Psychology, General and Applied

Chapter 19: Organization

Hugo Münsterberg

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The Individual and the Social Mind.—We have singled out those processes in the individual minds which are dependent upon the coexistence of men and which at the same time serve the formation of social groups. We spoke of the individual differences by which one mind is set off from others. We discussed the mutual attraction of these different minds and finally the emotions and impulses which subordinate or superordinate one mind to others. Seen from the standpoint of the social group every one of these individuals with his mental acts appears as an artificially isolated fragment. The combination which results from their approach, submission and selfassertion is the reality with which the social psychologist is concerned.

His interests naturally refer to two aspects. He asks how the real social groups become organized, and, secondly, how these organizations work. His problems are the structure and the development of society. But we must not forget that the social functions which we studied are not the only activities which enter into the functioning of the social group. The individual differences of men, their mutual approach, their submission and selfassertion secure the organization and through it the working of society, but they are certainly not the only events which are involved in the life of the social group. The individual does not cease to stand in the midst of nature when

( 266) he enters the social group. His personal life with all its reactions toward the nonsocial world is necessarily included in the group as a whole. The development of the human aggregate in its complex form includes, therefore, the individual processes as much as the strictly social processes.

But we must consider one more factor of utmost importance. It may be brought to sharpest relief, if we compare the social mind with the individual mind. Such a comparison is not meant simply as a metaphor. It is a true, far-reaching analogy, an account of really corresponding processes, and a careful tracing of the similarities can really help us to understand the one through the other. In our individual consciousness, the elements were the sensations and their combination was effected in the mind by association, their superordination and subordination by reenforcement and inhibition. In the social mind the elements are the individuals; their combination is secured by their approach and intercourse, their superordination and subordination by submission and selfassertion. The unity of personality in the individual mind finds its analogy on the social side in the unity of the social group, ultimately of human civilization as a whole. This was the underlying thought throughout the discussion.

Moreover, we have on both sides an analogous physiological basis for the mental process. Each mental element in the individual is based on the action of a brain cell, and these brain cells are connected with one another by cellipetal and cellifugal fibers. In a corresponding way the element of the social group, the personality, has as its physiological basis the whole individual brain, and these brains are connected with one another through the centripetal and centrifugal parts of the bodies. Each neuron of the central nervous system has its receiving nerve fibers by which it is stimulated from other cells, and its transmitting fibers by which it sends its messages to other cells, but no

( 267) two cells are grown together. They are only in such neighborhood that the excitation of one can stir up and communicate excitation to the next. The analogy is evident : two individuals are never grown together. There is a "synapsis" between any two brain neurons, and the same "synapsis" between any two social neurons. But in all communication and intercourse the individual transmits by his motor apparatus, his muscles, and the next receives by his sensory apparatus, his sense organs.

So far the analogy is simple. But the social psychologist who carried the comparison no further would leave out two elements of the individual process which we recognized as fundamentally important for the understanding of the psychophysical mechanism. Only if we trace the counterparts of those two factors can we arrive at a true, psychological understanding of organization and development in the social group. We recognized firstly that the interplay of the elements in the individual mind can never be understood as long as only the direct connections between the psychophysical processes are considered. All the life experiences of the individual are preserved in dispositions of brain cells which are acting without conscious accompaniment. They shape our decisions, they represent our knowledge, they make our lips speak before we have the words in consciousness. In short, all the actions of our mind consist not only of the mutual influence of the mental elements, but still more of the coöperation of those brain cells through which the million-fold psychophysical short cuts are established and which outside of consciousness perform the services of mental connections. They remember for us; they think for us; they will for us.

We have a perfect analogy to this situation in the objective elements of mental communication between individuals. A letter, a newspaper, a book, exists outside of the individuals themselves, and yet it intermediates be-

( 268) -tween two or between millions of persons in the social group, just as a not conscious cell process intermediates between two neurons. The book remembers for the social group, and the experiences of the group, objectively recorded in it, shape the social action and the social thought. The letter can connect any distant social neurons; the paper may distribute the excitement from one point of the social group to millions of others. Every objectified expression becomes a social short cut. As any psycho-physical explanation of the individual mental life must give attention to those unconscious brain processes, the explanation of the social mind necessarily involves the objectified records of experience and suggestions which intermediate between individuals. They are an organic part of the psycho-physical mechanism of the social group.

Yet the second factor is no less important. The individual's mind cannot be understood as long as only the interconnection of the brain cells is considered, even if the not conscious cell activities are added. We have put the chief emphasis on the further fact that the psychophysical brain function is always the starting point for external action. Those millions of brain cells are coöperating in producing muscle contractions and gland activities and blood-vessel changes ; and they themselves are again influenced by these external results. The brain cells cause the contraction of the muscles in the arms or fingers, and these contracted muscles awake new sensations in the brain cells. The interplay of the mental states demands this constant reference to the products outside of the brain.

We have the analogous process in the productions of the social group. They evidently take the form of the social institutions. The millions of individuals coöperate in producing the institutional civilization; the administrative and the legal institutions, the educational and the religious institutions, the economic and the technical institutions, result from the action of the social neurons. But every

( 269) change produced in these institutions has its influence on the social group itself. It is a constant interchange between the organized group of individuals and their institutional products. If we were to carry the action theory to its social consequence, we should say, moreover, that not only does the resulting institution become the source of influences on mankind, but that the production itself changes the producers, just as the motor impulse in the individual shades the sensory process from which it starts. The subconscious brain processes, and the peripheral bodily processes outside of the brain, are the two great classes of activities which are essential for the explanation of the individual mind. In exact correspondence the functions of the intermediating records and the functions of the institutional products are the two great realities outside of the individuals, without which the social mind cannot be explained. The mere associationism must be overcome in social psychology, just as much as in individual psychology.

Involuntary Combinations.—Our survey of the various organizations which are actually formed by interrelated individuals must be short. We cannot enter into a real analysis, but we may at least point to the significant differences of various forms. If we draw lines of division, they cross one another frequently. Above all, any two classes which we may distinguish may overlap; only their extreme forms are sharply different, while many intermediate forms can be found. We may draw such a line between the involuntary and the voluntary grouping. But a no less characteristic difference is that between the temporary and the lasting organizations. We may also distinguish between those groups the members of which are in immediate contact in space and those where indirect intercourse exists. Or we may separate the groups which are held together by a personal relation and those in which the objective social institutions play an essential rôle.

( 270) Again we have a fundamental difference between organizations in which the association of individuals is conspicuously controlled by the individual achievements of one or of a few persons, as against those in which all are on the same level.

Every individual can, of course, belong to any number of groups, as long as they are not antagonistic. He can belong to only one social class or to one race or to one profession, to one sex or to one party ; but he can be a member of many clubs, take part in many meetings, and trade with many merchants. The psychologically still more important aspect is that he belongs at the same time to his family group and the national group and the party group and the church group and the group of the educated and the group of his profession, and perhaps to the group of the music lovers and the chess players and a hundred other mental organizations. No one group absorbs his whole personality; he is a member of each group only with a particular set of psychophysical functions. The same individual can become a part of as many interpersonal organizations as a sensation can become a part of perceptions and ideas.

We may turn first to the involuntary combinations. There is no reason to withhold from them the term organization, as this does not necessarily demand an intentional plan. The individuals in a beehive are organized, and a living body is an organism, because its cells are not only an aggregate, but an organization. As soon as the parts are in mutual dependence and a change in one part involves changes in the others, we have the conditions of organization fulfilled, even if it is planless and loose. Among the unintentional combinations the fugitive chance groups may be separated from the permanent ones. The most superficial form of the involuntary, fugitive combination is found where the members of the group have a common purpose, but where the realization of it is entirely

( 271) independent of the existence of the other members. The passengers in an electric car pursue their interests without reference to one another. Yet a blockade which makes each one impatient at once creates through this community o I' slight emotion, a group consciousness to which the individual submits the more fully the more suggestible he is. 'l' he spectators at a theater, the audience at a lecture, the witnesses of a street accident, are all in this state of original indifference to one another; and yet through the awareness of the identity of purpose they approach one another. Their suggestibility increases, and this reënforces their imitativeness. The more the performance or the speaker inflames their emotion, the more complete becomes their mutual submission, until any signal for applause may make them all applaud. But this condition may be at the same time most favorable for subordination to a leader. A street crowd swept by the same emotion is easily organized; the initiative of a few may lead the mass to actions which the average member of the crowd in isolation would not have chosen or even which his reason or his taste or his morality would have resisted. Processes of organization of this type reach their climax in a riot where common indignation binds the members for a common attack, or in a panic, where common fear breaks down all resistance to the mass suggestion.

The extreme contrasts to such explosive coöperation are those involuntary organizations which bind men for life. These relations may be firm and personal like those between parents and children, or loose and impersonal like those between the members of a race. Neither the race nor the family is an intentional organization ; they have developed from natural growth, and yet the individuals are bound together by mental ties. The psychical functions upon which the relation from person to person depends characterize the whole resulting organization. When Americans and Australians meet, they feel themselves members

( 272) of the worldwide organization which is held together by the use of the English language. Each has the immediate feeling of understanding the other and of being understood by him. To this organization the Russian would be a stranger. A feeling of linguistic kinship produces a setting of the psychophysical system which secures a peculiar kind of mental unity. But if a number of Americans meet in Australia, they feel the Australian to be the outsider. They belong to that group of citizens of the United States, and an entirely different psychophysical setting makes them feel themselves to be members of a definite social group. Common memories of a historic national past, common attitude toward the ideals of law and politics, common pride in their country, and common hope for its future, secure it mental interrelation which is fundamentally different from the linguistic bond. Yet this psychological setting, which prepares an inner coöperation with every American does not exclude a certain antagonism between the white and the colored American citizens. On either side racial habits fusing with common joyful or painful memories and with common prejudices, produce a mental attitude which excludes from the psychical group those whom national consciousness includes in the mental community. Again among the white Americans those of Irish descent feel themselves a psychical group as against those of English descent, and among those the poor ones feel themselves as belonging together in contrast to the rich.

But any of these affiliations may be crossed again by common professions, common interests, common personal experiences. The scientific chemist in New York feels himself nearer to the chemist in Berlin with whom he agrees in scientific theory than to the clergyman or to the shoemaker on the same street who does not even understand his chemical language. All the interpersonal connections constitute actual psychophysical organizations. Each is re-

( 273) -sponsible for significant functions, which would not result, if the individuals were detached. From the primitive hordes and tribes of the savages to the social classes and professions of large cities, from the narrow-minded public opinion of a little village community to the moral consciousness of civilized mankind, psychological organizations are shaped by the natural interplay of ideas, feelings and impulses; and the social psychologist must study them in the same way in which the student of the individual mind examines the smaller or larger clusters of sensations.

Intentional Combinations.—The subordination and superordination which shades the naturally developed groups easily leads to systematic planning. A common impulse forces a group of men into a new movement, a new fashion, a new crusade; but while they are attracted to one another merely by this feeling of community, their natural submission to the prestige of a leader tends to take the form of a worked out organization. We need not think of statutes and programs, of party platforms rind national treaties. The will character of the combination may exist no less in the case of the smallest and most fugitive group. If two strangers meet and begin a conversation, the fleeting interplay of questions and answers hinds them into a social group created by the distinct purpose of the participants. If children combine in a game, the association is not a chance product but the result of intention. The group is dissolved when the purpose of the common game has been fulfilled; but as long as the group lasts, it has all the features of a psychophysical organization. All social entertainments, all class instruction, are controlled by such ideas of passing purposes.

We said that the spectators at a theater do not seek one another; they are unintentionally grouped together. Bu the spectators plus the actors form an intentional organization ; they demand each other. Above all, our economic life consists of innumerable intentional organizations

( 274) from the smallest to the largest. A factory with its highly complex organization, held together by the purpose of manufacturing, the simplest workshop, the store, the partnership of two, and the market organization of the whole country, are all built up by functions of submission, self-assertion, imitation, common individual desires and mutually supplementing individual differences, held together by the purpose to effect certain commercial or industrial transactions.

Every great cultural purpose demands this manifoldness of social units, of which the smaller become elements of the larger, just as in the individual the ideas become parts of thoughts and the thoughts parts of theories. Every local political party enters into the large party and that into the political life of the nation, and the nation into the international concert. Involuntary and voluntary formations penetrate one another and fuse. The involuntary union in love is harmonized with the purposive union in marriage. Every community thus presents an inexhaustible wealth of involuntary and voluntary combinations, fleeting and lasting, loose and firm, narrow and wide, all influencing one another in harmony or by interference.


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