Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 22: The Psychology of the Audience

Kimball Young

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A. The Nature and Psychological Setting of the Audience.

Although an audience is not a crowd under our definition, it is a special form of collective behavior closely related to it. The audience is really a form of institutionalized crowd. It has much in common with the crowd, and differs only in the purpose and form of its organization. That is to say, the configuration differs. The audience is less spontaneous. It is regulated in time and place. It is definite in purpose, and its organization limits the psychological effects produced.

1. Physical Configuration of the Audience.— The audience as a rule forms in a special structure of some kind. The meeting place has a distinct physical character. The seating arrangement is designed to produce polarization of common attitudes. The seats are usually arranged in rows, often in a slight semi-circular form, in front of which is the speaker's stand. The seating facilitates attention to the speaker or performer rather than to the persons on either side. Though the shoulder-to-shoulder configuration of the crowd is found in the audience, the spacing of seats prevents too great a massing of persons. It thus inhibits the rise of crowd reactions beyond a certain point. An audience may be massed in a hall eager to hear a speaker; and, as we have seen, a cunning appeal to prejudice may convert it into a crowd, but the physical configuration does not itself foster such a development. Nevertheless, the general form of an audience tends to produce crowd behavior. This is apparent if we contrast a lecture hall with a committee room or seminar room where small groups meet for deliberation.

The seats in some meeting places are more formal than in others, and in time there is ail association of place anal performance. Formal sating is common to churches, although the meeting places of the more divergent and less ritualistic sects are hardly distinguishable from those of a farmers' grange or of a public auditorium. As a rule, of course, these sects conduct their services with very simple rituals. Their gatherings are much like

(538) political audiences. In political, labor, and general lecture halls the seating is often more compact and less formal. This is particularly so in classrooms, where the seating is largely arranged for the convenience of students.

The speaker's relation to his audience is also standardized. Unless the room is very small, there is a raised platform or stage where the speaker stands. Of course, this permits audience and speaker to see each other better; but it also sets the speaker off from his audience. The audience has literally to look up to the speaker; and the speaker's illusion of superiority and the passivity of the audience are both enhanced.

The speaker's stand may of course be used for notes, but its principal purpose is further to set the speaker apart from his auditors. The writer knows a professor who can not lecture unless he has a reading stand before him. He says that he is "uncomfortable" without it; that he feels "exposed to the students" if he does not have it. The stage has the barrier of the orchestra and especially the footlights, which emphasize the separation of the actors from the audience.

2. Psychological Features of the Audience.— Audiences gather for a more or less definite purpose. The meeting is announced beforehand. People talk to each other about attending, and the press may comment on the coming lecture or performance. There is set up in us what we may call preliminary tuning. The title of the lecture or the play or the name of the speaker may arouse discussion or lead to imaginary comments about it, or may call up associations from past experience. Our chief object in attending a political rally may be our desire to encounter the personality of the speaker. William Jennings Bryan was always enormously popular as a speaker, although as someone once said, "people listened to him but voted for the other candidate." So, too, in the presidential campaign of 1928 Ex-Governor Smith attracted great crowds everywhere largely because of his vivid personality. We may discuss with our friends an approaching lecture on some subject of interest, or we may read up on it or recall individually our own notions about it. We may attend the theater in the anticipation merely of relaxation and amusement, or we may have heard comments about the particular play which whet our appetites to see it for special reasons.

As we have noted, the very configuration of the seating and the platform tends to produce polarization. When the audience first gathers, this polarization may be of a feeble all-to-one sort, as we look at the drop cur-

( 539) -tain or the vacant stage and the decorations. The preliminary tuning is continued by conversation with people about us and by individual fantasy. While some conversation will be simply gossip, there will always be a residue of talk about "What will the play be like?";— `Is the speaker a good one?", "What do you think of his views?", and so on. When the lecture or performance actually begins, the polarization becomes distinctly an all-to-one sort, with the members of the audience paying most attention to the speaker and very little to each other.

In time this focusing of attention on the speaker changes the nature of the polarization to a kind of one-to-one relationship. True, there usually remains a feeble, marginal awareness of other auditors right and left, in front and behind; yet if our attention is fixed on the speaker, we tend to fall into a one-to-one relationship with him. "We lose ourselves" in the speech or the play. We so identify ourselves with the speaker as to lose our sense of social relationship with those around us. It is because of this that audiences take on many features of the crowd.

The speaker is generally the active agent in this form of social interaction. He carries ideas and emotions along with him. By painting verbal pictures, by telling stories, by exposition of facts or by logical arguments, he suggests the trends of imagery and the recall of associated feelings. The auditor is the more passive member of this person-to-person relationship. Though his mind may be full of images and his body full of aroused emotions and feelings, he still remains relatively inactive. Whenever the audience begins to act, the purely active-passive relationship breaks down. Laughter, tears, applause, shouts of approval, or boos of disapproval are ideo-motor evidences of the more active participation of the audience. In some situations the speaker makes a definite bid for this sort of response from the audience; in others it is accidental. In a serious, formal lecture of a scientist, it may be quite unconventional and distinctly poor form. For the most part, the relation of speaker to audience is one of domination and submission, or of active and passive participation. The speaker is superior, at least temporarily. He carries us along with him. We do not dominate him to any extent. Sometimes he dominates us by ideas, and at other times he arouses our emotions of fear, sorrow, anger, or laughter. In any case our participation is less determined by our own initiative than it is suggested by his actions.

There are speakers who can almost force their auditors to agree with

( 540) their beliefs and then to act accordingly. Conway called such men "crowd-compellers." Wendell Phillips was a "crowd-compeller," when he spoke against slavery. A recent study indicates how Phillips succeeded in controlling hostile audiences.[1] He knew how to capture attention, how to enlist suggestion, and how to make use of his prestige. His height and physique he displayed to advantage. His attitude of superiority and his self-control caught the attention of his auditors even when they were unfavorably attuned to him. His skill in repartee forced a recognition of power by his auditors. Phillips employed three types of symbols in his control of his audience: visible, auditory, and verbal. Of the first, posture, muscular movement, gesture, facial expression, and eye contact were prominent. Of the second, quality, variety, control, intensity, and rate of speech were important. Of the third, he used a wider range of verbal forms and devices with favorable than with unfavorable audiences. Among the various devices which he employed were: frequent use of the singular pronoun You, literary allusions, liberal use of analogy, similes, the synecdoche, personification, hyperbole, apostrophe, illustrations and humor. With hostile audiences he used allusions and hyperbole most frequently; with favorable audiences he used more varied devices.

Other speakers call up in us familiar and old responses which we like. From their suggestions we revive old emotions and feelings. Lincoln in many of his speeches used these devices of familiarity, plain example, and common humor.

The audience, on the other hand, has its own effect upon the speaker. Just as the masses always affect the leader in other groups, so here the speaker who arouses negative and antagonistic attitudes in his audience may provoke a response which will make him change his type of argument or even force him to discontinue his speech. A magnificent "crowd-compeller" like Wendell Phillips may start by deliberately overcoming hostility. Occasionally we see vaudeville actors desperately trying to provoke laughter from an indifferent or even hostile audience. At times the whole relation of performer to audience becomes a game to see which will submit to the other. After all, the passivity of the audience in its attitude toward the speaker is only relative and never absolute.

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B. Types of Audience.

Some features of the psychology of audiences can best be revealed by a discussion of various types of audiences. For our purposes we may distinguish between two sorts of audiences. The first are gathered to secure information of some kind— to listen to a travelogue or an argumentative address. We may call this the information-seeking type. The other sort gathers for relaxation and amusement. It is dominated by a different anticipatory and final response pattern. We may call this the recreational type.

1. The Information-seeking Audience.— The two most common information-seeking audiences are those of .the public lecture and of the classroom. The public lecture may be of a very formal sort— the church service with the sermon as the core of the meeting, the scientific or literary lecture, or even political or economic addresses, in which propaganda often plays a distinct part. These audiences are usually selective in personnel. In our society they represent, very largely, secondary group relations among the participants. In some, notably in the church, the meetings are institutionalized to a high degree. In the general public lecture sponsored by special groups, and in political meetings which are periodic in time and space, the formalization is less marked.

The various informational audiences have different sorts of preliminary tuning. In the formal church service these anticipatory reactions are highly standardized. The individual has a certain intellectual-emotional set before he reaches the church. Once he is there, the lights, the stained-glass windows, the whole configuration of the building further prepare him for the religious service. In the more emotional, less stabilized types of religious service, such as the revival, the tuning is more obvious and more primitive in nature. A student who once served as musical director for a well-known evangelist thus described his employer's common procedure:

At the appointed hour we began the services by getting the entire audience to join in singing. I began with any common songs which I thought the people would know. These did not have to be, in fact they seldom were, religious. Rather they were old favorite folksongs of America—  "Old Black Joe", " Dixie", "My Old Kentucky Home." In the years of the war and shortly thereafter, "Tipperary" was popular. Almost any song which every one knew was good. Even romantic or slightly jazzy songs were acceptable at first. The principal idea was to get everybody singing. After a few of these popular songs I had

(542) them sing more religious pieces such as "Onward Christian Soldiers." The religious songs, however, needed to have no direct relation to the subject of the revivalist's address. Only toward the end of the opening period of song did we introduce religious songs bearing more directly on the subject of the evening.

The technique here is obvious. Group singing breaks down a sense of individual isolation. It removes differences of social status and builds up common emotions and feelings. It is peculiarly effective in wiping out the sense of intellectual divergence. Rich and poor, urban and rural, high church and low church, Christian and non-Christian— all may meet on the common ground of old familiar tunes. With this as a bridge the speaker can lead his audience into the promised land of religious emotional experience. For the most part, church services appeal to the emotions; and a true crowd is more easily produced whenever this is so.

The particular features of the audience occur in the classroom only where the lecture system is in vogue. The polarization of the audience disappears in a discussion, except that with fixed rows of seats the students are oriented to the instructor instead of to each other. The true discussion group is the informal seminar sitting around a table. In the classroom lecture group there is usually a certain repetition of preliminary tuning. Meeting at regular times and places produces common anticipatory reactions. During the term a regularity of performance not seen in the occasional lecture will be developed by the members of the class.

The informational audience of lecture or classroom has certain psychological characteristics. Its emotional tuning is reduced to a minimum. Intellectual and esthetic rather than emotional attitudes are aroused. In the political lecture emotional attitudes usually are aroused, and so political audiences frequently change into crowds. In the informational lecture, then, intellectual associations are aroused— either genuine reasoning or acceptable rationalization. The intellectual participation of the audience, however, is passive. It is largely receiving information. While there may be the relief of humor and laughter, the audience does not participate overtly ill the discussion.

Sometimes after the lectures in public forums the leaders try to arouse a discussion by the audience. If the members of the group know each other, there may be some questions and some slight debate. However, if the group is heterogeneous, the discussion does not usually advance very far. It is

( 543) likely to be a mere questioning of the speaker, who then continues and expands his lecture, or it becomes a series of short lectures by those who have something they wish to say before an audience. In the discussion an auditor will occasionally wax eloquent and emotional, and actually change a part of the audience into a crowd. In America it is extremely difficult to change a passive, receptive audience into an active discussion group at the close of a lecture. In England the practice of heckling a speaker is common. Although this is not discussion, it evidences a more active intellectual or emotional participation by at least some of the auditors. The common passivity of American audiences is partially a matter of habit.

In the class lecture the same thing is more or less true. The lecture method is thus often deprecated as an educational device, because if the students are psychologically passive, their learning may not be very permanent or profound in effect. Other factors enter into the situation, of course. If the students have a genuine curiosity for the content of the lectures, and if they themselves read, they may gain a great deal from informational lectures. Some academic subjects lend themselves very effectively to this method of instruction. Perhaps a combination of lecture with discussion and laboratory or field work is psychologically the best method of teaching. In such a combination the student benefits both from his passive reception of information and from his active discussion and application in the laboratory.

Generally, then, the informational audience is passive as in comparison with the crowd or the audience seeking diversion. The polarization of group attitudes is less completely of a one-to-one sort. The all-to-one relation persists, and the auditors are more aware of each other. Interest is probably less vital and more easily distracted by stimuli from without.

2. The Recreational Audience.— The recreational audience is also controlled by a certain formal arrangement of time and place. Advertising often sets up anticipatory responses. The seats are usually arranged as they are in the informational lecture room. Unlike the classroom or public auditorium, the building has decorations which, like those of the church, direct the preliminary tuning of the audience.

In every play the performers give the audience a picture, a creation, which has the appearance of more or less reality or of ideality. The actors play rôles of personalities for us. They produce an illusion of real or ideal life, and recreate it in forms which attract our interest and temporarily carry us out of ourselves. In this sense the audience has an experience in the theater

( 544) different from that which it has in the lecture hall. It is carried along with a modicum of intellectual and a maximum of emotional and esthetic interest. Dramas differ in the mixture of these elements, but on the whole the emotional and esthetic predominate. Nevertheless some dramas like Shaw's are cleverly disguised lectures on social questions.

One of the most common phenomena is the vicarious experience of the audience in the drama. We live in the play in a way which we do not live in a lecture. The polarization, therefore, often takes on a distinct one-to-one relationship between the individual and the action before him. The more complete our identification, the more intense our satisfaction. Our vicarious action constitutes precisely the appeal of the drama. It lifts us out of our humdrum every-day lives and takes us into a fairy land of comedy or tragedy. It is distinctly a fantasy experience. It is, in fact, nothing but a socially accepted form of day-dream, done vicariously by others for our pleasure. As children we may construct our own day-dreams, and even work them out into dramas. In adult life we may not do this sort of thing very frequently, but our attendance at the theater furnishes us with such fantasies already made, and prepared in socially accepted emotional and esthetic forms. Like religion, the drama affords and°r social approval an outlet for repressed desires, for both sympathetic and antagonistic impulses. It creates for us illusions dear to our hearts.

The problem of esthetic standards and values is always with us. Whatever the technical expert in esthetics may say, these values are always more or less a part of our cultural heritage. They are relative to time and place. They may have certain universal, absolute features but these features rest upon the universal characteristics of culture and human nature. We can point out very easily how our esthetic values rest upon our cultural background by considering the fortunes of exotic drama. From the larger public, exotic drama secures little support, unless it has first become a fad with particular groups. Thus realistic dramas of tabooed subjects like sex, capitalistic exploitation, and religion, are frowned upon by censors who usually represent public taste, whether thcy are the press or the official censors of organized government. O'Neill's Desire Under file Elms met with much disapproval because it offended the morals of a large section of the population. In the case of O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings the producers had to discontinue showing the first scene, because it showed negro and white children playing together as companions. In place of

( 545) the actual performance one of the cast had to read the first scene from the manuscript as he stood before the curtain. The actual picture of the free and spontaneous mixture of children of the two races had offended the taste of a sufficient number of people to end its overt performance.

Comedy gives the audience a chance to laugh at life. Often the dramatist directs his humor at current foibles. Sumner remarked for the Middle Ages: "The populace did not want more preaching and instruction, but fun and frolic, relief from labor, thought and care." In this respect we are quite at one with our medieval ancestors. Even in comedy, ridicule and sarcasm have limits, because not all audiences like to have themselves held up to the mirror of comedy if the reflection is too evident and too sharp. Romantic comedy-drama is very popular at the moment. A conflict between good and evil is finally successfully resolved by a hero and a heroine. This pattern of hardship, crisis, threatened defeat, and final triumph of right is a favorite theme in folklore and legend. Its presentation in the drama is really nothing but a special form of this pattern. After daily defeats, after crises which are never resolved very successfully, we find it delightful and pleasant to participate vicariously in the successful resolution of a crisis .much like our own. If we can not have success, thrills, beauty, love, or wealth in life, at least we find in the drama an imaginary expression of our desires. We project ourselves into the romance of successful adventure which we see before us.

Tragedy may seem more difficult to explain. At first thought it appears strange that we should enjoy seeing creative day-dreams which have death and defeat as their outcome. But tragedy may represent the ambivalent feature of what we find in the romantic comedy-drama. In tragedy the characters act in overwhelming situations. While much comedy may reveal lower characters, the truly great tragedy presents an ideal, more heroic person than the ordinary individual. Yet through it all there runs an artistic presentation of cause and effect in human relations which fits our attitudes and value-meanings about life. Not all life is rosy. Not all life has a happy ending. Perhaps we obtain i satisfaction, a catharsis, from tragedy simply because it heightens the universality of our own hard experiences. We weep at sentimental tragedy because of the sympathetic induction of sorrow just as we might weep in real life. This very weeping may in the end be pleasant, because, after all, we realize that it is but a fantasy acted for us. The hero is not really dead.

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The melodrama of blood-curdling plot and intense fears is a special case. In an earlier generation the violent "blood and thunder" drama was more common than it is now. People liked these dramas for the same reason that children like ghost stories. Up to a point, children like to be frightened, because after all father or mother or nurse is really there in spite of the fantasy that the place is filled with goblins "who will get you if you don't watch out." Our interest in mystery plays indicates this same sort of attraction. They thrill us, but in the end they leave us satisfied by their resolution of the crisis.

In all of these tragedies the illusion may be so strong and effective that during the performance we may lose all consciousness of those around us and live imaginatively in the drama. The fear produced may be so great that some of the audience will scream at the gruesome performance before them. But if we scream, we enjoy screaming; and we may attend the play again for the pleasure of screaming at the same things.

An interesting counterpart to the participation of the audience in the play is the reactions of the actors to the audience. Most actors say that they can "feel" the responses of the audience. They "sense" whether the play is "going over" or not. The problem of the mechanism of this effect needs much careful investigation, but observation seems to indicate that the actors are influenced by the subliminal stimuli of slight noises of the audience. Certainly they are affected by the laughter or tears of the audience. It is common knowledge among actors that the first laugh by the audience is important for the success of the first act, if not indeed for the success of the whole comedy. Clever humor, witticisms, and foolish gestures set off the audience. They are devices to release the inhibitions of the audience. They produce a receptive mood. If the play drags, the audience settles back, to assume critical attitudes, or to become passive or indifferent. Actors say that they can "feel" this change in the responses of the audience. A recent Broadway drama opens with several minutes of the ribald conversation of several newspaper men who sit about a card table waiting for news. The dramatic action does not really begin until almost at the end of the entire first act. It it were net for the "smart cracks" made in the first twenty minutes, this play, or at least its first act, would be a "flop." Long stretches of dull acting in the end usually kill the drama as a stage success. The play must keep the audience in active vicarious participation, else it fails. One reason Shakespeare and older dramatists have so little general

(547) appeal today is that their subject-matter is so out of the picture for the ordinary man of the street. Only the intellectually sophisticated appreciate the comedy and tragedy of other culture periods.

The physical conditions of the theater at the time also affect the relations of actors and audience. If it is too warm or too cold, the attention of the audience is distracted, and the actors notice the reaction very shortly. A producer of stock plays in a college town once remarked that Wednesday was a bad night because so many young couples came out together. They seemed more concerned with each other than with the play, and their indifference to the play was felt by the rest of the audience and also by the actors. Actors have stereotypes describing the kinds of audiences which attend plays on certain nights in the week. Audiences on Monday night are said to very different from those on Friday or Saturday nights; and the Sunday-night audience is still different. Just how they diverge, it is often hard for the actors to say. They seem to sense these differences quite definitely, but they can not make them very explicit to the enquiring social psychologist.

Audiences come tuned for certain kinds of entertainment, and if this is not provided, the whole performance may be spoiled. We have all seen amateurs change a serious drama into a farce because the audience laughed at misplaced emphasis. Then, if we know the villain intimately as a star athlete or as a stolid business man, we make the wrong associations for the success of the play. Our wrong associations may stimulate responses quite opposite to those desired by the dramatist.

If an audience is annoyed by a delay in beginning a play, it may become a crowd. Disapproval of the delay may be heard in remarks all over the theater. We may applaud, in irony, give cat-calls, and shuffle our feet until the entire audience become very restless. All our anticipatory reaction changes from the expectancy of amusement to antagonism.

To secure more active participation by the audience, musical comedies often use a runway from the stage to the audience. The actors go down into the audience to sing, to make jokes, and to create a more active interest in the play. The popular and Pretty leading lady kisses the bald head of some rich old man, and at once every member of the audience feels that it is not only great fun but that he is right there playing with the actors in the make-believe world. In some vaudeville performances the mingling of the actors with the audience is used very effectively. Directors of cabarets and night

(548) clubs, where the audience is much more informal and polarization is not assisted by rigid seating arrangements, find this mingling of entertainers with the audience a very effective trick to secure the friendly participation of the audience.

The active participation of the audience in vaudeville performances is very evident. The trapeze artists, the magicians, and the dancers provide us with thrills. The jokes and songs are highly amusing, as they usually refer to tabooed subjects— notably to our sexual relations. Our laughter at these jokes indicates very clearly the vicarious function of the drama or vaudeville. We laugh first at the jokes about tabooed subjects because laughter is socially expected in these places. Often, in fact, many people who laugh at the more obvious associations miss the full significance of the joke. Others laugh simply because they have been conditioned to do so when they hear others laugh. Laughter always releases personal strain produced by the mores. By noting the changes in what is considered humorous on the stage we can discover the changes which have occurred in the mores. At the moment we can note the growth of vaudeville humor about sexual perversions. In the more respectable theaters such jokes are usually well disguised, but in the cheaper burlesque houses, largely frequented by men, the rather undisguised jokes and gestures suggestive of perversion arouse great laughter.

Man has always made jokes about the relations of the sexes. The theater simply panders to this sort of thing because it furnishes a relaxation from the rigors of taboo. A married man may laugh uproariously at a mother-in-law joke when he would not dare to defy such a person in real life. Thus, in a general way, we account for the interest of people in risqué stories of all sorts.

The motion picture fits into this general scheme of dramatic things just described. We may note first the distinctive features of the motion picture. Until the very recent introduction of the talking film, the cinematograph had of course to depend exclusively on visual stimuli. We are dominated by visual and vocal-motor types of imagery. In our social communication the vocal interchange is perhaps more significant than the visual; and yet in twenty years an entirely new type of dramatic form has been evolved with full reliance upon pictorial rather than verbal presentation. Whatever language there is, is inserted in brief flashes of printed conversation or exposition between long stretches of picture. European producers have demonstrated that they can make even more effective presentations without using

(549) even these slight verbal explanations. Man has always been attracted to movement as well as to speech; and the moving picture is just what it says it is— a moving view of people in various situations. The audience is entirely controlled through the sight alone of bodily actions, especially of those facial and manual gestures which take the place of language. The silent drama can arouse tears or laughter, pity or anger, as well as the spoken one. In some ways the motion picture has appeals which the spoken drama lacks; in some dimensions it leaves our imaginations freer than does the drama.

Today we have the talking picture, and the form of the motion picture is undergoing a change. Some critics believe that we cannot now superimpose the spoken word upon a dramatic form constructed to dispense with it, without doing violence to the art of the silent pictures. On the other hand, a great many people seem to prefer the spoken film; and the amazing success of such productions as those of Al Jolson probably indicates that they have an appeal which hitherto has not been recognized. If a combination of pictorial and auditory appeal can be effected, there is no apparent reason why talking pictures may not completely supplant the silent films. Certainly, we must always take into account the power of the spoken word to arouse the emotions. Whether the mere superimposition of speech upon the present form of the motion picture can be accomplished without sacrifice of certain art values intrinsic to the moving picture remains to be seen.

Whatever we may say of these changes, the motion picture has found a distinct function in creating for us a fantasy world that is extremely popular and satisfying. The gorgeous settings of the more expensive current productions give the ordinary humble citizen a great thrill. He lives for the time being in a world of luxurious homes, servants, limousines, beautiful women, and strong men. The adolescent girl is often particularly delighted by this sort of thing. On the other hand, the western drama makes its great appeal to the young man, who lives vicariously in the dashing adventures before him. For the child, adolescent, or adult the motion picture, like other dramatic forms, creates a world of fantasy into which he can for the time escape from his daily life. Moreover, the whole field of drama meets social approval. It is a conventional outlet for our unfulfilled desires and our unrequited heartaches.

We should note the place of the drama and the vaudeville in the creation of stereotypes. There is no doubt that along with the novel, the short story,

( 550) and the cartoon, the stage creates and feeds stereotypes of all sorts. For example, it gives us standardized pictures of the Jew, the negro, the immigrant, or the drunkard. So, too, the Western films produce certain hero stereotypes. We are told that the moving pictures have created almost the entire body of stereotypes by which the European masses define and delimit Americans. We are scandalously wealthy and live in luxurious sin; or we are gangsters and cowboys. Our daily rituals are shooting Indians, robbing banks and stagecoaches, and kidnapping the beautiful daughters of wealthy ranchers. Fortunately our rituals also include the daily rescuing of these same young ladies. Thus we see, once more, how the world of fantasy is part and parcel of the social reality in which we live. Stereotypes, myths, and legends are created and kept alive by the mechanisms of social interaction which we use in social situations— in the school, in the home, in the history book, in the novel, in the drama, and in the public press. Not only do the drama and the vaudeville afford recreation in socially approved ways, by creating a dream world in which we may live, but they also contribute to our prejudices, to our beliefs, and to our legends— the roots of crowd behavior and of public opinion.

The audience is, then, not a mere object of information and amusement, but it is always engaged in real social interaction, overt or imaginary. While the informational audience may be more passive, even here we find common ideational associations in its members. Individuals in the amusement audience participate in social reality more aggressively and in more emotional and hence more satisfying ways.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter XXIII, pp. 668-90.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter XXIII, pp. 690-91.

2. What effects has the physical configuration of the gathering place upon the behavior of the audience?

3. How does an audience tend to set up a preliminary tuning or anticipatory response field?

4. What differences in behavior may be noted between a theater audience and one (a) in a church, (b) in a lecture hall?

5. Compare from your personal experience the silent motion picture with

(551) the talking picture in the effects upon the audience: laughter, tears, verbal comments, etc.

C. Topics for Class Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. See assignments for reports and longer papers in Source Book, Chapter XXIII, p. 691.

2. Analysis of how vaudeville and motion pictures feed stereotypes, myths and legends in past and contemporary society.

3. Investigation of the relations of audience to actors.

4. Study of psychological effects of drama on audiences.


  1. R. H. Barnard, A Study of the Control of Hostile Audiences in the Anti-Slavery Speeches of Wendell Phillips, M.A. thesis 1929, University of Wisconsin.

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