Social Attitudes

Human Nature, Attitudes and the Mores

Robert E. Park
Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago

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IT is notorious that some of our more recent and more innovating conceptions of human nature, and of methods for investigating, are almost wholly based on experiments made upon animals of a lower grade than man; i.e.; cats, dogs, rats, and even some of the lowlier species. There have been some, but relatively few, investigations by methods so successfully employed in studying animal psychology, of human behavior, but not of behavior that is characteristically and distinctively human rather than animal.

It seems that when we behave most like human beings fall in love, for example, or get religion-we may at best be celebrated by the historian or the poets, or at the worst, fall into the hands of the psychiatrists, the psychoanalysts, or the "metaphysicians." But we are pretty sure to escape the behaviorists, at least until love and religion come to be habits rather than sentiments.

The observations of the behaviorists upon love and religion, so far, have the rather casual and commonsense character of obiter dicta, far removed from the detailed, objective, and quantitative studies that they have made in other fields.[1] So far as this statement is true, it is probably due to the complexities of the phenomena themselves, but it may be due to the fact that the behaviorists' point of view and behavioristic methods of investigation do not lend themselves so readily to` the study of man, as they do to the study of animals. This is; however, a detail and not of any especial importance to the purpose of this chapter.


This paper is concerned primarily with a system of relations,, and a type of behavior which we call social. It is concerned particularly with the nature of those conceptual units into which such a system, upon analysis, resolves itself. Every science starts with a point of view, and it is this point of view which defines for it, ultimately, the character of its conceptual object. In order to describe and explain this object it is first of all necessary to resolve it into its more elementary components. The logical terminus is first reached with the discovery of what, for the purpose of a particular science, or even a particular investigation, may be regarded as the unit of description and explanation. This unit is likely to be different with every different science, and the same may be said in every case of the methods and procedure employed. They, also, are determined finally by the character of the units of analysis which the different sciences adopt. It thus appears that there is a very intimate relation between point of view, nature of the conceptual object, units of analysis, and methods of procedure.[2]

Since the logic of the behavioristic school has profoundly influenced the methods and the point of view, not merely of psychology, but of the social sciences, it seems worth while to review here briefly the genesis and direction which this point of view has historically taken.

It seems to have been Lloyd Morgan's observations of instincts in, animals which gave behaviorism its point of view, suggesting that man might be studied psychologically in the same objective way as the lower animals have been. In fact it may very easily have been Lloyd Morgan's fascinatingvolume on Animal Behavior, published in 1908, which suggested the name given to the new point of view and the new doctrine.

Observations of animals in their natural habitats were followed by experiments upon animals in the laboratory. Thorndike's volume, Animal Intelligence, published in 191 1, seems to have set the pattern for a subsequent investigation and experimentation in this field. Since that time Behaviorism has

(19) advanced from the study of cats and rats to experimentation on new-born babes and little children.[3] There is at present an extensive literature on the subject of animal and infantile behavior, which includes a wide range of animal life, extending from that of the lowly earthworm to the almost-human ape.

One result of the experiment upon animals was to confirm a conclusion already reached by Jacques Loeb that "instincts belong to the same class of phenomena as reflexes," and the greater complexity of instinctive behavior compared with that of the simple reflex is due to the fact that instinctive actions are based upon a chain of reflexes in which the first reflex becomes the cause which calls forth the second, the third, and so on.

Loeb illustrated the way in which the reflexes which cooperate to produce a complicated, instinctive reaction may be conceived to operate, by reference to the behavior of the frog in capturing and swallowing a fly. "The motion of the fly," he says, "causes an optical reflex which results in a snapping motion, the contact of the fly with the mucous membrane of the pharynx sets free a second reflex, which brings the fly into the oesophagus" and so completes the instinctive action.[4]

The case of the frog and the fly illustrates, in principle at least, the nature of the mechanism by which, in general, behavior takes place. Every movement , and every action can, in theory at least, be resolved into elementary processes or-behavior units, each one of which responds in a definite way to a specific stimulus. The integration and co÷rdination of these units makes it possible to conceive the simplest as well as the most complex behavior as a response to a specific stimulus.

Physiology and psychology have got on very intimate terms in recent years. Both use the same unit of analysis, namely the physiological reflex, and both employ substantially the same methods of investigation. The difference between the physiologist and the behaviorist is that one is concerned with the functioning of special organs, and the other is interested only in the behavior of the organism as a whole.

"Our task begins," says Watson, "Only when the physiolo-

(20) -gist puts the separate organs together again, and turns the whole [man] over to us." [5]

We might, without doing violence to the language of common sense, express the difference between the physiologist and the psychologist by saying that physiology is concerned with reaction, while psychology is concerned with action, action, being the reaction of the organism as a whole. From the point of view of the organism as a whole the reflex is "a convenient abstraction." It is an abstraction because "reflex actions can never take place in isolation." [6]

What remains to complete the logical and theoretical structure of behaviorism is a conceptual account of the process of integration. To a certain extent in man, and to an even greater extent in animals, this integration of the reflexes has already been achieved at birth. But man has much to learn: as compared with the lower animals. He has to supplement his relatively small fund of instincts with a very large number of habits. The habits he acquires are very largely determined by his individual experience. In the traditional psychology, learning by experience was the function of consciousness. Consciousness is, however, a word that is hard to define. Watson says, candidly, that he does not know what it is. Loeb says it is, "a metaphysical term for phenomena which are determined by associated memory" and he describes associated memory as "that mechanism by which a stimulus brings about not only the effects which its nature and the specific structure of the organ call for, but by which it brings about, also, the effect of other stimuli which formerly acted upon the organism simultaneously with the stimulus in question."

The function which consciousness is supposed to perform can be stated as it has been by Bertrand Russell. Though he does not agree with Watson that this principle alone is sufficient to account for all animal and human learning, he admits it is a principle of very great importance. As he puts it, the principle is this

When the body of an animal or human being has been exposed sufficiently often to two roughly simultaneous stimuli, the earlier

(21) of them alone tends to call out the response previously called out by the other.

This, says Russell, in conclusion, is the modern form of the "association of ideas" which has played so "great a part in philosophy and particularly British philosophy." The fact that, as here stated, it is movements rather than ideas which are associated, extends this principle of association over a wider field than that covered in the original formulation. This is true because there are more movements than there are ideas, seeing that many movements are involuntary and unconscious. Furthermore, movements are more accessible to observation and verification than ideas.

It thus appears that the function that consciousness was supposed to perform may be made the object of experiment without reference to consciousness. It was, however, the experiments of the Russian, Pavlov, and his students that demonstrated this fact. The most famous of these experiments was made upon dogs. They showed that the salivary glands of a dog, which did not at first respond to a given stimulus, say the sound of a bell, could be made to do so if the bell was sounded at about the same time and a little before the dog was exposed to a stimulus for which the organism was already prepared, namely, food. On the other hand, if the bell was sounded after, rather than before the food was exhibited, the gland refused to respond.

This refusal to respond under the circumstances is interesting because it tends to show that association is dependent upon what the Gestalt psychologists call "organization of the impression." It suggests further that association takes place when the impressions or the movements associated are integral parts of an activity or action.

Pavlov's experiments were impressive in the first instance, because of the elaborate and careful way in which they were planned and carried out. As he was dealing here with an organ which acts reflexively, he called the results obtained after the gland had, so to speak, been educated, the "conditional reflex." [7]


With the formulation of the conception of the "conditioned reflexes" the logical structure of behaviorism was complete.' It was now possible to conceive habit, which William James said, includes "all our life, so far as it has a definite form" as Ô structure, built entirely on elementary units, namely, reflexes, by processes of association or conditioning, such as Pavlov's experiments had demonstrated. As experiments indicated that these processes could, in theory at least, be definitely controlled, there remained no sound reason for continuing the rather dubious investigation of the contents of consciousness, upon which the traditional psychology had been founded.

Behaviorism has unquestionably immensely simplified our 'conception of human behavior and mental life. In breaking down the barriers which seemed formerly to separate the mental and physical aspects of behavior it has made it possible to conceive mental life as one in principle with the processes of physical and physiological growth in the organism.

Every science, however, is inevitably limited by its point of view and by its technique. It is still a question how far psychology can adequately describe behavior that is characteristically human in physiological terms. Up to the present moment the most impressive experiments in habit formation (conditioning) have been made, as I have already said, either upon animals or very little children. For the purpose of discovering the genesis of habit the observations made upon newborn babies seem to be the most promising and important. They are important for the reason that the behavior of children, in the early stages of infancy, is less integrated than that of any other mammals. That means that they have few instincts and no habits.

The new-born baby is so completely lacking in any sort of orientation to the world in which it is presently to find itself, its movements are so completely unco÷rdinated, that its behavior at the first does not have the character of an action. New-born babies react, but do not act. Psychology, however; is mainly interested in acting, that is to say, in the behavior of the organism as a whole, and action only arises in response to a world of objects located in space and time.

The world in which men live is, on the whole, the world in which they have learned to live. Things take form and sub-

(23) -stance as we learn how to behave towards them. - Our habits and our attitudes are the subjective aspect of the world we know. What things mean for us is determined, in the final analysis, by the events in our personal history. The subtleties of the modern mind are reflected in the complexities of the modern world. The child at birth knows nothing of space and time, and has, so to speak, no world at all, because it has no habits, no attitudes, and no objects. Its world, as far as it may be said to have one at all, is, as James described it, "a big, buzzing confusion." So, too, the world of the pre-literate peoples is a very simple affair, as compared with that which literature, travel, and science have made accessible to civilized man.

We are bound to assume that there are fundamentally different types and levels of behavior represented in the human organism. Man is the inheritor of all the species that have gone on before him, in the biological series. The result is that the more elaborate forms of human behavior are so completely integrated with the more elementary that it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between them. It is difficult to distinguish between original nature and human nature.

There are, however, certain forms of behavior characteristic of man that are so obviously different from animal behavior that they seem to be differences not merely of degree, but of kind. As an indication of what, in general, these forms of behavior are, I may refer to some rather oblique observations on the human race, recording one of Walt Whitman's earlier and more flagrant examples of free verse, Song of Myself. He chants as follows

I think I could turn and live with animals,
They are so placid and self-contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake at night and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, not to his kind that lived thousands of years ago:
Not one is responsible, or industrious over the whole earth.


The traits here referred to-man's mania for owning things; his industry, his conscience, causing him to worry about his sins, the loyalties and beliefs that he cherishes in regard to gods and superior beings that he has never seen, the importance to him of status, and of the esteem in which he is held by other persons-all these are not merely fundamentally human traits that could only exist in some form of society such as man has everywhere created and maintained, but they are the traits, also, upon which the social institutions -economic, political, and religious-seem finally to rest, and from which there is no escape for man, except, as Whitman puts it, he turn and live with the animals.


There seem to have been, generally speaking, two conditionsä one in the original nature of man himself and the other in the situation in which he inevitably finds himself, that have imposed upon mankind those traits and that nature, which, in ordinary parlance, are described as human.

As compared with the lower animals, man may be said to live in a world of three, rather than two, dimensions. He lives, in other words, in a world that has a temporal, as well as a spatial perspective. He grows up under the influence of a past that is steadily receding, and of a future that is inevitably impending. He faces each of these divergent aspects of this temporal continuum with a different attitude. The past is that part of his experience which he views as finished and unchangeable; the future, on the other hand, is that part of his prospective experience which is still indeterminate, and which he views with hope and fear. This implies that human beings, in contrast to the lower animals, live to an extraordinary extent in their memories and in their imaginations. Santayana in his Winds of Doctrine puts it thus

Man is certainly an animal that, when he lives at all, lives for ideals. Something must be found to occupy his imagination, to rise pleasure and pain into love and hatred, and change the prosaic alternative between comfort and discomfort into the tragic one between happiness and sorrow. [8]


The fact that men can look back with regret to their past, and forward with lively expectation to their future, suggests that there is, ordinarily, in the lives of human beings, an amount of tension and sustained suspense which tends to break up established habits and to hold those habits not yet established in solution. During this period of tension and suspense: when overt action and eventual habits are in process, activity is directed less by previous habit than by present attitudes.

It is characteristic of man that he mulls over and broods upon his acts before he commits himself to action. As compared with the lower animals man is an introverted and subjective creature. "Between the two terms of a sensory-motor circuit there is," as K÷hler puts it, "more terra incognita than was on the map of Africa sixty years ago." Somewhere in this terra incognita consciousness is located and it is to the existence of this unexplored region that psychology owes its existence. All the turmoil of present-day psychology revolves around this same region and the methods of its exploration.

If we conceive the inception and conclusion of an action, even when that action covers a considerable period of time, as included within the terms of the sensory-motor circuit, we may expect to encounter, in the course of the action, a considerable amount of incidental behavior which is not ordinarily reckoned as either stimulus or response. This behavior, which we may describe as expressive, seems to throw light on the processes which have determined and are determining the course of the action observed. This incidental and expressive behavior is likely to be more manifest in man than in the lower animals, partly because the distance between stimulus and response is ordinarily greater in the case of the former than it is in the latter.

Consider the case of the individual, as Whitman describes him, "sweating" and "whining" about his condition, or the man who lies awake at night to weep over his sins. Here is behavior which reveals something going on that may finally terminate in overt action, but such behavior is not what we ordinarily regard as an act. It is emotional or expressive behavior. It accompanies and, so to speak, advertises the act with which it is associated. Action, as Faris insists, has a configuration and an organization, a "temporal Gestalt." So con-

(26) -ceived, action would always involve some preparation and, so to speak, mobilization of the organism for action: some orientation also, of the organism to the situation in which it found itself.

The behavior of a cat, as it slowly approaches and prepares to spring upon a mouse, is an illustration of an act in preparation. A complete account of this action would include a record of the internal, muscular, visceral, and glandular changes involved, as well as of the external and exploratory movements which lead up to the final spring and capture by the animal, of its prey. An even better illustration is, perhaps, the behavior of a rat in a maze. The purpose of this experiment is: 1, to determine how long it will take a hungry rat to find a piece of cheese at the end of a complicated path, and, 2, to determine how many trials will be necessary until the rat can thread his way through this labyrinth and reach the cheese by the shortest possible route, and without making any false moves. As a condition of this experiment it is necessary that the animal should be hungry. This insures a lively response to the stimulus and sends him scurrying and sniffing about, exploring every blind alley, until he finally hits upon the box in which the food has been placed. Having found it, and satisfied his hunger, the rat loses interest, tension is relaxed, and the action may be regarded as completed. The whole proceeding has the character of a drama; interest is aroused at the outset, is continued and stimulated as the action proceeds, and finally ceases when, at its conclusion, the goal is reached and the problem solved. This is the character of action; it is always more or less a drama.

If one asks what it is that connects the different parts and holds this act together, we may say it is the motive, interest, or sustained tension.[9] "An act," says Faris, "is not merely a series of movements, but rather a series of movements plus some goal of endeavor, some end in view. Movements are integrated into acts by the fact that there is an imagined end and a felt unity." [10]


It is evident that man, because he lives in what I have described as a temporal and spatial perspective, and is thus enabled to survey his movements retrospectively and prospectively, is capable of actions that cover a long period of time and a wide range of objects. These long continued actions, in the course of which every single minor movement is more or less preparatory for and subordinated to the action as a whole, gives to man's life the character of a series of episodes and adventures. These episodes in so far as they are integrated in some general scheme or life program, represent a career. It is characteristic of man that he has a career.

The processes by which actions take place can be stated, and in fact have been stated, in physiological terms by Lawrence K. Frank in a paper discussing the development of personality in children. He says

Since the young child reacts to the world of things and people as obstacles to, or sources of, tensional adjustment, each such reaction or response will bring a tensional change [change of attitude] which thereby becomes established as the recurrent response to all subsequent appearances of that stimulus or situation.

Consequently, the child necessarily will approach all new situations with the tensional condition [attitude] arising from immediately prior experiences in other situations, or from the already experienced stimuli present in that novel situation in which he learned to respond to a given tensional condition [attitude]. It follows, then, that he will learn from a novel situation, in accordance with his tensional condition [attitude] which means that he will respond selectively to that novel situation, ignoring therein whatever is incongruous with the tensional condition [attitude] he brings to it. So experiences are cumulative, and each tensional change [change of attitude] learned by the child operates to condition his subsequent learning, thus giving the personality that appearance of inevitable direction and trend which is so difficult to interrupt or divert.[11]

One may substitute, as I have indicated, for the expression, "tensional condition," wherever it occurs in the statement quoted, the term attitude; and for the term "tensional change" attitudinal change without materially altering the sense. The

( 28) statement then describes with accuracy the r˘le which the attitude plays in maintaining the continuity of the act. Sustained ,tension seems to be the physiological surrogate for attitude. Actions, in the sense we have given to that term, may be said to begin with one attitude and conclude with another. As Faris remarks

When an act has been consummated, the condition or state of the actor is altered ineluctably. Some deposit remains, not only in the experience but behavior. There results what Pareto calls "a residue." An unpleasant experience may leave a man with a bias or prejudice which he never had before. An unexpected happy experience may completely alter his leaning, or proclivity toward the object of his action . . . . When equilibrium has been disturbed, and a conscious, deliberate act results one effect is the formation in experience, of a new object, and the attitude or residue is the correlate of the object.[12]

Changes brought about by an action or an experience of any sort may, of course, be described in physiological terms, as a conditioning of the organism, but the result of an action is, in the first instance, not a habit, but an attitude. What one gains with a new habit is ordinarily a new aptitude, a new facility and skill in the performance of a familiar act. The new attitude implies a new object, or a new appreciation of an old one.

Attitude is a psychological as well as a sociological concept. As Thurstone conceives it "an attitude is the sum total of a man's inclination and feelings, prejudices or bias, preconceived notions, ideas, fears, threats, and convictions about any specific topic. Thus a man's attitude means here (i.e., for the purposes of the experiment to be described) all that he thinks about peace and war." [13]

This description of the attitude is more inclusive than precise, but that is, perhaps, because, as the author says, an attitude is, after all, "a subjective and personal affair," and something, therefore, not easily defined. If it is true that attitudes, like intelligence, are more easily measured than defined, it may be the part of wisdom, until we know more about them, to talk about attitudes as Thurstone does, in common sense terms.

( 29)

Other writers, and among them sociologists, have been less discreet, and it is perhaps worth while to see what, from the point of view of observation, rather than experiment, can be said about them.

Thomas, who was the first to popularize the term in sociological literature, describes an attitude as "the state of mind of the individual toward a value" and adds, by way of illustration, "love of money, desire for fame, appreciation for God, hatred of the Jew are attitudes." It follows that money, fame, God and the Jews are values.[14]

The notion that attitudes are relative to values involves a distinction as to the subject matter and conceptual objects of the social and physical sciences which has been very clearly and concisely stated by Znaniecki in a paper entitled, "The Object Matter of Sociology"

Natural phenomena, as conceived by the sciences of nature, are objects and facts essentially independent of the process of human experience and active thought. It does not matter whether this is their primary character or a secondary construction of practical or theoretic reflection. This is the way the natural scientist always treats them; from his standpoint they are self-existing-"nobody's" -objects and facts . . . . On the contrary, cultural phenomena, as the scientific humanist takes them, are essentially "somebody's" phenomena. They are objects as given to the experience of individuals belonging to our social group, and activities formed by these individuals as appearing to them . . . . The sphere of the humanist's investigation is not a world independent of realities, such as might be known to some ideal subject; it is a world of data, given to concrete historically determined human subjects and of actions which these subjects actually perform upon these objects of their experience . . . .

Without the humanistic coefficient the myth would not exist at all, the painting would be a chaos of colored spots upon a piece of canvas, the word a meaningless sound, the legal scheme a collection of sounds, or black spots upon paper; the instrument a mere piece of iron, the social organization a complexity of incoherent movements.[15]


The distinction between nature and culture, as Znaniecki conceives them, seems to rest on the fact that the same perceptual object may have, inevitably does have, different meanings for different individuals, and groups of individuals, depending upon the tradition, experience, and attitudes of the individuals and groups concerned. It is the different meanings and values that objects have for different individuals that makes trade and provokes discussion. It is possible to weigh, measure, and describe a physical commodity to the complete satisfaction of two parties to a trade, though they may be quite unable to get together on the price. As a physical object it is identical for both individuals, even though it has, at the same time, a different value for each, neither of these values will, of course, be identical with the market or trade value.

The social sciences are particularly concerned with those subjective aspects of things we call values, since these are the objects for which men live and strive. They, and they alone, explain why men behave like human beings, this is to say, like Frenchmen and Englishmen, Baptists and Methodists, Democrats and Republicans, rather than like Nordics, Alpines, or other racial varieties of the species.

Thomas' description of attitudes as "a state of mind toward a value" throws no light, however, on the distinction, if indeed such a distinction exists, between attitudes and wishes. Faris describes the wish as "an impulse, together with an image of the object of satisfaction," and distinguishes between attitudes and wishes in respect to the dynamic character of the latter. An attitude is, to be sure, a "tendency to act"; but, "exists as a tendency, even when latent; a wish is always more or less dynamic or kinetic.[16]

On the other hand, Holt's description of the so-called Freudian wish as "a course of action which some mechanism of the body is set to carry out, whether it actually does so or not" might, without the slightest alteration, be substituted for almost any one of the familiar descriptions of an attitude."

"An attitude," says Bernard, is essentially an incompleted or potential adjustment behavior process. It is the set of the

(31) organism toward the object or situation to which an adjustment is called for.[17]

What Holt says further about the "so-called wish" as a unit of behavior, replacing the sensation of the older psychologists, might be said of the attitude as soon and so far as it has taken the place of the conditioned reflex in the description of human behavior. In both instances there is the substitution of a relatively dynamic for an essentially static conception. If habit is the aspect of behavior in which we are interested, the reflex seems to be the logical unit of analysis and description. As soon, however, as interest in the action-aspect of behavior becomes dominant, the attitude, or the Freudian wish, as Holt describes it, is the more convenient and natural unit of description. Evidently the distinction between wishes and attitudes is a more than purely verbal one. Holt includes the attitude under the wish. My own notion has been that the wish must be conceived as one of the components of the attitude. It is the thing that gives the attitude its kick.

The significant characteristics of attitudes, then, seem to be these

(a) The attitude, as distinguished from the reflex, or conditioned reflex, implies a certain amount of orientation of the organism to the world of objects about it. It is, as Holt says, the objective reference of the attitude that is significant. "The mere reflex does not refer to anything beyond itself; if it drives an organism in a certain direction it is only as a rocket ignited at random shoots off in a certain direction, depending on how it happened to lie." This is implied in the fact that action, as it has been here defined, represents the reaction of the organism as a whole. Actions are directed behavior, and attitudes indicate and determine the direction in which those actions are tending.

(b) The existence of an attitude, since it is a tendency to act-an incompleted act, in fact-involves a certain amount of tension, even where it is latent. In this respect it probably differs from habit or any other form of behavior cc, far as it is routine and automatic.

(c) Attitudes which may be described as identical as regards direction or tendency may differ as to intensity. This

( 32) suggests a certain qualification of Thurstone's procedure for measuring attitudes with reference to an issue in terms of opinion. Two persons, A and B, may hold precisely the same opinions in regard to an issue. This would mean that, in an election in which this issue was involved, they would vote the same ticket. They might, for example, both vote for prohibition, but A might hold his opinion with a certain amount of academic reserve. He might regard prohibition, as President Hoover once expressed it, as a "noble experiment" but still an experiment. On the other hand B might hold the same opinion as an article of faith. On this assumption, one who should regard it as in any sense an experiment would then appear to him as an intolerable and dangerous heretic. Thurstone's experiment seems to measure direction and variation of attitudes, but not intensity.

(d) Attitudes are rooted in experience, but it is this experience in all its concreteness that finally determines the character of an attitude, both as to its direction and its intensity. This is the reason why Thomas and Znaniecki have based their studies of the Polish peasant in America mainly on intimate family documents and life histories.

Attitudes, because they are expressive and an index of the tendency and intention of the organism in a situation, are at the same time communicable and, under certain circumstances-depending upon the suggestibility and responsiveness of the individuals concerned-contagious.

A crowd of people in a high state of excitement frequently attain a state of rapport in which communication is so immediate and spontaneous that the whole mass seems to act as a unit. In such a situation it is not so much language or gesture as the subtle suggestive influence of mere physical presence that is the medium of communication. It is not so much a common purpose as a common mood that seems to dominate the group.

Expressiveness and responsiveness are correlative and fundamental human traits which provide a physiological basis for elementary communication. They are at the Same tune the terms of a process of interaction by which co÷peration and consensus are maintained among individual components of a social group.


Expression and response are involved in the most elementary forms of communication. Children and pre-literate people are apparently more responsive to immediate bodily expression of attitudes than they are to words, and they ordinarily interpret verbal speech from the attitudes with which it is accompanied.

There is probably a great difference in individuals in respect to their responsiveness to different forms of expression. Primitive society and primary groups, in which intimate and face-to-face relations predominate, owe their peculiar character to the elementary form of communication that prevails, and to the immediate and mutual responsiveness of all their members.

We frequently speak of social interaction as inter-stimulation. But in the case of communication the stimulus has the character of a suggestion, a hint, and indication of a purpose or intent which is in this manner communicated. Wherever communication takes place it is the meaning and intention that is expressed or embodied in the attitude that is communicated. Communication often takes place below the level of clear consciousness. We live in an atmosphere of suggestion and counter suggestion, the changes and fluctuations of which influence and control us like a social weather.

K÷hler, in a recent volume, Gestalt Psychology, has made a very interesting analysis of the nature of communication in its more direct and elementary forms, where one does not so much observe behavior and interpret it, as perceive the mind through the medium of overt acts. Overt actions, because they are instrumental and secondary to the "perception of the attitude" are themselves either perceived but slightly or not at all."[18]

Animals, with whom communication is naturally of a very elementary sort, happen to offer the best illustration of the subtlety and immediacy with which attitudes, expressed in very slight movements, are communicated; that is to say, suggest the purposes or intent of one individual to the mind of another, under circumstances where a gesture, if regarded as something more than a signal for a specific act, would probably be meaningless.

Some years ago there was in Berlin an educated horse called Clever Hans (Kluger Hans) whose performances were so f remarkable that they attracted the attention of scientific men.

(34) Clever Hans answered questions by tapping his foot on the stage, one tap denoted A, two taps B, three taps C, etc. Where numbers were concerned, one tap signified 1, two taps 2, etc. In this way the animal answered the most complicated questions. He not only multiplied one number by another, indicating the number by tapping, but even extracted the square roots, distinguished ten different colors and was able to recognize the photographs of people. After a thorough investigation, in which every possible source of error was excluded, there seemed to be no explanation of the phenomenon unless one assumed that this horse could think, and calculate independently. And this was, in fact, the conclusion of the committee of scientists who investigated the phenomenon.

The explanation offered by Albert Moll was that someone present unintentionally had given the horse a sign when to stop tapping. He says, "Anyone who has been engaged in training hypnotized subjects knows that these insignificant signs constitute one of the chief sources of error. Signs that are imperceptible to others are nevertheless perceived by ń subject trained to do so, no matter whether that subject be a human being or an animal."

This conjecture proved to be correct. When Hans was asked to add numbers the sum of which was known to no one present, he proved as inexpert in mathematics as any other horse. This experiment seems to prove two things; first, that the suggestion and counter suggestion which takes place between individuals who are en rapport is very much more subtle than is ordinarily supposed. And, second, that to be a mind reader requires a grade of intelligence not superior to that of an educated horse.[19]

There seems to be a general impression that, with the growth of communication and the expansion of communal life, there has been a corresponding growth in the responsiveness and fellow feeling of men for other men. The impression is probably, with some qualifications, correct. Human nature has, however, grown more complex in the meantime, and social relations are more casual and less intimate:

Communication has likewise taken more elaborate and more

(35) deliberate forms. It sometimes happens that we can communicate in a letter what would be impossible to state in an interview. Literature has been able to express for us sentiments and attitudes which we would otherwise have been wholly unable to discover or communicate. One of the consequences of all these changes seems to have been to intensify the subjectivity of individual man, and at the same time increase his moral isolation. This aspect of human relations is touched on incidentally in one of the casual papers of William James, entitled, "A Certain Blindness in Human Beings." This essay, and James' Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion, published in 1901-2, under the title of Varieties o f Religious Experience, are among the earliest, perhaps the very first attempts, to study attitudes on the basis of personal documents.

The "blindness" to which James calls attention is the "blindness with which we are all afflicted, in regard to the feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves." Few persons have so far discovered, or even sought to investigate, the ultimate sources of joy and sorrow, either in themselves, or in others. The documents cited in his paper throw some light on that obscure subject. They indicate, for one thing, how transient and how slight the connection sometimes is between our actual experiences and the objects in the perceptual world to which we inevitably refer them. They suggest how insensible each of us, viewing the matter from the outside, is likely to be, to use James' language "to all that makes life significant to others."

James' thesis, as it is developed there and elsewhere, is that the significance of objects for individual men and women is, in the final analysis, what gives them the character of reality. For things are not real because they exist, merely, but because they are important. The study of attitudes, as it turns out, is a study of this importance-the importance which objects have for different individuals, and groups of individuals, and the conditions under which this importance is acquired.



If man differs from the lower animals in the fact that he lives in a temporal and spatial perspective, he differs also in the fact that he lives, to an extent and in a way impossible to the lower animals, in society. The habits of men are, for the most part, merely specifications of custom, and men take over the manners of the community in which they live as naturally and inevitably as they inherit and reproduce an ancestral physical type.

It is true of plants, as well as of animals, that they live in what are called communities, in which there exists some sort of commensalism and some sort of natural economy. But animal society is characteristically symbiotic rather than social. Society, in the strict sense of the term, is based upon consensus, custom, and common understanding. Language, communication, a universe of discourse, and a moral order are prime conditions for the existence of society as we know it..

One consequence of the fact that man is, as so many persons since Aristotle have said, a political animal is that human, behavior is fundamentally neither reflexive, instinctive, nor even habitudinal merely, but conventional and rational, that is to say, governed by rules, codes, and institutions; controlled by fashion, etiquette, and public opinion. Thus man turns out to be a sophisticated animal, keenly conscious of himself, knowing good and evil, calculating and casuistic, concerned at once about his reputation and his soul. Behavior of this sort is what we ordinarily call conduct, when that word is given an ethical connotation. Conduct is that form of behavior we expect in man when he is conscious of the comment that other men are making, or are likely to make, upon his actions. Conduct, in short, is behavior that is sophisticated.

Animals and very little children are notoriously innocent of convention and of the complications it introduces into the behavior of adult human beings. They have no reputations to sustain, no status, legal or social, to maintain; and no desire to be respectable or respected. On the other hand, since they are unconscious, or nearly so, of any censorship, either of conscience or public opinion, they have no secrets, privacies, subjectivities. They possess no sense either of inner conflict

( 37) or inner freedom, and no conception, finally, of themselves. The conceptions which men form of themselves seem to depend upon their vocations, and in general upon the r˘le that they seek to play in the communities and social groups in which they live, as well as upon the recognition and status which society accords them in these r˘les. It is status, i.e., recognition by the community, that confers upon the individual the character of a person, since a person is an individual who has status, not necessarily legal, but social.

The naivetÚ, so complete in animals and very little children, is under certain circumstances, and at certain times, characteristic of most of us. Some of the most obvious examples of na´vetÚ of which most human creatures are illustrations, are cited by Sumner in The Folkways, under the title "Illustrations of Ethnocentrism"

The Jews divided all mankind into themselves and Gentiles. They were the chosen people. The Greeks and Romans called all outsiders Barbarians . . . . The Arabs regarded themselves as the noblest nation, and all others as more or less barbarous. In 1896, 'the Chinese Minister of Education and his councilors edited a manual in which this statement occurs: "How grand and glorious is the Empire of China, the Middle Kingdom-she is the largest and richest in the world. The grandest men in all the world have come from the Middle Empire." In all the literature of all the states, equivalent statements occur, although they are not so naively expressed.[20]

To be naive, it seems, is to be unaware of the character of the comment which one's behavior is likely to arouse in others. It is an indication that one does not know what is expected of him, nor what the conventions prescribe. NaivetÚ and savoir-faire are, from this point of view, correlative indices of socialization. They show to what an extent an individual is, or is not, "in" the set and "in" the society in which he finds himself. The "greenhorn," the "tenderfoot" and the "foreign devil" are more or less familiar titles for a man who finds himself in Ó f world whose conventions he does not know.

Social conventions, notions of what is right, proper and moral, seem always to conform to what Gilbert Murray calls

(38) the "normal expectation of mankind." What one man expects of another in a given society is what custom and tradition has led him to expect. Where there is neither custom nor tradition-where men are living, in other words, in a state of nature-social order does not exist. The expectation of mankind is naturally different for different peoples, and for different times, but whatever it is at a time and place, it constitutes what Sumner calls the mores.

The German word for mores is Sitten, and the best definition of Sitten is one that Sumner quotes from V. Hartmann. It is this

The mores [Sitten] are, before any beginning of reflection, the regulators of the political, social and religious behavior of the individual. Conscious reflection is the worst enemy of the mores, because mores begin unconsciously and pursue unconscious purposes, which are recognized by reflection only after long and circuitous processes, and because their expediency often depends on the assumption that they will have general acceptance and currency, uninterrupted by reflection .[21]

Laws, codes, and formal institutions are implicit in the mores and, as Sumner says, "rise out of them" by processes that are familiar, but not conceptually defined.

It is, however, the element of obligation in the mores and in laws that give them their peculiar character and it seems that here, as elsewhere, this sense of obligation has its origin mainly in the expectations which our actions, attitudes, and habits arouse in other persons. Once I permit my dog to look at me with a confident expectation that I am going to throw him a bone, he has established what Thomas calls "a claim" which I may or may not recognize, but which I cannot fail to feel. In the language of a Moroccan tribesman, "he has put the 'ahd on me.' "[22]

The same principle works in various ways. Practices which an individual or a community tolerates over a sufficient period of time create finally a vested interest. For example, it is an

( 39) old rule of law that anyone who, without formal protest, permits a neighbor to maintain and use a path across his lot establishes in course of time, seven years, I think, that neighbor's right to continue that use.

The sense of obligation as between two individuals is a social psychological phenomenon, and arises immediately out of the situation, and of the relation in which these individuals find themselves. It is based on a fact to which Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiment was among the first to call attention. The fact, namely, that imagination has enabled, and the conditions of social life have compelled, men to live in the lives of other men. The reason ethnocentrism and na´vetÚ may be regarded as indices of socialization is that they mark the limits and the degree to which what Comte calls "consensus," and what Adam Smith describes as "fellow feeling," extend.

A certain amount of ethnocentrism in the group and egocentrism in the individual is normal and necessary, because a certain amount of subjectivity is necessary to preserve the inner freedom and morale of the group and of the individual. They are necessary in order to maintain in the individual and in the group the normal expectation which the social order demands. Normal expectation rests finally, however, on the established habits of individual men and women, habits to which custom and convention, and eventually law have added their sanction.

The mores, while they tend to become fixed in habits, are not identical with them. They grow up and are maintained under the influence of some sort of general consensus. This is indicated by the fact that it is always possible to detect in the mores of any society a general drift and tendency to which all customs and usages are more or less subject.

The folkways are, therefore, (1) subject to a strain of improvement towards better adaptations of means to ends as long as the adaptation is so imperfect that pain is produced. They are also (2) subject to a strain of consistency with each other, because they all answer their several purposes with less friction and antagonism when they co÷perate and support each other .[23]

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The drift and tendency of the mores is affected by fashion. "They [fashions] can make a thing modest or immodest, proper or improper, and if they last long enough they affect the sense and the standards of modesty and propriety." Fashion is more or less dominant in every region of experience. There is fashion in thought as well as in action; fashions in philosophy as well as in clothes. There seems to be no fundamental difference between fashions and the mores, except that fashions change. What fashion demands in speech, dress, and manners is that one shall say, do, and wear the expected thing, but say, wear, and do it in a slightly novel manner.

Fashion is a response to an organic demand for new and stimulating, but not too new and not too stimulating, experience. It is of the essence of fashion that it changes. It is change and novelty which give to fashion the only character that distinguishes it from the mores. It is not quite true that the mores do not change, but the changes of fashion are more rapid, conspicuous, and widely advertised. As a matter of fact, fashion seems to be one way, and perhaps a characteristic way, in which changes in the mores are brought about. Changes in fashion seem to be even more irrational, and just as little controlled by reflection, as changes in custom. All that one can say in justification of a fashion at any given time is that it is the fashion. Fashion is its own justification. But no matter how fantastic the dominance that it exercises, it is just as real, and sometimes even more insistent than that of custom.

Fashion has a prospective reference, the mores come to us from the past. They are transmitted by tradition. Fashions exist only in the present and are transmitted through space.

Gabriel Tarde distinguished between custom and fashion as the two characteristic forms in which cultural traits are transmitted. He says

In periods when custom is in the ascendant men are more infatuated about their country than about their time; for it is the past that is preeminently praised. In ages when fashion rules men are prouder, on the contrary, of their time than of their country.[24]

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Periods of revolution and rapid change are dominated by fashion. On the contrary, societies which have achieved a stable equilibrium, are conservative, abhor change, honor custom, and enforce the mores. There was a time in the history of Japan, when social ritual was so strictly enforced that a breach of etiquette was little short of a crime. At that time a rude fellow was defined simply as "an-other-than-expected person," and to act in an unexpected way was an offense that might be punished with death.

As long, and to the degree, that the moral and social order was completely embodied in the mores and man was wholly, or almost wholly, ruled by custom and tradition, no such thing as a political society, in the sense in which we know it today, could well exist. It was not until the sacred order that had been precipitated in the Sitten -- the expediency of which, as V. Hartmann says, depended upon their unreflective and unquestioned acceptance-had been more or less superseded by a secular society, in which parties had gained some sort of toleration and individual differences of interest and opinion, some sort of expression, that public opinion and a political order based on it could really be said to exist. Public opinion and political society, and, in fact, the whole individualistic and secular organization of life, have grown up more or less at the expense of the mores.

The political process may be said to begin with the first manifestation of unrest or discontent with an existing regime. Unrest passes over imperceptibly into agitation. Agitation follows unrest, because restless people are themselves agitated, and the agitation still further advertises their discontent. If it turns out that discontent thus advertised is contagious there instantly grows up a sense of common interest among all concerned, which furnishes the basis for some sort of collective action. Systematic agitation may result in strikes, in demonstrations, mass movements; a party usually grows up out of the efforts of leaders to manage and control the masses they have succeeded in rousing.

Mass movements may assume the form of a revolution or of a demand for new policies and new programs. The first effect of the rise and expression of public opinion is likely to be disturbing, merely, destroying the authority of the mores,

( 42) but bringing about only the most superficial changes in the habits and attitudes of the masses in which the mores are rooted. Even changes in legislation, and the formation of new programs and policies, do not immediately bring about the changes in custom and habit which they seek to enforce. It is through efforts of the courts and the administrative authorities, seeking to enforce the new regulations and to interpret them in some way consistent with the existing mores, that actual changes are eventually achieved.

Public opinion arises as soon as an issue is framed, and public discussion is likely to follow all the proceedings in legislative bodies and in the courts until the meaning and sense of a new law or a new policy is thoroughly clarified, and reduced to some sort of consistency with tradition and fundamental human nature. In the long run the new law and the new institution turn out to be a growth and evolution out of the institutions that preceded them. Finally these new institutions get themselves fixed in the habits of individuals and gain the sanction of custom in the community. What was formerly new and revolutionary is now old stuff, taken for granted, no longer provokes discussion, has become a second nature of the community and is part of the mores. In this way issues that rise out of the mores are eventually brought back and incorporated into-the mores. It is only then that we can properly say that the political process is complete.

Social changes, and particularly changes in the mores, always involve more radical changes in human nature. There is, as Thomas and Znaniecki have pointed out, no preexisting harmony between the individual and society.[25] The pressure of society on the individual is directed to securing conformity to convention. The resistance of the individual arises in an effort to secure expression of his own interests and purposes.

The struggle which ensues does not always and necessarily take the form of a physical conflict, or even of a political controversy. Much of it, most of it probably, is a struggle that takes place in the mind of the individual himself, or, to speak physiologically and behavioristically, in the individual's insides. It is mostly visceral and glandular behavior. It serves, at any

(43) rate, to give man the peculiar human traits for which mankind is notorious-his sophistication and his introversion. It is responsible for the fact that he has a conscience, and a divided self; and for many, if not most of his mental and functional diseases. Mental and not sexual are, it seems, the true social diseases.

Social changes begin with changes in the conditioned attitudes in individuals. Attitudes change first, and thus the changing attitudes of the individuals in any community are a sort of barometer, indicative of changes that will presently take place in social institutions and in the mores. A few years ago, during the agitation of the Oriental Exclusion Law, a question was raised, which played a considerable r˘le in the public discussion of the time, as to the relative fecundity of the native and the Japanese people on the Pacific Coast, and as to what was likely to be the relative proportion of the Japanese in the total population in the course of a period of years. Professor S. J. Holmes, author of The Trend o f the Race, proposed to answer the question, not on the basis of the then existing birthrate, but by finding out what were the attitudes of the Japanese young women of the second generation on the coast towards birth control. This indicates that the trend of the race may sometimes be reflected in those subjective and personal matters that we call attitudes.

Under the influence of changes which political institutions have introduced into society, along with the coincident expansion of communal life which a rational legal system has helped, at any rate, to make possible, human nature has undergone profound changes. The present-day individualism which is so characteristic of Occidental as contrasted with Oriental civilizations, is undoubtedly connected with the breaking up of the ancient local and tribal loyalties, and the loosening of family ties which still give the tone and patriarchal character to governments outside of Europe and America. In response to changes of a steadily increasing trend toward the secularization of social relations man has lost much of his primitive simplicity, On the other hand, he has achieved a new freedom and a new candor. Human nature today seems to be gradually accommodating itself to a coming cosmopolitanism in which

(44) mankind will have become, for better and for worse, completely emancipated and sophisticated.


Adler, A., The Neurotic Constitution. (Translated by B. Glueck and J. E. Lind), New York, 1917.

Bernard, L. L., An Introduction to Social Psychology, New York, 1926.

Binet, A., Alterations of Personality. (Translated by H. G. Baldwin), New York, 1896.

Cooley, Charles H., Human Nature and the Social Order, New York, 1902.

Faris, Ellsworth, "Attitudes and Behavior," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 271-81.

Frank, Lawrence K., "The Management of Tensions," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 705-36.

Hocking, W. E., Human Nature and Its Remaking, New Haven, 1918.

Holt, E. B., The Freudian Wish and Its Place in Ethics, New York, 1915.

James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York, 1902.

Jennings, H. S., Watson, John B., Meyer, Adolf, and Thomas, W. I., Suggestions of Modern Science Concerning Education, New York, 1917, pp. 159-97

K÷hler, W., Gestalt Psychology, New York, 1929.

Loeb, Jacques, Comparative Physiology of the Brain and Comparative Psychology, New York, 1900.

Moll, Albert, Hypnotism (4th edition), New York, 1898.

Morgan, C. Lloyd, Animal Behavior, London, 1900.

Park, R. E., "Negro Race Consciousness as Reflected in Race Literature," American Review, 1923, Vol. I, pp. 505-17.

Park, Robert E., and Burgess, E. W., Introduction to the Science of Sociology, Chicago, 1921.

Pavlov, Ivan P., Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. (Translated by Horsley Gantt), New York, 1928:

Pfungst, O., Clever Hans. (Translated by C. L. Rahn), New York, 1911.

Prince, M., The Dissociation of a Personality: A Biographical Study in Abnormal Psychology (2nd edition), New York, 1913.

Royce, J., Studies of Good and Evil: A series of essays upon problems of philosophy and life, Chap. VIII, "Some Observations on the Anomalies of Self-consciousness," pp. 169-97, New York, 1898.

Santayana, George, Winds of Doctrine, New York, 1913

Sumner, W. G., The Folkways, Boston, 19o6.

Tarde, Gabriel, Laws of Imitation. (Translated by Elsie Clews Parsons), New York, 1903.

Thomas, W. I., and Znaniecki, Florian, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, 2 vols. (2nd edition), New York, 1927.

Thurstone, L. L., "Attitudes Can Be Measured," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 529-54.

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Wallas, Graham, Human Nature in Politics, London, 1908.

Watson, John B., Behaviorism, New York, 1924.

Watson, John B., Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (2nd edition), Philadelphia, 1924.

Westermarck, Edward, Ritual and Belief in Morocco, 2 vols., New York, 1926.

Woodworth, R. S., Psychology, A Study of Mental Life (1st edition), New York, 1921.

Young, Kimball, Social Psychology, New York, 1930.

Znaniecki, Florian, "The Object Matter of Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, 1927, Vol. XXXII, pp. 529-84.



  1. John B. Watson, Behaviorism, 1924.
  2. A conceptual object, it must be remembered, is like a geometrical figure, an abstraction, not something that is given in nature. Science itself, in so far as it is a method of technique, for investigation and research, is a construct an artifact, and has no meaning except in reference to the purpose for which it is constructed.
  3. See John B. Watson, Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, preface 2nd edition 1924.
  4. Jacques Loeb, Comparative Physiology of the Brain, 1900, p. 178.
  5. Watson, ibid., 2nd edition, 1924, p. 20.
  6. Watson, ibid., p. 254.
  7. Ivan P. Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. (Translated from the Russian by W. Horsley Gantt), New York, 1928.
  8. Quoted in my article, "Negro Race Consciousness as Reflected in Race Literature;" American Review, 1923, Vol. 1, pp. 515-16.
  9. Robert S. Woodworth, Psychology, A Study of Mental Life (1st edition), 1921, pp. 72-85.
  10. Ellsworth Faris, "Attitudes and Behavior," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 271-81.
  11. Lawrence K. Frank, "The Management of Tensions," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, Vol. XXXIII, p. 718.
  12. Ellsworth Faris, op cit., pp. 275-78
  13. L. L. Thurstone, Attitudes Can Be Measured," American Journal of Sociology, 1928, VOL XXXIII, p. 531.
  14. W. I. Thomas "The Persistence of Primary-Group Norms in Present-Day Society," in Jennings, Watson, Meyer, and Thomas, Suggestions of Modern Science Concerning Education, 1917.
  15. Florian Znaniecki, "The Object Matter of Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, 1927, Vol. XXXII, pp. 535-36.
  16. Edwin B. Holt, The Freudian Wish and Its Place in Ethics, 1915, pp. 3-4.
  17. L. L. Bernard, An Introduction to Social Psychology, 1926, p. 246.
  18. Wolfgang K÷hler, Gestalt Psychology, 1929, pp. 224-68.
  19. Albert Moll, Hypnotism, 1909, pp. 454-56. Cf. also O. Pfungst, Clever Hans, 1911.
  20. William G. Sumner, The Folkways, 1906, p. 14.
  21. Summer, op. cit., p. 6o.
  22. Edward Westermarck, Ritual and Belief in Morocco, London, 1926. Westermarck's two large volumes are a mine of information on how religious customs and moral conceptions arise. His chapter on the "ar" and the "ahd" are especially interesting in this connection.
  23. Sumner, op. cit., pp. 5-6.
  24. Gabriel Tarde, Laws of Imitation, 1903, p. 247.
  25. William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (2nd edition), 1927, Vol. II, pp. 1861-62

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