Source Book For Social Psychology
HUMAN SOCIAL LIFE
The first two papers in this chapter consider the social group as an evolutionary unit. Kunkel shows how the moral attitudes arise from social living. This moral sense has meaning only in society, and is essentially a part of the mechanism by which the elementary group survives and advances. Chapin indicates particularly the manner in which association affects selection and survival. Those members of the group who hold together in crises tend to survive as against those who do not.
Individualism is a distinctly recent matter in human evolution and is highly dependent upon a complex social organization like that of Western Europe and America in historical times. As we saw above (Chapter I), the notion that the individual is the unit of evolution and of existence is itself the result of certain culture patterns. It is related to Christianity, with its emphasis on personal salvation, and to the capitalistic economic order, with its emphasis on self-assertiveness, its doctrine of laissez faire, and its notion of individual initiative in invention. Surely all this later development could come only in a society highly integrated through division of labor and scarcely could have been evident in the rudimentary states of social development.
The selections from Trotter, while they contain some loose phrases, show the important place which gregariousness occupies in behavior. This writer has sought to emphasize the mechanisms which make the individual susceptible to herd influences.
The paper by Giddings is important in that it furnishes a psychological clue to the social process. Interstimulation depends on a range of stimuli and an area of response. Moreover, culture patterns furnish the frames of behavior into which the stimuli and the re-
( 31)-sponses fall. While the physical factors of food and survival are important, and while heredity sets the limitations to all development, the basis of social life, properly speaking, rests upon these matters of social conditioning and reconditioning. The student should not be confused by Giddings' rather too fine distinctions between social, crowd and societal psychology. These differentiations refer really to the extent of the stimulation ranges and the reaction areas.
Within the social group however, there is always rivalry and competition. While there is mutual aid and co-operation in the tasks which concern the entire group, within the group there is individual interplay for position and status. The paper by Whittemore is based on an experiment to test the nature of the competitive consciousness. That is, what kinds of ideas fill the mind during competition? It is interesting to note that competition so frequently becomes associated with a distinct attitude of surpassing some particular person and that the attitude of competition with the group as a unit is not so prominent. Furthermore, individual differences in capacity apparently play a rôle in the tendency of the individual to pair off in competition with some one "about his own size," to use a common phrase. Moreover, during extended competition there are readjustments to different persons who are thought to be within the range of one's own powers to excel. It is also noteworthy that autocompetition (competition with one's self) plays a considerable part in the group situation described. Increased blood pressure and possibly other physiological changes indicate the physical substrata upon which competition takes place.
Another aspect of social living-together is described in the word "participation." The selection from Park and Thomas indicates the importance of this form of interstimulation and response in making one a member of a group. The assimilation of the foreigner into the American folkways and mores offers an excellent illustration of this point. It is clear that any merely external ritual is ineffective in touching off the deeper attitudes and habits which lie behind participation. And in order to alter these, communication is necessary; hence the place of language. Furthermore, the learning process involved—the education, if you will—means bringing about sufficient reconditioning, that is, new associations, to the new situations to make the immigrant feel the sense of social solidarity, to feel at home
(32) in the life about him. This means changing his attitudes and habits from those of the old world culture to the new culture norms of his adopted country. Language, education, political habituation, adaptation to the freer, more individualistic definition of situations in this country, are factors in this participation process.
In short, this series of papers shows the general nature of the social
interstimulation and interresponse that contributes the social personality. On
the evolutionary side we have developed mechanisms which make us sensitive to
the herd about us, and today in undergoing any change of environment we must
recondition ourselves to a new set of herd influences. Yet it is wise to recall
at all times that individual differences and individual competition within the
group also have a place in social progress. But so far as the group as a unit is
concerned, solidarity and safety must be purchased at some expense to
individuality. In the next chapter we shall examine more closely the forms of
groups to which men belong.
- B. W. Kunkel. “Members One of Another.” Scientific Monthly (1917)
- F.S. Chapin. Introduction to the Study of Social Evolution. New York: Century (1913)
- W. Trotter. Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War. New York: Macmillan (1916)
- F. H. Giddings. “Stimulation Ranges and Reaction Areas.” Psychological Review. 31 (1924)
- I.J. Whittemore. “The Competitive Consciousness” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 20 (1925-1926).