Some methodological remarks related to experimentation in social psychology

Muzafer Sherif[1]

(Illustrated by a Review of the Current Experimental Work on Ego-involvements)

Editor's Note: It is the editorial policy of the International Journal to publish also articles on problems of sociology, social psychology, and statistics, which, while not directly related to the particular problems treated in the journal, are of interest from the methodological viewpoint for specialists in opinion and attitude research.

In this paper, I shall not compile a catalogue of the laboratory methods used in social psychological research. Murphy, Murphy, and Newcomb's monumental Experimental Social Psychology (49), which sums up social psychology as it was in 1937, also gives the principal methods to a remarkable degree of comprehensiveness. In 1941, L. S. Cottrell and Ruth Gallagher (19) gave an evaluative account of various methods and approaches in their survey of "Developments in Social Psychology, 1930-1940." In 1942, F. H. Allport (2) presented a concise critical survey of "Methods in the Collective Action Phenomena." 

At this early stage of development, over-preoccupation with the compilation of methods used in experimental social psychology will not help to improve or broaden our methodological grounds. In fact, mere cataloguing usually tends to standardize methods, especially for those who are just entering the field of active research. The effect of such attempts, I am afraid, will be in the unfortunate direction of stereotyping or sterilizing research in our field in its early stage of development. At present, there seem to be, discrepancies even concerning the scope and problems of social psychology. For example, in a current undertaking to compile a source book of social psychology,

( 72) the list of material proposed by various men called upon to make suggestions included widely divergent works, ranging from such experimental studies as Dashiell's "An experimental analysis of some group effects" and Warden's "The relative strength of primary drives" to Aristotle's Ethics, Schopenhauer's Primacy of the Will in Self Consciousness, Wallas' Instinct of Thought, Roheim's "Myth and Folk-tale," Oppenheimer's The State, and Lippmann's Public Opinion.

It seems to me that the methodological development needed in social psychology today does not lie primarily in the refinement and elaboration of methods and techniques used in experimental research, even though this becomes crucial at a more mature stage of a discipline. Here, I deliberately did not say laboratory or experimental social psychology. At present, I, for one, do not know where the limits of the laboratory end and where other methods of collecting data in our field start.

It seems to me that the following are among the concrete methodological points that should most profitably be raised today:

–the unification and clarification of problems,

–the reduction of unnecessarily multiplying and duplicating concepts to minimum basic ones,

–constant, laborious checking of experimental results against those obtained by the genetic approach, by ethnologists, sociologists and from concrete life situations at every step of the way.

Scientists in various fields have stressed time and again the fact that the success or failure of a unit of research is sealed to an important extent at the very start by the way the problem is formulated. For, the problem determines in a major way the method to be used, controls to be observed, the treatment of the data, and the conclusions to be drawn. Of course, crucial problems can be formulated only on the basis of concentrated preoccupation with the diverse aspects of a topic in question. It seeing almost foolish to repeat these points here because they are such truisms. Yet, they are observed rather infrequently in practice. As a result, we are confronted in social psychological literature (not excluding experimental literature) with almost hundreds of problems or pseudo-problems. For example, one author wrote an influential account of attitudes in the 30's (3). When, some time later, he wrote on ego-involvements he made no special point of relating the two, thus unifying the major problems involved (4).

( 73) As we shall try to point out later, the two sets of problems are closely related.

Our knowledge of social psychology has advanced but a tiny fraction in proportion to the tons of research done in the field. Some of these studies are technically admirable. It may be that the fault lies in the very fact that the problems formulated are not the crucial ones which might assure us significant impetus. A new danger in this direction lies in the opportunistic use of the flourishing popularity of social psychology at this critical period of human affairs. Research problems handed down by groups who handle research funds or who are in a position to confer professional prestige may not always be crucial ones. Here I am not advocating the supercilious divorce of "pure science" from applied science. I do want to point out that social psychology has not reached a stage where it can write prescriptions to prove this or that conclusion that interested groups may want to hear.

Today, we cannot claim much overlapping even in the concepts used in two or three general books in social psychology. We are flooded with a whole host of terminology. This is understandable to a certain extent because even at this early stage we are necessarily dealing with highly complex events. But consequently, there is ever so much more reason to keep an eye on basic concepts and results developed on less complex levels such as in judgment, perception, and learning. If we pick up more precisely elaborated concepts and results and try to extend them to the social field, we shall be on safer ground. To this effect the work of Bartlett (6) started in 1913 sets an excellent example for us to follow. Starting with a critical review of Ebbinghaus' classical work, Bartlett demonstrated that his own findings on perceiving could be extended to imaging, remembering, even imagining, etc. He showed that these phenomena could be studied for individuals belonging to quite different cultures (Zwazi and Zulu) without bringing in new, fancy terminology at every step. Thus, Bartlett tendered a significant methodological service by showing that variations in psychological events due to differences of culture can be effectively handled by concepts developed in the laboratory. The artificial dichotomy of laboratory psychology and social (cultural psychology is thus eliminated.

Some topics which social psychologists deal with have much in common with topics which concern other scientific workers too. We are concerned about their social psychology; the genetic psychologist

(74) is primarily interested in tracing their developmental sequence. Others approach these topics as ethnologists or sociologists. The social psychologist cannot complacently say, "I am only interested in my laboratory and how others formulate these problems and what results they get do not interest me." This stand is indefensible even when it is couched in terms of some acceptable methodological justification.

If ethnologists demonstrate time and again (as they have) the existence of a great many individuals (in different cultures) who do not exhibit consistently competitive reactions, the social psychologist should not complacently keep on repeating his conclusion from laboratory experiments that individuals tend to show competitive behavior in group situations. The scientific requirement at this point is to stop the experiments for the time being, no matter how excellent they may be technically, and to study, with the help of the ethnologist in this case, the special factors that produce such wide discrepancies in the subject matter they have in common. If he is aiming at broad (universal) validity for his conclusions, as he should be, no amount of refinement of his techniques, no degree of reliability of his results alone will help him much at this point. He has to reformulate his problem in the light of the variables he overlooked before. Only then can his laboratory methods and techniques become the effective crucible of controlled observation and precision.

To take another example, ego cannot be one thing in genetic psychology and something altogether different in experimental social psychology. If the social psychologist undertakes an ego-involvement experiment defining ego with utter disregard and even in contradiction to genetic findings, no label of methodological justification will make his concept more defensible.

I have ventured to put myself in the position of naively repeating these elementary points because certain trends in current research make their repetition necessary. As an illustration, we might turn to the currently flourishing line of research on "ego-involvement." I will touch upon various aspects of problems connected with ego-involvement studies only for illustrative purposes. I have been selective, of course, in the choice of studies. No attempt is made to keep them always in their chronological (historical) sequence.

Experimental research dealing explicitly with various sorts of ego-involvements started during the last decade. The problems of ego-involvements and their differential effects were clearly stated by William James over half a century ago. (Here we cannot diverge to give

(75) an account of the remarkable effect James' treatment had on subsequent psychological and sociological works.) For example, the following statements by James (35) were amply substantiated by recent experimental investigations:

"I, who for the time have staked my all on being a psychologist, am mortified if others know much more psychology than I. But I am contented to wallow in the grossest ignorance of Greek. My deficiencies there give me no sense of personal humiliation at all. Had I 'pretensions' to be a linguist, it would have been just the reverse. So we have the paradox of a man shamed to death because he is only the second pugilist or the second oarsman in the world. That he is able to beat the whole population of the globe minus one is nothing; he has 'pitted' himself to beat that one; and as long as he doesn't do that nothing else counts. He is to his own regard as if he were not, indeed he is not.

"Yonder puny fellow, however, whom every one can beat, suffers no chagrin about it, for he has long ago abandoned the attempt to 'carry that line,' as the merchants say, of self at all. With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation. So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities; a fraction of which our pretensions are the denominator and the numerator our success: thus, Self-esteem= Success/Pretensions. Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator" (p. 310 f.).

The effects of ego- involvements upon more or less basic psychological functions have been demonstrated by numerous investigators. For example, such differential effects have been shown on remembering by Bartlett (6), Zillig (77), Seeleman (61), Edwards (21), and Wallen (73); on learning and retention by Clark (14), Levine and Murphy (38) , and Alper (1) ; on the level of aspiration by Chapman and Volkmann (13), Sears (60), and Holt (33); on perception by Hartley and Hartley (29); on confidence ratings by Klein and Schoenfeld (37); and on judgment by Marks (42), etc. Recently, the relationship of ego-involvements with status and class have been studied by Hyman (34) and Centers (i2) respectively.[2]

( 76)

Some of these investigators explicitly used the concept of egoinvolvements in accounting for their differential results. Klein and Schoenfeld (37) found that confidence ratings for a variety of tasks are more uniform when subjects are told that their performance will be recorded for the university files than when they are not. Wallen (73) showed that the selective forgetting of a list of adjectives when subjects were told that the checked adjectives applied to them differed significantly from forgetting of adjectives relating to another person. Levine and Murphy (38) found that pro-communist and anti-communist subjects show better learning and retention when the material in question is in harmony with their established "frames of reference" than when it is contrary to their own frames. Alper (1) substantiated this and other studies by demonstrating that the learning and retention of nonsense syllables and numbers by ego-involved subjects does not follow three classical "laws" of learning.

Equally relevant are the studies of Bartlett (6) who showed how "our attitudes" enter to modify remembering. Hartley and Hartley (29) demonstrated the effects of attitudes toward Negroes on the perception and recognition of pictures of Negroes and whites. K. B. Clark's research on memory (14) indicates that attitudes of feminity-masculinity affect the recall of verbal material related to them. These results, as well as those obtained for W.P.A. workers and college students, indicate that the subjects became ego-involved. For example, there was a pronounced tendency for W.P.A. workers to recall material concerning the anxieties of their work in the first person singular. Seeleman's study (61), also performed under Professor Murphy, shows the differential effects of pro- and anti-Negro attitudes in the recall of pictures and phrases attached to the pictures.

What is this ego-involvement that has entered so widely into psychological nomenclature since the late thirties? [3] Does it intrude as an external agent on various phenomena and do things to them? Is this new toy of controversy a new variable undiscovered until re-

(77) -cently? Or, can these differential effects of various sorts of ego-involvements be accounted for in terms of more basic and experimentally elaborated concepts? If so, we will both unify and be within the bounds of more persistent problems and methods.

Chapman and Volkmann (13) rendered social psychology a substantial methodological contribution by experimentally demonstrating in 1939 how in one specific case the effects of ego-involvements, i.e. variations in setting goals or aspiration levels in a given task, can be accounted for in terms of more basic and general concepts. They started, as Sherif did, by calling attention to the "general fact that all judgmental activities take place within... referential frameworks" (p. 225). They considered the setting of an aspiration level as a special case of such judgmental activity. In their own words: "The conditions which govern the setting of a level of aspiration (Anspruchsniveau), in the sense of an estimate of one's future performance in a given task, may be regarded as a special case of the effect upon a judgment of the frame of reference within which it is executed" (p. 225). Until 1939, research on the level of aspiration "considered only those determinants which result from individual experiences of success and failure..." Chapman and Volkmann devised ingenious procedures for two separate experiments which introduced into the situation different reference scales (frames) and anchorages relative to the subjects and studied their differential effects. These "procedures" (to use the term modestly preferred by the investigators) had considerable influence on subsequent research along these lines, which has justified their belief that research on the variations of "these problems will show the richness of the socially determined framework within which the individual commonly adjusts his aspirations" (p. 238). From the point of view of our present discussion, the crucial points of their findings may be summarized in a few words. In the first experiment, the subjects in two of the four student groups were given in advance of the task (a test consisting of fifty items to detect their acquaintance with literature) the score supposedly made by other groups which varied in prestige value in the eyes of the subjects. (Literary critics served as "superior" anchorage for one group of subjects, and W.P.A. workers served as "inferior" anchorage for the other group.) The result here was that those who compared themselves to a superior group lowered their aspiration level, while those who compared themselves to an inferior group raised their aspiration level. In the second experiment, the subjects were given two sessions on different days on

(78) a mental test before any attempt was made to change their level of aspiration by comparison of their results to various groups. In the third and fourth sessions (on different days) in addition to their previous scores, social anchorages (inferior and superior) were included in the instructions. Under these conditions, there was no significant change in the level of aspiration. "The subject's own previous scores provided the most effective anchoring" (p. 235) .

[4] * Another pioneering investigation which explicitly studied the differential effects of ego-involvements on the setting of goals or 'aspiration levels' is the work of Sears (60). In 1940, Sears went further than any one had to date in making explicit the determiners of the "level of aspiration" and why they involved the ego. On the basis of her survey of previous work, Sears concluded that "Little experimental work has, however, been done on the isolating of variables associated with individual differences in levels .of aspiration," and that ". . .little attention has been paid to the problem of the meaning of the individual task to the individual" (p. 498) . She formulated her problem in such a way as to bring these variables together systematically and to relate them to social norms which can and do become interiorized as ego-involving reference frames (scales) and anchorages. On the basis of her experiments, Sears concluded that ". . . self-confident, successful children react to the level of aspiration situation in a similar way, whereas unsuccessful children, lacking in confidence, may adopt one of a number of different behavior techniques in this situation. Furthermore, experimentally induced success brings the reactions of all subjects in regard to level of aspiration into a more homogeneous distribution than do the neutral conditions of stimulation" (p. 526).

* "Experimentally induced success provides social norms for the individual which induce him to believe that he has been and is performing much better than the average... similarly experimentally induced failure provides a condition of insecurity for the subjects of all groups" (p. 532 f ) .

* Sears further clarifies the synthesis previously made by Chapman and Volkmann of the reference frames within which a particular task is executed and the setting of a goal or aspiration level as a special case showing the influence of a reference frame. She concludes

(79) that: "The cultural pressure to excel and to keep the performance improving, plus the cognizance of the position of the self relative to social norms, seem to account for most of the results obtained in the present investigation" (p. 528) .

In 1944, Lewin, Dembo, Festinger, and Sears (40) surveyed the major work on "Level of Aspiration" to date and set out to elucidate the problems of (a) "What determines a level of aspiration?" (b) "What are the reactions to achieving or not achieving the level of aspiration?" They approached the first problem with the same formulation, even almost identical in phraseology, as that advanced by Chapman and Volkmann in 1939 and Sears, one of the writers of the survey, is 1940. In the writers' own words, "Such influences may be conceived of as frames, involving a scale of values, within which the individual makes his decision as to a goal" (p. 337). After this general formulation, the writers proceed to give a survey of the specific cases of reference frames (scales) and anchorages as determined by (a) temporary situational factors, (b) standards of one's own group, (c) standards of other groups.

In addition to those used in aspiration level experiments, there are other devices for studying shifts of estimates of one's position, in some respect, relative to others, and other people's positions relative to one's own as determined by ego-involved reference scales and anchorages. Likewise, other methods have been devised for the study of the setting up of goals (standards) as determined by the scales and anchorages of the individual's reference groups.

* One of the significant studies that clearly brought these relationships into high relief is that of Eli Marks (42) . Marks formulated his problem on this basis: "Observations of the skin color judgments made by field workers on a study of rural Negro youth (r, Johnson) indicated a tendency for the reference scales used to depend upon the rater's skin color. Darker judges seemed to ascribe a lighter color to a given subject than did lighter judges" (p. 370) . After experimentally substantiating Johnson's field observations, Marks concluded that: "The relation between the judge's own skin color and his rating of others seems to have particular importance for the theory of social perception. The 'egocentricity' of the reference scale of skin color judgments may well apply to judgments of any characteristic to which social value is attached" (p. 375).

* "The goal of neutral emotional content frequently involves a restructuring of our social perceptual field. The individual minimizes

(80) his own deviation (slight or great) from the 'normal' by displacing his perception of other individuals so that they are seen as above or below average in terms of their difference from himself" (p. 375). The subjects were in large part striving to conform to an average or group norm in an attempt to regard themselves as inconspicuous, to achieve a "neutral emotional content" as discovered from their own past experience in the process of socialization.

A significant study on the psychology of setting status standards or goals is that of Hyman (34). This study clearly indicates, among other things, that an individual's conception of his own status or the status of his group is regulated to an important degree by his "reference groups." In other words, using himself or his group as the major anchoring point, his own subjective status varies according to the scale provided.

It seems to me that, aside from the intrinsic value of these findings, methodologically a significant advance is achieved not only in the psychology of ego-involvements but also of social norms in general by linking, in experimental research, some major aspects of ego-involvements with the functioning of reference frames (scales) and anchorages. Having reached this more stable vantage point, we can rely on and derive new leads from the important line of research started by Hollingworth (_3r, 1910) on central tendency of judgments, by Wever and Zener (75, 1928) on reference scales ("absolute scale"), by Volkmann (72, 1936) and Rogers (57, 1941) on the effects of anchorages within and without the reference scale. Brief surveys of these developments are given elsewhere (Sherif, 1935-1936 (65, 66); MacGarvey, 1943 (45) ; Sherif and Cantril, 1945 (67) ) .

Of particular significance to social psychology at the present stage is the line of research studying the effects of anchorages ("anchoring points") on reference scales. Volkmann (72), Rogers (57) and others systematically studied the effects of anchorages which lie within and without the scale. That this line of research leas a direct bearing on our problems is unmistakably demonstrated by the experimental investigation of MacGarvey (45), who extended these findings to a verbal level and found that basically the same functional relationships were at work there.

This line of development concentrated its work primarily on the effect of anchorages on the scales. This is rather one important aspect of the general problem. We shall gain still greater perspective if the work is extended to include so many variations of the reciprocal effects

(81) of scales and anchorages. Some of the major problems that pop up immediately are:

What will be the effects of given positions (distances) of anchorages when the magnitude of the reference scale itself is increased or decreased in various degrees? (For we should think that the effect of the anchorages is also a function of the magnitude of the scale as well as the position (distance) of the anchorage.)

What will the effect of anchorage be when systematically carried beyond the point where it ceases to cause the expansion of the scale? (Rogers' work stopped at this stage. He simply stated that various results are obtained beyond the breaking point.)

What will be the effect of various degrees of exposure to the same scale (i. e. practice) on subsequent facing of similar stimuli? This will link the work on reference scales and anchorages with one of the most central problems of all psychology, i. e. learning. Tresselt's work on the "Influence of Amount of Practise upon the Formation of a Scale of Judgment" (in press) may be a promising beginning along this line.

The relationships found in the functioning of reference frame (scales) and anchorages have helped us greatly in clarifying our understanding of the differential results of ego-involved reactions of various sorts. But we still have to anwer the question: what is this ego that is involved? So far, many psychologists who have done experimental work on ego- involvements have not worked out the question. The consequence is that we have almost as many definitions of the concept "ego" as there are people working on ego-involvements. Some talk in terms of "ego needs" and take them to mean "egotistical needs" (39) . Some connect it with "egoism" as the word is used in everyday life (4) . Some link it with such vague terms as "self-esteem" (1). Some, highly preoccupied with subtle nuances of persons due to their highly developed sensibilities as members of exclusive groups, find in the accumulating facts about ego-involvements a new haven for the unique personality traits.

It seems to me that the least objectionable approach to a definition of the concept ego, as it is conceived today, is to rely on the concrete findings of child psychologists on this subject. For the return of the word "ego" to a "reputable" position as a concept today is largely due to the concrete findings of various genetic psychologists and not to its patronage by eminent authorities. Undoubtedly further experimental research will be spared some blind alleys if we first gain a factual

( 82) characterization of the concept by turning to the material of genetic psychologists.

Studies of infant behavior, from the early observations of Tiedemann (48), Preyer (56), and Shinn (69) to those of contemporary psychologists such as Henri Wallon (74) and Gesell (25), have shown that ego is not present at birth and not innate. Ego, as experienced by the individual and revealed in so many discriminative reactions relative to persons, objects, groups and values, is a genetic formation. In 1943, Gesell (25) summarized early ego development on the basis of his accumulated controlled observations of children. He notes that the newborn infant has no "clear sense of self-identity. But as he grows up he must disengage himself from this universality and become a well-defined individual" (p. 334) . The "complicated judgments" by which he does so are achieved "through the slow and steady processes of growth, aided by experience which is sometimes bitter. Each successive proposition represents one more step in a progressive differentiation which disengages him more fully from the culture in which he is so deeply involved. Paradoxically this very disengagement also identifies him more fully with his culture; he transforms from a mere ward to a working member" (p. 335).

The neonate does not discriminate between himself and other persons. His behavior is regulated by the stress of immediate needs, discomforts, or pleasures. By studying the wide and scattered literature on the subject, we learn that a general trend in ego formation occurs.[5] As the child is cared for, as he develops, he meets resistances, rewards, punishments from the objects and persons around him. So he must adjust to the realities of his environment as he finds it. During this process, the ego is formed. Particularly with sensory-motor development, the opportunities for varied contacts with persons and objects increase. However, when the child begins to walk and talk, he clearly reveals confusion in distinguishing between himself and others. As Darwin (20, 1877) and Preyer (56, 1890) observed and Gesell (24) lids amply verified recently, children may stand before a mirror and babble in a social way long before they give evidence of recognizing the image as their own.

With the learning of communicable language (verbal behavior)

(83) the differentiation between "self" and "not-self" becomes more precisely delineated through conceptualization. As Preyer (56), Moore (47, 1896), and Cooley (18, 1908) observed and as Gesell (25) has found, children usually use first their own names, then pronouns mine, me and 1, roughly in that order, as self-identification. Such language research as that of McCarthy (44) and Fisher (22) shows that the use of the first person singular pronoun begins slowly, increasing in usage with age. Fisher found that we appeared only after about two-and-a-half years among the children she studied. This gives a hint of the observed fact that with language development more adequate discrimination between self and not-self is accompanied by the elaboration of the ego to include attitudes toward both one's self and his relations to the vast number of objects and persons in his environment.

Because of the special significance to ego development of participation in group situations, a few paragraphs concerning the general orientation of findings in this field are in order. This will further aid in reaching a conception of the ego that will be valid in the face of genetic and socio-ethnological data. In this connection, the work of Piaget and his associates (55) is outstanding. From a methodological point of view, it embodies a happy synthesis of experimental, genetic and sociological approaches. Unfortunately, we cannot give here even a short summary of the experimental situations and various questionnaire methods which Piaget used to draw the conclusions which are of utmost significance both to social psychology and social science in general. The upshot of a whole series of coordinated investigation is that all rules (of language, logic, morality, and society including even the rules of games they play) are first external to the child. Moral rules or norms (as well as all others) are at first imposed on him from without (heteronomy). Even though he is made to abide by them because of the authority of grownups, he easily lapses to the ever changing flux of his desires and fantasy whenever he is not under the grip of external authority. For these externally imposed rules or norms have not yet become his own rules or norms. In Piaget's words: "From the moment that children really begin to submit to rules and to apply them in a spirit of genuine cooperation, they acquire a new conception of these rules" (p. 89). "Henceforward, he will not only discover the boundaries that separate his self from the other person, but will learn to understand the other person and be understood by him" (p. 90).

Through participation in age-mate group activities, the child develops to grasp reciprocal human relationships. Only through such

(84) cooperative participations does he come to accept the group norms as his own and to develop his identifications, loyalties and inner responsibilities toward them (autonomy). Otherwise, he considers norms imposed on him by sheer authority as nuisances to be evaded whenever possible. Only as an outcome of cooperation in group situations with age-mates do "the infantile traits that mark the conformist spirit make place for the features that are the outcome of cooperation" (p. 341, Italics ours). At the end, Piaget comes out explicitly with the implications of his results: "It is obvious that our results are as unfavourable to the method of authority as to purely individualistic methods" (p. 411, Italics ours). We find in the recent experimental investigations of Lippitt and White (41) on "autocratic," "democratic," and "laissez-faire" group "atmospheres" a significant substantiation of Piaget's work. (These investigators did not, however, trace these effects through their genetic development as Piaget and his associates did.)

Unlike psychologists who complacently stop after uttering their conclusions on the basis of restricted "closed" situations and groups, Piaget is anxious to look forward to see if his conclusions hold in concrete situations. "For, after all, it is one thing to prove that cooperation in the play and spontaneous social life of children brings about certain moral effects, and another to establish the fact that this cooperation can be universally applied as a method of education" (p. ,413-414) .[6]

Piaget's generalizations concerning the influence of group situations and age-mate groups in particular on ego development are substantiated in various respects by experimental research, such as that of Parten (52-54), Salusky (59), Beaver (7), Green (27), Berne (9), Bridges (11), Murphy (50) , and, on a more complicated social level, by Newstetter, Feldstein, and Newcomb (51) .

Numerous studies seem to indicate that some ego formation is necessary before competition (76), cooperation (9), sympathy (50),

(85) setting of goals or aspiration levels (28, 58), or race prejudice (30, 15, 16, 17) start to operate as factors in a consistent way as they do for adults. (The degree of ego formation necessary for the appearance of various such factors may be different.) Wolf (76) found that the younger and less mature children in her study gave little indication of a competitive attitude. Berne's results (9) indicate that cooperative behavior and responsibility for self and others increase significantly with age, as Piaget's results would indicate. A significant trend with age was found for the appearance of sympathetic responses to the distress of others by Lois Murphy (50) . The experimental studies of Greenberg (28) and Rosenzweig (58) furnish evidence that the level of aspiration does not seem to appear clearly until the child has formed some conception of his "self," has developed a sense of "pride" which he feels must be maintained. This fact is substantiated by Gesell (25) who places the item "setting up standards for himself" in the behavior norms for 72 months. Goodenough (26) made an important link when she noted that "goals are not clearly realized until after the crystallizing effect of verbal formulation has taken place and the distinction between the self and not-self has become sufficiently advanced to give form and pattern to the child's social attitudes. . . " (p. 423).

Ruth Hartley, in her provocative study of "racial aspects of self-identification" (30), concluded that her data point to a "concept of group consciousness and group identification as an intrinsic aspect of ego development" (p. 99) . K. B. and M. K. Clark (15, 16, 17) continued this line of research with Negro children. Their results clearly indicate that awareness of membership in a social group is an integral part of ego formation (15) ; and that "concepts of self gleaned from concrete physical characteristics of perceived self become modified by social factors taking on new definition in the light of these social factors" (16, p. 169). An unpublished study by the Clarks (17) of Negro children in various localities and school situations yielded percentages of correct self-identification in terms of color increasing from 35 per cent at 3 years to 86 per cent at 7 and 8 years with no significant differences between the groups.

The almost complete lack of ego formation in individuals who lived in extreme isolation from the general run of human society for some years from early childhood on, substantiates the above conclusions in a striking way. Gesell (23) has given us such a case in his analysis of "Wolf Child and Human Child" based on his first-hand investigation of diaries kept in detail from the time the wolf child was returned

(86) to human society. The wolf child lived in extreme isolation for over 8 years, from sometime after her birth in 1912 until 1920. (For our discussion it does not matter whether she actually lived with the wolves all of this time.)

From his analysis of available data, Gesell concludes that she (Kamala) was congenitally normal both physically and mentally.[7] Kamala was restored to human society in an orphanage at the age of eight (with another child, Amala, who died a little later). From then on until her death nine years later, she lived in the orphanage. What happens to the ego development when the individual lacks personal and group interactions vividly stands out in the case of Kamala. In Gesell's own words: "The change from wolf ways to human ways is succinctly shown in the behavior changes of daily routine which took place between 1921 and 1926. In 1921 Kamala lived like an animal, in the dark. Except when she was passively receiving attention from Mrs. Singh, she either roamed around outdoors, in the night, or sat quietly in a dark corner, facing the wall. She shunned sunlight and human company. Her chief vocalizations were wolf howls. Though she preferred to remain in the dark she slept-little, perhaps four hours out of twenty-four, at noon and midnight. She spent no time in spontaneous social relations with people and was awake and alone for approximately seventeen hours a day.

"By 1926 Kamala was leading an essentially human existence. Her 'behavior day' was comparable to that of other children in the orphanage[8]” (p. 62, Italics ours).


Now we can see why the definitions in various ego-involvement experiments that run counter to the genetic conception of the ego are misleading and erroneous. Consequently, the way problems are formulated, methods devised and results obtained on the basis of such misconceptions suffer greatly in various ways. Such conceptions of the ego as "egotistical needs" (39), or the ego which consists partly of altruistic and partly of egoistic tendencies (4) have no justification, even if introduced by some methodologically acceptable slogan. The characterizations of ego as altruistic or egoistic are linguistic and not psychological. The ego cannot be said to be basically altruistic, egoistic, cooperative, competitive, etc. The properties of the ego of an individual are "so and so" depending on the character of the major norms of his group as they are. incorporated in him. At this point the findings of genetic psychology and ethnology converge. It has been shown by ethnologists time and again that the individual becomes individualistic, competitive or cooperative depending on the major norms of the group of which he is a member. (For example, Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples, edited by Mead (46) gives several concrete illustrations of the point.)

Before going any further with the already flourishing lists of "ego drives," it may pay us well to find out first how far we can advance by concentrating on the formation and functioning (in various situations) of ego-attitudes (which, through the genetic development of the individual, become the major constituents of the ego). We know a little more at least about the formation and functioning of attitudes (including ego-attitudes) than hypothetical "ego-drives," even though the dramatic language of ego-drives strikes us as more profound and impressive. For example, ego-problems that acquire new aspects and proportions during the adolescence period can well be handled in terms

(88) of the changes taking place at this time. Some of the major changes are: the adolescent's changing body (especially due to the developments in the primary and secondary sex characteristics), consequently changing expectations of and toward other persons around him (parents, grownups, age-mates of the same and opposite sex as determined by the prevailing social norms of the particular milieu), his new relative standing in his membership-group, etc. In terms of such changes and relationships, the adolescent weaning phenomenon (more marked in certain cultures than others); the strivings for emancipation; the expanding ego to embrace new and (at times) wild interests and attitudes, new personal and group ties; may be more parsimoniously handled. The mere introduction of impressive sounding "drives" (such as "Drive for Autonomy," "Drive for Social Ties," "Drive for Abasement," "Drive for 'Succorance'," "Drive for Control," "Drive for Escape," etc., etc.) does not advance our understanding of these changes a bit. Not only do they not add anything positive to our understanding, but they come in to mar the continuity of even the most comprehensive and excellent longitudinal case study to appear to date (Harold E. Jones, Development in Adolescence (36)).

I have discussed the current experimental work on the psychology of ego-involvements as an illustration of certain concrete methodological considerations.

If an adequate genetic conception of the ego is achieved, it will safeguard this line of research from certain prevailing misconceptions and enable us to reformulate our experimental problems and, consequently, new methods and devices. In addition, such an adequate genetic conception of ego formation will enable us to handle cultural variations observed by ethnologists and sociologists without resorting to entirely different sets of concepts.

The linking of ego-involvement research with more basic concepts of experimental psychology enables us to unify problems and to draw effectively from the methods and results of more elaborately worked out research fields in general psychology.

It seems to me that a survey of other lines of experimental social psychology (e. g. attitudes, group studies, etc.) will lead us to raise similar methodological considerations.

A few words concerning the general methodological implications of the major trend that stands out as a composite finding from the bulk of ego-involvement experiments may be in order. The composite finding, I repeat, is that perceptions, judgments, memories, personal

(89) or group goals, etc., are considerably deflected when they are ego-involved. The social psychologist's topics (such as attitudes, group effects, etc.) are such that he cannot help forming lasting frames and anchorages relative to them from his childhood on (whatever his special group belongingness may be). There is all the likelihood (especially at this early stage of social psychology) that his personal involvements will come in to affect the way he formulates his problems, hypotheses and, consequently, his methods and results. It has been shown time again that various sorts of ego-involvements do come in to affect the orientation even in topics less close, less consequential to our vital daily preoccupations. We learn, for example, from an eminent authority on Titchnerian content psychology, E. G. Boring (10), that:

"Wundt's students confirmed the tridimensional theory of feeling; others did not. Wiirzburg never found images; Cornell did. Is feeling a sensation or not? Laboratory atmosphere largely determined what would be found in answer to that question, and laboratory atmosphere often extended from a parent laboratory to its offspring" (p. 612).

The problem necessarily becomes ever so much more real in social psychological research because of the very character of its topics. For example during the decades of 1910-1930, many experimenters in social psychology came out with results that seemed to prove that competitiveness was an essential part of human psychology and that there was almost a uniform tendency toward mediocrity in collective behavior. A good illustration of the point is the experimental research of the sociologist Sorokin (70) . These investigators were not set even to bother themselves with the effect of group situations in setting standards and goals for the individual when later he is by himself: In such cases the function of the experimental approach simply becomes the conferring of its well-established prestige. In the '40's the trend is in the opposite direction. The impact of socio-ethnological findings and of large consequential events has reached psychologists, too.

Recently, Professor Gordon Allport (5) made a humane plea to the social psychologist to participate actively iii a new world of democracy. If the social psychologist does participate without first getting rid of his personal involvements as a consciously or unconsciously identified member of a socio-economic class, as a member of a majority group, or minority group, or religious group, or "laboratory atmosphere," with their more or less well-established frames and anchorages, he may (as experiments seem to indicate) be contributing his bit to the already existing muddle and not to democracy.



1. Alper, T. G. "Task-orientation vs. ego-orientation in learning and retention." Amer. J. Psychol., 1946, 59, 236-248.

2. Allport, F. H. "Methods in the study of collective action phenomena." J. Soc. Psychol. S. P. S. S. I. Bull., 1942, 15, 165-185.

3. Allport, G. W. "Attitudes." Chapt. 17 in A Handbook of Social Psychology. C. Murchison, edit. Worcester: Clark University Press, 1935

4. Allport, G. W. "The ego in contemporary psychology." Psychol. Rev.,1943, 50, 451-478

5. Allport, G. W. "The psychology of participation." Psychol. Rev., 1945, 53, 117-132.

6  Bartlett, F. C. Remembering: a Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: University Press, 1932.

7. Beaver, A. P. "The initiation of social contacts by preschool children." Teachers Coll. Columbia Univ. Child Developm. Monogr., 1932, No. 7.

8. Berman, N. "The making of Soviet citizens." Psychiatry: J. o f Biol. and Pathol. of Interpers. Relations, 1945, 8, 35-49

9.Berne, E. V. C. "An experimental investigation of social behavior patterns in young children." Univ. Iowa Stud., Stud. in Child Welfare, 1930, 4, No 3.

10.Boring E. G. Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1942.

11.Bridges, K. M. B. The Social and Emotional Development of the Pre-school Child. London: Trench, Trubner, 1931.

12.Centers, R. Psychological Aspects of Socio-economic Stratification: an Enquiry into the Nature of Class. Princeton Univ., to be published.

13.Chapman, D. W., and J. Volkmann. "A social determinant of the level of aspiration." J. abnorm. and Soc. Psychol., 1939, 34, 225-238.

14.Clark, K. B. "Some factors influencing the remembering of prose material." Arch. Psychol., 1940, No. 253.

15.Clark, K. B., and M. K. Clark. "The development of consciousness of self and the emergence of social identifications in Negro pre-school children." J. Soc. Psychol., 1939, 10, 591-599

16.Clark, K. B., and M. K. Clark. "Skin color as a factor in racial identification of Negro pre-school children." J .Soc. Psychol., 1940, 11, 159-169.

17.Clark, K. B., and M. K. Clark. Unpublished study.

18.Cooley, C. H. "A study of the early use of self-words by a child." Psychol. Rev., 1908, 15, 339-357

19. Cottrell, L. S., and R. Gallagher. "Developments in social psychology 1930-1940." Sociometry Monogr., No. 1, 1941.

20. Darwin, C. "Biographical sketch of an infant." Mind, 1877, 2, 285-294

21.Edwards, A. L. "Political frames of reference as a factor influencing recognition." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1941, 36, 34-50.

22. Fisher, M. S. Language pattern of preschool children. Bureau of Publications, Teachers Coll. Columbia Univ., 1934

23.Gesell, A. Wolf Child and Human Child. New York: Harper, 1940.

24.Gesell, A., and H. Thompson. The Psychology o f Early Growth. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

25.Gesell, A. and F. L. llg. Infant and Child in the Culture o f Today. New York: Harper, 1943.

26.Goodenough, F. L. Developmental Psychology. New York: D. Appleton Century, second edit., 1945.

27.Green, E. H. "Group playing and quarreling among preschool children." Child Developm., 1933, 4, 302-307.

28.Greenberg, P. J. "Competition in children." Amer. J. Psychol., 1932, 44, 221-248.

29.Hartley, E., and R. Hartley. See Horowitz, E., and R. Horowitz. "Development of social attitudes in children." Sociometry, 1937, 1, 301-338,

30.Hartley, R. See Horowitz, R. "Racial aspects of self-identification in nursery school children." J. .soc. Psychol., 1939, 7, 91-99

31.Hollingworth, H. L. "The central tendency of judgment." J. Phil., 1910, 7, 461-469.

32.Hollingworth, H. L. "Experimental studies in judgment." Arch. Psychol., 1913, No. 29.

33 Holt, R. R. "Effects of ego-involvement upon levels of aspiration." Psychiatry: J. of the Biol. and Pathol. of Interpers. Relations, 1945, 3, 299-317.

34 Hyman, H. H. "The psychology of status." Arch. Psychol., 1942, No. 269.

35 James, W. The Principles of Psychology. New York: Holt, 1890.

36.Jones, H. E. Development in Adolescence. New York: D. Appleton Century, 1943.

37. Klein, G. S., and N. Schoenfeld. "The influence of ego-involvement on confidence." 1. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1941, 36, 249-258.

38. Levine, J. M., and G. Murphy. "The learning and forgetting of controversial material." 1. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1943, 38, 507-517.

39. Lewis, H. B. "An experimental study of the role of the ego in work. 1. The role of the ego in cooperative work." J. exp. Psychol., 1944, 34, 113-126.

40.Lewin, K., T. Dembo, L. Festinger, P. S. Sears. "Level of aspiration." Chapt. 10, 3;3-378, in Personality and the Behaviur Disorders. Vol, 1, J. McV. Hunt (edit.) New York: Ronald Press, 1944.

41.Lippitt, R., and R. K. White. "The social climate of children's groups." Chapt. 28, 485-506, in Child Behavior and Development. R. G. Barker, J. S. Kounin, H. F. Wright, edits. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1943.

42.Marks, E. "Skin color judgments of Negro college students." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1943 38, 370-376.

43 Martin, J. B. "A new attack on delinquency." Harper's Magazine, May 1944

( 92)

44 McCarthy, D. "Language development in the preschool child." Chapt. 7, 107-128, in Child Behavior and Development. R. G. Barker, J. S.Kounin, H. F. Wright, edits. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1943.

45 McGarvey, H. R. "Anchoring effects in the absolute judgment of verbal materials." Arch. Psychol., 1943, No. 281.

46. Mead, M. (edit.) Cooperation and Competition among Primitive People. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937.

47. Moore, K. C. "The mental development of a child." The Psychol. Rev.Monogr. Suppl., 1896, 1, No. 3.

48. Murchison, C., and S. Langer. "Tiedemann's observations on the development of the mental faculties of children." J. genet. Psychol., 1927, 34, 205-230.

49.Murphy, G., L. B. Murphy, T. M. Newcomb. Experimental Social Psychology. New York: Harper, 1937.

50.Murphy, L. B. Social Behavior and Child Personality. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1937.

51.Newstetter, W. I., M. J. Feldstein, T. M. Newcomb. Group Adjustment. A Study in Experimental Sociology. School of Appl. Soc. Sciences, Western Reserve Univ., Cleveland, 1938.

52.Patten, M. B. "Social participation among pre-school children." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1932, 27, 243-269.

53 Patten, M. B. "Leadership among pre-school children." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1933, 27, 430-440.

54. Patten, M. B. "Social play among pre-school children." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1933, 28, 136-147.

55.Piaget, J. Moral judgment o f the Child. London: Kegan Paul, 1932.

56.Preyer, W. The Mind of the Child. Part II. The Development o f the Intellect. D. Appleton, 1890.

57.Rogers, S. "The anchoring of absolute judgments." Arch. Psychol., 1941, No. 261.

58.Rosenzweig, S. "Preferences in the repetition of successful and unsuccessful activities as a function of age and personality." J. genet. Psychol., 1933, 42, 423-441

59.Salusky, A. S. "Collective behavior of children at a preschool age." J. soc.Psychol, 1, 1930, 367-378

60.Scars, P. S. "Levels of aspiration in academically successful and unsuccessful children." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1940, 351 498-536.

61.Seeleman, V. "The influence of attitude upon the remembering of pictorial material." Arch. Psychol., 1940, No. 258.

62.Shaw, C. R. The Jack Roller. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1930.

63.Shaw, C. R. Brothers in Crime. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1938.

64.Shaw, C. R. A memorandum submitted to the Board of Directors of the Chicago Area Project. January to, 1944. Mimeographed report.

65.Sherif, M. "A study of some social factors in perception." Arch. Psychol., 1935 No. 187.

66.Sherif, M. The Psychology of Social Norms. New York: Harper, 1936.

67.Sherif, M., and H. Cantril. "The psychology of 'attitudes'." Psychol. Rev., 1945, 52, 295-319, and 1946, 53, 1-24.

68.Sherif, M., and H. Cantril. The Psychology of Ego-involvements (Social Attitude and Identifications). New York: John Wiley, 1947

69.Shinn, M. W. Notes on the Development of a Child. Univ. of Calif. Publications in Educ. Berkeley: The University Press, Vol. 1, 1899. Vol- II, 1907.

70.Sorokin, P. A. with M. Tanquist, M. Patten, Mrs. C. C. Zimmerman. "An experimental study of efficiency of work under various specified conditions." Amer. 1. Sociol., 1930, 35, 765-782.

71.Thrasher, F. M. The Gang. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1927.

72.Volkmann, J. "The anchoring of absolute scales." Psychol. Bull., 1936, 33, 742-743.

73.Wallen, R. W. "Ego-involvement as a determinant of selective forgetting." J. abnorm. and soc. Psychol., 1942, 37, 20-39.

74.Walton, H. Les Origines du Caractère chez l'en fant. Paris: Bowin and Cie., 1933.

75.Wever, E. G. and E. Zener. "Method of absolute judgment in psycho-physics." Psychol. Rev., 1928, 35, 466-493

76. Wolf, T. H. The effect of praise and competition on the persisting behavior of kindergarten children. Univ. of Minnesota, Instit. of Child Welfare Monogr. Set., 1938, No. 15.

77. Zillig, M. "Einstellung and Aussage." Z. Psychol, 1928, 106, 58-106.

78. Zorbaugh, H. W. The Gold Coast and the Slum. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1929.


  1. On the basis of differential findings in perception, memory, judgment, etc., due to the involvement of the ego, it has become fashionable to talk in such terms as: "These results seem to go beyond Ebbinghaus" or "beyond Fechner" or beyond some other classical authority. After the vantage point resulting from dealing with perception in terms of internal and external factors and with these variations in terms of reference frames (scales) and anchorages has been gained, all of these "going beyonds" become simply specific cases of the effects of the reference frames (scales) and anchorages for the particular case of ego-involvement in question (see pages 77-81).
  2. A short historical background of the term "ego-involvement" is given by Holt (33).
  3. Paragraphs marked with asterisks are taken from (68) and are used here with slight modifications.
  4. The variations in ego. which exist due to differences in the date and country of study and the children's life circumstances, both large and small, cannot be discussed here.
  5. As suggested by Piaget, it is most interesting to compare educational efforts using different (e.g. individualistic vs. cooperative) approaches in changing personalities of young people. The education of gang members affords us an excellent opportunity to study this problem since gangs are rather limited and clear-cut in scope. A comparison of the results obtained in the efforts of juvenile delinquency research and reform in Chicago (62, 63, 64, 71, 78, 43) under a competitive, capitalist system with those obtained with the all-round cooperative approach of Makarenko and his followers (8) in the Gorki Colony and other similar institutes under the Soviet System is revealing.
  6. In Gesell's words: "The available evidence strongly denotes that Kamala was born a normal infant and that she suffered no inflammatory illness or physical injury which destroyed the normal potentialities of her brain development. She presented no sensory defects. We cannot adjudge her to be feebleminded merely on the basis of a low intelligence quotient. There are significant clinical indications of her essential normality" (p. 73).
  7. The following specific observations quoted from Gesell give a more concrete basis to the summary statement above:
    "They had a favorite corner from which they watched all that was going on among the orphan children... If a child moved across the floor they followed with their eyes if not with hands and feet. But when dogs and puppies were brought upon the floor for the orphans to play with, Kamala and Amala paid much more attention to the animals than to the children. They noted their movements very closely with watchful regard for all their antics" (p. 48).
    "Toward Amala alone she showed a semblance of companionship; toward others, a mixture of shyness and aggressiveness. If approached she assumed a fierce expression and even showed her teeth.
    "But among the infants in the orphanage there was one named Benjamin who crawled about on the floor. For awhile it looked as though his quadrupedal status would have a socializing effect . . . but on December 31, 1920 . . . Kamala (and Amala too) scratched and bit Benjamin so severely that he never would approach them again" (p. 40). .
  8. "Estimated in terms of its psychological significance, we should call this incident [the death of Amala] an important landmark in the weaning from wolf ways. For now Kamala was clearly achieving a rudimentary distinction between herself and animal kind. A kid was reacted to not as a co-member of a pack, but as something children play with" (p. 51).

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2