Source Book For Social Psychology


Kimball Young

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The interplay of individual and social group is by no means confined to mankind. We find evidence of social life among the other forms of animal life. This "organic" process is well evidenced even in the remarkable interrelation of plants with one another. It is especially common in the insect world so well described by Fabre, Wheeler, the Peckhams, Beebe, and others. Certainly the whole process of higher evolution is not unrelated to the fact that many species have lived in groups and that an important part of an organism's environment consists of other members of its own or related species. This social environment was perhaps not less important than the physical world of atmosphere, water, land, and food in the development of the higher mental functions. In reality the group is, quite as much as the isolated individual, an evolutionary unit in many species.

It follows from this that we must take into account the social life of animals if we are to get a correct perspective for viewing the complex life of man. Limitations of space, as well as remoteness of species, prevent a complete review of the whole range of social life in plants and animals below our own species. Rather, we introduce the material on pre-human social life with Bawden's very important paper which traces the changes in the organism that took place with alterations in the forms of animal life. We note the importance of erect posture, the recession of the snout and the development of the face, the rise of delicate musculature of throat and mouth and its novel place in intersocial stimulation, the evolution of the hand and the corresponding brain changes which accompanied these alterations. These changes were indicative of a great forward step in evolution. Interstimulation was made more easy. Group life could be pro-

( 9) -foundly altered by one gesture foretelling the oncoming action of another. The tool-making capacity came into play. The stage was set for the beginnings of culture.

When we observe the evolution of our species in this long-time perspective, we are more capable of understanding the biological roots of man's higher development. Bawden's paper gives this bird's-eye view of the whole range of later evolution and is fundamental to everything else that follows in this volume.

Craig's paper on the voices of pigeons is introduced, not because bird forms relate directly to human evolution, but because we have

` illustrated therein a specialized development of vocalization in social interplay without, of course, true language. It indicates a type of development that is significant in revealing the importance of vocal gesture in the control of members of one's group. So, too, Whitman's experiments in training pigeons to breed with other species

 point to the important place which social conditioning plays in determining the direction of one of the deepest of animal tendencies.

For our purposes, however, the epoch-making studies of Yerkes and Köhler on the life of apes is most important. In the life of apes " we observe many of the fundamental social characteristics of man himself : love, jealousy, fear, mutual aid, attachment, repulsion, and so on. There is considerable emotional concern among the members

[ of the group when one of their members is separated from them, but apparently it lasts only while they can still see him or hear his cries, as the independence of memory is not yet fully established. As an adjunct to their social life, the apes possess the rudiments of language, in that distinctive cries and grunts point to, or signify, certain objects or situations. Without going as far as Garner in believing that the apes possess language in the sense that man possesses it, we are able to see, in these studies, the fact that these anthropoid relatives of ours show in simpler form the beginnings of nearly all that we count as human : social life, incipient language, and the elements of higher mental processes.

Excerpted Works

  1. Heath H. Bawden, “The Evolution of Behavior.” Psy. Rev. 26 1919
  2. Wallace Craig, “The Voices of Pigeons Regarded as a Means of Social Control.” Am J Soc 1908-09.
  3. C.O. Whitman, “Behavior of Pigeons,” In the Posthumous Works of Charles O. Whitman (ed. By Harvey Carr) 1919
  4. Wolfgang Köhler. The Mentality of Apes. Harcourt, Brace and Company.


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