"Introduction" to Social Psychology at the Crossroads

Muzafer Sherif
University of Oklahoma

In spite of the impressive achievements of the natural sciences and the technological developments which bring the means of living, communication, and transportation within the reach of human comfort and convenience, human relations today are fraught with confusion, uneasiness, and anxiety. As a consequence of this confusing state in human relations, more and more people today are turning for solutions and even prescriptions, to social psychology, whose main concern is the study of reciprocal relations between men and groups.

Social psychology is, as yet, in no position to write easy prescriptions. It is still groping its way at the crossroads. Groping at the crossroads may be taken as a sign of vitality. A few decades ago, conditions were not ripe even for serious groping.

From the perspective of the crossroads, we see the dead ends of individualistic "psychological" approaches to social psychology on one side. On the opposite side, we see the dead ends of the rival sociocultural approaches to social psychology. Each of these dichotomous approaches, "individual" vs. "socio-cultural," branches off into little intricate blind alleys. When we survey the blind alleys of both approaches, we find refined material which can be utilized advantageously in the construction of the thoroughfare which we are bound to take some day.

The so-called "individual" approach is full of formulations which attempt to derive the products of human interaction—social structures, institutions, technology, values, and norms—simply by extrapolating the picture formed of individuals under given circumstances

(2) and time, or from the operation of a sovereign instinct or list of them (e.g.., MacDougall and Freud). The rival approach of culture apologists or exponents of various sorts of sociologisms is full of formulations almost obliterating the individual—making him well-nigh an empty vase into which culture and social prescriptions are poured (e.g., Durkheim). The result is obvious—fruitless controversy, without any prospects of resolution, over the adequacy of either an "individual" or "social" approach. Thus, both parties run in circles which constitute an intellectual heritage of the dichotomies still prevalent in so many areas of vital concern (e.g., secular vs. spiritual in education, individual rights vs. state rights in politics).

In recent years the state of helplessness has forced both parties to borrow from each other. It is becoming clear that mere juxtaposition of little segments from each other is not the way out; nor is there the possibility of laying down the two approaches along the same continuum. For the problem involved is not how much we can get along with one and how much more is needed of the other to complete the picture.

It is rather a matter of levels. If we are working on the psychological level, our unit of study is the single individual, and, hence, must be in terms of his psychological functioning—in such concepts as his motivation, his perception, his learning, and his reacting—in short, in psychological concepts. If we are working on the sociological or cultural level, our concepts of study are in terms of social organization, institutions, kinship system, status system, value system, language, art forms, technology—all the accumulated products of human interaction.

To be sure, if there were no human beings to interact, there would be no cultural or social products, social organization, status system, value system, or technology, etc. But once such products come into existence and accumulate, they take their appropriate places as stimulus conditions setting certain limits, certain perspectives for the very human beings who were originally responsible for them. It is man who made machines; we can also say machines, in turn, make man. It is man who created social organization; we can also say it is social organization that recasts man. Man is in the beginning of  things, but his products are not man himself. His products (social organization, technology, language, etc.) become subject matters of new disciplines—which can be, and are, studied on their own level in a meaningful way

(3) without reference to single individuals. Thus, economics is a discipline in its own right, and so is ethnology, philology, fine arts, or music. To think otherwise would lead us to the absurd position of saying that everything is psychology—including physics and chemistry.

If we are working on the psychological level, no matter how overwhelming the effects of social and cultural conditions may be, the concepts and their functional relations have to be in psychological terms —viz., in terms of perception, learning, motivation, etc. If we can think of an individual whose conformity to his group is complete, and who is perfectly happy in his conformity, even in this case it would he a mistake, if we are psychologists, to explain him in any terms other than psychological—his motives, his temperament, his perceptions, his learning, his ego, etc. Of course, all these concepts have no meaning in vacuum; they have meaning only in their functional relationship to stimulus conditions. Perception is perception in relation to its stimulus conditions, and learning is learning of something. Demands of motives are in relation to the objects, things, and people in the surroundings.

Now let us take the case of the most ardent nonconformist. Even though he may be violently rebelling against everything in his society, his psychological accounting will be pitifully inadequate if his development is not traced in relation to so many settings of his life circumstances. Our analysis will fall pitifully short if it is restricted to a few items which we make sovereign in accounting for everything. It is becoming more and more evident in psychology in general, not only in its social brand, that. reactions of any sort acquire their full significance only in relation to the whole framework of factors or determinants operating at a given time. Hence, man's experience and behavior take place in relation to a setting. Understanding of that setting becomes imperative. An adequate understanding of the setting derives from the study of sociology, ethnology, and other social sciences. Improvised notions concerning the nature of the social setting in fanciful quasi-psychological language have kept us in an imaginary world concerning the social stimulus conditions.

If we have the conception of levels clearly in mind, the controversy over individual vs. cultural approaches to social psychology becomes a meaningless controversy. The absurdity of two kinds of social psychology ("individual" as opposed to "social") becomes obvious. There emerges one unified conception of social psychology, the principles of

(4) which stem from general psychology only, whatever the rounded structure of these principles ultimately may prove to be. In rounding out itself, this unified social psychology does not have to neglect any factor or determinant coming from the individual himself; nor need it neglect any factors coming from the social stimulus conditions which are external in relation to the individual at birth. The reductionism so prevalently practiced by psychologists in regard to social stimulus conditions has been one of the most effective perpetuators of the fruitless dichotomy. Surrounding social stimulus conditions are not haphazard affairs. The family and other units of social organization, the furniture, the language, the social norms, the tools, etc., are patterned realities of the stimulus field, which are, we repeat, studied as such by sociologists, ethnologists, and others working on the social level. Such reductionism, so prevalent among the exponents of the so-called "individual" approach, has caused several authors interested in concrete social behavior of man to improvise the equally objectionable sociocultural psychology as opposed to experimental psychology (e.g., Spranger, Durkheim). To save himself from the destruction of reductionism, the psychologist is waking up to the realization that he cannot simply improvise his notions about social stimulus conditions—about family organization, kinship system, language, status and role systems, and about the value or norm system. He is becoming aware of the necessity of learning these socio-cultural stimulus conditions from the social scientists who study them at their appropriate meaningful level.

Such a unified social psychology, which deals with individuals in relation to social stimulus conditions, uses only psychological concepts in its functional analysis. This functional analysis implies a well-rounded knowledge of the social stimulus conditions, which can be learned only from social scientists. To account for the patterning of the individual experience and behavior at any given moment, all the factors or determinants coming from the individual—his motivation, intelligence, temperament, his life history as it particularly relates to the situation at hand—must be brought into the picture simultaneously. For perception is the product of the external and internal factors operating at the given time—the totality of which constitutes the frame of reference of the functional relations of various items. That all the (actors coming from the external field of stimulation and the factors coming from the individual influence each other in an interdependent

(5) way imposes upon us a very difficult task. The task is to go beyond the general statement that everything is related to everything else within the frame of reference and laboriously to vary this factor now, that factor later, with the ultimate aim of finding the relative weights for each and finally, expressing the relations in short-cut expressions.

Newcomb addresses himself to the crucial problem of the necessity of a unified social psychology (Chapter 2). First, he expresses his dissatisfaction with the present dichotomous state of social psychology. He rightly points his finger at the confusion caused by the existence of two social psychologies—one espoused by the "psychological approach," the other upheld by the "sociological approach." The major inadequacy of the "psychological approach" is that "it has never really faced the implications of the psychologists' claim to study the 'organism in environment,' " because it has been a "bit na´ve concerning the full conditions of group life under which individual's perceptions of social behavior occur." On the other hand, social psychology represented by the "sociological approach" is equally defective. It has never really faced the well-established fact of biologically and otherwise determined selectivity of the organism. It has taken human organisms as "virtually empty receptacles into which culture is simply poured."

Newcomb insists on building a unified "social psychology which takes full account of the realities of psychological processes as well as the realities of social organization." Of course, the realities of social organization in relation to which the individual interacts as an active agent with certain motives, attitudes, frustrations, and gratifications of his life history cannot be accounted for merely by improvised notions concerning their nature.

On the side of psychological processes, Newcomb takes perception as the starting point, in line with the major development in social psychology of the last two decades. From here we can profitably extend ourselves to shared "frames of reference" of the group and its standardized products, viz. social norms. The social norms, in turn, constitute the matrix on which the social attitudes of the individual are formed in the process of interaction. With such a basic approach, we can effectively move to the interaction between individuals and the social norms, group structures, the established roles within them. The distinction that Newcomb makes between more or less socially established roles and the particular individual perception of them resulting

(6) in particular role behavior, which may vary from individual to individual, is a much needed distinction.

Another valuable point stressed by Newcomb is that norms, which are products of group interaction initially, are not dead entities. Norms develop about anything and everything which are of shared interest to two or more people who interact with each other. With the rise of new situations, new norms arise which in time become common property of the group.

Newcomb further elaborates on these major points, ending his chapter with concrete proposals for crucial research areas to be investigated within such a unified scheme of social psychology. Newcomb's incisive contribution should serve as a healthy corrective to those who are still cloistered as partisans of "psychological" or "sociological" approaches. The unified social psychological approach herein proposed, we repeat, takes full account of the realities of all the psychological factors and the realities of social organization which are initially on the side of the stimulus conditions. Our task then is the study of the interaction process between the two sets of factors and the reciprocal effects or products of the interaction.

This conception of social psychology does not neglect any factor coming from the individual—his biological endowment, his motives, his special thresholds in perception, learning, etc., the state he is in at the time as a consequence of the frustrations and gratifications of his particular life history, including the particular shadings of his affectivity. Likewise, it takes full account of the realities of culture and group structures without falling into the mutilating trap of reductionism. It can be easily demonstrated by concrete evidence that it is a mistake to state that in the interaction between internal factors and external social factors, the one or the other set is invariably the most weighty determinant of the psychological product. There arc cases of interaction in which the external social factors play the dominant role in a lawful way; and there are cases in which factors coming from the individual are the weighty factors in determining the psychological product.

A unified scheme of social psychology will be achieved, then, by the full recognition of the factors corning from the individual himself and the factors coming from his socio-cultural surroundings. Accordingly, some of the most representative topics on biological, psychological,

(7) and socio-cultural levels are chosen for this book. Each one of these topics, and the underlying basic principles, are presented by men who are in the research frontiers of their particular area.

In any attempt to evaluate the various factors which may significantly influence the socio-psychological behavior of the individual, appropriate consideration must, of course, be given to the individual's biological inheritance. David and Snyder's review of some of the major concepts of classical genetics emphasizes the essentially heuristic nature of the concept of the gene as an isolable entity; at the same time, it shatters pre-formationist views of individual development which, although long since obsolete among geneticists, are still commonly attributed to them by laymen (Chapter 3). Even on levels of physiological activity, it is seen that the course of individual development cannot be described in terms of the genotype alone; interactions of environmental factors must be taken into account all along the line. At the psycho-social level, environmental influences impinge upon and interact with the developmental processes concerned in the formation of behavioral patterns at so many points that the role of genotypic differences as determinants of socio-psychological differences becomes negligible.

Consideration of the probable nature of evolutionary processes in the light of modern genetic theory leaves no vestige of scientific support for racist theories which pretend that there are genetic distinctions among ethnic groups which differentiate them in respect to temperament, mental capacity, or other characteristics of socio-psychological significance. The dominant selective forces which appear to have been operative throughout human evolutionary history, in all geographic regions and in all societies, are those which favor the evolution of plasticity, rather than of tendencies toward stereotyped response; plasticity is reflected, for example, in extraordinary capacity for the modification of behavior through learning. Purposeful modifiability of behavioral response is present in man so universally, and to such a unique degree, that it. is properly to be regarded as a species—specific possession of Homo sapiens.

The contrast between social evolution and biological evolution in regard to the rate and facility with which these processes may occur exposes clearly the na´vetÚ and futility inherent in ideas of improving the human species through eugenic programs. Significant changes in

(8) human population through biological evolution may be expected to occur over time intervals measured in hundreds or thousands of millennia; time intervals requisite for significant change through social evolution can be measured in generations or even decades.

On the basis of the above considerations, David and Snyder conclude their definitive treatment of genetic variability and human behavior with the significant statement that ". . . if mankind goes to the dogs within the next ten or twenty centuries, it is far more likely to do so as a result of inexcusable bungling in the management of human relations than as a consequence of genetic deterioration."

In view of the increasing attempts to carry over the generalizations reached on the basis of the study of lower animals to the explanation of the social relations of man, the discussion of the principles underlying social organization along the phylogenetic scale is a timely one. Schneirla performs this task in his well-documented chapter on "the `levels' concept in the study of social organization of animals" (Chapter 4).

As a criterion of levels in animal capacity, complexity of process is far less significant than is aptitude for behavioral changes under new and variable environmental emergencies. Thus learning in some social insects is at times fairly complex, but is stereotyped and psychologically limited as compared with that in higher vertebrates. An important similarity among various levels of organized group behavior in animals is characterized by an extension of Wheeler's "trophallaxis" concept to include all types of reciprocal stimulation underlying approach responses in the social situation. A realistic theory is thereby obtained in place of vague "gregarious instincts." Thus the properties of group unity may be understood on different levels by investigating evolved species' organic characters promoting group reactivity, in relation to capacities (e.g., learning) which influence group pattern through ontogeny and group experience. In social insects, for example, a simple conditioning or habituation learning promotes a stereotyped affiliation of individual with group situation and group members, in contrast with the more extensive and plastic group affiliations introduced through advanced learning capacities in the higher mammals.

Once the basis of group unity has been clarified, conditions such as "dominance hierarchies" may be studied as factors modifying or opposing individual approach reactions to group situation and group

(9) members. A concept must be obtained which is not restricted to the implications of aggression-dominance relations, but which also subsumes ascendancy and other types of priority in group organization. A close comparison of different social levels suggests the need for a sharper differentiation of intra-group communication processes, as might be represented by the terms bio-social for insects and psychosocial for higher mammals—the latter being capable of social "signal" functions and in advanced cases, of symbolic interchanges.

In Chapter 5, Harlow discusses various aspects of animal social behavior with special emphasis on learning. He gives a survey of representative studies carried out on a single great biological order—the order of primates, which includes monkeys, apes, and man among its members. The first part of the chapter is devoted to a summary of studies on primate social behavior by Maslow, Carpenter, Zuckerman, Nissen, and Harlow and Yudin. Among these, of course, Carpenter's extensive field studies dealing with social organization and relations of howling monkeys, Rhesus monkeys, orang-utans, and gibbons are particularly noteworthy for the student of comparative social psychology. Harlow devotes the second part of his chapter to a discussion of the "role of learning in primate social behavior and personality," and suggests a number of experiments designed to rear various groups of primates (whose life histories are controlled) "under a variety of social environments, and test the effect of these diverse environments on personal-social traits." These suggestions are in line with the already existing studies and explorations of Carpenter, Stone, Louttit, Hunt, and others. The last part of the chapter deals with the promise of animal studies for the central problems of stress (neurosis), language, motivation, and learning. Harlow ends the chapter with a brief introduction of his "learning set" theory presented first in some detail in the Psychological Review in 1949.

Harlow is of the opinion that the study of learning and social behavior of lower animals will effectively help our understanding of human social psychology. From a methodological point of view no one can deny this possibility, as it is feasible to experiment on lower animals with the scientifically desirable controls and precision. It seems that there is a serious drawback to extending the generalizations reached on lower animals to human social behavior. Without exception, every aspect of social behavior of the human individual is af-

(10) -fected, and even transformed, by his having a culture, no matter how primitive his particular grouping may be. The emergence of culture, as Harlow mentions in his chapter, is unique to the human species. For example, the accumulated system of language—just one aspect of culture—becomes such a vehicle in the ontogeny of human development that the acquisition of social attitudes, which constitutes perhaps the characteristic feature of human personality, is unthinkable without it. It might be well to ponder the fact that it takes highly trained university personnel to teach an anthropoid ape to utter merely three words of a codified language system; whereas even the most primitive, illiterate human grouping, without such scholarly assistance, possesses a codified language system consisting of words and structure which is transmitted, and at times expanded, by each succeeding generation. Until these points are clarified, it might be preferable to utilize the findings from subhuman species as valuable data of comparative psychology, and not overgeneralize to highly complex human relations. In this connection, perhaps the cautious scientific attitude may be to give due regard to the notion of levels along the phylogenetic scale in line with the discussion by Schneirla.

Now let us turn to two chapters which are specifically concerned with the major aspects of the functional relationship between the experience and behavior of the individual and his culture. In Chapter 6, Herskovits presents a sophisticated discussion of "cultural and psychological reality," based on his recent book, Man and His Works: Science of Cultural Anthropology (1948).[1] Herkovits devotes the major portion of his chapter to methodological aspects of the subject, turning at the end to various problems raised by the notion of "cultural relativism." The author starts by pointing out the importance that the concept of culture acquired during the first half of the 20th century. Culture, which may be defined in short as "the man made part of the environment" is a peculiarly human phenomenon which exhibits regularities of structure and process. In this chapter we find a clear statement of the author's views of the relationship between concepts of culture, society and behavior. The concept of ''enculturation," which is one of the key concepts in the systematic view pre-

(11) -sented by Herskovits, deserves particular emphasis and elaboration.

One of the primary contributions of ethnology has been the implications of cross-cultural data in formulating generalizations concerning the human species. It was mainly through the eye-opening impact of cross-cultural data that psychologists finally realized the provincialism of their notions about so many psychological phenomena among which their ethnocentric concepts of "human nature" and various brands of instinct theories may be cited as representative examples.

Chapter 7 by Hallowell, entitled "Cultural Factors in the Structuralization of Perception," takes us down to the solid meeting ground in recent years of psychologists and the investigators in sociology and ethnology toward building a unified structure of social psychology. In recent years, perceptual reactions have become the prototype of all psychological reactions for social psychologists in singling out the effects of socio-cultural influences on the one hand and biological and strictly personal factors on the other. It is this conception of the patterning of perception by both personal and socio-cultural factors that has made a closer rapprochement between anthropologists and psychologists possible in recent years (p. 165,). Society and culture do not get into the psychological make-up of the individual as devilish or angel—like entities in their own right; nor do they flow into him through his sense organs in discrete quantities. In so many concrete situations, they come in as factors (through his sense organs) which participate in the patterning of his perceptions along with other factors stemming from within himself. Hallowell, in this chapter, first presents a summary statement of the rapidly accumulating facts of cultural factors in structuring perception—a topic to which he has been contributing richly for over a decade. In addition to the statement of general facts of the contribution of cultural factors in perceiving, he gives fascinating illustrations of two specific kinds of cultural phenomena as factors in the structuring of perception—viz. language and art forms. The special point of symbolic factors is a much needed and timely one, inasmuch as symbolic factors have not yet been systematically brought into this emerging unified scheme. Linguistic symbols or labels come in as factors in structuring and categorizing individual experience in relation to stimulus situations. When stimulus objects are classified in one class rather than another, under a symbol or label, they are perceived as members of one group rather

(12) than the other. The functional significance, the value of these objects to the individual, follows these lines of categorization on the whole. If some berries, which are not harmful in themselves, are put under a tabued category in a culture, they are perceived as nonedible berries, of course, as fixated through learning. Likewise, if some women are classified in the kinship system of a society under a sexually tabued category and other women under a sexually sanctioned category, the perceptual selectivity and thresholds are modified in relation to the two respective groups of women. In short, linguistic symbols or labels come in as categorizing factors in the structuring of perception. This in turn brings about shifts in the functional relationship of the individual to the stimuli in question. It is only under artificial and deliberately mutilated conditions that perceiving is a mere cognitive process.

The same socio-cultural factors do not produce exactly the same psychological effects on the members of the same social group. Strictly personal or idiosyncratic factors take part in the structuring of perception. Thus perceptions of the different members of the same social group in relation to the same socio-cultural stimuli are not identical; they vary within limits of a scale peculiar to the group.

In Chapter 8, two psychologists, Barker and Wright, present an approach to the problem of concretely studying and defining the specific stimulus conditions in relation to which interaction takes place. So long as social psychologists must make guesses concerning the social stimulus situations, their theorizing is of necessity highly tentative. For, as the authors state, "we do not know with precision for different cultures and different conditions of life the degree of occurrence of the factors thought to be of importance for social behavior and psychosocial development." It is therefore fitting that social psychologists study such ecological problems, defining the particular social stimulus conditions in different life situations.

Necessarily such ecological problems involve work on different levels of study. If we claim to take all the factors influencing behavior and their due weights into consideration, the lines of study delineating the various social sciences must be crossed and recrossed. Barker and Wright correctly start with the non-psychological milieu, which includes the natural surroundings, the material surroundings, the economy, social structure, and social products, such as the ideology or value

(13) system. This non-psychological milieu provides concrete "behavior settings" and objects in relation to which behavior takes place. The existent behavior settings include not only the physical objects, but their value aspects as well. In relation to each, a definable sort of behavior is standardized as "appropriate," whereas other sorts of behavior would in this situation be "inappropriate" or "wrong." In most cases, there is a socially standardized range of behavior in which " `fully right' behavior is modal and the `clearly wrong' behavior least frequent."

On the basis of the study of the non-psychological milieu and the specific behavior settings and objects, a naturalistic examination of the "psychological habitat" becomes possible. At the University of Kansas, Barker and Wright and their colleagues have been conducting such field studies with the aim of developing methods for describing the psychological environment of children in their natural settings. Excerpts from a sample "specimen record" are therein reported. This specimen record was obtained by detailed recording of one child's behavior and the settings in which it occurred from the time he awakened in the morning until he was asleep at night. The investigators are somewhat critical of this method. Its obvious disadvantage, of course, is that the presence of an adult observer may considerably alter the psychological environment. However, the method yields detailed and interesting data which have the advantage of being complete and covering successive events over a time span.

In the following three chapters (Chapters 9, 10, and 11), MacLeod, Postman, and Volkmann discuss fundamental psychological processes, viz. judgment, perception, memory, and, partly, motivation, which are at the bases of any adequate treatment of the indispensable concepts of social psychology, such as attitudes, ego or self, and differential effects of group situations. From the point of view of psychological analysis, these three chapters probably constitute the core of fundamental functional relationships which are applied in most of the other chapters. The concepts discussed in these three chapters are organically related to the more concrete problems of social psychology presented by Newcomb, Sargent, Hartley, and Sherif.

In Chapter 9, MacLeod presents a systematic treatment of the "place of phenomenological analysis in social psychology." In the way of introduction to the main topic, discussion starts with a brief characteriza-

(14) -tion of psychology in general, its relation to social psychology and brief historical summaries of four of the major theoretical settings of social psychology. At the very beginning MacLeod stresses the fact that social psychology, the principles it relies on, are part and parcel of psychology in general. "One of our tasks today is to break down the barriers which segregate it from the rest of psychology, and to develop a unifying point of view from which all experience and behavior can be understood as regulated by the same set of fundamental laws." The first of the four historically significant theoretical backgrounds the author mentions is the social psychological approach which is primarily concerned with the study of the structural properties of groups. Various types of "group mind" theories exemplify this approach in its initial crude form. The second main approach discussed is the instinct-oriented approach as exemplified by the systems of MacDougall and Freud. The Learning-oriented theories represent the third major approach, which maintains that the primary explanatory principles of social psychology are the "laws" of learning. The fourth and most recent theoretical orientation is represented by the growing attempts "to find in the psychology of perception the basis for an understanding of social behavior and experience." This general orientation, represented in the most clear-cut way by Gestalt psychology, is the phenomenological approach. The historical sketch of the phenomenological approach, which had its beginnings long before the appearance of Gestalt psychology, serves to broaden the perspective of the recent enthusiasts of phenomenology who proclaim it to be a new frame of reference in psychology.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to the clarification of the phenomenological point of view in psychology, especially through the specific treatment of the central topics of perception, social perception, and ego as illustrative material. There is "a growing belief that if we are to understand social behavior we must have an understanding of the processes of perception"—"the direct and immediate datum of experience in relation to a concrete world of meaningful objects." The problems of social perception are not separate problems; their essential properties are included in the problems of perception in general. The exception MacLeod takes to the fashionable notion of projection is illuminating. It is assumed that perceiving the stimulus objects, especially when they are not well structured, in terms of our desires,

(15) "complexes," etc., is projection to those stimuli of what is really in us. In short, "we do not project the meaning into an object any more than we project the redness or the squareness into it."

The essential point in MacLeod's chapter is, of course, his characterization of the nature of psychological phenomenology. Phenomenology "is not a school or a system, but an approach. A phenomenon is by definition an appearance." Phenomenology in itself is not psychology; it is "sheer description." Psychology, which aims to be a science, must go beyond the stage of sheer description. It has to use concepts and explanatory principles which are not given in immediate perception or experience. But the main emphasis in the phenomenological approach is the insistence upon starting with immediate, "naive," and (as Koffka and others also maintained) "unbiased" experience in relation to the objects of a concrete and meaningful world. As such, phenomenological observation should occur prior to the adoption of explanatory principles or a systematic theory. But phenomenological analysis must be used with discipline on the part of the investigator, if it is to serve us in formulating significant problems. If we let ourselves loose in phenomenological intricacies, we are bound to fall into a "private" world of subjectivisms, exemplified by various philosophical tendencies and certain recent trends in psychotherapy which come to the verge of saying that the world is merely what I have in my perception—my private psychological world. As MacLeod states, "beyond phenomenology there is always the lure of epistemology and metaphysics."

Traditionally, social psychology worked out by socio-culturally oriented writers was artificially posed against the "individual" oriented approach. During the last two decades, serious attempts have been made to work out a unified social psychology, based on experimentally verified generalizations, which embody at the same time the inescapable facts of culture and social organization. So far, the two most note worthy attempts in America in this direction have been in terms (1) of perceptual (cognitive) conceptualizations and (2) of "learning theory" based primarily on recent elaborations of the conditioning process. At present, at least, the majority of social psychologists seem to be proceeding along the perceptual (cognitive) approach. Postman's chapter constitutes a systematic contribution along this line of development (Chapter 10). Inasmuch as Postman makes a rather successful attempt

(16) to support his systematic propositions by factual evidence from experimental literature as well as studies carried out by himself and his associates during recent years, the chapter should prove to be highly useful to those who are interested in perceptual (cognitive) approach to social psychology.

It has become evident that perception, which is taken as the prototype of all cognitive processes, is not an additive build-up. It is not a mere intellectual affair. Perceptions are organized or structured products. And organization or structuring is a bipolar affair which is jointly determined by both external stimulus factors and internal or directive factors. The fact of bipolar determination of perception was stressed by K÷hler in 1929 (4), [2] by Koffka in 1935 (3). This central fact was made the starting point of his social psychology by Sherif in 1935_1936 (12, 13). A series of significant experiments were carried out at the City College of New York by Gardner Murphy and his associates in the early '40's, each designed to determine the relative weights of external stimulus conditions and internal directive factors, respectively, which jointly determine the bipolar organization of the perception or memory in question (6, 7, 8, 10, 1 1). Since 1945, Postman, who was one of the contributors of the City College group, and his associates at Harvard have pushed forward this perceptual (cognitive) approach considerably (1, 2, 9). More recently, Krech and Crutchfield made the fact of bipolar organization of perception (cognition) one of the key points of their social psychology (5).

Before getting to the positive statement of a unified cognitive theory as the sound basis for an adequate social psychology, Postman rightly calls attention to the one-sidedness of formalists, whose main concern is almost exclusively on the stimulus side, and of instrumentalists, whose main concern is primarily with the adaptation and adjustment of the organism. The accumulating facts concerning bipolar organization of perception, which cannot be adequately understood without

(17) full recognition of all external stimulus conditions and internal directive factors jointly operating at a given moment, make the one-sided emphases of both formalists and instrumentalists factually inadequate. There are conditions, lawfully studied, which render the relative weight of external (stimulus) factors more dominant. On the other hand, there are conditions in which internal (directive) factors come in as more weighty factors in the process of bipolar organization. Then our specific task is to vary systematically the properties of external stimulus factors and internal motivational factors, respectively, and to determine their exact relationship in so many possible cases of joint determination of perceiving and other cognitive processes. Probably the most valuable aspect of Postman's contribution is a number of propositions he formulates to this end, and the experimental evidence he presents in their support. An equally valuable aspect of Postman's chapter is his treatment of memory in concepts which are "continuous with the propositions on perceptual organization."

Postman prefers to use special terminology in referring to external stimulus factors and internal directive factors which jointly determine the perceptual organization. Hypotheses is the word he chooses to refer to internal factors (motives, attitudes, etc.) in a generic way. In his own words: "By hypotheses we mean, in the most general sense, expectancies or predispositions of the organisms which serve to select, organize and transform the stimulus information that comes from the environment" (p. 249). In short, the meaning of the word hypothesis is stretched to include all the topics covered under the psychology of motivation—hunger, sex, attitude, set, interest, etc. If the word "hypothesis" were a meaningless or neutral word to start with, it might not be so difficult to use it in this broad generic sense. Also, Postman prefers to refer to external factors with the word "information," and to structured and unstructured stimulus situations with the expressions "appropriate information" and "absence of appropriate information." Since the characteristic that counts here in giving greater or lesser weight to external stimulus factors is not necessarily the amount of physical energy, but rather the structural relationship of the whole external stimulus field, it may be more parsimonious to refer to them in terms of structured-unstructured and gradations thereof. Since we already know something about properties of the external stimulus field in their being conducive or not conducive to perceptual grouping or

(18) organization on the basis of the studies of Wertheimer and others, a new set of terminology may not be in the interests of a unified theory on which Postman so rightly insists.

During the last two decades, an ever-increasing number of social psychologists have realized the almost direct implications of findings in the general psychology of perception for a host of their central problems. The implications of firmly established findings in the general psychology of judgment are not yet widely grasped. When the possibilities of this area of research are grasped, we shall advance a long way in establishing social psychology on firmer grounds methodologically. The great advantage of judgmental work is that it necessarily leads us to formulate our research designs in terms of precise dimensional analysis. Volkmann's authoritative chapter, which is significantly entitled "Scales of Judgment and Their Implications for Social Psychology," will help many of us to see new research areas in terms of more clear-cut formulations (Chapter 11).

It has become almost a truism that our reactions are not determined by the physical properties of external stimulus situations alone. Reaction is the consequence of the way we perceive, judge, and appraise situations. In this process, the persons we are at the moment—with all our past experience, present tensions, attitudes, etc.—come into the picture. The recent findings on perception led several contemporary authors to unwarranted extreme positions. They almost come to the point of saying that perception of things is what the individual makes of it. Against such an extreme subjectivistic position, the psychology of judgmental scales along the lines presented by Volkmann can serve as an effective corrective. Social psychology can utilize certain aspects of culture, in any society, for this purpose. Culture and social organization are not chaotic entities. Their main features consist of certain regularities, certain value scales with more or less definite beginning and end points, certain poverty-riches range, certain magnitudes and routines in use in everyday life. Many attitudes, many standards of reaction of the individual members of any culture are formed in relation to such scales of values, riches, magnitudes, and routines. The individual member's evaluations, appraisals, take place in terms of such scale values, of course subject to variations due to his particular status, role in the group and, within limits, to personal characteristics. Volkmann gives us the fundamentals of the relationship between

(19) stimulus values and psychological scales which is at the basis of the perspective the individual develops in relation to his environment. In the light of basic experimental findings, the major portion of which comes from his own work and the studies of his associates, Volkmann gives a critical evaluation of the current educational attempts at broadening the perspective of the new generation.

His discussion of anchoring effects, up to what point new anchoring factors can be effective, beyond what point they fail, should be of particular interest to the student of social psychology. These laboratory findings are full of implications for the student of attitudes and public opinion.

Volkmann notes as a fact demonstrated in one of his own experiments that "anchoring can be achieved by appropriate verbal instructions, without the use of anchoring stimuli." A good many scales of judgment used by individuals in their personal and group relations are thus derived. Much of the work dealing with standards and scales of judgment in social psychology has necessarily been with the verbally established ones. A series of judgmental experiments studying the relationship between reference scales established through exposure to actual stimulus series and through verbal dictums lacking such anchorings in various degrees may be basic to the clarification of the relationship between verbal factors and actual contact factors in the functioning of attitudes.

The next series of chapters (Chapters 12-14) is devoted to group structures and the functioning of individual members within them. As we noted before, psychologists' approach to the study of group problems has been largely by way of extrapolations from the characteristics of the individual in more or less isolated situations. Even those who insisted on dealing in terms of group structure improvised their notions of group organization and did not bother much to assimilate the wealth of concrete empirical data already collected by sociologists. It is fortunate, therefore, to have the contributions of Whyte, Hughes, and Arensberg in this vital area. These three sociologists have been engaged for a good many years in exploring the complex problems of social organization, status, and role problems created by membership in various groups.

The tremendous influence of group membership on the experience and behavior of individuals is now beyond the point of controversy.

(20) Yet social psychologists are still too prone to study the reactions of the individual within the confines of experimental or observational groups as if the group in question embodied in itself all the factors that go to influence the individuals comprising it. Whyte starts his lucid discussion of "Small Groups and Large Organizations" by taking issue with this short-sightedness so prevalent today among a good many experimental social psychologists (Chapter 12). Small groups, Whyte points out, "need to be placed in a perspective of larger organizational structures." For small groups do not function in a vacuum. They are related to and, in many cases, parts of larger organizations. As such, the functions of the small groups and their individual members have little meaning apart from their relation to other groups to which they are organically tied. This main stand of the chapter is supported by concrete illustrations revealing the interdependent nature of different groups which are all parts of the modern industrial structure. It becomes clear, therefore, that instead of losing sight of weighty factors by over-concentration on the confines of in-group relations alone, we should broaden our perspective to the larger framework of "-mutually dependent sets of relations." This realistic orientation of Whyte makes us feel that his advice to us is well taken: "The social psychologists interested in small groups must be fully aware of the work going on in the larger structures." The practical implication of this realistic orientation is clear. "Then, if we wish to modify behavior within the group, we will recognize that it will sometimes be necessary, in order to effect significant modifications, to first make changes in the over-all structure of the organization first" (p. 312).

Whyte confines his illustrations to the cases of large industrial formations in America. If the perspective he suggests is utilized in the study of inter-group relations, it would be easier to realize fully the inadequate and wasteful nature of many current prejudice studies. The prejudice studies, which lay overdue emphasis on individual experiences with only a few lip-service remarks to the influence of actual group structures, and which extrapolate the generalizations derived from the confines of in-group relations to inter-group relations, without any serious stress on the nature of inter-group relations themselves, are certainly good illustrations of theoretically inadequate and practically wasteful approaches.

Whyte presents a clear discussion of methods for studying groups.

(21) Group structure, in the final analysis, boils down to the reciprocal relations or roles between members occupying hierarchical positions in it. This is studied by the way of leader-follower relations. It seems to me that Whyte clarifies considerably the concept of "leadership." "Quite different phenomena are often lumped together" under the term leadership. If the word leadership is to be used consistently in any functional sense, it should be used in the sense of operational leadership, in which the main criterion is the fact of initiation of action in which group members, including the leader, participate. With this criterion, leadership should be distinguished from popularity, "the assumed representative," and prominent or talented individuals. Another particularly noteworthy point of Whyte's chapter is his insistence on time dimension in the study of group relations. In the study of groups, the time sequence of interactions is crucial in understanding the true significance of overall results.

In a closely related chapter (Chapter 14), Arensberg presents a coordinated survey of the major aspects of "human relations" studies carried out over the past twenty years by men close to industry, by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. His survey of the field, in which he is one of the leading authorities, is not a compendium of summaries of so many studies. He discusses the concepts and methodology used by each of them, appraises them critically, and relates them to each other, noting the lines of convergence as well as divergence. As such, it should serve as a systematic introduction for the student of social psychology to the general problems of "behavior and organization" in this area of human relations in the Western world today.

One overall fact that emerges from this survey of the experience and behavior of individuals working in units of industrial plants is full of indications for social psychology. This overall fact is that the most effective determinant in the production and shifts of attitudes and, hence, behavior is the pattern of interaction in one's group situation. By whatever name the particular investigators call themselves—sociologist, anthropologist, or psychologist—no matter with what kind of theoretical orientations they start ("cultural," "psychological," "clinical," etc.), and whether or not they play up or down the implications in this regard in the final write-up of their studies, this general overall fact is almost always there. The incorporation of some of the most recurrent factual evidence from these industrial studies to the main body

(22) of social psychological writing will be one of the best correctives in broadening our rather provincial view of group studies.

Yet most of these studies have been carried out as studies of small groups without sufficient emphasis on the forces impinging on the group unit under study—forces from other related units, from the overall organization of which all these units are parts, and from other groups of the general structure of which the overall organization is in turn a part. For small groups, especially today, are not closed systems. Their very functioning is related to the functioning of other groups in a social setting of definite structural properties. Arensberg untiringly insists on this important consideration throughout his chapter. In fact, he starts his chapter by calling attention to it. "The evidence from the study of industrial behavior and industrial relations seems to indicate that building theory upon research concentration on the small group may be mistaken, however experimentally justifiable as an object of research the small group may be."

What Arensberg really means here by "small group" is the small group taken as a closed system more or less in isolation. In actual observation and experimentation, the unit of study necessarily has to be the small group and its individual members, no matter how compre hensive our perspective of larger organizational ties may be. The objectionable thing, therefore, is not the study of small groups per se, for there is no way of getting out of it. The adequate approach, as Arensberg himself later points out, is to study small groups in their functional ties with groups to which they are organically related. Arensberg makes a plea for such a necessary broadening of perspective in the interests of an adequate theory of small groups. In this plea, he is voicing at the same time the opinion of his colleagues who comprise the last group ("subgroup") of the students of small group behavior in industry which he discusses at some length in the last part of the chapter. The facts and views advanced by this group, which can be "best identified as the group of persons associated in the Society for Applied Anthropology," are among the useful ones in breaking away from our provincialisms as social psychologists. This praiseworthy plea to stud) small groups without losing sight of their ties with other groups and the general setting is, we believe Arensberg and his colleagues will agree, still in programmatic form, rather than a body of accumulated research. The social psychologist interested in the whirlwind of socio-

(23) -economic forces will be eager to see how far this group of applied anthropologists can manage to go in this direction in the practice of their investigations.

It becomes evident, then, that an adequate study of small groups implies the study of at least a minimum degree of inter-group relations. At times, the in-group relations and properties simply become unintelligible without a consideration of the general setting in which they operate. Even the very composition of modern in-groups at the present time is tied up with certain inter-group problems which have a bearing on the participation of the particular member in question within the in-group as well as on the consistency or inconsistency of in-group effects in other situations in a time perspective. For in-group members of a plant today are members of other groups at the same time—the union, the religious group, probably a political party, etc.—which have their claims on the constituent members in this or that direction.

It is not just coincidence that a mounting number of industrial studies happened to be carried out during the last twenty years or so. One learns from Arensberg's chapter that this is not due merely to the refinement of research techniques of the investigators. The studies are products of the concern over mounting "labor unrest" and the desire to do something about it. In view of this fact, the necessity for broadening the small group studies from within the narrow formulations of their own confines and placing them in their general setting and in their historical time perspective becomes so much more urgent. However, just saying that all historical influences are embodied in the actual factors under study is no way out. The tracing of the influences of so many factors under study in a longitudinal way certainly makes us more intelligent in understanding the nature of and dependencies among these factors.

In Chapter 13, the sociologist Hughes presents findings concerning the demands and conflicts of certain statuses and roles to exemplify the need and possibility for joint work by psychologists and sociologists. His aim has been, in the author's terns, to raise problems rather than to work out any one systematically. The area chosen is work, for, says Hughes, "a man's work is one of the more important parts of his social identity, of his self, indeed, of his fate, in the one life he has to live." Here is a lesson in methodology which social science must learn if it is to move forward. In the area of work relationships, Hughes

 (24) points out, the problems are often obscured because they are approached with concepts deriving from the point of view of certain groups within the social structure and with their attendant "value-loading" and "pretentiousness." The plea is not for "neutrality" in social science no doubt an impossibility—but for "a point of view and concepts which will enable us to make comparisons between the junk peddler and the professor without intent to debunk the one and patronize the other." In short, the concepts must be valid in relation to any work situation. With this aim, Hughes illustrates some common properties of work situations derived from study of occupations traditionally low in status in this society.

Finally, the last part of the book is devoted to central topics of social psychology at the present time (Chapters 15-17). Three social psychologists, Sargent, Hartley, and Sherif, discuss these topics. First, the interaction between the individual and social situations is discussed in terms of role and ego concepts. Then, the much neglected, yet currently inescapable, topic of multiple group memberships and the effects on the individual of the demands in various directions thus produced is presented with convincing concrete illustrations. In this connection again, the necessity of the systematic clarification of the concept of ego or self is indicated. In the last chapter, a theoretical approach to the study of inter-group relations is outlined and the approach is illustrated with an actual experimental study.

As social psychologists have reŰxamined old paths and explored new. the futility of going ahead without the aid of social scientists working on different levels has become increasingly evident. In Chapter 15, Sargent illustrates the gains which may be obtained through interdisciplinary study, with special emphasis on the concept of role. With such an aim in mind, Sargent gives a concise survey of the concept as used by anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists. He then proposes the following definition as a useful tool in social psychology: "A person's role is a pattern or type of social behavior which seems situationally appropriate to him in terms of the demands and expectations of those in his group" (p. 360; italics in original).

The evidence of sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists clearly negates accounts of behavior in group situations conceived solely in terms of individual factors—personality traits, drives, or the like. In the case of existing, definitely structured groups, the individ-

(25) -ual's behavior is to an important extent determined by the position in which he finds himself or which he attains in the group structure and the expectations, responsibilities, privileges attending that position. Sargent points out that in such instances the psychologist must give due weight to such structural properties of the group as part of a stimulus situation which the individual perceives and learns. Accordingly, his behavior in such social situations becomes harmonious with that prescribed by his role and, in this sense, may be spoken of as role behavior. In this process, individual factors contribute in such a way that the behavior of two individuals in the same objective roles is not exactly alike.

However, says Sargent, a conception of roles taken as existent, static prescriptions of behavior is inadequate for social psychology. When the social situation in which individuals interact is new, strange, or otherwise unstructured—such as a chance meeting of strangers—certain roles emerge in the course of interaction. In such situations, individual factors come into fuller play. Roles then are initially products of interaction in groups of any size. Social situations seldom remain chaotic for long, but assume some sort of structure. Since individuals ordinarily move in many established groupings and in many interactional situations, each learns, attains, participates in the creation of many roles of a lasting or transitory nature. The individual's conception of himself, his ego, is in large part derived from these roles, especially those relating to lasting or recurring group situations. Small wonder that objective conflict in the demands of these various roles results in confusion, conflict, anxiety for the individual.

The analysis of such conflicts stemming from contradictory roles and statuses is illuminated by Hartley in his discussion of "Psychological Problems of Multiple Group Membership" (Chapter i6). Since roles and statuses "stein from a functional differentiation of position within a social group," Hartley correctly reasons, the problems of contradictory roles and statuses "must refer back to the different reference groups from which these roles and statuses have come." The analysis of these problems on a psychological level is clarified by a genetic or developmental approach, viz. the study of the child's gradual awareness and identification with groups of which he is a member. In the complex societies of today, every individual is a member of many groups. Starting with the family, the child acquires symbolization of

(26) his group membership in diverse groupings long before their social significance is appreciated. Such affectively charged symbols or attitudes come to constitute in large part the child's concept of self. The understanding of the functional relatedness of such symbols or attitudes (which constellation may be termed ego or self) can, Hartley suggests, be greatly improved through developmental study.

When the individual's behavior is seen as occurring in terms of the norms of various and often contradictory reference groups, a number of confusing problems are approached with a common perspective. For example, Hartley notes that in much social conflict today, individuals may react ethnocentrically, i.e., solely and uncritically in terms of a dominant reference group, at the expense of the goals and norms of a larger group of which both parties in the conflict are members and, perhaps, refer to in other situations. The urgent need here is the study of how identifications with the norms of the larger, common group can be increased to the extent that they become dominant in cases of potential conflict. "If behavior is referred to group norms," concludes Hartley, "if the individual has many group memberships, if the regnant norms may be that of a social group not physically present, I would search in such dimensions to account for changes in social behavior."

In short, by making a systematic issue of the problems of multiple group memberships, Hartley brings into focus for social psychologists one of the most basic and timely topics in the inter-personal and intergroup relations of our day. Probably this problem underlies many of the inconsistencies in the individual's behavior in his group relations and the uneasy plight of modern man struggling to keep an even keel in the midst of conflicting currents.

In Chapter 17, Sherif presents a report of a preliminary experiment on inter-group relations conducted in the summer of 1949. The first part of the report is concerned with the theoretical approaches to the study. The main point is that it is erroneous to extrapolate uncritically the nature of in-group relations to inter-group relations and try to resolve inter-group problems by such extrapolations. Likewise, the understanding of inter-group relations has been retarded by the extensions based on generalizations from the gratifications and frustrations in the life histories of single individuals. Groups stand in certain definite functional relationships as groups to each other. The functional

(27) relationship between any two or more groups as groups may or may not be in line with the characteristics of in-group relations. For example, even a high degree of harmony and co÷perativeness within the in-group does not necessarily imply harmony and co÷perativeness with an out-group. The experiment is presented as a demonstration of this point.

In the preceding pages, an evaluative summary statement of the sixteen chapters constituting the main body of this book is presented. The discerning reader will take note of some basic converging lines running through the biological, socio-cultural and psychological levels of reality represented in the various parts of the book. He will notice, at the same time, some representative lines of divergence. This is as it should be. The host of material utilized from biology, anthropology, sociology, and from general psychology itself still reflect these convergences and divergences, as well as selective use of them. Only time will prove which choice of concepts and selectivity have been with the general run of the nature of things in question.


1. Bruner, J. S., and Postman, L. Emotional selectivity in perception and reaction, J. Personal., 1947, 16, 69-77.

2. Bruner, J. S., and Postman, L. Symbolic value as an organizing factor in perception, J. soc. Psychol., 1948, 27, 203-208.

3. Koffka, K. Principles of Gestalt Psychology, N. Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1935

4. K÷hler, W. Gestalt Psychology, N. Y.: Liveright, 1929, especially pp. 319-329

5. Krech, D., and Crutchfield, R. S. Theory and Problems of Social Psychology, N. Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1948

6. Levine, J., and Murphy, G. The learning and forgetting of controversial material, J. abn. & soc. Psychol., 1943, 37,507-517.

7. Levine, R., Chein, I., and Murphy, G. The relation of the intensity of a need to the amount of perceptual distortion, A preliminary report, J. Psychol., 1942, 13, 283-293.

8. Postman, L., and Murphy, G. The factor of attitude in associative memory, J. exper. Psychol., 1943, 33, 228-238.

q. Postman, L., Bruner, J. S., and McGinnies, E. Personal values as selective factors in perception, J. abn. & soc. Psychol., 1948, 43, 142-154.

10. Proshansky, H., and Murphy, G. The effects of reward and punishment in perception, J. Psychol., 1942, 13, 293-305

11. Schafer, R., and Murphy, G. The role of autism in a visual figure-ground relationship, J. exper. Psychol., 1943, 32, 335-343

12. Sherif, M. A Study of Some Social Factors in Perception, Arch. Psychol. No. 187, 1935

13. Sherif, M. The Psychology of Social Norms, N. Y.: Harper, 1936.

14. Sherif, M. An experimental approach to the study of attitudes, Sociometry, 1937, 1, 90-98.



  1. The more detailed statement of the elaborated position of Herskovits concerning man, society, and culture is fortunately available in his book mentioned above, especially pages 625-641.
  2. The following excerpts quoted from K÷hler (Gestalt Psychology, 1929) are representative: "we play even say that, apart from drowsiness and similar states of low vitality, the organization of the total field will almost always have just that bipolar character, the self being directed to something else or away [torn it." (p. 323). "Evidently it is not only the external situation which in a great many cases has to he considered, but the internal situation of the organism as well." (p. 325) ... "'this is the case, indeed, for, in the total field including the self, we find grouping dependent upon those directed attitudes." (p. 327)

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