Review of An Introduction to Social Psychology by C. A. Ellwood

Margaret Floy Washburn

An Introduction to Social Psychology. By CHARLES A. ELLWOOD. D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1917.— pp. 343.

Professor Ellwood states in his preface that this book is "a simplification and systematization of the theories presented"in his Sociology in its Scientific Aspects. Those who are familiar with his writings will, recall that his point of view is that of the functional psychology of Angell. He is definitely opposed to behaviorism, and has no fear of the concept of consciousness. Mechanism in his opinion has yet to demonstrate its validity for psychic and social processes: "we cannot understand such a thing as value apart from consciousness." A society he would define, not in any purely objective terms, but as "any group of individuals who carry on a common life by means of mental interaction." "Sympathetic introspection" is to him, "after deduction from ascertained laws and principles of psychology, probably our chief instrument at the present time for the psychological

( 197) analysis of existing social life." Professor Ellwood's conception of the function of consciousness is the orthodox functional one that consciousness secures the adaptation of behavior at times of change.

The fundamental topics with which the book deals from this conservative point of view are the problems of social unity, of social continuity, of normal or gradual social change and of abnormal or sudden social change. The author prefaces his discussion of these themes with a chapter on Organic and Social Evolution and one on Human Nature and Human Society. In the former, after considering the biological factors that have led to the forms of animal association, he points out that the intellect is the distinctively human element in human social life. In the latter, he first rejects as inadequate or false the passive, hedonistic, egoistic and individualistic theories of human nature in favor of that which regards the individual as "a self-active unit, fashioned by the forces of an organic evolution which has been at the same time a social evolution"; and then treats of the roles of instinct, habit, feeling and intellect, in human society. Instincts are the primary forces in the social life; habit is the basis of all the higher forms of social organization; feeling represents the individualistic element; intellect is concerned with adaptation and change.

Social unity is discussed in two chapters. The factors which affect it are grouped under seven heads: external environment, biological conditions, instincts, habits, feelings, ideas, and institutions of social control. The chapter on social continuity considers the functions of heredity, the continuity of physical environment, custom, and social tradition in securing the permanency of social organizations, and treats briefly of the causes of social stagnation and social assimilation. In the chapter on "Social Change Under Normal Conditions," unconscious changes, produced by the processes of organic evolution, alterations of environment, unconscious failures to imitate exactly, are distinguished from conscious changes, whose mechanism rests fundamentally on free public discussion. Whenever anything interferes with such free developments of public opinion, we have the conditions for revolution, or sudden social change; a process which involves great waste, because when the acquired habits and standards of society are broken down, there is nothing but animal instinct to fall back upon, and society tends to drop to the animal level.

The remainder of the book is occupied with the relations of instinct to intelligence in social life, the role of imitation, suggestion, and sympathy, and with the topics of "Social Order," "Social Progress," and "The Nature of Society." The system of ethics advocated takes as

( 198) its ideal "not a perfect individual, but a perfect society consisting of all humanity." The author's ideal of social progress he calls the sociological ideal: it considers all kinds of conditions, physical and geographical, biological, economic, and the psychological influences of ideas and standards. And his conception of society he terms psychological, in accordance with "modern psychology," which "takes fully into account not only the strictly psychic elements in human behavior, but also biological conditions and forces."

There is little to criticise in the book, measured by the tasks which it delimits for itself. We have thus far had only one work on social psychology written by a psychologist; namely, McDougall's. Professor Ellwood is himself, of course, primarily a sociologist, but it is to the credit of his book that the psychologist can be on the whole so well satisfied with it. In reading Ross, for example, one is again and again irritated at being led straight up to a real psychological problem, only to watch the author dodge it and make his escape by a by-path. Occasionally Professor Ellwood disappoints us in a similar way. For instance, in tracing the origin of revolutions, he explains the reversions of civilization to lower levels as due to the decay of the ideal standards and controls, but he does not suggest to us what causes such decay: Patrick's 'fatigue' theory, which he rejects as not in accord with the facts of history, is at least a psychological theory. Again, where the influence of leaders is invoked as an explanation of social changes, one wants to know what is influencing the leaders. When in discussing sex differences the author says, "Connected with the primary and secondary physical differences between the sexes are, undoubtedly, certain differences in their native reactions. All experiments made upon the original tendencies of man indicate that this is the case," the reviewer is puzzled to know where the experimental literature thus referred to may be found.

The chief addition which the thought of the present reviewer would make to Professor Ellwood's analysis concerns the function of the intellect in social evolution. As the author points out, human social organization differs from that of the lower animals by the presence of the intellectual factor. But he writes as if that which the intellect accomplishes for human society were summed up in what may be called the tools of social organization; abstractions, means of communication, education, modes of governmental control. The reviewer has tried elsewhere' to emphasize the truth that the great intellectual

( 199) ' The Social Psychology of Man and the Lower Animals." Essays in Honor of E. B. Titchener.

influence which has transformed animal into human society is that function of imagination which may be called ejective consciousness, the ability not merely to feel for others, or to feel as we think others feel, but to feel with accurate insight as others really do feel. The transformation occurs on a far deeper level than that of the adaptation of means to ends, or even that of the construction of general principles through the power of abstraction.



No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2