppressed.

These competitions between the selves of a given individual contain the great dangers of mental maladjustments as well as the possibilities of spiritual growth. Social conditions, as we have seen, require the repression of certain possible selves. Too often this has meant an attempt to distort essential human nature. In those who fail to work out a modus vivendi, who are unable to adjust their impulses to social demands without doing themselves violence, mental disease appears. They become the neurotic, the hysterical, the obsessed.

Baldwin on the Growth of the Self.—So far, in our sketch of the development of the self, account has been taken only of the

( 100) variations of content in the various selves. Baldwin has described in addition certain phases that each self passes through in its attitude, particularly, toward the corresponding selves of other individuals.[5] Not only will my club-self vary in its content from time to time so long as it exists, but it will take certain attitudes toward the club-selves of others. Two attitudes of chief importance are to be distinguished, which Baldwin calls the subjective and the ejective selves. The subjective self is the self as submissive, as imitative—a learning self. As ejective the self is aggressive and masterful, putting into practicethat which it has learned as subjective. I enter a strange club. Its ways and customs as embodied in the club-selves of its members, the standards by which it governs conduct, are all as yet unknown to me. As a new environment in which I am to move, it has prestige. I am thrown into a submissive attitude. I observe. I move respectfully. I note and learn. Then having mastered the new situation, having expanded my club-self to take in its new surroundings, I change my attitude from that of a novice to that of a habitué. My manner becomes easy and masterful. I unconsciously read over into the club-selves of my fellow-members the pleasures and motives that I now find within myself. I now "eject" that which has hitherto been subjective. One may follow through in a similar fashion subjective and ejective attitudes of the many selves in a thou-sand and one situations. We cannot here discuss, but it is interesting to note, the fact that the submissive self is dominated by a mild emotion of fear and the ejective, or aggressive, self by a mild anger. Selfhood and also fear and anger are essential to each individual.


Introduction.—By a social institution we shall mean any of the more or less stable and permanent relationship

( 101) entered into by individuals. Society itself is a social institution. We mentioned others at the beginning of our present chapter: fashions, conventions, traditions, the mob, the crowd, the public, religion, morals, law, language, art, etc. It should be clear that only part of the individual is involved in each institution. One self will be found particularly emphasized in fashions, another in morals, another in religion. It would far exceed the scope of our present bird's-eye view of the field of social psychology to discuss many of these topics in detail, for each in turn calls not only for an analysis of structure, but also for a survey of the factors causing constant changes in this structure. Accordingly we shall limit our present account to brief comments upon the nature of custom and the mob. ,

The Nature of Custom.—Customs are uniform modes of acting that are transmitted by social heredity from generation to generation. Thus one finds religious, moral, commercial, legislative, and other customs. They differ from ordinary habits in that their age extends back of the present generation and in that they are habits common to a large number of individuals. Like habits (see the discussion below, p. 176) they arise partly by chance and partly as a result of reflection. Perhaps in each case both factors are active, varying only in relative amount. Particularly in primitive customs does chance play a dominant rôle. Let us describe a hypothetical but typical case of custom-formation in hunting, remembering that the securing of food is a matter of tremendous importance in primitive life; that strong emotions are involved; and that as a matter of life and death the savage can afford to ignore no power that may aid him. On the morning of the hunt he comes from his shelter with his bow and arrows and stumbles. The day proves unfruitful. Stumbling becomes an omen of bad luck, a thing to be eliminated from the procedure of hunting. In like manner the full moon may also become associated with poor hunting, and the custom be confined largely to the dark

( 102) of the moon. If failure attends the hunting for several days and then gives place to success shortly after the hunter has rubbed the bow three times and said to himself, "O arrow, shoot straight," this practice becomes incorporated into the hunting procedure, is taught to the hunter's friends and children, and finally becomes a well-established custom. As growth occurs, some customs are cast off and their adherents are termed non-believers. Present-day society is replete with such vestigial modes of acting. "Do not plant potatoes in the dark of the moon." "Do not pass a pin without picking it up." "Thirteen is unlucky." These useless and more or less rejected customs rest upon. a defective analysis of the relation of cause and effect in nature. The reason why the above injunction about potatoes does not influence most of us is that we can detect no causal relationship between growing potatoes and the phases of the moon. In a like manner the superstitions concerning the number 13, the spilling of salt, and many other acts and their sup-posed significance do not generally affect us. Among the more intelligent classes the tendency is to form all essential customs upon the result of reflection. For this reason laws are drawn up by deliberative assemblies. Rules of planting and reaping are devised at the agricultural colleges. Yet even with the most intelligent a fairly large field of behavior remains under the reign of chance impression, partly because—as with the number 13—the situations are not vital for the individual, and partly because some customs, such as religion, the control of sex behavior, the right of property, involve such tremendous issues that society fears to tamper with accepted custom lest great evil result.

What are the factors that give custom its grip on the individual's various selves? They may be listed as follows: (1) fear of the unknown and the unusual that are to be found just out-side of the customary mode of action; (2) the ease, convenience, and lack of fatigue in doing the accepted; (3) the prestige of

( 103) the old; (4) the effect of public opinion. The more important the custom to the individuals concerned the greater is the influence of the first factor. The primitive man will not depart from his hunting custom or from his method of caring for his cattle, because to do so is to leave a successful form of response for untried possibilities with suffering and death the penalty of failure. Present-day peoples are loath to depart from the customary marriage regulations for much the same reason. It is to run the risk in this very important social problem of "jumping from the frying-pan into the fire." And then, too, in all of these cases it is much easier to act than to think. The path of the reformer is always hard and seldom attractive. The prestige of the old is the prestige of that which has worked well enough at least for survival. As a group, China with its ancestor-worship is perhaps the most striking illustration of this factor. Public opinion has its effect upon the individual partly through the great prestige and suggestive power that attach to large numbers and partly through the fear of ostracism and isolation that result from non-customary behavior.

The Mob.—Customs are relatively permanent social institutions. Mobs are very transient. Many selves may exist and never take part in social relations that even closely approximate mobs, while no self avoids custom. In a mob we have essentially a congregation of individuals dominated emotionally and intellectually by a certain situation. The particular self involved will depend upon whether the situation concerns the family, religion, or the club, for example. Suggestion and sympathetically aroused emotion are the great forces at work.

We may describe the nature of the mob in the following schematic manner: (1) The exciting cause, a murder, let us say, stirs the community deeply. Consciousness focuses itself definitely upon the details and upon the identity of the probable offender. (2) The news is spread that the offender has been captured and that the people are gathering in the town square.

( 104) This leads to a further increase of the crowd which at this stage is governed largely by curiosity. (3) In such a group suggestibility is at its height, due to the emotional status of each individual. The way is prepared for irrational mob action. (4) A leader appears and harangues the crowd. He fixes their attention further upon the details of the crime, arouses their emotions by playing upon custom violation and the need of awful punishment. Then with the group in a state of high tension, the leader, or some member of the group who thus becomes a spontaneous leader, shouts a demand for hanging the guilty one. (5) The suggestion catches and spreads. To have the idea is to act upon it.

In this schematic way we might follow the further irrational, suggestible, childish behavior of the group dominated in this manner by a single emotional idea, but the situation is too familiar to require more description. The case is essentially one of group hypnotism. One may draw similar illustrations from the fields of political conventions, religious revivals, etc., which reveal the same frailties of the individual in a crowd. Indeed never a year passes but one can find excellent descriptions in the newspapers of mob activities. In so far as they take the form of killing a victim, so far are they examples of the blind primitive animal-anger whose purpose is the annihilation of the opponent. In each mob situation an emotion of some kind is the dominant influence making for social unity.

Other institutions of society we must leave untouched and proceed to an even briefer sketch of racial psychology.


Racial psychology concerns itself with differences between races in behavior and consciousness. To what extent do the customs and other activities of races differ, and what are the contributing causes? To what extent do the conscious experiences of races differ, and why do they do so? What are the

( 105) relative abilities of different races when examined by the method of mental tests, or by a comparison of their respective institutions? The question in all of these problems is, "How will individuals vary in their different characteristics by virtue of their membership in different racial stocks?" These questions indicate clearly that the topic of racial psychology is related very intimately to anthropology and ethnology. Most of its facts and theories are, up to the present time, the fruits of investigators who are not primarily psychologists. The situation is in process of fairly rapid change now to the extent that mental tests are being applied, and in the future one may expect accumulations of facts bearing upon relative intelligence that have been subjected to the most rigid scientific standards. The most extensive data of a reliable nature at the present time consist: (1) of descriptions of the customs of different races with some suggestion of their geographical, economic, and social causes; v and (2) of physical (anthropometric) measurements showing particularly differences in skull capacity and form. The great and fascinating field of primitive custom and culture we shall pass over, though in the preceding account of social psychology we have described a few of the factors underlying their formation and preservation. The topic here to be presented for the purpose of illustrating the concrete problems of racial psychology is that of racial differences in general ability.

Racial Differences in General Ability.—The general question of inferior races is not whether or not there are inequalities in racial attainments, for there is ample evidence that all are not favored sons. The essential problem is whether or not there are inherent differences in ability. The question we are raising is psychological and not ethical. Cannibalism, polygamy, and ancestor-worship may be thought to be inferior in moral worth to the corresponding practices of Europeans; yet it does not follow that the adherents of these customs are mentally inferior. They may be able to see, hear, smell, and taste as acutely as

( 106) we, and their powers of thinking may be of a high grade. On the other hand peoples, races, may share the same .customs and culture and yet differ more or less in intelligence. There has been a very strong tendency to treat all racial stocks as inferior to the European partly because the present European has assimilated and outdistanced more primitive races, and partly because today the "lower races," i.e., Africans, Australians, American Indians, and others, vanish and fade before his advance. Boas (1901, 1911) and other anthropologists do well, therefore, when they point out social, economic, and physiological reasons for race predominance. Modern occidental contact with more primitive races no longer is one of assimilation and intermingling, but largely one of exploitation. Roman culture conquered its barbarous captors in the final end of the empire, but prior to that the Romans had mingled more or less freely with their colonials. The Mohammedans absorb the native peoples that are below them, while the Caucasians do so almost not at all. At the present diseases of civilization, e.g., venereal diseases and tuberculosis, attack the newly found races more than was apparently the case in earlier racial contacts and thus aid racial differences in survival. In evaluating the great spread of occidental control over the world, note should be taken that relatively high civilizations (e.g., those of the Aztecs and Incas) have existed among races now extinct. Granted that these races were 4,000 years behind in culture, yet when one considers this in comparison with the age of man, Boas points out that accidental causes and not mental inferiority may well explain the facts.

It has long been urged that many of the primitive races reveal their mental inferiority in their language. One mark of intelligence is the ability to detect sameness or identity in widely differing objects. This is the capacity for acquiring workable concepts or general notions. Primitive races, it has been said, make too many irrelevant distinctions. They may call a small

( 107) nut one thing and a large nut another, and yet may have no word for both. They are unable apparently to see that while the nuts are different yet nevertheless they are both nuts and very similar. Or again words will exist for many kinds of horses according to color, and yet there will be no general word for horse. In other words, so the criticism goes, primitive races have more words than ideas. It is this general point of view that Hocart (1912) criticizes most brilliantly, pointing out that a language must be judged not in terms of dictionaries but in terms of its suitability to a particular environment. The reason why one race will make many distinctions with certain objects and relatively few with others is because the former objects have many specific uses and the latter few. Let us illustrate by a quotation from Hocart:[6]

The Solomon Islands possess a most useful nut, the kanary, which engrosses much of the islanders' interests and fills much of their existence. In those parts investigated by Dr. Rivers and myself they distinguished two kinds: the vino and the ngari; in our eyes it was merely a difference in size, and we might never have considered them otherwise than as large and small specimens had not the natives given us the two words. Yet closely related as they are, they have no common term. Had we proceeded no further, we might have ascribed this deficiency to an "incapacity for dearly apprehending identity in difference." But is it reasonable to suppose that an identity so glaring could not peep through the thin veil of differences ?.... We found that from trifling differences sprang a host of momentous ones—technical, commercial, and religious: the seasons of the two do not coincide; they are gathered differently, because the branches of the vino will bear a man and the ngari will not; they are cracked differently; .... they are preserved differently; .... the two, in fact, are only identical in the kitchen, and therefore they have but one word for the roasted kernels and puddings of either.

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Again an illustration from the Fijian language will show the opposite side of the matter. Where the group takes no interest in certain objects, there it makes no fine distinctions—not because it lacks the mental ability, but because such distinctions would be useless in its social existence. In English—

a cock crows, a hen cackles, a pigeon coos, a jackdaw caws, other birds sing or chirp or warble, but they cannot cry as they all do in Fijian. Is Fijian therefore more advanced in ornithology? On the contrary, it is because they take no interest in birds that they have but one word . . . .

So one might continue citing peculiar cases in different languages where ideas that we might regard as necessary are lacking and unnecessary ones are present. But one really need not go outside the English language. Every special field has its particular vocabulary. Experts in most fields regard those who cannot use their jargon as more or less inferior beings! The farmer, the horseman, the mechanic, the psychologist, all find it necessary to draw certain distinctions and to omit others. To most of us horses are all of a kind, and one rock is much like another. But the specialist speaks of mares and stallions, and of chalks and limestones and shale. Some environments make greater demands on their inhabitants than others and therefore stimulate various accomplishments, although the peoples concerned may be of equal ability. There is no question but that all men imagine, remember, think, and feel. All can see, hear, smell. There is little reason to believe that savages have more acute senses than civilized man. It is true that they hear slight sounds and see faint trails that escape the townsman; but he too can see and hear them if he will practice and be interested.

The chief differences between European stocks and the so-called inferior races will undoubtedly be found in general intelligence as revealed by mental tests of the kind described in the chapter on "Individual Psychology." Very significant

( 109) beginnings have already been made with particular reference to a comparison of whites and negroes in this country. This work, carried on by Mayo, Baldwin, Pyle, Ferguson, and others, including the army psychologists, indicates a significant superiority of the white over the black in general intelligence, i.e., in learning capacity, or ability to adjust to novel situations. Although the topic is of absorbing interest, it must be passed by without further comment, as must also such other essential problems of racial psychology as emotional control, morality, intermarriage, and birth- and death-rates.

Résumé of Part I.—Psychology, it will be remembered, is a science of human nature. And the purpose constantly before it is to understand just what a human individual is with particular reference to his behavior and consciousness. To gain this understanding one must consider what characteristics in this respect man has by virtue: (1) of his relationship to infrahuman animals; (2) of his relative ranking in ability in his particular population; (3) of the abnormalities that he is prone to share or to develop; and (4) of his membership in a certain society and a certain race. We have now completed a survey of these fields. It remains in Part II, "Normal Human Adult Psychology,"to characterize man from the standpoint of those forms of behavior and consciousness which all men possess in a degree dependent upon the influence of those factors which we have just outlined.


Ames, E. S. The Psychology of Religious Experience. Boston: 1910.

Baldwin, J. M. Mental Development in the Child and in the Race. New York: 1895.

———. Social and Ethical Interpretations. New York: 1897.

Bentley, I. M., Clark, Helen, and Woolbert, C. H. "Studies in Social Psychology," Psych. Rev. Mon., XXI (1916), No. 4.

Boas, F. The Mind of Primitive Man. New York: 1911.


Ellwood, C. A. Introduction to Social Psychology. New York: 1917.

Ferguson, Jr., G. O. "The Psychology of the Negro," Archives of Psychology, XXV (1916), No. 36.

Hocart, A. M. The "Psychological Interpretation of Language," British Journal of Psychology, V (1912), 267-80.

Leuba, J. H. A Psychological Study of Religion. New York: 1912.

McDougall, William. An Introduction to Social Psychology. Fourth edition. Boston: 1911.

Mayo, M. J. "The Mental Capacity of the American Negro," Archives of Psychology (1913), No. 34

Ross, E. A. Social Psychology. New York: 1908.

Tarde, G. The Laws of Imitation. Trans. by Parsons. New York: 1903.

Thorndike, E. L. The Original Nature of Man. New York: 1913.

Woodworth, R. S. "Racial Differences in Mental Traits," Science, N.S., XXXI (1910), 171-86.

Wundt, William. Elements of Folk Psychology. Trans. by Schaub. New York: 1916.


  1. E. L. Thorndike. The Original Nature of Man (New York: 1913), p. 119.
  2. Ibid., p. 120.
  3. William James. Principles of Psychology (New York: 1890), I, 291, 323.
  4. William James. Op. cit., I, 309-10.
  5. We shall here rather use Baldwin's contribution than attempt to give an exposition of it. The present account therefore varies considerably from the original.
  6. A. M. Hocart. "The Psychological Interpretation of Language," British Journal of Psychology, V (1912), 272, 275.

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