Source Book For Social Psychology


Kimball Young

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In the early chapters of this book we dealt with some of the more obvious aspects of the culture patterns; technique, folkways, mores, and ethos. In this and the following chapter we shall examine more closely the make-up of the mental patterns which become common property of a group and which come to assume such a large place in the life-organization of the person. Not to understand the importance of the subjective environment, the world of images and ideas (stereotypes) to which the individual is exposed and which become in time the heart of his attitudes and habits, is to ignore the basic clue to man's social behavior. In truth, man lives, not in a world of physical objects only, but in a social psychological world of images, ideas, and attitudes. This type of subjective world lies before us wherever we see prejudice, crowd behavior, relations of masses to leaders and the functioning of public opinion. We cannot understand these phases of social behavior without exposing the dominant features of the mental patterns of culture.

The first paper from Bernard gives a general review of the nature of the environment which surrounds the person. In this chapter we are particularly concerned with what he terms the "psycho-social" environment.

This psycho-social world exists for us as individuals largely in the unconscious, and Finney's paper describes very well the unconscious nature of mental patterns. In the paper from Burrow we look more closely into the nature of unconscious social images. In fact, we live and move largely in the world of social images, which are the reality. It is a mistake to consider these images unreal, for they are the most real things in our experience. The social images are some-

( 420) -what akin to what the French anthropologists call the representations collectives.

Social attitudes also come into the picture, for attitudes themselves lie on the borderline of the unconscious if not actually in that field. Faris's paper defines attitudes under various valuable categories. Park indicates a distinction to be made between attitude and opinion, the latter being far more superficial for the person than the former. The high importance attached to opinions, in common parlance and everyday life, rather than to attitudes, is merely a "hangover" of eighteenth century rationalism.

Lippmann has made popular the term "stereotype." This term applies to images and ideas which often have that group sanction of which we spoke in Part One. Stereotypes are part of all mental patterns of culture. They are connected with values and weighted down with strong feelings and emotions. The lucid description of stereotypes by Lippmann is already classic. Weeks, although using other terms, shows how stereotypes arise. And the clever experiment reported by Rice indicates a quantitative treatment of common stereotypes of the day.

Language is, of course, an essential ingredient in stereotypes. In fact, since stereotypes are socially accepted images and concepts '(ideas), they must be communicable, and language furnishes the medium. But more than that, the verbal expression itself is the stereotype in thousands of instances. Verbal imagery is quite as essential as visual, although Lippmann's discussion of "pictures in the mind" is likely to give the impression that stereotypes are essentially visual. It is the writer's belief that the more deep-seated a stereotype, the more it is apt to lose its visual, auditory or other sensory basis and become a verbalism, a word or phrase, around which is gathered a large amount of emotion and feeling. The most thoroughly tabooed words are often of this sort and the common stereotypes like liberty, equality, justice, freedom, goodness, virtue, are largely, if not entirely, verbal. Lipsky's statement indicates the power of words in the political world. The same is true everywhere.

The final paper, by Lumley, discusses the place of slogans and catchwords in social control. All forms of slogans very rapidly take on the nature of stereotypes, just as do slang phrases. To these slogans, especially those connected with group survival, there is

( 421) attached an enormous amount of emotional freight which carries the individual safely through the maelstrom of social action. As we shall see, this is pertinently illustrated in the field of mob behavior and public opinion.

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