Behavior in Social Relations

Muzafer Sherif and Carolyn W. Sherif

Whenever we deal with the topic of heredity and environment, we are necessarily dealing with the social relations surrounding the human being in the process of development, as well as with his biological endowment. For a great chunk and, in the case of the human infant with his more prolonged dependency on others, the most effective chunk of his environment consists of the social relations surrounding him (Chapter 3).

Whenever we deal with the topic of socialization, we are necessarily confronted with the problems of the acquisition of language and of roles relative to other people. Without acquisition of language (which is the product of interaction of individuals in former generations) and without internalization of roles relative to others that have been somewhat consistent from day to day, the human being is hardly distinguishable from lower animals, as noted in the case of feral children (Chapter 3).

Whenever we deal with the topics of motives and the setting of personal goals that energize the individual to secure the good things of life or to prove his personal worth in the eyes of people important to him, we encounter the problem of the particular variety of goals that prevail in the specific set of social relations or culture that surrounds the individual. For example, as reported in Chapter 6, the variety and degree of aggressive modes of behavior in human relations, as well as of acquisitiveness, vary according to the prevailing pattern of social relations in the individual's setting.

Whenever we trace the development of what a person stands for and cherishes,

(514) what a person is dead set against and wants to avoid, or even to demolish if he can (in short, his directive attitudes in religious, economic, political, and other human matters), we are inevitably confronted with the prevailing schemes of social relations that surround him over a time span. These attitudes defining the self-image that he builds up, and what he is for and what lie is against, are, energizers of his behavior. As such, these lasting attitudes determine what he will fight for and what he will avoid. Therefore, these attitudes were included in Chapter 6 dealing with human motives. So it is that the problem of "human nature," as it unfolds in the day-to-day behavior of the human person, cannot be grasped independent of the characteristics of the social setting of which the person is a part.

But what is this social setting of which lie is a part? The answer to this question leads us directly to the main concern of these two final chapters. The social setting that "counts" for the individual does not consist of a conglomeration of unrelated individuals and nature in the raw. The individual is related to other individuals with unmistakable ties, with mutual expectations, and mutual attitudes. He is related to other individuals in specific roles in this or that capacity. He is an employer or an employee; he is a father or a son; lie is a fellow group member of some standing in a social club, a fraternity, a professional organization, a labor union, or the chamber of commerce, a political organization, a church, an athletic team.

Members of any outfit—be it a family, a church, or a social club—fall into a pattern with unmistakable roles and mutual expectations in various respects. This distinctive pattern is the human group.

Therefore, whenever we study leader-follower relations, interpersonal. relations, or lines of influence among people, the effective framework of study turns out to be this distinctive pattern-the human group. Likewise, whenever we study problems of prejudice and segregation prevailing among human beings, their delineation in terms of their respective groups stands out in high relief.

Whenever studies concentrated seriously in recent years on the topic of changing an individual's stand or attitude on some controversial issue, the most effective measure has been found to be through change of the individual's reference groups (see pp. 161, 162).

The upshot of this first glance is that man's social relations are not a series of disconnected, disjointed snapshots of social encounters. They constitute a system of patterned relations. The most distinctive case of these patterned relations is the human group itself. The formation and functioning of groups among human beings in the course of their conduct of the important business of living, with all the striving toward their goals that living implies, is the proper focus of these last two chapters. But, in order not to get a distorted picture in this focus, let us first place groups within the general scheme of social psychology, in which the study of groups is probably the central topic today.


The topics mentioned in the previous paragraphs have always been prominent in discussions of the social relations of man. The topics of nature-nurture, socialization, social motives and attitudes, leader-follower relations, relations between groups, effect of communication in changing attitudes-all these mist be topics as old as human beings themselves. And they are the central topics of social psychology today. Their scientific study, however, did not start in earnest until a few decades ago. The major reason for this lag is that man's social behavior was depicted by some authors as the outcome of basic "human nature," consisting of innate instincts or drives determining a set pattern of social relations, in the way of ascendance-submission, aggression, hoarding, and so on (Chapter 6).

On the other hand, some writers put the major praise or blame for what makes man tick on the environment, as if the individual were only a passive recipient of imprints.

( 515) Each party in the controversy was one-sided in its exclusive emphasis on the individual or on the group. Both failed to recognize the fact that behavior, and what is called "human nature" for that matter, is a biosocial product, such that if either factor of the product is zero (human biological endowment or appropriate environment), the product is zero (cf. Woodworth, 1941). As long as the controversy continued as a series of assertions without the support of scientifically collected data, it was doomed to remain a futile debate reflecting only the special upbringing and special interests of the parties involved.

What is evolving today is an interaction approach that makes place both for influences stemming from the individual himself and influences coming from his surroundings, as they act and interact on one another (Krech and Crutchfield, 1948: Newcomb, 1950; Hartley and Hartley, 1952; Asch, 1952; Klineberg, 1954). This interaction approach duly recognizes that man is typically goal-directed from birth on, that he is uniquely endowed with a conceptual capacity that enables him to grasp and learn relations infinitely more complex than any subhuman animal, such as exemplified in the conception of the United Nations in a shrinking world or the grasp of relations in any number system. This is not all. Thanks to his conceptual capacity, man is not only a learner of culture and the intricacies of role relations in groups, he is also a creator of groups and culture. The interaction approach gives due weight to the consequence of an individual's being a member of a group in shaping his behavior, in his building a notion of himself as a human being.

Social Psychology Accommodating the Patterned Nature of Man's Social Relations

What is shaping today for a rounded study of man's social relations is a social psychology based on laboratory and empirical findings (Jahoda, Deutsch, and Cook, 1951; Katz, 1953; Lindzey, 1954). We can profitably base our edifice of social psychol ogy on experimental and empirical findings that have been verified time and again. Here we must restrict ourselves to a summary of the essential minimum of these generalizations:

1. Man is not a passive recipient of external stimuli (social or nonsocial) impinging on him.

2. His judging, evaluating, perceiving, remembering, in short his experiencing of things, is selective (Chapter 14).

3. This selectivity is guided jointly by his motives, his attitudes, his internalized language categories (internal factors) on the one hand; on the other, his selectivity is guided by salient features of his environment, in which persons around him, their words and deeds, and cultural products (buildings, signal lights, markers on the road, headlines in the papers) are among the articulate items.

4. His seeing, hearing, or judging is a patterned affair such that parts or items within the pattern have membership character (Koffka, 1935). The membership character means that parts or items within a stimulus pattern do not have absolute stimulating values. Their psychological property is determined to a great extent by their membership in the stimulus pattern.

5. Membership character of parts has far-reaching implications for social psychology. It gives a sound experimental basis for handling part-whole relationships. The individual-group relationship is primarily a problem of part-whole relationship. It tells us to study the individual in terms of member-pattern relationships. The concept of group as a pattern will be crystal clear when we present later the definition of the group and discuss its properties in terms of organizational and normative stabilizations.

6. As a rule, the most salient patterns for the individual in his surroundings are social objects, people, and products of people's interaction in the previous or living generations-that is, cultural products.

7. The individual, in concert with other individuals, creates group patterns in the course of interaction whenever stable

( 516) groups' patterns are lacking, or when they become insufferable in terms of tasks the interacting individuals are engaged in.

8. Individuals in the course of interaction create and stabilize language categories, and standards or normative categories in every aspect of common concern of their lives. Thus, the human individual is not only a learner of norms, roles, or a language. He is, to start with, a creator, in concert with others, of organization patterns, normative patterns, and linguistic patterns. Hence, membership in groups, normative regulation of his behavior, and surrounding himself in a setting of cultural objects and regularities are not alien to his nature, but are very much a part of his nature as he lives and interacts with others.

Context and Background of the Social Situation: Neglected Factors in Small Group Research

Obviously the most concrete case of social relations is man's person-to-person relations-in interpersonal relations as a member of a family, a business, a church, and the like. Therefore, those social psychologists who define social psychology as the study of person-to-person relations, or the study of people as they affect one another, have a point.

Yet if person-to-person interaction is studied, no matter how intensively, without putting the interpersonal give-and-take within the context of the setting in which it takes place, we get only a distorted and even mutilated picture of the interaction process. The interpersonal relations among friends or members of a group, including the most intimate interpersonal relations, do not take place in thin air. They take place in the context of a restaurant, home, or office, each with an unmistakable atmosphere contributed by objects and facilities around. Nor is this all. They take place in a context of role relations and values that may be in the background at the time. Whether the interacting individuals are clearly conscious of them or not, these background atmospheres, their internalized role expectations, their value or norm commitments do come into the shaping of their experience and behavior.

In view of what we learned from the laboratory in regard to the importance of context, of background, of the contribution of internal anchors, it is inexcusable to sweep them under the rug in the scientific and especially experimental analysis of a social situation. Even in simplest laboratory experiments, what stands out in our experience of the stimulus field before us, stands out as affected by the background of stimulation. A conversational remark to a friend that is taken for granted in a birthday party as to its tone and volume is experienced as too loud when uttered to the same friend in the same tone and volume at a solemn church service or a funeral. The same innocent words may be inappropriate in a work situation, while they are considered utterly appropriate at a stag party. It has been shown that the atmosphere in

which the test is administered affects responses to ink blots presented by the experimenter (Sarason, 1955). It has been shown that merely dropping a remark prior to the experiment that members of a prestigious place maintain a specific level in estimating the extent of autokinetic movement has a substantial effect on the subsequent perception of the extent of movement reported by the subject in the experiment itself (Walter, 1955).

In recent years, our attention has been called to the fact that the subject's appraisal of the whole experimental situation and the "demand character'' of the laboratory atmosphere have an effect on the outcome of the experiment. It is likely to make a difference in the outcome, for example, if the college sophomore in the retest of an attitude questionnaire feels that he is expected to exhibit a change from his previous test (Orne, 1962). The current growing work on the "social psychology of the psychological experiment'' should make us keenly aware of context factors in the situation, and the background factors that provide internal or external anchors not easily apparent and taken for -ranted in the situation by the experimenter.

Problems cogently raised and factually documented by the investigators concerned

( 517) with the effects of background and context factors on the results obtained in psychological experiments should make researchers on small groups particularly concerned with these factors (Orne, 1962; Rosenthal, 1961; McGuigan, 1961). The experimenter himself, his recording devices, the subject's attitude toward the experimenter and the topic at hand, as well as the formal instructions as to the task to be performed, and the nature of the task are all parts of the situation confronting participants in an experiment. "Experimenter bias"-getting results in line with the theoretical commitments of the experimenter-has been

recently verified by Rosenthal (1961). The effect of experimenter bias is almost as old as experimental psychology itself. We learn from E. G. Boring (1942), one of the leading historians of experimental psychology, a telling illustration of the point. The experimenters in the Cornell laboratory, committed to the doctrine that sensations and their traces (images) were the elements of mental life, always obtained these elements from their subjects. Opponents of this doctrine in the Würzburg laboratory hardly ever obtained these elements. Boring (1942) summarizes this state of affairs by saying: "Laboratory atmosphere largely determined what would be found in answer to that question, and the laboratory atmosphere often extended from a parent laboratory to its offspring."

If the context and background factors constituting the laboratory atmosphere are so effective even on the responses to be obtained in tasks of little concern to the subjects, how much more serious their consideration becomes in social experiments-when the subjects are participating in an experiment with strangers, friends, or rivals, or when the task at hand is one that sensitizes them in terms of their positive or negative commitments.

Take, for example, the awareness on the part of the members of a small group that they are being observed, or the awareness

FIGURE 18-1.  Experimental Study of Social Groups in the Laboratory
In many experiments, various aspects of social interaction have been studied within the laboratory. Here a number of individuals participating in a group discussion are shown. Unknown to these subjects, their behavior is being observed through a one-way mirror show in the background. In interpreting the behavior of individuals in such situations, the context within which the behavior occurs, the relationship between participants, the nature of the task, and so on, must always be specified. (Courtesy of Robert F. Bales.)

(518) that their conversation is being tape-recorded. If the task assigned to the participants of a small group research session is the good or bad weather, or the discrimination of clots or lines, they may not mind the experimenter. They may, in time, get used to the presence of the microphone; they may even talk for the distinction of being recorded.

But try to observe an actual group with commitments of their own, and secrets of their own. Attempt to have them discuss problems of concern to them. The fact of being observed, and having to deal with the observer, becomes the main focus of their interaction. The point under consideration can be dramatized by an incident related to our attempt to use a tape recorder to get a verbatim record of the conversation between the members of one of the groups studied in our research program on "natural groups," to be referred to later (Sherif and Sherif, 1964). The group in question engaged periodically in socially unacceptable activities. They had their own plans and secrets as almost all groups have. The observer of the group was only a few years older than the group members. The group members did not know that the observer was associating with them to study them.

In the second month of observation of the particular group, after the observer succeeded in establishing sufficient rapport with the members, the time was considered ripe to introduce a candid tape recorder to the situation. The observer was willing to try his ingenuity in this attempt. The attempt had to be abandoned with the apprehension that the observer might be physically hurt by the group members in case the recorder was discovered.

In summary, then, in the scientific analysis of an interaction situation involving social relations, it becomes necessary to consider all the factors in the context and background of the situation. These include, in addition to the immediate task and instructions, the composition of the partici-

FIGURE 18-2.  Group Discussion Observed Through One-way Mirror
In such experiments, along with the factors noted in Figure 18-1, which must be taken into account, is the factor of whether or not the participants know they are being observed. (Courtesy of Robert F. Bales.)


FIGURE 18-3. An Interaction Recorder
This device is used to record behavior of participants in situation such as those shown in Figures 18-1 and 18-2. Generalized categories are marked on the machine and recorded on moving paper. Time intervals are recorded automatically. (Courtesy of Robert Bales.)

 -pants, their attitudes toward one another, not excluding the experimenter or observer, the nature of the task, the attitudes toward the task, the locale and facilities, and so on.

Needed Classification to Encompass the Scope of Social Situations

As we have noted in the last section, the most concrete case of behavior in social relations is the interaction of individuals in interpersonal relations as exemplified in the face-to-face interchange between friends, or in the interpersonal relations of members of a small group (members of a family, a club, a fraternity, members of a work group). But all these interpersonal relations, including the most intimate ones that take place between members of a family or between close friends, are inter personal relations of persons who have stabilized roles and statuses and associated identifications, expectancies, and loyalties. They are the interpersonal relations of persons who have definite stands or attitudes as to the nature of social relations, as to what is desirable, and what is undesirable in' human relations-between male and female, between friends, between fellow business, club, or fraternity members. And these attitudes, derived by the individuals from the norms of their immediate or larger cultural setting, do come into the picture to color the course of interpersonal relations. They do color the course of interpersonal relations in small groups, including the most intimate ones, whether or not the interacting persons are aware of them, and whether or not the researcher of these small groups has achieved the necessary perspective to assess their influence.


The unmistakable implication is that we have to assess the characteristics of the organizational setting and the norm, or value setting, of interpersonal relations for an adequate account of the characteristics of interaction episodes, even of face-to-face encounters.

Hence, a classificatory scheme is needed to encompass the characteristics of the context and background factors in the study of any social interaction situation, including the most intimate ones. This need for a classificatory scheme to encompass the characteristics of interaction situations has been emphasized by various psychologists and social scientists in recent years in increasing numbers. Probably this trend is best reflected in a recent volume devoted to this issue with contributions of a dozen psychologists and social scientists (Sells, 1963).

Obviously the classificatory scheme has to be in terms of social objects surrounding the single individual-the single individual is the unit of analysis of psychology, including social psychology. Social objects are other people, and the products of interaction of people, which may be referred to as cultural products. But people that the individual faces do not consist of an undifferentiated conglomeration of individuals. They are parts of distinct social patterns or groups, and relations between groups.

Likewise, the man-made part of the individual's environment, or his culture, is not a monolithic entity of one huge piece. It consists of various parts or items.

Therefore, the following classification iii terms of classes of interaction patterns, consisting of people and general classes of cultural objects, serves as a working scheme:

I. Other people
    1. Other individuals as stimuli 
    2. Groups
 a. Intragroup relations
 b. Intergroup relations
    3. Collective interaction situations

II. Cultural products
    4. Material culture
    5. Nonmaterial culture

 The focus of the present chapters is on group relations. Therefore, in this section we restrict ourselves to a few preliminary remarks and then take up group relations in more detail. The impact of cultural norms in the variety and operation of motives in defining sex roles and other aspects of social relations have been already reported (Chapter 6). The contribution of cultural norms and value orientations in accentuating particular aspects of the individual's surroundings-that is, in contributing to the particular brand of the individual's perceptual selectivity-have been reported in Chapter 14.

Before getting to the preliminary remarks on the classes of stimulus situations just listed, it should be noted that, from the point of view of a single individual, the classes listed under the preceding separate headings are not mutually exclusive. For example, in a birthday party or an anniversary celebration, various combinations of classes are present.

Other individuals, as stimuli, are represented by the interpersonal relations among a small number of individuals. In recent years, there has been a growing body of experimentation and theorizing on interpersonal relations and person perception (Tagiuri and Petrullo, 1958; Heider, 1958; Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955; Bruner and Tagiuri, 1954). In this mounting literature on interpersonal relations, one common denominator seems to be that the perception of other persons is not only a function of impressions formed on the basis of stimuli impinging on receptor organs (for example, retina); but person perception is also a function, and importantly so, of the motivational and role significance of the person(s) perceived.

That this is the case is not surprising. When we keep in mind that perception of any object is affected also by the context and background factors as well as internal factors, it becomes necessary to take interpersonal relations (including person perception) within the framework of the more enduring personal identifications, stabilized role, and status anchorages, as well as in terms of immediate attractions, repulsions, and immediate sense impressions.


The point just made is so important in human relations that the implication deserves to be dramatized through a classic illustration. You will recall that when Romeo and Juliet encountered one another, it was love at first sight. When subsequently they discovered that one was a Montague and the other a Capulet, two families with traditional "deadly enmity, all sorts of tragic complications arose in spite of Romeo's and Juliet's intense love for each other as male and female.

The implications are far-reaching for social relations among individuals. When two or more persons meet one another for the first time, they have an itch to place each other in terms of their family, religious, and ethnic affiliations, and categorize each other in terms of their respective stations in the larger social scheme. The stabilization of interpersonal relations is, at times, more heavily a function of these placements and categorizations within the role and relative status arrangements of the larger setting than a function of first impressions. Further implications of this point are presented when we discuss interpersonal relations between members of ingroups and individuals belonging to different groups (intergroup relations).


We have included cultural products in the classification because they do come as parts of situations in social relations. The term culture, including both material and nonmaterial items, is defined as the man-made part of the individual's surroundings, following the anthropologist Herskovits (1949). Cultural items are social in origin. They do not drop out of the blue. They are products of interaction of individuals of past or living human generations.

Material Culture. Material culture consists of such items used in living as houses, furniture, plumbing, roads, playgrounds, means of transportation (car, plane), means of communication (television, book), and means of production (factory, harvesting combine). Their impact in changing the patterns of human relations, including interpersonal relations, has been well documented (Sherif and Sherif, 1956). A concrete illustration is the rise of giant cities through technological developments, with their anonymity and high degree of differentiation that have brought about changes in the within-family attitudes. The impact of the use of automobiles in changing romance patterns in America is well known. Family squabbles over the use of television are also familiar.

Nonmaterial Culture. The nonmaterial culture of human groups and societies consists of their social organization, defining the roles and statuses of the individual in various respects, their value or norm sets in religious, political, economic, and social aspects of their life and in all other aspects of importance for the group in question. One can predict that whatever aspect of living is of common concern to the members of any group, they have a set of norms to regulate their activities in that respect.

Cultural products, both material and nonmaterial, belong to the group. They are the organizational system and the norm system of the group. A social system without its peculiar set of status arrangements and peculiar set of norms—that is, its repertory of culture—is unthinkable. Therefore, a sharp distinction is untenable between "social" and "cultural." Take away the particular set of cultural products adopted from the previous generation(s) or created in a group's own life history through interaction among its members and, there will be no "groupness" left in the group. There will be left just so many unrelated individuals with no common outlook, with no mutual expectations, no common ways of solving problems, and no common expressions of feeling.

The Human Capacity for Concept and Norm Formation

Other important aspects of nonmaterial culture are art forms and language. Because of its special importance for social relations, we shall devote a few paragraphs to lan-

( 522) -guage. The elements of the language consist of concepts reflected in words that are standardized generalizations for classes of objects, persons, and relations important in their lives.

Language, as a system of standardized generalizations, is distinctly human. Its creation is made possible by a distinctly human level of functioning. Language has a categorizing effect in attending to and perceiving things and people, such that our selectivity is sensitized to certain objects. Our patterning and grouping of objects are, to a great extent, carried out in terms of the distinctions, inclusions, and exclusions implied by the linguistic categories (see Chapter 3).

Through the vehicle of language, based on man's unique conceptual capacity, man lives not only in the living present, but is related to the past (traditions) and the future (plans and goals in the years to come) (Huxley, 1927; Schneirla, 1951). This capacity of man, and man alone, to transcend his relatedness beyond the immediate present, in space and time, is responsible for a good many human problems related to reference group phenomena-—namely, in relating ones self to groups not within the immediate reach, and setting goals in terms of standards not within the immediate surroundings (cf. J. P. Scott, 1953, p. 69).

The language concepts and norms of a social unit have in common the fact that they are both standardized generalizations for a bounded set of things. In the case of concepts, objects or persons that fit into the criteria of the generalizations are included; all others are excluded. In the case of norms, the boundary of acceptable and the boundary of unacceptable attitudes and behaviors are defined. Thus, norms of the group are affectively charged concepts. And as such, they are expressed in terms of value judgments ("the flag is glorious") and imperatives ("thou shalt not steal").

The important and lasting fact about group interaction is not so much that of compliance in immediate and transitory situations, but it is the emergence and stabilization of norms in every aspect that is important to the members in their common life, not just at a point in time, but over a time span. Whenever there is a common concern over a time span on an issue, the interaction process among members produces its appropriate norm in that respect, which becomes binding for the individual members to regulate their behavior in matters related to it. When we come to discuss the formation and functioning of groups, we present ample evidence in regard to this essential generalization concerning norm formation and its integral place in the study of any group.

What is true concerning the emergence of norms in every important aspect of group interaction is true also for the emergence of new concepts in regard to every aspect that becomes important in the life of a group of people. A glance at the new words section in any current dictionary, provides the most convincing evidence of this statement.

An Experimental Demonstration.   The development of special concepts for objects important in social interaction was studied in the laboratory by Sherif and Sherif (1956). Units of two or three children from a kindergarten in a working class area of view Haven, Connecticut, were taken from the classroom to play on 4 different days. They were shown a number of toys, one of which was completely new to them. It was a small-scale dirt-loader, an object for which they had no name. The toys were put away and could be secured for play simply by asking the experimenter. No particular label had to be used to designate the toy. The children were given it whenever they clearly differentiated it from the other toys. This toy was the overwhelming favorite, since it could be used with sand and trucks in a variety of games.

A label for the toy was considered "standard" for a particular unit of children when (1) each child used it three times successively, with no other designation intervening, and (2) each child responded to the name accurately when the experimenter used it in an individual test situation. Each unit of children standardized a different label for the toy during the 4 days (steamshovel, steps, derrick, tractor, big green thing, erector).

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The typical process of standardizing a label was as follows: One child, usually the one who most frequently initiated activity in play, gave a name to the new toy in his efforts to coordinate the others in playing around it. The label was useful to him in assuming a directive role in the play. Therefore, when the others referred to the toy using different words or phrases, he tended to correct them. For example, if one said "that big, big thing," he would say you mean _______'' giving the label he had used. Eventually, other children adopted the label and sometimes corrected others who varied from it. Labels standardized in this way were used consistently in play and were responded to accurately when later used by the experimenter with individual children.

An amusing, but significant result of the standardization of different labels in the different units was that the children experienced great difficulty in communicating about the toy outside of the laboratory. For example, a member of one group, which called the toy "steam shovel," said to the experimenter: "J_____ said yesterday you didn't have no steam shovel in here when they came in to play. Didn't you?" The group of which J_____  was a member had adopted the name "derrick" for the toy. Thus, accurate communication among members of different units was difficult and, in fact, proved impossible in this instance.

Cultural Products as Subject Matters of Other Social Sciences

Cultural products, both material and nonmaterial, social organization, norms or values, belief systems, and language are products of interaction of individuals in some point in time in the history of their social units. Once these products of interaction take shape with their clear pattern and their demarcated bounds, they acquire their own existence with reality of their own and start their own case histories (cf. Durkheim, 1915). Even individuals whose interaction gave rise to them cannot ignore them or change them at will, except through a series of new interactions.

Of course, if there were no human beings to interact, there would be no culture, no value system, no means of communication, and no groups. However, once products of human interaction come into existence and accumulate through generations, they do become stimulus conditions for specific individuals. Man is certainly in the beginning the creator of things; in interaction with others he creates social organization, social values, tools, and modes of procedure. But man, in turn, is recast by these very products. His products are not man himself. The products of his interactions become subject matters for study in their own rights, without reference to single individuals and their behavior. These products are studied at their own level by cultural anthropologists, economists, sociologists, political scientists, linguists, and other social scientists. To ignore the patterned properties of the material and nonmaterial aspects of the socio-cultural setting amounts to omitting crucial stimulus conditions that enter into man's most intimate relationships with his friends, his kin, and even his sweetheart or marriage partner.

Interdisciplinary Implications for Training in Social Psychology

Once there are clear and complex patterns of social organization defining status and role differentiation for the members (in a kinship or family system, for example), they become subject matter of a social science in their own right- traditionally of sociology, in this case. Once groups have their own sets of norms or value systems, binding for the members within certain bounds, they become subject matters of other social sciences -cultural anthropology and sociology, in this case. Once there is a system of concepts and their linkages, it becomes the subject matter of the philologist or linguist. These illustrations can be multiplied for the case of the musicologist and others.

For example, the social organization of the U.S.A. is too complex, differentiated, and multifaceted a pattern to be described adequately in terms of the limited interpersonal experiences of a small number of

( 524) individuals in New York City in Boise, Idaho; in Yakima, Washington; or in Laredo, Texas. There are commonalities, as well as differences, running through these subpatterns in various localities that require systematic investigation.

On the contrary, if we first acquire sufficient information from the sociologist concerning the commonalities and differences in organizational subpatterns and none sets, then and only then are we in a position to assess intelligently the interpersonal relations in these various localities. This is again the same whole-part problem we discussed before in terms of context, and background factors in the analysis of the situation in social relations. As a consequence, the students of social relations have become increasingly and keenly aware of the impact of the sociocultural setting in the shaping of the nature of interpersonal relations in small groups, and in the setting of personal goals by the individual members.

The strong interdisciplinary trend in training students in social psychology in various universities and colleges throughout the country is probably the most concrete manifestation of this keenly felt necessity. This concrete manifestation is reflected in recent years in the new organizational arrangements and study programs cutting across once more or less insulated departmental lines of various academic disciplines. We have to restrict the examples to just a few of the illustrative new programs for training in social psychology. Distinct from its psychology department, Harvard University instituted a Department of Social Relations, which pulled together social psychology, sociology, and anthropology. More recently, Columbia University and the University_ of Pittsburgh set up social psychology departments, again organizationally distinct from their traditional psychology departments. The University of Michigan instituted its program for graduate training in social psychology, with ample provision for interdisciplinary offerings, from which have come many of the promising Ph.D.'s placed now in various universities and colleges throughout the country.


The central problem of social psychology is the effect of people on one another. Make a list of activities you engage in daily over a time span, say, a week. Anyone who has not seen you during that period will not lose, if he bets you one hundred dollars that a preponderant number of activities were in relation to other people in some capacity or were in reference to other people. This will he almost obvious to anyone.

What is not so obvious is that your performance of the tasks in the activities you engaged in would have been somewhat different had they not involved other persons. This finding is a common denominator running through almost all studies since the beginning of experimental social psychology. Whether the effect of a social situation has been beneficial or harmful, and whether this social effect has contributed to greater or lesser productivity in performance is a different matter. The direction and amount of the social effect are not determined by the mere fact that there were other persons) in the situation. For a satisfactory answer concerning underlying determinants, we have first to find answers to a number of questions. These questions include: What was the relation of the other person(s) to you.' What were the circumstances under which your activities were carried on? What were your attitudes and the attitudes of others toward the task at hand—its importance to you and to others? These are some of the questions we deal with in the rest of the present introductory treatment of social psychology.

Any interaction situation, or any activity on the part of the individual that leis reference to others, has this social effect. For example, when I am writing these lines, as I put words together, I am keenly concerned with a few questions: How will my professional colleagues judge the statements I have just made.' Will the statements be clear to the students? I look back at the pages already written. I notice the scratches over certain phrases and rewriting of cer-

(525) -tain sentences, prompted by the above considerations.

Going further, the unmistakable effect of social situations need not be confined only to conscious and deliberate attempts "to influence people" to bring about intended changes, exemplified in stimulus material specially prepared to change an attitude. The scope of social influences, then, is much broader than the cases of deliberate attempts on the part of a person to change our behavior and attitude in face-to-face relations and through communication. This is true whether or not the source of influence and recipient of influence, or both in a reciprocal way, are aware of the fact.

Such being the case, the influence of people on one another is not only the central problem in social psychology; but all other topics in this discipline have relevance to it. We refer to the effects of people on one another as the differential effects of social situations. We define differential effects of social situations operationally as the difference in behavior by the same individual in responding to the same stimulus, or performing the same task, iii a social situation and alone. This operational definition of the differential effect of a social situation on the individual can be put into a simple formula:

Dif. Ef. = BS- BA

B` refers to behavior in a social situation or behavior with social reference, BA , refers to behavior alone without social factors present.

Growing Importance of Small Group and Other Social Interaction Research

The differential effects—that is, the effects of people on one another in any situation (be it classroom, work situation, in discussion, in leader-follower relations, in intergroup relations)-are so unmistakable and universal that they have forced themselves to a central position in the social sciences. Their study has now become central not only for those who are formally in social psychology, but also for those scientists who are in political science, sociology, industrial relations, and business management. The perplexities and urgency of human relations problems (in a rapidly changing world that has more mastery over its physical environment than over its own destiny) have greatly accelerated the pace and volume of concern over their more systematic study.

The traditional concepts of leader-follower relations, of intergroup relations, of incentives to promote solidarity and productivity in work situations, of decision-making, problem-solving in political, social, and industrial spheres are in the process of revision. These traditional concepts have proceeded on the assumptions that individual and group were more or less insulated entities. Leaders and followers have been individuals of two separate breeds. Problem-solving or decision-making has been a self-generating process of single individuals almost unaffected by the context and background pattern of the whole system of relations in which the leader himself is a part.

The concept of human personality itself has been based on fixed, self-generating qualities, instead of on the successive episodes of biosocial development. The plight of human relations has been attributed to a "human nature" consisting of various instincts or motives straight from primordial ancestry, instead of studying them too as energizers shaped in the course of biosocial development in sociocultural settings.

In all these problems that go into the making of human relations, a comprehensive process of revision of traditional notions is going on. The upshot is that various spheres of human problems, with the discipline of scientific approach on the part of psychologists and others, are all converging on a more realistic concept in their study. Basic orientations that are emerging in this convergence include the following: (1) That no man is an island unto himself, while not denying his unique qualities and differences from others. (2) That the goals man sets for himself and the energizers of his behavior are the products of his biosocial development in a concrete sociocultural setting. The uniqueness of the

(526) person himself is a biosocial product in his sociocultural setting. (3) That man's perceiving, feeling, and striving toward his cherished goals, his enduring attitudes, his performance, his problem-solving efforts, his decision-making process typically take place in relation to other people important in his eyes or with reference to them. Such being the case, it has not proved useful to account for his perceiving, judging (evaluating), taking a stand, problem-solving, (in brief, his behaviors) in isolation, cut off from the context and background factors in which he is behaving.

Underlying the present popularity of the small group research movement in various university departments and privately organized research centers is this revised concept of the study of behavior of man in its appropriate context or frame of reference. This emerging concept is not the contribution of a single scholar, single doctrine, or single school of theory. It is the contribution of a good many psychologists, sociologists, industrial relations experts, and students concerned with leader-follower relations and with intergroup relations in the actualities of human relations. Interesting accounts of the rise of the small group research movement giving contributions from various sources are available (Faris, 1953; Cartwright and Zander, 1960, Chapter 1; Hare, 1962; Hare, Borgatta, Bales, 1955; Kelley and Thibaut, 1954; Riecken and Homans, 1954; Haire, 1959; Stogdill, 1959).

A brief glance at a few important sources of development in small group research and related social interaction studies concretely reflects the plural parentage of this thriving trend.

The sociologists Cooley (1922) and Mead (1932), concerned with the socialization process of man and with individual-group relationship, stimulated a great deal of subsequent theorizing and empirical research. Since the early 1920's a definite research development in sociology engaged in extensive studies of small groups in urban settings of Chicago and other cities. These are represented in the works of Thrasher (1927), Anderson (1923), Clifford Shaw, (1930), Whyte (1943), and others.

Another major impetus stemmed from the practical concerns of business circles, with problems of productivity, effective management, and job satisfaction in industrial plants. It may be appropriate to mention, as the single most effective development from this source, the series of studies launched by Elton Mayo and his associates at the Harvard Business School in the late 1920's (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1942). Studies of the effect of informal groups of workers on productivity, morale, and similar problems have flourished in many management departments in schools of business in universities.

A similar practical concern of military establishments with problems of selecting leaders and maintaining morale resulted in research into these problems under military sponsorship (e.g., O.S.S. Assessment of Men, 1948).

Concerned with problems of interpersonal choice process and therapy through interaction situations, J. L. Moreno (1934) started his sociometry and group therapy, which have now become a practice in many academic and therapeutic institutions.

In social psychology itself, the experimental work of F. H. Allport (1924) initiated in the 1910-1920 period was among the early significant contributions to the movement for research on social situations. Experimental work in social perception and norm formation in the middle thirties (Sherif, 1936) is' considered among the important contributions from the laboratory to this movement. The series of experiments initiated by hurt Lewin and his associates in the thirties and forties dealing with different styles of supervision and on decisions reached through discussion among participating individuals has been highly influential in spreading research along these lines throughout the country (cf. Cartwright and Zander, 1960).

Sets of Factors in the Analysis of Group and Other Social Situations

In order to account adequately for the differential effects of social situations (as defined in the preceding section), the

( 527) investigator has to specify all the ingredients or factors that count. The distinction, "Group and Other Social Situations," in the heading of this section is deliberate. The distinction between group and other kinds of social situations conveys a key consideration in the analysis of social situations. The implications will become clear to the reader in the rest of this chapter and in the next chapter.

Until recent years reports of research on social situations frequently omitted some of the important ingredients of the social situation. They suffered, on the whole, from myopia. Reading somewhat like the report of an animal-learning experiment, they were confined to reporting how many subjects participated, who they were in a general fashion (college sophomores or students taking an introductory psychology course), and what the task was (for example, solving mathematics problems or making a choice under "alone" and "together" conditions). Of course, these bits of information on the subjects and the assigned task are among the important ones.

But there are other unmentioned ingredients of a social situation that, nevertheless, affect the behavioral outcome. In recent years, these neglected ingredients are being recognized and emphasized, thanks to the efforts of those who have demonstrated the effects of context and background factors in the total frame of reference of the situation.

There is much more in a social interaction situation than what catches the eye of the experimenter as observer. There is much more in a social experiment than what is recorded on a tape recorder or other recording device. How are the participants in the situation related to one another'? Are they strangers? Are they friends, rivals? Do they feel comfortable or out of place in each other's presence? What attitudes do they bring toward the whole situation-negative or positive? How important is the experimenter, the assigned task, to various participants? What are the commitments of the participants relative to the communication to be discussed or evaluated (for example, in an attitude experiment)?

The preceding are illustrative of the sets of factors that should be considered in the study of the effects of any social situation. Putting together the ingredients of social situations, both those factors that usually catch the eye and those that do not catch the eye so readily, we list them under four sets:

I. Set of factors pertaining to participating individuals. These include:

a. Factors related to the characteristics of participating individuals, such as the number of individuals, their respective ages, sex, educational, and professional, and social attainment.

b. Factors related to the composition of the participants of the social situation as to homogeneity-in race, religion, class, and so on.

c. Factors related to the prevailing interpersonal relations among the participants. Are they strangers to one another? Are they personal friends or rivals? In what combinations? Are they the members of a group in the sense that a group is defined? Are they members of a group with high degree of solidarity, or of a loosely-knit group.

II. Set of factors pertaining to characteristics of the task, problem, or occasion at hand. Is it structured, unstructured; difficult, easy; complex, simple; habitual, or novel? Are there established grooves and practices in handling the problems at hand? And in what degree in all these?

III. Set of factors pertaining to the situation and circumstances surrounding it. These include: the general atmosphere of the interaction, facilities available relative to the problem or occasion at hand, presence or absence of other people not related to the task or occasion at hand (there are appropriate atmospheres for romance, for effective work, for problem solving, and for conversions in a revival meeting).

IV. Set of factors pertaining to each individual participant's particular relation to the previous three sets of factors. These include: his proficiency in the task or problem at hand, the degree of his enduring involvment in the problem, his attitude toward other participants, his feeling at ease or ill-at-ease in the situation.

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Specification of these four sets of factors in the study of the social situation might justifiably be considered hair-splitting if social situations were primarily contrived in the laboratory and it were possible to exclude all except one or two sets of factors. But in view of the facts about groups that made their study so important in modern social science, due attention to all of them becomes necessary Otherwise, the study of small groups is doomed to remain trivial and to yield-inconclusive results. The formation and functioning of actual groups encompass ingredients of all these four sets of factors.

In view of the considerations previously stated concerning the part-whole relationship, merely cataloguing the relevant factors in the situation under four sets is not sufficient. These factors are related to one another interdependently, and should be studied in their interdependence. For example, it makes a difference if the task is performed in the presence of strangers or fellow group members. This difference does not disappear if the task performed is the one in which the individual participant is highly involved and even proficient. In this connection, it suffices to remind the reader of Whyte's observation of one member of a juvenile gang who was both proficient and involved in bowling, but performed differently when playing with strangers than with fellow group members. (See Chapter (3.)

Differentiating Group and Togetherness Situations

The spectrum of social situations covers a great deal of territory. There are many different social situations. Several criteria could be utilized for ordering them in some sort of classification. One such criterion of classification is the topic studied (for example, suggestion, imitation, majority opinion). Another criterion is the methods and devices used in their study. Both of these criteria are used in the literature (Murphy, Murphy, and Newcomb, 1937; Roseborough, 1953; Lindzey 1954).

Our criterion for classifying social situations is in terms of prevailing relations among the participating individuals. This criterion for differentiating social situations is based on the fact that our relation or reference to other individuals is crucial in carrying out a task or confronting a problem in a social situation. Our motivational claims (for example, in financial or sexual matters), our concerns over being accepted, over recognition, prestige, or self-esteem, and making the grade in the scheme of things, are relative to other people. Consider a young man's anxiety over appearing clumsy or inept when engaged in a situation that involves the young lady lie is wooing, or other people in whose eves lie is attempting to prove himself. Consider a member's concern over performance of a task or his attempt to solve a problem so that he will not be left out of activities by his fellow group members.

Recognizing the overall importance of the individual's enduring concern over the opinion of those he identifies with, we differentiate social situations in terms of his prevailing relations with other individuals participating in the situation. Therefore, ignoring for the moment factors pertaining to the composition of participating individuals (not to complicate things further), we present the following classification of social situations:

Social Situations

Togetherness Situations
Group Situations

The implications of this simple distinction are elaborated and refined in Chapter 19.

Togetherness situations are those social situations in which the participating individuals do not have established interpersonal relations, positive or negative friendship ties, nor ties stemming from their membership in an actual functioning group. Togetherness situations are rather transitory encounters of individuals.

There are degrees in the strength of established ties between individuals in social associations, ranging from strangers to members of a tightly knit group. In other words, social situations can be graded from those composed of perfect strangers (togetherness situations), all the way to those

( 529) consisting of members of tightly knit groups, with varying degrees of established relations in between these two extremes.

Differential Effects in Togetherness and Group Situations. Whether the social situation is a togetherness kind or a group kind, it produces differential effects in the behavior of the individual participants. Even the mere presence of other people engaged in the same task (without overt interaction) produces differential effects both in quantity and quality of performance (F. H. Allport, 1924). This has been one of the standard findings since the early beginnings of experimental social psychology.

An interesting, more recent illustration of differential effects of togetherness is reported in an experiment by Rosenbaum and Blake (1955). The subjects were students studying in the university library by themselves, individually. Half of them merely overheard the acceptance of another occupant of the table to a request to serve as a subject in a psychological experiment. The other half overheard the rejection of the same request. The great majority of those who overheard the acceptance condition accepted the request while the overwhelming majority of those who overheard the rejection from a fellow occupant of the

FIGURE 18-4.  A Togetherness Situation
Shown here is a good example of a togetherness situation — in this case a revival meeting. There are differential effects of such situations on individual behavior, just as there are differential effects of group situations. In togetherness situations, however, these effects are determined to a greater extent by situational factors, while in group situations they are determined by mutual ties, stabilized expectations, mutually cherished practices, and so on. (Courtesy LIFE magazine © Time, Inc.).

(530) table (who was a stranger to them) refused to serve as subjects.

There are differences between the effects of social situations of togetherness and group kinds. Differential effects of togetherness situations (which are transitory and which lack established, stabilized ties anion, the participants) are determined to a greater extent by situational factors, as represented by the immediate atmosphere, immediate task, relative proficiency of the participants in the task, or problem at hand.

Differential effects of group situations, with established mutual ties, expectations, mutual loyalties, and commitments among the participating individuals, become more and more determined by the stability and strength of these mutual ties. All these mutual ties -stabilized expectations, mutually cherished practices and values, mutually shared rejections of stands on social issues toward persons and groups-constitute the cultural repertory of the group. To deal with them in an orderly fashion, we shall refer to all these stabilized and shared group products under the general label of properties of groups. Only through an adequate understanding of the properties of groups can we hope effectively to study the differential effects of group situations, whether they are topics related to engagement in a task or problem, leader-follower relations, intergroup relations, or other behavior problems. Accordingly, we now turn to a general discussion of properties of groups. In Chapter 19, we present factual support from empirical and experimental studies dealing with various topics of behavior in group relations.


As documented in Chapter 19, through recurrent findings over a good many years, membership in group(s) is not an idle affair. It is not simply a "head count" in the register of an institution, or the recognition of people that an individual is "one of the bunch." Nor is it being together with other individuals temporarily through chance encounters or scheduled occasions. Therefore, the collections of people in a theater, at the movies, in a bus depot, an air terminal, or railroad station are not groups. The students in a class, as a rule, do not constitute a group. Nor do the participants in a social psychological experiment, chosen at random from the college classes or departments, necessarily constitute a group. These are all examples of social situations of the togetherness kind, in which each individual is not related to every other individual of the unit with unmistakable ties and expectations.

Membership in a group implies unmistakable mutual ties in the capacity of belonging to a particular unit, whatever other ties these individuals may have in other groups. It implies sharing the stands taken by the group. It implies being within the bounds drawn for attitude and behavior in matters that count to the group. It implies rejecting both positions and the people rejected by the group. Such properties of membership in groups save impetus to the study of small groups. It is through the mutual ties, expectations, and shared stands in his group that the individual forms his relatedness to others, and his attitudes defining what is proper and improper in relevant matters. His very sense of self-identity, in large part, is built through these ties and stands on issues, in regard to people in his family group, church group, his team, his fraternity, his club, and his trade or professional group.

No wonder, then, that directions taken in attitude and behavior, and decisions reached in the individual's group are binding for him without necessarily threatening him with external sanctions. No wonder that the differential effects of group situations are determined more and more by the prevailing practices, the role expectations, and the stabilized standards of the group, rather than fluctuating with the ups and downs of immediate situations and immediate tasks or circumstances.

An illustration here will give concrete substance to these overall generalizations, which are verified in Chapter 19. Prompted by businessmen's concern over finding ways and means for improvement in mana-

( 531) -gerial effectiveness and for strengthening worker job satisfaction, productivity, and morale, the Harvard Business School initiated a series of studies on these problems in the 1920's under the direction of Elton Mayo. The earliest study in this series was a classic study carried out at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric

FIGURE 18-5.  Membership in Groups is Not an Inconsequential Affair
Membership in groups implies more than merely associating with others at periodic intervals. Mutual ties, expectations, and shared standards all influence the behavior of members. Anything that happens to one member of the group affects others, as well. Thus, injury to a group member is our personal concern, as can be seen here. In the center, the team manager has his head bowed and hands folded as if in prayer, while the team physician examines an injured player. The player's mother can be seen at the right. (By permission of the New Haven Evening Register, Jan. 14, 1955.)

(532) Company (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939).

In line with the assumptions of their time, the investigators started with the study of the effects of illumination in the plant, varying rest periods, varying refreshments, varying incentives - in short, with the set of factors primarily related to situational conditions and facilities (our third set of factors in social situations).

The general finding was that changes in productivity were negligibly and inconclusively related to improvement in illumination, rest periods, refreshments, and

FIGURE 18-6. Group Victories Become Our Personal Victories, and Group Defeats Are Personal Defeats in Group Situations.
"Tears, cheers and anxiety were crowded into the frantic last minute of last night's W_______ H_______ basketball thriller before 2,800 fans in the P______ W_______ Gymnasium. Heart-broken W_______ cheerleaders shed tears at right [page 533] as the gun ends the game with H______ a 40-38 winner. Cheerleaders on the left [this page] screech with glee at their team's eighth triumph in a row, while a policeman tries to keep the bubbling crowd from spilling upon the court." (By Permission of the New Haven Evening Register, Jan 14, 1955.

(533) other factors in this set. Even though the study was not initiated with this aim, through the recurrence of unanticipated events, it was discovered that regulation of the rate of production was more crucially related to the workers' interpersonal relations within their informal groups and the production standards stabilized in their informal groups. In other words, the bounds set in the informal groups for production were more binding in attitude and behavior for most individual workers than all the situational and ameliorative improvements introduced by those whom the workers perceived as the outgroup—in this case, the management.

The production rate set within the ingroup was so binding for members within the fold that they spontaneously applied sanctions to those who went outside the bounds set by the informal group, even though they had no formal authority to do so. The binding effect of the directions, decisions, standards, and stands taken within a group on its respective members has also been found to be true in the case of military units (Gibb, 1947, 1954) and other groups and organizations in social life.

Definition of the Group in Terms of Its Properties

What is it about the human group that makes the mutual expectations in interpersonal relations and standards setting the bounds of propriety and impropriety for attitude and behavior so binding for its membership in good standing? It cannot be simply that the individuals happen to be together on occasions. A good number of students registered in a college class and together three times a week fill in attitude questionnaires together, at times checking diametrically opposite stands on an issue.

We have to extract the definition of the group from the properties of actual groups that do have these binding effects on individual members. When this is not done, a caricature of the human group, and all sorts of inconclusive and conflicting results are obtained. This is why the group

( 534) cannot he defined in terms of a preconceived abstract model or in terms of operations that investigators happen to employ in research.

Whenever we encounter a group of any description in actual life and follow its workings, even for a short time, some unmistakable regularities in interpersonal relations among the group members can he discerned. These regularities, consisting of mutual role and status expectations, manifest a pattern referred to as the structure or organization of the group. In every actual group, we encounter its own established ways of doing things, ways of tackling problems, and shared preferences and rejections for things and people, over and above what the particular group may have in common with other groups of the larger society.

Thus, these essential and minimum properties of any group of any description should surely be included in defining the key term "group." Putting together these essentials, the definition of a group is as follows: A group is a social unit that consists of a number of individuals who stand in status and role relationships to one another, stabilized in some degree, and that possesses a set of values or norms of its own, regulating the behavior of individual members, at least in matters of consequence to the group.

The "groupness" of the group, then, is proportional (1) to the stability of its delineated structure or organization, defined in ternis of differentiated status and role relationships of the individual members, and also (2) to the degree that the individual members share its particular set of standards or norms and internalize them as their personal attitudes. When we study individuals in social situations that lack these two essential properties (namely, a pattern of stabilized interpersonal relations and a particular set of standards), we are studying togetherness situations and not group situations.

The individuals composing groups in real life come together with, or discover in concert, some common motive or problem. In activities related to these jointly experienced motivations, the patterning of their relationship takes shape. Their common goals related to their common motives are among the important determinants of "the matters of consequence" to them that come to he regulated through the formation of group norms.

Groups, as defined here, do not drop out of the blue. They are products of the interaction of individuals in the past or present. Nor are groups fixed entities. Because they are products of human beings, groups are subject to changes and transformations with new interactions under new motivational promptings in new conditions. Whenever individuals interact with one another, they tend to form groups with an organizational pattern and a set of standards or norms to regulate their relationship to one another and to outsiders. The formation of groups with these properties is not necessarily the outcome of blueprints for organization and rules wade up by a committee, an administrative body, or its president or chairman. Whenever people find themselves in the same situation, seeking a common goal, or seeking to alleviate a common frustration, they (10 forth groups over a period of time.

The matter of origin is the clearest criterion for referring to groups as informally organized groups, as distinguished front formally organized groups, established according to an explicit blueprint. For informally organized groups tend, in time, to formalize themselves with written rules to acquire recognition and respectability in the public eve, if their objectives and modes of operation are legitimate or come to be viewed as legitimate, as evaluated by the bounds of propriety and legitimacy prevailing in the societal setting of which they are a part.. )good many formal organizations today, including the U.S.A. and USSR governments, various religious sects, and labor and business organizations, had such informal beginnings.

Problems of Conformity and Deviation are Primarily Group Problems

The study of social situations composed of members of a group largely amounts

(535) (1) to the assessment of the prevailing pattern of status and role relations among members of the group, and (2) assessment of the degree and strength of the set of norms they share. Only in this way can the differential effects of group situations on the individual members and their conformity and deviation be effectively ascertained, including the special cases of those who are considered black sheep, or deviates, among them. The differential effects of an organizational pattern (structure) and set of norms of the group are so basic that research findings concerning them are summarized in Chapter 19.

Group situations are not represented by situations in which a collection of individuals randomly chosen from college classes or elsewhere are put together to perform a task, tackle a problem, or engage in a discussion assigned by the experimenter. These are togetherness situations, which are also legitimate topics of study. The differential effects, when unrelated individuals of given descriptions interact around a task or engage in some psychological activity, are important. Their investigation should be labeled as studies Of togetherness situations lacking in establishedinterpersonl ties.

Social situations, composed of individuals who fall into a pattern of established role relations and who share common values or norms of their own, are represented by a family group, a group of close friends, a church group, a club unit, a labor union group, and a professional group. Being a part of them may be valued by some of the members as the most important thing in their lives. Therefore, when they feel that they belong and that they are members in good standing, they feel stable and secure in their self-identity. When ties with these groups are shaken, members of the group are shaken. It follows that the appropriate locus for studying the vexing problems of conformity and deviation is the group context, as defined. The serious problems of conformity and deviation are primarily problems of conformity to and deviations from stabilized role relations and norms of the group. The very terms, conformity and deviation, are relative terms—they imply variation in behavior relative to some standard. There has to be a standard or norm to conform to and deviate from.

Compliance in Togetherness Situations.

The experimental study of compliance with social influence in transitory laboratory situations is extremely valuable, as long as we are not misled into equating these togetherness situations with groups. For example, from the studies by Aschsummarized in Chapter 14, we learned that even when a majority of 12 or 15 people together with us say that two lines are the same length and we can see very clearly that they differ in length, we are seldom I influenced by them. That about 30 per cent of the judgments made by subjects in Asch's research were errors in the direction of the majority shows the astounding influence that socialization with other-people has on behavior in a togetherness situation. Some subjects confessed later that it did not seem worthwhile to them to be disagreeable while in the presence of the others. Others said that it had seemed so strange to them that so many of their peers could be wrong that they concluded the experiment was concerned with some "illusion" to which they were not subject. However, his findings also show that few individual had actually adopted the majority's definitions. They did not follow the majority when they were alone.

We may conclude that definitions by another person are not likely to be effective in shaping the individual's behavior, much less his own personal conceptions, if those definitions contradict his perception of the situation. As we learned in Chapter 14, his perceptions are likely to be accurate to the extent that the stimulus situation clear cut and well structured.  The influence of others in shaping our attitudes is greatest when the stimulus situation lacks objective structure in some respect, when it is difficult to check the several alternatives by immediate experience.

From Whittaker's experiments reviewed in Chapter 6, we find that when the individual has an established concept or norm, for conduct, even in a highly unstructured situation like the autokinetic laboratory, he is unlikely to he influenced by

( 536) another person who assesses it entirely differently than he does. The greater the discrepancy between the individual's own scale for judgment and the scale of another person, the less was the influence on his judgment.

In an early study, Sherif (1937) showed that individuals who had never faced the autokinetic situation' before could be influenced in their judgments by another person instructed to make estimates within a range prescribed by the experimenter—for example, from 2 to 6 inches, or from 6 to 8 inches. Each subject was paired with a "planted" subject who had been instructed to make estimates within a different range. The subjects adopted the ranges to which they had been exposed, and subsequently placed most of their estimates within the same ranges when alone.

We may now ask whether the individuals were simply responding to social pressures to be agreeable in the situation, as did the subjects in the Asch experiments. Did they see the extent of movement they reported, or were they merely responding to demand characteristics of the experimental situation? Hood and Sherif (1962) designed an experiment to eliminate, as much as possible, any aspects of the situation that might be conducive to perceiving social pressures to respond in a particular way. They used the autokinetic situation. The purpose of the experiment was successfully disguised as tests of visual ability under low illumination.

Before he made any judgments, the subject overheard another subject, whom he had never seen, make 18 judgments -on the pretext that he could allow his eyes to adapt to the dark by waiting his turn in the laboratory. The "planted'' subject who made the 18 judgments left the room and did not reappear. Thus, the individual never committed himself in the presence of the plant. The subject was encouraged by the experimenter to make judgments as the subject saw the situation. For half the subjects, the plant made judgments within a range from 1 to 5 inches, most frequently at 3 inches. For the other half, judgments of the plant were distributed between 6 and 10 inches, with most of them at 8 inches. The plant and the subjects did not converse. After the plant left, each subject gave his own estimate.

Figure 18-7 gives the percentage of judgments of movement of 5 inches or less, and judgments of more than 6 inches for subjects who overheard the 1 to 5 inch range, and for subjects overhearing the 6 to 10 inch range. The median judgment for those overhearing the smaller estimates was 3.98 inches. The median judgment for those overhearing the larger estimates was 6.79 inches. In short, the individuals were significantly influenced by the estimates they had overheard, even though every effort had been made to reduce any "demand characteristics" in the situation for compliance with the plant.

When the subjects were asked after the experiment to estimate the extent of movement that they usually saw the light move, those who overheard the smaller estimates replied, on the average, that they had seen it move 3.9 inches; the average of replies for those who overheard the larger estimates was 7 inches. These statements of

(537) what they had seen did not differ significantly from the actual judgments they had made. Therefore, it could be concluded that the individuals not only were, by and large, unaware of the extent to which they had been influenced by overhearing the plant, but were actually seeing movement corresponding to their judgments in the experiment.

There is nothing mysterious that needs a special label like "suggestion" or "imitation" in these outcomes. When a situation lacks clear-cut determinants in the stimulus dimension to which the individual is attending, he finds anchors elsewhere. If he has already formed a clear concept or strong attitude toward the stimulus, it will serve the purpose. If he has not, as in the preceding experiment, the spoken judgments of another person serve as an anchor. To the extent that the situation lacks objective checks, the individual is likely to be unaware that he has been influenced and to perceive the situation as he reports it. This is particularly the case if the other person is someone he likes, someone who has prestige in his eyes, or someone whom he has some basis for judging "successful." It is unlikely to be true if the other person is a rival, a member of a different group, or an enemy (see Chapter 14).

However, laboratory studies show us that compliance in togetherness situations does not occur entirely unchecked by external stimulus conditions, even in the autokinetic laboratory. Social influence that is entirely arbitrary is not likely to be effective long. In the autokinetic laboratory, there are several stimulus conditions that do affect the individual's estimates of movement, quite apart from any social influence. For example, the size of the room, the distance between the subject and the light, the brilliance of the light, and the time it is exposed. In Figure 18-7, the subjects exposed to the 1 to 5 inch range conformed somewhat more closely than those overhearing the 6 to 10 inch range. This is no accident, since under the particular conditions of that experiment, perception of movement of about 5 inches was more usual, without social influence. If the experimenters had introduced a range, say from 20 to 30 inches, there would have been a dramatic decrease in the proportion of judgments influenced by it.

Such studies show that compliance and noncompliance to others in transitory togetherness situations are useful topics for study in social psychological experiments. But generalizations based on such situations can hardly be extrapolated uncritically to account for the conformity and deviation of the identified members of an actual group, when their vital interests are at stake or when cherished beliefs and attitudes are being challenged in person-to-person encounters or through communication advocating diametrically opposite views. The reaction of individuals in togetherness situations, including togetherness situations in a laboratory, is a far cry from situations, both in terms of individuals concerns for one another and in terms of their involvement in the issue at stake. In a casual social occasion, a participant may agree to a statement on an issue that does not concern him a whit just to be polite, pleasant, or agreeable. The problems that have made the study of conformity and deviation such an important issue in a changing world with conflicting norms and ideologies are not represented by momentary compliance on a motivationally colorless issue, however.

An Evaluation of the Effects of Groups and Their Norms. There still prevails a facile tendency toward categorical verdicts in analysis of human relations that are either group-biased or individual-biased. This tendency to categorize human relations has an historical basis. Traditionally, approaches to human relations were one-sided: either the individual was made a hero or--a villain or the group or culture was labeled a hero or villain for the prevailing state of human relations.

In spite of the fact that throughout this book, human relations are presented as joint products of interaction of highly goal-directed and selective individuals, on the one hand, and, on the other, of their sociocultural settings, an additional emphasis on this integrative interaction approach is in order.


Based on experimental and empirical findings, the binding effects of group membership and group norms were presented. It should be emphasized that no value judgment was passed as to whether these effects were good or bad, or ennobling or degrading for the individual member from the point of view of enduring human ideals. No evaluation was even hinted as to whether these binding effects were beneficial or harmful. There is no categorical answer to this. The literature abounds with cases of degrading, distorting, mechanizing effects for human beings. On the other hand, the literature abounds with effects that are heroic, sacrificial, and ennobling.

It is not conformity or deviation in abstract as such that deserves praise or blame. It is not the binding effect of groups on the individual members that is to be glorified or discredited. It is the particular purpose the groups are committed to-the kind of norms conformed to or deviated from-that must be seriously evaluated or judged from the point of view of enduring and enriching human values. When compliance is to norms that tend to make group members sheeplike or bestial, the evaluative verdict justifiably passed is from the point of view of human dignity and individuality, which are themselves stabilized norms created through interaction of individuals in the not too distant history.

No man is an island. Individuality, independence, and self-sacrifice have concrete meaning only in the context of man's relation to man and in compliance to hard-won value or norm premises that are products of interaction of men toward more harmonious, less tension-ridden, and more embracing schemes of human relations.


1. Characteristics of the social setting in which the individual develops influence virtually every facet of his behavior. In previous chapters it was pointed out that the nature of socialization is determined largely by the group in which the individual is reared. Many of his motives and the goals toward which he strives are a function of the social setting in which he lives. His attitudes are largely group-derived. His perception is influenced to a great extent by those around him who are important in his scheme of things. Hence, we could not possibly hope to adequately understand human behavior without an understanding of the importance of man's social relations in the shaping of that behavior.

2. In the past, some efforts to explain man's behavior often emphasized environment or culture as of primary importance. Others emphasized characteristics of the individual-his personality, motives, attitudes, and others. Today we see an interaction approach evolving-an approach that recognizes influences from the individual himself, as well as influences coming from his surroundings. Thus, behavior is viewed as the result of the interaction of both sets of influence.

3. Present-day social psychology is based on a number of generalizations from laboratory and empirical studies. Some of the more important of these are that: man is not a passive recipient of external stimuli-his perception, judgment, and retentions are selective. Selectivity is determined jointly by one's motives, attitudes, and other internal characteristics and salient features of his environment. Furthermore, perception and judgment are patterned affairs, such that parts or items within the pattern have membership character. In addition, the most salient patterns for the individual in his surroundings are other people and cultural products. Finally, individuals-in concert

( 539) with other individuals - create social groups, and in the course of interaction, also create and stabilize language categories and norms in every aspect of common concern in their lives.

4. A classificatory scheme is needed to encompass the characteristics of the context and background factors in the study of any social interaction situation. Man's environment- involving both his interpersonal relations and the products of culture -is not a monolithic entity. It consists of various parts or items. These consist of other people-as stimuli, as members of groups, and as participants in collective interaction situations. It also consists of cultural products, including material and nonmaterial items.

5. Cultural products -material and nonmaterial-are important in understanding man's behavior because they are parts of situations in which social relations occur, and because they also affect behavior directly. Material culture consists of items used in living, such as houses, furniture, plumbing, roads, and means of transportation. The impact of such items in changing the patterns of human relations has been well documented. Nonmaterial culture includes human groups and societies that set norms or standards in religious, political, economic, and social aspects of life.

6. Language is of great importance for social relations. Through the vehicle of language, based on man's unique conceptual capacity, the human being lives not only in the present, but is related to the past (traditions) and the future (plans and goals in the years to come). This capacity of man to transcend his relatedness to the immediate present, in space and time, is responsible for a good many human problems related to reference group phenomena-for example, in relating one's self to groups not immediately present.

7. The central problem of social psychology is the effect of people on one another. The effects of people on one another are referred to as the differential effects of social situations. Differential effects may be defined as the difference in behavior by the same individual in responding to the same stimulus, or performing the same task, in a social situation and alone. No man is an island unto himself-the goals he sets for himself are products of his biosocial development in a concrete sociocultural setting. His perceiving, feeling, and striving toward goals, his attitudes, his performance, his decision-making, all take place with reference to other people important in his eyes.

8. To account for the differential effects of social situations, we must differentiate between group and other social situations. When individuals have established relationships between one another, their behavior is affected by such relationships. Hence when we study behavior in interpersonal situations, we must specify the relationship between the individuals involved. Are they strangers? Are they friends? Are they rivals? Further, we must specify the factors pertaining to the situation and circumstances surrounding it. All these factors are related to one another interdependently and should be studied in their interdependence.

9. In understanding man's social relations, groups must be differentiated from togetherness situations. A group is a social unit that consists of a number of individuals who stand in status and role relationships to one another, stabilized in some degree. A group possesses a set of values or norms of its own, regulating the behavior of individual members, at least in matters of consequence to the group. Togetherness situations, on the other hand, are social situations in which the participating individuals do not have established interpersonal relations, positive or negative friendship ties, nor ties stemming from their membership in an actual functioning group.

10. Problems of conformity and deviation are primarily group problems. The very terms "conformity" and "deviation" are relative terms — they imply variation in behavior relative to some standard. Individuality, independence, and conformity have meaning only in the context of man's relation to man and in compliance to hard-won value or norm premises that are products of interaction of men toward more harmonious, less tension-ridden, more embracing schemes of human relations.


Cartwright, D., and Zander, A.: Group Dynamics. Evanston, Ill., Row-Peterson, 1960. (This recent book presents considerable experimental evidence from studies of the formation and functioning of small groups.)

Hare, A.: Small Group Research. Glencoe, Ill., Free Press, 1962. (This book presents an excellent discussion of the methods used in the study of small groups.)

Orne, M., 1962. On the social psychology of the psychological experiment: With particular reference to demand characteristics and their implications. Am. Psychol. 17:776-783. (This article makes a number of points regarding social factors in psychological experiments that have often been overlooked. It is well worth reading.)

Roethlisberger, F., and Dickson, W.: Management and the Worker. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1939. (This book presents results of the first large scale effort to assess the impact of social psychological factors in industrial situations. It is a classic in this area.)

Schnierla, T.: The "levels" concept in the study of social organization in animals. In Rohrer, J., and Sherif, M.: Social Psychology at the Crossroads. New York, Harper & Row, 1951. (This article discusses the implications of man's conceptual functioning in relation to unique characteristics of human social behavior.)

Sells, S. (ed.): Stimulus Determinants of Behavior. New York, Ronald Press. 1963. (This new book discusses in considerable detail the variety of stimulus conditions that may be regarded as determinants of behavior.)

Sherif, M., and Sherif, C.: An Outline of Social Psychology. New York, Harper & - Row, 1956. (This text elaborates on many points referred to briefly in the present chapter.)

Sherif, M., and Sherif, C.: Reference Croups: Exploration iuto Conformity and Deviation of Adolescents. Harper & Row, New York, 1964. (This is a report of the results of a large scale study of adolescent groups and adolescent behavior as a function of the group context in which it occurs.)




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