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Aaron Quinn Sartain 
Alvin John North 

Jack Roy Strange 

Harold Martin Chapman 



T O R O N T O 




McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. Printed in the United States of America. 
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in 
any form without permission of the publishers. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 57-11867 

This book is set in 
Caledonia, a typeface designed 
by the American artist and 
calligrapher D. A. Dwiggins. The 
chapter titles are set in 
Standard. Drawings are by 
Bob Gill. Technical illustrations 
are by Felix C&oper. Bea Danville 
was the picture editor. 



re believe psychology can be effectively presented to the begin- 
ning student as a science and still be meaningfully related to his own 
experience. This has been our primary aim and constant guide 
throughout the writing of this book. 

We have focused attention on material that is practical and useful 
to the general student. We have tried to shape this material to the 
student's interests. Our hope has been to produce an introductory 
text which would attract the student and lead him to continue his 
interest in and study of psychology after the course is over. We have 
recognized the danger of expounding solely in technical terms on the 
one hand, and the sin of oversimplification on the other. We have 
tried to chart a sensible course between these two extremes. 

A preliminary edition of the present text has been used at Southern 
Methodist University for three years in a one-semester introductory 
course. The reception of this preliminary edition has convinced us 
that not only could psychology be presented in an interesting and 
meaningful way, but that the student could learn from it substantial 
facts and principles. Our experience led us to believe that students 
in the course were more interested than usual and that their achieve- 
ment was higher. 

The coverage of the present edition is complete and balanced while 
remaining within the scope of a one-semester course. Emphasis has 
been on understanding everyday human behavior; the areas of psy- 
chology which have to do with the abnormal or bizarre have received 
little emphasis. Since we have felt that the student must first under- 
stand the fundamentals of psychology before he can appreciate its 
specific applications, the space devoted to applied psychology has 
been kept at a minimum. 

The plan of this book has been to treat as related topics motiva- 
tion, emotion, the self, self-defense, and personality, including cul- 
tural and social influences. We have also included a survey of the 
physiological factors that provide the basis for these and other topics, 
such as perception, thinking, and learning. In a separate section we 
have discussed the instruments of evaluation of performance, ability, 
intelligence, etc. In addition we have made a determined effort to 

treat the relation between heredity and environment in a consistent 
and significant fashion. 

References have been cited wherever the subject under discussion 
was controversial or where we felt the student would want to refer 
to the primary source. From experience, however, we have found that 
introductory students are not much impressed by citations of research. 
We feel it to be of greater importance to take the pertinent research 
into account in our own thinking. The material presented to these 
students has to stand or fall largely on the basis of its reasonableness, 
cogency, adherence to a systematic point of view, and relevance to 
their experience. 

It is imperative to the student's understanding of the subject that 
he avail himself of the essential research data. To facilitate this and 
at the same time to provide material which stresses the importance 
of experimentation in psychology, we have interpolated into the text 
related research reports. These studies should impress upon the stu- 
dent that the theories of psychology are continually being modified 
and qualified by experimental research in the field. 

It should be rioted that we have raised many questions throughout 
the book: in the body of the text, in the Question sections at the end 
of each chapter, and in the captions for the illustrations. In answering 
these questions the student will soon realize that there is much in 
psychology that will demand his best thought and energy. Moreover, 
these questions will serve to remind him that he must constantly re- 
view his own acquired knowledge, not just the day before the test, 
but throughout the course. 

Lastly, in order to assist the student to learn introductory psy- 
chology well enough to demonstrate objectively this learning, we have 
prepared a separate Student's Guide. This guide is designed to assist 
the student in studying the textual material and to check his under- 
standing of the subject. It is not designed as a substitute for actual 
study; our purpose has been rather to provide material to help the 
student help himself. 

As is always true in an undertaking of this sort, we are indebted 
to many people for criticism, encouragement, and direct assistance. 
Specifically, appreciation is expressed to Mrs. Dorothy Zook for her 
painstaking and efficient assistance in preparing the manuscript; to 
Mrs. Virginia Chancey who was most helpful in the development of 
the book and who has provided the supplementary materials; to Dr. 
Clifford T. Morgan, Consulting Editor of the McGraw-Hill Series in 
Psychology, who offered many valuable suggestions regarding style 
and content; and to our many students who used the book in its pre- 
liminary editions and who made many suggestions that have influ- 
enced its final form. 




The 16mm sound films listed below are especially suitable for 
use in conjunction with this book: 


The education of an uninformed but implacable exponent 
of all the usual group prejudices. (Chapters 2 and 8.) 

15 minutes 

views and illustrates what is known and generally accepted 
about the relative influence of heredity and environment. 
(Chapters 2 and 16.) 13 minutes 

roles of heredity and environment, how they mesh in actual 
living, voluntary and involuntary actions, and the physical 
effects of emotion. (Chapter 2.) 9 minutes 

girl remembers episodes from her early life in which love, 
fear, and hate were not always controlled, and is then able 
to make a decision which shows her emotional growth. 
(Chapter 4.) 11 minutes 

THE BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR Describes the structure and 
function of the brain, especially its more complex areas, 
illustrated by case studies of persons with brain injuries. 
(Chapters 9 and 10.) 22 minutes 

HABIT PATTERNS How habits are formed, and the social 
and personal advantages of the early formation of orderly 
and systematic daily habits. (Chapter 9.) 15 minutes 

PERCEPTION Presents the theory that human perception is 
not merely a sensing of stimuli, but is a set of extremely 
elaborate processes through which we organize our sensory 
impressions. (Chapter 11.) 17 minutes 

FACING REALITY How a high school boy, the victim of 
negative social attitudes, is helped by a sympathetic in- 
structor who encourages him to talk over his problems. 
(Chapter 13.) 12 minutes 

CONFLICT The decisions confronting a typical college stu- 
dent illustrate some basic conflicts created when social 
beings face opposing goals in everyday situations. (Chap- 
ter 19.) 18 minutes 

All of the above may be purchased from the Text-Film Depart- 
ment of the McGraw-Hill Book Company. 


Preface v 


Interest in Human Behavior What Psychology Is 
Characteristics of a Science Psychology as a Science 
Psychology and Other Sciences Applied Psychology 
What Psychology Is Not Summary 


Heredity versus Environment Heredity and Environmental 

Influences on Traits Heredity Environment Interaction 

of Heredity and Environment Maturation Conclusion 

Some Definitions The Physiological Drives Social Motives 
Habit and Functional Autonomy of Motives Conflict of 

Motives Unconscious Motives Conclusion Summary 

4. E M O T I O N 68 

Four Aspects of Emotion The Nature of Emotion 


The Self-picture Unconscious Aspects of the Self 
Conscious and Unconscious in Psychology Identification and 
Ego-involvement What We Are and What We Appear to Be 
Self-rejection Degree of Consistency of the Self Summary 


Ways in Which We Defend the Self Mechanisms of 
Self-defense Self-defense and Mental Illness Conclusion 


What Personality Is Personality and the Self Classifying 
People Summary 


What Culture Is Personality and Culture in Other Societies 
The American Personality Conclusion Summary 


The Mind and the Brain Nerve Cells The Nervous 
System Function of the Brain The Internal Environment 
Comparative Psychology Conclusion Summary 

10. THE SENSES 188 

An Over-all View of Our Senses Vision Hearing 
(Audition) The Other Senses Interrelation of the Senses 



Meaning in Perception Stimulus Factors in Perception 

How Our Needs Affect Perception Frames of Reference and 

Perception Conclusion Summary 


Conditioned-response Learning Learning Instrumental 
Responses Learning of Skills How to Study Effectively 
Remembering and Forgetting Conclusion Summary 


The Nature of Thinking Symbols Problem Solving 

Efficiency in Thinking and Problem Solving Conclusion 



Nature of Attitudes and Beliefs Forming Our Beliefs and 
Attitudes Why Beliefs and Attitudes Tend to Be Stable 
Houo Beliefs and Attitudes Change Summary 


Nature of Positions and Roles How Roles Are Learned 
Carrying Out Roles Summary 


History of the Study of Individual Differences The Nature 
of the Differences between People Statistics in Psychology 


The Nature of Intelligence Intelligence Testing Levels 

of Intelligence Aptitudes Summary 


Ordinary Observation and the Appraisal of Others 
Psychological Tests in Appraisal and Evaluation Rating 

Methods of Appraisal The Interview in Appraisal 
Conclusion Summary 


Perceiving Ourselves in Relation to Others Maladjusted 
Relationships Improving Social Relationships Effective 
Leadership Summary 

Glossary 415 

Index 431 




Interest in psychology has been increasing 
steadily in recent years. Psychologists are 
now found in the armed services, in govern- 
ment agencies, in mental hospitals, and in 
business and industry, and they are becom- 
ing more and more numerous. Articles are 
written by and about psychologists in the 
leading magazines of our country, and psy- 
chological themes underlie the plots of a 
great many books. 

This development is not at all surprising, 
for all of us are concerned with human be- 
havior, and this is the principal area of 
investigation for psychology. All of us have 
to adjust to the presence and the reactions 
of other people, and frequently our most 
important need is to understand them, to 
know what their intentions or motives are, 
and to anticipate and even control their re- 
sponses. Under these circumstances we 
should expect a great deal of interest in 


Early in life we learn how important it 
is to each of us to get along satisfactorily 
with other people. We find that what others 
do to us and for us and how they feel about 
us make a great deal of difference. Our 
means of earning a livelihood and often our 
very existence depend on other people. 
Thus winning their approval or at least 
avoiding their great displeasure becomes 
a very important matter to each of us. 

Besides, we all need companionship. 
Friendship and family life, by their very 
nature, depend on other people. Some of 
our greatest satisfactions come from co- 
operating with others in projects in which 


we arc all interested, and some of our great- 
est disappointments stem from failure in 
such projects. 

This matter takes on even greater impor- 
tance if we happen to have responsibilities 
for leadership. Suppose we are officers in a 
club or some other group. If we take our 
responsibilities seriously, we are faced with 
the question of how to get people to work 
together to achieve a common purpose. 
How can we get the group to realize and 
adopt as their own the goals which they 
should set for themselves? How can we mo- 
tivate the group and the individual mem- 
bers of the group to work enthusiastically 
for these goals? What can we do to interest 
Bill? Will the same approach work for Joe 
and Mary, or shall we need two or even 
three different methods here? How far can 
we afford to go in turning leadership over 
to the group itself rather than keeping the 
decision making entirely in our own hands? 
Needless to say, our answers to such ques- 
tions as these will go a long way toward 
determining whether our group is success- 
ful or unsuccessful. 

The leader of a business enterprise faces 
the same problems, and he plays for high 
stakes as he strives for cooperation among 
people. Indeed, the success of the business 

as a whole depends to a large extent on the 
skill with which the leaders at the various 
levels in the organization are able to bring 
this about. 

The truth is that leaders in every aspect 
of our society industry, government, the 
church, the school, and the multitude of 
small voluntary endeavors must deal with 
such problems. Especially in a democracy 
like ours, where there are millions of "grass- 
roots" leaders, such questions are of the 
greatest importance. In a dictatorship, the 
people would be forced to accept the judg- 
ment of a single individual and his assist- 
ants, but in a democracy, the people ulti- 
mately decide. To a large extent, the future 
of a democracy depends on the skill of the 
people in selecting their leaders and on 
the ability of the leaders to accomplish ob- 
jectives through willing cooperation rather 
than through threat or force. Thus, it be- 
comes essential that we concern ourselves 
with and try to understand what makes 
people "tick." 

We are interested in understanding other 
people, however, even when we do not 
have the responsibilities of leadership. For 
example, we need to understand the be- 
havior of our friends. Sometimes their ac- 
tions are unexpected and unusual some- 
times even heroic. What makes a person 
act as he does, whether he is a hero, a cow- 
ard, or just an ordinary fellow? 

In addition to the behavior of others, we 
need and want to understand, and even to 
influence, our own behavior. From time to 
time, all of us behave unexpectedly and 
even harmfully. We may waste time, to the 
disappointment of our friends and our- 
selves. We may work too hard and injure 
our all-round development or even our 
health. We may even develop the symptoms 
of emotional disturbance or mental illness. 

Of course, we may also behave admi- 
rably. We may work hard and achieve some 
worthwhile goal, or we may spend time 
and energy in helping a good cause. At 


times we may be truly outstanding in what 
we do and receive the praise of others and 
-what is often just as desirable-of our- 
selves. One of our problems is understand- 
ing why we behave as we do. 

Thus, it is easy to understand why in- 
terest in psychology has been increasing. 
We have to know about people, and we 
hope psychologists can help us to under- 
stand them better. 


Let us look more closely at psychology 
and what it can contribute to understand- 
ing human behavior. What is psychology, 
and how does it go about accomplishing its 

Human Behavior as the Chief Concern 
of Psychology. As we have already indi- 
cated, psychology is chiefly concerned with 
what makes people behave as they clo. 
Thus, psychologists are interested in such 
topics as learning, emotion, intelligence, 
heredity and environment, differences be- 
tween individuals, the nature and develop- 
ment of personality, how we influence 
groups and they influence us, and the body 
as it relates to and affects human behavior. 
Each of these topics, it will be noticed, re- 
lates to how and why people behave as 
they do. 

Now it should be noted that the term 
"behavior," as we employ it in this book, 
is very broad. It includes what we^ think 
as well as what we do. It includes our feel- 
ings as well as our thoughts. It includes 

Figure 1.1. Must all successful groups have 
a leader? If one is not formally chosen, will 
the group members choose one informally? How 
important to a leader is the willingness of each 
member to follow him? 

our "mental" responses as well as our 
"physicar ones. It includes the normal re- 
actions in which we all engage, but it also 
includes our unusual, odd, or abnormal be- 

The point should be made, however, that 
human behavior is_not the only concern of 
psychology. Psychologists are also con- 
cerned with the behavior of lower animals, 
as will be seen later on in the discussion of 
various topics. When psychologists study 
the behavior of chimpanzees or white rats 
or other lower animals, this study is under- 
taken in large part for the light that it 
throws upon human behavior. From studies 
of lower animals, for example, we develop 
theories about the nature of learning that 
may be useful in understanding human be- 
ings. We also, incidentally, learn a good 
deal about the lower animals, and to some 
who are curious about nature that is satisfy- 
ing in itself. 

Psychology as a Science and an Art. One 
point that needs to be kept in mind is that 
psychology is a science. The next two sec- 
tions of this chapter discuss in some detail 
the nature of science and specifically the 
nature of psychology as a science. Perhaps 
it would be sufficient here to say, first, that 
psychology tries to be objective in the sense 
that it tries to decide questions on the basis 


oJacts^and_not on the basis of wishes or 
desires; and second, that psychology gets 
its facts by observations rather than by 
"armchair" theorizing. 

Psychology is an art and a profession as 
well as a science. Psychologists rjotpnly try 
to advance knowledge; they also attempt 
to apply it. Just as some chemists and physi- 
cists are engaged in research and others are 
making application of their knowledge, so 
some psychologists are engaged in research 
and some in practice. Certain psychologists, 
in other words, spend their lives getting 
more information about psychological prob- 
lems, while others are using this knowledge, 
and skills derived from it, in areas where 
they are needed. Psychology as an art or 
a profession, that is, psychology as it is 
applied, is examined in greater detail later 
in this chapter. 

Figure 1.2. While psychologists have a particular in- 
terest in the behavior of human beings, they are also 
concerned with the behavior of lower animals. Is it 
possible that things ledrned about white rats might 
enable us to understand more about human beings? 
Could one also simply become curious about how rats 
behave, and why? (Courtesy of Columbia Univer- 


We hear a great deal today about science; 
most people respect and even admire it. 
Often, however, they do not understand 
just what science is and what it is not. 

What do we mean when we use the term 
"science"? What do we mean when we say 
that psychology is a science? What are the 
distinctive features of a science? How is a 
science to be distinguished from "common 

It is not easy to describe science in de- 
tail, nor is it practical at this point to at- 
tempt a complete explanation of the sci- 
entific method. But let us look at some of 
the most important ways in which science 
differs from ordinary, unscientific endeavors. 

Dependence on Observation. One of the 
distinguishing features of a science is the 
extent to which it insists and depends upon 
.observation. This is quite different from 
looking for ways to support our present be- 
liefs. Yet it is a common human failing to 
start with the idea that a certain statement 
is true and then to consider only the evi- 
dence for it and overlook the facts that 
may be against it. In this way, nearly all 
of us, at one time or another, mistakenly 
bolster our cherished beliefs. 

So far as the scientist is concerned, how- 
ever, it is never sufficient simply to think, 
or believe that something is true. A scientist 
insists on observing under many different 
circumstances; he insists on having many 
different individual cases observed and also 
on having more than one observer. He de- 
mands that records be kept of the observa- 
tions that are made, and in general makes 
every effort to see that he is not misled by 
anybody's prejudices. This is what we mean 
when we say that science relies upon the 
method of observation. 

It should be clear, of course, that obser- 
vation is not the only method used by 
science, for if a scientist merely observes 
and never attempts to interpret or classify. 



then he can draw no conclusions. Scientists 
also must think about and reflect upon what 
they observe before they can reach conclu- 
sions. But the point is that such thinking is 
rooted in observation and goes beyond it 
only to the extent that is necessary. At 
times people may become unhappy with 
this conservative attitude of science, wish- 
ing that it would make very definite state- 
ments about controversial issues. But scien- 
tists have learned that it is better to be 
conservative than to outrun the evidence 
by any great degree. 

It is worth noting that two kinds of ob- 
servation are used by scientists. We call 
these experiment (or experimental observa- 
tion) and naturalistic observation. 

Experimental observation. In the first 
place, when we use the term "experiment/' 
we imply control of variables. That is to 
say, if we do an experiment, we make an 
attempt to find as nearly as we can all the 
factors that might influence the event in 
question. We attempt to find where and 
how these influences exert themselves, and 
then we do whatever we can to control 
themthat is, all of them except one. Obvi- 
ously, one of these influences must vary or 
change, or else nothing will happen at all. 
And so we allow, or even force, one of them 
to exert its effect, if any, in differing 

Let us take an example from the field of 
physics, where the point can be demon- 
strated very easily. If we wanted to study 
the effect of pressure on the volume of a 
gas enclosed in a vessel, we should want to 
hold constant everything else (except pres- 
sure, that is) that might influence the vol- 
ume of the gas. Thus, we should take spe- 
cial care to see that the temperature did 
not vary, because temperature might influ- 
ence volume. We might also be concerned 
with humidity and with impurities that 
might get into the gas in question. We 
should, in a word, try to hold constant all 
these other factors not specifically con- 

object being \ \ 
experimented ' * 

Figure 1.3. The nature of an experiment. Sup- 
pose we let each of the F's represent forces 
that may influence the object being experi- 
mented upon, yon will see that they are of 
different lengths (representing different 
amounts of force) and that they operate from 
various directions. If we let the line in front 
of the arrow serve as a means of blocking off 
or controlling the particular F, whij is one F 
(F 7 ) not blocked off? What sort of a variable 
do we call F 7 ? 

cerned in our experiment. Then we should 
either allow pressure to vary, or else force 
it to change while we measured volume. 
By doing this a number of times with dif- 
ferent amounts of pressure, we could ob- 
serve the effect of pressure on volume. 

Now, in such an experiment as this, the 
pressure is called the independent variable 
and the volume is called the dependent 
variable. The variable which we deliber- 
ately change, in other words, is the inde- 
pendent variable, and the variable which 
changes as a result of the changes in the 
independent variable is the dependent vari- 
able. This experiment, of course, could be 


turned around; we could force volume to 
change and note the resulting effect on 
pressure. In this case the volume would 
become the independent variable and pres- 
sure the dependent one. 

How does all this apply in the field of 
psychology? Psychologists make consider- 
able use of experiments. They attempt to 
control variables which would otherwise 
influence the outcome, in order to study a 
single variable independently of the others. 
This book includes a number of descrip- 
tions of experiments that have been carried 
out in the field of psychology. Some of these 
investigations are viewed as an integral 
part of the topic under discussion, and in 
that case they are simply described in the 
main body of the text. Others, however, 
serve as illustrations of the sort of research 
being discussed and in this case they are 
set in as special inserts. The first one of 
these immediately follows this discussion. 

Since this arrangement is used from time 

Figure 1.4. Clouds or "flying saucers"? One limita- 
tion of naturalistic observation is that we do not get 
a chance to see the effect of varying the forces that 
lead to a particular situation. If we are tense or upset, 
it is easy to interpret ambiguous stimuli in an entirely 
false way. Actually the photograph shows an unusual 
cloud formation over Marseilles, France. (Wide 
World Photos.) 

to time throughout the book, it would prob- 
ably be well to make some comments about 
it. For one thing, not all these inserts are 
experiments, since some do not involve the 
control of variables. (Most of the latter 
illustrate the method of naturalistic obser- 
vation, described below.) 

In the second place, they are included to 
give a clearer idea of what psychology is 
and how it proceeds. Actually becoming 
acquainted with such research is better 
than simply reading about general result^ 
obtained from many investigations. 

In the third place, there is usually more 
to each of these studies than can be pre- 
sented in the special inserts in this book. 
In a good many cases it will be worthwhile 
to go to the original article and read it. 
Furthermore, no attempt has been made to 
cover all significant investigations or even 
the most influential ones. Rather we have 
tried to find reports that are more or less 
typical of current research. 

Each of these reports, whether in our 
abbreviated form or in the original, should 
be examined carefully. Just what does the 
particular research contribute to our under- 
standing of human behavior? What impor- 
tant variables were controlled and which, 
jf any, were not taken into account? Should 
there be other studies along this line? These 
are examples of the kinds of questions that 
it will be helpful to try to answer. 

Naturalistic observation. Frankly, it 
would be ideal if we could get all our psy- 
chological knowledge from experiments, 
because obviously the experiment is rela- 
tively precise and definite. While no ex- 
periment is perfect, as a general rule experi- 
ments are very helpful in enabling us to 
conclude with considerable assurance about 
what we have observed. 

Unfortunately, it is not possible to apply 
the experimental method in every situation. 
Some of our observations cannot be con- 
trolled. Rather we have to observe some 
things as they happen (even sometimes as 






This experiment * illustrates the meaning of dependent and independent 
variables in psychological experiments. It is one of many which have been 
done by psychologists to test the efficiency of massed practice (all the trials 
in succession without any rest between them) as opposed to distributed prac- 
tice (a period of rest between each two trials or each group of trials). The 
task was to keep a pointer on a certain spot near the circumference of a re- 
volving disk. The disk was 6 inches in diameter and was turning at the 
rate of 54 revolutions per minute. 

The subjects were 100 college women each of whom was randomly as- 
signed to one of five groups (20 in each group). Each subject had 21 trials 

Performance of five groups 
of college women on a 
pursuit-rotor task. Figures 
in upper left-hand corner 
represent the number of 
seconds of rest between 
trials. (Journal of Experi- 
mental Psychology. Cour- 
tesy of the publisher.) 

of 30 seconds each, with a record kept of the number of seconds (out of the 
30) that the pointer was in contact with the designated spot. One group did 
all 21 trials successively. The second group rested 15 seconds between trials, 
the third rested 30 seconds between trials, and the fourth and fifth had 45 
seconds and 60 seconds respectively of rest between trials. 

It is clear that, under these circumstances, distributed practice (rest between 
trials) is better than massed practice (no rest between trials). The independent 
variable in this experiment was the amount of rest between successive trials; 
the dependent variable was the average of the percentage of the time that 
each girl was able to keep the pointer on the designated spot on the **'- 
volving disk. 

* Lyle E. Bourne, Jr., and E. James Archer, ''Time Continuously on Target as a Function 
of Distribution of Practice," Jo urn o/ of Experimenfa/ Psycho/ogy, 1956, 51:25-33. 


they happen to happen) and do the best 
we can to draw accurate conclusions. For 
example, how is an astronomer going to 
control all other variables while he studies 
the effect of Mars on the earth's orbit? He 
can do only one thing: observe the earth 
and Mars and all the other planets as they 
actually move, and draw his conclusions on 
that basis. 

Likewise, in a good many situations en- 
countered in psychology, we have to de- 
pend upon this second method of observa- 
tion. We must take nature as it comes and 
make the best of the situation. Even though 
we should like to experiment, we are forced 
to depend on naturalistic observation. Here 
it becomes especially important, however, 
to guard against prejudices and misconcep- 
tions by taking the precautions already 
mentioned, such as careful notes, many ob- 
servations, many observers, and observa- 
tions under as many circumstances as prac- 
ticable. A good deal of what is covered in 
some of the chapters that follow was ar- 
rived at in this way. 

The Law of Parsimony. Although psy- 
chologists must depart from their observa- 
tions as they summarize and draw conclu- 
sionsbecause mere observations alone 
never interpret themselves they still stay 
as close to these observations as is prac- 
ticable. In an earlier age, there was a 
tendency to explain things in terms of con- 
cepts, called "essences," that the thinker de- 
vised or found ready-made in his society. 
Thus, a great deal was said about things 
like "mind" or "will" or "conscience," all of 
which were used as explanatory terms. 
Today we are wary of using these terms, 
simply because they get a long way from 
the actual observations themselves. Rather, 
in our explanations, we make every effort 
to stay as close to the observations them- 
selves as possible and it is difficult, if not 
impossible, to observe a will or a mind or a 

For example, we all realize that human 

beings make choices. They decide to do a 
certain thing and not to do something else. 
But how are these choices made? WJiat 
does the choosing? It is easy to say that 
the choice is made by the "mind" or by the 
"will." Thus, we might say "My will 
chooses" or "My mind chooses." This state- 
ment may sound like an explanation, but 
it really is not, for it merely assumes an 
unobserved essence. It would be much 
closer to the observed facts simply to say, 
"I choose," or "The organism chooses." The 
point is that concepts like mind or will are 
essences far removed from actual observa- 
tions; they have little value as explanations 
or answers to questions. 

This brings us to an important principle 
of science, sometimes called the law of 
parsimony and formulated many years ago. 
The principle is that, when two possible 
explanations are both adequate, the simpler 
should be chosen. By "simpler" is meant, 
not the simpler to understand, but the 
simpler in terms of the number of un- 
verified assumptions made. The theory of 
relativity, for example, is quite simple 
from the standpoint of its structure and the 
assumptions it makes, though its implica- 
tions and consequences are so complex that 
few people fully understand them. In psy- 
chology, it may seem simple to explain be- 
havior by appealing to "mind," "will," "in- 
stinct," or other assumed essences, but such 
explanations actually complicate the prob- 
lem by interjecting essences which them- 
selves need explanation and are difficult, if 
not impossible, to observe. Psychologists, as 
scientists, prefer explanations that involve 
the fewest possible assumptions, provided, 
of course, the explanations really explain. 

Objectivity. Scientists also pride them- 
selves on drawing from their observations 
conclusions that are unbiased by their own 
wishes or desires about the outcome. Of 
course, most of us think that we do this, 
but scientists have taken special steps to 
make reasonably sure that their conclusions 



are in fact objective and not based on feel- 
ing or prejudice. 

For one thing, they deliberately cultivate 
objectivity or open-mindedness. They are 
willing to question any conclusion or any 
assumption, and they often take consider- 
able pride in this willingness. This attitude 
can be carried too far, it is true, but most 
of us do not have enough of it. 

For another thing, as we have already 
mentioned, they insist on trying or observ- 
ingthe same thing (or as near to it as 
possible) a number of times before reach- 
ing a definite conclusion. Certainly, they 
reason, if the conclusion is correct, it should 
continue to hold up in repeated tests. 

Another factor involved in scientific ob- 
jectivity i$_ agreement in the observations 
made by different scientists. Science is not 
the opinion of a single individual. It is 
verifiable knowledge, and scientists would 
be most reluctant to accept an observation 
if only one individual found evidence for it. 

Finally, there is the matter of carefully 
kept, accurate records. It is not sufficient 
to have a general impression of what has 
been discovered. The scientist must be as 
accurate as possible both in his observa- 
tions and in the conclusions he draws, and 
this usually requires the keeping of careful 

Thus, psychologists share the feeling of 
other scientists that conclusions must be 
based on facts, and so they do their best 
to lay feelings aside when they draw con- 

Knowing for the Sake of Knowing. It is 
easy to understand why science is inter- 
ested in solving practical problems. These 
often make a lot of difference obviously 
and immediately. What is not so generally 
recognized is that most of the world's great 
scientists, as well as many students of sci- 
ence, have been motivated by another as- 
pect in science: the desire to know for the 
sake of knowing. In a good many instances, 
we pursue questions in science not because 

we expect useful results, but because we 
are curious about the answer. We want to 
know, without considering whether our 
knowledge will be useful or not. 

There is nothing unnatural or even un- 
usual about wanting to know simply for 
the sake of knowing. It is characteristic of 
some of us much of the time and of almost 
all of us some of the time. The subject may 
be the current major-league baseball race, 
or the geography of the South Sea Islands, 
or how a jet motor differs from one of the 
more conventional types, or something else. 
The point is that we want to know just 
because wr want to know. And it can be 
very gratifying to find out. 

The curiosity of a boy about motors is a 
good illustration. From some source his 
father or his general science teacher or 
something he has seen on television he 
learns about automobile engines and how 
they work. He tries to find out more and 
becomes acquainted with diesels. And then 
he hears about turbines and jets, and he 
just cannot rest until he knows a great deal 
more about all of them. As everybody 
knows, once such an interest is developed 
this boy may spend hours reading, tinker- 
ing, and experimenting not for money or 
fame now or in the future, but just because 
he wants to know. 

But why is this important for our pur- 
pose? Suppose the boy does know how the 
engines work what difference does it 
make? Sometimes maybe most of the time 
-it really makes no difference (though he 
goes right on wanting to know, just the 
same). But sometimes it does make a dif- 
ference. In fact, it may make all the dif- 
ference in the world. 

The fact is that most of the significant 
discoveries of the last 300 to 500 years have 
been made by people who wanted to know 
merely for the sake of knowing. Somehow, 
when a person gets too "practical" in his 
outlook he may fail to see possibilities of 
great significance because he is too short- 


Table 1.1 Three Methods of Studying Human Behavior 



Experiment (or 

Distinctive feature of 
the method 

When introduced into 

When used by scien- 
tific psychology 

Characteristics of con- 
clusions drawn 

Provision for checking 

Amount of time re- 

Chief limitations of 
the method 

Reasoning from conclu- 
sions already ac- 
cepted (and not 

2,000-2,500 years ago 


Sweeping generaliza- 
zations; not close to 
experience or the 
facts; deals with 
broad and often in- 
definite issues; much 
use of "essences" 

Examines reasoning for 
logical fallacies 

Very little; conclusions 
easy to draw 

Conclusions likely to be 
partly or wholly false; 
original assumption 
not examined in re- 
lation to observed 

Careful observation of 
events as they occur 

A.D. 1860-1880 

When it is not practica- 
ble to use experi- 

Avoids "essences"; fol- 
lows law of parsi- 
mony; limited in 

Many observations by 
many observers; care- 
ful recording of re- 
sults; consideration of 
alternative explana- 

A great deal; Involves 
hard work 

Time-consuming and ex- 
pensive; conclusions 
often less sweeping 
and inclusive than we 
wish they were 

Control of all variables 
except the independ- 
ent one 

A.D. 1860-1880 

Whenever the situation 
permits control of sig- 
nificant variables 

Same as for naturalistic 

Repeated observations 
by different observ- 
ers; making other 
variables the inde- 
pendent one and not- 
ing results; careful 
records; consideration 
of alternative expla- 

Most of all; often time- 

Same as for naturalistic 
observation except 
often more time-con- 
suming and expen- 
sive; difficult to con- 
trol variables in many 



sighted to appreciate them. When, on the 
other hand, he goes where curiosity leads 
him, he often comes upon ideas, principles, 
and discoveries of great practical conse- 

Many modern inventions, from the tele- 
graph to the atom bomb, are based on dis- 
coveries of people who were not trying to 
invent anything at all. They were not try- 
ing to be practical. They were trying to 
satisfy their own curiosity. The whole elec- 
trical industry is an example. Volta, Gal- 
vani, Ohm, Ampere, and Faraday to men- 
tion just a few were not inventors trying 
to start a new industry and revolutionize 
sources of power or even to invent a tele- 
graph. Rather they were "pure" scientists, 
men with great curiosity and the imagina- 
tion and drive necessary to satisfy this curi- 
osity. Their discoveries, however, were cru- 
cial to the electrical industry. 

So we see, first, that it is not unnatural to 
be interested in knowing for the sake of 
knowing, and second, that such curiosity 
and attempts to satisfy it may ultimately 
have great practical value. 


We cannot emphasize too strongly that 
observation and objectivity, as well as the 
desire to know for the sake of knowing, 
characterize psychology as well as the other 
sciences. The essential thing about a sci- 
ence is not its subject matter or even its 
findings and conclusions. The most distin- 
guishing feature of a science is a spirit, an 
attitude, a set of values, and a group of 
methods for obtaining knowledge. Because 
psychology shares in the spirit, attitude, 
and values of science, and because it uses 
the methods of science, it must be classified 
as one of the sciences of the modern era. 

Indeed, this is the principal way in which 
modern psychology differs from the psy- 
chology of a century or more ago. Among 
the Greeks, during medieval times, and 

indeed until the latter half of the nineteenth 
century, the chief way of arriving at con- 
clusions about human behavior was to 
think about what people did and to specu- 
late about its meaning. "Armchair theoriz- 
ing" and a priori reasoning were the prin- 
cipal tools employed in the task of under- 
standing man's behavior. 

These tools were dull and inept; they 
proved poorly suited for the job. All too 
often each theorist came to conclusions that 
disagreed with those of others. And there 
was no way to tell which one, if any, was 

This situation continued until men 
adopted :i new method of "putting the 
question Li nature," that is, the scientific 
method of carefully observing the facts and 
then interpreting them as cautiously as 
practicable, so that conclusions reached 
would stay as close to the facts as possible, 
Mere observations cannot interpret them- 
selves, and so principles or theories have 
to be introduced as interpretations. The 
important point here is to be careful that 
the theories we develop represent not what 
we should like to believe or what might be 
true but rather what reasonably follows 
from what has been observed. This means 
that scientists, including psychologists, do 
not make as many broad assertions or 
sweeping generalizations as people did in 
the prcscientific era. 

It would not be fair to leave the impres- 
sion that this new approach has solved all 
our problems. Surely there are many things 
as yet not understood about people. Still, 
progress has been made, and we feel that 
the future holds real promise for those who 
approach these problems as scientists using 
the scientific metfwd. 


Before we look further into the nature of 
psychology as a science and as a profession, 
let us examine its relationship to some of 







Here is another example of the application of the scientific method to the 
understanding of human behavior. One problem which has interested psy- 
chologists for the last fifty years or more is whether favorable or unfavorable 
material is remembered better. There are good arguments for each sort of 
material, and the many experiments done on the question have not always 
come to the same conclusion. This experiment * is another in the series. 

Recalls Immediately after Hearing the Story 



of re- 




Type of 











Favorable to Negroes 





2.36 t 

Unfavorable to Negroes 
























t Significant at .05 level 
\ Significant at .01 level 

A story was read to a group of 30 Negro boys and a group of 30 white 
boys. They were all in the same school, were matched in an earlier experi- 
ment for ability to recall, and had average mental ages (see Chapter 17) 
of 12 years 5 months and 12 years 7 months respectively. 

The story was about a Negro baseball pitcher who was not allowed to play 
major-league baseball in the United States and who went to Brazil and 
achieved success, though he was still homesick for the United States. The 
story contained items that judges believed Negroes would find favorable, 

* From Ronald Taft, "Selective Recall and Memory Distortion of Favorable and Un- 
favorable Material/' Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1954, 49:23-28. 

the other sciences, for there are others in- 
terested in human behavior. The truth is 
that all the social sciences and many of the 
biological sciences work in this field and 
have made significant contributions to it. 

We are concerned primarily with the re- 
lationship between psychology and the 
three sciences closest to it in subject matter: 
-anthropology, sociology, and physiology. 

Psychology and Anthropology. Anthro- 
pology literally means "the study of man," 
and while this is descriptive to a degree, it 
actually takes in too much territory. More 

specifically, anthropology studies man in 
groups, and ordinarily in large groups. One 
phase of anthropology, called physical an- 
thropology, deals with the physical charac- 
teristics of the various peoples of the world. 
This certainly includes a study of the vari- 
ous races of mankind (so long as the term 
"race" continues to be a useful way of clas- 
sifying people ), their size, weight, and other 
physical characteristics, as well as their 
intellectual and emotional traits. Another 
branch of anthropology, called, cultural an- 
thropology, deals with various cultures, the 



others which would be unfavorable, and still others which would be neither 
favorable nor unfavorable. The story was broken down into the separate 
ideas or thoughts it contained (the "recalls" of the accompanying tables), 
and each was rated by three judges as to whether it was favorable to 
Negroes, unfavorable to Negroes, ambiguous, or neutral. The tables present 
the results obtained. 

These tables involved some statistical concepts that we do not have time 
to go into here. But it is clear that Negroes recalled a significantly greater 

Recalls Three Days after Hearing the Story 



of re- 




Type of 











Favorable to Negroes 






Unfavorable to Negroes 
























* Significant at .01 kvel 

number of items than did whites and also a significantly greater number of 
favorable (to Negro) items. This was true for recall immediately after the 
story was read and also for recall three days after it was read. 

The authors conclude that within the framework of this experiment there 
is a tendency to recall more items, favorable and unfavorable, if a member 
of the person's own group (or a group with which he identifies) is involved 
and that this is especially true of items favorable to that group. 

typical personalities to be found in each 
culture, the influence of culture on person- 
ality, and the like. If an anthropologist is 
interested in the various characteristics of 
a certain culture, he studies its institutions 
and the ways people behave in it, including 
their ways of meeting crises and celebrat- 
ing joyous events. He is also concerned 
with how this culture or this people com- 
pares with others. 

The principal distinction between psy- 
chology and anthropology lies in the em- 
phasis of the former on the individual and 

of the latter on the group. Obviously, to 
understand an individual it is often neces- 
sary to understand his culture. And to 
understand a culture it is often necessary 
to understand how the people in it perceive 
and feel about it. Thus, psychology and 
anthropology have certain problems in 
common and areas of knowledge in which 
they supplement each other. 

Psychology and Sociology. Sociology is 
another science directly concerned with hu- 
man behavior. Like anthropology, it deals 
with people in groups, but ordinarily in 



smaller groups. Group behavior is the pri- 
mary concern of sociologists, who also study 
the influence of groups on the individuals 
who comprise the groups. Sociologists also 
deal with social problems, including such 
things as crime and juvenile delinquency, 
divorce, the development of and changes in 
the family, war and other forms of group 
conflict, and similar topics. They too are 
concerned with the influence of social forces 
on personality and the ways in which these 
forces operate on the individual. 

Again we see two sciences that have a 
great deal in common. The concern of psy- 
chology with the individual person and why 
he behaves as he does differs from the con- 
cern of sociology for the nature and be- 
havior of the group. The two sciences have 
areas of overlapping, but the point of view 
and the emphasis are different. 

Psychology and Physiology. A science 
that is not always thought of as dealing 
with human behavior although it actually 
does is physiology. This science studies the 
functions of the various organs (e.g., the 
stomach or the heart) of the body and 
its various systems (e.g., the digestive or 
circulatory system). This study, of course, 
involves not only the systems themselves 
but also the ways in which they interact. 
Hence, how the body functions, as well as 
how its parts or systems operate, is the 
domain of the physiologist. This is quite 
different from the concern of psychology 

Figure 1.5. Some of the relationships between 
psychology and other sciences. From the dia- 
gram would you conclude that (a) psychology 
studies human behavior and nothing else 

(b) other sciences also study human behavior 

(c) the various sciences overlap, that is> have 
areas of common interest? What other sciences 
or areas of study might be represented by 
circles in the above diagram? Where would 
you draw each? 

for the individual as a person, as a knowing, 
thinking, and otherwise reacting organism. 

Differences in Emphasis among the Sci- 
ences. The distinction between related sci- 
ences is usually not a matter of hard and 
fast differences, with clear lines separating 
the sciences in question; rather it is one of 
varying emphasis. Thus, it is not possible 
to draw a line clearly dividing anthropology 
from sociology, or to separate sharply soci- 
ology from psychology or psychology from 
physiology. In each case, one of these spills 
over into the other ( or perhaps into several 
others), and two or more sciences often 
study the same subject matter. For example, 
both physiology and psychology are inter- 
ested in the functioning of the nervous sys- 
tem, though each from a somewhat different 
point of view. Psychology, sociology, and 
anthropology all concern themselves with 
the relationship of the group and the in- 
dividual, but again the emphasis differs 
for each science. Incidentally, we have a 
similar situation in physics and chemistry, 
where the emphasis differs but no hard and 
fast boundaries can be drawn. 

It is easy to get the idea that this is an 
unfortunate situation and that the various 
sciences should straighten out their titles to 



certain territories or areas of subject mat- 
ter. Verbal battles have sometimes been 
fought over such issues, but fortunately 
for the welfare of science and society no 
permanent victories have been won. Areas 
of overlap in science can be opportunities 
for cooperation, and two groups of scien- 
tists, working together, have often attained 
insights denied to either group working 
alone. Human behavior is obviously a field 
that is complex and not so well understood 
as we should like it to be. No one has a 
monopoly on information about it or on 
methods of studying it. It is the concern of 
many sciences, including psychology. 


One striking fact about modern psychol- 
ogy is, as we mentioned earlier, the increas- 
ing number of psychologists, especially 
since World War II. A great many more 
people are now earning a livelihood as psy- 
chologists than were doing so a few short 
years ago. This growth is largely due to the 
expansion of research and professional serv- 
ices concerned with the applications of psy- 

Until recently a majority of psychologists 
were engaged in teaching. Now teaching is 
still an important field of employment, but 
positions concerned with research and ap- 
plying psychology to practical problems 
are the more numerous. 

Psychology is now applied in a number 
of situations, varying from those that deal 
with children to those that deal with old 
people, and from those that deal with peo- 
ple who are in great difficulty to those that 
deal with people in positions of responsible 
leadership. Let us look at some of these 
fields in which psychologists are applying 
the findings of the science. 
-Clinical Psychology. The largest single 
group of professional psychologists are 
those who work in mental hospitals, mental 
health clinics, and the like. Clinical psy- 

chologists, as the term implies, deal with 
people in difficulty. Some of these persons 
may have a serious mental illness, while 
others m^ have encountered more than 
their share of the problems we all face or 
may lack the skill that most of us have de- 
veloped for dealing with such problems. 

Here it might be wise to make a distinc- 
tion between a clinical psychologist and a 
psychiatrist. Ordinarily a clinical psycholo- 
gist has a Ph.D. in psychology. Having 
finished a bachelor of arts degree (and pos- 
sibly a master of arts degree also) in psy- 
chology or a related field, he goes on to get 
the doctor'--; degree in psychology. In the 
course of earning this degree, he usually 
serves at least one year of internship, which 
gives practical experience in dealing with 
persons having psychological difficulties. 
This is a valuable supplement to classwork. 

The psychiatrist, on the other hand, al- 
ways has a medical degree. After complet- 
ing his premedical training he usually 
spends four years in medical school, some 
time as an intern, and then some more as a 
resident. His area of specialty is the care 
and treatment of people with emotional and 
mental illness. 

Another person who works with mentally 
disordered individuals, or with persons in 
difficulty, is the psychiatric social worker. 
He usually has a master's degree in social 
work and specializes in getting information 
about and understanding people who have 
emotional difficulties. 

In many clinics and hospitals the team 
approach is used, the team consisting of a 
psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, and a 
psychiatric social worker. To some extent 
each member of this team specializes in a 
particular area, but they combine their 
training and talents in investigating the 
problems of a particular patient and, after 
the diagnosis, in helping him regain his 
mental health. Many who work in this field 
feel that the team approach is proving its 
effectiveness and strengthening our efforts 



to combat problems in the area of mental 

Counseling Psychology. Another field of 
professional specialization in psychology is 
known as counseling psychology. Though 
counseling and clinical psychology are 
closely related, they have two fairly distinct 
roles in the general scheme of psychological 

We use the word "counseling" to refer to 
the function of psychologists whose prin- 
cipal job is to deal with people who are 
in need of help or advice but not primarily 
with people who have emotional difficulties. 
A typical example is to be found in the 
Veterans Administration, where the coun- 
selor acquaints an individual with voca- 
tional opportunities and gives him informa- 
tion designed to better his vocational ad- 
justments. Since a person's vocation influ- 
ences so many phases of his life, counseling 
psychologists often are called upon to deal 
with other problems which the individual 
may be facing. 

Of course, not all counselors are psy- 
chologists. Other people do counseling 
teachers, social workers, supervisors, min- 
isters, lawyers, physicians, and so forth. But 
psychologists counsel too, and the point 
that needs to be emphasized is that one 
branch of psychology is concerned with 
the theory, as well as the practice and tech- 
niques, of counseling. 

A branch of psychology closely related 
to counseling is to be found in the work of 
the school psychologist. School psycholgists 
often do educational and vocational coun- 
seling, but they also give advice and guid- 
ance on matters having to do with cur- 
riculum planning, teacher training, prob- 
lems of parents, and the like. 

Psychology in Business and Industry. 
Psychologists also practice professionally in 
business and industry. Human-relations 
problems in business and industry are often 
as important as any other sort, and the need 
for effective teamwork is probably nowhere 

greater than it is in this particular area. 

Psychologists participate in the affairs of 
business and industry in at least three ways. 
In the first place, they have made some real 
contributions to business management by 
making it possible to do a better job of 
selecting, placing, and training employees. 
Here the first contribution that comes to 
mind is probably that of psychological tests, 
but while they have been important, they 
are not by any means the whole story. In- 
terviews are also useful, and even observa- 
tion of behavior over a period of time has 
proved worthwhile. Furthermore, psycholo- 
gists have been able to improve methods 
of training people for their jobs. 

In the second place, there are psycholo- 
gists who specialize in counseling with the 
executives of a business and otherwise help- 
ing in their development. They are often 
the persons with whom the executive "talks 
out" his problems, and they help him 
gain insight into his own limitations and 
strengths and to improve his skill as an 
executive. The emphasis here is primarily 
on self-improvement, for in these matters 
as in many others, real development must 
come from within the individual. ' 

This process of helping executives and 
supervisors to grow and develop is some- 
times carried out with groups rather than 
with individuals. Through research, psy- 
chologists have uncovered some of the 
factors that distinguish successful leaders 
from those not so successful, and the in- 
dustrial psychologist often has the opportun- 
ity to translate these findings into a form 
and a set of skills that will make them use- 
ful to the manager. 

The third area in which psychology has 
played an increasing role in business and 
industry is often called human engineering. 
As the world of work becomes more com- 
plex and the machines and processes with 
which we have to deal become more in- 
volved, the problems of the control of the 
means of production or transportation be- 




This experiment * throws some light on the work of the human engineer. 
The purpose was to determine which of several types of dials would give 
the most useful readings of an altimeter (instrument for measuring altitude). 
Each dial was presented to the subjects with twelve different settings. They 
were printed in a test booklet, with space provided in each case for indicat- 
ing the correct reading. As far as possible, the printed designs were of the 
same size, with the same legibility of printing, the same number of grada- 
tions, etc. The order of presentation of the different dials was also varied 
systematically to reduce the practice effect. The subjects were 97 United 
States Air Force cadets and 79 college students without aircrew experience. 

The accompanying figure presents the various types of dials used and also 
the results obtained. Dial A was one commonly in use at the time of the 
experiment, and, as can be seen, it showed up poorly both in errors and 
time for interpretation. It is interesting to note that at least in some cases the 
results of this study are quite different from what would be predicted by 
so-called "common sense." 

Errors of 1,000 feet or more, per cent 
Interpretation time, seconds 







1 97 AAF pilots 
I I 79 college students 


23,000 rr 


22.900 -^ 

700 -; 


[i] 3 


| 27.800~ 





500 -z 

22,600 -^ 


22,500 -^ 

Errors of 1,000 feet or more, per cent 
Interpretation time, seconds 





U 1 9 


I 0.0 

I 0.0 
I 0.0 

Speed and accuracy in reading altitude from different types of instruments. 
(Note that instrument I proved most satisfactory under these conditions.) 
(W. F. Grether, Instrument Reading: /, The Design of Long-scale Indica- 
tors for Speed and Accuracy of Quantitative Readings, Journal of Applied 
Psychology, 33:365, 1949. Courtesy of the publisher.) 

* W. F. Grether, "Instrument Reading: I. The Design of Long-scale Indicators for Speed 
and Accuracy of Quantitative Readings/' Journal of Applied Psychology, 1949, 33:363-372. 



come more difficult. Indeed, in many in- 
stances, more information can be given to 
the operator of a machine than he is able 
to perceive and use. Consider, for example, 
a large airplane. It has a number of engines, 
and each engine has a number of instru- 
ments reporting on its performance. Clearly, 
more information can be fed into the cock- 
pit of the plane than any individual could 
ever assimilate in any reasonable length 
of time. Indeed, more information can be 
displayed in the cockpit than a crew of 
several men are able to assimilate. The 
problem is to make this information as 
usable as possible. 

There is a question, for instance, as to 
what sort of design an instrument ought 
to have. Should it be black on white, or 
white on black? Should it be large or small? 
Where should it be located? These and 
many more complex questions are of in- 
terest to the human engineer. 

Perhaps nowhere can we find a better il- 
lustration of the difference between psy- 
chology and "common sense." The common- 
sense approach to this problem would be 
to figure out which of these would seem 
to be the most serviceable and to use it. 
The psychologist, on the other hand, uses 
the experimental approach. He experiments 
with various kinds of cockpits and instru- 
ments and controls, and by holding other 
variables constant, determines not which 
one looks as though it would work best but 
rather which one really does work best. 
There is no doubt of the superiority of the 
psychologist's approach to this sort of prob- 

Problems of this sort are to be found in 
many aspects of the world of work, and the 
contributions to their solution by psycholo- 
gists may ultimately touch the lives of all 
of us. 

" Psychology and Attitude Measurement. 
Finally, among the applied fields we have 
chosen to discuss, there is the field in 

which the attitudes of individuals or groups 
are measured. Such attitude measurement 
has been used extensively in public-opin- 
ion polling (of which the so-called "Gallup 
poll" is an example) and in market re- 

We are all familiar in a general way with 
polling procedures. Questions are carefully 
designed and studied and, when considered 
satisfactory, are asked of a great many peo- 
ple. Their responses are carefully noted, 
and conclusions are drawn concerning the 
attitudes of a larger group of people with 
regard to the matter being studied. This 
technique may be used to determine the 
feeling of people toward the several presi- 
dential hopefuls or toward a new brand of 

Complexity of the Field of Psijchology. 
By now it is apparent that modern psy- 
chology is not a simple field, with all psy- 
chologists having the same interests and 
skills. The various sorts of psychologists 
have a number of things in common, but 
they also have their own special interests. 

The complexity of the field can be seen 
from a study of the American Psychological 
Association. This is the scientific and pro- 
fessional organization of American psychol- 
ogists. Minimum requirements for associate 
membership are two years of graduate 
study in psychology (or one year of grad- 
uate study plus one year of experience in 
professional work that is psychological in 
nature) and employment in a job that is 
primarily psychological (or continuation of 
graduate study in psychology). More and 
more the Ph.D. degree is being required 
of people who are recognized as psycholo- 
gists. In 1956 the association had about 
15,000 members, in 1957 16,000. 

At present the association is organized 
into seventeen divisions, some set up pri- 
marily on the basis of applied interests and 
others primarily on the basis of subject 
matter. These divisions are as follows: 


General Psychology 

The Teaching of Psychology 

Experimental Psychology 

Evaluation and Measurement 

Developmental Psychology 

Abnormal and Social Psychology 

The Society for the Psychological Study of 

Social Issues 

Clinical Psychology 
Consulting Psychology 
Industrial and Business Psychology 
Educational Psychology 
School Psychologists 
Counseling Psychology 
Psychologists in Public Service 
Military Psychology 
Maturity and Old Age 

This list emphasizes the point made earlier 
that some psychologists are essentially re- 
search scientists, others arc primarily teach- 
ers of psychology, and still others are prac- 

ticing in various fields of applied psychol- 
ogy. Psychology is thus both a science and 
an ai t or a profession. 


So far we have been talking about what 
psychology is and how it relates to science 
in general. Let us look now at some of the 
popular misconceptions of psychology and 
see wherein these are in error. 

Psychology and the Mysterious. Many 
people imagine that psychology is some- 
thing magical or mysterious and that some- 
how psychologists have a superior or al- 
most superhuman way of looking into the 
thoughts and feelings of a person. The no- 
tion is, in other words, that there is a psy- 
chological method or approach, and that 
anyone who knows how to use this and 
uses it successfully has an advantage over 
anyone who lacks it. 

Psychology, however, is no more myste- 

Figure 1.6. Some people seem to think that 
psychologists have insight into human behavior 
that is little short of magical or mysterious. 
Others hold that we learn about human be- 
havior only from experience and that psycholo- 
gists really have nothing to contribute to our 
understanding of this subject. Neither of these 
extreme positions is correct. 


rious than medicine or engineering or the 
other sciences. It is an ordinary, everyday, 
hard-working science. It has no magic, no 
mysterious ways, and no dark or hidden 
routes by which it gets its knowledge. 
Whatever psychologists have learned, they 
have learned through observation, through 
careful reflection upon what they have ob- 
served, and through the checking of their 
conclusions with other persons in this and 
other fields. Psychology is neither magical 
nor mysterious. 

Psychology and "Common Sense." Some 
people go to the opposite extreme and as- 
sume that psychology is essentially nothing 
more than common sense. To them, psy- 
chology is simply what wise people have 
discovered from their experience, whether 
they have ever had formal training in the 
subject or not. 

It would, of course, be overstating the 
case to say that psychologists have a mo- 
nopoly of knowledge of human behavior. 
We have already acknowledged the role of 
the other sciences in studying human be- 
havior, and we tnust further recognize that 
nonscientific endeavors, such as religion, 
literature, and the law, also have useful 
contributions to make to this understanding. 
We are not maintaining, in other words, 
that only psychologists understand any- 
thing about human behavior. 

The fact nevertheless remains that sci- 
1 entific psychology and the "psychology" 
i of common sense are often rather different. 
For one thing, there are statements that 
are accepted by common sense but not 
accepted by psychology. One example of 
this is the common notion that those who 
are insane or seriously mentally ill have 
"lost their minds." In other words, insane 
people are considered to be unable to 
reason adequately or accurately. This com- 
mon-sense idea of insanity is far from the 
truth. Although intellectual abilities are 
sometimes disturbed in mental illness, a 
great many individuals who are insane are 

not suffering from lack of ability to reason. 
If given an intelligence test, they do as well 
on it as ever. In such cases, the difficulty is 
not in the intellectual realm at all but rather 
in the field of emotion. Thus, psychology 
must insist that insanity cannot be regarded 
as the "loss of mind." 

On the other hand, a good many things 
that are accepted by psychology are not 
accepted by common sense. An example 
relates to the phenomenon of color. The 
common-sense view of color is that the color 
is in the object which we see. Thus, if we 
see yellow flowers and blue flowers in a 
vase on our desk, common sense says the 
yellowness and the blueness are actually 
in the flowers themselves. From the stand- 
point of modern science this view is en- 
tirely unacceptable. We have every reason 
at present to believe that the color is not 
in the object but rather in the pcrceiver. 
The object reflects to our eyes light waves 
of a certain length, and the color which we 
see depends upon the length of the par- 
ticular light waves. Thus, if long light waves 
strike our eyes we get a seilsation which 
we call red, while if short light waves 
strike our eyes we get a sensation which 
we call violet. Light waves of intermediate 
length may lead to blue or green or yellow. 
But there is no serious reason to believe 
that the flowers themselves are colored. 
Color is our response to light waves which 
they reflect. 

Thus, it can be seen that psychology, 
while it sometimes agrees with common 
sense, is not just common sense. It does not 
agree with all that common sense holds, 
and common sense sometimes mistakenly 
holds to what psychology has shown to be 

Psychology and the Pseudo Sciences. 
People sometimes confuse psychology with 
a whole group of endeavors which have 
come to be known as pseudo sciences. 
(These are called pseudo sciences because 
the term pseudo means "false/*) Among 



these pseudo sciences are phrenology, physi- 
ognomy, numerology, palmistry, and astrol- 
Why do we call them false sciences? In 
the first place, as will be clear when we 
examine them in some detail, the claims 
made by them simply do not fit with the 
other established facts about the nature of 
the world and of man. In the second place, 
they are untrue to, or inconsistent with, the 
spirit of science and the scientific method. 
In other words, they do not stick close to 
the facts but rather rely on essences for 
their explanations. They do not depend pri- 
marily on observation but rather on a priori 
reasoning and predetermined conclusions 
and prejudices. Instead of being objective 
they select evidence supporting their posi- 
tions, while overlooking, neglecting, or even 
denying the facts that do not fit their pre- 

Let us look more closely at some of these 
endeavors. Phrenology goes back about 150 
to 175 years. A celebrated anatomist by the 
name of Gall got the idea that he could re- 
late the contours of the brain to the mental 
life of the individual. He further believed 
that the contour of the skull reflects ac- 
curately the contour of the brain. He went 
on to map out the brain area, finding 
thirty-nine "propensities" and "faculties," 
as he called them, each with its own local- 
ized area. Thus, he concluded that the in- 
tellectual faculties are mainly concentrated 
in the forehead and that emotional factors 
are located toward the back part of the 
head. Gall believed that the size of an area 
was a measure of the strength of the par- 
ticular faculty, and hence he advocated 
careful mapping of these areas. 

We now know that Gall's suppositions 
were without foundation, although different 
parts of the brain and even of the cerebrum 
do have different functions. There is no 
reason to believe that we actually have the 
faculties which he designated (or any fac- 
ulties, for that matter) or that they were 

located as he thought they were. Further- 
more, the contours of the brain cannot be 
inferred from the shape of the skull, nor 
is the size of a brain area correlated with 
the strength of a faculty. All Gall's major 
assumptions are false. Hence, phrenology 
is a pseudo science. 

Much the same remarks can be made 
about physiognomy. This pseudo science 
did not restrict itself to the shape of the 
skull but considered facial features and 
the shape of the body as a whole. For ex- 
ample, one physiognomist held that a per- 
son with a misshapen or a deformed body 
is also likelv fo have a personality similarly 
warped. More specifically, it has been held 
by some physiognomists that a square jaw 
means determination, a high forehead 
means intelligence (a view which they 
might share with the phrenologists), and 
so forth. Now, the truth is that the claims 
of physiognomy, like those of phrenology, 
do not stand up when carefully investigated. 
There is no serious reason to believe that 
any of the teachings of physiognomy cor- 
respond to the facts. 

Likewise, numerology attempts to de- 
termine the character of the individual (and 
sometimes his future) from the combina- 
tions of numbers connected with his name 
or other things in his life. Palmistry at- 
tempts to predict his character and his fu- 
ture from the lines on the palm. And finally, 
astrology makes predictions about him 
from the stars under which he was born. 
The claims made by these endeavors are 
false almost without exception. There is 
no trustworthy evidence that the numbers 
really influence a person's life or that the 
life line on a palm has anything to do with 
how long he will live. Likewise, the stars 
under which he was born have no real in- 
fluence on his personality. Psychologists 
have had a great deal to do with showing 
through experiment and other careful study 
how these claims have no basis in fact. They 
involve a priori reasoning and "essences." 



It is easy to understand that psychologists 
do not like to be classed with these pseudo 
sciences. This is partly because the con- 
clusions of the pseudo sciences are false, 

but it is even more because they violate 
the fundamental spirit of science in their 
ways of investigation and their methods of 
arriving at conclusions. 


All of us have an interest in human be- 
havior. Part of this interest comes from the 
fact that we need to understand, predict, 
and control the actions of other people. 
Part of it comes from our need for self- 
understanding and self-control. 

Psychology is the scientific study of the 
behavior of living organisms, with especial 
attention given to human behavior. It is 
to be distinguished from anthropology and 
sociology in that they focus their attention 
largely on the group, while psychology 
studies primarily the individual. It is to be 
distinguished from physiology in that physi- 
ology emphasizes the various systems of 
the body and how they interact and also 
how the organism adjusts to its physical en- 
vironment, whereas psychology studies the 
individual as a person, as a thinking, re- 
membering, imagining, feeling, and react- 
ing individual. 

Actually all these sciences overlap in sub- 
ject matter. No hard and fast lines can be 
drawn to separate psychology from any of 
the others, but there are differences in de- 
gree and in emphasis. This makes it pos- 
sible for scientists from several areas to 
concentrate on the same problem. 

When we say that a certain endeavor is 
a science, we refer primarily not to a set of 
facts or a body of knowledge but to a set of 
attitudes and values and, in particular, to 
certain methods for acquiring knowledge. 
A science proceeds from observations, care- 
fully checked, recorded, and confirmed. It 
insists on objectivity, on drawing conclu- 
sions on the basis of what is observed and 

not on the basis of what the scientist wants 
to find or believe. It stays as close to the 
actual observations as practicable, though 
it is admitted that observations never in- 
terpret themselves and the scientist has to 
go at least somewhat beyond them to inter- 
pret them. Finally, though a scientist may 
be interested in information that can be 
used, another important motive is a desire 
to know simply for the sake of knowing. 

Scientists customarily use two kinds of 
observation: (1) the experiment, which in- 
volves control of all the relevant conditions 
except the independent variable, which is 
allowed to change or forced to change; and 
(2) naturalistic observation, which is the 
observing of events as they occur. If it 
were practicable, scientists would use ex- 
periments in all their observations, because 
they permit better control of variables, but 
since this is often impossible, they must 
make use of naturalistic observation. 

Psychology is both a science and a profes- 
sion. As a science, it is interested in under- 
standing more and more about the be- 
havior of the organism. As a profession, it is 
concerned with applications of this knowl- 
edge to the prediction and control of be- 

It is easy to believe that psychology is 
magical or mysterious, or, on the other 
hand, that it is nothing more than ordinary 
common sense. Likewise, psychology is 
sometimes associated with pseudo sciences 
like phrenology. All these are false concep- 
tions, as psychologists have been able to 




1. What is a science? In what ways does it 
differ from nonscientific endeavors? 

2. What do we mean by saying that a scientist 
often wants to know for the sake of knowing? 

3. What is an experiment? How does it differ 
from other types of observation? 

4. Compare and contrast (a) "armchair" the- 
orizing and experiment; (/;) "armchair" the- 
orizing and naturalistic observation. 

5. What is the law of parsimony, and what is 
its importance? 

6. Just what is psychology? Name several 
problems that are distinctively psychological 
in character. 

7. In what applied areas are psychologists 
found today? Describe the principal work of 
each area. 

8. What is anthropology? On what kinds of 
problems would both psychologists and an- 
thropologists work? 

9. What is sociology? On what kinds of prob- 
lems would both psychologists and sociologists 

10. What is physiology? On what kinds of 
problems would both psychologists and physi- 
ologists work? 

11. In the experiment on remembering favor- 
able and unfavorable material, what was the 
independent variable? What was the depend- 
ent one? What other variables did the experi- 
menters attempt to control? 

12. Do the > iine for the experiment on the 
efficiency of * ions dials, 

13. What aiguments can you give to prove 
that psychology is not just "common sense"? 

14. How would you demonstrate the inaccu- 
racy of the claims of phrenology? What are the 
chief differences between psychology and 
phrenology? (Consider both conclusions and 
methods of arriving at conclusions.) 


Britt, Steuart Henderson: Social Psychology of 
Modern Life, rev. ed., Rinehart, New York, 
1949, chap. 2. 

(An interesting and informative treatment 

of the scientific method in psychology.) 
Brown, C. W., and E. E. Ghiselli: Scientific 
Method in Psychology, McGraw-Hill, New 
York, 1955. 

(Application of the scientific method to 

many psychological problems.) 
Chapanis, A., W. R. Garner, and C. T. Morgan: 
Applied Experimental Psychology, Wiley, New 
York, 1949. 

(A discussion of the scientific design of 

equipment for human use.) 
Daniel, R. S., and C. M. Louttit: Professional 
Problems in Psychology, Prentice-Hall, Englc- 
wood Cliffs, N.J., 1953. 

(The nature and growth of the profession 

of psychology.) 

Gray, J. Stanley: Psychology Applied 1o Hu- 
man Affairs, 2d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 

(Application of psychology to contempo- 
rary problems.) 

Marcuse, F. L.: Areas of Psychology, Harper, 
New York, 1954. 

(An introduction to the various fields or 
branches of psychology.) 

Ogg, Elizabeth: "Psychologists in Action," 
Public Affairs Pamphlet 229, 1955. 

(A survey of the activities of the profes- 
sional psychologist. ) 

Watson, Robert I.: Psychology as a Profession, 
Studies in Psychology series, Random House, 
New York, 1954. 

(Applications of psychology to the prob- 
lems of today; the nature of the profession 
of psychologist.) 



In order to study behavior more efficiently, 
the psychologist often separates the biologi- 
cal and cultural factors. In his separation 
of these factors, he does not mean to imply 
that some characteristics are biologically in- 
herited and that others are acquired by liv- 
ing in a certain society. Rather, our traits 
and characteristics are the products of the 
interaction of our heredity and our environ- 
. ment. 

In this chapter we shall discover why the 
emphasis is to be put on the word "interac- 
tion." We shall see what the facts are that 
make it incorrect to think that any trait of a 
living creature is entirely hereditary or com- 
pletely environmental. On the contrary, it 
is more correct to say that all traits and 
characteristics are both hereditary and en- 


During the nineteenth century biology 
emerged and took its place among the sci- 
ences. By the end of the century, both the 
facts and theories of biology were having 
considerable impact on the thinking of sci- 
entists about human nature. Of particular 
importance was Darwin's theory of evolu- 
tion, which stressed the survival of those in- 
herited characteristics through which ani- 
mals adapted to their environments. The 
Darwinian emphasis on heredity led biolo- 
gists, physicians, and even people generally 
to consider heredity as the most important 
factor in determining human traits and char- 
acteristics. By the close of the nineteenth 
century, too much emphasis (as we see it 
now) had been placed on man's heredity 
as the molder of his character and per- 


In time, opinion began to shift away from 
this view. Many scientists, especially the 
sociologists, came to feel that too much 
emphasis had been placed on heredity. 
Gradually, during the early decades of the 
twentieth century, a case was made for en- 
vironment as the more influential factor in 
growth and development. By the time of 
World War I, many sociologists were ex- 
pressing the belief that heredity is relatively 
unimportant in the elaboration of character 
and personality. They admitted, however, 
that for some physical traits, such as eye 
color and shape of face, heredity had some 

As so often is the case, the full swing of 
the pendulum put too much emphasis on 
environment, just as heredity had been ac- 
corded too much importance by biologists 
and physicians. Caught in the middle were 
several groups to whom the issue was of 
some practical significance. The educators 
were one such group. They did not know 
whether to go along with the emphasis of 
physicians and biologists on heredity, or 
whether to join those sociologists who 
stressed environment. To seek a resolution 
of the problem, one group of educators set 
up a study committee. 1 The purpose of the 
committee was to determine which is more 
important heredity or environment. At 
least they wanted to find out which traits 
and characteristics of the human being are 
accounted for by heredity and which are 
accounted for by environment. 

When the committee got into the prob- 
lem, assembling and organizing the relevant 
scientific facts, it became apparent to them, 
as it had to some biologists and some soci- 
ologists, that it is impossible to separate the 
influences of heredity from those of environ- 
ment. Rather, the two always go along to- 

1 Intelligence: Its Nature and Nurture, Thirty- 
ninth Yearbook of the National Society for the 
Study of Education, 1940. 

Figure 2.1. Julian Huxley, the noted biologist, is the 
grandson of the distinguished nineteenth century 
biologist Thomas Huxley. His brother is Aldous 
Huxley, noted critic and novelist. Does this illustri- 
ous family tend to show the greater significance of 
heredity in the production of genius? Can a case be 
made here for the interaction of heredity and en- 
vironment? (International News Photos.) 


Today we know that all traits the social, 
the psychological, and the physicalare a 
product of the interaction and the interrela- 
tion of heredity and environment. Certainly, 
no trait can develop without some inherit- 
ance, nor, on the other hand, can any trait 
or characteristic develop unless the proper 
environment is provided. It is obvious that 
the hereditary factors present in the egg of 
a chicken cannot produce a human being. 
It should also be obvious that, if the right 
environment is not provided, these same 
factors cannot be made to produce a 

It is correct to think of every organism 



and also of each part of every organism as 
a joint function of three factors: .heredity, 
environment, and time. Each of these fac- 
tors is indispensable. If there is no heredity, 
all the time and environment in the world 
cannot produce a living organism. On the 
other hand, if there is no place (environ- 
ment) in which to grow and develop, no 
amount of time and heredity can bring 
forth a living organism. Likewise, in addi- 
tion to the other two factors, a life span 
(time) is necessary for the very existence 
of every living plant and animal. 

In order to clarify our thinking, let us 
set up a concise expression for the interac- 
tion of these factors. 

P = /(H,E,T) 

P is the individual person who is some 
function ( / ) or product of the three factors 
heredity (H), environment (E), and time 
(T). This is a way of saying that all three 
factors are essential and must work to- 
gether for an organism to survive and de- 
velop. Note in the formula that if any one 
of the three (H, or E, or T) is reduced to 
zero (is nonexistent), the result is zero, 
which means that there will be no person. 
Also, we can think of P as the whole person 
or as any part of the person, i.e., any trait 
or characteristic. 

In order to understand some of the im- 
portant implications of this formula, we 
must now see what is technically meant 
by the terms heredity and environment. 


A human body is composed of many small 
cells, each of which has a nucleus. Within 
each nucleus are a number of small rodlike 
or threadlike objects named chromosomes. 
Particularly important for our discussion 
is the fact that in these chromosomes are 
some tiny submicroscopic particles called 
genes. These genes are the unit carriers of 
heredity. They are the units that largely 

direct the growth and development of the 
human being, Biologists have good reason 
to believe that the genes are giant organic 
molecules, which somehow act as the blue- 
prints for the building of the organism. 
Under their influence and given the proper 
environment, a fertilized egg (one cell) 
can divide and grow into a human being 
composed of billions of cells. Furthermore, 
these billions of cells are formed into tissues 
and organs which have definite places and 
functions in the life of the organism. How 
the minute genes manage to do what they 
do is still one of nature's closely guarded 
secrets. In any case, what we mean by the 
word "hereditary" is gene-directed. 

Let us consider now the role of the genes 
in human heredity. For a human being to 
be conceived, an egg from the mother must 
be fertilized by a sperm cell from the 
father. Once the egg has been fertilized, a 
brand-new individual is begun. From the 
mother comes half the number of genes 
needed and from the father the other half. 
Hence, both mother and father contribute 
an equal amount of heredity to the new 
individual. If these genes are to direct the 
growth of this new individual, a specific, 
proper environment must be present. In 
the case of the human being, the proper 
place is the mother's uterus. If the fertilized 
egg is left in a normal uterus for seven to 
nine months, an infant more or less ready 
to take its place in the outside environment 
will develop. Were we to remove the egg 
from the uterus at the time of conception 
and place it in a test tube, it would soon 
die. Even our common sense tells us that 
a test tube is not the proper place for an 
egg to develop. So we see that we must 
have both the necessary genes and also the 
proper environment for the development 
of a new individual. 

Chromosomes. As a rule, each of the bil- 
lions of cells in the human body has a nu- 
cleus containing 48 chromosomes. In each 
chromosome are something like 1,000 genes. 



Actually, it is better to speak of the 48 
chromosomes as 24 pairs, because they are 
found in pairs and also because there are 
a few cells in the body that contain 24 
chromosomes ( one from each pair ) instead 
of the full 48.- These cells, which prove to 
be the exceptions to the rule of 48, are the 
egg cells in the female and the sperm cells 
in the male. But nature has provided well. 
When the sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, 
its 24 chromosomes pair up with the egg's 
24 and form the 48 needed by the new in- 
dividual. Thus, nature gains variety by 
letting two different lines of heredity con- 
tribute equally to the new offspring. The 
baby will be somewhat like both its mother 
and father and yet not exactly like either 
of them. 

Reductive cell division. How does it come 
about that the egg and sperm each contain 
only 24 chromosomes rather than the typi- 
cal 48? In the female ovaries, where eggs 
are produced, and in the male tcstcs, where 
sperm cells are made, mother cells with 48 
chromosomes each divide into daughter 
cells that have only 24. This process is called 
reductive cell division. During this division 
the 48 chromosomes of the mother cell line 
up in 24 pairs. One member of each pair 
goes to each daughter cell. However, for 
each individual pair it is a matter of pure 
chance as to which member of the pair goes 
to which of the two daughter cells. Because 
of this random process, millions of different 
combinations of chromosomes are possible. 
It is unlikely that any two eggs produced 
by the same woman would have exactly the 
same 24 chromosomes. 

With the exception of one pair, each 
chromosome in a pair carries genes which 
match the genes on the other member of the 
pair. That is to say, each member of a 
given pair has genes controlling the growth 

2 For many years, biologists have* set the num- 
ber of chromosomes at 48. A very recent count, 
however, has found 46 (23 pairs). With cither 
number, genetic theory and principles are the same. 

Every cell in our body has 

48 chromosomes (or 24 pairs) 

(A pair of 
showing genes; 


has about 
1,000 genes) 

except the egg cell 

and the sperm cell, 

each of which has only 24 
(1 from each pair) 

and development of the same specific set 
of features and characteristics as the other 
member of the pair. Biologists have sorted 
out these 24 pairs and designated them by 
the first 24 letters of the alphabet, A through 
X. Thus, either member of any woman's A 
pair can match up with either member of 
any man's A pair and the developing child 
that receives this new A pair (along with 
the other pairs) will be assured of those 
human features that are transmitted by the 
A pair. 

The one exception to the simple match- 
ing of pairs occurs in the twenty-fourth pair. 
Where both of the A's, B's, C's, etc., are 
the same in shape and size, the two mem- 
bers of the last pair may be different. Biolo- 
gists note this fact by labeling this pair 



(8 chromosomes 

48 chromosomes 

48 chromosomes 

24 chromosomes 



XX when the two members are alike and 
XY when they are different. The X chromo- 
some is a full-sized chromosome, but the Y 
is dwarfed. 

This pair of chromosomes is important 
because the sex of the offspring depends on 
it. If a child receives an X from its mother 
and an X from its father so that it has a 
matched XX pair, the child is a girl. If it 
receives an X from the mother and a Y 
from the father, it is a boy. Every woman 
and girl has two X's, and every man and boy 
has an X and a Y. We see, then, that we al- 
ways receive an X from our mother and 
either an X or a Y from our father. Hence, 
any complaints about our sex should be 
made to our father, not our mother. 

Ordinary cell division. One egg and one 
sperm cell unite to begin one new human 
being. This fertilized egg divides by what is 
called ordinary cell division into two cells. 
Each of these cells has its own nucleus with 
48 chromosomes. Moreover, these cells, usu- 

ally stick together. The process of cell di- 
vision continues, and with each new divi- 
sion the number of cells is doubled. Be- 
fore long, billions of cells have been pro- 
duced. Under the direction of the genes 
and in the ideal environment of the uterus, 
these cells form a human infant. 

Twins. Most of the time the fertilization 
of one egg by one sperm cell produces one 
offspring. Once in a while, however, the 
first two cells into which the fertilized egg 
divides do not stick together. Instead, each 
of these two cells then multiplies independ- 
ently and produces an infant. These two in- 
fants are identical twins. The important 
point is that they come from one egg and 
one sperm cell and are, therefore, two in- 
dividuals with exactly the same heredity 
(genes). Identical twins (triplets, etc.) are, 
in fact, the only cases known where two 
(or more) people have identical heredity. 
Since they are identical in heredity, they 
are always of the same sex. We shall see 



later that these facts are valuable to the 
psychologist who is trying to study experi- 
mentally the influences of heredity and en- 

Occasionally two eggs instead of one are 
ready at the same time for fertilization 
within the mother. In this case two different 
sperm cells may fertilize these two eggs 
and two infants result. These twins are 
called fraternal twins and may be two boys 
or two girls or a boy and a girl. Moreover, 
these twins are not of the same heredity. 
They arc no more related than any other 
two brothers and sisters born at different 

The relatedness of relatives. On the aver- 
age, brothers and sisters are related to each 
other in heredity about as much as they arc 
to cither parent; that is, on the average, 
siblings (all the children of the same par- 
ents) have 24 chromosomes in common. 
Some siblings have more than 24 in com- 
mon, and some less than 24. Since kinship 
depends upon the possession of common 
chromosomes, some siblings are more (or 
less) related than others. One of the ex- 
tremes in relationship is, of course, the 
case of identical twins ( all 4(8 chromosomes 
in common). The other extreme, which 
probably never occurs (but is theoretically 
possible ) , is the case of a brother and a sis- 
ter who have no chromosomes in common. 
Biologically speaking, these two siblings 
would not be akin to each other at all. This 
remarkable state of affairs might arise if, 
by chance, 24 of the mother's chromosomes 
went to the boy and a different set en- 
tirely went to the girl and if the father's 
chromosomes were similarly divided. In the 
usual case, however, the girl receives one 
or more of the chromosomes that also went 
to the boy. Consequently, our best bet is 
what our common sense tells us, that broth- 
ers and sisters are related. Or to emphasize 
the point in another way, we may say that 
there is no known case of siblings who are 
not related, even though it is possible ge- 
netically for them not to be related. 

We have presented these extremes simply 
to set the limits of kinship. We may now say 
that, biologically speaking, we are related 
to only those people who share with us at 
least one chromosome. We have also ^oen 
that we receive 24 chromosomes from our 
mother and 24 from our father. Thus, we 
are always related half and half to our two 
parents there are no exceptions. Our par- 
ents, of course, received their chromosomes 
from their parents, which means that our 
chromosomes came to us (through our par- 
ents) from our four grandparents. On the 
average, then, we received 12 from each 
of our gr a rd parents. However, because 
which chrj-riosomes are passed on is a 
matter of chance, some of us received more 
than 12 from a particular grandparent (e.g., 
our mother's father) and some received 
fewer. Thus we may be more or less re- 
lated to a particular grandparent, just as 
we are to our siblings. Moreover, as in the 
case of siblings, it is theoretically possible 
for us to have received as many as 24 or as 
few as none from any one of our grandpar- 
ents. Again it is not very likely that we 
possess no kinship at all to one of our grand- 
parents, and even less likely that we are un- 
related to two of them. 

The likelihood of no kinship increases 
as we trace our lineage back through 
more and more generations. From each of 
our 8 great-grandparents we receive, on 
the average, 6 chromosomes. This far back, 
the possibility of our not being related to 
one of them is not so remote. From our 
great-great-grandparents we receive on the 
average 3 from each. From the next genera- 
tion back, we average only 1% from each. 
And from our ancestors six generations 
back, we are given on the average only % 
chromosome from each. Since a chromo- 
some is usually transmitted all in one piece, 
we have at last come to a generation of 
ancestors in which some of the individuals 
are definitely not akin to us. These facts 
make highly questionable our attempt to 
trace our family trees back very far. Many 



great grandparents 


m X^.^Trw i 


an individual 

Figure 2.2. On the average, how many chromosomes does a person receive 
from each generation of his ancestors? In this drawing the chromosomes are 
represented as ovals and may he traced hack for three generations. A count 
will show that the typical individual represented received 24 from each of 
his parents, 12 from each grandparent, and 6 from each great-grandparent. 

people who glory in a supposed kinship 
with some historic personage are only fool- 
ing themselves. The possibility that they 
have a chromosome in common with that 
person is too remote to consider seriously. 
Dominant and Recessive Genes. Genetics 
is the name biologists give to the special 
study of heredity. As the name indicates, 
genetics is the science that deals with the 
genes. The first laws of heredity were for- 
mulated about a hundred years ago by an 
Austrian monk, Gregor Johann Mendel 3 

3 V. Grant, "The Development of a Theory of 
Heredity," American Scientist, 44(2):158-179. 

( 1822-1884). He learned about inheritance 
by growing and crossing several varieties 
of garden peas. His work was neglected 
until about 1900, when his laws were re- 
discovered and the science of genetics be- 
gan to flourish. 

One of the most important findings of 
genetics is that some gens are dominant 
and_spmg_are recessive^ To illustrate the 
meaning of these terms, let us first take a 
classical example from Mendel's work with 
the color of pea flowers. Some of these 
flowers are white and some are red. If the 
flower contains only the genes for red, it 


is called pure red. If it has only genes for 
white, it is called pure white. If it contains 

j genes for both red and white, it is called a 


In Figure 2.4 we see that the crossing 
(mating) of a pure red flower and a pure 
white produces offspring that are all red in 
color and that are designated as hybrid red. 
In Figure 2.5 we observe that, if two of 
these hybrid reds are crossed, the result, on 
the average, is three red and one white off- 
spring out of every four. Further, by subse- 
quent breeding experiments, we can show 
that one of these reds is pure red like its 

red grandparent and the one white flower 
is pure white like the other grandparent. 
The other two reds, however, are hybrids 
like their parents. 

The foregoing illustrations show that, 
though the hybrid red looks like the pure 
red, it breeds differently. It must carry a 
gene for white because, when cross-bred, it 
has white offspring. Because the gene 
for white is not expressed when paired with 
the gene for red, it is called "recessive." 

The fact that the hybrid is red indicates 
that the gene for red dominates the gene 
for white. For that reason, it is called "domi- 

Figure 2.3. What is peculiar about the heredity of this individual? By counting 
the chromosomes, drawn as ovals, we discover that this individual received 24 
from each parent, just as ice all do. However, from his paternal grandmother 
he received 15 and from his paternal grandfather only 9, making up the 24 
from his father. Even more unusual, he received 24 chromosomes from his ma- 
ternal grandfather and none at all from his maternal grandmother. Thus, he is 
not genetically related to his own mothers mother! Such an occurrence as this 
is very unlikely, but it does illustrate one remote possibility in heredity. 



an individual 




pure red 

pure white 


Figure 2.4. If we cross a pure red sweet pea 
with a pure white sweet pea, we obtain a hy- 
brid red offspring. This hybrid looks exactly 
like the pure red parent but differs in that it 
carries the recessive genes for whiteness as well 
as the dominant genes for redness. Since we 
cannot tell by looking at a flower whether or 
not it is a pure red or hybrid red, how can we 
determine this fact? 

hybrid reds 

Figure 2.5. When two hybrids are 
crossed, we obtain what is known 
as the ft Mendelian ratio" What is 
this ratio? Will it hold every time 
four offspring are produced? Why 
was the discovery of this ratio im- 
portant for the science of genetics? 
(For further discussion of this ratio, 
see Figure 2.6.) 

hybrid red 

hybrid red 

pure red 

hybrid red 

hybrid red pure white 


nant." A dominant gene is one that, when 
paired with a recessive gene, dominates; 
i.e., its character shows up in the offspring. 
It dominates but does not eliminate the 
recessive gene. Whenever in later genera- 
tions two recessive genes come together, 
the recessive characteristic again appears. 

If we let R stand for the dominant red 
gene in our pea and w for the recessive 
white, we have in Figure 2.6 a picture of 
hew the genes pair off. Figure 2.6 is a 
combination of the facts of Figures 2.4 and 
.5. In this figure one R and one iv have 
been enclosed in parentheses simply to al- 
low us to follow them more easily from 
generation to generation. 

This same rule of dominants and reces- 
sives holds for human genes as well as for 
those of the pea plant. Human character- 
istics, however, are seldom determined by a 
single pair of genes. Rather, we must think 
in terms of complex groups of genes pairing 
with each other. This is the reason that sim- 
ple human examples are hard to find. It 
would be convenient, for example, if we 
could say simply that brown eyes arc con- 


(as seen in 
Fig. 2.4) 

pure red 

pure white 

All offspring are hybrid reds 
being either Rw, R(w), (R)w, 
or (R)(w). If we take any two 
of these hybrid reds and cross 
them, we get the following: 

(as seen in 
Fig. 2.5) 

>- Rw 
hybrid red 


hybrid red 


pure red 

hybrid red 

hybrid red 

pure white 

trolled by a single dominant gene and blue 
eyes by a single recessive one. Such a state- 
ment would allow us to follow Figures 2.4, 
2.5, and 2.6, changing only "pure red flower" 
to "pure brown eyes" and "pure white 
flower" to "pure blue eyes." Unhappily, such 
a statement is not true. Although brown 
eyes are usually dominant and blue eyes 
usually recessive, eye color in the human 
being is so complex that we need further 
genetic laws to handle them. Some of these 
laws exist, but we must leave their study to 
the course in genetics. 

It is sufficient for us in this introduction 
to genetics u see that human heredity fol- 
lows define e patterns and laws. Further- 
more, these principles hold generally for all 
living organisms, plants and animals alike. 

The So-called "Purely" Hereditary Traits. 
In the last section we seemed to ignore the 
part environment plays in the determina- 
tion of the characteristics of redness and 
whiteness in pea plants or brownness and 
blueness in human eyes. Actually we merely 
considered environment to be held constant. 
This is not to say, however, that environ- 
ment is unimportant. If E and T in the 
formula P = /(//,E,T) are held constant 
between two individuals, they nevertheless 
influence the growth and development of 
both individuals. However, any difference 
between these two people will be attrib- 

Figure 2.6. A first cross between a pure red and 
a pure white pea plant. All offspring of this 
cross are hybrid reds. A second cross between 
two of these hybrids shows the Mendelian ratio 
of 1-2-1; i.e., one pure dominant, two hybrids, 
and one pure recessive. With only a few sec- 
ond-cross offspring this ratio may show chance 
variations. However, with large numbers of 
offspring the ratio holds. This ratio was dis- 
covered by Grcgor Mendel. (The parentheses 
are used simply to identify one of the R's and 
one of the w's. ) 


utablc to H which has varied (i.e., H is 
different for each of them). In identical 
twins we have it the other way around; 
H and T are constant (they have exactly 
the same genes and age), while only E 
can vary and be different for each of them. 
In the example of the pea plants we are 
assuming that all the plants are grown in 
the same soil, with the same climate, etc. 
Also we are comparing them after the same 
lapse of time in each case. In a later section, 
we give a number of examples that show 
how changes in environment can affect 
traits ordinarily called "hereditary." For the 
time being we shall simply reaffirm that all 
traits and characteristics are both hereditary 
and environmental. 


Each of us realizes that he lives in an 
environment. Whenever the word is men- 
tioned, we probably think of the house we 
live in, of the school we attend, of all the 
objects we own, of the grass and the trees in 
our yard, and even of the air we breathe. 
All these elements, and many more, are a 
part of our external, physical environment. 
But it would be a great mistake if we were 
to limit our use of the word to only this sort 
of environment. 

The most useful way for us to define the 
word "environment" is to say that it-in - 
eludes aJL the_ conditions in ^he _ world that 
influence injiny way ouTjbghavior, fflowtH, 
development, or life processs=-except the 
genes (and even genes can be considered 
to provide environment for other genes). 
According to this broad definition, not only 
are there a multitude of factors in our en- 
vironment at any one time, but there are 
also a great number of other factors that 
are potentially capable of influencing us. 
However, our actual environment consists 
in only those factors in the world around 
us which do exert their influence. In order 
to examine more closely the composition of 

our environment, let us divide it into three 
parts: the external, physical environment; 
the internal environment; and the social en- 

The External, Physical Environment. We 
have already listed a few of the elements 
that make up our external, physical en- 
vironmenthouses, trees, air, etc. It would 
take a list almost without end to exhaust 
everything that could possibly become a 
part of this environment. We get around 
this difficulty by using the general term ex- 
ternal stimuli. Since we take up the topic 
of stimuli in a later chapter, it is enough 
to say here that a stimulus is anything which 
is able to stimulate or excite the receptors 
in any one of the several sense organs ( eye, 
ear, skin, etc.). It is through our sense or- 
gans that the external world ordinarily in- 
fluences us... 

To some extent our every action is de- 
termined by what we see, hear, or feel.. Life 
is a continual and continuous responding to 
stimulation. We change and mold and shape 
our external environment at the same time 
that it molds and shapes and changes us. 
Moreover, certain external factors must be 
in the environment if genes are to exert 
their influence on human characteristics. 
For example, in Europe during World War 
II some children could not find enough 
food and were permanently stunted in 
growth. Although a boy might have inher- 
ited the genes that with the right environ- 
ment (a better diet) would have allowed 
him to be 6 feet tall, under wartime con- 
ditions he might stop growing at a height 
of barely 5 feet. 

The Internal Environment. We have men- 
tioned food as a part of our external en- 
vironment. We see food, taste it, and re- 
spond to it by eating it. Once it is in our 
stomachs and intestines, it is in between our 
external and internal environments. We say 
"in between" because until it is digested and 
absorbed into our blood stream it is not 
properly spoken of as internal environment, 



If it were not for the fact that it is inside 
our digestive tract, it would be best to con- 
sider it as an external stimulus, 

Once food and water are in the blood 
stream (and in the lymph fluids), they 
affect every cell in the body and are defin- 
itely part of the internal environment. The 
same thing can be said for the vitamins we 
eat and the hormones produced by the 
glands. This aspect of our internal environ- 
ment is treated more fully in Chapter 9* 

If we accept the concept of inter-- 1 en- 
vironment, we must be prepared to admit 
that it is nearly impossible to tell where our 
environment leaves off and we begin. Or to 
put it another way, we must say that we 
cannot draw a sharp line between ourselves 
and our environment. 

The Social Environment. Psychologists 
generally recognize our social environment 
to be extremely important in shaping our 
individual behavior and personality. In 
using the word "social" we mean to include 
all the other human beings who in any way 
influence us. Some people influence us by 
direct, daily contact our families, our 
friends, our school and business acquaint- 
ances, etc. Other people have as much or 
more influence through indirect contact- 
over radio and television, in books and other 
publications, and in many other ways. 

Especially in personality is each of us a 
result of the interaction of our genes and 
our social environment. Because of this in- 
teraction, each of us is unique. Even in the 
cases of individuals who have some genes 
in common or similar social environments, 

Figure 2.7. Which aspects of this scene can 
be considered as the external environment of 
these students? What things are actually stimu- 
lating them at the moment and what are po- 
tential stimuli? Can you describe the social en- 
vironment as it is depicted here? (Standard Oil 
Company, New Jersey.) 

the interaction produces wide variations in 
personality. Siblings, who have both simi- 
lar social environment and some genes in 
common, also show this wide variation. 
Even where heredity is the same (identical 
twins), and the social environment is al- 
lowed to vary, personalities show remark- 
able differences. 

The reason we ordinarily think of identi- 
cal twins as having inherited the same per- 
sonality is that they most often have very 
nearly the same social environment as well 
as the same genes_. However, on close anal- 
ysis such identical twins show consistent 
individual J inferences in personality (note 
the case of twin T and twin C on page 36). 
In the rare instances where identical twins 
have been separated at birth and reared 
in extremely different social environments, 
their adult personalities have been quite 
different (note the case of Mabel and Mary 
on page 37). In the next section we shall 
examine several more examples of inter- 
action, some of which show the effect on 
the total personality and some the effect 
on one or two characteristics. 



These babies are identical twins, 38 weeks old. 
Since they have exactly the same heredity and 
have been reared together, they are about as 
much alike as two human beings can be. It is 
not surprising that they are responding quite 
similarly in the test situation. However, one 
infant is reaching with its right hand and the 
other with its left. The reason is that they are 
"mirror-image" twins the left side of one twin 
is identical with the right side of the other one. 
(Courtesy of Dr. Arnold Gesell.) 


Because they have exactly the same heredity, identical twins reared to- 
gether can be expected to show great similarity in nearly all respects. On the 
other hand, since there are at least small differences in their environment, 
we can also expect to see some individual differences between them. Such 
similarities and differences are shown in the study of twin T and twin C.* 
These identical twin girls were studied for fourteen years by the Yale Clinic 
of Child Development. 

From time to time in this study the method of co-twin control was used. 
Twin T would be given training in such activities as stair climbing, manual 
coordination, block building, and vocabulary, while twin C was left untrained 
as a control. At first in each task twin T would tend to excel, but as C reached 
the proper level of maturation, she soon equaled T's performance. 

As would be expected, these twins were very much alike in physical 
growth and appearance, in intelligence, and in many other characteristics. 
However, closer study showed a number of persistent and durable dif- 
ferences. T was quicker, C more deliberate. In drawing a picture T preferred 
to use straight lines and angles, while C preferred curved lines. T appeared 
a little brighter, C was a bit better in a social situation. T was more prompt 
in attention, while C was more alert. 

Although these differences were slight, they added up to a distinctive per- 
sonality for each of the two girls. Certainly they were not so unlike as most 
people, but each had her unique personality. Of interest is the fact that some 
of their differences showed up in infancy. This fact points up the importance 
of the, prenatal environment in the development of temperament. Other of 
the differences showed up later. 

We should remember that interaction of heredity and environment pro- 
duced everything about these twins, including both their differences and 
their similarities. However, since their heredity was identical, we must con- 

* A. Getell and H. Thompson, "Learning and Growth in Identical Infant Twins: An Ex- 
perimental Study by the Method of Co-twin Control/' Genetic Psycho/ogy Monograph, 6:1- 
124, 1929. 


elude the environmental variations accounted for the differences they pos- 
sessed. Certainly such differences exist, for since two people cannot occupy 
the same identical space at the same time, they must have at least slightly 
different environments. In the mother's uterus, for example, if one twin is on 
the left side the other must be on the right side. Also, in growing up even 
twins will receive, at least occasionally, different treatment. Very important 
in the case of twin T and twin C were the co-twin control observations. The 
training that twin T received constituted environmental stimulation which 
twin C did not have. 

We can conclude from this study that even identical twins reared together 
can be expected Jo show^mall differences in addition to a great amount of 

Mabel and Mary * were identical twin's e pa rated early in life. Mabel 
lived in the country and participated in all the rural activities, including hard 

farm chores. She was permitted to finish only eight grades in the small 
IDENTICAL TWINS , . , . __ __. . . . 

REARED APART country school near her home. Mary grew up in a medium-sized city, where 

MABEL AND MARY ner ma ' n interest was the study of music. She attended three years of high 
school in this city and then finished her fourth year in a large-city school. 
After graduation she became a music teacher. Both girls had the advantage 
of living in relatively prosperous homes. 

At the age of twenty-nine Mabel and Mary were studied by a psychologist. 
In intelligence they were separated by 17 IQ points on the Stanford-Binet Test 
(see Chapter 17 for information about this test). Mary was rated as high 
average in intelligence and Mabel was low average. In personality Mabel, 
who was still a farm woman, was slow and phlegmatic, and yet was con- 
sidered an aggressive leader in her community. Mary was excitable, nearly 
neurotic. In manner Mabel was almost masculine, while the music teacher 
Mary was quite ladylike. This difference in manner showed up in their walk- 
Mabel had a firm, manlike stride, Mary a very feminine step. 

Even in physical appearance these twins differed. Mabel had hard muscles 
and weighed 138 pounds. Mary's muscles were soft and not well developed, 
and she weighed 110 pounds. 

Over-all, they were unlike in behavior and appeared to be as strikingly 
dissimilar in personality as the psychological tests had indicated. They did 
not seem to be identical twins at all, although undoubtedly there was a fam- 
ily resemblance. 

Mabel and Mary illustrate how widely two persons, even with heredity 

constant between them, can vary in personality and appearance if reared 

r separately. We have already seen in the study of twin T and twin C how 

identical Heredity and rather small variations in environment can produce 

small but real differences in personality. 

In these studies we again see proof that ajperson is a result of the inter- 
action of both heredjty_and environment. These twins wer^ ajike because ol 
identical heredity, yet dissimilar because of environmental different ~ 

* H. H. Newman, Multiple Human Births, Doubleday, New York, 1940. 



Most of us have learned somewhere in 
our education that eye color is inherited. 
This is true, but it is also true that eye color 
is partly determined by environmenta 
statement which may at first seem a little 
surprising, since we are likely to think that 
"inherited" means "completely inherited." 
How can environment in any way affect 
the development of eye color? 

When a human individual is conceived, 
he has the proper genes present to deter- 
mine the production of eyes, eye color, hair, 
face, limbs, and all the other features of a 
human being. We must remember, how- 
ever, that he also had present the proper 
environment, his mother's uterus, in which 
to develop. If he had not had that proper 
environment, a number of features might 
have turned out differently. We know this 
from experiments in lower animals. 

Fruit-fly Experiments. It has been said 
that geneticists know more about the hered- 
ity of the fruit fly, Drosophila, than they do 
about any other living organism. Why this 
preoccupation with the fruit fly? The reason 
lies in the facts that Drosophila has in its 
salivary glands giant chromosomes, which 
are easy to study, and that it can be bred 
rapidly under laboratory conditions. 

In one experiment it was shown that fruit 
flies whose heredity did not contain a gene 
for yellow body color could be caused to 
have yellow bodies by an environmental 
change. This was done by including a 
chemical, silver nitrate, in the food on 
which the larvae fed. These flies were not 
different in appearance from flies that have 
the gene for yellowness. However, when 
these flies which had been fed silver nitrate 
were bred, their offspring were not yellow 
but were, as they should be by the laws of 
genetics, the dark-brown color of their 
grandparents and other ancestors. Of 
course, these dark-brown offspring had not 
had their environment changed by the ad- 

dition of silver nitrate to the food they ate. 

Bearing directly on our interest in envi- 
ronmental influences on eye color are a 
number of other experiments with Dro- 
sophila. Some of these experiments show 
that even such relatively simple environ- 
mental factors as changes in temperature 
during the incubation of the eggs can affect 
the adult fly's eye color. In one experiment 
fruit flies with genes that normally produce 
rust-colored eyes were made to have red 
eyes by adding a certain chemical, kynu- 
renine, to the fruit flies* environment dur- 
ing eye development. Since the interaction 
of genes and environment in Drosophila 
is not basically different from that in human 
beings, we must conclude that similar 
changes could be effected in human eye- 
color development. 

It is within the realm of possibility that 
chemical changes in a human mother's 
uterus could cause an eye color to develop 
that would not have been predictable from 
a knowledge of the child's heredity. Al- 
though actual human examples pertaining 
to eye color are not available, we do have 
examples that illustrate the importance of 
prenatal environment in the development 
of other so-called "hereditary" character- 
istics. Let us consider two of them. 

Human Examples of Interaction. One 
example of interaction in human develop- 
ment is sometimes seen in German measles 
in the pregnant woman. German measles, 
of course, is a rather mild disease so far as 
most adults are concerned. It is also a mild 
disease so far as the pregnant woman her- 
self is concerned, but it can be injurious to 
the unborn child. As the mother's body 
fights the disease, toxic substances are built 
up in her blood stream. These substances 
reach the developing embryo. If the em- 
bryo is at the stage when the eyes are de- 
veloping, there may be a defect in the 
structure of the eyes. If it is at the stage 
when the ears are developing, the ears may 
be defective. Thus, the child may be born 


blind, or deaf, or with any of a number of 
other defects. A proper environment is 
therefore just as important as the genes in 
the development of such organs as eyes 
and ears. Furthermore, if a child blinded 
in this way grows up, marries, and has chil- 
dren, they will have normal sight; for the 
toxic environment has affected only the 
developing organs, not the genes that partly 
direct their development. 

Another somewhat similar example is so- 
called Mongolian feeble-mindedness. This 
is a type of feeble-mindedness in which the 
child has peculiar-appearing eyes, a long 
pointed tongue, and certain other distinc- 
tive physical characteristics. The misfor- 
tune of being feeble-minded, or at least 
dull in intellect, is, of course, the most im- 
portant part of the defective condition. Ij 
has been discovered only recently that cer- 
tain toxic substances builtii^inlhe mother's 
blood stream at about the_eighth week of 
pregnancy may be the cause of this mal- 
forming of various organs and parts of the 
body, resulting in Mongolian feeble-mind- 
edness. 4 

Both these examples illustrate the fact 
that the human being can have its environ- 
ment changed in its early days of life just 
as the fruit fly can in the laboratory. Most 
important, they show that such environ- 
mental changes result in serious conse- 
quences. Both structurally and functionally 
the organism is different from what it would 
have been had not the environment been 

Thus, we see that heredity and environ- 
ment are inseparable. It is a hopeless task 
to try to separate the various human traits 
and characteristics into those which are 
hereditary and those which are environ- 
mental. The only correct statement is thatf 

4 This hypothesis about the cause of Mongolian 
feeble-mindedness has not yet been conclusively 
proved. However, it does illustrate the fact that 
scientists are searching for causes based on the 
interaction of heredity and environment. 

Figure 2.3. This unfortunate child is an ex- 
ample of Mongolian feeble-mindedness. At the 
present time it is thought that chemical changes 
in his mothers uterus denied him a normal pre- 
natal environment. (From Dr. Theodore H. 
Ingalls, "Mongolism" Scientific American, 
February, 1952, pp. 60-62, by courtesy of 
the author and publisher.) 

all traits and all characteristics are pro- 
duced by the joint action, interaction, and 
interrelation of both heredity and environ- 
ment. To say that one is more important 
than the other is like saying that either the 
ball or the bat is more important in playing 
baseball. Without both a bat and a ball a 
baseball game is impossible. 

It may seem, at this point, that only ex- 
treme changes in environment or very ab- 
normal conditions will in any way affect the 
action of the genes. It may seem further 
that in an ordinary or normal situation en- 
vironment is a neutral factor and that genes 
alone direct growth and development. The 
facts are, however, that environment is just 
as important in normal development as in 
abnormal (see the two twin studies). 




May people confuse the terms "hered- 
ity" and "maturation." The two words do 
not, however, mean the same. We have seen 
that heredity is the direction given by the 
genes to growth and development. Matura- 
tion is the completion of growth and devel- 
opment within the organism. 

Every organ and every system within the 
body must mature over a period of time 
before it is ready to function. Most organs 
are capable of functioning at birth, but 
some of the organs and systems are farther 
along than others. The heart, for example, 
is already capable of pumping blood, and 
the digestive system can handle milk. The 
nervous system is functioning at its lower 
levels, but many years must pass before the 
higher levels of the brain are completely 
developed and fully functioning. 

In the process of maturation we see the 
interaction of heredity and environment 
over the course of time. For example, a 
girl's ovaries are not mature enough to pro- 
duce fully ripened eggs until she reaches 
puberty, which comes ordinarily between 
trie years of eleven and fifteen. However, a 
number of environmental changes and con- 
ditions can affect the onset of puberty. Mal- 
nutrition, chronic illness, serious emotional 
unbalance, etc., can all slow this matura- 
tion process. A girl in a war-torn country 
without sufficient food may not reach pu- 
berty until she is twenty years old. 

Motor Maturation and Development. At 
the time of birth the various muscles of the 
body are capable of functioning, but they 
are far from being completely mature. As 
the muscles develop and the nervous sys- 
tem matures, more and more complex se- 
quences of motor behavior become pos- 
sible. That such behavior depends upon 
the prior maturation of the underlying 
organs and systems is a logical, but not 
necessarily obvious, fact. For proof that it 
is not so obvious to some people, we need 

only witness a parent pushing a child to do 
things far beyond its level of maturation. 
What a foolish waste of effort is a mother's 
attempt to teach her six-month-old baby to 

In Figure 2.9 we see the sequence of 
motor maturation and development in an 
average child. Individual children may be 
somewhat slower or faster in going through 
this sequence and still be within the normal 
range. Also, some children do not follow 
precisely the order of the sequence, or 
some may even drop out parts of it. Parents 
who are not familiar with the sequence of 
maturation often worry unnecessarily about 
the progress of their babies. 

In Figure 2.9 we can see that children 
learn to walk at an average age of fifteen 
months. Of course, some children walk 
earlier and some later than this. We say 
"learn to walk," yet we must remember that 
such learning depends upon a sufficient 
level of maturation in the muscles and 
nervous system of the child. 

Most of us would assume that unless a 
child were allowed enough freedom of 
movement to follow the several steps in 
the motor sequence his walking would be 
delayed. Such is not necessarily the case, 
as has been pointed out in a number of 
Indian tribes (note the example of the Hopi 
Indian children on page 42). In these 
tribes, young infants spend the first several 
months (up to a year) of their lives tied 
to a cradle board unable to move. Yet, 
they walk at an average age of fifteen 
months, the same as children permitted 
unlimited freedom of movement. 

It is interesting to watch the motor devel- 
opment of identical twins. Since they have 
exactly the same heredity and since they 
are most often reared in the same environ- 
ment, they tend to follow very much the 
same pattern of maturation. This fact is il- 
lustrated in the study of twin T and twin C. 

Maturation and Learning. Behavior of all 
types must wait until the maturation of 




1 mo. 

2 mo. 

3 mo, 





4 mo. 

5 mo. 

6 mo. 

7 mo. 


8 mo. 


9 mo. 


10 mo. 


1 1 mo 





12 mo. 

13 mo. 

14 mo. 

15 mo. 





Figure 2.9. During the maturation and development of locomotion, the typical 
infant goes through the sequence shown in these drawings. The ages given are 
averages computed from the observation of many children. Thus, an individual 
child may progress somewhat faster or slower and still he considered normal- 
he may walk at a year or even earlier, or he may begin standing alone at 16 
months or even later. Although generally followed, the sequence itself may be 
changed slightly in individual cases. Can you suggest which parts of the se- 
quence are most often transposed and which seldom are? 






From the time a Hopi Indian baby is born until it is six months to a year 
old it spends nearly all the hours of the day and night tied to a cradle 
board.* It leaves the board only to be cleaned or bathed. It even nurses 
while tied to the cradle board. The baby is tied so tightly that little leg 
or arm movement is possible. 

Contrary to what might be expected, this enforced inactivity does not 
slow the child's maturational processes so far as walking is concerned. When 
compared with other children, the Hopi child is shown not to be inferior at 
all in learning to walk. Among a group of Hopi who followed the old, tradi- 
tional way of life (including cradling), walking began, on the average, at 
14.98 months. In a group of Hopi who followed modern ways and did not 
use the cradle board, age of walking was 15.05 months. Thus, there was 
practically no difference between the groups. 

We should note that this study is an excellent example of naturalistic 
observation. The scientists were able to obtain information in this manner 
that would have been very difficult to obtain experimentally. There is a 
limit to what we are willing to do to a human being, child or adult, in order 
to have a controlled experiment. 

* W. Dennis and M. G. Dennis, "The Effect of Cradling Practices upon the Onset of 
Walking in Hopi Children/' Journal of Generic Psychology, 56:77-86, 1940. 

organs and systems has proceeded far 
enough to make the behavior possible. Be- 
havior which is learned is no exception to 
this rule. For example, if a person is to 
learn to dance or to ice-skate, he must have 
muscles and nerves matured considerably 
beyond the point required for walking. 
Even walking behavior in a baby must be 
delayed until the muscles and nerves have 
matured for about fifteen months. Nearly 
all learned behavior requires that a vast 
amount of maturation precede it. 

Learning to talk. Learning to speak a 
language is one of a human being's most 
difficult tasks. No other animal is able to 
accomplish this task, although some, like 
the dog and horse, may learn to respond 
to a few spoken commands. Others, like the 
parrot or parakeet, are able to speak a few 
words, but without knowing the meaning 
of them and without meaning there is no 
true language. 

At birth the infant's respiratory and vocal 
apparatus has matured only enough to allow 
it to cry. After the baby has matured for a 

month and has gained some control of its 
breathing, it learns to make different sounds 
for hunger, pain, and discomfort. Between 
two and four months it begins to coo and 
babble and learns to look in the direction 
of a human voice. 

From six to nine months the infant ma- 
tures enough to repeat syllables ("Da-da- 
da-da," "Ma-ma-ma-ma," etc.) and will vo- 
calize in response to a human voice. By one 
year of age the baby can understand simple 
commands (e.g., "Look at Mama!" or "Hold 
the toy dog!") and speak its first word. 
Flowever, the first word may not appear 
until fifteen months or even later. 

When the baby is eighteen months old, it 
is likely to have a vocabulary of three to 
five words. Also by this time it can under- 
stand and respond to the admonition 
"Don't." By the age of two the child is able 
to name objects (doll, doggy, ball, etc.) 
and begins to combine words ("Where 
dolly?" "Give me cooky!"). From this time 
on, there is continual progress in phrase 
and sentence building. 



During these first two years there has 
been a constant maturation of breathing 
control, of vocal cords, and very important 
-of brain centers that control speech and 
understanding of language. This same 
period is also used by the baby to develop 
a whole language of gestures and expres- 
sions (of face, hands, and body). As in 
learning to walk, an infant must await the 
proper level of maturation before a given 
level of speech or gesture can be attained. 


Human traits and characteristics are 
complexly determined through the interac- 
tion of heredity and environment. We can- 
not say that the shape of our friend's nose 
was determined entirely by the genes he 
received from his father. Nor can we say 
that his trait of generosity resulted wholly 
from his having a generous mother from 
I whom to learn. We must say that both his 
nose and his generosity are functions of the 
interaction and interplay of his heredity 
and his environment. 

Furthermore, human heredity is so com- 
plicated a study that we know only its gen- 
eral rules and principles and have difficulty 
explaining specific details. Exactly which 
group of our friend's 48,000 genes is partly 
responsible for his nose, we do not know. 
And we are even less sure about the envi- 
ronmental factors that are essential to the 
molding of such a nose. In the case of his 
generosity, we feel that we can isolate a 
few of the environmental elements that are 
necessary. About the group of genes in- 
volved in generosity, however, the science 
of genetics cannot yet offer us anything, 
although constant progress is being made. 

As genetics makes progress, we, who are 
primarily interested in the personality of 
the individual, hope to comprehend more 
fully the interaction of heredity and envi- 
ronment. At least, we now have a general 
frame of reference for understanding the 
interaction; it is concisely summarized in 
the expression P = f(H,E,T). We must 
leave to the future the expansion of this 
formula to the point where individual traits 
and characteristics can be explained. 


Although in the past many biologists were 
pure hereditarians and many sociologists 
were strict environmentalists, today both 
groups agree that a person is a result of the 
interaction of both heredity and environ- 

Heredity can be defined best as that 
which is contributed to a person by his 
genes. The genes are located in the chromo- 
somes, which are in the nucleus of each cell 
of the body. The genes direct and guide the 
growth and development of the organism. 
They are often called the unit carriers of 

Genetic kinship can vary all the way from 
that of identical twins, who have all 48 
chromosomes in common, to that of indi- 

viduals who have only a single chromo- 
some alike. If two individuals do not have 
any chromosomes in common, they are not 
genetically related, regardless of what their 
genealogical chart says. 

Some genes are dominant and some re- 
cessive. When a dominant gene is paired 
with a recessive gene, the dominant gene 
directs the development of the character- 
istic in question. In order for a recessive 
gene to direct development, it must be 
paired with another recessive gene. 

Environment includes everything in thel 
world (with the exception of the genes) ( 
that influences in any way our Behavior, 
growth, or development. We ordinarily 
divide environment into three parts: the 



external (air, trees, houses, etc.), the in- 
ternal (blood and lymph), and the social 
(other people). The social environment is 
important in shaping our personalities. 

All our traits, features, and characteristics 
are a function of the interaction of heredity 
and environment. Examples of this inter- 

action range all the way from_eye color Jo 
ice-skating ability^ 

Maturation is the process of completing 
growth and development within the organ- 
ism. Our organs, systems, and behavior se- 
quences must all mature over a period of 
time if they are to function properly. 


1. Explain the formula F = f(H,E,T). 

2. Define briefly the following terms: (a) 
chromosomes, (b) genes, (c) dominant, (d) 

3. What is reductive cell division? What cells 
result from reductive division? 

4. How and why are studies of identical twins 
useful to a psychologist? 

5. Must we be related (genetically) to (a) 
our parents, (b) our siblings, (c) our grand- 
parents, (d) our uncles and aunts? Explain 
your answers. 

6. What is meant by "the Mendclian ratio'? 

Give an example of this ratio. 

7. What is meant by the term "environment"? 

8. Explain why eye color is as much a func- 
tion of environment as it is of heredity. 

9. How does the word "maturation" differ in 
meaning from the phrase "effects of heredity"? 

10. Of what importance for psychology is the 
study of walking among Hopi children? 

11. Trace the development and maturation of 
speech and language in babies. 

12. Substantiate the following statement: 
Learning to speak English is an example of the 
interaction of heredity, environment, and time. 


Baldwin, A. L.: Behavior and Development in 
Childhood, Dryden, New York, 1955. 

(A recent child-psychology textbook writ- 
ten from the developmental point of 

Carmichael, L. (ed.): Manual of Child Psy- 
chology, Wiley, New York, 1946. 

(An encyclopedic anthology of all aspects 
of child development and growth.) 
Scheinfeld, A.: You and Heredity, Lippincott, 
Philadelphia, 1950. 

(A popular account of the facts of hered- 

Sinnott, E. W., et al.: Principles of Genetics, 
4th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950. 

(A standard textbook on genetics, with 
a good summary of the work on Dro- 
sophila. ) 

Zubec, J. P., and P. A. Solbcrg: Human Devel- 
opment, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1954. 

(A good technical account of human de- 
velopment from conception on through 





aster Sergeant Harold E. Wilson, 
U.S.M.C.R., received the Congressional 
Medal of Honor for courageous action in 

Out of the spring night, the Red banzai attack 
hit like a thunderstorm. The darkness exploded 
into a nightmare of flaming confusion. But 
Sergeant Wilson went into action at once, 
rallying his hard-pressed men. Bullets wounded 
his head and leg; disabled both arms. Refusing 
aid, he crawled, bleeding, from man to man, 
supplying ammunition, directing fire, helping 
the wounded. As the attack grew fiercer, a 
mortar shell blew him off his feet. Still, dazed 
and weakened, he held on, leading the fight 
all night till the last Reel assault was beaten off. 
At dawn the Sergeant had saved not only his 
position, but the precious lives of his men. 

Whenever we read about men like Sergeant 
Wilson, nearly all of us pause and ask our- 
selves, "Why does any man do what he 
did?" In terms of what we are going to 
study in this chapter, our question is best 
expressed as, "What were Sergeant Wilson's 

So long as things go smoothly, we have 
little occasion to wonder about motives. 
However, nearly every day someone around 
us some fellow worker or neighbor does 
something that we did not expect. Again 
the question "Why did he do it?" Again we 
are asking, "What were his motives?" Only 
on rare occasions do we sit down and won- 
der about our friends' everyday actions and 
more ordinary behavior. Happily, on these 
occasions we feel that we know the motives 
and there is little need to wonder for long. 

When Mr. Brown rushes into a restau- 
rant at noon and eats a hearty lunch, it does 
not take a lot of analysis for us to reach the 


conclusion that he is hungry. Hunger is a 
motive that we feel we understand, al- 
though we may be mistaken. When the 
body needs food in order to stay alive, we 
become hungry and seek food. As soon as 
we find food and eat it, our need is satis- 
fied. But some actions are harder to under- 
stand; when one day the respectable Mr. 
Smith embezzles money from his firm, both 
we and the police begin to wonder about 
the motive. 

Not only do we wonder about the motives 
of Sergeant Wilson and Mr. Smith, but we 
also at times wonder about our own mo- 
tives. How many times have we all had 
the sad experience of having to say to our- 
selves, "Why did I do that? It's not like 
me; I don't do things like that!" We may 
have been unaccountably rude to the bus 
driver on the way to town; we may have 
spent some of our savings foolishly; or 
maybe, as we came in the front door after 
a hard day, the cat got in our way and we 
kicked it. We realize that we must have 
been motivated to act as we did, but what 
were our motives and why? In this chapter 
we shall examine some of the facts about 
motivation that psychologists have been 
able to uncover. These facts will not allow 
us to answer all the questions that we have 
raised, for motivation is one of the most 
complex topics in psychology. However, we 
can expect to gain some additional insight 
into why we behave as we do. 


Without becoming involved in theory, we 
shall define a number of terms that will be 
used in this chapter. For our present pur- 
poses we shall consider motive and drive 
as much the same in meaning. In general, 
a jnotiye or a drive is a complex state within 
an organism that directs behavior toward a 
goal or incentive. The goal is what the or- 
ganism appears to be seeking; or, more ob- 
jectively, the goal is what terminates the 
organism's behavior. If we wish to empha- 

size the fact that such goal-objects attract 
or repel the organism, we use the term "in- 

It is true that many psychologists confine 
the use of the word "drive" to such states as 
hunger, thirst, and sex. These and similar 
states are referred to collectively as the 
physiological drives. The same psycholo- 
gists then use the term "motive" to refer 
to all the others. Since such a distinction 
between the two words is not especially 
useful, we shall use "motive" and "drive" 
more or less interchangeably. 

Sometimes the word need is given a spe- 
cial definition in the study of motivation. 
However, we shall use "need" only as a 
term that describes a certain lack within an 
organism. An animal that needs something 
is simply one which lacks something. 

These terms will become more meaning- 
ful as they are encountered in context. Any 
difficulties as to definition arise only when 
different theories of motivation are being 

Useful Ways of Classifying Motives. A 
number of years ago, many psychologists 
divided motives into the primary appetites 
and aversions and the secondary or higher- 
order motives. Through learning and so- 
cialization, the higher-order motives were 
supposed to have grown directly out of the 
more basic appetites and aversions. We 
cannot prove that this is the origin of the 
higher-order motives; however, this scheme 
remains a useful way to classify our mo- 
tives. In this system, the appetites include 
not only such drives as food-hunger, sex- 
hunger, rest-hunger, etc., but also such 
drives as contact-hunger (the desire to 
touch and be touched) and play-hunger. 
The aversions are usually listed as the drive 
to injury-avoidance ( the wish to keep away 
from objects that cause pain ) and the drive 
to interference-avoidance (the desire not 
to have our behavior stopped or thwarted 
by outside factors ) . 

Another useful way of classifying motives 
is to divide them into the physiological 



Figure 3.1. How do these two situations differ in respect to 
motives and goals? In what respect are they similar? Can the 
goal-objects be considered the same merely because the actions 
are similar? In what ways can the motives of the spectators be 
compared? (Wide World Photos.) 

drives and the social motives. Again, the 
unprovable assumption is that the latter 
grow out of the former. Without accepting 
this connection between them, we still may 
use the two categories as simply a handy 
way of grouping the many motives that 
have been studied. As a matter of conven- 
ience, we shall use this system of classsifica- 
tion in our study of some of the facts of 


When we study biology, we discover that 
living cells are very complex. Further, we 
learn that every living cell is involved in a 
constant and continual series of chemical 
reactions. These reactions are the basis for 

all the life processes: growth, repair, repro- 
duction, etc. Some of the chemical sub- 
stances needed by the cell include oxygen, 
water, salt and other minerals, food (fats, 
proteins, and carbohydrates), and vitamins. 
When these materials are available, each 
living cell uses them to maintain a state of 
biochemical equilibrium. To keep them 
available, a complex organism must use a 
number of systems: digestive, circulatory, 
respiratory, excretory, nervous, etc. In ad- 
dition, the body has many regulatory 
mechanisms that coordinate and control the 
working of these systems. Such mechanisms 
help in the maintenance of temperature, of 
the pH (acidity-alkalinity balance) of the 
blood, and of the biochemical equilibrium 
generally. In physiology these regulations 



carried out by the whole organism are re- 
ferred to by the term homeastasis or kome- 
ostatic mechanisms. 

Many psychologists feel that the physio- 
logical drives are a part of the homeostatic 
regulatory mechanism. If the cell is to live, 
the organism must be motivated toward the 
goal-objects of food, water, salt, and all 
the other essential chemical sources. The 
belief is that, when certain substances are 
needed to maintain the equilibrium, a state 
of tension occurs in the organism. This ten- 
sion continues until the needed chemicals 
are obtained. Thus, for example, the thirst 
drive is viewed as the result of the tension 
arising in an organism which has a need for 
water. We shall now examine a number of 
these physiological drives or motives. 

Figure 3.2. Correlation between hunger pangs and 
stomach contractions is demonstrated by this tech- 
nique. Each time the stomach contracts, the swal- 
lowed balloon is squeezed, marking the graph. And 
each time the subject feels a hunger pang, he presses 
the key. The resulting graph shows that hunger 
pangs occur simultaneously with stomach contrac- 
tions. (After Cannon, W. B., "Hunger and Thirst," 
in C. Murchison, ed., Handbook of General Experi- 
mental Psychology, Clark University Press, Wor- 
chester, Mass., 1934, p. 250.) 


rubber balloon in stomach 

Hunger and Thirst. Until recently, hun- 
ger for food was thought to result from the 
stomach contractions, which in turn had 
resulted from the animal's need for food 
(see Figure 3.2). Today, we think that 
these contractions themselves are simply 
one of the results of the general tension 
arising from this need. Some biologists are 
convinced that, when the cells need food, 
they secrete zliormone, a special chemical 
substance (see Chapter 9), into the blood 
stream. This hormone is supposed to initi- 
ate the general tension. Unfortunately, if 
this hormone does exist, it has not yet been 
isolated. However, hormones are not needed 
to explain hunger. Any number of different 
chemical reactions in the body are able to 
stimulate the central nervous system, re- 
sulting in a general tension. 

In a similar fashion thirst was thought to 
arise from a dryness of the mouth and 
throat. Today, we believe that the dryness 
accompanies the general tension state and 
is a result, not the cause, of thirst. As in the 
case of hunger, no specific hormone for 
thirst has been found. 

Our study of hunger and thirst is com- 
plicated by the fact that the two must be 
considered together. The physiologist can 
show us that it is impossible to find any 
creature that is only hungry or only thirsty. 
Rather, in all cases the need for food goes 
along with that for water, because solid 
food must be put into solution. Further- 
more, all natural foods contain large quan- 
tities of water, so that some of our thirst is 
quenched as we eat. Most animals find it 
impossible to eat more than a very small 
amount of completely dehydrated food 
unless ample water is available. Less well 
known is the fact that even people dying 
of thirst on the desert are unable to quench 
that thirst by drinking water unless they 
have food to eat with it. Later we shall see 
that our study of all motives is complicated 
by the fact that every motive is interre- 
lated with other motives. 




In an experiment * sometimes referred to as the "cafeteria-feeding ex- 
periment" young children were allowed to select their own diets. These chil- 
dren began the experiment at the age of weaning, which varied from six 
to eleven months of age. The study continued for six years. 

At every meal, each child was permitted to choose what he wanted to 
eat from an array of many foods. Every day he was allowed to select from 
the following: water, sweet and sour milk, sea salt, ten vegetables, five 
fruits, ten varieties of meat, and five cereals. All these foods were prepared 
without artificial flavoring or spices, so that they had only their natural 
flavors. Some were presented cooked and some raw. 

It was discovered that, over a period of time, even young infants are 
able to choose for themselves a diet that is as well balanced as any that 
could be prepared by an expert dietitian. It was noted that the babies began 
their selection by a process of trial and error, but soon they learned by taste 
and smell which of the foods satisfied their needs. We can conclude that it 
was their specific hungers that made it possible for them to succeed in their 
diet selection. 

*C. M. Davis, "Results of the Self-selection of Diets by Young Children," Canadian 
Medical Association Journal, 41:257-261, 1939. 

Hunger and thirst differ from some other 
drives in that they cannot be left unsatis- 
fied for very long if we are to continue to 
live. We are not at all surprised when we 
read about people in a famine-stricken 
country rioting wildly in an attempt to get 
food. We might even be convinced that for 
all people everywhere hunger and thirst are 
the main motives in their daily lives. How- 
ever, we have only to pause and consider 
our own lives in America to realize that, 
for all practical purposes, we hardly know 
that we have the motives of hunger and 
thirst. As soon as we become aware of them 
(often even before we do!), we eat and 
drink heartily, removing both. 

In this connection, it is useful to conclude 
that the whole mechanism of motivation 
has evolved in such a way that it seldom 
intrudes itself upon our consciousness. 
However, this is true only so long as our 
motivated behavior leads us quickly and 
efficiently to the goals that satisfy our needs. 
We become conscious of a motive like 
hunger only if our behavior does not lead 
us to food without causing us too much 

trouble. Our whole civilization has pro- 
gressed to its present complexity by seeing 
to it that a large number of motives like 
hunger and thirst are kept out of the way, 
for in the order of urgency hunger and 
thirst ordinarily have U high place unless 
they are regularly satisfied. Of course, a 
large segment of our population must de- 
vote their lives to work which guarantees 
that food and water will be readily avail- 
able for all of us. On the whole, our civiliza- 
tion has adequately provided for our mo- 
tives of hunger and thirst, thus leaving 
room for other motives to play more prom- 
inent roles in our daily lives. 

We have been considering hunger and 
thirst as they relate to actual needs of the 
body for food and water; many times what 
appears to be hunger or thirst may be some 
entirely different motive. For example, a 
person who is greatly overweight from 
what he describes as an "insatiable hunger" 
is often discovered to be motivated in his 
overeating, not by actual need of food, but 
by a need for affection and love or by feel- 
ings of insecurity. 



Specific hungers. All animals, of course, 
have a hunger for food, but often it is for 
certain specific foods, not for just any food. 
We tnow, for example, that horses eat 
grass, and lions and tigers eat the flesh of 
other animals, not because they have been 
taught to do so, but simply because it is 
their rwrfwre this, at least, is the popular 
explanation. Through its specific hungers, 
each animal automatically chooses a bal- 
anced diet that satisfies its total food needs. 
Human beings, like the other animals, also 
have specific hungers and, as the "cafeteria- 
feeding experiment" illustrates, these en- 
able even infants to select the proper foods. 

At first thought this experiment seems 
astounding how, we may ask, can babies 
know what to eat? but it becomes less sur- 
prising when we stop to realize that the 
human species lived and evolved for many 
centuries before we had dieticians, or even 
civilization. Just as the horse, by nature, has 
specific hungers for certain grasses and 
herbs, the human being naturally craves 
the types of food needed to keep him alive 
and healthy. 

A great deal of research on specific hun- 
gers is now in progress, and a number of 
experiments have shown that changes in 
diet and nutrition will produce or satisfy 
certain specific hungers. It will be some 
time, however, before we can determine 
the many neural and chemical factors un- 
derlying this important type of motivation. 

Air-hunger. Some of our physiological 
drives are so readily and consistently satis- 
fied that we seldom realize we have them. 
Air-hunger, or our drive to breathe, is such 
a drive. If we seriously doubt that we have 
this drive, we have only to let someone 
hold us under water. Before many seconds 
pass, we shall be struggling desperately to 
get back up to the air. 

Air-hunger results from the need of the 
cells for oxygen. When we take a breath of 
air, our lungs are filled and our red blood 
cells take up the needed oxygen. As we use 
up the oxygen in the cells of the body, we 

release carbon dioxide to the blood stream. 
The carbon dioxide is carried to the lungs 
and breathed out. It is the presence of car- 
bon dioxide in the blood that keeps us 
breathing. When an excess of carbon diox- 
ide is there, our breathing increases in pro- 
portion to the excess. 

A peculiarity of air-hunger is demon- 
strated when we are very gradually de- 
prived of oxygen. For example, when we 
climb a mountain or ascend in an airplane, 
we are hardly aware of our need for more 
oxygen. When the scarcity of oxygen passes 
a certain crucial point, we do have a reac- 
tion, but it is not the expected one. Pilots 
often report a false sense of well-being. 
Although their plane may be out of control, 
they feel that everything is all right and 
that they know what they are doing. Ap- 
parently, many pilots have lost their lives 
because of this strange phenomenon. Pre- 
sumably in our evolution we did not take 
sudden ascents; therefore, we did not evolve 
protective mechanisms which would save 

Rest and Sleep Drives. As we use our 
muscles to move us about, we are aware of 
the fact that they gradually become fa- 
tigued. If we perform strenuous exercises, 
we hasten the fatigue effects. In addition, 
there is a gradual but temporary decline in 
strength that accompanies the accumula- 
tion of a substance called lactic acid in the 
muscles as they repeatedly contract. How- 
ever, there seems to be little correlation 
between this accumulation of lactic acid 
and feelings of fatigue. It is true that during 
rest the lactic acid is removed by the blood 
stream and the muscles recover their 
strength. This picture of the rest drive is 
further complicated by the fact that many 
neurotic individuals feel fatigued all the 
time, regardless of whether they use their 
muscles or rest them. 

The sleep drive is certainly related to the 
rest drive but is not identical with it. We 
may rest without sleeping, but we seldom 
sleep without resting. At one time it was 



thought that sleep came when certain 
chemical substances built up in the muscles 
and blood stream. In Figure 3.3 we see evi- 
dence that it is not something in the blood 
that causes sleep. It is now known that 
sleep is largely controlled by the central 
nervous system. A center f or_wakef illness _ 
and a center for sleep \\ave been- located 
in the hypotlialamus ( see Chapter 9 ) _of the 
brain. However, conditions in the muscles 
and in the blood stream probably have 
considerable effect on these centers, with- 
out being the crucial factors in their 

Pain Avoidance. The drive to avoid pain 
is another one which we all share. Anything 
which tends to harm or destroy the tissues 
of the body can be a stimulus for pain._At 
the instant pain is felt, we react quickly to 
move away from its source. This reaction is 
known as _a reflex (see Chapter 9) the 
withdrawal reflex. Through experience with 
the various sources of pain, we learn to 
avoid them. In time the very sight of such 
an object brings out our avoidance motive. 
The drive itself is an unlearned one, but 
just as we must learn the goals for hunger, 
we must learn what things to avoid. Of 
course, there are wide individual differ- 
ences ^in such learning. Furthermore, it is 
not possible to know all the many sources 
of pain in the world around us. 

The Drive to Void the Bowel and Blad- 
der, As waste products accumulate in the 
bowel and bladder, pressure builds up in 
these two organs. It is this distension or 
pressure that seems to be the starting point 
for the drive to void or empty these organs. 
Like all the other physiological drives, these 
are basically unlearned but are modifiable. 
We see such modification in action when 
we witness the toilet training of a small 
child or the housebreaking of a pet. 

The Sex Drive. In the narrowest sense, 
the sex drive originates in the hormones 
secreted into the blood stream by the 
gonads or sex glands (the ovaries in the 
female and the testes in the male). In most 

Figure 3.3. One head of this two-headed infant is 
awake while the other one sleeps. This indicates that 
sleep is controlled by the brain rather than by 
factors in the blood, since both heads share the same 
blood supply. (Courtesy of Life Magazine, Time, 
Inc.) ,i , . 

female animals, the secretion of these hor- 
mones is cyclic in nature. In all mammals 
except the human being, the female peri- 
odically comes into estrus (or heat), at 
which time she is receptive to the male 
and much more active than usual ( see Fig- 
ure 3.4). In most mammals, including the 
human, the male is sexually excitable more 
or less continuously. The human female is 
unique among the mammals in that she, 
like the male, tends to be continuous rather 
than cyclic in her sexual receptivity. 

Unlike the other physiological drives 
which we have been considering, the sex 
drive can be ignored and denied satisfaction 
for indefinite periods of time without fatal 
results. It is very likely that prehistoric man, 
like most other animals, satisfied this drive 
as it arose and attached no greater impor- 
tance to it than to the others. Civilized man, 
as Freud pointed out, is often unable to 
satisfy this drive immediately. For example, 
marriage often is not permitted until many 
years after sexual maturity is reached. Since 
sex is one of the motives most frequently 
blocked or thwarted, it is very commonly 
involved in neurotic conflict and frustra- 
tion. However, there is no reason to think 
that it is by nature any stronger than, if 
indeed as strong as, the air, water, or food 







Figure 3.4. The activity-wheel experi- & 

ment demonstrates that the sex drive o 

produces increased activity in the female gj 

rat. As the graph shows y the degree of ^ 

activity rose sharply at fifty-one days, z 

the onset of puberty. Activity was then 

heightened at four-day intervals when the 

female rat was in heat. (From Wang, 21 31 41 

1923, and Richter, 1927.) 




51 61 71 

81 91 

hungers, which are usually more quickly 
and easily satisfied. 

The Maternal Drive. We find that all 
mammal mothers take care of their young. 
The basic source of the maternal motive is 
found in certain hormones put into the 
mother's blood stream by the pituitary 
gland 1 at the time of the birth of the off- 
spring and for a period thereafter. A mother 
rat will wash her babies, retrieve them if 
they wander from the nest, nurse them, and 
generally take good care of them. If we 
counteract her hormones by injection of 
other hormones, she will stop her motherly 
chores and desert her babies. This is not 
the case, of course, in human mothers. 

In nearly all animals, parental attention 
depends upon the presence of the proper 
hormones. In man, however, social learning 
has come to play an important role. It is 
true that the human mother has the proper 
hormones for taking care of her baby. Yet 
the human offspring is helpless for a longer 
period than the hormone is secreted. As we 
know, the human mother continues to take 
care of her child and, more frequently than 

1 Prolactin is one such hormone. Its primary 
function is the stimulation of milk secretion. Sec- 
ondarily, it seems to influence a number of other 
aspects of maternal behavior. 

not, increases her loving attention long 
after the specific hormones have disap- 
peared from her blood. Thus it seems that 
the very existence of our species depends 
upon social living and education. 

So important is social learning for human 
beings that today in America the majority 
of fathers show a "paternal" motive, which 
in some cases is stronger than the typical 
maternal drive. This fact is quite impressive 
when we consider that we know of no spe- 
cific hormones in man for this motive, al- 
though some male animals do have such 
hormones. Always in our study of motiva- 
tion we must keep in mind that all the basic 
urges in human beings are modifiable by 
social learning. Furthermore, it seems that 
motives can be learned which have little or 
no known connection with any of these 

Other Physiological Drives. We do not 
have time to examine in detail all the 
known physiological drives and motives. 
We have glanced at those which seem the 
most important and which have been stud- 
ied the most thoroughly. A number of the 
others are also interesting, although less has 
been discovered about them. 

Many animals, including man, seem to 
have an exploratory drive. Although the 



source of this drive is not known, it appears 
to be fairly strong and very persistent in 
some animals. Anyone who has ever worked 
with the rat knows that it possesses this 
drive. In the past, some psychologists have 
attempted to explain the drive as resulting 
from hunger or thirst or some of the others, 
but recent research has established an inde- 
pendent exploratory drive. The least we 
can say (and maybe the most) is that the 
exploratory drive is definitely, a- -distinct- 
drive, although, like the others, modifiable 
and modified by learning. . 

It seems too that there are activity drives 
(see Figure 3.4), sensory drives, warmth, 
and cold drives, and a host of others. Re- 
search on these is going on, but it will prob- 
ably be a few years at least before there is a 
groat deal to say about them. 

The Strength of the Physiological Drives. 
We have already mentioned the fact that 
there is an order of urgency among all our 
drives and motives. A simpler way of stat- 

ing this fact is to say that there is an order 
of strength among motives, ascending from 
the weakest to the strongest. Certainly the 
main physiological drives are among the 
most powerful motives we have. In the rat 
experiment using the obstruction box, it 
was found that the maternal drive is strong- 
est and is followed in order by the thirst, 
hunger, sex, and exploratory drives. 

Although it is impossible to make a direct 
comparison between drive strength in rats 
and in human beings, we can guess that 
about the same ranking of drives would 
occur if we were put into the obstruction 
box. With the maternal drive at a maxi- 
mum, human mothers have been known to 
give their lives for their babies. It is also a 
fact that most human beings who have ex- 
perienced deprivation of both food and 
water report that thirst seems to be a more 
intense drive than hunger. Even the relative 
weakness of the sex drive is demonstrated 
in the reports of people who spent time in 

Figure 3.5. Widely different cultural 
patterns may produce similar modifi- 
cations of basic drives. The paternal 
drive is developed entirely by social 
learning, there being no known hor- 
monal basis for it. Even the maternal 
drive is to a large extent a product of 
social learning, since this drive con- 
tinues long after the hormonal balance 
returns to normal. (British Informa- 
tion Services and Los Angeles Times 
News Bureau.) 




A classic rat experiment * which has been repeated many times gives us 
a comparison of the relative strength of several physiological drives. The 
method used in this experiment is called the obsfrucf/on-box method. In the 
procedure followed, each animal was placed in the entrance chamber of the 
box which opens into the obstruction compartment. The obstruction is a grid 
floor that is wired so that an electric shock can be given to an animal 
standing on it or crossing it. From this compartment the animal went into 
the incentive chamber, which contains a place for the goal-object or incen- 
tive. For instance, a hungry animal was put into the entrance chamber and 
food was put into the incentive chamber. Each time the animal crossed the 
obstruction in order to get to the food, it received a shock. As soon as the 

food was reached, the animal was returned to the entrance. The object of 
the experiment was to see how many times in twenty minutes the animal 
would suffer a shock to get to the food. 

Twenty different rats were tested in the obstruction box for each of the 
following drives: sex, hunger, thirst, maternal, and exploratory. Each rat 

* C. J. Warden, Animal Motivation Studies, Columbia University Press, New York, 1931. 

concentration camps during World War II. 
Those prisoners who were fairly well fed 
reported only minor concern about the lack 
of a mate, while those who were starved 
reported that in fact the sex drive seemed 
to disappear and was consequently of no 
concern. This last fact is very likely another 
example of the interaction that probably 
occurs among all drives and motives. 


As basic as any of the so-called "basic" or 
physiological drives is the tendency for all 
human beings (even infants) to respond 
to other human beings. In the old days 

when everyone spoke of instincts, this tend- 
ency was referred to as the gregarious in- 
stinct Many other, but not all, animals 
show this tendency. Undoubtedly horses 
and cattle are highly gregarious. Apes and 
monkeys are also gregarious, but to a some- 
what lesser extent, while cats are much less 
so. Occasionally in nature we find the truly 
solitary animal, which meets with its own 
kind only to mate. 

We cannot say that all the many and 
varied social motives spring from and are 
based solely upon the tendency to respond 
to others. Without experimental and scien- 
tific facts to back us up, we should fail just 
as all the others have failed in trying to 



remained in the box for twenty minutes. During each twenty-minute period 
the appropriate incentive was present. As a control, twenty other rats, sati- 
ated for all these drives, were put into the box for a control period of twenty 
minutes with no incentive of any kind present. 

Relative Strength of Drives 






Offspring of female 







Sex (males) 


Receptive member of opposite 


Sex (females) 


Receptive member of opposite 




Blocks, sawdust, etc. 




The accompanying table shows the result of this experiment. Some of us 
are surprised at first that the maternal drive was the strongest. On second 
thought, it is common knowledge that mammalian mothers are highly moti- 
vated to retrieve and protect their babies. An interesting finding of this ex- 
periment is that the sex drive does not seem to rank with maternal, thirst, 
or hunger in strength. However, this does fit in with what we have already 
studied about these drives. The exploratory drive was the weakest one stud- 
ied, as might have been expected. It is also interesting to note that even 
when no incentive was present, it took the animals an average of 3.5 trials 
presumably to learn that the obstruction compartment was what hurt them, 
or that nothing interesting was over there. 

trace all complex human motives back to a to our environment. Accordingly, different 

few basic ones. We shall simply assume peoples in different places and at different 

that our tendency to respond to our own times in history have developed somewhat 

kind has played some part in the building different motives. In America today, we 

of Our social motives. Certainly a more gre- take it for granted that nearly everyone will 

garious animal has more scope for building have a motive to excel his fellows in what- 

social motives than one limited to its family ever they are doing whenever he can. To 

group. many of us this may seem like a natural, 

Probably more important than this tend- inborn motive, yet anthropologists 2 tell us 

ency is the tremendous capacity of the about a group of primitive people in the 

human species for learning to adjust to its wilds of New Guinea who have no such 

environment. The more complex adjust- motive. In fact, these people have just the 

ments can be made only by a cooperating opposite one. They have learned in their 

group of people and not by a single indi- society to be motivated not to excel and not 

vidual alone. Thus, many of our motives are 2 M . Mea d, Sex and Temperament in Three 

learned in order that we may better adapt Primitive Societies, Morrow, New York, 1935. 


Figure 3.6. Different 
animal species vary 
in their tendency to 
be gregarious. 

to compete with their fellows. A person 
with our motive to excel seems to them to 
be abnormal and odd. 

Some Common Social Motives. Some of 
the social motives which we in America 
possess are also common to many other 
peoples in various parts of the world. To 
illustrate, let us look at some of the motives 
that seem to be a part of a general desire 
for social acceptance and approval. Obvi- 
ously, if we are to succeed in group living, 
we must gain at least some measure of 
group approval. 

Most of us can find in ourselves a need 
for recognition. It is not enough to be an 
ignored part of the group. We are moti- 
vated to do things which will bring us rec- 
ognition from the other members of our 

group. It is partly through this recognition 
that we know we are accepted and ap- 
proved. Recognition dispels our doubts and 
gives us a feeling of security. Sometimes, 
when recognition is slow in coming, we do 
ridiculous things to gain attention. Unhap- 
pily, these actions most often bring us only 
momentary attention but not lasting recog- 
nition. They may even backfire, resulting 
in social disapproval and rejection the very 
opposite of what we really want. 

Most of us also can find in ourselves a 
need to be needed. 3 We have a great long- 
ing to feel and believe that among our 
friends and relatives there are those who 

3 W. W. Finlay, A. Q. Sartain, and W. M. Tatc, 
Human Behavior in Industry, McGraw-Hill, New 
York, 1954, pp. 27-30. 


really need us. We do not want to stop with 
just recognition; we are further motivated 
to do things which are essential to the 
group. We wish to feel that the group actu- 
ally needs us and knows that it needs us. 
We want to feel that, were we to leave the 
group, it would make a real difference to 
every member of the group. Undoubtedly 
one reason a large number of workers in 
America are dissatisfied with their jobs is 
that they can gain neither recognition nor a 
feeling of being needed in the work group. 
A painful frustration comes with the reali- 
zation that, were they never to return to the 
group, no one would ever miss them. 

Many other motives fit into this pattern 
or family of motives. Our purpose has been 
to illustrate how complex and how far from 
the physiological drives some of our every- 
day motives are. Rather than attempt a 
catalogue of social motives, we shall now 
study some of the motive systems which 
include most of our specific motives. 

Human Value Systems. Probably the 
most important lesson taught us as we grow 
up in the group is what to value. In order 
for a number of people to live together in 
harmony, they must reach some agreement 
concerning what is to be valued to the point 
of veneration, what is to be despised, and 
where everything else comes in between. 
This does not mean that each individual in 
the group must value everything exactly as 
everyone else docs, but only that everyone 
must agree in general to a system of values. 

Each of us was born into a group in 
which the adults had reached some con- 
sensus about what to value. In growing up, 
we found that we had to learn these values 
and abide by the system or become a delin- 
quent and outcast. Our specific motives and 
goals were also learned, but we discovered 
that a certain amount of leeway was per- 
mitted in motives and goals so long as the 
new ones fitted into the accepted value 

In America, as in most complex cultures 
and societies, we have a great many value 

systems. To list all of them would be nearly 
impossible, but we can group them into a 
small number of categories, which are 
rough but useful. One such grouping 4 in- 
cludes the following values: the theoretical, 
the religious, the social, the political, the 
economic, and the esthetic. 

All of us in America participate in all 
these values, but enough freedom usually 
exists to allow each of us to emphasize one 
category or another. Psychological tests 
have been constructed that try to deter- 
mine which values an individual tends to 
emphasize. Ihis is not an attempt to type 
people; rathei, these tests give us a rough 
measure of some of our values, or at least 
show their relative strength. The person 
who emphasizes the theoretical is one who 
values theories which try to explain the 
nature of things; most scientists lean in this 
direction. The religious person values the 
attempt to explain the why of the universe. 
Social values are important to the person 
who considers other people to be of great 
value; the man or woman who loves social 
service work is a good example here. The 
political category is highly valued by those 

4 E. Spranger, Types of Men, Stechert, New 
York, 1928. 

Figure 3.7. Most of us find in 
ourselves a need to be accepted 
and needed by others. 



L, 10 

Theoretical Economic 





Figure 3.8. An example of a profile of scores on the Allport- 
Vernon-Lindzey Study of Values. 

who consider important the shrewd manip- 
ulation of people and things in order to gain 
power in the group. The person who em- 
phasizes the economic category values not 
only money and material wealth but also 
all the intricate relations of gain and loss in 
our society. The person with esthetic values 
enjoys and often works with the relations 
between sensory objects and the manipula- 
tion of these objects; the artist is a good 
example of this type of person. 

In Figure 3.8 we show a profile of one 
individual who took the Allport-Vernon- 
Lindzey Test of Values. 6 This test consists 
of statements concerning the six value cate- 
gories listed above. The person whose pro- 
file is shown is high in theoretical and re- 
ligious, average in social, economic, and 
esthetic, and low in political values. It is 
possible for different people to have en- 
tirely different profiles, having many dif- 
ferent combinations of highs, lows, and 
averages. Some people are average in 

n G. Allport, P. Vernon, and G. Lindzey, A Study 
of Values, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1951. 

nearly all the categories we have just listed. 
The person who is high in theoretical 
values presumably will learn the motives 
and their goals which fit into his high valu- 
ation of the theoretical. Even in childhood 
he probably sought scientific explanations, 
desired a toy chemistry set, and read books 
and stories about science and scientists. In 
school he very likely elected science courses 
and began to aim toward a life devoted to 
science. The reason he wanted a paper 
route may have been to save money so that 
he could go to college and major in physics. 
Thus, his whole life and the most important 
of his motives may have derived from his 
early acceptance of the value of the theo- 
retical. In this same way, all of us have 
learned and built our many specific motives 
so that they would serve what we consider 


Habit refers to the whole framework of 
our consistent, repeated, habitual ways of 


behaving. Since we are motivated to be- 
have as we do, habit is a sort of crystalli- 
zation of our everyday motives into a regu- 
lar pattern. We get up in the morning, dress 
and eat, catch the bus and go to school or 
work, attend to the same details as always, 
eat lunch at the same restaurant, and so on, 
day after day. 

After these many everyday motives have 
been fitted into the framework of habit, 
they may continue to operate even after the 
original causes for them have disappeared. 
A man who learns a particular trade simply 
because no other work is available at the 
time and it is a matter of taking a job or 
starving may nevertheless find, when he 
retires thirty years later, that he still wants 
to go to work every day. The motive to 
work at his trade has become so habitual 
that he still has it, although there is no 
longer any necessity for him to work. We 
can say that this motive has become func- 
tionally autonomous; that is, it continues in 
strength long after the original set of cir- 
cumstances in which it was learned has 
ceased to exist. 

Gordon W. Allport, 6 of Harvard Univer- 
sity, has used the concept of functional au- 

B G. Allport, Personality: A Psychological Inter- 
pretation, New York, 1937, chap. 7. 

tonomy to explain such everyday motives as 
the retired sailor's desire to return to the sea, 
the successful city businessman's longing 
for the farm life of his youth, and even the 
miser's desire for more gold. Allport points 
out that in the beginning each of these mo- 
tives served a definite purpose and did not 
exist for itself alone. The sailor may have 
been forced to go to sea by his poverty- 
stricken parents. At first he may have hated 
it, but since it provided him a living, he 
learned to like it. The farm meant a great 
deal to the businessman in his youth simply 
because all his loved ones lived there. Now, 
even after they are gone, he persists in his 
habitual longing to go back. And who 
knows what good reasons the miser may 
have had in the beginning for his thrift? 
Another example of functional autonomy 
is seen in many cases of adult nail biting. 
Let us examine such a case and see what 
has happened. An otherwise normal, well- 
adjusted man of thirty bites his fingernails 
excessively. Looking back into his child- 
hood, we may discover that as a small boy 
in an orphans' home, he had feelings of re- 
jection and suffered from lack of affection. 
He built up general tensions which were re- 
lieved by his nail biting. At the age of ten 
he was adopted by a couple who gave him 

Figure 3.9. An example of functional autonomy. 
Forced by poverty to go to sea as a young boy, the 
old retired sailor now longs for its hazards. 



the love and security he needed. Soon he 
no longer felt rejected. His general tension 
subsided and he became a normal, healthy 
boy. However, the nail biting continued. 
The motive became a habit, and we can say 
that the man now bites his nails simply to 
be biting them, and it will be very difficult 
to get him to stop. 

Even in animal experiments we have 
some evidence of this sort of phenomenon. 
Young rats that have never been used in an 
experiment before will run a maze for a 
food reward if they are hungry. After a few 
trials they will learn the shortest path to 
the food and learn to avoid the blind alleys. 
After the maze has been thoroughly 
learned, the rats can now be put into an- 
other maze. However, it is no longer neces- 
sary to make the rats hungry, nor is it neces- 
sary to have food in the maze. The rats will 
run through the new maze, learning to 
avoid the blind alleys, simply because they 
have the habit of maze running. In the rat 
experiment, this phenomenon has been 
called externalization of drive. In other 
words, we may say that the motive of maze 
running has become functionally autono- 
mous, just as the motive of nail biting had 
in the previous example. 

We have pointed out a number of times 
that motives interact with each other. We 
can seldom study, or even speak of, a single 
motive in isolation. We must expect, then, 
that often our motives will interfere with 
each other. Sometimes one motive will get 
in the way of the satisfaction of another 
motive. When this occurs, we call it a con- 
flict of motives. There are at least three dif- 
ferent ways in which motives can conflict: 
approach-avoidance, approach - approach, 
and avoidance-avoidance conflicts. 7 

7 K. Lewin, A Dynamic Theory of Personality, 
McGraw-Hill, New York, 1935, pp. 104, 123. 

Approach-Avoidance Conflict. In ap- 
proach-avoidance conflict, there is one goal 
and .two incompatible motives. One of the 
motives leads us to approach the goal-ob- 
ject, and the other motive leads us to avoid 
this same object. A good example of this 
type of conflict is seen in the small child 
who wants to play with an ash tray on the 
coffee table and who also wants to leave 
it alone because his hand has been slapped 
for touching it on previous occasions. His 
conflict is easily visible, for he alternately 
reaches and withdraws his hand, not able 
to decide which impulse to follow. He may 
resolve his conflict by leaving the room, by 
grabbing the ash tray and throwing it on 
the floor, or by falling to the floor in a 
temper tantrum. 

We adults, too, have our approach-avoid- 
ance conflicts. A familiar type of guilt, in 
fact, is a special case of this type of con- 
flict. We have a desire to do a particular 
thing, but we also have a motive not to do 
it because it is forbidden. Whenever we are 
tempted to do it, or even whenever we think 
of the act, we feel guilty. Many neurotic per- 
sonalities arc so burdened with such con- 
flict-based guilt that they are unable to ad- 
just to everyday life. (See Figure 3.10 for 
a diagram of this conflict. ) 

Approach-Approach Conflict. Approach- 
approach conflict (also see Figure 3.10), a 
second type of conflict, may take one of two 
entirely different forms. One form is called 
convergent and the other divergent. In con- 
vergent approach-approach conflict, there 
are two incompatible motives to approach 
the same goal, with the result that neither 
can be satisfied. An example is seen in the 
case of the boy who loves his brother and is 
motivated to pat him on the back and at 
the same time hates his brother and wants 
to punch him in the nose. In both motives 
we see approach, but the satisfaction of 
either motive blocks satisfaction of the 

In divergent approach-approach conflict, 






Figure 3.10. In the "approach-avoidance" conflict, one of the 
motives leads us to approach the goal-object while the other 
motive leads us to avoid it. 

In the convergent "approach-approach" conflict, there are 
two incompatible motives leading us to the same goal-object. 
In the divergent approach-approach conflict, there may be 
two goals and one motive or two goals and two motives. 
In the "avoidance-avoidance" conflict, there are two goal- 
objects, neither of which is desired but one of which must be 

we have two motives and two goals com- 
peting with each other at the same moment. 
For instance, a girl wants to go to church 
on Sunday morning at eleven, and she also 
wants to go on a picnic set for the same 
hour. Sometimes we have only one motive 
which is directed toward two different but 
conflicting goals at the same time. Imagine 
a boy who wants to get married and who 
has narrowed the field down to two pretty 

girls, both of whom are equally attractive 
to him! 

Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict. In avoid- 
ance-avoidance conflict, the third type of 
conflict, there are two goals, neither of 
which is desired but one of which must be 
chosen. We are in such conflict when we 
are motivated to avoid both the "devil and 
the deep blue sea" but must choose one. 
Hamlet was deep in this kind of conflict 


when he said, "To be or not to be . . ." 
He did not want to live and he did not 
wanjt to die, but he had to do one or the 
other. The soldier is in this conflict when he 
wants to avoid the dangers of the front line 
and also wants to avoid being labeled a 
coward (again, see Figure 3.10). 

During the course of a single day we 
may be momentarily in one conflict situation 
after another. The normal person resolves 
these conflicts quickly and is not especially 
troubled by them. On occasion we may 
even be in a multiple conflict which corn- 
bines all three types. Usually even this situa- 
tion is soon resolved and we forget that it 
occurred. On the other hand, the neurotic 
person is in continual conflict and may never 
resolve it without outside help. When such 
help is needed, it is unwise to seek it from 
the amateur psychologists among our 
friends. We may, however, seek the guid- 
ance of a competent counselor. 


Whether or not we are conscious of our 
motives has little to do with their impor- 
tance. All of us are conscious, of course, of 
many of our motives; we know some of the 
goals we seek and why we seek them. Often, 
however, we are not even aware of our 
goals, and, consequently, we are unable to 
explain why we seek them, 1 

Certainly all of us realize that many proc- 
esses go on within our bodies without our 
conscious awareness. We seldom know just 
what our internal organs are doing at a 
given moment. It does not worry us that 
most of the time the beating of our hearts 
and the digestion of our food go on without 
our conscious knowledge. By the same 
token we should be neither surprised nor 
worried that some of our motives direct our 
behavior without our being aware of the 

Repressed Unconscious Motivation. 
Sometimes we remain unaware of very 
strong motives because of a process called 
repression. Freud introduced this term to ex- 
plain the "active forgetting" of unpleasant 
memories ( see Chapter 6 for a fuller treat- 
ment of repression). Through repression 
these unpleasant memories may be kept 
from consciousness, yet these memories may 
continue to motivate us strongly. The clini- 
cal psychologist and the psychiatrist dis- 
cover such repressed unconscious motiva- 
tion in many of their patients. 

Figure 3.11. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) 
was the founder of psychoanalysis. He was 
one of the greatest of the pioneers in modern 
psychology. Freud was especially interested in 
unconscious motivation. His contributions to 
the study and understanding of human motiva- 
tion rank among the most fruitful that have 
ever been made. (International News Photos.) 



A clinical example. During the last war, 
psychiatrists had an especially good oppor- 
tunity to study many cases of repression. 
For instance, many pilots in the Air Force 
went through horrible experiences, which 
they quickly repressed. One of these pilots 
was flying a bombing mission over enemy 
territory when an enemy fighter strafed his 
plane. Before his very eyes, he saw his co- 
pilot blown to bits. It was only by an ex- 
traordinary stroke of luck that he was able 
to bring his plane back. 

As soon as he returned to his base, he was 
questioned by the Intelligence Section. 
They were amazed to find that, although he 
had been completely uninjured, he had no 
conscious memory that anything had hap- 
pened to the copilot. For a while, he seemed 
dazed and violently resisted any discussion 
about the copilot. Later, when he appeared 
to have returned to normal, he steadfastly 
maintained that the copilot had missed the 
flight at the last minute and that he had 
gone on alone. Because of terrible night- 
marcs, he was unable to leave the hospital 
and rejoin his unit. After a few weeks, he 
was transferred to a psychiatric ward. 

Even after weeks of psychiatric interview- 
ing, the pilot was unable to remember the 
dreadful incident and continued to have 
night "terrors." The psychiatrist then de- 
cided to use a drug in his interviews. He 
gave the pilot injections of sodium pento- 
thai (popularly referred to as a "truth se- 
rum"), which put him into a semiconscious 
state. Gradually the physician got him to 
relive his repressed experience. The pilot 
slowly began to readmit to consciousness 
the emotional memories of his battle expe- 
rience. Finally, he was able to remember 
every little detail of the enemy plane's at- 
tack and of his friend's death. He would 
scream in horror during these interviews 
just as he had when the event actually oc- 

Certainly he proved during these inter- 
views that he had not forgotten much of his 
terrifying experience, but he had immedi- 

ately repressed this memory and had re- 
sisted for months attempts to bring it back 
into consciousness. The memory was simply 
too horrible and too unpleasant to face 
consciously. At the unconscious level, the 
memory had continued vivid and active, 
motivating his terrifying nightmares. 

Many other examples could be given to 
show that repression does occur and must 
be taken into account in explaining some 
of our unconscious motivation. 

Unconscious, Unrepressed Drives or Mo- 
tives. We must not take the view that all un- 
conscious motivation stems from repres- 
sion; many Lasic motives remain uncon- 
scious because they have no way of enter- 
ing our awareness. 

For example, there have been many times 
when each of us has been thirsty and there 
was no doubt about it. On other occasions, 
we have found ourselves taking a long 
drink at the water fountain in the hall and 
only after we started drinking were we con- 
scious of our thirst. Or, how often do we 
light up a cigarette without being aware 
of the motive to do so? Most of us who are 
smokers will admit that it happens quite 
often. Another instance of an unrepressed, 
unconscious motive occurs each time we 
put on our glasses to read, without con- 
sciously thinking about it. 

Perhaps the best example of this kind of 
motive is seen in our specific hungers. They 
can be classed as a basic part of our store 
of unconscious motives. Until we have eaten 
the food in question, we seldom have an 
inkling that it is the food that we crave. 
There is no doubt that the babies in the 
"cafeteria-feeding experiment" were un- 
aware of their motivation. Sometimes, of 
course, when we are presented with a large 
array of foods (as in a cafeteria), the mo- 
ment our eye falls on a certain food, we 
know that it is exactly what we want. How- 
ever, it is only on rare occasions that we are 
conscious of a craving for a specific food. 

For an animal in the jungle, it is un- 
doubtedly better for survival that specific 


hungers remain unconscious. For civilized 
man, the case is more complicated. Through 
our great learning ability and through the 
cultural heritage which that learning ability 
has helped accumulate, we adult human 
beings are often able to modify motives 
that in lower animals remain unconscious 
and are little affected by experience. Where 
specific hungers are concerned, many of 
us have learned to avoid the very foods that 
would satisfy our natural specific hungers. 
In fact, we may learn to prefer foods that 
eventually lead to ill health and death. An 
example is the refusal of many Oriental 
peoples to eat unpolished rice, which is rich 
in the vitamins of the B complex. Instead 
they insist upon eating polished white rice 
and so develop beriberi, a vitamin-defi- 
ciency disease. 

Nevertheless, the point is that specific 
hungers are another unconscious aspect of 
our lives. 

Experimental Hypnosis and Unconscious 
Motives. It is commonly thought that hyp- 
notism is a mysterious power possessed by 
only a few unusual individuals. Unfortu- 
nately, this belief is fostered by many stage 
hypnotists, who are all too often quacks or 
charlatans. Actually, hypnosis is a natural 
phenomenon, no more mysterious than 
sleep or digestion. Certainly, it is not to 
be classed with the occult or esoteric; it 
is not mind reading or fortunetelling, nor is 
it any sort of magic power over someone 

Psychologists generally describe hypnosis 
as a state of increased suggestibility; that 
is, the hypnotized person receives and fol- 
lows suggestions more readily than he 
would ordinarily. The hypnotized person is 
intensely motivated to do just one thing: 
follow the directions of the hypnotist. 

What concerns us at this point is how 
experiments in hypnosis illustrate the way 
unconscious motives work. The best ex- 
amples come from what is called posthyp- 
notic suggestion. While the subject is still 
hypnotized, the hypnotist gives a sugges- 

tion that is not to be carried out until later. 
After the subject is no longer in the hypnotic 
state, he will usually perform the suggested 
action, at whatever time he has been di- 
rected to do so whether a few minutes 
later or months later. He does it with no 
other motive than that the hypnotist told 
him to do it; yet he has no conscious mem- 
ory of what the hypnotist said. The im- 
portant point is that a person in a perfectly 
normal state does something without being 
aware of his own motive. A simple example 
will clarify what we mean by posthypnotic 

During a demonstration of hypnosis the 
psychologist may say to the hypnotized sub- 
ject, "When I count to ten and snap my 
fingers, you will be wide-awake and no 
longer hypnotized." Before he snaps his 
fingers, he says further, "After you are out 
from under the hypnosis and have returned 
to your seat, I will light a cigarette. When 
you see me light the cigarette, you will 
come back to the front of the room, take 
the cigarette from my hand, drop it to the 
floor, and step on it. You will do all these 
things for no other reason than that I am 
now telling you to do them. Furthermore, 
you will not remember, consciously, that I 
have told you." The hypnotist then counts 
to ten, snaps his fingers, and the subject 
awakens from the hypnotized state. The 
subject returns to his seat and participates 
in the general conversation about what has 
gone on. 

After a few minutes, the psychologist 
takes out a cigarette and lights it. The 
former subject is seen to be watching this 
action closely. After a moment of hesita- 
tion he gets up, returns to the front of the 
room, takes the cigarette from the psy- 
chologist's hand, drops it to the floor, and 
steps on it. One of the other members of 
the group, acting on previous instructions, 
asks, "Why on earth did you do such a rude 
thing to our guest, who has been kind 
enough to give us this demonstration?" This 
puts the former subject on the spot and he 



Figure 3.12. At Nurnberg after World War II, 
these two German generals were tried for war 
crimes. They had commanded troops that 
executed tens of thousands of civilians. Ac- 
cording to the defendants, these civilians were 
"hostages" killed in "reprisal" for the death 
of German soldiers. Do you think they were 
deliberately lying about their motives? How 
would you distinguish their motives from those 
of the men who prosecuted them? (Wide 
World Photos.) 

must give an answer. Since he does not know 
consciously why he did it, he must resort to 
rationalization s ( see Chapter 6 ) . The only 
real motive for his action was the sugges- 
tion of the hypnotist, which he does not 
remember. He is in the same predicament 
that we all are in when we do something for 
an unconscious motive and are asked to 
give our reasons. 

He stammers for a moment, but being 
adept at rationalization, just as we all are, 
he soon thinks up some logical-sounding 
reasons. He says, "Well, you see, it's this 
way: even though I am a chain smoker my- 
self, the smoke from your cigarette nau- 
seated me. If I hadn't put it out when I did, 
I would have vomited before I could have 
left this room. I think the reason for it is my 
having missed breakfast this morning I 
overslept. So, if you will excuse my rude ac- 
tion. . . ." By this time he has convinced 
himself that these are the true reasons for 
his actions. Also by this time the rest of the 
group can no longer restrain themselves and 
peals of laughter surprise the former sub- 
ject. When the real story is later explained 
to him the subject finds it hard to believe 
what has happened. 

We have seen in this example of hyp- 
nosis how a person can do something be- 
cause of an unconscious reason or motive. 
The example is a good one, for we know 
why he did what he did the only reason 

8 Rationalization is the giving of false reasons 
for some action, without being aware that the 
reasons are false. 

was that the hypnotist told him to. But we 
also see how he rationalized in order to ex- 
plain his action to himself. What is shown 
here in an experimental situation is what 
presumably happens every time uncon- 
scious motives encourage us to rationalize. 


Not only can we say that practically all 
behavior is motivated, but also we can come 
to two further conclusions. First, different 
people may perform the same act for en- 
tirely different motives, and second, in a 
given person a single act is most often the 
result of several motives. 

For example, we have already seen that 
the act of eating can be motivated by food- 
hunger or by desire for affection (love). 
Of two students who work equally hard 
on their college courses, one wants to learn 
the subjects, and the other works to earn 
the convertible promised him if he makes 
all A's. Such examples could be multiplied 
endlessly, since nearly every human act can 
be instigated by a variety of motives. 

These same examples also serve to il- 


lustrate the point about a single act result- 
ing from a set of motives. The person who 
eats -mainly because of need for affection 
also has food-hunger. And the student who 
works hard mainly for the gift of a con- 
vertible may also be motivated to learn 
something. Furthermore, he may also enjoy 
the prospect of making Phi Beta Kappa and 

of graduating cum laude. In addition, either 
of the two students may or may not have a 
neurotic compulsion to be perfect in what- 
ever he does. In fact, any student motivated 
to make A's is likely to have a long list of 
pertinent motives. And thus it is with nearly 
everything we do there are usually many 
motives, not just one motive. 


A motive, or drive, is defined as a com- 
plex state in a person that directs his be- 
havior toward a goal. For purposes of clas- 
sification and study, nearly all motives can 
be regarded either as physiological drives 
or as social motives. 

The physiological drives are part of the 
homeostatic regulatory mechanisms. These 
drives include hunger, thirst, sex, pain- 
avoidance, rest and sleep, and a number 
of others. 

The social motives include the many 
motives we learn in group living. As gregar- 
ious organisms, we acquire a large number 
of such motives. In every society and culture 
the individual's social motives fit into cer- 
tain value systems. In America, some of 
these value systems are the economic, the 

political, the religious, and the theoretical. 

Functional autonomy is a condition in 
which motives have become habitual and 
outlast the original set of circumstances 
under which they were learned. 

At times our motives interfere or conflict 
with each other. Such conflicts are often 
classified as approach-avoidance, approach- 
approach, and avoidance-avoidance. 

Many of our motives are unconscious; 
that is, we arc not aware of them. These 
unconscious motives may be either physio- 
logical drives or social motives. In experi- 
mental hypnosis, posthypnotic suggestions 
are often used to demonstrate the existence 
of unconscious motives. The subject in such 
experiments must rationalize in order to 
account for these motives. 


1. Is it possible that the physiological drives 
originate in homeostasis? 

2. Is it probable that our social motives are de- 
rived from homeostasis? 

3. Can you make a case for the assertion that 
hunger and thirst are a single motive? 

4. Why is it that air-hunger does not seem 
ordinarily to be as strong as food-hunger? 

5. How does the paternal motive in human 
beings differ from the maternal motive? 

6. Which value systems explain the motives of 
a candidate for public office? 

7. Give several examples of functional auton- 

omy other than those given in this chapter. 

8. Describe a case in which a person is in- 
volved at one time in more than one type of 

9. How is hypnosis used to demonstrate un- 
conscious motivation? 

10. What is the meaning of (a) motivation, 
(b) motive, (c) drive, (d) need, (e) incen- 

11. Describe the obstruction-box technique for 
measuring the strength of the various drives 
of the rat. 

12. How are young children able to select a 
balanced diet for themselves? 




Cannon, W. B.: Bodily Change* in Pain, Hun- 
ger, Fear, and Rage, 2d cd., Appleton-Century- 
Crofts, New York, 1929. 

(A classic on both motivation and emo- 

Ford, C. S., and F. A. Beach: Patterns of Sex- 
ual Behavior, Hoeber, New York, 1951. 

(An interesting, informative book for the 
beginner by an anthropologist and a psy- 
chologist. ) 
McCrary, J. L.: Psychology of Personality, 

Logos Press, New York, 1956. 

(Motivation as a fundamental aspect of 


Morgan, C. T., and E. Stellar: Physiological 
Psychology, 2d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 
1950, chaps. 17-20. 

(The physiological aspects of motivation.) 
Young, P. T.: Motivation of Behavior, Wiley, 
New York, 1936. 

(An older textbook on motivation, still 

worth reading.) 




emotions give color to our lives. A 
person incapable of feeling emotion would 
strike us as drab and uninteresting. We 
could throw mud in his face, and he would 
not become angry. We could hold a re- 
volver to his head, and he would feel no 
fear. Nor could he love or hate anyone or 
anything. We could not possibly accept him 
as a real, live human being, for we all recog- 
nize that to be human is in part, at least 
to feel emotion. 

Because of our personal experiences with 
them, we all know what the emotions are. 
Fear, anger, Jove, grief,, joy, and all the 
others are thoroughly familiar. Moreover, 
we are all aware of the importance of such 
feelings. How we feel about the world 
situation, about racial conflict, or about a 
national election greatly influences our ac- 
tions. Even our everyday behavior at home 
or with our associates is closely tuned to 
our emotions. 

Furthermore, human emotions are as 
varied and complex as they are important; 
consequently, a large amount of psychologi- 
cal research has been devoted to their study. 
In this chapter we shall follow two main 
approaches: first, we shall acquaint our- 
selves with several of the aspects that de- 
fine an emotion, and second, we shall ex- 
amine in some detail the nature of the emo- 


All emotions have at least four aspects 
which may be analyzed and investigated. 
The first aspect is personal emotional ex- 
perience those_characteristics of the emo- 
tion which the person consciously feels*, 
knows, and can describe verbally. The sec- 
ond is the physiological or bodily changes 


Figure 4.1. Emotions are so 
vital a part of our lives that 
we cannot even witness emo- 
tion in another without being 
somewhat affected ourselves. 
What emotions would you 
imagine this homeless Ko- 
rean mother feeh? What 
emotions, if any, do you feel 
while viewing this picture? 
(Courtesy of CARE.) 

that occur during the emotion, such as 
changes in blood pressure, pulse, or breath- 
ing. The third aspect is the behavior of the 
emotional person how he acts and what he 
does. The fourth aspect is that of motiva- 
tion, for an emotional organism is also a 
goal-directed one. 

Emotional Experience. At one time psy- 
chologists made a greater distinction be- 
tween the terms "feeling" and "emotion" 
than they do today. 

to be such states as unpleasantness, pleas- 
antness, tension, relaxation, excitement, or 
quiet. It was thought that the emotions 
were more complex states that grew out of 
various combinations of these .feelings. To- 
day, we most often use the word "feeling" 
simply to describe our personal emotional 
experiences. According to the emotion be- 
ing experienced, we may say that we feel 
dejected, elated, afraid, happy, sad, or 

These subjective feelings of emotion add 
color and warmth to our lives. They are the 
basis of our preferences and our annoy- 
ances. We enjoy associating with certain 
people because we like the way we feel 
when we are with them. We avoid some 
situations because of the unpleasant feel- 
ings they arouse in us. In fact, in most of our 

undertakings we tend to follow our feel- 
ings, even if we must rationalize ( see Chap- 
ter 6) in order to do so. 

We know our own feelings through the 
process of introspection. We. look into our 
emotional experience, so to speak, and are 
able to feel and know it consciously. If we 
like, we may report our feelings to someone 
else, and our report may be taken as data 
to be studied scientifically. As we shall see 
in the following sections, some of the other 
aspects of emotion yield data that may be 
more easily verified. No other person can 
check the truthfulness of our verbal report. 
Nevertheless, much of what psychologists 
know about emotion has resulted from the 
fact that, while studying the other aspects 
of emotion objectively, they also feel and 
know their own personal affective l states. 

Since we are so often aware of our feel- 
ings, we tend to jump to the conclusion that 
^motions are always conscious. However, 
just as we discover through insight that 
many of our motives are unconscious, so do 
we also discover that we can and do have 
feelings and other affective states of which 
we have little or no conscious awareness. 
As a dramatic illustration of this point, 

1 The word "affective" is a psychological term 
used to refer to emotion. 


Freud has shown that children sometimes 
have an intense but unconscious hatred for 
their parents. He demonstrated this fact in 
adult patients by using psychoanalysis to 
bring to their consciousness these feelings, 
which often were so strong that the patient 
wept with emotion. Another example is the 
man who is afraid of his employer but is 
not aware of his own fear. If we observe his 
actions when his employer is present, we see 
overt signs of his fear. However, until he 
gains insight, he is unable to know this fear 
consciously and admit it. We can say, then, 
that many times we are unaware of our true 

There are other times when we know our 
emotion but prefer to keep others from 
knowing it. All of .us have developed a cer- 
tain skill in masking the overt expression 
of how we feel. There are times of great 
sorrow when we hold back our tears and 
force a smile. There are other times when 
we should like to lash out in anger, but in- 
stead we stand immobile and try to appear 

Bodily Changes in Emotion. Physiologists 
have shown that during the states which 
we call "emotion" a number of bodily 
changes take place. Not all these changes 
occur at the same time, nor do they occur 
in all people who experience similar emo- 
tional states. In fact, it may be that even 
when the same person is angry, for instance, 
significantly different bodily states occur on 
different occasions. 

Heart rate and blood pressure. In strong 
emotion (for example, anger, fear, or sexual 
arousal) the heart rate usually increases. 
This increase is accompanied by more 
vigorous contractions of the heart. As a 
result of these changes, the amount of 
blood pumped by the heart is considerably 

Blood pressure also changes. However, 
even in the same emotion (as in anger), it 
is difficult to predict the direction of 
change. There may be either a rise or a fall 

in the blood pressure. In sexual arousal in 
the male, however, a rise in pressure is 
consistently observed. 

Changes in breathing. Respiration, or 
breathing, may change in a variety of ways 
during emotion. The rate may change; that 
is, breathing may speed up or slow down. 
It may become deeper or more shallow. Or, 
even more dramatic, a change may occur 
in the ratio of inspiration to expiration, 
i.e., the length of time taken to inhale a 
breath divided by the length of time it 
takes to exhale. For instance, in fright the 
breath may be inhaled more slowly than 

These various changes in respiration dur- 
ing emotion may be interrupted by such 
things as sneezing, yawning, coughing, and 
sighing. At best, breathing is a very com- 
plex indicator of emotion. Yet, if properly 
measured, changes in breathing can serve 
as a very sensitive sign of even subtle emo- 

The GSR and other skin responses. The 
skin, like most parts of the body, will con- 
duct an electric current. If a weak current 
is applied to the skin by attaching elec- 
trodes, changes in skin resistance to such 
a current can be recorded on a galva- 
nometer. A drop in skin resistance usually 
accompanies a sudden increase in sweat- 
gland activity. Since perspiration increases 
during emotional excitement, the drop in 
skin resistance can be used to indicate the 
onset of an affective state. This change in 
resistance is known as the galvanic skin 
response (GSR). However, the GSR may 
also arise from other causes, such as the 
contraction of skeletal muscles. Thus, cau- 
tion must be exercised in its use as an indi- 
cator of emotion. When properly used, the 
GSR is a very sensitive indicator. It is use- 
ful as an indicator of emotion when the sub- 
ject ( or patient ) might have reason to hide 
the external manifestations of emotion, for 
it is virtually impossible to control the GSR 



Although not connected with the GSR, 
another skin change during emotion is a rise 
or drop in skin temperature. Emotional 
stress is supposed to cause a drop in skin 
temperature, while emotional security re- 
sults in a rise. Unfortunately, it is difficult 
to measure skin-temperature change, and 
consequently it is not used so much as some 
of the other indicators of emotion. 

Other bodily changes during emotion. A 
host of other bodily changes occur with 
some regularity during emotion. Salivary- 
gland secretion may change, as in the dry- 
ness of the mouth observed in fear. The 
little muscles that control the erection of 
hairs on the body may contract during emo- 
tion, so that we literally bristle with anger. 
Metabolism (the body's rate of oxygen 
consumption) is usually increased during 
emotion. Skeletal muscles may be tensed 
involuntarily, and also a tremor may be de- 
tected in them. 

Although many more bodily changes can 
and do occur during emotion (some of 
which we shall discuss later), we have 
listed enough of them at this point to give 
an idea of what can be expected. These 
bodily changes are spoken of as "indica- 
tors" of emotion. More properly, they are 
an integral part of the total emotional re- 
sponse of the organism. In addition to or, 
more correctly, along with the bodily re- 
sponses go the feeling and knowing of the 

In Figure 4.2 we can observe a polygraph 
recorder (often called a "lie detector") in 

Figure 4.2. What two bodily changes are being re- 
corded by this lie detector? What other changes 
might be used as indicators? Can you determine in 
the graph the places that show significant changes? 
Is it possible for the lie detector itself to lie? What 
safeguards can be used to avoid misusing such an 
apparatus as this? (International News Photos.) 

action. Such a polygraph makes a graph of 
each of a number of bodily changes that 
occur during emotion, such as GSR, blood 
pressure, and breathing. Police departments 
use this device as a "lie detector" by noting 
which answers given by the subject during 
interrogation are accompanied by signs of 
emotion. Needless to say, the results of the 
"lie detector" must be interpreted by an ex- 
pert, for the machine itself is not foolproof. 

Bodily changes in anger and fear. We 
have seen how, in general, various bodily 
changes can be expected in an emotional 
state. Let us now examine and compare two 
specific states: anger and fear. We shall 
see that some of the changes that we have 
listed occur. In addition, however, a num- 
ber of others not already mentioned will be 

During both anger and fear the heart 
rate increases and the pulse is stronger than 
usual. Sometimes the heart pounds hard 
enough to be quite noticeable. This harder, 



salivary glands 




adrenal glands 



large intestine 
small intestine 

Figure 4.3. Under the stimulus of fear the 
adrenal glands send adrenalin in various di- 
rections (shown by the arrows) throughout the 
body; salivary glands secrete less saliva, causing 
dryness of the mouth; while the bronchioles 
become dilated, causing the depth and rate of 
breathing to increase. Other parts of the body 
are affected too; the heart pumps blood faster, 
the liver liberates more sugar, the spleen dis- 
charges red cells, kidneys and bladder become 
more active, and the stomach and intestines 
are drained. What do these body changes ac- 
complish for the individual under a stimulus 
of fear? 

more vigorous beating allows the heart to 
pump much greater amounts of blood than 
it ordinarily does. 

Breathing also increases in anger or fear, 
at least in most cases. Breathing becomes 
not only more rapid but also deeper, allow- 
ing more oxygen to be brought into the 
lungs and transferred to the red blood cells. 

Also in anger and fear, there may be a 
flushing, or reddening of the skin; on the 
other hand, there may be pallor, or whiten- 
ing of the skin. The flushing is caused by a 
dilation of the surface blood vessels, bring- 
ing more blood to the skin. The pallor is 
caused by a constriction of the blood vessels 
so that the skin is left short of blood supply. 
In anger or in fear there is sometimes a 
flushing and sometimes a pallor, even in the 
sAme individual. 

| Another bodily change that occurs in 
both anger and fear is a release of glycogen 
from the liver .n The minute this substance 
enters the blood stream, it is converted into 
usable sugar. 

Also, red blood cells are released from 
storage and are added to the blood stream. 
These cells allow more oxygen to be car- 
ried to all the cells of the body. Again, if 

the oxygen and blood sugar are to be used 
as fuel, the blood needs to circulate rapidly, 
taking this fuel to the various cells in the 
muscles and other parts of the body. 

The galvanic skin response ( GSR ) is still 
another bodily change that occurs in both 
anger and fear. 

Perhaps the most important bodily change 
in anger or fear is the secretion of adrenalin 
by the adrenal -glands. For adrenalin not 
only reduces bleeding by constricting 
blood vessels if a wound occurs, but 
it also helps stimulate other organs into 
activity. Adrenalin can work both alone 
and in conjunction with the nervous sys- 
tem. Sometimes the physiologists speak of 
this joint action as the adrenal-nervous sys- 
tem reaction in anger and fear. The various 
bodily changes that occur in these two emo- 
tions are maintained longer than would 
otherwise be possible by this adrenal-nerv- 
ous system cooperation. We shall explore 
this reaction more fully in the section on 
the autonomic nervous system. 

Some bodily changes accompanying a 
pleasant emotion. We have looked at many 
of the changes that occur in anger and 
fear. Let us look now at some of the bodily 



changes that take place in a pleasant emo- 
tion, such as that accompanying courtship 
and mating. We find some of the same 
changes occurring during the mating re- 
sponse that we found in anger and fear. 
For instance, we find a blushing reaction 
which is very similar to the flushing we 
found in anger and fear. We find that there 
is also a pounding of the heart and an in- 
crease in breathing. On the other hand, 
there are certain bodily changes during the 
mating response that are not found regu- 
larly in anger and fear. It would be logical 
to assume that blood pressure would always 
rise in anger and fear, but there is no set 
pattern; in some people there is a rise and 
in others a lowering. But in the male during 
mating there is nearly always a rise in 
blood pressure. 

We might point out that from the bodily 
changes alone it is difficult to distinguish 
among anger, fear, and the mating re- 
sponse. This should not disturb us, because 
we define and classify emotions not by 
their bodily states alone but by the gen- 
eral behavior tendencies and feelings that 
the organism has. We might add that, 
whether or not we label it emotion, when- 
ever we have a feeling of pleasantness or 
unpleasantness or tension, some of these 
bodily changes are probably occurring. 

The autonomic nervous system- A good 
many of the bodily changes in emotion are 
under the control of the autonomic nervous 
system. Hence, a large part of the under- 
standing of the physiological side of emo- 
tion comes from the study of the anatomy 
and function of the autonomic system. This 
system is connected with the central system 
but is in many ways independent of it. As 
the name "autonomic" implies, physiolo- 
gists once thought that it was completely 
independent of the rest of the nervous 
system. However, it has been discovered 
that there. are control. centers for this sys- 
tem in the hypothalamus (see Chapter 9) 
of the brain. The role of the hypothalamus 
in emotion is discussed later in this chapter. 

The autonomic nervous system is com- 
posed of two principal divisions, the sym- 
pathetic division and the parasympathetic 
division. The sympathetic division is lo- 
cated along each side of the spinal column 
( see Figure 4.4 ) . It is composed of a chain 
of ganglia, each ganglion being a cluster of 
nerve cells. These ganglia send out motor 
fibers to various organs in the body. The 
parasympathetic division is itself divided 
into two parts, the cranial and *he sacral. 
The cranial part consists of nerves from the 
brain (inside the cranium) and the sacral 
consists of nerves that leave the lowest part 
of the spinal cord (in the region of the 
sacrum ) . 

Most of our internal organs and smooth 
(involuntary) muscles are served by nerve 
fibers from both the sympathetic and the 
parasympathetic divisions. In general, the 
sympathetic division seems to take over in 
times of emergency or stress, when we are 
experiencing an emotion such as fear or 
rage. Most of the bodily changes mentioned 
in the section on anger and fear are the 
result of nerve impulses from the sympa- 
thetic division. On the other hand, the para- 
sympathetic division is more active during 
relatively calm periods in which the body 
is vegetating, for example, while sleeping, 
relaxing, or digesting and storing nutri- 

Actually, it is better to say that at all 
times, in calm and in stress, the two divi- 
sions work together in a balanced manner. 
For example, the heart muscle is innervated 
by fibers from both. The sympathetic nerve 
impulses cause the heart to speed up, and 
the parasympathetic impulses cause it to 
slow down. The balanced action of the two 
divisions allows the heart quickly and 
smoothly to change rhythm so as to corre- 
spond to the varying situations in which 
we find ourselves. 

In the sketch (Figure 4.4) we see the 
autonomic nervous system and its location 
relative to the central nervous system. No- 
tice that most organs of the body receive 



Figure 4.4. Most of our body organs are innervated by both the 
sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous 
system. For example, the sympathetic fibers speed up and strengthen 
heart action, while the parasympathetic fibers slow down the heart. In 
general the sympathetic division readies an organ for strenuous or 
emergency activity, and the parasympathetic is concerned with con- 
servation, or the vegetative functions of the organism. Can you predict 
how each division will affect the various organs shown? (From Paul 
B. Weisz, Biology, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1954. Courtesy of the 



stimulation from both the sympathetic and 
the parasympathetic divisions. For exam- 
ple, the iris muscle of the eye receives 
cranial-nerve stimulation and also sympa- 
thetic. The bladder receives sacral and sym- 
pathetic stimulation. The large intestine is 
rather unique in that it receives both cranial 
and sacral stimulation as well as sympa- 

While discussing the role of the adrenal 
gland in anger and fear, we mentioned the 
interaction of the hormone adrenalin and 
the nervous system. This reaction is re- 
ferred to as the &drenosympathetic reac- 
tion. The sympathetic stimulation of the 
adrenals causes adrenalin to be secreted. 
Then, as the adrenalin circulates in the 
blood stream, it in return stimulates the 

sympathetic system to continue its neural 
outflow. The end result of this reaction is a 
prolongation of the emotional state ( anger, 
fear, etc.). 

The Behavioral Expression of Emotion. 
A person experiencing an emotion nearly 
always expresses it in some way in his overt 

Facial expressions. Most people expect 
emotion to be expressed in a person's face. 
To a lesser extent, the average person also 
expects hand and body movements and 
gestures to express and signify the emotion, 
but he pays more attention to the face. 
Sometimes, a> in this case, scientific inves- 
tigation tends to follow the lead of common 
sense. Quite a bit of work in psychology has 
been done on facial expression in emotion, 

Figure 4.5. These card players are attempting to hide their facial expressions 
of emotion in order to prevent the other players from guessing what cards they 
drew. Although these men may in time develop completely enigmatic poker 
faces, might they unconsciously show their emotions with other expressions 
which their opponents can read? (Black Star.) 



Figure 4.6. What emotions are portrayed in these 
two photographs? In the one on the left, is the 
young woman frightened or merely surprised, or 
is she acting out an emotional experience? What 
about the man below? Is his emotion best described 
as a mixture of satisfaction and restrained joy? 
(Turn to page 87 for the key to answers.) 

while hand and body gestures have been 
relatively neglected. 

Psychologists have studied the problem 
of whether or not there are typical facial 
expressions for each emotion. Most studies 
have concluded that there are definitely 
cultural differences in the expression of 
emotion (note the study concerning Chi- 
nese emotional expression). However, as in 
everything else that is human, we find that 
both heredity and environment must be 

considered in emotional expressions. In 
other words, emotional behavior is a result 
of both maturation and learning. 

From studies of blind children we have 
discovered that a number of facial expres- 
sions do not depend upon a person's having 
seen these movements in others. 2 To a cer- 
tain extent happiness, anger and fear, 

2 J. Thompson, "Development of Facial Expres- 
sion of Emotion in Blind and Seeing Children," 
Archives of Psychology, no. 264, 1941. 



startle, and a few others are distinguishable 
in the blind child. When compared with 
normal children, however, blind children 
do not develop so many subtle shadings of 
expression. The older the children, the more 
marked are the differences between the 
normal and the blind. The reason for this is 
that the blind child has difficulty learning 
expressions he cannot see.i 

Among normal children and adults, the 
same facial patterns may accompany a 
number of different emotions. For instance, 
anger and fear often have a similar pattern. 
Likewise, happiness and surprise are some- 
times very similar. 

In tests in which the subject is asked to 
name the emotion expressed in a photo- 
graph of a face, .1 certain amount of error 

is always found. On the other hand, agree- 
ment about certain photographs can be re- 
markably good. 

In Figure 4.6 are photographs showing 
faces portraying different emotions. See if 
you can name the emotions in each pho- 
tograph. This little experiment will re- 
veal some of the ambiguity that exists in 
the patterns of facial expression of emotion. 

Vocal expression of emoticw. We are all 
aware that we sometimes judge emotion by 
listening to the sound of a person's voice. 
The sound of laughter nearly always indi- 
cates happiness. Crying, however, may ac- 
company sonow, fear, anger, or a number 
of other emotions. 

Many cues may be detected in a voice. 
Its loudness may indicate a certain emotion. 





The social environment can be very important in helping to determine the 
behavioral expression of an emotion. We find as great cultural variations 
in emotional expression as we do variations among individuals. For example, 
among the Maori of New Zealand, when friends meet after an absence, they 
are expected to shed tears. On the other hand, in Japan a person is sup- 
pssed to smile while being reprimanded by his teacher, or even when an- 
nouncing the death of his child. 

In one study * a psychologist read a number of works of Chinese litera- 
ture. In these stories he noted the descriptions of emotional behavior. In 
some instances the expressions were the same as those in the United States. 
For example, "Everyone trembled . . . ," "His hairs stood on end . . . ," 
and "Pimples arose all over the body" describe expressions of fear in both 
countries, and "He gnashed his teeth" can be recognized as anger. 

However, in many other instances, an American could hardly be expected 
to recognize the emotion from the Chinese description. For example, "Her 
eyes grew round and opened wide" would suggest surprise to us but indicates 
anger to the Chinese. Also, "He laughed a great ho-ho" describes anger 
to the Chinese but would not to an American. To us the statement, "They 
stretched out their tongues" might imply hatred or derision, but certainly 
not surprise as it does to the Chinese. 

In this study a check was made to see whether or not the literature re- 
flected the actual Chinese expressions of emotion in everyday situations. 
It was found that the stories accurately portray Chinese life in this respect. 

It would be interesting and useful if studies like this one were made in 
all the different cultures. 

* O. Klineberg, "Emotional Expression in Chinese Literature/' Journal of Abnormal and 
Social Psychology, 33:517-520, 1938. 



Its pitch, or even a change in its pitch, may 
be a cue as to the emotion. Whatever the 
many cues used, most people do about as 
well or as poorly in judging recordings of 
voices portraying different emotions as they 
do in judging photographs. 

Judging a situation. Many studies have 
pointed out that most of us can judge emo- 
tion best when allowed to view a total situ- 
ation. The whole situation, of course, adds 
many cues to those obtained from face and 
voice. For example, a man's facial expres- 
sion may seem to be a reflection of either 
anger or fear. However, when we are al- 
lowed to see that the man is cornered by 
a hungry lion, we know the emotion to be 

Certainly, in everyday life we most often 
judge what the emotion is while viewing 
the total situation. Nevertheless, it is im- 
portant for the scientist to analyze the total 
situation into the various separate behavior 
patterns which make it up. Only in this way 
can he later fit these expressions into the 
scheme of emotions that also must include 
the other aspects. 

Emotions as Motives. In the chapter on 
motivation we saw that motives direct be- 
havior toward goals. Since most emotions 
also orient the individual toward goals, they 
too must be considered as motives. For ex- 
ample, an angry person strives to strike or 
even to destroy the object of his anger, a 
man gripped by fear seeks a place of safety, 
and a woman in love desires to be near her 

In any situation in which a person feels 
emotion, he is not likely to be a disinter- 
ested bystander. There is always something 
that he wants or something that he wishes 
to do. Of course, he may not be able to 
attain his goal, in which case his emotion 
and motivation increase. In conflict situa- 
tions like those discussed in the previous 
chapter, intense emotion is almost always 
found. A frustrated person often becomes 
very aggressive. If he is not able to attack 

the obstacle that thwarts him, he may turn 
in fury upon an innocent scapegoat. In such 
an event we say that he has displaced his 
aggression (this mechanism is treated in 
more detail in Chapter 6). 

Generally, we find that in pleasant emo- 
tions a person is motivated toward what- 
ever it is that gives the pleasure. Moreover, 
he aspires to maintain or, at least, prolong 
his contact with the desired goal-object. In 
the unpleasant emotions, he seeks either to 
escape from the situation or to change it as 
quickly as possible. In the latter case, he 
may attack the object that causes his dis- 
pleasure and attempt to destroy it. 

Not only do we find motives in emotion, 
but we also find feeling and emotion in 
practically all motivation. For example, 
hunger and thirst are considered unpleas- 
ant by most of us, while the sex motive is 
experienced as pleasant. A good case can 
be made for the study of motivation and 
emotion as a single topic. In this connection 
it is interesting to note that both words 
come from similar Latin roots, movcre, 
which means "to move," and emovere, "to 
move out of" or "to stir up or agitate." 


In order to understand the nature of 
emotion, we must know something of its 
evolution in the species and its develop- 
ment in the individual. We must also know 
something of the theories that attempt to 
explain it. 

Emotional Evolution. The famous biolo- 
gist Charles Darwin stated that, like every- 
thing else about an organism, the emotions 
evolved and have persisted because of their 
survival value. Their purpose, he held, was 
to deal with emergency situations. If an 
organism found that it was being attacked, 
it had to be motivated either to fight or to 
run away. The emotions of anger and fear, 
according to Darwin, evolved side by side 
with these motives. 





Distress Ex. Delight 






Disgust Anger 




Ex. De. 


An. Je. Di. 

An. Je. Di. 






Elation Affection 


De. Jo. El. 





3 months 

6 months 

12 months 

18 months 

A.C. 1 24 months 


affection for adults 
affection for children 

Figure 4.7. Are any of the primary emotions left out of this 
scheme of development and differentiation? Would you change 
the placement of any of the emotions in this chart? Why is it 
useful to know tlie developmental relations among the emotions? 

In more recent years, Cannon, who was a 
physiologist at Harvard University, en- 
larged on Darwin's ideas about emotions, 
calling his own approach an "emergency 
theory of emotion." His examples also were 
taken mainly from the states of anger and 
fear. Cannon attempted to show that anger 
and fear are useful to an organism, mainly 
in getting it ready to fight or to run away, 
so that the emergency function is part feel- 
ing and part motive. 

A good deal of the evolutionary explana- 
tion of emotions makes sense. There is little 
doubt that, like many other bodily mecha- 

nisms ( digestion, etc. ), the physical changes 
that occur during emotion evolved. Obvi- 
ously, any creature that is not emotionally 
prepared to cope with an emergency will 
find survival difficult, if not impossible. 
Thus, one fact about the nature of emotions 
is that they evolved and were perfected be- 
cause of their survival value to the organ- 

Emotional Development of the Individ- 
ual. The section on maturation in Chapter 2 
points up the fact that nearly all an organ- 
ism's structures, systems, and behavior pat- 
terns must undergo a process of develop- 



ment before they are ready for use. Emo- 
tional behavior in all its aspects is no excep- 
tion to this rule. In the young infant there 
appears to be only one emotion, a general 
excitement. No matter what strong stimula- 
tionloud noises, loss of support, pain, or 
caresses the baby receives, its response 
pattern is the same. There seems to be an 
over-all discharge of motor (muscle) ac- 

One logical conclusion from these facts is 
that all later and more specific emotions 
stem from this general excitement. The 
process involved in this development is 
called differentiation. Gradually, from this 
initial and diffuse state of excitement, the 
various other emotions grow and become 

Figure 4.7 shows schematically how a 
number of emotions may develop from in- 
fantile excitement. 3 We see that, in the 
three-month-old baby, distress and delight 
have become differentiated. Then, with ex- 
citement continuing as an emotion, both 
distress and delight begin to differentiate 
into still other emotions. By the time the 
child is twenty-four months old, from de- 
light have sprung elation, affection, and 
joy. From distress have come anger, dis- 
gust, fear, and jealousy.' 

We must remember that both heredity 
and environment are involved in such a 
differentiation. It would be a mistake to 
think of the process as being dependent 
upon the genes alone. Of necessity, both 
maturation and learning would be in- 

Although this particular scheme of dif- 
ferentiation ( Figure 4.7 ) is admitted to be 
a tentative one, there is considerable agree- 
ment among psychologists that emotions 
do differentiate in the baby. It is possible 
that future studies will suggest changes in 
this scheme, but it is unlikely that the con- 
cept of differentiation will be discarded. 

3 K. Bridges, "Emotional Development in Early 
Infancy," Child Development, 1932, 3:324-341. 

The Sequence in Emotions. Part of the 
nature of an emotion is that it does riot 
occur instantaneously. It is an event in the 
organism that requires a certain minimum 
duration of timealthough, of course, the 
emotion may be prolonged considerably 
beyond this minimum. A number of steps 
must occur if we are to experience an emo- 
tion. These occurrences follow a sequence. 

The sequence usually starts with the fact 
that the organism must in some way per- 
ceive an emotional situation. In order to 
have the emotion of fear, the organism must 
perceive the situation as one that is fear- 
some. In order to be angry, the organism 
must perceive some object or situation that 
arouses anger. To have the emotion of love, 
something must be perceived in the situa- 
tion that calls forth this emotion. Nearly 
everyone is agreed about this first step; 
however, there are several different views 

cortex of brain 


Figure 4.8. Although the layman is not likely to 
express it in such technical terms, the popular 
view of emotion assumes that impulses arising 
in a receptor or sense organ go through the 
thalamus to the cortex of the brain, where we 
then experience the emotion. Next, impulses 
go out from the cortex through the thalamus 
to our glands and muscles, setting them in 






Figure 4.9. The James-Lange view of emotion 
assumes that the impulses arising in the recep- 
tors go first to the n> iscles and glands and then 
to the cortex, at A hich time emotion is ex- 

concerning the order of the sequence fol- 
lowing this initial step. Let us examine 
some of these views. 

The common-sense view. If we ask the 
average person to describe what goes on in 
emotion, we get the following picture. He 
says that, first, a person perceives a situa- 
tion as fearsome; for instance, that he is in a 
crowded theater when a fire breaks out. 
Immediately this person knows and feels 
fear. This knowing and feeling of fear is the 
second step after the perception of the fire 
as dangerous. The third step is the person's 
running out of the theater and all the other 
physical activities involved in escape ( heart 
beats faster, etc. ) . 

Looking over these steps again, we find 
that to the average person emotions pro- 
ceed in the following manner: first, there 
is a perception of an emotion-producing 
situation; second, there is the awareness 
and the feeling of the emotion; and third, 
there is the action that follows, the pound- 
ing of the heart as well as the running 
away. The average person would give, in 

support of his view, all sorts of examples in 
which he himself has noted this supposed 
sequence of events in his own behavior. 
He will tell us, "I was once in a building 
and saw that it was on fire. I knew first that 
I was afraid, and then my heart began to 
pound as I ran for the fire escape." This 
type of example could be multiplied end- 
lessly from all our own experiences. 

The James-Lange view. The famous 
American philosopher and psychologist 
William James proposed a strikingly dif- 
ferent view of the sequence of events in 
emotion. Sot*n after, independently and 
without knowledge of the James theory, the 
Danish physiologist C. Lange also brought 
out substantially the same view. In a fear 
situation, according to James and Lange, 
we first perceive the situation. Second, we 
react our hearts pound and we find our- 
selves running away. Third, and last, we 
know that we are afraid and feel afraid. 
Thus, the knowing and the feeling come 
after and result from the action of the heart 

Figure 4.10. The Cannon-Bard view assumes 
that the impulses arising in the receptors 
arrive simultaneously at the cortex and the 
muscles and glands by way of the thalamus. 
Thus, the experiencing of the emotion coin- 
cides with the bodily manifestations. 

cortex of brain 






(Culver Service) 

William James * (1842-1910) has often been called the father of Ameri- 
can psychology. In 1 875, at Harvard University, he introduced the first course 
in scientific psychology ever to be taught in this country. 

In 1 884, his theory of emotion appeared in an article in the British journal 
Mind. This article later became a chapter in his book Principles of Psychology, 
published in 1890. James' book remained for many years the best b '- on 
modern psychology available in English. It is now considered to be a OuvSic. 

In evaluation of James' work, it can be said that he foreshadowed most 
of the trends that were to follow in American psychology. There is little that 
we have today that cannot be traced back to one of the chapters in his 

In later life, James left psychology for philosophy. In this area he also 
became one of America's foremost. He is to be credited with much of the 
promotion and popularization of the concept of pragmatism, which has been 
called the most typically American philosophy. 

* R. B. Perry, T/ie Thought and Character of William James (Briefer Version). George 
Braiiller Publisher, New York, 1954. 

and the other bodily changes and after the 
external behavior, such as running away. 

James put it very dramatically. He said 
that according to common sense a person 
sees a bear, knows fear, and runs away. He 
turned this around and said that we see the 
bear, run away, and are then, last of all, 
afraid. Or, in another dramatic example 
from James: we do not weep because we 
are sad; we are sad because we weep. If 
we think about this for a minute, we can 
see how it does follow from his sequence. 
While he mentioned only weeping, James 
meant to include all bodily changes that 
occur in the emotion of sorrow. 

To the average person the James-Lange 
theory seems to be one that is completely 
groundless. On the other hand, James was 
able to give as many examples to support 
his view as there are to support the com- 
mon-sense view. James gave this sort of 
example: we are crossing the street; a 
speeding vehicle comes by, missing us by 
only a hair; we rush to the curb and sit 
down; and only then do we know fear. 
James would say we perceived the fear situ- 
ation, we acted (ran to the curb), and only 

then did we know and feel fear. Obvi- 
ously this type of example could be multi- 
plied manyfold to support the James-Lange 

We cannot say that either one of these 
two views is right or wrong. They are both 
simply descriptions of what seems to occur, 
at least in some instances. The James-Lange 
view is especially important because of the 
emphasis it places upon the bodily changes 
that occur in emotion. Before this view had 
been presented, these bodily changes had 
been considered only a result of emotion, 
not a vital aspect of it. 

The hypothalamic view. Physiologists 
have discovered that the part of the brain 
called the hypothalamus is the control cen- 
ter for the complex neural activity in emo- 
tion. It has been suggested by some 
(mainly Cannon) that the best theory to 
describe what happens in emotion is a cen- 
tral or hypothalamic theory. It is central 
in the sense that it is the central nervous 
system that is in control and in charge of 
the emotion. 

According to this view, the emotional 
sequence is as follows. First, the organism 



perceives a situation to be a fearsome one. 
Second, the hypothalamus takes over, and 
at one and the same time impulses go out 
from this central portion of the brain both 
to the upper parts of the brain and to the 
various other parts of the body. Thus, we 
havwflie knowing and feeling of fear at the 
same time that we have the bodily changes 
and the action of running away. Some re- 
search workers have claimed that this hypo- 
thalamic or central theory settles the con- 
flict that exists between the common-sense 
theory and the James-Lange theory. The 
central theory states that both conscious 
awareness and bodily changes occur to- 
gether as soon as the hypothalamus takes 
over. ^ 

As we look bac c on the emotional experi- 
ence, however, \ve may emphasize either 
the knowing and the feeling of the emotion 
or the bodily expressions of it. If we stress 
in our memory the conscious aspects of the 
experience, we tend to agree with the com- 
mon-sense explanation. On the other hand, 
if we remember best the bodily changes 
and activity, we are likely to accept the 
James-Lange theory. According to the cen- 
tral view of the sequence, both these as- 
pects of emotions occur simultaneously. 
Thus, it is simply a trick of memory as to 
whether we interpret the experience ac- 
cording to the James-Lange explanation or 
the common-sense one. 

The main contribution of the central 
theory is the fact that a control center for 
emotion is located in the hypothalamus of 
the brain. Our best general conclusion con- 
cerning all three views is that no one of 
them is completely correct and that each of 
them contributes to our understanding of 

An Activation Theory of Emotion. Linds- 
ley 4 in 1951 formulated an activation the- 
ory of emotion. We shall omit the details 

4 D. Lindsley, "Emotion," in S. S. Stevens (ed.), 
Handbook of Experimental Psychology, Wiley, 
New York, 1951, chap. 14. 

of this theory (which require extensive neu- 
roanatomical knowledge) and emphasize 
only its broad outlines. The main concept 
is that emotion is a heightened state of ac- 
tivity of the nervous system, particularly the 
cerebral cortex. By "heightened activity" is 
meant an increased rate of discharge of 
neural impulses. Specifically, the reticular 
formation in the brain stem (see Chapter 
9) arouses or activates the cortex. 

By means of sensory feedback from the 
muscles to the central nervous system, acti- 
vation of the nervous system is further in- 
creased. For example, when an organism is 
fast asleep, it is at a very low level of activa- 
tion. The cortex is relatively inactive, the 
sympathetic nervous system is discharging 
very little, and the muscles are relaxed, 
resulting in very little feedback. But the 
minute the organism is awakened by a 
strong stimulus, such as an alarm bell, the 

Figure 4.11. Some of these alerted jet pilots were 
probably asleep; some were playing cards; all were 
at a very low level of activation. The alert signal im- 
mediately increased their level of activation. What 
neural changes are responsible for this increase? 
W/wf emotions might be felt by these men at a time 
like this? What motives lie behind their behavior? 
(U.S. Air Force.) 


nervous system slowly begins to be acti- 

After a person awakens in the morning 
and begins his daily routine, he increases 
the activation of the nervous system con- 
tinually by muscular movement and all his 
other activities (glandular, etc.). If his 
motives are blocked and he becomes frus- 
trated, his sympathetic nervous system will 
discharge more impulses and adrenalin 
will be secreted. The hypothalamus must 
coordinate these activities, and its increased 
discharge will in turn increase the activa- 
tion of the cortex. What we call "emotion," 
this theory says, is really a rather high level 
of activation.! 

This theory also attempts to show the 
relation of motives and emotions. Like the 
emotion, the motive too occurs at a certain 
level of activation. In this theory motives 
and emotions are hardly separable. Their 
separation in experience is accounted for 
by custom and convention. We learn to 
label various levels of activation (and the 
feelings that go with them) with such 
words as "anger," "fear," "hunger," and 

Certainly we must admit that this theory 
does not yet have enough evidence behind 
it to convince us that in fact its main hy- 
potheses do hold up. Furthermore, since 
Lindsley is more concerned with the neuro- 




During periods of prolonged stress such as occur in war or high-pressure 
business competition, many people tend to become more and more tense 
According to the activation theory of emotion, the reticular formation in the 
brain of the tense person extends and intensifies the arousal of the cortex 
of the brain (see page 179 for a more detailed account of the reticular acti- 
vating system). The person often seems to lose control of his emotions very 
easily and to be high-strung and overemotional. 

In recent years medical research has produced a number of drugs which 
tend to reduce the tension in many of these people. The patients very often 
report that after taking the tranquilizer they are less anxious, more relaxed, 
and feel fine. Experiments have shown that even the psychotic (insane) per- 
son may sometimes find a temporary relief from his symptoms by taking 
these drugs. This temporary respite allows the psychiatrist or clinical psy- 
chologist a chance at psychotherapy. (See Chapter 6 for a discussion of 

Two of the most widely used of these drugs are chlorpromazine and reser- 
pine. Reserpine is a natural chemical substance extracted from the snake- 
root plant, which has been used in India for centuries as a remedy for mental 
and nervous disorders. On the other hand, chlorpromazine is a new syn- 
thetic chemical. Recent experiments have shown that small doses of chlor- 
promazine block the activating system and produce a calming effect on the 
patient. Although small doses of reserpine stimulate the arousal mechanism, 
the same general calming effect is produced by depressing certain centers 
in the hypothalamus. Thus, we see that the two drugs work differently on 
the nervous system but have the same over-all effect on the patient. 

As a caution, it must be emphasized that not all tense or psychotic people 
are helped by the tranquilizers. In some cases, harmful side-effects are pro- 
duced in the patient. Certainly, a person should never take such drugs 
without a proper medical diagnosis and prescription. 



W Albert * was an eleven-month-old baby who had been reared in a hos- 

r pital environment. When first presented with a tame white rat, he showed 

no fear reaction. Rather, he reached for the rat and touched it with his 
THE WHITE RAT fibers. Nor was he afraid of rabbits, dogs, cotton, furs, and the like. 

At the age of eleven months, three days, as Albert was being handed 
the white rat, a heavy metal bar was suddenly struck with a hammer, mak- 
ing a loud noise. At the sound, the baby fell forward, burying his face in 
the mattress. After several such pairings of the noise and the rat, Albert 
would begin to cry as soon as the rat appeared. 

Any baby will show an emotional reaction to a sudden loud sound. Thus, 
Albert learned to fear the rat because it was paired with a stimulus that 
caused a fear reaction in him. (In Chapter 12 of this book we see that this 
kind of learning is called conditioning.) 

Albert next was presented with a rabbit, cctton, and a fur muff. Although 
he had not been afraid of these things bo'ore, he now whimpered at their 
appearance. We can say that his learned fear of the rat had generalized 
(see Chapter 12) to other similar objects. We must emphasize the word 
"similar," for this fear did not generalize to his blocks or other toys that 
were dissimilar to the rat. 

Like Albert, most of us have learned to fear a number of harmless things. 
What can be done to remove such fears? Psychologists have discovered sev- 
eral ways in which a person can unlearn these responses. One way is to 
present the fear-provoking object at a distance while the person is engaged 
in some pleasant activity such as eating candy. Day by day, the object is 
gradually brought closer until fear is no longer manifested. 

Another practical way to remove this unwanted behavior is to allow the 
person to be around the feared object while in a congenial group. Of 
course, the other members of the group must be completely unafraid of the 
object in question. 

*J. B. Watson and R. Rayner, "Conditioned Emotional Reactions/' Journal of Experi- 
mental Psychology, 3:1-14, 1920. 

anatomical problem than with general emo- that a busy street is dangerous or that his 

tional phenomena, it is difficult to evaluate aunt from Chicago is a lovable person. Un- 

this theory at the present time. Neverthe- fortunately, the child may also learn to 

less, this theory is a new approach to the climb happily into a car with any stranger 

study of emotion which may prove fruitful who offers candy or to scream in terror at 

in the future. the sight of a harmless white rabbit (note 

^Learning and Emotion. In an earlier sec- the case of Albert and the white rat in the 

tioii, we saw how learning plays a part in above insert). 

the acquisition of emotional expressions. The important topic of learning is taken 

Learning is also very important in our per- up in Chapter 12. It is sufficient to note here 

ception of objects and situations which that learning enters into all human be- 

arouse our emotions. A child must learn havior. 



Our emotions ( anger, love, etc. ) are what 
give warmth and color to our lives. Emo- 
tions may be felt and known consciously, 
or they may be unconscious. 

Certain facts about emotions are well 
established. First, there is the personal emo- 
tional experience. This aspect includes our 
subjective feelings and knowledge of the 

Second, there are the bodily changes 
which occur in emotion, such as in heart 
rate, breathing, blood pressure, and gal- 
vanic skin response (GSR). Many of these 
changes are mediated by the autonomic 
nervous system. Spmetimes, similar bodily 
changes may accompany different emo- 
tions, for example, anger and fear. 

Third, there is the behavioral expression 
of emotion. This aspect is concerned with 
the facial expressions and other bodily 
movements that can be observed in emo- 
tion and used as cues to determine what 
emotion is being experienced. Since the 
same expression may accompany a number 
of different emotions, no observer is com- 
pletely accurate in the use of these cues. 
We find both individual and cultural vari- 
ations in emotional expression, because 
such expressions develop through the inter- 
action of heredity and environment. 

Fourth, emotions act as motives, for an 
emotional organism is also a goal-directed 

one. There is even some logic in consider- 
ing motivation and emotion as a single 

In the study of the nature of emotion we 
discover that the emotions evolved to serve 
the organism in times of emergency. 
/ Excitement is the first emotion to appear 
in the development of the child. Later it 
differentiates into other emotions, such as 
joy, fear, and jealousy. 

A number of investigators have studied 
the sequence of events that occur in emo- 
tion. Most of them agree that the sequence 
begins with the perception of an emotion- 
arousing situation. As for what happens 
after this perception, the common-sense 
view is that the conscious awareness of the 
emotion comes next and is followed by the 
bodily changes and activities. The James- 
Lange theory holds just the opposite: that 
the bodily changes and behavior are fol- 
lowed by the knowing and feeling of the 
emotion. The central view is that the hypo- 
thalamic brain center instigates both these 
aspects simultaneously. 

One of the more recent theories of emo- 
tion is Lindsley's activation theory. In his 
view, emotions are high levels of neural 
activation, especially of the cerebral cortex. 

As it does in all aspects of human behav- 
ior, learning plays an important role in the 
acquisition of emotional responses. 


1. What would human life be like if no one 
had any emotion? 

2. What are the four main aspects that define 
an emotion? 

3. Describe several different bodily changes 
that regularly occur during emotion. 

4. Compare and contrast anger and fear in 
terms of bodily changes, feeling, and facial ex- 

5. What is the importance, in relation to emo- 
tion, of each of the following terms: sympa- 
thetic, parasympathetic, hypothalamus, ad- 
renalin, and glycogen? 



6. What is meant by "personal emotional ex- 
perience"? Describe such experiences as they 
might occur in rage, love, and hatred. 

7. What is the reason for studying the facial 
expressions of blind children? 

8. List the cues afforded by emotional expres- 
sions that might be found in a real-life situa- 
tion. (First describe the situation, and then 
list the cues.) 

9. Compare the common-sense, James-Lange, 
and hypothalamic views of the sequence of 
events in emotion. 

10. Trace the development of emotion in the 

11. Briefly describe and evaluate Lindsley's 
activation theory of emotion. 

12. How is it possible both to learn and to 
unlearn emotional responses? 


Cannon, W. B.: Bodily Changes in Pain, Hun- 
ger, Fear, and Rage, 2d ed., Appleton-Cen- 
tury-Crofts, New York, 1929. 

(A classic in fhe study of emotion, empha- 
sizing the various physiological changes 
that occur in emotion.) 

Inbau, F.: Lie Detection and Criminal Investi- 
gation, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 1942, 
part I. 

(The method and practice of scientific lie 

Linclsley, D.: "Emotion," in S. S. Stevens (ed.), 
Handbook of Experimental Psychology, Wiley, 
New York, 1951, chap. 14. 

(A summary which includes the best ac- 
count of the activation theory.) 
Morgan, C. T., and E. Stellar: Physiological 
Psychology, 2d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 

(An up-to-date picture of the bodily 

changes in emotion and also of the auto- 
nomic niivous system.) 

Reymert, M. L. (ed.): Feelings and Emotions, 

McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950. 

(A symposium of experts summarizing 
what is known today about this topic.) 

Ruckmick, C.: The Psychology of Feeling and 
Emotion, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1936. 

(An informative, historical approach to 


Woodworth, R. S., and H. Schlosberg: Expert- 
mental Psychology, rev. ed., Holt, New York, 
1954, chaps. 5, 6, 7. 

(An excellent account of experimental 

work on emotion.) 

Young, P. T.: Emotion in Man and Animal, 
Wiley, New York, 1943. 

(A useful general source of information 

on emotion.) 

Key to Figure 4.6, page 76. The photo on the left shows Margaret Truman 
registering surprise at something said to her on a TV panel show, while Steve 
Allen is amused at her reaction. On the right is the photo of an Air Force colonel 
who has just landed his plane after shooting down his first Russian-built MIG 
in Korea. (Wide World Photos and U.S. Air Force.) 




has been pointed out earlier, human 
beings are influenced by both external and 
internal forces (see Chapter 3), and their 
behavior is definitely changed as a result 
of emotional factors (see Chapter 4). In 
this chapter we want to look somewhat 
more closely at some of these forces, em- 
phasizing particularly some internal ones in 
which feelings and emotions often play 
a large part. More specifically, we want to 
examine the opinions and sentiments that a 
person has about himself. 


It is obvious, but significant, that every- 
one does have ideas and feelings about him- 
self, which, furthermore, are of great in- 
terest and importance to him. To cite just a 
few examples, a college boy may feel that 
he is a good football player, a coed that she 
is one of the most popular girls on campus, 
and a businessman that he is successful. 

The individual's ideas, thoughts, and be- 
liefs about the kind of person he is (and 
also about the kind of person he is not) 
may be called his self -picture. Whether or 
not this picture is accurate, it often has a 
decided influence on how the person reacts 
to other people and to his own plans, hopes, 
and ambitions. 

Some Questions about the Self-picture. 
Perhaps all this will be more understand- 
able in terms of our day-to-day experience 
if we raise some questions about ourselves. 
We shall find that these questions overlap 
and that answering one helps answer an- 
other, but they help us to explain what 
we mean by the self -picture. 

"Who am IP" One of the ways to examine 
the self-picture is to ask the question "Who 


am I?" Of course, one reply is to give our 
name: "Who am I? Well, I am John Jones." 
A little reflection, however, will make us 
realize that we do not value the name for 
itself. The name is a mere label, although 
we may have strong feelings about it. It is 
not the name itself that is important, or the 
words themselves, but rather the associa- 
tion of these words with ourselves. 

This becomes apparent when somebody 
begins to make slurring or genuinely un- 
complimentary remarks about our name. 
Our impulse is to come to our own defense. 
We may struggle against this impulse and 
manage to hold it back, but it will be there 
nevertheless. So one answer to the question 
"Who am 1?" is, "I am John Jones and I 
demand a certain amount of consideration 
and respect for that name." 

We demand respectful treatment, how- 
ever, for more than our name. For one 
thing, we want to be thought of as valuable 
in and of ourselves. We are not content to 
be treated merely as a means to an end; 
we are not satisfied to be simply a cog in a 
machine or a name on a payroll. We insist 
on respect for our personal worth. 

Let us take an example. Suppose some- 
one who is sitting next to us accidentally 
bumps into us. The contact may have been 
a very slight one, so slight that by no stretch 
of the imagination could it have hurt us, 
but the other person knows what etiquette 
demands under these circumstances, so he 
says, "Excuse me." If he finds it necessary 
to walk in front of us, again he excuses him- 
self. Why does he ask our pardon for such 
harmless acts? 

The answer seems to be that as individ- 
uals we demand respect for the "living 
space" that we occupy. For the moment it 
is ours, and when another person intrudes 
upon it he should do so with our permis- 
sion. He may not have to get our permis- 
sion, but we expect him to do so. 

And so "I am John Jones. I do not want 
you making fun of my name. I demand that 

Where am 1? 

What am 1? 

Who am 1? 

Figure 5.1. 

you show consideration for my personal 
worth. I am not content if you treat me 
merely as a means to an end, and I strongly 
desire that you respect the space in which 
I live." This is part of the story of wlw we 

"Wfiat am IP" This question represents 
another approach to the self -picture and, 
though it overlaps the previous one, it en- 
ables us to emphasize characteristics that 
we believe we have (or some, especially 
of the undesirable sort, that we feel we do 
not have). For example, nearly all of us 
believe that we are good sports. Further- 
more, many of us would say, "I am hand- 
some, or at least not ugly," "I am intelli- 
gent," or "I am a good citizen." Actually, 
there are an almost unlimited number of 
illustrations. "I am a campus beauty," "I 
am popular," "I am one who knows how to 
enjoy life" all such statements throw some 
light on the self-picture of the individual 
involved. Thus, if we can discover who and 



what a person really thinks he is, we greatly 
increase our understanding of him. 

"Where am IP" It may appear a little un- 
usual at first to raise this question in con- 
nection with the self -picture. It is clear, of 
course, that our geographical location may 
be a part of our self -picture, but that is not 
what we have in mind. Rather, in asking, 
"Where am I?" we are thinking of our pres- 
tige as individuals and how we fit into the 
social groups of which we are a part. Let 
us consider some answers to this question: 
"I am a doctor," "I am a supervisor," "I am 
president of the senior class," "I am a stu- 
dent assistant," "I am captain of the foot- 
ball team." These are all examples of posi- 
tions that give us rank or prestige or status 
in a group, and they become an important 
part of the self-picture as well. 

Status symbols associated with these or 
other positions often become very real and 
significant parts of the self-picture. The let- 
ter ( or other award ) which an athlete gets 
for making the football team is an example. 

It is not, of course, the monetary value of 
the award, though it may have some, that 
really counts. It is the fact that the award 
represents a mark of where he is in the 
group or in several groups. 

Likewise, the size of an executive's office, 
the kind of desk he has, whether he has a 
rug on the floor, and his titleall these 
symbols and many others have probably be- 
come for him important parts of the self- 
picture. When people make fun of them or 
take them lightly, the executive usually 
feels hurt whether he shows his feelings or 

Clearly, there are other questions that we 
could ask about the self-picture. We might 
examine the religious values of a person or 
his commitment to the American way of life. 
We could inquire into his plans and hopes 
for the future and the degree to which he 
feels that he has made progress in achieving 
the goals. We could examine his concep- 
tions of his failures and shortcomings, for 
these too may be a part of the self-picture. 

It is apparent, then, that everyone has a 
self-picture, beliefs about who and what 
and where he is. Furthermore, the chances 
are that these beliefs are more elaborate 
and go into more detail than people are 
often inclined to believe. 

Importance of the Self-picture. One in- 
teresting thing about human beings is how 
strongly each individual feels about his 
self-picture. As an illustration, let us con- 
sider a person's statement, "1 am a good 
sport." What happens if somebody seriously 
questions this? We all know what usually 
happens; it hurts. How the person visibly 
reacts depends, of course, on the circum- 
stances. It might be diplomatic to do noth- 
ing or say nothing, but we all know that his 

Figure 5.2. It is disappointing to be merely 
a cog in a machine, to be simply a means to an 
end for someone else. We want to be valued 
for what we are, not just for what we can do. 



impulse would be to defend himself against 
the aspersion. 

There are other examples of this sort of 
reaction. Suppose a list is made of people 
who have attained something significant- 
it may be the honor roll in school, or a list 
of those who have won letters in football, 
or an announcement of those who have been 
promoted to better jobs. Suppose, further- 
more, that a certain person's name should 
be on the list but that somehow his name 
has been left off. Again it is impossible for 
anyone to say in advance what he would do, 
but it is possible to say with considerable 
certainty what his impulse would be. His 
impulse would be to rush to the person who 
had made this list and protest the omission 
of his name. Now, if someone questions him 
as to why he did this he is likely to say, 
"It's not simply that I was left off the list I 
can understand how that might happen- 
but it's the principle of the thing. This list 
should be complete, and these mistakes 
should not be made." Of course, it is not 
really the principle of the thing. Rather, it 
is the offense to the person's feelings about 
himself that is most likely to cause him 
to protest the mistake. When he argues on 
principle, he is merely rationalizing to cover 
up his hurt feelings. 

Another interesting thing about these 
ideas which make up the self -picture is how 
far they may be from the truth. As we have 
said, "I am a good sport" is a part of the 
self-picture of practically everyone in our 
society. But a striking fact here is that peo- 
ple who are not good sports seem to believe 
this about themselves as strongly as those 
who are. Here is an individual, let us say, 
who is not a good sport at all. He "can't take 
it," as we say, and is very sensitive and very 
difficult to get along with. If we question 
that individual about his beliefs and feel- 
ings concerning himself, however, we shall 
be likely to find that "I am a good sport" is 
a rather important part of his self-picture. 

The same remarks can be made about 

Figure 5.3. Status .symbols 
are associated with many jobs 
and other activities. What 
specific status symbols appear 
in this drawing? What are 
some of the other symbols 
of status important to a col- 
lege man or woman? 

the statements "I am intelligent" and "I am 
handsome." Some people who believe they 
are intelligent actually are, but some peo- 
ple who believe they are intelligent are 
definitely below average. There are some 
handsome people who know they are hand- 
some and frankly admit it just as there are 
people who are not handsome and recog- 
nize that fact but, on the other hand, there 
are people who believe they are handsome 
who are not handsome at all. 

Thus, it turns out that these beliefs which 
people hold about themselves may be quite 
incorrect. Indeed, there may be no evi- 
dence for them at all, but they may go right 
along holding them just the same. 

Another illustration: Here is a man who 
had taught for a while in college but who 
had not been at all successful in college 
teaching. When he had an opportunity to 
go into the business world at a salary about 
the same that he had been making in teach- 
ing, he took that opportunity. It was in- 
teresting as the years passed to hear him 



Figure 5.4. What factors enter into the motivation of these men? Why have 
they driven themselves almost to the point of exhaustionfor self, team, school, 
family, or something else? Might they have difficulty in answering these ques- 
tions accurately? (Wide World Photos.) 

talk about his teaching experience. He be- 
lieved all along or perhaps came to believe 
that he had been a very successful college 
teacher. There was no evidence to support 
this position; indeed, all the evidence was 
to the contrary. The truth is that most 
teachers believe they are good teachers, 
most lawyers believe they are good lawyers, 
and most doctors believe they are good 
doctors. In each case this number includes 
many who are not good teachers, or good 
lawyers, or good doctors. And certainly the 
same thing is true of people in other oc- 
cupations. Whether the self-picture is close 
to the truth or far from it does not seem to 
be a matter of the intelligence or education 
of an individual. We can find about as many 
instances of unconscious distortion in in- 
dividuals who are well educated and of high 
intelligence as we can in other people. 

We have made two points in this section. 
The first is that the self-picture contains 
elements about which we feel very strongly 
indeed, so strongly that we may be greatly 
upset when they are questioned. The second 
is that some elements in the self-picture 
may be very far from the truth. 


So far we have been discussing the self- 
picture. We have defined the self-picture 
as the ideas and beliefs which a person has 
about himself. As we have discussed it, we 
have been dealing with things of which the 
individual is aware. It is based on what he 
knows about or has contact with. The self- 
picture is therefore the more or less con- 
scious aspect of the self. But the self also 
has unconscious but very real aspects. 

Here is a youngster, for example, who has 
a little brother. The two are within a couple 
of years of each other in age, and they 
quarrel and fight a great deal. What, now, if 
someone from outside the family begins 
to make slurring remarks about the younger 
brother and even to attack him? How does 
the older brother react? Quite likely, past 
feelings will be laid aside, and the older 
boy will rush to the defense of the younger. 
On the other hand, if, prior to this incident, 
the older boy had been questioned about 
his love and affection for the younger, he 
would probably have denied that he had 
any. Asked what he thought about his 



younger brother, he might have had noth- 
ing good to say about him. Apparently, 
then, there is a devotion, a regard, between 
these two youngsters of which both, and 
perhaps especially the older brother, are un- 

Or to take another illustration: Suppose 
a young man grew up in a small town and 
later moved to the city. After he has been 
in the city for a while and considers him- 
self a sophisticated city dweller, somebody 
makes a disparaging remark about his old 
home town, maybe without knowing that 
he is from that town. He may hold his 
tongue, because he may not want people 
to know where he is from or how he feels 
about the old home town. But there is not 
much question about what his impulse is. 
His first tendency is to rush to the defense 
of the old home town. Though he may think 
he has lost all affection and regard for it, 

"I am a good marksman." 

"I am kind to animals." 

the way he feels when it is attacked shows 
that it is still a part of his real self. 

Thus it is clear that there are elements in 
the self of which we are not aware. If asked 
about some of these things we would deny 
them and do so in good conscience. Indeed, 
we are sometimes surprised at our own re- 
action to some of these situations. Often we 
have no inkling of their existence unless 
they are challenged or forcibly called to our 
attention. Even then, of course, we may 
not frankly admit them. 

To make clear the distinction between 
the self -picture (the conscious aspects of 
the self) and the unconscious aspects of 
the self, let us take a person who tends to 
be miserly. His tendency to save money has 
long since passed the point of mere saving 

Figure 5.5. What we think and feel we are 
and what we actually are may be quite differ- 
ent. It is surprising how different the self- 
picture may sometimes be from reality. 



Barrymore in Tolstois 
play Redemption. 

The .actors sketch of 
himself in the same play, 

The actor as sketched by 
an artist friend. 

Studio photograph of 
John Barrymore. 

Figure 5.6. Which one of these pictures of John Barrymore would you suppose 
reveals most closely the true self? Do you think the camera, being objective, 
is more accurate in depicting the self than the artist? Why? (Courtesy New 
York Public Library and Culver Service.) 

and has become an unreasonable compul- 
sion to hoard money. It is unlikely that he 
knows all the impulses of this sort that he 
has. In other words, when a person tends 
to be miserly, it is relatively rare that he 
consciously knows or admits this tendency. 
Although being miserly may actually be a 
part of the self, it might not be a part of the 
self -picture. It may be a part of him, but he 
may be unaware of its existence, especially 
if it is an unworthy motive. If it is not con- 
sistent with the picture which he has built 
up for himself, he is likely to put it "out of 
mind" and refuse to admit its existence, 
even though to all his friends and to every- 
one else who knows him its presence is 

Thus we see that there is an unconscious 
aspect of the self and that it comes from 
at least three sources. In the first place, the 
unconscious elements may be unconscious 
simply because we have not had occasion 
to think of them. They may never have been 
challenged or attacked, so that up to the 
present we have accepted them without 
questioning. Since we are not aware that 

they are there, we have not incorporated 
them into the self-picture. In the second 
place, they may develop because we refuse 
to face them; we may forcibly put out of 
mind the unworthy impulses and deny 
them simply because we do not want to 
admit that we have them. In other words, 
they have been repressed. (The process of 
repression is discussed in some detail in the 
next chapter. ) Finally, that there are some 
occasions when we do not recognize very 
favorable facts about ourselves, simply be- 
cause they seem improbable to us. We may 
actually be more charitable or more hand- 
some or more capable than we give our- 
selves credit for being. 

Meaning of the Term "Self." We use the 
word "self" (as opposed to "self -picture" ) 
to refer to all the beliefs, ideas, attitudes, 
and feelings, whether conscious or uncon- 
scious, which an individual has concerning 
himself. The self-picture, on the other hand, 
includes only those of which he is conscious. 
The self -picture is thus a part, but only the 
conscious part, of the self. 

To state the matter another way, the self 



is the individual as known to and felt about 
by the individual 1 The term "known to" is 
used to indicate the conscious aspects of 
the self (and hence the self-picture) and 
the term "felt about by" is here used to 
refer to the unconscious aspects of the self. 
The self, then, is the individual's self- 
picture plus the unconscious feelings and 
ideas that he has about himself. The self is 
the individual as known to and felt about 
by the individual, whether this knowing 
and feeling are conscious or unconscious. 


Let us discuss at somewhat greater length 
the terms conscious and unconscious as they 
arc used in modern psychology. It is easy 
to surround these words with an air of 
mystery, but they are really not difficult to 
understand. When we say "unconscious/' 
we simply mean "unaware" or "unper- 
ci'ived." Thus if we have some unconscious 
feelings and attitudes about ourselves, these 
arc simply feelings and attitudes of which 
we are not aware. 

Furthermore, there are different degrees 
of awareness of the events going on around 
us and within us. Of some events we may 
be completely aware (or conscious); of 
others we may be totally unaware (or un- 
conscious); but of many others perhaps 
of most wo may be partially aware (or 
conscious to a degree). Perhaps an illustra- 
tion will help make this point clear. 

1 For this definition we arc indebted to Gardner 
Murphy, who defines self as "the individual as 
known to the individual" (see his Personality: A 
Biosocial Approach to Origins and Structure, 
Harper, New York, 1947, p. 148). Murphy obvi- 
ously emphasizes the known or conscious aspects 
of the self, though he probably intends to include 
unconscious aspects as well. 

One of the first scientific psychologists to pay 
particular attention to the self was M. W. Calkins. 
An example of her writing along this line is "The 
Self in Scientific Psychology," American Journal 
of Psychology, 26:495-524, 1915. 

Suppose a person is driving west in the 
late afternoon with the sun directly in front 
of him. The chances are that most of the 
time he is highly conscious (aware) of the 
sun shining in his eyes. If he has driven an 
hour or two, he also may be conscious 
(aware) of feelings of fatigue, but unless 
he is quite tired these feelings probably 
will not get as much of his attention as the 
sun does. So far as the hum of the motor is 
concerned, he is probably aware of it only 
if something goes wrong, though, of course, 
he can "bring it into consciousness" when- 
ever he wishes. Some of his bodily processes 
he might easily become aware of (e.g., 
breathing). Others may go on without 
awareness even being possible (e.g., secre- 
tion of the pancreas). 

Hence our needs, feelings, and other 
experiences vary in degree of consciousness 
or awareness all the way from those at the 
center of attention to those of which we 
cannot or will not become aware at all. 
Likewise some of our beliefs about our- 
selves may be at the "center of conscious- 
ness," as we say, and hence be part of the 
self -picture. Others for example, aspects 
of the self of which we are ashamed, or 
those too flattering to believe may actually 
be a part of us though we may be unaware 
of them. They are part of the self but not 
of the self-picture. Many other aspects of 
the self are in between, so far as aware- 
ness goes, and may or may not be a part of 
the self-picture, depending on degree of 
awareness and how we classify them. In any 
case, however, they are a part of the self, 
and perhaps of the self-picture. 


One point that should be clear from our 
previous discussion is that the self often 
includes more than just the body. This may 
not be true of the infant, for when self- 
awareness is just beginning the body is 
probably the central or even the only part 






This research * was designed to study the stability of the self. The sub- 
jects of the study were 62 members of two cooperative houses at the Uni- 
versity of Michigan. Each had been in his particular cooperative house for 
at least five months and therefore presumably was acquainted with all its 
other members. 

A self-rating inventory was developed especially for use in this research. 
It required the individual to rate himself on 25 traits, including such things 
as intelligence, neatness, generosity, sportsmanship, and over-all adjustment. 
On one occasion he was asked to do this rating in such a way as to give 
himself the benefit of every reasonable doubt (but still trying to be truthful). 
On another he was asked to do the rating so as to deny himself the benefit 
of every reasonable doubt. The difference between these two ratings was 
taken as measure of the stability of the self-concept. Each subject was also 
asked to rate 16 other members of the group on substantially the same 25 
traits, and in addition, to take a standardized personality test by Guilford 
and Martin known as the GAMIN test. Finally, each person was asked to 
take a "test" for tendencies to hold authoritarian or fascist attitudes (known 
as the F-scale). 

The top 15 people on the F-scale were eliminated from the study, for 
reasons we need not go into here. From the remaining 47 men two groups 
were selected on the basis of a stability index (the amount of change be- 
tween the two conditions of self-rating). These two groups consisted of the 
15 men showing the greatest amount of stability (least change when not 
instructed to give themselves the benefit of the doubt) and the 15 showing 
the least stability. These two groups did not differ significantly in age, years 
in school, membership in the armed services, etc., although the less stable 
had a higher grade-point average. 

The following conclusions were drawn from the study: The men with the 
more stable self-concepts rated themselves higher than did the men with the 
less stable ones. Furthermore, this higher rating was for the traits in general 
and not for only a few. The more stable men were found to be better liked 
and considered more popular by their peers, and to see themselves more 
nearly as their associates saw them. They were better known to the rest 
of the group, and showed less of nervousness and feelings of inferiority, 
according to the GAMIN scale. 

The study indicates that under conditions such as these stability of the 
self-concept goes with being more popular and better liked and with show- 
ing less defensive behavior. 

*John J. Brownfain, "Stability of the Self-concept as a Dimension of Personality/' 
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 47:597-606, 1952. 

of the self. Even for the adult the body is 
an important part of the selfthere is no 
disagreement with that point but there is 
much more to the self than just the body. 
Expansion or Broadening of the Self. The 
self, for example, includes the clothes which 

we wear and, incidentally, the clothes that 
we own but are not wearing at the moment. 
And it also includes our other possessions. 
The best way to prove this is to see what 
sort of feeling wells up in us when someone 
damages or steals our clothes or threatens 


our other possessions. Our possessions are 
a part of us (or a part of the self of each 
of us ) . 

Our families, also, are a part of us. It 
makes no difference whether we are living 
at home with our mothers and fathers, or 
whether we have families of our own; in 
any case, our families nearly always become 
a part of us. How do we feel when a mem- 
ber of the family is ill or is threatened with 
disaster? There may be quarrels within a 
familyindeed, a certain amount of quarrel- 
ing may be thought of as normal rather 
than unusual but when a member of our 
family is threatened, frequently the quar- 
rels are laid aside and we rush to his de- 

Then, our fraternity (or sorority) may 
become a part of us. Again the best way to 
prove that this is true is for us to be in a 
group where fraternities are being dis- 
cussed and for our particular fraternity to 
come in for slurring remarks or be treated 
lightly. As we have already said, there is no 
way to be sure what we will do under those 
circumstances. We may even keep silent, 
but we certainly want to defend that fra- 

It is significant that, if we are fraternity 
or sorority members, we often come to feel 
that our particular group is the best that 
there is. At times this may be a matter of 
pretense or of trying to impress other peo- 
ple, including prospective pledges. On the 
other hand, this is frequently a deep and 
sincere conviction about the excellence of 
the group. Needless to say, this phenome- 
non is not restricted to fraternities and so- 

The labor movement may become a part 
of us. We may come to respect and feel af- 
fection for the union to which we belong 
and to the organization with which this 
union is affiliated. We may believe that the 
hope of the workingman lies in the labor 
movement and be willing to do a great deal 
more than the minimum for the cause. 

It is important to note that the feelings 

Figure 5.7. To what extent do you think the British 
people identify with 'he royal family? Does this 
identification influence what happens in Great Brit- 
ain? (Courtesy British Information Services.) 

we have about any one of these groups, as 
well as the ideas that we use to support 
these feelings, often develop considerably 
after we have accepted the group itself. 
For example, if we believe our fraternity 
is the finest in the world, we can find a good 
many arguments to support that position, 
but very often these arguments do not occur 
to us until after we have pledged the fra- 
ternity. We could come to the conclusion 
as a result of the arguments, but the chances 
are that we come to the arguments after 
having accepted the conclusion. 

Meaning of Identification or Ego-involve- 
ment. It is clear, of course, that we have 
been dealing here with the principle that 
a person may make something outside of 
himself a part of himself and that, having 
made it a part of himself, he may defend 
it or work hard for it. This process is called 
identification with or ego-involvement in 
the object or person or cause. Thus, if we 
identify with or become ego-involved in the 
objectives of our employer, we make those 
objectives our own, and to whatever extent 
the business organization fails to achieve 
these objectives, we are personally hurt. In 
other words, we have made the organiza- 
tion a part of us, a part of our selves. 

Or here is the football team from our 



school. Perhaps we have not bet on the 
football game, and from the standpoint of 
our future success or failure it makes no 
difference whether the team wins or loses. 
Yet it may still make a great deal of dif- 
ference to us, and if we were given the op- 
portunity of serving or sacrificing for that 
team, we might very well be willing to do 
so. We have become ego-involved in that 
team or have identified with it. 

Thus it is easy to see that identification 
and ego-involvement are important con- 
cepts in understanding human behavior. 
While a distinction can be made between 
the two, on the basis that ego-involvement 
actually implies a stronger degree of feel- 
ing than does identification, in this book it 
is convenient to treat them as meaning the 
same thing. 

We should note here, however, that the 
term "identification" is also used later in 
this book in a somewhat different sense. 
In Chapter 6, identification is mentioned as 
one of the defense mechanisms. Even in 
this case it implies making something (usu- 
ally another person ) outside the self a part 
of the self, but when it is used defensively 
it enables the person to avoid facing life 
as it really is. All this will be clearer after 
reading the next chapter. 

Thus, we see that the self includes not 
only beliefs, ideas, and feelings that we 
have about our body and our own personal 
future and welfare, but also everything 
with which we have identified or in which 
we have become ego-involved. It includes 

Figure 5.8. Early in life the self is necessarily 
narrow and restricted. As we grow; older, how- 
ever, it expands and grows by identifying with 
things not originally a part of it. Can yon think 
of other things that an adult in our culture usu- 
ally makes a part of the self? 



everything that we really care about: our 
team, our family, our fraternity, our pos- 
sessions, and our home town. All these be- 
come a part of the self to whatever extent 
we really feel strongly about them and 
identify with them. 

Goals Other than Pleasure and Self-in- 
terest. Here, of course, is the great weakness 
of the theory of psychological hedonism, a 
theory which holds that always and under 
all circumstances a person tries to increase 
his own personal pleasure (or to avoid his 
own discomfort). This view was once 
widely defended by certain philosophers 
and has had its influence on the thinking of 
a good many people. In addition, there are 
related views which simply hold that every- 
one is seeking his own self-interest, without 
specifying, as the psychological hedonists 

do, that such self-interest is properly 
thought of as pleasure. 

The weakness of all these views lies in 
the fact that they do not recognize that we 
may become ego-involved in another per- 
son or another thing. They do not recognize, 
in other words, that when we make some- 
thing outside ourselves a part of ourselves 
we may serve and sacrifice for that as com- 
pletely as we would for our own personal 
pleasure and welfare. The self, in other 
words, is not simply the individual. It is 
the individual as known to and felt about by 
the individual, and wher the individual 
says "I am a Catholic," or 'I am an Amer- 
ican/' or "I am an alumnus of X College," 
he is then describing the self. Our attempts 
to defend and enhance the self include at- 
tempts to defend and enhance all that with 





To what extent do people who have a favorable attitude toward them- 
selves also have a favorable attitude toward other people? This study * 
should be thought of as a preliminary investigation of that problem. 

To that end, 50 statements expressing attitudes were devised. Of these, 
25 referred to attitudes toward the self, e.g., "I feel that I have very little 
to contribute to the welfare of others/' and "I think I would be happier if 
I didn't have certain limitations." The other 25 referred to attitudes toward 
others, e.g., "One soon learns to expect very little of other people," and 
"Some people are always trying to get more than their share of the good 
things in life." 

Each person was asked to indicate, for each of the fifty statements, the 
degree to which he agreed with it: "Rarely or almost never true for me," 
"Sometimes but infrequently true for me," "Occasionally true for me," "Very 
often true for me," or "True for me all or most of the time." The people 
were asked not to sign their names. Two groups of college students (125 in 
all) and two groups of high school students (86 in all) responded to the 

The results show a positive, although a moderate, relationship between 
attitudes toward the self and attitudes toward others. The coefficients of 
correlation (explained in Chapter 16) ranged from .51 to .74. This means 
that, generally speaking, people who had a favorable opinion about them- 
selves tended to have favorable opinions about others (and vice versa), 
though there were a great many exceptions. 

* E. Lakin Phillips, "Attitudes toward Self and Others: A Brief Questionnaire Report," 
Journal of Consulting Psyc/io/ogy, 15:79-81, 1951. 


which we identify or in which we have 
become ego-involved. 

Qf course, when we define the self so as 
to include all that with which we identify 
we are using the word in a very different 
sense from that in which it is employed 
ordinarily. Usually, when we say that a per- 
son is selfish, we mean that he is striving 
for himself in the narrow sense of the term. 
He is trying to advance his own interests 
or his own pleasures. But in the present 
sense of the term he may be working for 
someone else, even to his own injury, be- 
cause he has identified with this other per- 

Let us consider the case of a loyal and 
devoted member of a church. The church 
calls upon him for financial contributions 
and he makes them. The church asks him 
to render other service to engage in a 
campaign for soliciting members, or to 
teach a church-school class, or to serve as an 
usher or in some other capacity and he 
does these too. The older point of view, that 
everybody is out for himself, would have to 
assert that he engages in these activities 
either because he enjoys them, or because 

he expects to gain from them financially or 
otherwise, or else because he fears the con- 
sequences of omitting them. He might, for 
example, be afraid that if he does not en- 
gage in them he will lose business or will 
slip in the esteem of others or that he will 
be bothered by his conscience. Such motives 
may, of course, sometimes be at work. The 
point, though, is that there is another class 
o c motives operating in him which may be in 
every respect as powerful and as influential 
as the more "selfish" motives. The church 
worker, in other words, may make the 
church a part of himself and serve and 
sacrifice for the church, do things beyond 
the minimum and beyond what he has to 
do or even can be expected to do, because 
he loves the church. 

Sometimes we work hard for another 
person or a cause because we are forced 
to do so. But when we identify with it wo 
probably work hard for it because we want 
to. Here it is easy to get the idea that, since 
we do this because we want to, it is as self- 
ish and self -centered as any other act. But 
the point is that, as a result of strong identi- 
fication, we may expend energy and even 

Table 5.1 Psychological Hedonism versus Identification or Ego-involvement 




Is everything done for our own 
personal pleasure (or to avoid 

Are our voluntary actions pri- 
marily (or usually) rational? 

Is real sacrifice for another pos- 




Will we cooperate with others? Yes, if we think we will 

gain by doing so 

Do we ever make another a part 
of the self? 

No, this possibility is not 


May be or may not be 

Yes, if we have identified with 
them; sometimes also for per- 
sonal gain 

Yes, this may and often does- 



risk our lives for another and do this 
either without counting the cost to us per- 
sonally or even in spite of the cost. Psy- 
chological hedonism may seem quite logical 
and accurate as an account of human be- 
havior, but it is not. 

It is, of course, often true that in these 
sacrifices for others we often reach our 
greatest usefulness and eventually our 
greatest happiness. This is related to what 
the philosophers of an earlier age called 
the hedonistic paradox, the fact that if we 
seek for pleasure in narrow, selfish sense we 
usually miss it, whereas if we identify with 
something outside ourselves and really work 
for it, we often find the greatest satisfac- 
tions of life. 


Let us consider the self in relation to what 
we really are and in relation to what we 
appear to others to be. 

The Self and Reality. It should be noted 
that nothing has been said so far in this 
chapter to indicate that the self is what we 
really are. We have said it is the individual 
as known to and felt about by the individ- 
ual. But it may very well be that what a per- 
son feels and thinks he knows about himself 
is, as we have already indicated, quite dif- 
ferent from what he really is. 

As a matter of fact, this is usually true 
to some degree. It is doubtful whether many 
people in the world completely understand 
themselves, knowing fully what they are 
and what they are not. Certainly the aver- 
age individual is under some misconcep- 
tions. We have already seen that, although 
the individual who says "I am intelligent" 
or "I am handsome" may be right, he may 
just as well be wrong and be unaware that 
he is wrong. In other words, he may have 
some notions about himself quite contrary 
to the real situation. 

In some cases of mental illness, we see 
this much more clearly than we do in nor- 
mal individuals. Here is a person, for ex- 

ample, who believes that he is President of 
the United States. If we check into his back- 
ground, however, we shall probably find 
that he is one who has amounted to very 
little so far as status and achievement go. 
His belief that he is the President comes 
not from evidence but rather from a need to 
believe it. And the interesting thing is how 
tenaciously and sincerely he holds to his 
belief. This is certainly an instance of the 
self's being far from reality. 

As a matter of fact, self-understanding is 
hard to achieve. Indeed, it is sometimes 
easier to understand another person's mo- 
tives, the real causes of Ids behavior, than 
it is to understand our own. Most people 
recognize the need for self-understanding, 
but this does not guarantee that they have 
achieved it. 

Why is it that, though we live more in- 
timately with ourselves than with any other 
individual, accurate self-understanding is 
still hard to get? In the first place, we may 
not have self-understanding because we 
simply lack knowledge, and this may come 
about largely because we are complex and 
have many hidden or unconscious motives. 

A second and more important reason for 
our not understanding our selves well is 
that we have a great concern for the self 
and find it difficult to believe about the self 
anything that is unworthy or that reflects 
upon it. Of course, it is not impossible to 
believe unpleasant or unfavorable facts 
about ourselves, but it is difficult to do so. 

The fact is, then, that the conception 
which we have of our selves comes from 
two sources. It comes, first, from our experi- 
ence and the evidence from those experi- 
ences. It comes, second, from a need to hold 
certain beliefs about our selves, and this 
need to believe has a great deal of influence 
on what we actually do believe. 

Hence, the self is not the individual as he 
is. It is rather the individual as he appears 
to and feels about himself. This self may 
be far from reality in the case of some 
seriously maladjusted individuals, or it may 



be close to reality in the case of some other 
individuals. (This subject is discussed fur- 
ther in the chapter on personality. ) 

The Self and What We Appear to Be. It 
is also obvious that the self is not the same 
as what we appear to others to be. We have 
a tendency to wear a front or a veneer and 
to keep others from knowing how things 
really are with us. We often attempt to ap- 
pear more generous, more laudable, or 
more likable than the facts warrant. What 
we are and what we appear to be may be 
quite different. 

Here, for example, is an individual who 
appears to be the very essence of security 
and self-possession. Apparently he is never 
at a loss in any situation that arises, and 

he shows self-confidence at every turn. The 
interesting point about him is that inwardly 
he may be a very insecure person. The ap- 
parent security in which he clothes himself 
is simply a front to cover up a feeling of in- 

It is not hard to find others who illustrate 
this point. Here is a blustering individual 
who apparently is very courageous, who 
never seems to fear anything that comes 
along. When we get to know him well, we 
may find that his real feelings are just the 
contrary. Or here is a person who appears 
to feel very superior to others. He appears 
to look down upon them, to feel that they do 
not count for much, and to act as though 
he alone is of real importance. A clearer 





The question investigated in this study * was, "Will a well-adjusted child 
accept as true a larger number of derogatory statements about himself than 
will a poorly adjusted one?" 

The research employed two instruments. One was the California Test of 
Personality, a paper-and-pencil questionnaire designed to measure the de- 
gree of adjustment or maladjustment. The other was a list of 20 statements 
judged to be true of most children but not at all complimentary. Three ex- 
amples were "I sometimes say bad words or swear," "I sometimes am lazy 
and won't do my work," and "I sometimes talk back to my mother." 

The subjects of the investigation were 180 sixth-grade children from con- 
solidated rural schools in Pennsylvania. The California Test of Personality 
was used to break the group up into two subgroups, one consisting of 
those who scored above the group average in the direction of good adjust- 
ment and the other consisting of those scoring below the average. Two 
weeks later the 20 statements were presented in mimeographed form, and 
the children were asked to indicate any that were true of them. 

The results showed clearly that children who were above average on the 
personality test accepted (or agreed with) a significantly larger number of 
threatening statements than did the below-average group. The authors con- 
clude from this that the better-adjusted children are better able to recognize 
and accept uncomplimentary facts about themselves than are the less well 
adjusted ones. 

One interesting problem discussed by the authors is the value of a paper- 
and-pencil personality test in measuring maladjustment. That question is 
taken up later in this book (see Chapter 18). 

* Charles Taylor and Arthur W. Combs, "Self-acceptance and Adjustment," Journal of 
Consu/fing Psycfio/ogy, 16:89-91, 1954. 



look, however, may reveal again exactly the 
opposite of what we see on the surface. 
Actually he may be a person who is strug- 
gling desperately against overwhelming 
feelings of inferiority and who has adopted 
superior attitudes as a "front." 

The self may therefore be very different 
from what the individual appears to others 
to be. It is the individual as really known 
to and felt about by himself and not neces- 
sarily what others judge him to be, though 
it certainly includes what he thinks others 
judge him to be. 


All through this discussion we have 
talked about admiring the self and placing 
a high value on it. Certainly, a great deal 
of our time and energy is used in this sort 
of activity, and nearly everyone engages in 
it. It would be misleading, however, if we 
did not also call attention to the fact of self- 

Some people do in fact reject the self. 
They find it anything but lovely or praise- 
worthy, and they simply refuse to defend it. 
Self-inflicted punishment, ridicule, and 
even suicide are possible symptomsand 
results of self-rejection. Obviously, such 
behavior is unusual or at least relatively in- 

It should be noted that much that ap- 
pears to be self-rejection is really something 
quite different. Often, when we make un- 
complimentary remarks about ourselves, 
we are looking for reassurance or even a 
compliment. Thus if we say, "I certainly 
am stupid this morning" usually we do not 
want anyone to reply, "Yes, I know that. 
In fact, I've noticed that you are stupid a 
good deal of the time." What we really 
want is for someone to disagree and thus 
help us in self-enhancement and self-de- 
fense. Nevertheless, to understand people 
we must recognize that real self-rejection 
does occur. 


Thus far we have spoken about the self- 
picture and the self as though there were 
only one for each individual. Indeed it 
would be convenient, though perhaps a 
little boring, if the self were unvarying, un- 
changing, and consistent from one time to 
the other. As a matter of fact, it is very easy 
to oversimplify our concept of the self and 
to see it in a degree of consistency that it 
actually does not have. 

It is necessary to recognize, however, 
that we have different beliefs and feelings 
about ourselves and different ways of re- 
spondingin many of the various social 
situations in which we find ourselves. Sup- 
pose, for example, that we are dealing with 
people who are younger than we are, or 
with people of our own age but of lower 
social status. Here it is easy to act in a 
superior manner and to feel ourselves genu- 
inely superior to most other people. On the 
other hand, we may act in the opposite way 
and have feelings of considerable inferiority 
in the presence of persons of superior sta- 
tus. How we feel about ourselves, therefore, 
is determined in part by our surroundings. 

The same may be true of our ethical 
values and other standards of conduct. 
When we are with people who believe in 



Figure 5.9. What would you 
guess about this mans feel- 
ings of self -regard? While 
most of us hold ourselves in 
moderate or high self-esteem, 
some people feel that they 
are unworthy and of little or 
value. (Photo by Fritz 


Henle, Monkmeyer 
Photo Service.) 


service to others or in equal treatment for 
all people, regardless of race, religion, or 
status, it is easy to believe that these are 
our values, too. But when we are in a self- 
centered, self-seeking, or prejudiced group 
we are likely to shift in the direction of their 
values, and to some extent not only to act 
as they wish but actually to identify with 
their values. 

Thus, an important point emerges: the 
self is not always consistent from one situa- 
tion to the other. In other words, we may 
view ourselves differently at times from 
what we do at other times. We may have 
different ideas and feelings in one situa- 
tion from what we do in another. We must 
recognize, then, that the self is not always 
the same. It is interesting to note, though, 
that our behavior nearly always appears 
more consistent to us than it does to people 

who observe it. This is particularly true if 
we hold apparently opposing or inconsistent 
views. To an outsider these views may ap- 
pear completely inconsistent, but the 
chances are that we have found some way 
of rationalizing or reconciling them. The 
self, then, is not neat, consistent, and logi- 
cally ordered. 

On the other hand, it would be a mistake 
to carry this point too far. Despite changes 
with situations and certain inconsistencies, 
the self is relatively continuous and stable. 
Indeed, if we know a person well, the 
chances are that we can make some rather 
accurate predictions as to how he will be- 
have under many circumstances. Thus there 
is consistency in behavior and a continuity 
in the self, even though it is possible to 
overemphasize these. 


The self is the individual as known to and 
felt about by the individual. It includes ( 1 ) 
the self-picture, those ideas and feelings 
which a person has about himself and of 
which he is aware; and (2) unconscious 

feelings and attitudes that a person may 
have about himself. 

These ideas and feelings that a person 
has about himself are usually very valuable 
to him. When they are attacked or treated 



lightly he is hurt, whether he shows it out- 
wardly or not. And when they are admired 
or otherwise enhanced he is well pleased. 
Indeed, the majority of people spend a 
great deal of their time defending and en- 
hancing the self, even though there are 
people who reject the self. 

Unconscious aspects of the self are those 
which we do not perceive, of which we are 
not aware. The feelings we have about the 
self vary all the way from those that are 
fully conscious to those totally unconscious, 
with many degrees of awareness in be- 

There are at least three reasons why we 
have unconscious feelings about ourselves. 
In the first place, we have simply failed, or 
perhaps been unable, to become aware of 
some of them. In the second place, some 
facts about us may be so complimentary 
to us that we find them difficult or impos- 

sible to believe. And in the third place, 
some facts about us are unworthy of our 
self-picture or are out of keeping with what 
we want to believe, and so we repress them. 

It is possible to make something outside 
of the self a part of the self. This process 
occurs through identification or ego-involve- 
ment. After we have identified with or be- 
come ego-involved in something outside 
our selves, we may serve and sacrifice for it 
fully as much as we might for our selves 
(in the narrow sense of the latter term). 

The self is not what we are but only 
what we think and feel tfiat we are. Like- 
wise, it is not what we appear to others to 
be but what we appear to ourselves to be. 
And while it is far from wholly consistent 
and unitary (since it varies with changing 
circumstances), on the whole it is fairly 


1. Just what is the self? How is it related to 
the self -picture? 

2. What else (other than the self-picture) is 
included in the self? 

3. Is the self an essence or entity such as we 
were warned against in Chapter 1? Defend 
your answer. 

4. Discuss the importance to the individual of 
status and status symbols. 

5. Are all aspects of the self either conscious 
or unconscious? Explain. 

6. What is meant by (a) defending the self, 
(b) enhancing the self? 

7. How does it happen that there are parts or 
aspects of the self of which we are not aware? 

Why is it often difficult to achieve clear self- 

8. What is meant by (a) ego-involvement, 
(b) identification? 

9. What is psychological hedonism? What are 
the principal arguments against it? 

10. Wherein does the self differ from (a) what 
we are, (b) what others think we are? 

11. What is meant by self-rejection? How 
often does it occur? Are all instances of ap- 
parent self-rejection real or genuine self-rejec- 
tion? Explain. 

12. Is the self always consistent? To what ex- 
tent is it dependable? Explain. 


Hilgard, Ernest R.: "Human Motives and the 
Concept of the Self," The American Psycholo- 
gist, 1949, 4:374-382. 

(The self from the standpoint of an ex- 
perimental psychologist.) 



McClelland, David C.: Personality, Sloane, Rogers, Carl R.: Client-centered Therapy, 

New York, 1951, chap. 14. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1951, pp. 136-141, 

{Summary of representative experimental 494-524. 

and other scientific investigations of the (The role of the self in counseling and 

self. ) psychotherapy. ) 

Murphy, Gardner: An Introduction to Psy- Sherif, M., and H. Cantril: Psychology of Ego- 

chology, Harper, 1951, chap. 21. involvements, Wiley, New York, 1947. 

(A simple, effective presentation of the (A thorough discussion of the concept of 

nature of the self.) ego-involvement.) 

Murphy, Gardner: Personality: A Biosocial Ap- Stagner, Ross: Psychology of Personality, 2d 

proach to Origins and Structure, Harper, New ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1948, chap. 9. 

York, 1947, chaps. 20, 21, 22. (A discussion of the self in motivation 

(A rather detailed explanation of the and personality development; on pages 

meaning of "self; considerable emphasis 170 to 172, a good presentation of its 

on how the self develops.) consistency and inconsistency.) 


In the previous chapter we saw how the 
self grows through identification and ego- 
involvement, and how the great majority of 
people are seriously concerned with it, es- 
pecially when it is threatened. This chapter 
will explore the self further and describe 
the person's efforts to enhance the self and 
to defend it when it is threatened. 

Self-defense and Self -enhancement. Most 
of us can recall some instances of self-de- 
fense in our own behavior. Suppose that 
an acquaintance of ours has just been elec- 
ted to an office that we thought was going 
to be ours, one which we wanted very much. 
Under these conditions, how easy it is to 
say, "It's all right, but I'd hate to do what 
he did to get that office!" 

Or we see a person who is financially 
successful while we have not done nearly 
as well. Again, how easy it is to say, "Money 
isn't everything, or even the most important 
thing in the world!" Of course we are imply- 
ing by that statement that we have at least 
been successful, perhaps as successful as 
he has been, even though people may not 
recognize us as much as they recognize him. 

Or here is a football coach who is "build- 
ing character" this year. His team has lost 
all its games so far, and character training 
suddenly takes on a new importance at this 

We do not mean to imply that every time 
we object to someone who has been success- 
ful we are being defensive. Sometimes we 
have reasonable, factual grounds for our 
objections, but often we are being defen- 
sive, and we need to understand that. 

Let us take another example. Suppose we 
have made a serious mistake. We were try- 
ing to make a sale or to get a highly rated 
man to pledge our fraternity; because we 


did and said exactly the wrong things, we 
failed completely in our efforts. What do 
we do under these circumstances? Con- 
fronted with the fact of failure, we are 
likely to say, "Sure, I did it, but. . . ." 
And it is interesting what follows the word 
"but." It is nearly always some form of 

It is easy to say of another person, "He 
is a failure," or even, "He is stupid," but 
it is very difficult to make such statements 
about ourselves. About the worst we will 
say is, "I may sometimes appear to be 
stupid, but. . . ." And the implication is, 
"I am not so stupid!" 

Not all our self-oriented efforts, however, 
are defensive. The other side of the coin 
is self -enhancement. Sometimes we say, 
"See, I'm pretty good!" or, "Gee, I'm really 
good-looking and attractive!" or, "Boy, I 
won that game all by myself!" Again, these 
statements may be completely true; on the 
other hand, we may make them even if we 
are not very good, or not particularly good- 
looking, or did no more than our share 
and maybe not that muchto win the 
game. The point is that in our desire to en- 
hance the self we may go considerably be- 
yond the facts, and do so unintentionally 
and unknowingly. 

There is no way to measure how much of 
our time and energy is expended in defend- 
ing and enhancing the self, but it must be 
a great deal. Sometimes, when we try to 
defend or enhance the self, we know full 
well what we are doing. At other times we 
realize after we have done it that we have 
been defending or enhancing the self. Very 
frequently, however, we do not understand 
this process either while it is going on or 
afterward. Altogether, then, a lot of our 
time and energy goes into these processes. 


What are the ways in which we attempt 
to defend (and sometimes to enhance) the 

self? This is a hard question to answer 
definitely, for the relevant facts are complex, 
and they have been classified in a number 
of different ways. We have chosen to con- 
sider them under four headings: (1) de- 
fense by attack, (2) defense by withdraw- 
ing, (3) defense by restructuring the world, 
and (4) defense by restructuring the self. 
Though the process of restructuring is es- 
sentially the same whether it is the world 
or the self that is restructured, we shall 
discuss the two methods separately. 

By Attack. One of the ways in which we 
attempt to defend and enhance the self is 
by aggressive behavior. If there is a block 
in our path, we can attack it head on and 
do so again and again. If we eliminate the 
block or get over or around it, fine. If we 
do not succeed in dislodging it, at least we 
may get satisfaction from trying. 

We may attack, of course, a little less 
obviously and directly. Suppose another 
fraternity has beaten ours in touch football 
or in securing a larger number of pledges. 
Even if we cannot beat them in football 
or cannot outrush them, we can make un- 
complimentary remarks about them, or even 
throw rocks at their fraternity house and 
get some satisfaction from these flank at- 

Or here is a fellow who is smarter than 
we are. If we are stronger than he, we may 
be able to dominate and ridicule him. We 
may actually do so, not because of anything 
he has done, but because of the humiliation 
which we suffer as he shows us up in in- 
tellectual matters. 

Aggressive behavior may be even less 
obvious. It is easy for us to take out our 
feelings of aggression on someone who has 
little or nothing to do with causing them. 
Thus, a child who has been punished at 
home may, as a result, show hostile reac- 
tions toward his teacher. Or a man who 
has been reprimanded by his boss may take 
it out on his wife and children at home. 
Often there is not so much satisfaction from 



Figure 6.1. Three ways of defending the self 
are attack, withdrawal, and restructuring. 

this kind of behavior as there would be 
from evening the score with the source of 
the difficulty, but it is partly satisfying. 

By Withdrawing. Another way to defend 
the self is to retreat from the threatening 
situation. For example, if a boy wants to 
play football but finds his best efforts so 
poor as to make any real success unlikely, 
he can give up this activity completely. Or 
if a girl wants to make an outstanding rec- 
ord in college but finds that the best she 
can do is average or below, she can forget 
about trying to make good grades. Except 
that it is difficult to leave a goal and forget 
it completely, especially if we really want 
it! So we are more likely to retreat into the 
realm of imagination, where we have more 
complete control over what happens. We 
may even take on behavior patterns which 
we found satisfying in an earlier and hap- 
pier period. We shall have more to say 
about this sort of behavior before we finish 
this chapter. 

By Restructuring the World. A third way 
to defend the self is to remake the world 
in which we live. Sometimes we actually go 
to work and bring about some real changes 
in the world, but this is not what we mean. 
Rather, in restructuring the world, we 
change the world only in our imagination, 
thinking, and perception of the world. 

In order to explain and develop this 
point, we had better first introduce a con- 
cept that has proved useful in under- 
standing human behavior. The concept is 
autism; 1 it refers to the influence of motives 
or needs or desires or drives or urges or 
any other of the so-called affective proces- 
ses-on the intellectual processes. It refers, 
in other words, to the tendency to see what 

1 This term has been developed by Gardner 
Murphy, Personality: A Biosocial Approach to Ori- 
gins and Structures, Harper, New York, 1947, 
chaps. 14 and 15. We have also followed Murphy 
closely in this account of the main ways in which 
we defend the self. 



Figure 6.2. We all tend 
to see what we want or 
need to see. 

we want to see and to believe what we want 
to believe. 

It should be made clear that autistic 
response is not deliberate misrepresenta- 
tion. Autism occurs unconsciously; that is, 
we are influenced by our needs to believe 
something even though the facts do not sup- 
port this belief. We do not realize what 
has happened; we believe because we want 
to believe. We see the thing that is not 
there because we want to see it. In both 
cases, we think that we draw our conclu- 
sions on the basis of the evidence. Autism, 
then, is not a deliberate or intentional 

Let us illustrate. We go to see our team 
play a baseball game. It is a hotly con- 
tested game for the championship of the 
league. Each time our team gets a rally 
started, it is wiped out by a close decision 
by the umpire. Everybody knows that 
umpires make mistakes, but the strange 
thing about this game is that all the mis- 
takes favor the other team! Our team just 
"can't get a break" with the umpires. In 
actual fact, of course, the umpire is not 
ego-involved with either team and is call- 
ing the plays as he sees them. We tend, how- 
ever, to see in the situation what we need 
to see. One of our batters may be out by a 
step or two at first base, but it is easy for 
us to see him safe by that margin. Or one 
of their batters may be safe by a step or two 

but we can easily see him out by that much 
or more. 

There are many other illustrations of the 
same point. A labor union looks different 
to one of its ardent members from what 
it does to a member of management, es- 
pecially to an executive who has had trouble 
with it. And management looks different to 
a member of management from what it 
does to a person in a controversy with man- 
agement. The member of each group, in 
other words, tench to see in that group and 
also in opposing groups what he needs to 
see or wants to see. 

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of 
our point is to be found in the way in which 
parents praise their children. It is obvious, 
of course, to any parent that his children 
are smarter than the average, and better 
looking too. The interesting thing is that 
somewhere there must be some average 
children and some below-average children, 
but it just happens that the average and 
below-average children are not his children. 
They are our children, or the children of 
someone else. Again our point is that par- 
ents tend to see in the characteristics and 
behavior of their children what they need 
or want to see. 

We do not mean to imply that our desire 
to see or believe something is the only 
thing that influences what we see or believe. 
Unquestionably, we sometimes sec what 
we do not want to sec and accept conclu- 
sions that are most unpleasant. Sometimes 
the other team does win the game simply by 
outplaying ours. Sometimes, too, we have 
to admit that one of our children really is 
below average in appearance or intelli- 
gence. The point is, however, that we tend 
to see and believe what we want to see and 
believe, especially when our desires are 
very strong and when the facts are ambigu- 
ous enough to permit some differences in 
interpretation. Indeed, it is amazing at 
times how much our needs shape our per- 
ception of situations! 


But let us return to the relation between 
autism and self-defense. Autism operates 
in the defense of the self by helping us to 
see in the self or in the external world what- 
ever we need to see. In fact, there is hardly 
anything that we cannot believe if we need 
to believe it badly enough, and one of the 
factors that gives special force to a belief 
is the need to hold it or accept it in order 
to defend or enhance the self. 

But what about restructuring the world? 
What we are here implying is that we re- 
make our conception of the world so that 
it is more acceptable to us and more in line 
with our conceptions of or perhaps our 
wishes about ourselves. Here is a man 
who goes from one job to another, never 
quite succeeding on any job; yet he is one 
of the most optimistic persons we have 
over met. In his view, right around the 
corner are a great many prospects, not only 
for moderate success but for riches. All his 
life he has felt this way, but hard luck (he 
tells himself) is always plaguing him. This 
is an example of restructuring the world. 
The man sees in the external world what he 
needs to see, and it is certainly easier for 
him to live with his failures if he can be- 

lieve that these failures are not actually 
his fault. It is often easier to believe that 
the world, and not we ourselves, is res- 
ponsible for our lack of success. 

Many of our beliefs about the old home 
town or our high school or our state fall into 
the same class. We have all known people 
who are intensely proud of the town in 
which they grew up and who really believe 
it is the finest, most progressive, and pret- 
tiest town anywhere, when, in fact, it is not 
outstanding in any sense. This is a fine ex- 
ample of autistic restructuring, that is, of 
seeing in the world what we want or need 
to sec when the facts are against us. 

We must not leave the impression that 
all restructuring of the world makes it seem 
better than it is. Sometimes it does the op- 
posite, making the world seem worse than it 
is. For example, if a person can believe 
that other people are untrustworthy or al- 
ways out for themselves, then it is not so 
bad if he has these tendencies. Undoubtedly 
there are people who restructure the world, 
including the human beings around them, 
so as to make it less damaging when com- 
pared to their own none-too-trustworthy 
or none-too-admirable selves. Thus, if we 






An interesting study that throws light on several aspects of this chapter 
and the preceding one was done by Torrance.* He asked a group of 1,215 
college freshmen to estimate what they would do on entrance examinations 
just before the examinations were taken and what they thought they had 
done just after the tests were finished. Each person estimated how he would 
rank relative to the rest of the group on general scholastic ability, number 
ability, verbal ability, English usage, spelling, vocabulary, reading speed, 
and reading comprehension. 

An analysis of the results showed that there was little relationship be- 
tween self-estimates and scores made. For example, 65 per cent of the total 
group estimated that they were in the top quarter of the class, and 95 per 
cent put themselves in the top half. Of those who actually were in the 
lowest quarter, 62 per cent thought they would be in the upper quarter and 
92 per cent thought they would be in the upper half. Estimates were more 
realistic after taking the tests than they were before. Women were more 
accurate in their evaluations than were men, and also furnished a larger 
percentage of those who undervalued themselves. 

The students were also given an opportunity to offer excuses or rationali- 
zations for their performance. About one-fourth of the group did so. Study 
of this group revealed that women who rationalize their performance over- 
evaluate themselves definitely more than women who do not. (The results 
for men were in the same direction but not statistically significant.) 

So far as the kinds of rationalizations are concerned, it was found that 
90 per cent of those giving headaches as a reason for poor performance 
overestimated themselves. For nervousness the figure was 75 per cent. Re- 
sults for other rationalizations were not so clear-cut and definite. 

* Paul Torrance, "Rationalizations about Test Performance as a Function of Self-con- 
cepts/ 1 Journal of Social Psyc/io/ogy, 39:211-217, 1954. 

can see the world as not too good and if 
we are not too good ourselves, then we are 
better by comparison. Thus we are saved 
from embarrassment. 

To sum up, we have said that one way 
of defending the self is to remake the 
world and the people in it. If we can re- 
make the world into a more satisfying form 
from our point of view, we may have gone 
a long way toward defending or enhancing 
the self. 

By Restructuring the Self. We have ear- 
lier called attention to the fact that we 
sometimes make ourselves appear to our- 
selves to be smarter, more open-minded, or 
better looking than we actually are. We 

often give ourselves desirable characteris- 
tics which we really do not have. As has al- 
ready been indicated, we may be completely 
deceived by this revaluation of ourselves. 
We believe it, however, not because the 
evidence supports it, but because we want 
or need to believe it. Having accepted it, 
we feel that we are in better position to 
defend the self and also to enhance it. 

We have seen some of the ways in which 
we attempt to defend and enhance the 
self. Others might be added to this list, 
or the same list might be classified dif- 
ferently. As a matter of fact, in the section 
to follow, we shall discuss these same proc- 
esses from a different point of view. 




We have been discussing the defense and 
enhancement of the self in rather general 
terms. In speaking of defense by attack, 
by withdrawing, and by autistic restructur- 
ing, we have necessarily grouped together 
many different reactions which, in a finer 
analysis, can be distinguished from each 
other. In this section we shall examine these 
various reactions in more detail. 

The specific reactions that may be used 
to defend the self against threats of various 
kinds have been called defense mectianisms. 
The term "defense mechanisms," as well as 
a description of such mechanisms, was sup- 
plied by Sigmund Freud in the course of his 
practice of psychoanalysis with mentally 
disturbed patients. Since psychoanalytic 
ideas have been widely popularized in re- 
cent years, most people are familiar with 
some of the defense mechanisms. Many 
people, however, do not know them all and 
have not had them clearly explained. 

From the descriptions of the defense 
mechanisms below, it is clear that many of 
them could be classified under one of the 
four general headings of the last section. 
On the other hand, some defense mecha- 
nisms might fit under two or more of these 
headings. Hence there is no simple means 
of relating the two ways of classifying de- 
fenses of the self, and it is better to con- 
sider the defense mechanisms as a differ- 
ent, more specific scheme for understand- 
ing human habits of self-defense. 

But first, let us be more specific about 
the nature of these reactions. By the term 
"defense mechanism" or "mechanism of 
self-defense" we mean a habit which a per- 
son develops for defending and at times 
enhancing his regard for himself. Defense 
mechanisms have at least two general char- 
acteristics. First, they are called mecha- 
nisms of self-defense simply because they 
defend the self. The self (or self-picture) 
is threatened, not necessarily with annihila- 
tion but at least with serious injury. It is 

about to be made to appear less admirable, 
less worthy, or less successful than we want 
it to be. The mechanisms of self-defense 
are used to bolster the self in this sort of 
situation. It goes without saying that this 
process may also work in a positive direc- 
tion. We may wish to see the self as more 
admirable, more worthy, or more successful 
than it is, and thus we may call upon the 
defense mechanisms in order to enhance 
the self. 

In the second place, the defense mecha- 
nisms are unconscious or at least partly so; 
they are not used deliberately. While we 
are using a defense mechanism, we do not 
understand it or its purpose. We may or 
may not become aware of it later. Indeed, 
we usually deny the purpose for which it 
was used, if we are confronted with it. In- 
cidentally, the nearer the purpose comes to 
being obvious to an outsider, the more we 
may struggle to deny it! Thus, the mecha- 
nisms of self-defense become one of our 
best illustrations of autism and autistic re- 

Rationalization. We sometimes say that 
rationalization means giving acceptable 
reasons instead of the real ones or making 
excuses, which we accept as true, for our 
actions or beliefs. When we emphasize the 
defensive nature of the mechanism, how- 
ever, we prefer to say that rationalization 
is unconsciously false self-justification. 

About the only part of this definition 
likely to cause any difficulty, so far as 
understanding it is concerned, is "uncon- 
sciously false." It is particularly important 
to notice that "unconsciously" modifies 
"false" and not "justification." Rationaliza- 
tion is not unconscious self-justification. It 
is self-justification in which the person is 
unaware (or unconscious) of the fact that 
he is using false reasoning (or false rea- 
sons ) to defend or enhance the self. Let us 
consider some examples of rationalization. 
Suppose a girl comes to college intent on 
pledging a certain sorority. When she gets 



to college, she is not rushed by that sorority 
and gets no bid to join it. It is interesting 
to note how the girl's attitude toward that 
sorority changes as time passes. By the end 
of the first year she may convince herself 
that it was a fine thing she did not pledge 
that sorority. By the end of the second year 
she may come to believe that she never 
seriously wanted to pledge it at all. It is not 
impossible that before the end of her col- 
lege career she may have come to the con- 
clusion that, of all the sororities on the 
campus, this is the worst and that no one 
in her right mind would consider joining it. 

Some people do not react this way. Nor 
do all people who decide a certain sorority 
is not worth joining come to their conclu- 
sion as a means of defending themselves. 
In some cases the conclusions may be justi- 
fied by the facts, but often they are not. 

If this girl had been pledged and later 
initiated by the sorority in question she 
probably would have become an enthusi- 
astic member. But it is difficult to say, "I am 
not attractive enough, I do not have the 
personality that is required." It is much 
easier to say, "I didn't want to pledge any- 
way, and besides, that sorority is not worth 
joining." Clearly, this is defensive. 

Everyday language has a word for such 
an attitude as this. It is often called sour 
grapes. This term comes from the story 
about the fox who tried for a long time to 
get a particularly attractive bunch of grapes 
hanging just out of reach and who, finding 
that he could not get the grapes, turned 
away with the remark, "Well, I didn't want 
the grapes anyway, because they are sour." 

There is also a sweet-lemon mechanism, 
which may not be quite so familiar. In the 
"sweet-lemon" response a person has to 
accept something that he really does not 
want; or perhaps he gets what he has 
worked hard to get, only to find it less 
pleasant than he had expected it to be. 
However, because he is ego-involved and 
cannot admit to himself, "I am wrong, I 

figure 6.3. When a person 
rationalizes about a mis- 
take in judgment, he is 
more concerned with de- 
fending his own good 
opinion of himself than 
with convincing others 
that he is right. 

made a mistake," he may contend to his 
dying day that the lemon was sweet. 

It should be stressed here that when we 
rationalize we are primarily concerned 
with keeping our own good opinion of our- 
selves, or with not allowing this opinion to 
be damaged any more than is necessary. 
In other words, we are not so concerned 
with convincing other people as we arc 
with convincing ourselves. Of course, it 
helps if others are convinced too, because if 
others clo not believe the story it is harder 
for us to believe it. Rationalization, how- 
ever, is directed primarily toward the 
rationalizer. We are trying to justify our- 
selves in our own eyes. 

Projection. Another defense mechanism 
is known as projection. Projection, used de- 
fensively, is a habit of attributing our own 
unworthy impulses or motives to other 
people. We see in other people the unde- 
sirable traits or tendencies or feelings that 
we actually have ourselves. "People are not 
to be trusted," "Every man is a wolf in 
sheep's clothing," "Every man has his 
price" these often represent attempts to 
disguise our own questionable motives by 
projecting them to other people. 



It should be noted that projection is 
sometimes used to cover up traits that we 
do not actually have but are tempted to 
have. We may not actually be selfish or un- 
trustworthy, but if we project these traits 
to others we probably have inclinations to 
be. When we fear that we may be the kind 
of person we cannot admire, there is con- 
siderable comfort in believing that most 
other people are that kind. 

It should be noted in passing that projec- 
tion is not always defensive; sometimes we 
project onto the world and the people in it 
our admirable motives and our pleasant 
feelings. "God's in his heaven, and all's right 
with the world" represents projection but 
not projection used defensively not if the 
statement represents how we really feel, 
both consciously and unconsciously. 

Regression. In defending the self, we 
may revert to an earlier or happier period 
in our lives and adopt the behavior pat- 
terns, including the patterns of thinking 
and feeling, of this earlier period. Here is 
an illustration: A child of eighteen months 
acquires a new baby brother or sister. Per- 
haps by this age the older child has well- 
established habits of toilet training, has 
learned to keep his crying under reasonable 
control, and feeds himself fairly well. It is 
not at all unlikely, however, that with the 
coming of the new youngster the older one 
will show a great deal of regression. He 
may forget his habits of toilet training, he 
may cry and have temper tantrums, and 
he may insist on being fed by his parents 
as completely as he was six or twelve 
months before. It is easy to see how this 
sort of reaction is defensive. The new baby 

Figure 6.4. The child who "throws" a temper 
tantrum is often defending the self in a threat- 
ening situation by withdrawing to a behavior 
pattern that was effective in an earlier period. 
(Courtesy of Giorgina Reid.) 

represents a threat to the security and af- 
fection of the older child, and the regressive 
behavior is an attempt to regain his own 
previously secure position and the affection 
he has lost. 

Incidentally, this is a fine illustration of 
the unconscious nature of defensive be- 
havior. We know that a child of eighteen 
months does not adopt this behavior as a 
result of conscious planning. Even if he 
had a sufficiently large vocabulary he could 
not tell us exactly how his reactions have 
changed or why they changed. He adopts 
the behavior, nevertheless, and it is defen- 
sive even if he is in the dark as to what has 
happened and why. 

Other instances of regressive behavior 
are to be found in old people. A certain 
amount of childish behavior in old people 



is due to physical deterioration, limiting 
what they can do and reducing their ability 
to reason and remember. Some of the child- 
ishness of old age, however, is regressive; 
the individual retreats to an earlier, happier 
period and lives partly in the realm of fan- 
tasy. The older person too may be com- 
pletely unaware both of the behavior and 
of the reasons for it. 

It must not be overlooked that people 
other than infants and the aged also regress. 
Every one of us understands the appeal, 
"Make me a child again, just for tonight!" 
There is something attractive about the clay 
when we had few problems and worries 
and when there was someone to look after 
us. Regardless of our age or education, we 
sometimes succumb to that temptation. 

Compensation. From time to time we all 
face situations in which, because of some 
weakness or limitation in ourselves, we can- 
not get what we dearly want. Thus, we may 
want to excel in scholarship, athletics, or 
social acceptance and yet find ourselves 
unable to do so. At times the frustration 
may seriously disturb us, while at other 
times it may be of small concern, the dif- 
ference being primarily in the extent to 
which the desired but unattainable goal is 
an important part of the self. 

Under these circumstances we often 
make a direct attack upon the cause of the 
thwarting. If we want to make better 
grades, we may study harder and work 
longer at our assignments and suggested 
readings. If we want to make the basket- 
ball team, we may train better, practice 
longer, and spend more time in studying 
the game. And if we want to be more 
popular, we may examine our techniques 
for getting along with others and try to find 
ways to become more friendly and more 
worthy of respect. 

Clearly, these are often very healthy re- 
actions and should not be considered de- 
fensive. Sometimes, though, our best efforts 
along any or all of these lines do not suc- 
ceed. Try as we may, we still make poor 

grades, do poorly in basketball, or fail to 
achieve popularity. Sometimes, in other 
words, merely working hard at the job ac- 
complishes nothing except to increase our 
feelings of anxiety and tension. 

It is here that compensation is likely to 
occur. If our best efforts to overcome the 
handicap end in failure, we are likely to 
look around for some other reasonably sat- 
isfying goal and to adopt it instead of what 
we would really like to have. Thus, basket- 
ball may be a compensation for scholarship 
(or the reverse), or either might be used 
to take the place of popularity. Obviously, 
popularity can also be a second best. 

There is nothing wrong in itself with this 
compensatory activity. The problem lies in 
the fact that so often it really is a second 
best, actually and psychologically. In other 
words, no matter how much we work at our 
new tasks and no matter how successful 
we become in them, there is the danger 
that we shall always feel, unconsciously if 
not consciously, that the new achievements 
are not really satisfying. 

The term "compensation" is used to de- 
scribe such a situation as this. We have 
adopted our second choice and have 
worked hard at developing it, but in spite 
of our successes the accomplishments are 
not basically satisfying so far as our own 
self-respect is concerned. (Of course, activ- 
ity that is originally compensatory may 
through long practice and repeated success 
become satisfying in itself and thus lose 
its compensatory character.) 

The fact is that the second best may be 
overplayed and overdeveloped until it be- 
comes obvious to everyone ( except the per- 
son himself) that it is a compensation. Thus 
we may have chosen some activity that is 
not widely engaged in or admired, perhaps 
not even socially approved, and have car- 
ried it to such extreme that we become 
obnoxious with it. For example, a boy who 
is weak and effeminate while young may 
grow up to become a criminal who desires 
publicity or a dictator who tries to conquer 



the world. These are cases of overcompen- 

One may, of course, overcompensate in 
less spectacular ways and in activities gen- 
erally approved. Thus a girl who wants to 
be a campus beauty but is much too homely 
may develop such an interest in scholarly 
pursuits, and so thoroughly condemn 
beauty contests and social events gener- 
ally, that all her friends realize she is com- 
pensatingand overcompensating for her 
own inadequacies. A young man may de- 
velop such an interest in sports and so much 
contempt for intellectual activities that his 
fellow students suspect the same of him. 

It is important to realize that not all in- 
stancesnot even most instances of real or 
intense interest in activity represent com- 
pensation in any form. A great interest in a 
certain activity may have developed in nor- 
mal ways that are discussed elsewhere in 
this book (see Chapters 3 and 12 espe- 
cially). This activity may be a natural first 
choice, and yet the interest may be just as 
intense as it could ever be if it arose from 
compensation. Nevertheless, some of our 
important interests and values represent 
second-best choices and are compensatory 
in character. 

Another term often used in this connec- 
tion is sublimation. Sigmund Freud, who 
was mentioned earlier, made much use of 
the term. As Freud employed it, the term 
referred to a situation in which we take 
the energy of an antisocial or disapproved 
urge and redirect it into socially approved 
channels. Thus the energy of the sex urge 
may be sublimated into vigorous athletic 
competition or even into welfare work, to 
mention two possibilities. 

Reaction Formation. Somewhat like over- 
compensation is a mechanism which we 
call reaction formation. In reaction forma- 
tion, we show and, at the conscious level, 
think we have tendencies or feelings 
toward another person or object that are 
exactly the opposite of what we uncon- 
sciously feel. Suppose a mother uncon- 

sciously hates one of her children, wishing 
that she did not have this child and the 
burdens that he imposes. Under such cir- 
cumstances, the mother may make a greater 
display of love and affection and may even 
consciously believe that she has greater 
love and affection for this child than does 
the ordinary parent. The hatred of the child 
is thus overcome, at least at the conscious 
level, and the opposite tendency developed. 
This is reaction formation. 

Repression. Repression is another de- 
fense mechanism. By repression we mean a 
forcible "putting out of mind." When we 
use it we are attempting to torget, and we 
succeed. Indeed, this process is sometimes 
referred to as "active forgetting." It is in- 
teresting, incidentally, that in repression, 
feelings of guilt are usually connected with 
the forgotten event or habit. It is also in- 
teresting that, even though the event may 
be forgotten and the memories repressed, 
the effects linger on. 

For instance, a young woman had a fear 
of running water. She reacted normally to 
water in a basin or a container, but to hear 
water drawn or to see it running in a stream 
terrified her. Investigation revealed that 
when this young woman was a small girl 
she had been forbidden by her mother to 
go near a stream close to her house. One 
day she disobeyed her mother and fell into 
the stream. She was helped back into the 
house by a visitor and found some dry 
clothes, so her mother never knew about 
the disobedience. For days, however, the 
little girl lived in terror lest her mother 
should learn of it. Time passed and the 
incident seemed to have been forgotten, 
but it had merely been repressed. Though 
the memories faded, the effects continued, 
and the phobia (or abnormal fear) of run- 
ning water appeared. This phobia seems to 
have arisen directly from this earlier ex- 
perience. Thus, in repression experiences 
are forcibly put out of mind, but their ef- 
fects may live on. 

Fantasy. Another mechanism we all use 



Figure 6.5. One defense mechanism we all 
use from time to time is the daydream. In the 
"conquer ing hero" type, we temporarily make 
up for real-life deficiencies by constructing 
victories in the realm of the imagination. 

from time to time is to retreat into the 
realm of imagination. The daydream, of 
course, is a good example of this mecha- 
nism, and perhaps the best example of day- 
dreams is the so-called "conquering hero" 
daydream. Suppose a boy has been very 
unsuccessful in playing baseball. He dreams 
of being a major-league star, but the pros- 
pects of his ever playing baseball with dis- 
tinction are remote indeed. There is, how- 
ever, nothing to keep him from imagining 
that he is at bat in the world series. It is the 
last half of the ninth inning, the series is 
tied at three games each, and the home 
team is three runs behind, with two men 
out and three on base. Of course he hits a 
home run and thus wins the world series. 
He obviously enjoys the daydream im- 
mensely, and for the moment he forgets his 
deficiencies as a baseball player. 

A similar mechanism is called the "suf- 
fering hero" daydream. Here the situation 
is reversed; the child or adultimagines 
that he has been mistreated and goes away 
to a distant country. Misfortune overtakes 
him, and he is brought home seriously ill 
or even dead. As he imagines the weeping 
and sorrow of those who mistreated him 
before he went away, he has the satisfac- 
tion of feeling that they are sorry for what 

they did. The daydream serves as a defense 
because it helps him forget his present limi- 
tations and makes him feel that things are 
not so bad as they appear. 

Identification. The term identification 
was introduced in the preceding chapter to 
refer to our making a person or object out- 
side ourselves a part of the self. Used as a 
defense mechanism, identification not only 
makes the other person a part of the self but 
permits us to live our life and gain our sat- 
isfactions through the experiences of the 
other person. In other words, the accom- 
plishments and satisfactions of the person 
with whom we identify become a substi- 
tute for our own. 

A familiar example of identification is the 
mother who was unhappy during her girl- 
hood and who identifies with her daughter. 
She tries to shape her daughter's life to 
follow the patterns which the mother 
wishes hers had followed. She thinks for her 
child and is extremely interested in all that 
the child is doing; she gets her satisfaction 
through the accomplishments of the child. 
Another case in point was the many poor, 
weak Germans who hitherto had amounted 
to nothing but who identified with Hitler 
and gloried in his triumphs. Perhaps every 
well-known leader, especially every author- 



itarian one, intentionally or unintentionally 
encourages this mechanism. 

It is interesting to note that it is the weak 
and not the strong who typically use the 
method of identification. Hence, used in 
this sense, identification is primarily a de- 
fensive process. 

Introjection. We all have to get along 
with the world in which we live and to ob- 
serve standards imposed upon our conduct. 
People insist that we behave in certain 
ways and that we not behave in others. 
Sometimes these standards become rather 
difficult to meet and unpleasant to follow. 
If we go through life regarding these stand- 
ards as imposed upon us from outside, we 
may be resentful and unhappy. There is one 
way, however, for us to come to grips with 
these standards and make a better adjust- 

ment to them (or at least a more comfort- 
able one ) , and that is to impose them upon 
ourselves. We introject them, as we say, 
making them our own. We are then able to 
give orders to ourselves. 

Here is a little girl about two years of 
age. Her mother and father are trying to 
convince her that a new coffee table is out 
of bounds for her and that the ash trays on 
the table should be left alone. Every time 
she goes near the table, her parents say, 
"Don't . . . , don't. . . ." After a few days, 
whenever the little girl starts toward the 
table, and while she is four or five steps 
away, she starts saying to herself, "Don't, 
don't, don't!" Actually, her saying this 
makes no difference. She goes right on to 
the table and picks up the ash trays, but 
this is an interesting process, for she is tell- 






Aggressive behavior may be an open and direct attack on a person or 
other object, or it may be simply aggressive thoughts and feelings about 
others. One question in this research * was the extent to which these two 
go together. That is, do people with a relatively large amount of fantasy 
aggression tend to engage in more acts of actual aggression? Another ques- 
tion was the effect of fear of punishment on the overt expression of aggres- 

The subjects were 29 boys from the lower social class. (For an introduc- 
tion to the social classes, see Chapter 8.) Their feelings of aggression were 
ascertained through the use of the Thematic Apperception Test, a projective 
device discussed in Chapter 18. Their actual or overt aggression was checked 
by six observers who lived with the boys for two weeks. Careful definitions 
of aggressive fantasies and aggressive acts were worked out, for both the 
test administrators and the observers. 

The results indicate that, for lower-class adolescent and preadolescent 
boys in this particular setting, (1) there is a decided and positive relationship 
between the amount of aggressive thoughts and feelings and the actual acts 
of aggression, and (2) there is the expected tendency among such boys for 
a fear of punishment to restrain the expression of overt aggression. 

The authors feel that it would be a mistake to hold that these conclusions 
necessarily apply to people of other age groups. They also caution against 
the assumption that they necessarily apply to middle-class and upper-class 
boys, since attitudes toward aggression are probably different among the 
various social classes (see Chapter 8). 

* Paul H. Mussen and H. Kelly Naylor, "The Relationship between Overt and Fantasy 
Aggression," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49:235-240, 1954. 





As on example of the kind of research that is conducted in the area of 
projection, identification, and the like let us cite a recent investigation by 
Omwake.* She administered to 113 women college students three person- 
ality inventories, each containing items relating to (1) acceptance of the self 
and (2) acceptance of others. These were administered under circumstances 
which made it easy for the woman to answer as she really felt, since names 
were not put on the inventories. 

Since there were three different inventories, each measuring two different 
attitudes, it was possible to determine how consistently the attitudes were 
measured and also to what extent the two attitudes were related to each 
other. Acceptance of self was measured quite consistently, the coefficients 
of correlation (explained in Chapter 16) being from .49 to .73. Acceptance 
of others was measured less consistently, the coefficients of correlation being 
.13 to .60. The relationship between acceptance of self and of others was 
positive, though moderate, and at the same time too high to be accounted 
for by chance, the coefficients of correlation being from .18 to .41. 

The author concludes that there is a definite relationship between the 
way in which we perceive ourselves and the way in which we perceive others. 
Those of us who accept ourselves tend to accept others, and the reverse 
is also true. Thus we tend to see others in somewhat the same way in 
which we perceive ourselves. 

* Katharine T. Omwake, "The Relation between Acceptance of Self and Acceptance of 
Others Shown by Three Personality Inventories/' Journal of Consulting Psychology, 18: 
443-446, 1954. 

ing herself what her parents have been 
telling her. A week or two later, this little 
girl is saying "Don't, don't" and actually 
stopping before she reaches the table itself. 
Apparently, though she still finds the ash 
trays most attractive, she has found the pro- 
hibitions of her mother and father even 
more difficult to bear. She has finally suc- 
ceeded in introjecting this standard and 
thus imposing it upon herself. 

It may be difficult to see how this is de- 
fensive. It is defensive because it avoids 
the tension and the loss of self-respect that 
come from being "ordered around." It is 
defensive in the sense that it lets us impose 
our standards on ourselves. If we have to 
follow these standards, we might as well 
make them our own. 

It would, of course, be a serious mistake 
to suppose that all our moral and ethical 
standards are achieved in this fashion. Un- 

doubtedly, some develop through the proc- 
ess of introjection, but others emerge from 
an intelligent understanding of a situation. 
Such ethical insights represent some of the 
highest achievements of human beings. In- 
trojection, however, is one way of acquiring 
ethical and moral standards, though it is 
certainly not the only way. 

Introjection can also be seen in regard to 
the attitudes toward us that we find others 
holding. It is hard to believe ourselves ad- 
mirable, superior, or even good, if all 
around us people believe the opposite. We 
are likely to discover and introject some 
of their feelings toward us. Perhaps one 
reason why immigrants often feel inferior 
to the native-born is that they have intro- 
jected some contemporary beliefs about 

Displaced Aggression. Another mecha- 
nism for self-defense is to be found in dis- 



placed aggression. Displaced aggression 
means aggressive behavior directed against 
some object other than the one actually 
causing the feelings. A little girl, for ex- 
ample, is spanked by her mother. Perhaps 
she would like to spank her mother, but 
since under most circumstances that is im- 
practical, she may simply go to her room 
and spank her doll. The doll is the object 
of displaced aggression. 

Or a certain man is continually bossed 
and ordered around at the office. He has to 
do what he is told and is in fear of losing 
his job if he makes a mistake. One of the 
things he may do, though, is take out his 
feelings on his wife and children when he 
gets home. Of course, the mechanism could 
work the other way; he might have very 
little freedom at home and take out his re- 
sentment on his subordinates on the job. 

A fine example of displaced aggression 
is to be found in the process of scapegoat- 
ing. A scapegoat, of course, is something 
that is blamed for trouble for which it actu- 
ally has no responsibility. For example, 
Hitler made the Jews into scapegoats in 
Germany. He must have known that the 
charges he made against the Jews were 
false. But the Germans, who were frus- 
trated by defeat in World War I and by its 
aftermath, including the economic depres- 
sion, found it convenient to take out their 
feelings on the Jews, often being completely 
unaware of the underlying mechanism. 

Displaced aggression is common in every- 
day affairs. It is a defense that lets us re- 
lease our pent-up feelings on people or 
objects that are close at hand and cannot 
retaliate. Taking out our aggression on 
someone makes it easier to live with our- 
selves and our emotions. Incidentally, such 
behavior is often supported by an elaborate 
system of rationalization. 

Dissociation. One example of dissocia- 
tion is having two or more inconsistent 
phases of personality at one and the same 
time and never letting them get together. 

Here, for example, is a man who claims he 
believes in the Declaration of Independ- 
ence and asserts that "all men are created 
equal." In the next breath, however, he 
maintains that the members of a minority 
group must stay in their places and not get 
ideas of equality into their heads. Here 
is another who says that service to oth- 
ers is the only really worthwhile goal in 
life and everyone should be committed to 
that goal. At the same time his business 
philosophy is "Get your competitor before 
he gets you." Both these men, provided they 
do not see their inconsistencies, are using 

Still another example of dissociation is 
to be found in a rare phenomenon, dual 
personality. Here a single individual may 
shift his sense of identity from one person- 
ality to another (or from one time to an- 
other) and act quite differently in these 
two personalities or at these different times. 
The difference may consist only in being 
carefree and happy in one personality and 

Figure 6.6. A public meeting of the Ku Klux Klan 
draws a crowd. What defense mechanisms might 
these people be unconsciously employing? How 
would you explain the Klansmans use of a disguise? 
(Wide World Photos.) 



Figure 6.7. Loss of effective contact with reality is one manifestation of a 
psychosis. These four cats, drawn by a once famous English painter of cats, 
were part of an exhibition illustrating some of the ways in which a psychosis 
may affect the capacity for self-expression in art. The pictures are arranged 
from left to right in the order in which they were painted, as disintegration 
of the painter's personality increased. (Wide World Photos.) 

serious and sedate in the other, but the per- 
sonalities are usually quite unlike. The indi- 
vidual apparently expresses in each dissoci- 
ated state some feelings that he is unable 
to express in the other or an integrated 


Mental illness is a subject of great in- 
terest to most people. Many plays and nov- 
els have had this as their theme, and news 
items concerning it are often widely read. 
In addition many books have been written 
on the subject. 

This interest is easily understood and is 
on the whole good, for mental illness is one 
of our pressing social problems and should 
be widely understood. Unfortunately, how- 
ever, people sometimes get the impression 
that the mentally ill are the chief or almost 
the only concern of psychology, and that 
is far from the actual situation. This prob- 
lem needs to be evaluated in the light of the 
psychology of the normal individual, and 
that is the way we treat it in this section. 

The Nature of Mental Illness. Mental 
illness is usually divided into two general 

classes. We may think of these as the major 
(or more severe) mental illnesses and the 
minor (or less severe) ones. No one should 
get the impression, however, that a so- 
called minor mental illness is of no real 
importance, for it may be serious and dis- 
abling. A major mental illness is usually 
called a psychosis, while a minor one is 
referred to as a neurosis (or psychonettro- 
sis). A psychosis is often called insanity by 
the man in the street and usually requires 
treatment in a mental hospital, whereas a 
neurosis is often sufficiently mild to be 
treated successfully without entering a hos- 
pital. People with neuroses sometimes work 
out a fairly good adjustment without any 
formal treatment at all. 

Another way of classifying mental ill- 
nesses is to divide them into those that are 
functional and those that are organic in 
origin. In functional illness, no physical 
basis for the illness can be found, whereas 
in organic illness something is definitely 
wrong with one of the organs or systems 
of the body. Typically, though not always, 
this is the nervous system. 

Functional mental illness is of a special 
interest to us as we discuss the defense of 



the self. In such illness, nothing is wrong, 
so far as we can discover, with the brain 
or the heart or any other organ of the body, 
Nevertheless, in many instances, the indi- 
vidual is as disturbed and maladjusted as if 
there were organic disease. It is interesting 
to note, incidentally, that, of all psychotics, 
half or more of the cases are functional 
rather than organic. The percentage among 
neurotics is even higher; in fact, some 
would say that all neuroses are functional. 

The present conception of the individual 
with a functional mental illness is that he 
is making poor use of good physical equip- 
ment, because he is carrying some of the 
mechanisms of self-defense to an extreme. 

The Overuse of Defense Mechanisms. It 
must be obvious that not all attempts at 
defending and enhancing the self are suc- 
cessful. Some of them fail, just as any hu- 
man effort toward a goal may be wide or 
short of the mark. In the case of defense 
mechanisms, however, the situation is often 
more complicated, for defense mechanisms 
often fail because they succeed. 

What does such a paradoxical statement 
mean? It means that the defense mecha- 
nism may reduce tension in the short run 
only to increase it in the long run. It may 
temporarily help a person to forget his 
troubles or even give him feelings of ac- 
complishment and success. We all know, 
for example, what happens to people who 
drink to excess over a long period; they 
may at times drown their troubles with 
drink, but instead of solving their problems, 
they only add to them. 

A similar situation may arise in connec- 
tion with rationalization. A person may con- 
vince himself that he is better looking or 
more generally successful than he really is. 
Temporarily this may lead to tension reduc- 
tion. But in the long run, if he seriously dis- 
torts the facts, either there will be a day 
of rude awakening to the realities of life, 
or one rationalization will call for another 
until the person loses effective contact with 

reality. Something like this is apparently 
what has happened to many psychotics and 
neurotics, though neurotics may make rea* 
sonably satisfactory adjustments to life, 
often at a cost of considerable extra effort 
and energy. 

Two important precautions: In the first 
place, we must not oversimplify problems 
of mental illness. Unquestionably, there is 
more involved in psychosis than overuse 
of the defense mechanisms, for there must 
be some reason for the overuse. Something 
causes the individual to need to defend 
himself to an excessive degree, and this 
cause, along with the defensive behavior 
itself, must be carefully examined and ap- 
praised. In the second place, mental illness 

Figure 6.8. Victims of certain types of insanity are 
often restored to society by use of the electric shock 
treatment. For the patient shown in this photograph 
shocks of an average of 600 milliamperes (about the 
same current drawn by a 75-watt light bulb) lasting 
two-tenths of a second were applied twice a week 
for five weeks. Such a shock produces immediate 
unconsciousness, followed by a convulsion lasting 
about a minute and a half. Within five minutes the 
patient emerges from the shock and unconsciousness 
without remembering either. (Wide World Photos.) 



is related to the overuse (and not simply 
to the use as such) of defense mechanisms. 
If we find ourselves using one or more of 
the mechanisms of self-defense, in other 
words, that does not mean that we are de- 
veloping a psychosis or a neurosis, for 
everybody engages in such behavior. On 
the other hand, extensive use of defensive 
reactions is usually evidence of serious mal- 

Some Symptoms of Functional Illness. 
Let us look first at some of the symptoms of 
psychoneurosis. One of them is likely to be 
a great deal of anxiety. A psychoneurotic 
may worry constantly and show it in many 
of his actions. It goes without saying that 
we are not talking about normal worries 
and anxiety but about a degree of anxiety 
exaggerated beyond anything that the situ- 
ation actually justifies. 

Another symptom that often appears is 
dissociation. This might present a picture 
of dual personality, mentioned earlier. A 
more likely possibility is for the person to 
convert his emotional tensions into physical 
symptoms. Thus, he may have a functional 
appendicitis or a functional disturbance in 
the digestive system or functional heart 
trouble, when nothing at all is organically 
wrong. The term conversion hysteria is 
often applied to this kind of dissociation. 

A third and not infrequent symptom of 
psychoneurosis is compulsive behavior; the 
individual performs certain actions without 
knowing why, and often in spite of his de- 
sire not to perform them. In kleptomania, 
for example, a person steals not because he 
wants the object he takes or for any sort of 
financial gain. He steals compulsively, 
without being able to resist the temptation 
to steal. 

A final symptom of psychoneurosis, so far 
as this discussion goes, is undue fatigue. 
The person may be more irritable and tired 
than he has reason to be. Such fatigue is 
neurotic and not the result of hard work. 

As we have already said, these symptoms 

can be explained at least in part by unwise 
uses of the mechanisms of self-defense. In 
an attempt to defend and enhance the self, 
the person may have fallen upon a tension- 
reducing mechanism, which he continues to 
use more and more, in spite of its long-run 
bad, or even disastrous, effects. Thus, neu- 
rosis and the self may be closely related. 

Now let us look for a moment at some 
of the symptoms psychotics often show. 
One of these is delusions. When a person 
has a delusion of grandeur, he thinks of 
himself as someone much more important 
than he actually is; in the delusion of per- 
secution he feels that a certain individual, 
people, or perhaps the whole world, is con- 
spiring to harm him. It should be noted 
that some, but not all, psychotics develop 
delusions. The same statement can be made 
about the other symptoms to be discussed. 

Another symptom shown by some psy- 
chotics is extreme withdrawal. The with- 
drawal in this case is far more complete 
and extreme than we ordinarily encounter 
in people. The patient may sit for hours 
apparently oblivious to any of his surround- 
ings. He may even be so withdrawn that 
he refuses to eat and may literally starve to 
death unless fed artificially. 

Still another symptom of psychosis is dis- 
orientation, in which the patient is unable 
to locate himself in time or space. He may 
not know who or where he is and may not 
have any idea of what day, month, or even 
year it is. 

Finally, in this brief treatment we men- 
tion extreme tips and downs in mood, 
which occur in certain psychotics. At one 
moment the patient may be very happy, 
and a few days ( or even a few hours ) later 
he may be in the depths of depression. This 
cycle of happiness and depression may con- 
tinue for a long time, sometimes for the 
remainder of the patient's life. 

It is easy to overlook the fact that the 
use of defense mechanisms is not confined 
to patients with functional mental illness. 



Those suffering from organic psychoses also 
use them. Thus a person who is psychotic 
as a result of the prolonged overuse of alco- 
hol still has his problems of self-respect, 
self-defense, and self -enhancement. He too, 
in other words, must face questions like, 
"Who am I?" "What am I?" and "Where 
am I?*' For him to deal with them satisfac- 
torily is often far from easy under the cir- 
cumstances. Similar remarks could be made 
about a person who has a severe brain 
tumor or who has been the victim of lead 
poisoning. Everyone, including the organi- 
cally psychotic, must learn to adjust and 
to live with his feelings and fears concern- 
ing his own self-regard. An important as- 
pect of organic mental illness is the effort 
of the individual to defend and enhance 
the self. 

Thus, the concepts of self-enhancement 
and self-defense not only help us under- 
stand the behavior of many normal people 

whom we know, but they are also useful 
in helping us understand the behavior of 
those less well adjusted. 


It is important not to overstate the point 
made in this chapter; not all problems of 
human beings deal with the self. Not all 
their difficulties come from attempts at self- 
defense or self-enhancement. Indeed, as is 
pointed out in the preceding chapter, some 
people reject, and hence do not defend, the 
self. Some others may get -ilong so well that 
they have little or no need to protect it. 
Not all problems, therefore, arc self prob- 
lems. However, it is difficult, if not impos- 
sible, to understand certain important as- 
pects of human behavior if we are not 
familiar with the concepts of self, self-de- 
fense, self-enhancement, and the defense 


A great deal of our time and energy is 
spent in defending and enhancing the self. 
We try to protect ourselves from loss of 
esteem in our own eyes and to make our- 
selves admirable and worthy. 

There are four general ways in which we 
attempt to defend (and often to enhance) 
the self: by attack on the source of frustra- 
tion, by withdrawing from the situation, by 
restructuring the world around us, and by 
restructuring the self. Sometimes these 
methods take a form that makes them diffi- 
cult to recognize without careful examina- 
tion. An important concept here is autism, 
the tendency of our feelings and emotions 
to distort our intellectual processes. 

We also employ defense mechanisms, de- 
vices used at least to some extent uncon- 
sciously but nevertheless for the purpose of 
self-defense. Some of these are rationaliza- 

tion, projection, reaction formation, fantasy, 
regression, repression, displaced aggres- 
sion, compensation, introjection, identifica- 
tion, and dissociation. Sublimation may also 
be added to the list. 

Attempts to defend and enhance the self 
may lead to mental illness. One kind of 
mental illness is the psychosis, which is se- 
vere, and another is the psychoneurosis, 
which is relatively less severe. A mental ill- 
ness may also be either organic (having a 
known physical cause) or functional (re- 
lated to the overuse of defense reactions). 

Among the most common features of 
mental illness are anxiety, dissociation, com- 
pulsion, fatigue, delusion, withdrawal, dis- 
orientation, and swings in emotion. At times 
some of these symptoms appear in normal 
people; in mental illness they are likely 
to be present to a much greater degree. 




1. Just what is meant by defending the self? 
Wherein does this differ from enhancing the 

2. How frequently do we engage in self-de- 
fense and self-enhancement? How important 
are such activities? 

3. What is meant by "autism"? How is it re- 
lated to self-defense and self-enhancement? 

4. What is the meaning of "defense mecha- 
nism"? In what sense is a defense mechanism 

5. In defense by attack, is it necessary for the 
thwarted individual actually to attack physi- 
cally the source of thwarting? Explain. 

6. What are some of the forms or kinds of 
withdrawal that a person may show (e.g., fan- 

7. What is the meaning of "autistic restruc- 
turing"? Just what is restructured? Explain and 
give examples. 

8. State the meaning and give an example of 
each of the defense mechanisms discussed in 
this chapter. 

9. What is meant by (a) the "sour-grapes" and 
the "sweet-lemon" reactions, (b) the "conquer- 
ing-hero" and "suffering-hero" responses? 

10. What is the relationship between defense 
mechanisms and mental illness? Is mental ill- 
ness nothing more than the overuse or im- 
proper use of defense mechanisms? Explain. 

11. What is the difference (a) between a psy- 
chosis and a psychoneurosis, (b) between a 
functional and an organic mental illness? How 
is defensive behavior related to any or all of 

12. What are some of the frequent symptoms 
of (a) psychosis, (b) psychoneurosis? 

13. The text makes the point that defense 
mechanisms may fail because they succeed. 
Explain what is meant by this statement. 


Britt, Steuart Henderson: Social Psychology of 
Modern Life, rev. ed., Rinehart, New York, 
1949, pp. 239-251. 

(The defense mechanisms as unconscious 
factors influencing our relations with 
others. ) 

Hall, Calvin S.: A Primer of Freudian Psy- 
chology, World Publishing, Cleveland, 1954. 
(A detailed examination of the assump- 
tions of Sigmund Freud, including an ex- 
amination of his conceptions of the mecha- 
nisms of self-defense.) 

Lehner, George F. J., and Ella Kube: The 
Dynamics of Personal Adjustment, Prentice- 
Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1955. 

(A recent book dealing more extensively 
with self-defense and attempting to clas- 
sify the defense mechanisms under some 
general headings.) 

McClelland, David C.: Personality, Sloane, 
New York, 1951, pp. 501-524. 

(An account of the defense mechanisms 
which stresses their function in reducing 
anxiety. ) 

Murphy, Gardner: An Introduction to Psy- 
chology, Harper, New York, 1951, chaps. 22, 

(A discussion of the defense of the self, 
and also of self-assertion, closely related to 
what in this book is called self-enhance- 
ment. ) 

Murphy, Gardner: Personality: A Biosocial Ap- 
proach to Origins and Structure, Harper, New 
York, 1947, chaps. 22, 23. 

(A critical examination of various ways in 
which the self is defended and enhanced 
and of the Freudian account of these 



Shaffer, Laurence Frederic, and Edward Jo- (The defense mechanisms considered 

seph Shoben, Jr.: The Psychology of Adjust- from the point of view of how they are 

mcnt y 2d eel., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1956. learned.) 

(A revision of a text that has been popu- White, R. W.: The Abnormal Personality, 

lar for a number of years in courses on Ronald, New York, 1948. 

adjustment, mental health, and similar (An introduction to the nature and the 

subjects.) dynamics of mental illness. This book 

Stagner, Ross: Psychology of Personality, 2d helps us to understand how such illness 

cd., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1948, pp. 120- may be real and disabling even though 

138. not organic in nature.) 



In everyday speech, much is said about 
having "a lot of personality" or "no per- 
sonality." Let us see what is meant by these 
expressions. "A lot of personality" usually 
refers to the attractiveness of the individ- 
ual, especially on initial contact. It implies 
a nice appearance, a pleasant manner, and 
a considerate attitude toward others the 
characteristics that make a good first im- 
pression. "No personality" is usually used 
to describe an individual lacking these 
traits, one who makes no strong impres- 
sion, appears to be "run of the mill," seems 
neither vigorous nor vivacious, and is easily 

Actually these two characterizations 
leave much to be desired so far as under- 
standing personality is concerned. The first 
stresses the positive aspects of the individ- 
ual and the second, more or less indifferent 
ones. It must never be forgotten, however, 
that some personality characteristics are 
negative. Individuals may be domineering, 
overly aggressive, or otherwise unattractive. 
Any adequate conception of personality 
must consider these aspects too. 

There arc other limitations to this popu- 
lar approach to personality. One is the im- 
portance of qualities other than those that 
make an individual seem attractive or col- 
orless on first meeting. How we evaluate 
a person a week or a month later is often 
more important than our first impressions. 
Some people, as we all know too well, turn 
out to be "flashes in the pan"; they start 
well but wear poorly. Other people do not 
appear to be much when we first see them, 
but they grow on us as we know them bet- 
ter. In the long run we may come to re- 
spect them as sincere, capable individuals. 
First impressions indeed are often mis- 


Figure 7.1. If we assume that personality 
is altogether a matter of superficial attrac- 
tiveness, there would be no question about 
which of the two men shown here has the 
"better personality" In reality, however, 
many things have to be considered in judg- 
ing personality. 

Another limitation of the popular ap- 
proach is that it is superficial. It is content 
with what appears on the surface, with 
what is easily observed, and does not at- 
tempt to get behind this to the underlying 
causes. Thus, a person may be relatively 
quiet and even withdrawn, but why he 
behaves this way is at least as important 
as what he does. If, for example, he is re- 
tiring because he wants other members of 
the group to take over leadership roles, 
that is one thing. It is quite another, of 
course, if he is retiring because lie is gen- 
uinely afraid of people. This fear in turn 
would need to be analyzed, for it may have 
various causes. 

Likewise, if a person is outgoing and 
friendly, that is significant, but it is also 
important to know why he has these traits. 
Does he behave this way because he has 
had pleasant experiences with people in 
the past and really likes to be with them, 
or does he only appear to have such an 
interest in order to gain something at their 

The point is that the basic reasons for 
the individual's reactions are often more 
important than the impression they create. 
What appears on the surface may some- 
times reflect what lies beneath, but fre- 
quently it is misleading. 

It is apparent that if we are to under- 
stand people thoroughly we need more 
than this ordinary approach to personality. 
Superficial characteristics should be noted, 
of course, but we are interested in much 
more than that. And so we think of per- 
sonality in a much broader sense, one that 

includes not only appearance and attrac- 
tiveness but also dynamics, the mech- 
anisms that lead the individual to behave 
as he does. 


Almost any term closely related to hu- 
man behavior has been defined in different 
ways. Sometimes these definitions agree in 
substance and differ only in the ways in 
which they are expressed. Sometimes they 
represent differences in point of view. Let 
us see how personality can be defined to 
serve us best in our attempt to understand 
why a person behaves as he does. 

History of the Term. The word "person- 
ality" probably came from two Latin 
words, per and sonarc. The term per sonare 
literally means "to sound through." The 
word persona apparently came from these 
two words and originally meant an actor's 
mask, through which the sound of his voice 
was projected. Since traditionally the actors 
of the period wore these masks in the thea- 
ter, it is easy to understand why this term 
persona later was used to mean not the 
mask itself but the false appearance which 
the mask created. Still later it came to 
mean the qualities of the character in the 

It is interesting that the term persona 
once meant nearly the opposite of what 
"personality" means at present. Once per- 
sona meant what the individual was not 
but only appeared to be, whereas psychol- 
ogists now use the word "personality" to 



Figure 7.2. The persona or theat- 
rical mask. 

refer to something real and dependable 
about the individual. 1 

Misconceptions of Personality. Another 
way to approach a subject or a term is to 
look at various misconceptions of it. From 
mistaken views about personality we can 
come to some conclusions about what it 
really means. Incidentally, at the end of 
each of these statements of misconcep- 
tions we shall have something positive to 
say about the subject. 

That it is exclusively the product of cul- 
ture. It is easy to believe that the personal- 
ity of an individual is exclusively the prod- 
uct of his social environment. As we all 
know, the people in any one region are 
often very much alike. Their ethical and 
moral standards are much the same, and 
their customary ways of behaving and in- 
deed even their ways of thinking and feel- 
ing and evaluating their experiences differ 
very little. It is not surprising, then, that 
some people think we learn our personali- 
ties from our social groups and indeed that 
there can be no such thing as personality 
apart from the group. 

In evaluating this view, let us admit that 
culture has a great deal of influence on 
personality, so much so that the next chap- 
ter of the book deals exclusively with this 
subject. Undoubtedly, we should be dif- 
ferent if we had grown up in a different 
environment. But there is another side to 
this story. Even those of us who have 

1 The history of the term "personality" is thor- 
oughly discussed in Gordon W. Allport, Personal- 
ity: A Psychological Interpretation, Holt, New 
York, 1937, pp. 24-29. 

grown up in the same culture may differ 
from each other. Members of the same 
family, and even brothers or sisters of 
practically the same age, may also be dif- 
ferent from each other. Evidently some 
factor is operating here besides our culture 
and background. 

It is sometimes argued that no two back- 
grounds are the same, and hence we should 
not expect two personalities to be identi- 
cal. Culture is not the same for everyone, 
it is contended, and we should therefore 
expect personalities to differ because of 
these differences in culture and back- 
ground. However, as we see in Chapter 8, 
there is good reason to believe that the 
differences between people in personality 
are too great to be accounted for exclu- 
sively by the differences in social back- 
ground. There is more to the matter of dif- 
ference of personality than simply differ- 
ences in culture. 

And so our conclusion from this section 
is twofold. In the first place, personality is 
in part, but only in part, a social product, 
and in the second place, personality is 
unique, with each person differing from all 
other people. 

That it is determined solely by heredity. 
The misconception that personality is de- 
termined solely by heredity is the other 
side of the same coin. Persons who argue 
for the hereditary determination of person- 
ality point to the similarity of personality 
from generation to generation. "Like fa- 
ther, like son" is an expression which we 
have heard many times and which, inci- 
dentally, contains a great deal of truth. 

One interesting example of this belief 
that personality is largely, if not exclu- 
sively, a product of heredity is to be found 
in a story of about fifty years ago, one 
which was widely read and quite influen- 
tial. 2 The story is about a certain family 

2 Henry Herbert Goddard, The Kallikak Family, 
Macmillan, New York, 1912. 



in the eastern part of the United States that 
had two branches. These two branches had 
descended from a common ancestor about 
150 years before, and there had been al- 
most 500 descendants in each branch. In 
one branch of the family there were law- 
yers, judges, college presidents, and suc- 
cessful businessmen in large numbers; 
with practically no exceptions, the people 
were good citizens and fine, respectable 
people. In the other branch of the family, 
there were poverty, crime, and feeble- 
mindedness; again, the record was rather 

Now the interesting point is that, while 
each branch of the family had the same fa- 
ther, the mother of one branch was a nor- 
mal, intelligent woman, and the mother of 
the other branch was a feeble-minded 
woman. The conclusion drawn was that 
heredity has a tremendous influence in de- 
termining the personality of the individual. 

This contention is dealt with in Chapter 
2 of this book. It is sufficient here to say 
that nothing is ever exclusively hereditary 
and nothing is ever exclusively environ- 
mental. Each factor is necessary at all 
times, and each is an important influence 
on a person. It is therefore imperative that 
we not overlook the point that was over- 

looked in this study: that the inferior side 
of the family also had an inferior environ- 
ment, while the good side of the family 
had a good environment. What should 
have been concluded is not "Look at the 
bad effects of inferior heredity," but rather 
"Look at the bad effects of inferior hered- 
ity and inferior environment." 

So our conclusion is that personality is 
influenced by heredity but certainly not 
exclusively determined by it. 

That it is determined by physiological 
factors. All around us we see evidence of 
how profoundly people are influenced by 
the systems of the body. We know some- 
thing of what happens when the brain fails 
to function properly. Likewise we are 
aware of some of the effects of heart trou- 
ble or difficulties with digestion or with the 
ductless or endocrine glands. 

Now it is easy from evidence of this sort 
to conclude that personality is solely a 
function of physiological factors. William 
James half humorously suggested many 
years ago that a person's temperament de- 
pends primarily on his digestion. A person 
with good digestion, he said, is an optimist, 
while one with poor digestion is a pessi- 

It is interesting to notice that those who 

Figure 7.3. "Like father, like .son." The man on the left is the father of the other man 
and the grandfather of the boy. How much of this resemblance is due to heredity and 
how much to environment? (International News Photos.) 



deal with the physiological determination 
of personality usually give special consid- 
eration to the endocrine glands. They list 
these glands, as we do in Chapter 9, and 
then attempt to show the effects of poor 
functioning of each of them. The conclu- 
sion is often drawn that these glands regu- 
late personality. So strong was this opinion 
some years ago that a whole book was 
written in an attempt to show that per- 
sonality is almost exclusively the product 
of the endocrine glands. 3 To be sure, this 
point of view never gained wide accept- 
ance, but it is one that sometimes appeals 
to people. 

Now, what is the evidence on this ques- 
tion? The evidence is definitely against 
such a view. True, the endocrine glands 
may, and do, influence personality, some- 
times in a profound way, but other things 
influence personality too. Among them, as 
we have already said, are the other physio- 
logical systems of the body and also the 
physical environment. In addition, we 
should have to include the person's feel- 
ings of self-respect or self-regard, discussed 
in Chapters 5 and 6, and the social groups 
with which he has contact, which are dealt 
with in Chapters 8, 15, and 19 especially. 

So our conclusion is that, although phys- 
iological factors influence personality, many 
other forces, such as culture and the physi- 
cal environment, are also very important. 

That it is the sum of the personality 
traits. One term that is very popular in the 
study of personality is "trait." When we 
speak of a personality trait we mean a de- 
pendable way of thinking, feeling, and re- 
spondingor, as Stagner has put it, 4 "A 
generalized tendency to evaluate situations 
in a predictable manner and to act accord- 

It is not possible to say just how many 
personality traits there are, for our gener- 

8 Louis Berman, The Glands Regulating Person- 
ality, Macmillan, New York, 1921. 

4 Ross Stagner, Psychology of Personality, 2d ed., 
McGraw-Hill, New York, 1948, p. 143. 

alized tendencies overlap, and lists of them 
are therefore frequently not the same from 
one author to another. However, when per- 
sonality traits are mentioned we think of 
such aspects of behavior as objectivity, 
agreeableness, neurotic tendency, domi- 
nance-submission, introversion-extroversion, 
optimism, sociability, self-confidence, and 

One question often raised in the study of 
personality is whether we can fully under- 
stand personality by understanding these 
traits. Is it true that personality is simply 
the sum of the personality traits? Obvi- 
ously, if it is, our task is simplified, for we 
can then concentrate on a study of traits 
and pay little attention to other factors in 
the individual. Unfortunately, however, the 
trait approach to personality has at least 
two serious limitations: first, it neglects the 
fact that the various personality traits ( and 
other aspects of personality) interact to 
comprise a system or a totality; and second, 
it leads at best to a fair description of per- 
sonality but does not help much so far as 
understanding why the particular response 
is made or what the individual will do in 
the future. Let us look at both of these 
points in more detail. 

It is evident that one personality trait sel- 
dom exists in isolation from the others. The 
presence of one trait may influence all the 
others, and the system which is personality 
will differ as a result. It may be good 
to be optimistic, but an optimistic psy- 
chotic is quite different from a successful 
and optimistic leader of people. Likewise, 
an aggressive criminal is very different 
from an aggressive champion of the values 
of his religion or the American way of life. 
A trait, then, is seldom meaningful when 
considered in isolation. It is the whole of 
which the trait is a part a whole which is 
different from the parts which make it up 
that is our main concern. 

Furthermore, even the traits themselves 
are often far from simple. Being optimistic 
or aggressive may itself be a system made 



Figure 7.4. An automobile is not just the sum 

of its various parts. . 

It is the parts in certain relationships to each other. 

up of more elementary sorts of motives and 
responses. Thus personality, instead of be- 
ing the sum of the personality traits, is 
more than its parts. It is a system of sys- 
tems, much more complex than the trait 
approach would lead us to believe. 

If it seems strange to say that the whole 
is more than the sum of its parts, it might 
be well to mention that this is frequently 
true in human behavior and in other as- 
pects of life as well. Certainly, an automo- 
bile is not simply the sum of the parts 
which make it up. It is these parts in or- 
ganized form; it is a system of the parts 
of which it is made. The same is true of a 
chemical compound, as distinguished from 
a mixture. Water, for example, is not sim- 
ply hydrogen plus oxygen. It is these ele- 
ments in a certain relationship to each 
other. And water certainly has properties 
or characteristics not possessed by either 
hydrogen or oxygen. We should not be sur- 
prised, therefore, to find much the same to 
be true of personality. 

The second limitation of the trait ap- 
proach is that it is descriptive of what has 
happened but not useful in prediction of 
what will happen. Often it is more impor- 
tant to know why a person has neurotic 
tendencies than it is to know simply that 
he has them. If we know why certain tend- 
encies exist, it may be quite meaningful so 
far as estimating his future behavior is con- 
cerned, Ultimately, of course, that is our 
main concern. 

We conclude, therefore, that personality 
is not simply the sum of the personality 
traits but that it involves these traits, and 

perhaps other phases of personality, in an 
interacting, patterned whole. 

That a person actually has a personalittj. 
One of the temptations, when we begin to 
work in a firld as complex as that of hu- 
man personality, is to believe that personal- 
ity is a real "thing," something that actually 
exists. Once we get that notion, of course, 
we are likely to start looking for it and 
speculating on its nature. We begin to ask 
questions like "Where is personality?" 
"How much space does it occupy?" and 
"What is the ultimate reality of which 
personality is made?" 

As we use the term "personality," how- 
ever, we do not mean to imply anything 
of this sort. "Personality" is a term refer- 
ring to certain aspects of behavior, overt 
and mental. It helps us understand how 
and why people react how and why they 
think and feel as they dobut personality 
is not an entity existing alongside the body. 
It is not something which may be found 
with a microscope or a telescope or an 
X-ray machine or in any extrasensory 
fashion, either. 

And so we are concluding that, in the 
sense in which we arc using the term in 
this book, we do not tuive a personality. 
"Personality" is only a term or a concept 
for certain features of human motivation 
and behavior. It is necessary for us to 
realize this and to use the term accord- 

Meaning of the Term. When we use the 
term "personality" in this book we refer 
primarily to the organization of the inter- 
related traits and other aspects of the be- 



Figure 7.5. Personality is the organization of 
many traits, aspects, and systems, each having 
some relationship with the others. What are 
some of the many things that go to make up 

havior of an individual. These traits and 
aspects are psychophysical; they cause the 
individual to do as he characteristically 
does and also set him apart from everyone 
else as a unique individual. They include 
his attitudes and beliefs, his values and 
ideals, his knowledge and skills, the vari- 
ous ways in which his body functions, and 
the like. We say more about them in the 
next section of this chapter. 

Personality is relatively stable; we do 
much the same thing each time the same 
set of circumstances appears. Yet it is con- 
stantly changing, for we do not remain the 
same regardless of our age, station, and 
achievements. These changes usually occur 
in at least a fairly predictable fashion. This 
predictability, of course, is basic to our 
feeling that we really know a person. 


As we discussed the self earlier in this 
book, it was probably easy to get the im- 

pression that the self is the focus of every- 
thing important in psychology. We said so 
much about the self-picture and the self, 
and about attempts to defend and enhance 
the self, that it would be easy to come to 
this conclusion. 

Actually this is far from the truth. The 
self influences our behavior, and to under- 
stand the self is to understand a good deal 
about human behavior. But other parts of 
personality are also important, and we 
should point out what some of them are. 

The Self as an Aspect of Personality. Self, 
it will be recalled, was defined as the indi- 
vidual as known to and felt about by the 
individual. It consists in the self-picture, 
the conscious aspects of the individual's 
conception of himself, and also the un- 
conscious beliefs and feelings about one- 
self. The self, in a word, is the individual's 
appraisal of and feelings about who, what, 
and where he is. Personality, on the other 
hand, includes more than this. It is the dy- 
namic organization of the individual's psy- 
chophysical systems which determine his 

Figure 7.6. The self is only one aspect of per- 
sonality. In addition to the four aspects shown 
here, there arc many others. 




What are the factors in personality that lead two people to choose each 
other as "best friends"? Is this a matter of certain personality traits, or is 
it a question of the total effect of the interacting forces that constitute per- 
sonality? This study * is thought of by its authors as a preliminary investi- 
gation of these problems. 

Thirty-two pairs of women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five 
years were the subjects of the study. For each pair each person had chosen 
the other as her "best friend." Five so-called "personality tests" were given 
to each person. (The nature of these tests is explained in Chapters 16 and 
18.) The tests are designed to measure such things as ascendancy-submis- 
sion, values, and social adjustment. A control group of "nonfriends" was also 

The following conclusions were drawn from the results of the study: 
Friends are more similar in the factors measured than are nonfriends. How- 
ever, no one area of personality showed more similarity than other areas. 
The length of time that the friendship had persisted had no effect on the 
amount of similarity shown by the tests. 

The authors of the study interpret their results to show that friendship is 
not based on the possession (or lack) of certain personality traits as much 
as it is on the effects of the personality as a whole. They suggest as the 
principal determinants of friendship the mutual satisfaction of needs and the 
availability of social contacts. 

* Natalie Reader and Horace B. English, "Personality Factors in Adolescent Female 
Friendships/' Journal of Consulting Psychology, 11:212-220, 1947. 

unique adjustments to his environment. 5 
Let us look at several parts of this defi- 

First of all, personality is dynamic; this 
means changing, but changing in an or- 
derly fashion as a result of inner forces, 
motives, and other needs of the individual. 
As has been said earlier, it is an organiza- 
tion of systems, and not simply an addition 
of separate parts. It is also psychophysical, 
that is, both psychical (or mental) and 
physical and not either of these to the ex- 
clusion of the other. And finally, it is 
unique, there being no two personalities in 
the world that are exactly alike. 

As we look at these two concepts, per- 
sonality and self, it is easy to see that per- 
sonality includes the self and also much 

5 This is a slight modification of a definition 
given by Allport, op. cit., p. 48. 

more. Personality includes not only what 
the individual thinks and feels that he is 
but also his behavior and tendencies to- 
ward certain behavior, whether or not he 
accepts these as part of himself. The self 
includes his body as he knows and feels 
about it, but personality includes his body 
as it is, regardless of how he or other peo- 
ple, for that mattermay evaluate it. The 
self includes his intellectual ability, his 
achievement, and his motives as he views 
them, but personality includes these same 
things as they actually are, again without 
regard to what he or others judge them to 
be. The self is thus only one part even if a 
very important part of personality. 

Other Aspects of Personality. Personality 
is complex; it consists of many aspects, and 
it includes the self but is more than the self. 
To attempt to list and discuss all the as- 




pects of personality would be a long and 
tedious task. Let us therefore list and com- 
ment on a few of them, primarily to em- 
phasize aspects of personality other than 
the self. 

Personality traits. We might start with 
the personality traits already discussed, our 
various generalized tendencies to evaluate 
situations in a certain way and to act in 
accordance with these evaluations. Obvi- 
ously these tendencies are a part of per- 

Intelligence. Personality also includes 
alertness, ability to learn, speed in seeing 
relationships, ability to make good judg- 
ments, and ability to bring together many 
facts or inferences into a conclusionchar- 
acteristics we usually imply by the term 
"intelligence." This is clearly a part of per- 

Appearance and impression. As has al- 
ready been pointed out, appearance is an- 
other factor in personality. Obviously, 
there are differences of opinion as to what 
constitutes pleasing appearance. But since 
other aspects of personality may also be 
difficult or, at times, even impossible to 
judge with accuracy, this in no way de- 
tracts from the importance of appearance. 

Health. Unquestionably our health is a 
factor in personality. Its importance is so 
obvious that further comment is probably 
not necessary. 

Figure 7.7. Personalities are often identified 
with physical things that are external to the 
self. A cigar, a pair of sunglasses, a moustache 
to what extent do these things enhance the 
personality? Do you think these people feel 
such things are important parts of their per- 
sonality? Do you know anyone who Is identified 
in your mind with something that is different 
or a mannerism that is peculiar? (Courtesy of 
British Information Services and Wide World 




A total of 140 sorority girls volunteered to participate in leaderless group 
discussions and were divided into 20 groups of seven girls each.* In general 
the girls were strangers to each other. Two trained observers studied each 
group in action and ranked all seven members. Nine of the girls who were 
ranked highest and nine of the ones ranked lowest in the groups of seven 
were selected for a nondirective interview calculated to get at attitudes 
toward the self and others. (Incidentally, the two observers showed a high 
degree of consistency in their ranking of the girls.) 

An analysis of the results showed that the "leaders" (those ranked high- 
est) produced one and a half times as many "thought units" as the "non- 
leaders" (those ranked lowest). The "leaders" sized up the situation, gave 
it meaningful structure, and "took command" early. Furthermore, in the sub- 
sequent interviews they made twice as many favorable statements about 
how they felt about themselves as they did negative ones, whereas "non- 
leaders" made about the same number of each. "Leaders" also tended to 
perceive others as having a more positive feeling toward them, and they 
also perceived the world in a less negative fashion. "Nonleaders" in general 
expressed more negative feelings, and were more restricted in the subjects 
they discussed. 

This study indicates that in leaderless group discussion the person who 
has confidence in the self and who sees others as favorable and not as 
threatening is more likely to emerge as the leader. 

* Arnold S. Gebel, "Self Perception and Leaderless Group Discussion Status/' Journal 
of Social Psychology, 40:309-318, 1954. 

Size, weight, and body build. Size, 
weight, and body build are closely related 
to appearance, although two people may 
be the same in these respects and yet be 
different in appearance. Any one of the 
three may be a significant aspect of per- 

Attitudes toward others. Here is still an- 
other significant aspect of personality. Some 
of the attitudes which we have toward oth- 
ers unquestionably represent projections of 
our own attitudes toward ourselves and 
may be defensive in nature. We must not 
suppose, however, that every attitude we 
have toward another person comes from at- 
tempts at self-defense or self -enhancement. 
Personality includes all our attitudes. 

Knowledge. How much we know is a 
factor of considerable importance in our 
personality. Knowledge varies in many 
ways. It may extend all the way from a 

knowledge of ice hockey to information 
about nuclear fission. There is no neat way 
of classifying the various kinds of knowl- 
edge, but undoubtedly what we know 
plays an important role in our vocation, 
our social acceptability, our recreational 
interests, etc. 

Sfci/fo. Another phase of personality 
which may have a great deal of influence 
on our reactions is our skill in various sorts 
of muscular activity. Such skills may in- 
clude ability in athletics, competence as a 
craftsman, excellence in driving an auto- 
mobile or baking a cake, and many others. 
Obviously, all these may influence how 
other people feel about us and, what is 
often more important, how we feel about 

Values. In studying personality we can- 
not afford to overlook our values and 
ideals. These values may run all the way 



from a sincere belief that a certain major- 
league team ought to win the pennant and 
the world series to the most important con- 
ceptions of ethics and religion. Any value, 
attitude, or belief that we hold may have 
a far-reaching effect on our personality. A 
term frequently used in connection with 
this aspect of personality is character. 
Character can be defined in much the same 
way as personality, except that it is re- 
stricted to matters having to do with right 
and wrong. Character, in other words, is 
the aspect of personality having to do 
with ethics and morals. 

Emotional tone and control. We differ 
from each other in our emotional outlook 
on life. Some of us are pessimistic, while 
others are optimistic. Some have a chip on 
the shoulder, while others find every- 
thing rosy. This matter of emotional tone 
has also been recognized as a special as- 
pect of personality, and the term tempera- 
ment has been used to describe the pre- 
vailing emotional tone of the individual. 
However, we are not always consistent or 
dependable in the emotions that we feel 
and show. Some of us are easily upset or 
show great extremes in emotion, while oth- 
ers are relatively uniform in this regard. 

Roles. Later in this book (see Chapter 
15) we deal with the fact that each of us 
has a particular place or position in each 
of the social groups to which we belong. 
Along with this position go certain duties 
and responsibilities. These duties and re- 
sponsibilities comprise the role that we 
have in any particular group. Since each 
of us is a member of several groups, we 
have a number of different positions and 
different roles. 

It goes without saying that our roles 
significantly affect our personality. If we 
are physicians, we act differently from 
what we would if we were priests. If we 
have responsibility for recruiting new mem- 
bers for our club, we act differently from 

what we would if we were simply mem- 
bers. Illustrations of the significance for 
personality of the roles that a person occu- 
pies are almost limitless. 


Everyone is familiar with attempts to 
classify people into kinds or types. We do 
this in many of our activities. In business 
we talk about executives, salesmen, clerks, 
and so on. In college we sometimes speak 
of the athletic type, the social type, or the 
studious type. 

The truth is that we continually classify 
people into types or kinds. No doubt we 
shall always do that, because we all have 
a limited number of categories for classify- 
ing people, and we try to put each person 
in one of them. Besides, it is impossible to 
deal with each individual as entirely sep- 
arate from others. Each person is unique, 
as we have said, but in relating ourselves 
to others we often have to overlook some 
of these differences. 

Theories of Inherited Psychological 
Types. However, there is a type theory that 
goes considerably beyond the kind we 
have just mentioned. From the days of the 
Greeks and perhaps even before, there 
have been those who believed that by in- 
heritance people fall into certain types. 
There really are kinds of people, accord- 
ing to this view, and the hope is that if we 
understand the characteristics of a par- 
ticular kind of person we can understand 
and deal effectively with at least most of 
the people of that particular kind or type. 

It is certainly easy to see why such a 
belief has wide appeal. It would be of the 
greatest practical significance if we could 
discover what the true personality types 
are, what their important characteristics 
are, and how we should deal with them. 

The theory of Jung. Let us look at one 
set of proposed types of personality in 






The subjects of this research * were seventeen male transfer students in 
the University of Michigan. At the beginning, each man was a stranger to 
all the others. The men lived in the same house and were assigned room- 
mates on a chance basis. From time to time they were interviewed, and each 
man filled out questionnaires about himself and the other sixteen men. 

One of the chief findings of the study was that there was a strong corre- 
lation between a man's report of his liking for the other members of the 
group and their reports of their liking of him. As a closely related result, 
it was also found that an even stronger relationship obtained between a 
man's liking for another person and his estimate of how well the other per- 
son liked him. 

It was also found that men whose status in the group rose during the 
period of the study wrre more accurate in their perception of how well they 
were liked than were men whose status declined. This result seems to arise 
primarily from the need of the lower-status men to keep a favorable opin- 
ion of themselves in spite of some evidence leading to the opposite conclu- 
sion. Furthermore, when the men were asked to describe their "ideal self" 
and then themselves as they really thought they were, those who described 
themselves as closest to the "ideal self" were found to be better liked. 
Moreover, those pairs of men who agreed most closely in describing the 
other 15 men tended to be attracted more closely toward each other. Finally, 
men who were attracted toward each other also were similar in their atti- 
tudes toward nonperson objects. (An example is scores on a test of values, 
such as economic, political, religious, etc.) 

* Theodore M. Newcomb, "The Prediction of Interpersonal Attraction/' T/ie American 
Psychologist, 11:575-586, 1956. 

order to see what the types are supposed to 
be and what characteristics each is sup- 
posed to have. Since space is limited we 
shall let this theory serve as representative 
of a number of such theories that might be 
discussed. This theory of personality types, 
which is fairly generally known, is that of 
a Swiss psychiatrist named Carl Jung. Jung 
has proposed that all people, or at least 
practically all, may be divided into two 
types, the extrovert and the introvert. What 
are the characteristics ascribed to each of 
these types? 

In the extrovert, according to Jung, we 
have an individual whose decisions and 
actions are determined primarily by ob- 
jective relationships and not by subjective 

values. His attention and interest are cen- 
tered on the immediate environment, and 
he may haveindeed, usually does have- 
difficulty in adjusting to the long-run en- 
vironment. The extrovert's inner needs and 
inner life tend to succumb to external ne- 
cessity. He is an objective, reality-oriented 
individual, who may, however, go so far 
in the direction of objectivity as to deny 
many of his own inner needs and aspira- 

The introvert, on the other hand, is gov- 
erned primarily by subjective factors or 
subjective values. What he does tends to 
be guided by his own ideas, by absolute 
standards. He tends to lack flexibility and 
to adjust to his own inner values. Thus the 






(or Introvert) 

thinking (or) 

feeling (or) 

sensation (or) 


Figure 7.8. According to Jung, the uncon- 
scious activities of an extrovert are introverted 
and hence serve as a sort of balance. The 
opposite is true for the introvert. 

introvert tends to be subjectively, instead 
of objectively, oriented. This, of course, is 
the opposite of the extrovert. 

While what we have just said about 
Jung is true as far as it goes, it oversimpli- 
fies his theory. He has also proposed that 
all of us have four different ways of ap- 
proaching the universe (or four different 
"basic functions") and that in each of us 
one of the four tends to be emphasized or 
to be predominant. 

One of these functions is thinking, in 
which the individual tries to understand 
the world by reasoning, that is, in terms of 
facts and logical relationships. Another is 
the feeling function, in which he attempts 
to understand in terms of the pleasant or 
unpleasant feelings aroused by his experi- 
ences. The third function is sensation, in 
which he deals with perceptions them- 
selves, with things as they are perceived, 
without interpretation or evaluation. Fi- 
nally, the intuition function, which cannot 
really be understood without knowing 
more about Jung's ideas concerning the 
unconscious, is much like the sensation 
function except it is based on an "uncon- 

scious 'inner perception' of the potentiali- 
ties in things." 6 

The important point for our purpose is 
that for Jung, each of us tends to be extro- 
verted or introverted and also to excel in 
one of these four functions. Thus, there is 
an extroverted thinking type, an extro- 
verted feeling type, an extroverted sensa- 
tion type, and an extroverted intuition 
type. Likewise there are four more types, 
with the word "introverted" replacing "ex- 
troverted" in each of the four. 

Jung's theory gives a great deal of 
weight to the unconscious. It is thought 
to be very influential in our lives, even to 
the point of furnishing us with our best 
understanding of ourselves and the uni- 
verse. It is also thought to serve as a sort 
of balance wheel. Thus, if a person is an 
extrovert in his unconscious, he is intro- 
verted in the conscious realm. 

Evaluation of belief in inherited types. 
One difficulty with Jung's theory and with 
the others which hold that there are a 

6 Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of C. G. Jung, 
rev. ed., Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 
1951, p. 15. 



certain number of inherited psychological 
types is the inevitable borderline case. Let 
us take the introvert-extrovert classification 
as an example. As we have already said, 
not everyone is an extrovert or an intro- 
vert. Some of us are partly one and partly 
the other. Actually, borderline cases usu- 
ally cause us no great difficulty provided 
there are only a few of them. Thus, there 
are human beings whose sex is difficult to 
determine, but unquestionably the great 
majority of us are clearly either male or fe- 
male. In the matter of personality, how- 
ever, the borderline case seems to be the 
rule rather than the exception. For exam- 
ple, most of us are probably partly intro- 
vert and partly extrovert. Indeed, there are 
so many borderline cases that type theories 
are open to serious doubt because they ac- 
count for only a few people and not for the 
great majority. Any theory which purports 
to represent the types of human personal- 
ity certainly must take into account the 
great majority of human beings and be 
able to deal with them successfully. 

The truth is that we seem to vary with 
regard to most aspects of personality in 
such fashion that only a few of us are at 
either extreme of the trait, while most of 
us are to be found between often close to 
halfway between these extremes ( see 
Chapter 16). There are only a few of us 
who are very weak, very short, or very 
thin, and likewise only a few of us who 

Figure 7.9. Jung's theortj would be essentially 
correct if people were distributed as shown 
in A. Even if they were distributed as in C 
he might defend his theory, though he would 
need a third main type, the ambivert. However, 
if people are actually distributed as in Band 
this seems most likely his theory is not correct. 
(From R. Stagner, Psychology of Personality, 
2d ed. y McGraw-Hill New York, 1948, p. 242. 
By permission of the publisher.) 

are very strong, very tall, or very fat. Most 
of us are in between. All this means that 
theories holding that there are true psy- 
chological types are open to serious ques- 

Another difficulty with type theories is the 
very complexity of people. Again we may 
use Jung's theory to illustrate. Even with 
all his subtypes, Jung deals with only a few 
aspects of personality and fails to consider 
many others. Thus, Jung has nothing to say 
about a number of the personality aspects 
discussed earlier in this chapter, in spite of 
the fact that our list was not intended to 
be anything like exhaustive. This is a fun- 
damental limitation with practically all the- 
ories of psychological types; they are so 
limited in scope as to be of little usefulness 
in understanding the whole person. 

From what has just been said it follows 










that personality types, like personality 
traits, have limited predictive value. Types 
may help us describe what a person does; 
they do not help much in understanding 
why he does it or what he will do in the 
future. Thus a belief in inherited psycho- 
logical types, however attractive it may be, 
cannot be accepted. 

Theories of Relationship between Phy- 
sique and Temperament. A belief that goes 
back to Hippocrates is that there is a re- 
lationship between the shape and size of a 
person's body and his emotional and intel- 
lectual activities. This view has persisted 
and has its adherents today. Again we shall 
examine one theory and let it stand for the 

The theory of Sheldon. The best-known 
contemporary theory of this kind is that of 
Sheldon, who believes that there are three 
important ways in which people differ in 
body build and a corresponding three ways 
in which they differ in prevailing tempera- 
ment. One sort of person, from the stand- 
point of body build, he calls an endomorph. 
Such an individual is one in whom the in- 
ternal organs of the body are well devel- 
oped; he tends to be rather thick, or even 
fat, in proportion to his height. A second 
kind of individual he calls a mesomorph. 
This person is strong, tough, and athletic. 
He tends to be well built and well propor- 
tioned. The third type of individual he 
calls an ectomorph. The ectomorph tends 
to be long, thin, and poorly dcyelop6d, and 
on the whole he is rather weak physically. 
Those with some knowledge of embryology 
will realize that Sheldon bases his type 
theory on tissues present in the embryo. 

We have already stated that Sheldon be- 
lieves that there are also three ways in 
which one's temperament varies. If a per- 
son shows a preponderance of endomorphy 
Sheldon holds that he will be likely to show 
a good deal of viscerotonia. Such a person 
seeks comfort, loves fine food and eats too 
much of it, and is greatly interested in se- 

curing affection. Corresponding to meso- 
morphy is somatotonia. This sort of person 
is fond of muscular activity and tends to be 
aggressive and self-assertive. Finally, cor- 
responding to ectomorphy is cerebrotonia, 
which is characterized by excessive re- 
straint, inhibition, and avoidance of social 

An important point in understanding 
Sheldon, however, is that he looks upon 
each of these three aspects of both physique 
and temperament as components of the 
personality of each of us. Thus we all pos- 
sess something of endomorphy, as well as 
a certain amount of mesomorphy and ecto- 
morphy. In any individual the first of these 
may predominate and the other two be 
present only to a limited degree, or the sec- 
ond or the third may predominate and the 
others exercise little influence. Another pos- 
sibility is an even balance of all three. As 
we have just indicated, the same statements 
can be made for the related temperaments 
viscerotonia, somatotonia, and cerebro- 

Evaluation of physique-temperament 
theories. In certain respects Sheldon's the- 
ory encounters the difficulties of Jung's. 
There is, for example, the possibility of 
oversimplifying personality. Sheldon has 
dealt with some significant aspects of per- 
sonalitywhether correctly or not we shall 
consider presently but many are left un- 
touched. This is not a fatal objection to 
-the physique-temperament theories unless 
their adherents use these theories as the 
key to understanding human nature. Shel- 
don has avoided this error, at least in the 

Since he believes in components which 
may be present in varying amounts, Shel- 
don has taken care of the borderline case 
satisfactorily, but of course, the real diffi- 
culty with his theory and the others like it 
is the serious doubt that exists about the 
accuracy of the fundamental proposition. 
Is it true that the shape and other charac- 



teristics of the body and the temperament 
are actually tied together by heredity? Are 
we actually endomorphs, mesomorphs, or 
ectomorphs by nature? Or, on the other 
hand, are we dealing with a theory not 
proved by the evidence? The latter seems 
to be the case. Sheldon did examine many 
individuals, carefully determining body 
build by measurements and having judges 
rate them so far as temperament was con- 
cerned. He found that physique as meas- 
ured and temperament as rated were actu- 
ally correlated to a considerable degree, but 
to what extent did the predispositions of 
the judges unconsciously influence their 
ratings? In other words, did the judges al- 
ready believe that there were certain con- 
nections between physique and tempera- 
ment, and were they unintentionally influ- 
enced by these beliefs? Not enough re- 
search has yet been done for this question 
to be conclusively answered, but the 
chances are that the relationship is nonex- 
istent, or at least by no means as close as 
Sheldon believes. 

This whole question obviously relates to 
the topics of heredity and environment dis- 
cussed in Chapter 2. The conclusion in that 
chapter is that heredity never operates 
alone, nor does environment. What we are 
saying, then, is that any connection be- 
tween physique and temperament can 
never be due to heredity alone but always 
depends on both heredity and environment. 
This principle certainly has implications for 
most type theories. 

Culture and Differences in Social 
Groups. We have just seen that the theories 
of inherited psychological types and inher- 
ited components of physique and tempera- 
ment do not offer much promise for under- 
standing people. There is, however, another 
possibility: it may very well be that there 
are different sorts of individuals as a result 
of different social backgrounds. Society 
may encourage people in certain occupa- 
tional, religious, or minority groups, for 





Figure 7.10. Sheldon's conception of the kinds of body 



example, to develop certain behavior pat- 
terns and characteristic ways of thinking 
and 'feeling. There may be a medical type, 
a legal type, and an engineer type; there 
may be a Protestant type, a Catholic type, 
and a Jewish type; and there may be a 
Polish type, a Chinese type, and an Ameri- 
can type. 7 It is difficult to say to what ex- 
tent this "typing" has occurred for various 
groups, though it has obviously taken place 
to an appreciable degree in some. Reliable 
information in this area can be quite useful 
for understanding and influencing people. 

One might even classify people with re- 
gard to their attitude toward the self. As 
has already been said, most people accept 
the self and attempt to defend and enhance 
it, but some reject it. Since probably very 
few people are neutral on this point, there 
may actually be two types of people with 
regard to attitude toward the self, those 
who accept it and those who reject it. 8 Even 
here we must be careful, for people may 
reject the self at one time and not at an- 
other or in one situation and not in another. 
However, this hypothesis, like the one men- 
tioned just above, is worthy of further in- 
vestigation and may yield valuable infor- 

Thus, we see that there may be social 
types of personality, types based on the ex- 
periences of the individual rather than ex- 

7 Gardner Murphy, Personality: A Biosocial Ap- 
proach to Origins and Structure, Harper, New 
York, 1947, pp. 752-760. 

s Ibid., pp. 741-742. 

clusively on his genes. These types, how- 
ever, would vary from society to society and 
even from generation to generation in a 
single society. That fact does not discount 
their usefulness, but it certainly does not 
argue that people are by nature sorted into 

Present Status of These Theories. The 
theories that have been proposed for clas- 
sifying people have served a useful purpose. 
They have prompted extensive evaluation 
of people, they have instigated research 
which otherwise would not have been done, 
and they have called our attention to sig- 
nificant ways in which people differ from 
each other. We should have less under- 
standing of personality if such theories had 
not been proposed. 

These theories tend to oversimplify per- 
sonality, however, and consequently to mis- 
lead. Certainly anyone who attempts to hire 
on the basis of the types of people will fre- 
quently be misled, and anyone who at- 
tempts to predict or control the actions of 
people on the same basis will meet with 
little success. 

Finally, there is serious doubt whether 
types have any hereditary basis. They may 
exist on what is primarily a social basis, 
but even that has not been conclusively 

We shall no doubt continue to classify 
people into types, because such classifica- 
tions are useful and convenient, but it is 
quite another matter to say that there really 
are true types of people. 


Personality is often thought of in terms of 
superficial attractiveness. This limited con- 
ception overlooks many important facts 
about an individual. When the term "per- 
sonality" is used in modern psychology it 
refers to a person's tendencies to act or 
think or feel in a certain way. These tend- 

encies are organized in a dynamic system, 
which is unique or different for each in- 

Personality is neither mental nor physical 
but both; it is the result of neither heredity 
nor environment but of both; it is the prod- 
uct neither of the social environment nor 



of the body and its functions but of both 
of these sets of forces and others acting 
together. And it is more than simply the 
sum of the traits or processes included in it. 
Personality also includes everything with 
which we identify. 

Personality is distinguished from the self 
in that it refers to characteristics, motives, 
and reactions actually possessed or shown 
by a person, whereas the self represents the 
individual as he thinks and feels he is. Thus 
the self is a part or an aspect of personality. 
There are many other aspects of personality, 
among them being intelligence, health, 
knowledge, skills, values, emotional control, 
social roles, and the personality traits. 

There has long been an interest in clas- 
sifying people, and many type theories have 
been proposed. One of the more popular is 
that of Jung, who sees people as either in- 
troverts or extroverts, and subdivides both 

introverts and extroverts into the thinking, 
feeling, sensation, and intuition subtypes. 
A related theory is that of Sheldon, who be- 
lieves he has evidence for a close relation- 
ship between the shape and development of 
the body, on the one hand, and the tem- 
perament of the individual, on the other. 
Sheldon's scheme provides for three com- 
ponents of physique and three closely re- 
lated components of temperament. Every- 
one is thought to possess some of each com- 
ponent for both physique and temperament, 
though one usually predominates over the 
other two. 

Most type theories assume that types de- 
pend on heredity. There is actually little 
evidence for, and much against, this belief. 
There may, however, be types that are de- 
termined primarily by the expectations of 
social groups or by a person's attitude to- 
ward the self. 


1. What are the chief limitations of using per- 
sonality to mean the attractiveness of a person? 

2. Discuss the history of the term "personality." 

3. Just what is personality, as the psychologist 
uses the term? 

4. Evaluate the belief that (a) personality is 
determined solely by the social environment; 
(b) personality is exclusively the result of the 
endocrine glands; (c) personality is simply the 
sum of its various parts; and (d) personality 
is an agent or an entity existing alongside the 

5. In what sense do we have a personality and 
in what sense do we not have one? 

6. What is a personality trait? How many per- 
sonality traits do we have? What is the relation 
of personality and personality traits? 

7. What is the relation between personality 
and the self? Are there personality problems 
that are not self problems? Explain. 

8. What arc some of the aspects of personality 
(in addition to the self)? 

9. Explain and evaluate the type theory of 

10. Explain and evaluate the theory of Shel- 

11. Why does psychology look with suspicion 
on the theory that there are genuine types of 

12. Explain and evaluate the belief that (a) 
there are social types of personality; (b) there 
are types of people with regard to attitudes 
toward the self. 




Allport, Gordon W.: Personality: A Psychologi- 
cal Interpretation, Holt, New York, 1937. 

(The pioneer book in the psychology of 
personality; the source of our definition of 
personality and of many of the concepts 
of this book.) 

Harsh, Charles M., and H. G. Schrickel: Per- 
sonality: Development and Assessment, Ron- 
ald, New York, 1950. 

(Special emphasis on how personality de- 
velops through the various ages of life; 
theories on the nature of personality and 
findings on how personality is accurately 

Jacobi, Jolande: The Psychology of C. G. Jung, 
rev. ed., Yale University Press, New Haven, 
Conn., 1951. 

( A discussion of Jung's theories about psy- 
chological types and other important 
phases of his psychology.) 
Jung, Carl G.: Psychological Types, Harcourt, 
Brace, New York, 1926. 

(Jung's theories concerning types ex- 
plained and evaluated by the author.) 
May, Rollo: Mans Search for Himself, Norton, 
New York, 1953. 

(A popularly written, interesting treat- 
ment of the problems of man in the pres- 

ent society, with suggestions as to how 
these problems may be solved.) 
McClelland, David C.: Personality, Sloane, 
New York, 1951. 

(Another text for psychology of personal- 
ity; emphasizes theory and research find- 

Murphy, Gardner: Personality: A Biosocial 
Approach to Origins and Structure, Harper, 
New York, 1947. 

(A thorough treatment of personality and 
important related topics; difficult to read 
but rewarding when read carefully; has 
greatly influenced especially Chapters 5, 
6, and 7 of this book. ) 

Patty, William L., and Louise Snyder Johnson: 
Personality and Adjustment, McGraw-Hill, 
New York, 1953. 

(A discussion of the nature of personality 
in relation to adjustment; attention to the 
growth of personality and some social 
situations directly influencing it, as well 
as to several of the topics of this chapter. ) 
Sheldon, W. H., and S. S. Stevens: The Vari- 
eties of Temperament, Harper, New York, 

(A presentation of Sheldon's theories con- 
cerning physique and temperament.) 



I n the previous chapter we touched briefly 
on the relationship between personality and 
culture. It was pointed out that while cul- 
ture influences personality, so do other fac- 
tors, such as the physical environment and 
the biology of the individual. These factors, 
as well as the cultural ones, affect the way 
in which we contact our surroundings and 
respond to them. 

In this chapter we shall examine the in- 
fluence of culture more closely. In particu- 
lar, we shall discuss the nature of culture 
and how it exerts its effects on the individ- 
ual. Also there is the question of how dif- 
ferently people behave in different cultures. 
Finally, we shall examine some of the char- 
acteristics of the American personality and 
the forces that shape it. 



When we speak of culture we refer to the 
principal ways of behaving, the values, and 
the material possessions of a people. Ordi- 
narily a large (or at least a distinctive) 
group is intended when we say a "people" 
in this sense. Thus, we might speak of an 
American culture (or more properly, per- 
haps, of a Western culture), but we should 
hardly speak of California culture or St. 
Louis culture. For some of the smaller or 
less distinctive groups we sometimes use the 
term subculture. 

Material Possessions. As we have just 
said, the definition of culture includes the 
material objects which a people owns and 
uses. Thus, our various means of transporta- 
tion, communication, and production are a 
part of our culture. So also are our homes, 
our church buildings, our government build- 
ings, our stores and warehouses, our schools, 


Figure 8.1. Navajo woman weaving a rug in 
her hogan. Would your ideas and attitudes in 
regard to education, recreation, group life, and 
the world of work be the same as they now are 
if you lived in such a cultural setting? (Cour- 
tesy of the American Museum of Natural His- 

and the like. Of course, if an object is really 
to be considered a part of a culture, it must 
be characteristic of that culture or found 
frequently in it. Thus the hogan (a round 
earthen house) of the Navajo is found in 
America, but it is not a part of American 
culture, though it is, of course, a part of 
Indian culture or at least of Navajo sub- 

The physical objects of a culture are not 
so important in themselves as are our atti- 
tudes toward them. Certain physical objects 
(for example, an idol) may be of great con- 
cern in one culture and have slight or even 
no value in another. Furthermore, material 
possessions in the form of wealth or prop- 
erty may have greater significance in one 
culture than they have in others. Clearly, 
these objects and attitudes influence the per- 
sonality of a person who is a member of the 
cultural group. 

Knowledge and Skills. What our associ- 
ates know (or think they know) also greatly 

influences us. In our culture, such knowl- 
edge may be rather elementary or extremely 
complex from the fact, for example, that 
water flows downhill to a complicated dis- 
covery about nuclear fission. Both these 
facts and many others have influenced our 
lives, often profoundly. 

Likewise, the skills of a people are a 
part of their culture. Among such skills, of 
course, are those that have to do with 
production and distribution. We should be 
very different individuals if it were not for 
these means of producing goods and put- 
ting them in the hands of consumers. But 
of course there are many other skills too, 
such as those involved in teaching, surgery, 
making a speech, etc. 

It might be pointed out in passing that 
what a people knows, or thinks it knows, 
about the nature of the universe and man's 
place in it may have far-reaching signifi- 
cance for how this same culture evaluates 
human beings and how human beings are 
dealt with in that culture. 

Language. One of the distinctive char- 
acteristics of a culture is its language. Lan- 
guage is important, first, because we use it 
in order to communicate, and second, be- 
cause much of our thinking employs lan- 
guage symbols. : 

A language nearly always reflects the 
discriminations regarded as important in 

Figure 8.2. All societies are greatly influenced 
by and even dependent on the skills of the 



ENGLISH three words: aviator, airplane, mosquito 
HOPI one word 

*% i o a 

^'uOh *' 

* o 


- * ^ 



> ^- 


ENGLISH one word: snow ESKIMO three words 

Figure 8.3. One measure of the importance to a people of 
an object or process is the number of words in their lan- 
guage which can be used to refer to different varieties or 
aspects of it. Can you think of other things for which we 
have a number of names? (Modified from S. I. Ilayakawa: 
Language in Action, Harcourt, Brace, New Yorfc, 1941. 
Used by permission.) 

a given society because our language rep- 
resents our way of thinking. 1 The world in 
which we live can be split up or divided 
in many ways in our thinking processes, so 
that we can group and classify as suits our 
purposes. Our language often reflects the 
distinctions and groupings which we find 
useful or even necessary in our thinking. 
Thus, in an elaborate kinship system, in 
which food, shelter, property, and obliga- 
tions of many types are involved, each 
status and relationship has a distinctive 
name. Likewise, in a highly elaborate sys- 
tem of commercial credit, such as ours, each 
type of negotiable instrument has a par- 
ticular designation. Arabs have many dif- 
ferent words for camels, distinguishing dif- 
ferent stages of pregnancy, functions, own- 
ership, and the like. And Eskimos, for 
whom snow is important, have many dif- 
1 See B. L. Whorf, "Science and Linguistics," 
Technology Review, 44:229-231, 247-280, 1940. 

fcrent names for various conditions of snow 
and ice. 

Our world has a rich symbol system. We 
learn the shared meanings for its symbols 
and how to use them in reaching our goals. 
Through language, other people influence 
our attitudes, give us useful information, 
reward and punish us, and provide esthetic 
experiences. Also important is the fact that 
our thought processes have to a large ex- 
tent been molded in the pattern of the 
language we speak, and this, in turn, pro- 
foundly affects the way we interpret our ex- 

Institutions. Another important part of a 
culture is its institutions. Broadly defined, 
an institution is a patterned way of be- 
having. For example, the family is an in- 
stitution that appears in some form in every 
society. The family may consist of a hus- 
band and wife, together with their children 
who have not reached adulthood, or some- 



Figure 8.4. The framework of institutions within which a 
person seeks his goals is like a network of roads. Like roads, 
institutions provide certain routes to goals and also limit 
movement in certain directions. Culture, of course, is much 
more complex and changing than our analogy might 

times it may be an extended kinship system, 
consisting, for example, of a patriarch to- 
gether with his various wives and their 
children and grandchildren. To the people 
in each society its own family institution 
seems the only right and proper one. And 
of course it has a great deal of influence on 
the experience of the person as he grows 
up and on the ways in which he is him- 
self permitted or encouraged to behave. 

Another institution is the school. A per- 
son in a school soon learns that there are 
students, teachers, and administrators. He 
also finds that the school (or the people in 
it or in charge of it) has goals which he 
must take into account and that many ac- 
tivities center around the school. As an in- 
stitution the school is part of his environ- 
ment, shaping his experiences, affecting his 
goals, and blocking or fostering satisfaction. 

There are many other important institu- 
tions: churches, banking practices, military 
organizations, factory systems, and social- 
class systems. In each of these are certain 

more or less standardized ways of behaving. 
A person usually has to learn these ways 
of interacting with others, if he is to satisfy 
his needs. 

Mores and Folkways. Also of interest in 
this connection are the expected or required 
ways of behaving in the society of which 
we are a part. Here, for convenience, we 
usually distinguish between folkways and 
mores. Folkways are expected or "correct" 
ways of behaving, whereas mores are re- 
quired ways of behaving. Thus, our folk- 
ways are such that we would not wear a 
sport shirt and slacks to a formal dance or 
eat peas with a spoon, but our mores re- 
quire that on a crowded two-lane highway 
we stay on the right side of the road, and 
also that we refrain from violating the 
property rights of other people. 

It is interesting to note the differences in 
punishment that are accorded violations of 
the folkways and of mores. The infringe- 
ment of folkways usually leads to some dis- 
approval. If we violate one of them, we 
shall probably be thought odd, uncouth, or 
ignorant, and people may let us know about 
it, but ordinarily they will not put us in 
jail. The violation of mores, on the other 
hand, is serious. It practically always evokes 
strong social disapproval; and breaking the 
most important mores may be punished by 

Figure 8.5. How many folkways and mores do 
you see illustrated in this picture? (Courtesy of 
Ewing Galloway,) 



Figure 8.6. Kamba dances in Kenya. The cultural 
patterns of a people are both an expression and a 
cause of personality differences. In any culture, per- 
sonality is influenced by many conditions-whether 
children are indulged or deprived, whether man is 
perceived as good or corrupt, whether authoritarian- 
ism or permissiveness exists in the family and the 
state, etc. These and many other factors affect per- 
sonality. (Courtesy of British Information Services.) 

death in the electric chair. People expect 
us to follow the folkways; they require us to 
follow the mores. 

It is a mistake to think there is just one 
set of folkways and one set of mores in our 
culture. Folkways and mores differ from 
one group to another, so that different peo- 
ple may grow up under different customs 
even in the same society. Under these cir- 
cumstances we should expect and we usu- 
ally find different personalities. One way 
to tell where one culture stops and another 
hegins is to find out where the folkways and 
especially the important mores undergo 
decided changes. Thus, folkways and mores 
are not alike in all parts of our culture, but 
they have much in common throughout it. 

It is also a mistake to look upon the aver- 
age person as a rebel at heart, dragged 
along relentlessly by an autocratic, dicta- 
torial society. At times, of course, mores and 
folkways are imposed on us by the group 
without our consent and even against our 
wishes, but typically we impose these cus- 
toms on ourselves. The mores and folkways, 
in other words, become a part of the self 
(see Chapter 5), and generally we follow 
them-at least in adulthood-because we 
want to and not because we have to. 

Other Values. No short discussion of cul- 
ture can do justice to its variety and com- 
plexity, and so we shall simply say that in 
addition to the values underlying and grow- 
ing out of our material possessions, our lan- 

guage, our institutions, our knowledge, and 
our mores and folkways there are many 
others. We can mention, for example, those 
relating to religion and the church, or to 
the home, or to recreation, or to the state. 
Our attitudes toward various social groups 
and our beliefs about what seem to us to be 
the important social issues are also im- 


One way to appreciate the influence of 
culture on personality is to look at other 
societies and the personality patterns that 
develop in them. Particularly in the years 
since World War I, social scientists have 
become interested in and made extensive 
studies of other peoples and their ways of 
behaving. These have usually been of small 
groups of people with a culture quite un- 
like our own, though there has also been 
some interest among anthropologists in 
studies of Western culture and particularly 
of unusual groups in that culture. 

Some Other Societies. Let us examine 
three of these societies in some detail and 
then make some general comments about 
others. A number of years ago, Ruth Bene- 
dict, 2 a cultural anthropologist, made a 
study of the Kwakiutl Indians and also of 
the Dobuans and the Zimi. Most of what 

2 Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, Houghton 
Mifflin, Boston, 1934. 



we have to report about these peoples 
comes from her studies and reports. 

Kwakiutl society. Like several other In- 
dian tribes in the Pacific Northwest region, 
the Kwakiutl had a highly differentiated 
status system. Each clan had a position in 
a prestige hierarchy, and within each clan 
each individual had some rank. The whole 
society, in fact, was intensely rank-con- 
scious. Each person had many symbols of 
rank, such as his name, the position he 
could take in ritual affairs, the age and 
honor of the shield which he took into 
battle, his position in the battle and the 
hunt, the prestige of his wife's family, and 
his worldly possessions. 

There were a number of ways in which 
an individual could change his position in 
the status hierarchy. He could perform an 
act of unusual bravery, such as swimming 
on a dark night in a stream inhabited by an 
evil spirit. Or he could marry the daughter 
of a clan having higher rank than his own, 
providing he could be accepted by such a 
clan. Possibly he could perform success- 
fully a daring exploit in battle, such as sav- 
ing the life of a high-ranking person. Or 
he could resort to the potlatch. 

The potlatch was an institutionalized de- 
vice for changing status. A Kwakiutl seek- 
ing to enhance his social position invited 
a rival to a feast. According to Kwakiutl 
norms, the one invited might decline only 
if to accept would lower his own prestige. 
But he was obligated to accept the invita- 
tion of any genuine rival. In the host's lodge 
a very hot fire was built, and the rival was 
so placed that he would be extremely un- 
comfortable. In the meantime he was art- 
fully abused and insulted. The high point 
came when the host began giving the rival 
large numbers of blankets. The ultimate 
was for the host to show how rich he was by 
throwing blankets upon the fire, thus de- 
stroying his possessions. 

The rival was supposed to be awed by the 
power and riches of his host, and to be 
humiliated by his own relative weakness 

and poverty. Within a reasonable time the 
rival had to return the potlatch feast on an 
even grander scale, or else lose face. 

Now are these merely strange customs, 
or is the person really a different personality 
for having lived in such a culture? It is 
highly probable that a Kwakiutl perceived 
his social world as a highly competitive 
place; that he placed a high value on pres- 
tige in this system; that he felt humiliated 
and guilty if he failed to support others in 
his clan; and in general that his conception 
of himself was closely tied to the customs 
and values of this sort of society. Certainly 
growing up among the Kwakiutls had a 
decided influence on personality. 

Dobuan society. Another society foster- 
ing unusual personality development was 
that of the Dobu, who lived on an island 
off eastern New Guinea. Benedict tells us 
that the Dobuans were a very jealous, re- 
sentful, and suspicious people. They saw 
success as coming from a struggle with an 
evil world, and hence things which we 
would consider highly unethical, such as 
cheating, stealing, and hurting others, were 
considered entirely legitimate for the good 
man in that culture. Indeed, to do these 
things might add considerably to his status 
so they were done frequently. 

Among the Dobu there was also much 
hostility between husband and wife. In al- 
ternate years each lived in the other's vil- 
lage and there was subjected to humiliation 
and exploitation. Each individual suspected 
all others of evil intent. He felt that he 
needed sorcery and magic to protect him- 
self and to attack others. 

If Benedict's conclusions about the Do- 
buan personality are valid, here is another 
society in which a person's values, his goals, 
his views about others, and his conception 
of himself were radically different from 
what we know in our society. A normal per- 
sonality in Dobu would be highly abnormal 
here, and vice versa. Like the typical per- 
son in any society, the Dobuan tried to en- 
hance his self-esteem and defend his self- 






Anthropologists study many different phases of group life. Since person- 
ality formation involves learning, they are especially interested in child- 
training practices. Anthropologists study these practices in two principal 
ways: (1) by observing the behavior of members of the society in question, 
and (2) by interviewing informants, who are members of the society. The 
following data on child-training practices among the Apache Indians were 
obtained by interviewing: * 

When a child is mischievous, they call an old man who looks fierce. He is no 
relative. The old man limps in with a sack or blanket in his hand. He acts angry 
and shouls, "What's the matter?" 

The father and the mother sit there. They say, "This boy won't obey. He is always 
fighting. You can take him and do what you wish with him. You can cut off his 
head or sit on him. We don't care. We aren't going to put up with him any longer." 
The boy begins to cry. 

The old man says, "So, you won't obey? I'm qoing to chock you off right now." 
The boy cries louder. 

"Now stop that! Listen to me. Come over to me or I'm going to get you." The 
child is frightened. He tries to crawl behind his father, his mother, or his grand- 
mother. But they act as if they have given the old man the privilege to do what 
he wants with the boy, and they push the boy forward. The old man grabs him 
and struggles with him. He puts him in the sack and says, "Are you going to behave?" 

After that the boy is prompt and behaves. If he won't get wood, his mother says, 
"All right, I'll call the old man." Then he goes for the wood at once. After the old 
man works on him like this two or three times, he comes to be a good boy. 

The Apache employed many other methods in training their children. The 
foregoing example shows that they were willing to resort to frightening a 
child in order to get him to conform and that they believed that parents 
have a right to exercise authority. Eventually almost every boy became a 
"good boy" according to the norms of Apache society. 

* M. E. Opler, An Apache life-way, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1941, p. 31. 

picture, but for this he chose methods that 
seem to us strange and inadequate. 

Zuni society. The Zuni, who are Pueblo 
Indians of the Southwest, present a contrast 
with the Kwakiutl and the Dobuans. Here 
the goal of life was anything but personal 
domination and power over others. Leader- 
ship positions were sincerely avoided, and a 
man who strove for one was likely to be 
looked down upon or otherwise punished 
by the group. 

An ideal man among the Zuni was a per- 
son who was friendly and dignified but who 
did not call attention to himself. Even in 
contests of skill, if a person really ex- 
celled he was soon prevented from compet- 

ing, for the Zuni liked contests where the 
odds were even and no outstanding com- 
petitor could dominate the scene. 

According to Benedict, the Zuni were not 
emotionally expressive. Emotional excess 
in anythingreligion, death, marriage, or 
personal relations was distrusted. Mildness 
in manner was the rule. The contrast with 
the fierce competitiveness of the Kwakiutl 
and the harsh hostility of the Dobuans is 
dramatic. Nowhere is the contrast in per- 
sonality more striking than in religion. 
Whereas the Kwakiutl sought spiritual exul- 
tation and power through fasting, self-tor- 
ture, frenzied dancing, and even such acts 
as eating filth, the Zuni sought orderliness 



Figure 8.7. The roles of men and 
women in our society are often 
quite different. These differences, 
however, have become less pro- 
nounced in recent years. 

and stability through elaborate formal 
dances and prayers. By contrast, the Do- 
buan used magic and sorcery to please evil 
spirits and to vent his hostility upon others. 
Personality as a Function of Culture. 
There is a wealth of other material of the 
kind we have been discussing, but the con- 
clusion in all instances is substantially the 
same: personality is much influenced 
by social institutions, language, attitudes, 
values, and the ideals of a culture. Thus, 
our personality is in no small degree (but 
not exclusively) a function of the culture in 
which we grow up, and the anthropologists 
have given us some appreciation of how 
profound and extensive these differences 
may become in various cultures. 


The purpose of this section is to show 
how growing up and living in America af- 
fects our personalities. The fact that we are 
Americans makes us different persons from 

what we should have been if we had grown 
up in another society. 

There are a number of ways in which 
growing up in America has influenced us. 
For one thing, it has affected our beliefs 
and values. It is no accident that many of 
us believe that a free-enterprise economic 
system is the best. And like other Amer- 
icans, we probably feel very strongly that 
every one of us ought to have as much op- 
portunity as possible to develop his capaci- 
ties. The fact that we are Americans has also 
influenced our motives. For example, it has 
made many of us want to get an education 
and to work for success in some form dis- 
tinctively American. Being an American 
has created problems for us, too. For in- 
stance, we must compete with others for 
prestige and at the same time try to obtain 
affection from them. In all these ways and 
more, being an American has had an effect 
on our personalities. 

A Typical Example. In order to see such 
influences at work, let us look at a particular 



American, John Hawes. John lives in Har- 
mon City, a Middle Western town of 
15,000 in the midst of a farming region. 
John, who is now thirty-two years old, has 
operated a drugstore at the corner of Main 
and Elm for the past five years. Mary 
Hawes, whom he married eight years be- 
fore, while he was still in training as a 
pharmacist at State College, takes care of 
the house and their two children, Mike, 
who is seven, and David, who is four. 

Recently John went to visit his mother 
and father, an experience which always 
makes him think of his childhood. John's 
parents are small-town folks, people who 
own a modest house on the edge of town. 
John's father has a job as clerk in a feed 
mill. Often John remembers how he and 
his older brother had various jobs to do 
around the house and yard. His mother was 
regarded as a good housekeeper. She pre- 
pared excellent meals, kept the house clean, 
mended the children's clothes, and saw to 
it that they learned good manners. John's 
father believed in the value of thrift and 
hard work. Although he enjoyed his con- 
tacts with his neighbors, he had little sense 
of affairs beyond his immediate circle. The 
larger world was something described in 
the newspapers from Chicago. John re- 
members his parents' ambition that he 
"make something" of himself. Through con- 
siderable sacrifice, they sent him to State 
College, where he studied pharmacy. John's 
parents are proud of the fact that he owns 
his own drugstore and is in the Harmon 
City Chamber of Commerce. 

John and Mary Hawes are also ambitious 
for their children. Often Mary tells seven- 
year-old Mike that if he studies hard and 
learns a lot, maybe he can become a medical 
doctor like Dr. Peterson, or a lawyer like 
Mr. Payne. "You can become anything you 
want, if you are only willing to work hard 
enough," she tells Mike. 

Mary is a good housekeeper, just like 
John's mother. When they first were mar- 

ried, John sometimes teased Mary about 
her cooking, but he soon learned that wasn't 
wise. Really, John feels proud of Mary for 
the way she cares for the children and the 
house. It does bother him a little that Mary 
is going to a lot of club meetings and even 
political functions, but then so are Mrs. 
Peterson and Mrs. Payne. 

All in all, John Hawes feels that he is 
making a success of life. He has a good wife 
and two fine boys. The drugstore is bring- 
ing in a good income and the mortgage 
on the house is being paid off. Of course, it 
would be nice to have a new station wagon, 
but then you can't have everything all at 
once. Most likely he will come up soon for 
an office in the Chamber of Commerce. And 
people often ask his opinion about civic 
and political affairs. 

It just doesn't seem right to John that 
some people get ahead without working 
as hard as he has worked, but he feels that 
his boys will have an opportunity second 
to none. Sometimes it is disturbing to him 
that so many changes are taking place. A 
lot of people are moving into hastily built 
shacks on the other side of the tracks. Most 
of them go to work in the new factory. John 
doesn't know whether he wants his children 
to associate with the factory workers' chil- 
dren. Of course, he thinks, those people are 
just as good as everyone elsethey just 
haven't had a chance up to now. Another 
thing, all these taxes and regulations and 
the national debt things are just getting 
out of hand. John doesn't like to think of 
it, but there is always the threat of war 
you never can tell what those Communists 
will do. 

John Hawes is much like the rest of us. 
He believes a lot of things that we believe. 
His values his notions of what ought to be 
and what is right and wrong are familiar 
to all of us. It is easy to see that he is a 
product of the family in which he grew up. 
We can see how much his interests are 
centered in his family and how ambitious 



he is for his children. We can appreciate, 
too, how much his work means to him cer- 
tainly jnore than just the money he gets out 
of it. We too live in a complex, changing 
world. Perhaps, like John, we do not always 
understand it very well, but it has a strong 
influence upon us. 

American Beliefs and Values. As was 
mentioned before, there are some more or 
less typical American beliefs and values. 
These are ways of looking at things and 
feeling about them which we share with 
others. It is true, of course, that we do not 
all feel exactly the same about everything, 
but by and large we tend to agree on many 
things. Let us look at some typical Amer- 
ican beliefs and values, so that we can bet- 
ter understand the American personality. 

Worth of the person. One important clus- 
ter of American beliefs and values has to 
do with the worth or value of a person. The 
important idea here is that a human being 
is valuable for his own sake. We believe 
that a person has worth simply because he 
is a human being not merely for what he 
can do or even for how much he contributes 
to society. Just because he is a human be- 
ing, we feel, his welfare is important. 

Suppose a baby needs a transfusion of a 
rare type of blood. Once his need is brought 
to their attention, even strangers are likely 
to become concerned. The saving of this 
child's life becomes supremely important. 
But if we were to be purely practical, it is 
doubtful that the baby's life would be 
thought worth all this effort and expense. 
In fact, he is a burden to others. It must 
be that we value the child's life for its own 

In some circumstances, hardly any sacri- 
fice is felt to be too great for the welfare 
of a person. Suppose that a miner has been 
trapped as a result of a cave-in. People will 
work feverishly to save him. Some of those 
who work the hardest may not even like 
him. Perhaps in order to reach him it may 
become necessary to destroy a productive 
tunnel. Do we stop to ask whether it costs 

more to save him than he is worth in dol- 
lars and cents? Not usually. If we do, we 
are likely to feel little and mean. In mak- 
ing a sacrifice in effort and money, we feel 
that we are working for something impor- 
tantthe welfare of a human being. It is 
a feeling which is tremendously gratifying 
to Americans. 

Or here is a criminal. Do we feel that he 
too has worth as a person? Probably we 
have mixed feelings. We disapprove of his 
actions, and we may even feel hostile to- 
ward him. Yet we do not knowingly let 
him be cruelly abused. Nor, except in the 
gravest offenses, do we want to see him 
put to death. More and more, we recognize 
that criminals are human beings who are 
entitled to everything we can do to help 
them be useful and happy members of 

Most of our examples have dealt with ex- 
treme cases, such as those where a life is 
at stake. But our attitudes toward personal 
worth go further than just valuing life. We 
value a human being for what he might be- 
come. We feel that it is our obligation to 
foster his development. Especially do we 
think this about children. We feel that a 
child is entitled to the best that his par- 
ents and society can offer him and that he 
should be helped to develop as far as he is 

As a people, we Americans are easily 
aroused by appeals for human welfare. 
Many times we have responded generously 
to the needs of victims of flood and famine, 
not only in our own country but in far parts 
of the world. Of course these needs have to 
be made real to us, but once they are, we 
often contribute liberally. 

Tied to this central value regarding per- 
sonal worth are a number of related ones. 
We feel that each person's welfare ought 
to be as important as that of any other. We 
say that we are equal before the law and in 
the eyes of God. The more helpless a per- 
son is (such as the crippled and the men- 
tally disturbed), the more strongly we feel 



that he needs to be protected. Moreover, 
we believe that as persons we are entitled 
to dignity and freedom from degrading or 
humiliating experiences. Slavery and prej- 
udice have had to reckon with this value. 
If we violate it, we must rationalize, project, 
and in other ways defend the self-picture 
and the self. In industry the attitude is 
growing that a worker has worth beyond 
his productivity and that an employer 
should regard his employees as more than 
just tools. 

Another part of this cluster of values is 
the ideal of service to others. We have a 
sense of obligation to be useful to others, 
to promote their welfare. This feeling shows 
itself in various ways. We need to believe 
that our work makes a contribution to 
others. Certain occupations, such as medi- 
cine, the ministry, and education, carry 
with them an air of dedication. It is usually 
easy for people in these professions to feel 
that they are contributing to the welfare of 
others. Those who produce and distribute 
goods, especially quality merchandise, can 
feel this way too, although the relationship 
may be a bit more indirect. Actually, nearly 
every occupation makes its contribution to 
the social good. 

So the worth of a person is a powerful 
value in America, and nearly all of us are 
profoundly affected by it. We may not al- 
ways live by it, but when we do not, we are 
likely to feel guilty and to resort to ways 
of defending the self. When we do live up 
to it, we have a better regard for ourselves. 3 

Individualism. Closely related to this 
idea of the worth of a person is the Amer- 
ican emphasis on individual achievement 
and initiative. We have a conviction that 
it is good to compete with others, to strive to 
come out on top or in the top group, and to 
excel others. 

Some of these attitudes of individualism 
and competition no doubt were fostered by 

8 An interesting statement of the "American 
Creed" appears in G. Myrdal, An American Di- 
lemma, Harper, New York, 1944. 

Figure 8.8. These two persons have just been res- 
cued from the ill-fated liner Andrea Doria after its 
collision with the Stockholm. What is our reaction 
when we learn of the grief of others, even strangers 
in remote places? (Courtesy of American Red Cross.) 

the conditions of frontier living. Certainly 
the life of the pioneer put a premium on in- 
dividual performance and success. His 
neighbors were often helpful, but there was 
no state to take care of him in his old age 
or in times of unemployment and no Com- 
munity Chest or United Fund to fall back 
upon. To a large extent he succeeded as an 
individual or failed as an individual. 

The traditions of our ancestors before 
they came to America may very well have 
been the starting point for these beliefs. 
Many of these people left their native lands 
because of a desire to be independent, to 
think and to act for themselves. They 
wanted to avoid the domination of an auto- 
cratic ruler or a political or social institution. 
They desired freedom to express themselves 
in their own way to be individuals, free 
and independent. 

It is obvious that in some quarters this 
desire was carried too far. At times on the 
frontier a strong man would impose his will 
on his fellows and even run roughshod over 
their rights. And there were industrialists 



in a later period who were ruthless in com- 
petition and far from benevolent employers. 
Though often feared and even hated, how- 
ever, such people were frequently also ad- 

From such a background came our pres- 
ent more moderate philosophy of individ- 
ualism. We still admire the person who 
competes successfully, but there are more 
rules about how we ought to compete. We 
have to fight within the rules. We may still 
struggle for success in the sense of besting 
others, but there are more limitations on 
how we can do it. 

Our conception of success may still em- 
phasize the externals the achievements 
that stand out in other people's eyes. It is 
often said that we have a materialistic cul- 
ture, and there seems to be some truth in 
this statement. We do tend to stress the 
value of material possessions; after all, they 
are visible and tangible. We can see and 
admire a huge estate, with a palatial home 
and landscaped grounds, but it takes imagi- 
nation and contemplation to value music 
and noble character. In our country, peo- 
ple move about so much and have so many 
different, casual contacts that it is hard 
to appreciate anything in others that is not 
highly visible. At times we still tend to 
value a person more for what he can do 
than for qualities that arc within him, such 
as his kindness, wisdom, and decency. 

The search for prestige is a part of the 
individualistic cluster of values. In our 
country prestige is not, as it tends to be in 
some parts of the world, largely hereditary. 
It is true, of course, that the family con- 
nections have something to do with it. More 
important, perhaps, are family resources 
that help in the competition for prestige. 
Mainly, we have to acquire prestige through 
our own efforts. 

It is possible to overemphasize this matter 
of individualism. It is sometimes implied 
that we are as individualistic as any people 
in the world, but that is not true. Americans 

have never stood for the sort of freedom 
that means license, the right to do as we 
wish even if others are hurt by it. We have 
always believed, and we still believe, that 
freedom should be accompanied by a sense 
of responsibility. Besides, we like to be with 
people and work with them. We are in- 
dividualists, then, but not anarchists. 

Social Class in America. In America we 
like to talk about the equality of all peo- 
ple. Although at times our actions are quite 
inconsistent with this belief, we have cer- 
tainly taken it seriously and attempted to 
put it into practice. Not all Americans, of 
course, are equal. Some of us are taller, 
older, or better informed than others. Some 
of us have wealth and prestige, and others 
have little or none of either. In the sense of 
being valuable in and of ourselves, how- 
ever, we Americans are equal. Otherwise, 
we are all different. 

We have heard a good deal of discussion 
in recent years about "social classes" in 
America. If the term is to have any real 
meaning, Americans must be divided (or 
divisible) into groups in each of which 
their status, income, actions, beliefs, atti- 
tudes, values, etc., are very much alike and 
also different from those in other social 

Identifying social classes. Social classes 
in America are not so rigidly defined as in 
some parts of the world. There is a lot of 
overlapping. Any division into social classes 
is somewhat arbitrary. 

There are a number of schemes for 
labeling social classes. One is the division 
into upper, middle, and lower classes (with 
an upper and lower subdivision of each). 
Thus, according to this classification, there 
is an upper-upper class and also a lower- 
upper one. Likewise there is an upper-mid- 
dle and a lower-middle group, and an 
upper-lower and a lower-lower. This 
scheme has proved to be helpful, so let us 
look at it a bit more closely. 

How do we tell to what class a person 



(Jet yours from the 
Personal loan Department 

Figure 8.9. What class attitudes and beliefs are assumed in this advertisement? To what social 
class do you tliink this advertisement is directed to appeal most? Would you have any reserva- 
tions about asking to borrow money from a bank? From a friend? (Courtesy of Manufacturers 
Trust Co.) 

belongs? Obviously, there is no single mark 
that determines it. We have to look at a lot 
of different signs. Where does he live? In 
the better part of town or across the tracks? 
How important are his parents and ances- 
tors? Are they "old aristocracy," reaching 
back to Jamestown, or are they poor im- 
migrant workers? What is his occupation? 
Ts he a professional person, such as a lawyer, 
or a common laborer? How much wealth 
does he have, and if he has a lot, did he 
acquire it in a respectable way? We should 
also need to look at the social standing of 
his closest friends, the organizations to 
which he belongs, and many other signs. 

Many psychologists consider the most 
important mark of a person's social class 
to be his attitudes and beliefs. In other 
words, what he believes and how he feels- 
real parts of personalityare the fundamen- 
tal marks of his class status. To this should 
be added his appreciations and enjoyments. 
Thus, there are upper-class values, middle- 

class values, and lower-class values, and 
these are most important in understanding 
social classes. 

Training in class bcluivior. Where do we 
learn the attitudes and beliefs that are so 
much a part at once of our personalities and 
of our class position? Where do we learn 
the expected ways of acting in different 
situations? Much of this learning indeed, 
the most important part of it normally 
takes place in the family. Most of us have 
ideas of right and wrong, ideas of the 
proper way to act, and ideas of what peo- 
ple are like that are quite similar to those 
of our parents. If we understand our par- 
ents' class behavior, we shall understand a 
lot about our own, even where our behavior 
is different from theirs. Of course, all of us 
have been exposed to many influences out- 
side the home, but even in those our class 
position plays a part. The people with 
whom we associate tend to be from our own 
class level, as do the organizations to which 







Subjects of the study * were 100 men in Evanston, Illinois. They were all 
married, were native-born whites, and were chosen in such way as to be 
representative of the married, male, native-born, white population of the 
city. They were then interviewed to determine the degree to which each par- 
ticipated in group activities, the extent to which they were leaders in such 
activities, and the extent to which they wished to move up in the class 
structure and had a realistic understanding of how this could be done. 

The group was then divided on the basis of income, education, and the 
prestige of the occupation in which they worked. In each case the mid-point 
was used as a dividing point, and the larger group broken into two sub- 
groups on the basis of whether they were above or below the middle. 

The principal findings of the study were as follows: First, whether income, 
education, or occupation was used to put the men into the "high" and "low" 
groups, the "high" showed a greater degree of involvement and participa- 
tion in community activities. They read more books, attended church more 
frequently, belonged to more organizations, and held more offices in the 

Second, the "high" group was more realistic in appraising the require- 
ments for moving upward in the occupational hierarchy. A larger proportion 
reported themselves as willing to learn a new routine, work harder than 
they were then working, leave their families for some time, take on more 
responsibility, and give up leisure time. 

The authors conclude that for this sort of population differences in income, 
education, and occupational status go along with if, indeed, they do not 
cause differences in participation in group activities and in behavior de- 
signed to enable one to increase his occupational level. 

* Leonard Reissman, "Clots, Leisure, and Social Participation," American Sociological 
Review, 19:76-84, 1954. 

we belong. Even our perceptions may be 
selective, so that we react to whatever fits 
in with our existing ways of believing and 
feeling which were influenced by our fam- 
ily and our associates. 

What is it like to grow up in a middle- 
class family? In a lower-class or upper-class 
one? Of course, no simple word picture can 
do full justice to the situation or allow fully 
for the wide differences among different 
families within the same social class. But 
we can note some of their more typical 

There are certain things that middle-class 
families tend to emphasize. If we grew up in 
such a family, probably our mother and 
father stressed achievement. They told us 

that it is important to do everything well, 
particularly in school. They probably took 
a lot of interest in our development, seeing 
to it that we had a chance to learn music 
and anything else that would help us to 
excel. Most likely, they were proud if we 
talked or walked unusually early. If we 
grew up in such a home, it probably is im- 
portant for us to succeed, to be recognized 
for superiority in one or more things. In 
other words, we have a strong need for 
achievement, and what is related to it, a 
fear of failure if we do not succeed. 

If we grew up in such a home, there is a 
good chance that our parents were always 
thinking of the future. They saw our child- 
hood as a preparation for adulthood, and a 



lot of planning went into our development. 
As a matter of fact, they saw ( and perhaps 
still see) anything which we did, not so 
much for its present consequences as for 
its future implications. Suppose we quit 
something that we had begun enthusias- 
tically. "What if he quits everything that 
he begins after he grows up?" they prob- 
ably asked themselves. In other words, 
there was a lot of future orientation. They 
saw things in relation to a long time span, 
extending into the future. And, in their 
position, it was often realistic for them to do 
so. If we grew up in such a home, probably 
we too have future orientation, and prob- 
ably we too shall feel this way about our 

If we grew up in a middle-class home, 
our parents were probably also very much 
concerned about what other people thought, 
especially the "people who counted." How 
many times we have heard our parents say, 
"What will people think?" Many students 
of class behavior have pointed out the con- 
ventionality of middle-class standards how 
much conformity there is, with "everybody 
watching everybody else" to find out what 
is proper. If we developed in a middle-class 
environment, probably we too are sensitive 
to even anxious about other people's 

Another thing which we learned if we 
grew up in a middle-class family is to 
control our aggression. No doubt our par- 
ents ( and teachers, who come largely from 
the middle class) told us not to be mean 
or unkind to those weaker than ourselves. 
They also told us that we must always be 
respectful to those who are proper authori- 
ties, such as our parents, teachers, and of- 
ficials. Not only were we punished for ag- 
gression, but we probably learned to feel 
guilty if we expressed it, and even if we 
felt angry. Probably we learned to channel 
our aggression into competitive sports and 
competition of all kinds. (This is an ex- 
ample of sublimation, discussed in Chap- 
ter 6.) 

Hence, if we grew up in a middle-class 
family, we learned a whole pattern of be- 
liefs and values which are now a part of 
our personalities. We probably feel, at least 
to some degree, a need for achievement but 
without clear, final goals to be reached; a 
need to be different but an anxiety about 
nonconformity; and a fear of failure coupled 
with pride about our successes. It is in 
this middle class that both humanitarian 
ideals and the competitive drive for power, 
gain, and prestige are the strongest. 

The behavior and value patterns of the 
lower and the u?per classes have been 
studied less extensively than those of the 
middle class, but a good deal of informa- 
tion is available nevertheless. In lower-class 
families there is usually less emphasis on 
achievement, less concern with status, more 
of a tendency to live in the present and not 
to be concerned with the future, more likeli- 
hood of the open expression of aggression, 
and, especially in the lower-lower groups, 
less strict adherence to social and moral 

On the other hand, if we grew up in an 
upper-class family, the chances are that our 
family had power, wealth, and prestige, or 
that our ancestors had them. Indeed, in the 
highest classes a sense of tradition is deeply 
rooted the present is seen as an extension 
of the past. Our parents probably exhorted 
us to live up to our family traditions. They 
were able, of course, to provide us with the 
material luxuries and the proper training 
for our position in society. In particular, 
it was important to them that we should 
have the kinds of enjoyments and apprecia- 
tions typical of their class. We were taught 
that snobbishness is taboo; that self -display 
is vulgar; that scenes and boorish conduct 
are to be avoided; and that a casual man- 
ner is desirable. We learned that upper- 
class men should play a part in practical 
affairs, but not in a strenuous, labored way, 
and that upper-class women should excel in 
the social and recreational activities of their 
class. If such was our training, it is likely 



th# II 



bt*t JmiAfiaUtoWil *i.* HS'tmnrW n UhMim 

Figure 8.10. Both advertisements imply the 
value of material possessions as the way to the 
good life. To which class level does each ad- 
vertisement appeal? What are the different 
values involved? (Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.) 

that by such standards we perceive and 
evaluate ourselves and others. 

Moving in the class hierarchy. Many peo- 
ple rise, and some fall, in their class posi- 
tion. How do we try to change our class 
position, and what personal problems do we 
encounter in trying to do so? 

There are a number of ways in which a 
person can raise his class status, although 
each has some practical limit. Education is 
one of the most important, especially for 
lower- and middle-class people. Another 
way is to marry someone from a higher 
class but not too much higher. If we do so, 
we must be able to meet the requirements 
of this higher class. Another way is to come 
into money, particularly in a high-prestige 
occupation. Wealth alone is not enough, 
however, for higher-class behavior must 
also be mastered and the old lower-class 
habits and friends must be discarded. There 
are other ways, but these are some of the 
most important. 

But it often takes more than just ex- 
ternal changes to adjust to a higher class 
and be accepted by it. We may have to 
change some of our lifelong ways of acting 
and feeling. We may have to learn some- 
what different interests and appreciations. 
Yet these very lessons can be learned most 
readily only in the family, and they are hard 
to learn without intimate contact with the 
very people whose acceptance we seek. 

Going up the class ladder may create 
personal conflicts. We may feel guilty in 
being disloyal to our former friends. It may 
be necessary to abandon some of the beliefs 
and values of our parents. Indeed, some 
people find their lower-class parents a 
liability, and then feel guilty in rejecting 
them. Changing what we enjoy in the way 
of amusements is not easy, either. These 
are only a few of the problems that we meet 
if we try to raise our class status. 

Other Aspects of the American Personal- 
ity. There are some other aspects of the 
American personality and its problems at 
which we should look if we are to under- 







This is a study * of ten clubs of adolescents in the San Francisco area. 
The members were between twelve and sixteen years of age, and for each 
club they were either all boys or all girls. The average total attendance at 
club meetings was 126. Each club had a president and an adult leader and 
held weekly meetings. The meetings studied were discussions relating to 
program planning. 

Each group was classified, primarily on the basis of the average occu- 
pational level of the fathers, into lower or middle social class. Groups were 
then paired (a lower- and a middle-class one in each case) with the follow- 
ing factors equal or nearly so in each group: average age, range in age, and 
sex (boys' groups paired against boys' groups, and girls' group; against 
girls'). Each group was observed by two independent adult observers, who 
were found to agree rather closely in their reports of what took place in 
the groups. 

The conclusions related to the sort of behavio> shown toward the adult 
leader, the president of the group, and the other members. The principal 
findings were as follows: First, the lower-class members directed more col- 
laborative behavior toward the adult leader than did the middle-class mem- 
bers. (Collaborative behavior means showing respect, making suggestions, 
yielding, etc.) Second, the middle-class members directed more collaborative 
and also more aggressive behavior toward the president than the lower- 
class members did. And third, the lower-class members were more aggres- 
sive toward other members than the middle-class members were. 

The author concludes that these findings are consistent with the way in 
which each class perceives the roles in question. Thus, according to this view, 
the lower class finds the adult leader a more significant and important fig- 
ure. Furthermore, different attitudes toward the president and toward other 
members are held to be consistent with the background of the social class. 

* Henry S. Maas, "The Role of Member in Clubs of Lower-class and Middle-class Ado- 
lescents/' Child Development, 25:241-251, 1954. 

stand ourselves. They arc masculinity or 
femininity, our work, and our group rela- 

Masculinity and femininity. One of the 
most important facts about us is that we are 
male or female. But at least as important as 
this biological fact is the social fact that 
our society expects different things of men 
and women and of boys and girls. It pro- 
vides them with different experiences. Mas- 
culinity and femininity are roles ( see Chap- 
ter 15). 

Let us look at some of the differences be- 
tween masculinity and femininity in our 
country. We should understand at the out- 
set that these roles have been and are chang- 

ing, and also that different social classes 
define them somewhat differently. How- 
ever, the differences that we shall consider 
are more or less typical of our country. 

One difference is that men tend to have 
higher prestige than do women (other 
things being equal). This attitude shows it- 
self in many ways. We think of men as 
knowing more about the political and eco- 
nomic world. We consider them more prac- 
tical. We speak of the man as the head of 
the household. The important positions in 
government and industry usually go to 
men. Unfair as it seems, there is sometimes 
a double standard in industry, with women 
earning less for the same job than do men. 



These differences once were greater than 
they now are, but they still exist to a degree. 

Another difference is in dominance and 
submissiveness. Women are not expected to 
be aggressive. Even as little girls they are 
taught not to fight, while a father may take 
pride in his son's prowess as a fighter. The 
ideal is for women to be sweet-tempered 
and even submissive. A man, on the other 
hand, is expected to be more assertive or 
dominant. In view of these standards, you 
can see why it is so important in the self- 
esteem of men that they take a dominant 
role, especially with respect to women. This 
is why it is often hard for a man to work 
under the supervision of a woman. This is 
why a man is uncomfortable when he de- 
pends on a woman for his status, as when 
a lower-class man marries a higher-class 
woman. It is easy to see, too, why women 
often feel ambivalence (mixed attitudes) 
about their roles. In our prestige system, it 
is a man's world, and it is easy for women 
to resent the dependent role accorded them 
by society. 

Men and women are expected to have 
different interests. A man, we feel, should 
be interested in his work. He should enjoy 
sports and the more virile forms of enter- 
tainment. But a women, we think, should be 

interested in the home and children. She 
is expected to devote a lot of attention to 
cultivating her appearance. What would 
we think of a man who spent many hours 
in beauty shops and in shopping for clothes? 
Such behavior is not only permitted but ex- 
pected of women. 

In our society, the ideal woman is young, 
attractive, and marriageable. The matron is 
not usually the object of admiration. We 
feel differently about men. A man is ad- 
mired if he has maturity. This can be seen 
in our motion-picture idols. The women 
nearly always have to look young and 
pretty. The men may be older in years; 
sometimes they even gain in appeal as the 
years go by. We can understand, then, why 
women are so concerned with preserving 
their youth and beauty and why they are 
so threatened when they see it slipping 
away. Usually the threat to self involved 
in aging hits men somewhat later, when at- 
tractiveness to women and status in the field 
of work are threatened. We can see how 
intimately a thing as private as the the self 
depends on social factors. 

Occupation. In America we feel that a 
person ought to make a useful contribu- 
tion. Doing work is the most usual way of 
doing this. Actually, we find it hard to ac- 
cept someone who does not work, whether 
hobo or playboy. If this really is a group 
standard, then all those who do not work 
have to defend the self against this short- 
coming. Truly, our work is one of the most 
significant ways in which we perceive and 
evaluate ourselves. 4 

An important fact about the world of 
work is that different occupations have dif- 
ferent levels of prestige. Being a profes- 
sional person gives more prestige than be- 
ing an unskilled laborer. And our place in 
this prestige system is likely to affect our 
evaluation of ourselves. 

4 E. C. Hughes, "Work and the Self/' in J. H. 
Rohrer and M. Sherif (eds. )> Social Psychology at 
the Crossroads, Harper, New York, 1951. 



It is harder to become deeply ego-in- 
volved in (or identified with) some jobs 
than others. A lot of jobs nowadays deal 
with only a part of a total product. A worker 
may install a tail pipe, which he does not 
know how to make, on a car which he will 
probably never see again. It is difficult for 
us to have much sense of importance if 
our work is like this. If our job is like that 
of a physician, however, it is easier to see 
the meaning of our work as a whole. 

Or suppose that our work is useful but 
not regarded as having high prestige. It 
is more difficult for a garbage collector or a 
janitor, for example, to identify fully with 
his work than it is for a lawyer or the 
owner of a business. And of course, it is 
easier to get great satisfaction from our 
work if we see it contributing importantly 
to people's welfare. An educator, or anyone 
in a similar occupation, usually finds that 
his work has great meaning to him. Those 
whose occupations exploit or degrade the 
public must have more serious problems 
in enhancing and defending the self. 

So deeply do we tend to become involved 
in our working roles (and perceive our- 
selves in terms of them) that retirement 
often comes as a threat. As yet, in America, 
we have done little to help people to make 
the change from work to retirement. It will 
help in understanding the American per- 
sonality if we realize that our work is a 
vital part of us. 

It is a mistake to think that our job is 
just something that we do, like operating 
a lathe or fixing shoes. A job is also a re- 
lationship with others. If our family is the 
primary group with which we identify, our 
work group is second in line. Our job in- 
cludes our relations with our supervisor 
and our fellow workers. Their esteem and 
their acceptance usually are vital in our 
lives. A person who does not feel close to 
his fellow workers, who is not interested in 
them or who withdraws from them, is miss- 
ing some truly satisfying experiences. 

Group relationships. Each of us is a mem- 
ber of many groups. For most of us, one of 
the most important of these is our family. 
It certainly was important in our childhood. 
Just think of how much our childhood ex- 
perience depended on what our mother and 
father were like as persons. If they loved 
us, we probably learned to trust others and 
feel secure in their approval. Thus, we 
found it possible to regard ourselves as 
worthy, as deserving love. If they were re- 
jectingcold, distant, or punishing then 
we tended to build up other attitudes, to 
perceive ourselvts as unworthy and not 
lovable by others. Consequently, much of 
our present personality is likely to depend 
on these affective relationships in the home. 
Normally, the family is the primary group 
with which we identify. We like to feel 
that in the family we are valued for our- 
selves and not for how superior we are in 
competition with others. We like to think 
of the home as an emotional haven from 
the pressures of the outer world. All of us 
know that this picture is not entirely realis- 
tic. There are often tensions in American 
families conflict between husband and 
wife, and conflict between parents and 
children. We know, too, that today less and 
less of our important experiences and in- 
terests are centered in the home. More and 
more activities which were once in the home 
are now outside the family: work, recrea- 
tion, religious worship, education, and 
many others. In most families a lot of our 
personal experiences outside the home are 
not even known to the other members of the 

In addition to the family group, we have 
already mentioned the work group. But 
there are many other groups with which we 
are affiliated. Just think of how many clubs, 
honoraries, and social groups there are on 
the campus, and how many of them some 
people we know belong to. The situation 
outside the campus is not essentially dif- 
ferent in this regard. Sometimes it seems 



that there is no limit to how many groups 
we could find to join if we had the time, 
money, and inclination. 

A person can get a lot of satisfactions 
from joining such groups. Many of them 
have enjoyable and worthwhile activities, 
and besides, they have some interesting peo- 
ple in them. They are not, however, with- 
out their limitations, particularly for some- 
one who belongs to very many of them. 
For one thing, it is often difficult to get real 
emotional satisfaction from a group. Our 
contacts with it are often slight, and we 
may never become seriously ego-involved 
with either the members or the objectives 
of the group. Along this line, a modern 
author has spoken of "the lonely crowd." 3 

A second limitation, growing directly out 
of the first, is that a certain superficiality in 
human relations tends to be encouraged. 
We establish contacts quickly and try to 
make a good impression. And often we talk 
about unimportant things and get involved 
in "busy work" without developing real 
intimacy with or understanding of our fel- 
low members. 

Finally, the fact that we encounter so 
many varied points of view is likely to make 
us less sure about what we believe and 
value. How different it would be to live in 
only one major group, such as a primitive 
tribe, where only one major set of beliefs 
and values is expressed! No wonder the 
members of such a society are usually so 

s David Ricsman, The Lonely Crowd: A Study 
of the Changing American Character, Yale Uni- 
versity Press, New Haven, Conn., 1950. 

certain about right and wrong, fact and 
fiction. The uncertainty and lack of deep 
conviction arising out of contact with many 
points of view sometimes place us as in- 
dividuals at the mercy of group opinion, 
though at times it can be very stimulating. 


By now it should be clear that knowing 
about culture (group-shared ways of be- 
having, believing, and feeling) is impor- 
tant in understanding human behavior. It 
might even look as though culture were 
all-important, but such a view would be 
extreme and unrealistic. 

As we pointed out earlier, a person is 
what he is, not only because of social in- 
fluences, but also because of his heredity. 
Furthermore, we do not all contact the 
culture in the same way. Every one of us 
has had a uniquely different set of experi- 
ences in the world of people. Our parents 
were unique as personalities. Our social 
class, the geographical area we grew up 
in, whether we lived in the city or country 
these and many other factors determined 
our particular experience. Furthermore, as 
our personalities developed, we began to 
select our experiences. That is, we chose 
certain friends, certain organizations to be- 
long to, and certain careers, and these fac- 
tors in turn further influenced us. 

Thus it is easy to see why we conclude 
both that culture is important in influenc- 
ing our personalities and that each of us 
is a unique person. 


Culture represents the principal values 
and the chief ways of feeling and behav- 
ing of a group of individuals. Subcultures 
are significant differences in valuing, feel- 
ing, and behaving as these appear within 
the larger group. 

Culture consists of many components, 
including knowledge and skills, language, 
institutions, and mores and folkways. The 
mores are the required or demanded ways 
of behaving, and the folkways are the ex- 
pected or "correct" ways of behaving. 



The cultural anthropologists help us to 
understand how culture influences person- 
ality. Growing up in a society quite unlike 
our own develops a personality quite un- 
like that of the typical American. Our own 
individual heredity and environment, how- 
ever, also shape personality and account 
for the fact that, in the last analysis, each 
of us is unique. 

When we examine the American person- 
ality we find at least two important val- 
ues: a belief in the worth of every person, 
and an emphasis on the achievement and 
recognition of the individual. 

Also in America, as in practically every 
other society in the world, we find social 
classes. Among the most important values 
of the middle class in America are achieve- 
ment, future orientation, and control of 
aggression. Lower-class goals stress these 
values less, and especially the lower-lower 
groups characteristically show different so- 
cial and moral standards. Upper-class val- 
ues, on the other hand, emphasize a per- 
son's position as a bearer of tradition, the 
importance of the social graces, and re- 

sponsibility to take part in community lead- 
ership and development. 

In America also, the male is expected to 
be more dominant and practical, as well as 
to show little emotion. Women are valued 
more than men for their attractiveness, and 
thus being young and beautiful is more 
important to women. 

Americans are work-oriented. Our jobs 
frequently become a part of the self, and 
anyone who does not work is likely to face 
his own self-reproach as well as the dis- 
favor of his associates. 

Finally, Americans join a great many, 
and often widely varied, groups. This leads 
to many pleasant and profitable social con- 
tacts, but it also introduces problems. Often 
being in the group affords no real satis- 
faction and encourages superficiality in re- 
lationships. It places a premium on con- 
formity, but since the groups are so nu- 
merous and so different it often subjects 
the individual to widely different standards 
for valuing and behaving. Needless to say, 
for some people, this can engender emo- 
tional conflict. 


1. What is meant by culture? What is a sub- 
culture? Illustrate. 

2. Discuss some of the most important parts 
or components of a culture, e.g., knowledge 
and skills. 

3. Distinguish between mores and folkways. 
Give three examples of each in our culture. 

4. Can you think of something that is not 
clearly one of the mores or the folkways but 
in between? Explain. 

5. Describe the sort of personality that you 
would expect to find among (a) the Kwakiutl; 
(b) the Dobuans; and (c) the Zufii. 

6. Discuss the American belief in the worth of 
a person. Do you find evidences of this belief 
(a) in the Declaration of Independence; (b) 
in any other important American documents? 

7. What is meant by saying that Americans be- 
lieve in individualism? Does this belief ever 
lead to conflict with our belief in the worth of 
a person? Explain. 

8. What is meant by a social class? Are there 
social classes in America? Defend your answer. 

9. Compare and contrast the chief values of 
the middle class in the United States with those 
of (a) the upper class; (/;) the lower class. 

10. Do Americans ever change from one social 
ciass to another? How does a person move to a 
higher social class? 

11. What problems are caused when a person 
moves into a higher social class? 

12. Is it easier to change social classes in Amer- 
ica than in most other parts of the world? Why 
do you say so? 




Benedict, Ruth: Patterns of Culture, Houghton 
Mifflin, Boston, 1934. 

(A fascinating account by an anthropolo- 
gist of a number of cultures in different 
parts of the world; dramatizes the unity 
of a culture and how it influences per- 
sonality. ) 

Eaton, Joseph W., and Robert J. Weil: Culture 
and Mental Disorders: A Comparative Study 
of the Hutterites and Other Populations, Free 
Press, Glencoe, 111., 1955. 

(A study of the effects of culture on the 
personality patterns of contemporary 
American groups; particular attention 
given to the problem of mental disease.) 
Kluckhohn, C., and H. A. Murray (eds.): Per- 
sonality in Nature, Society, and Culture, Knopf, 
New York, 1949. 

(A comprehensive treatment of personal- 
ity; under the joint editorship of an an- 
thropologist and a psychologist.) 
Mead, Margaret: Sex and Temperament in 
Three Primitive Societies, Morrow, New York, 

(An attempt by an anthropologist to an- 
swer the question, "Are masculinity and 
femininity, as we know them in the 
United States, inherently linked to male- 

ness and femaleness?"; presents results 
from three quite different societies.) 

Murphy, Gardner: Personality: A Biosocial Ap- 
proach to Origins and Structure, Harper, New 
York, 1947, chaps. 32-41. 

(A critical analysis of the influence of cul- 
tural factors on personality development.) 

Newcomb, T. M.: Social Psychology, Dry den, 

New York, 1950. 

(A text with numerous chapters dealing 
with social influences on personality.) 

Riesman, D.: Individualism Reconsidered, and 

Other Essays, Free Press, Glencoe, 111., 1954. 

(A series of thought-provoking essays on 

the subject of the American personality.) 

Sherif, M., and C. W. Sherif: An Outline of 
Social Psychology, rev. ed., Harper, New York, 

(A text with a clear theoretical treatment 
of cultural and social influences on indi- 
vidual and group behavior.) 

Warner, W. L., M. Meeker, and K. Ells: Social 
Class in America, Science Research, Chicago, 

(An authoritative analysis of social class 
structure in the United States, with ex- 
tensive supporting evidence.) 




iiere is a biology of psychology, just as 
there is a chemistry of biology. The mod- 
ern biologist must often turn to the chem- 
ist for help in understanding the structure 
and the function of the many organs, proc- 
esses, and systems that make up a living 
organism. The process of breathing, for ex- 
ample, cannot be comprehended unless 
something is known of the ways in which 
oxygen mixes and combines with other ele- 

Important to note, however, is the fact 
that chemists and biologists no longer be- 
lieve (as they once did) that someday ad- 
vances in chemistry and physics will make 
the study of biology, as such, obsolete. At 
the time this belief was held, the reasoning 
ran something like this: psychology will be 
swallowed by biology, which in turn will 
be taken over by chemistry, which in the 
final analysis will itself disappear into 
physics. This argument has been thought 
through and criticized by the great Amer- 
ican psychologist R. S. Woodworth. In his 
autobiography 1 he says: 

The different sciences will employ different 
techniques, and in particular, one science will 
go into finer detail than the other. . . . 

Let me take a ... concrete example. Cel- 
lular physiology reveals something of the "fun- 
damental" or "underlying" processes that go 
on in the heart muscle; but, if we want to 
understand the heart as a pump, we must 
study its action in another, less minute way. 
Both approaches are needed, and neither 
makes the other superfluous. 

In the same way, the psychologist describ- 
ing a conditioned reflex in terms of stimulus 
and response, and the physiologist describing 

1 C. Murchison (ed.)> History of Psychology in 
Autobiography, Clark University Press, Worcester, 
Mass., 1932, vol. 2, pp. 378-379. 





it, as far as possible, in terms of nerve currents, 
etc., are describing the same identical process, 
the physiologist in more detail, the psycholo- 
gist with more breadth. The chemist would 
demand still finer analysis than the physiolo- 
gist gives, and the sociologist might wish to in- 
clude the conditioning of the individual in a 
still broader view than is taken by the psy- 

Woodworth realized that in order to un- 
derstand the individual we must study him 
as a whole person ( psychology ) and at the 
same time study the physiological proc- 
esses (biology) going on within him. 

In this chapter we shall take up a few 
of the most important topics in the biology 
of psychology. We shall touch, however, 
on only some aspects of the large field 
called physiological psychology, which en- 
compasses much more than we shall have 
time to mention. 


The part of biology that is of greatest 
interest to the psychologist is the anatomy 
and physiology of the nervous system. The 
man in the street will confidently explain 
this relation by saying that "the mind is lo- 
cated in the brain." Is this really the rea- 

son? Most psychologists will reply that, so 
far as scientific psychology is concerned, 
there is no evidence of "mind." How can 
we explain this difference between the 
popular view and the scientific one? The 
solution lies in the definition of the word 

A Definition of Mind. As defined cen- 
turies ago by some philosophers and as 
understood by most people today, "mine!" 
means the place in which thought, reason, 
imagination, and all the other "mental" ac- 
tivities exist, and in this sense it is one of 
the essences mentioned in Chapter 1. Tra- 
ditionally, many other philosophers have 
defined the mind as being made of no ma- 
terial, as needing no space in which to 
exist, and, in a word, as being pure "spirit." 
Such a definition as this is closely related 
to the commonly accepted definition of the 
word "soul." The truth is that philosophers 
have often used the two words "mind" and 
"soul" interchangeably. With this defini- 
tion, mind is legitimately studied in the 
fields of philosophy and theology. Cer- 
tainly such study is valuable to all of us. 
However, it does not come within the 
scope of the science of psychology. 

Psychology the Science of Behavior. Sci- 
ence studies only those aspects of the 
world about us that are observable. It can 
study only things that can be seen, heard, 
smelled, touched, etc., either directly by 
the sense organs or indirectly through such 
instruments as telescopes, microscopes, 
Geiger counters, and cloud chambers. So 
long as psychology (in Greek the word 
psyche means "soul" ) was a branch of phi- 

Figure 9.1. Would this tribal witch doctor he 
likely to make use of any of the facts of 
physiological psychology? Of psychology? 
How would his approach to the control of 
human behavior differ from the scientist's? 
( Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural 



losophy, it could be a study of "mind" de- 
fined as "soul." However, when psychology 
became a natural science in the latter part 
of the nineteenth century, it became ap- 
parent that a new word was needed to ex- 
press what psychology studies. At first, the 
word "consciousness" replaced the word 
"mind," and it in turn was replaced by the 
word "behavior." 

Most psychologists today define psychol- 
ogy ( as we do in Chapter 1 ) as the science 
that studies behavior. Behavior is defined 
as what the organism does; all the act'Vi- 
ties of the organism that are directly or in- 
directly observable are legitimately admit- 
ted for scientific study. This is why the 
scientific psychologist says that in his sci- 
ence there is no such word as "mind." 
However, the psychologist most assuredly 
does study the various "mental" activities 
such as thinking, reasoning, imagining, and 
feeling, because these activities can be ob- 
served either directly or indirectly in the 
behavior of the individual. Also, through 
introspection each of us knows some of 
our own mental activities, which we can 
report to others. 

At this point, the conclusion of the lay- 
man is that, if not the mind, then at least 
all mental activity must be identified with 
the brain. The fact is, however, that mod- 
ern psychology does not try to locate the 
mind anywhere in the body. Rather we say 
that certain bodily activities are correlated 
with our mental activity. It is true that the 
functioning of the brain seems always to 
be involved in such activity, but other 
parts of the body are also involved. 

Neural Correlates of Thinking. Mental 
activity involves not only the brain but 
also those two parts of the nervous system 
responsible for feeding impulses into the 
brain and spinal cord and carrying im- 
pulses out from them: 

1. A sensory nervous network brings in- 
formation to the central nervous system 
(the brain and spinal cord) by means of 
impulses from the various receptor cells 

throughout the body. These receptor cells 
are located in the sense organs: eyes, ears, 
nose, tongue, skin, muscles and joints, etc. 

2. A motor nervous network carries im- 
pulses away from the brain and spinal 
cord, taking these impulses to the muscles 
and glands. These motor impulses cause 
muscles to contract and glands to secrete. 

Mental activity, then, is correlated with 
neural activity in all three of the major 
systems: sensory, central, and motor. Fur- 
thermore, tho sensory system can work 
only if its receptor organs are stimulated 
by things external to themselves (either 
within or outsidt the body ) . Likewise, the 
central system depends upon stimulation 
from sensory channels. At the end of the 
chain is the motor system, which is of the 
utmost importance in the survival of the 
organism and in its adjustment to the en- 

To reiterate, all mental activity must be 
correlated with the activity in all three 
systems. For example, in order for us to 
think, receptor organs must be stimulated 
and must send sensory impulses into the 
brain. The brain must connect and inter- 
connect these impulses, and finally, motor 
impulses must be sent out. These motor 
impulses cause the muscles to contract and 
the glands to secrete. What we call "think- 
ing" is thus correlated with this whole 

The importance of the brain, therefore, 
lies in its function of coordinating nearly 
all body activity and behavior. A main part 
of this work is to classify and store infor- 
mation for future use. To provide a basis 
for understanding the role of the brain in 
behavior, the next several sections of 
this chapter give some of the anatomical 
and physiological facts of the nervous sys- 
tem, including the brain. 


The basic structural unit or building 
block of the nervous system is the neuron 





Figure 9.2. A neuron or nerve 

Figure 9.3. A diagrammatic sketch of 
a reflex arc. 

sensory neuron^ 

from brain 

to brain 

connector neuron 

, spinal cord 



motor neuron 

or nerve cell. The typical nerve cell con- 
sists of several parts. Like all cells, it is 
filled with cytoplasm, which is the living 
material forming the body of the cell. The 
cell is enclosed within a membrane, and it 
contains a nucleus. Like most cells, it has 
certain parts that have become specialized. 
The membrane of the neuron has greater 
irritability and conductivity than that of 
other cells. In addition, each nerve cell has 
long fibers called axons and shorter fibers 
called dendrites which allow the neurons 
to communicate from one part of the body 
to another. Figure 9.2 is a diagrammatic 
sketch of a neuron. 

When a nerve cell is sufficiently stimu- 
lated, a nerve impulse is aroused. This im- 
pulse usually passes down the cell from 
dendrites to cell body to axon. This be- 
ing the case, different neurons bring sen- 
sory impulses into the central nervous sys- 
tem and carry the motor impulses away 
from it. 

The Reflex Arc. The neuron is called the 
structural unit of the nervous system be- 
cause it is the one and only building block 
used to construct all the various parts and 
structures of the total nervous system. A 
functional unit of the nervous system is the 

reflex arc. The reflex arc consists of sensory 
neurons connected in the central nervous 
system with motor neurons through other 
intervening neurons, sometimes called asso- 
ciation neurons. For the sake of simplicity, 
we diagram the reflex arc using the mini- 
mum number of nerve cells one sensory, 
one central, and one motor. Figure 9.3 is a 
sketch of a reflex arc. 

To understand how a reflex arc works, 
let us trace one while looking at Figure 9.3. 
A pin sticks into our skin, slightly injuring 
the dendrite endings of a sensory neuron. 
We can call the pin a stimulus because it 
arouses the sensory neuron to activity. This 
activity takes the form of a neural im- 
pulse carried into the central nervous sys- 
tem where the sensory neuron's axon meets 
the dendrites of an association neuron. 
Such a place, where the axon of one neu- 
ron meets the dendrites of other neurons, 
is called a synapse. At this synapse, the 
dendrites of a central neuron are stimu- 
lated, resulting in another neural impulse. 
This central nerve cell connects with other 
central cells in the spinal cord and brain 
and with a motor neuron, which sends an 
impulse out to the muscle fibers lying near 
the skin, causing them to contract and pull 



the skin away from the pin. By the time a 
number of these peripheral and central 
nerve impulses have occurred, we are con- 
scious of having been stuck by a pin. 

The foregoing example is a simplification 
of what goes on in even the simplest reflex 
arc. In reality, large numbers of sensory, 
central, and motor nerve cells are stimu- 
lated in even a simple "pin-sticking" reflex. 
Moreover, the muscle response in this re- 
flex would consist of the contraction of 
many fibers in many different muscle 
groups. The way we presented it, a pin 
stuck into the skin of our arm would cause 
a slight muscle twitch in the arm, pulling 
the skin away from the pin. We all know 
what does happen: we are stuck with the 
pin and, the next thing we know, the mus- 
cles in the arms, in the legs, and in the 
back and abdomen all contract so that we 
move the whole body away from the pain- 
ful stimulus. At the same time, or imme- 
diately afterward, we are also conscious of 
the fact that we have been stuck by a pin 
and that it hurts. 

Another oversimplification in our exam- 
ple is the implication that a reflex has a 
simple stimulus in this case, the pin. We 
must remember that, at the same time that 
the pin sticks us, a number of other ex- 
ternal and internal stimuli are impinging 
upon various of our sense organs. The re- 
sponse that we give is not to the pin alone 
but to all the concurrent stimuli. We have 
described how we jump and move our 
whole body away from the pin, yet this 
does not invariably happen. If our physi- 
cian had just told us that he had to give 
us a "shot," would we jump and react to 
the needle exactly as before? No, our mus- 
cular responses would be, as they always 
are, those demanded by the total situation 
( including the physician ) and not by just a 
part (the needle) of the stimulus complex. 
Thus we see that we must not take too 
simple a view of the reflex arc. Nearly al- 
ways the stimulus is complex. Activity in 
the central nervous system is vast and var- 

ied, and any particular response involves 
many muscles and glands. 
Conduction of the Nerve Impulse. We 

have had occasion to mention several times 
the nerve impulse that passes over the neu- 
ron. What is this impulse? We can best 
describe it as an electrochemical event in 
the cell itself. (For more information on 
these impulses, see the material on electri- 
cal potentials in nerve fibers on page 174. ) 
When a nerve cell is at rest waiting to re- 
ceive stimulation, it is in a state of chem- 
ical equilibrium. The stimulus is an object 
or state that is capable 01 disturbing this 
equilibrium. Once the cell is stimulated, 
this chemical disturbance travels the length 
of the cell. Thus, a nerve cell (neuron) 
can communicate "information" from one 
of its ends ( dendrites ) to the other ( axon ) . 
An important feature of this chemical reac- 
tion is the production of electrical "side- 
effects" which are capable of acting as a 
stimulus to the dendrites of another neu- 
ron at a synapse. These electrical side-ef- 
fects are produced by the chemical changes 
in the cell (similar to the action of a dry- 
cell battery); they do not pass from one 
cell to another. The "information," how- 
ever, passes from one neuron to another at 
synapses and so reaches all parts of the 
nervous system. 

Whenever anything stimulates a resting 
nerve cell just barely enough to upset the 
equilibrium, we say that the threshold of 
stimulation has been reached. If a stimulus 
is strong enough to reach this threshold of 
the cell, a nerve impulse occurs. However, 
we cannot say, "The stronger the stimulus 
the stronger the impulse." The stimulus is 
nothing more than the "trigger" mechanism 
for the "firing" of the impulse. Because a 
rifle shell has its power ( gun powder ) self- 
contained in the cartridge, the bullet does 
not travel faster or hit harder when we pull 
the rifle trigger quicker and harder. We 
can think of the nerve cell in the same 
way; it has its "power" (its internal chem- 
ical state) self-contained, and its chem- 






The nerve impulse is an electrochemical event in the neuron and its fibers. 
By means of a voltmeter, we are able to record changes in electrical po- 
tential as they occur in the axons and dendrites. In the accompanying fig- 
ure, we see a voltmeter attached to a nerve fiber. 



ions on 

nerve fiber 

In this figure, the fiber is represented as polarized; that is, chemical ions * 
are arranged along the membrane of the fiber with a balance of positive 
ions on the outside and negative ions on the inside. So long as the cell is 
at rest, the state of polarization continues. However, when the fiber is stim- 
ulated to the threshold point, a wave of depolarization sweeps along the 
length of the fiber. Depolarization is a recombination of the positive and 
negative ions. This wave of depolarization is picked up by the voltmeter 
and is what we call the nerve impulse. As soon as the impulse passes along 
the fiber, the ions again separate and the state of polarization is restored. 

The electrical side-effects that accompany depolarization in a fiber (axon) 
of one neuron may act as a stimulus to set off a nerve impulse in a fiber 
(dendrite) of another neuron. 

* Many chemical compounds separate into positive and negative parts when dissolved 
in water or certain other liquids. For example, common table salt (NaCl) breaks into 
positive (+) ions and negative ( ) ions. 

ical reaction depends on internal condi- 
tions, not on the external stimulus. This 
fact is referred to in biology as the all-or- 
none law of the nerve impulse. The law 
states that a stimulus, if it is at or above 
threshold strength, will cause the nerve 
impulse. It further says that the stimulus 
acts only as a "trigger" for the chemical dis- 
turbance in the cell proper and that no 
energy from the stimulus is used by the 

It is true that a stronger stimulus will 
stimulate more individual fibers to have 
impulses. Also, a longer-lasting stimulus 
will cause the same fiber to send impulses 

over and over again. For example, if we 
push a pin into the skin very hard, we 
stimulate a larger number of nerve fibers. 
And if we leave the pin sticking in the 
skin, the fibers will continue to send im- 
pulses for a time. 


Structurally, the nervous system is a com- 
plex combination of many billions of indi- 
vidual neurons. In the human being, by far 
the largest number of these nerve cells are 
found in the brain and spinal cord. The 
other parts of the nervous system contain 



the rest of the cells. For purposes of classi- 
fication, we divide the nervous system into 
these two main divisions: the central nerv- 
ous system, which consists of the brain and 
the spinal cord; and the peripheral nervous 
system, or all the parts that lie outside the 
central system. 

The Peripheral Nervous System. The 
peripheral nervous system is composed of 
two parts: the autonomic nervous system 
(which is discussed in Chapter 4, "Emo- 
tion") and the somatic nervous system. The 
autonomic system is mainly a motor sys- 
tem, supplying impulses to most of the in- 
ternal organs and smooth muscles of the 
body. It is an involuntary system, over 
which we have little conscious control. The 
somatic system is composed of the sensory 
neurons and the motor nerve-cell fibers 
serving the skeletal muscles. On the motor 
side this system is a voluntary one. For 
example, we can move our arms and legs 
as we will. 

In the peripheral system the term nerve 
is used to denote a bundle of nerve-cell 
fibers (axons or dendrites). A nerve is usu- 
ally covered with a white protective sub- 
stance called my elin. Some nerves contain 
primarily sensory fibers and other nerves 
mainly motor axons. A large number of 
nerves are of the mixed variety, containing 
both sensory and motor fibers. 

In the somatic system the sensory nerve- 
cell bodies are collected in ganglia located 
outside the central system. The fibers lead- 
ing to and from these sensory neurons are 
bundled together into nerves. The sensory 
dendrites bring impulses from receptor or- 
gans, while sensory axons send impulses 
into the central nervous system. 

The motor axons of the somatic system 
have their nerve-cell bodies inside the spi- 
nal cord. Thus, only the axons are a part of 
the peripheral system. The rest of the 
motor neuron (cell body and dendrites) is 
a part of the central nervous system. 

The Central Nervous System. As we have 
seen, all the neurons of the brain and spinal 

cord make up the central nervous system. 
These nerve cells connect with each other 
and with the peripheral nerve fibers. Tracts 
or pathways of fibers run between the vari- 
ous levels of the spinal cord and brain. 
These tracts are comparable to the periph- 
eral nerves, even to the extent of the myelin 
covering of the fibers. Because myelin is 
white, nerves or pathways are visually dis- 
tinct. Hence, the term white matter is used 
to refer to the parts of the nervous system 
where fibers predominate. In contrast, 
clumps of nerve-cell bodies appear gray in 
color. Thus, #n 7 matter denotes the parts 
of the nervous system where cell bodies 
are in abundance, such as the ganglia in the 
peripheral and the brain centers in the 
central nervous system. 

In the next section we shall examine in 
some detail the anatomy and functioning 
of the brain. There we shall note a few of 
the more important parts and centers. 


When we use the word "brain," we are 
ordinarily referring to that part of the 
forebrain called the cerebral hemispheres. 
In addition to the forebrain, there are also 
parts called the midbrain and the hind- 
brain. There are a great number of ana- 
tomical parts and areas in the brain, but for 
us it will be enough to consider the cere- 
bral hemispheres, the thalamus and hypo- 
thalamus of the forebrain, and the cerebel- 
lum and the medulla in the hindbrain. 

Figure 9.4 shows a schematic represen- 
tation of the brain. We see in this drawing 
that the spinal cord connects with the 
medulla. This part of the hindbrain is some- 
times called the "bulb" or the "vital knot" 
because it contains the reflex centers for 
such vital functions as breathing and heart- 
beat. Bulbar ("bulb") poliomyelitis is a 
form of the disease in which the virus at- 
tacks the medulla, often resulting in the 
death of the patient or at least necessitat- 
ing an "iron lung" to help him breathe. The 





We have seen that neural activity is accompanied by electrical side-effects. 
One way of studying these electrical phenomena is by recording them 
through electrodes attached to the scalp. When recorded in this way, they 
are popularly called "brain waves." The process of recording these waves 
goes by the long scientific name of e/ecfroencepna/ograp/iy; the record itself 
is an e/ecfroencep/ia/ogram. Fortunately, both are usually abbreviated as 

In an interesting EEG study, Lindsley * recorded and compared the brain 
waves of several hundred subjects, ranging in age from one month to sixty- 
four years. 

He found several types of waves in his subjects. Other experimenters had 
previously recorded these same types but had not made the developmental 
study that Lindsley did. He found a number of changes that occur as age 
increases. For example, the alpha rhythm (wave), which is prominent in 
most EEG records, was not found in children under three months of age. 
However, at four months the alpha waves appear and show greater ampli- 
tude (height) in children than in adults. Occasionally in some recordings, the 
alpha waves temporarily disappear. 

Lindsley gave his subjects intelligence tests and personality inventories 
(see Chapters 17 and 18). He then sought to see what relationship exists 
between such tests and the alpha and other brain waves. He was not able 
to find any significant relationships between the personality measures and 
the EEG records. It is still possible that such relationships exist but have not 
yet been established. We may need more refined instruments and techniques 
than now are available. 

Electroencephalography, however, does have some important uses at the 
present time. For instance, in certain kinds of brain tumors and in most forms 
of epilepsy the diagnosis can be made by examining the brain-wave record. 

* D. B. Lindsley, "Electrical Potentials of the Brain in Children and Adults/' Journal of 
General Psychology, 19:285-306, 1938. 

t^s*j\l^*~^r^^ { j^/\J\j\W^ 

VVWV/V/>AA<^^ fJ^NW^ 

t ^!^^^ %Vw^V^^ 

/V^jws/wv^^ >A-nAM^^ 

H}for\/^r** / ~*s^^ 

Normal EEG. Note regular alpha activity 
(regular 8-10 per second waves) , especially 
in the 2d, 3d, and 4th leads jrom bottom. 


Abnormal EEG. Note the abnormal "spikes" 
and slow waves, visible in all leads. (Courtesy 
New Yorfc University.) 





pituitary gland 

Figure 9.4. This drawing shows the brain pulled apart so that all 
the main parts can be seen. The pituitary gland is not a part of the 
brain although it is closely connected with the hypothalamns both 
anatomically and functionally. The stalk that holds the gland is 
called the infundibulum, and the hypothalamus is just above it: 


spinal cord 


cerebellum is also in the hindbrain and is 
often referred to as the "organ of motor 
coordination/' It is the cerebellum that 
helps to smooth out complex muscular acts. 

The thalamus contains many relay cen- 
ters and neural pathways that connect the 
rest of the nervous system with the cerebral 
cortex (outer layer). In the hypothalamus 
are located the control centers for emotions, 
sleep, activity, temperature, etc. Psycholo- 
gists are most interested in a study of the 
cerebral hemispheres, however, because ac- 
tivity there seems to be correlated with 
much of the coordination of such activities 
as thinking, imagining, and reasoning. 

The cerebral hemispheres are divided for 
study into several lobes: the frontal, the 
parietal, the temporal, and the occipital. 
Each of the two hemispheres has all these 
lobes, so this important part of the brain 
exists in duplicate. Figure 9.5 shows these 
lobes and also the location of some impor- 
tant centers. 

Some Important Cerebral Centers. In 
the frontal lobes is an area containing the 
control centers for voluntary motor (mus- 
cle) activity. When we want to raise our 
arm, for example, it is activity in this area 
that is correlated with the initiation of this 
action. In the parietal lobe is located the 

somcsthetic or "body-sense" area. It is this 
area that receives the impulses bringing in- 
formation of sensory stimulation through- 
out the body, including pain receptors in 
the skin and other parts of the body and the 
kinesthetic or "movement" sense receptors 
in the muscles and joints. 

In the occipital lobe we find the primanj 
visual center and next to it an association 
area for visual recognition. Adjacent to this 
area is the visual reading association area, 
which coordinates reading activity. An as- 
sociation area is one that does not send or 
receive impulses directly to or from the 
peripheral parts of the body; its function is 
to integrate and coordinate such impulses 
as they are received by the primary areas. 
This visual recognition area is involved 
whenever visual cues are used to recognize 
a person or object. 

Notice that, like the visual areas, side by 
side are the primary somesthetic area and 
the tactual recognition area, which is also 
an association area. We have seen that the 
somesthetic area is the "body-sense" area. 
The tactual recognition area works with 
the somesthetic and allows us to recognize 
what we touch. Note likewise that next to 
the primary motor area is the motor writ- 
ing area, an association one; also near the 



motor area 
"writing" area 

frontal lobe" 

"body-sense" area 
(primary somesthetic) 

motor speech 

temporal lobe 

parietal lobe 

tactual recognition 
'area (assoc.) 

reading association 

\visual recognition 

visual area (primary) 
occipital lobe 

Figure 9.5. Side view of cortex. 

primary motor area is the association area 
for speech. The first of these controls hand- 
writing and the other controls oral speech. 

In addition to the many primary and as- 
sociation areas (only a few of which we 
show in Figure 9.5), there are many so- 
called "silent" areas in the cerebral hemi- 
spheres. These areas are supposed to be 
used for a general integration and coordi- 
nation of behavior. Unfortunately, not 
enough is known about these silent areas. 
Since all the areas we have briefly pointed 
out need to be studied much more inten- 
sively, it behooves us to remember that we 
are here noting progress on the frontier of 
physiological psychology. In the near fu- 
ture we may hear of discoveries that change 
somewhat the present picture. 

Sometimes an injury to one of these spe- 
cific primary or association areas is followed 
by a specific loss of function. For example, 
if the motor speech area is destroyed, the 
patient will have most of his other mental 
and physical abilities but will no longer be 
able to speak. A fuller treatment of these 
specific losses of function can be found in 
an advanced textbook on the subject. 2 

Most often, injuries to the brain involve 

2 C. T. Morgan and E. Stellar, Physiological 
Psychology, 2d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950, 
chap. 24. 

parts of several adjacent areas. In these 
cases we do not see clear-cut loss of a spe- 
cific function. However, impairment may 
be shown in some broad area of behavior, 
such as learning. For example, in rats a cor- 
relation has been found between the 
amount of cerebral cortex destroyed and 
difficulty in learning. The human study on 
some effects of brain injury on learning is 
another good example (see page 183). 


In our study of motivation earlier in this 
book, we referred to the process of home- 
ostasis in the body the tendency of the 
body to maintain a biochemical equilibrium. 
In a complex organism like man, the vari- 
ous cells of the body depend upon the 
blood stream as a source of the materials 
needed to maintain the equilibrium. The 
blood stream not only brings the necessary 
chemical substances to the cells but also 
takes away the waste products and un- 
wanted materials. Some writers have re- 
ferred to the blood stream as the "internal 
environment." But in a broader sense every 
cell in the body is an environment for other 

The blood stream and the lymph system 
bathe and connect all the cells in the body 






In Chapter 4, we learned that Lindsley's emotion theory was based on 
neural activation and that the primary activator is the reticular formation. 
Now we shall examine the location and function of this nerve network in the 
central nervous system. 

The reticular activating system (RAS for short) is situated in the central 
portion of the brain stem and is no larger than the little finger. Yet without 
this system we would probably never be conscious of anything, for its task 
is to awaken the cortex of the brain and keep it awake. The RAS accom- 
plishes this task by screening all incoming sensory impulses and acting as a 
general alarm system. No matter which sense organ (eyes, ears, etc.) is in- 
volved, the response is the same the arousal of the cortex. 

Thus, the RAS is a vital part of the nervous system. Injury to it nearly 
always results in a condition of coma, which cannot be remedied unless the 
RAS can be made to function again. Moreover, is might be guessed from our 
discussion of tranquilizers in Chapter 4, anesthetics and sedatives block the 
nerve flow from the RAS to the cortex and do not affect the direct sensory 
flow of impulses. Also, various stimulants enhance the outflow from the 
reticular formation. 

More unexpected is the influence of the RAS on motor nerve impulses. 
Certain reflex action, for example, can be increased or inhibited by RAS 
stimulation. Using the method of electrical stimulation, experiments have 
shown that stimulation of the upper portion of the RAS can exaggerate the 
knee-jerk reflex in a monkey, while stimulation of the lower portion can 
decrease the jerk. 

Information about the RAS is far from complete, for research is no more 
than well under way. Therefore, we must not accept the present findings as 
final or absolute. However, an important contribution to physiological psy- 
chology has already been made, and further contributions appear to be on 
the way. 

and are a part of our internal environment, 
just as the air and everything else surround- 
ing us make up our external or outside en- 
vironment. This internal environment is the 
one in which the physiological regulation 
of homeostasis takes place. Let us look at 
some of these reactions which underlie all 
the behavior that the psychologist studies 
(see also Chapter 3). 

In order to do their jobs in the body, all 
the cells must have fuel to burn. They ob- 
tain this fuel from the blood stream; then, 
through the process called metabolism, they 
use the energy that it supplies. Simply 
stated, the cells take food and oxygen out 
of the blood stream and burn ( oxidize ) the 

food with the oxygen. As a result of this 
oxidation, energy is made available for the 
cell to use and certain waste products are 
returned to the blood stream. 

In order for living cells to function, they 
must have, in addition to ordinary food and 
oxygen, a number of other chemical sub- 
stances. These substances include small 
quantities of certain minerals, vitamins, en- 
zymes, and the various hormones produced 
by the endocrine glands. The action of 
many of these substances is catalytic; that 
is, these chemicals often speed up or slow 
down other chemical reactions without 
themselves being expended. The minerals 
and vitamins must be taken into the body 



cell membrane 

/ nucleus with 

/ I Cytoplasm 

/ / / .surrounding fluids 

' / ' ' ~ t 

from the outside, while the hormones are 
internally produced. 

The Endocrine Glands and Their Hor- 
mones. In the body are many glands, whose 
function is to secrete various substances. 
Some glands pour out their secretion 
through tubes; these are called duct glands. 
Examples are the mammary glands (milk), 
the salivary glands (saliva), and the vari- 
ous glands that secrete digestive juices. 
Other glands secrete their substances ( hor- 
mones) directly into the blood stream; 
these are called ductless glands. 

The study of the action of the hormones 
is important to the psychologist because 
much of human behavior cannot be under- 
stood without taking them into account. 
Figure 9.7 shows the approximate location 
of the various endocrine glands. 

The pituitary. The pituitary gland 3 is 
often called the "master gland" because it 
secretes a number of hormones whose main 
function is to stimulate other endocrine 
glands. The pituitary has a hand in many of 

8 A more recent name for this gland is hypoph- 
ysis. The older name is retained in this book be- 
cause of its greater familiarity. 

Figure 9.6. This sketch illus- 
trates a cell in its fluid envi- 
ronment. Only a few of the 
products exchanged between 
the cell and the fluid are de- 
picted. What are other chemi- 
cals used or discarded by 
living cells? 

the most vital processes of the body; for ex- 
ample, it provides hormones to help the 
ovaries regulate the production and ripen- 
ing of egg cells. 

The pituitary also sends special hormones 
to the thyroid, adrenals, testes, etc., stimu- 
lating these other glands to secrete certain 
hormones of their own. These glands in 
turn pour out secretions that affect the pitu- 
itary. Some years ago it was thought that 
the pituitary controlled only growth. It 
does control growth, and an excess of its 
growth hormone results in giants, while a 
deficit produces midgets. In addition, how- 
ever, it has many other important functions 
that justify our calling it the "master gland." 

The thyroid. The thyroid gland in the 
neck produces a hormone that is necessary 
for proper metabolism. The person who 
has an undersecretion of thyroid hormones 
(hypothyroidism) is likely to be both men- 
tally and physically sluggish. The person 
with too much thyroid secretion (hyper- 
thyroidism) is just the opposite overly ac- 
tive in his behavior. Hypothyroidism is 
often accompanied by a goiter in the neck. 
Goiter is a swelling of the thyroid gland 





Figure 9.7. 

occasioned by the gland's overworking to 
secrete enough hormones. A lack of iodine 
in the diet is a contributing factor in many 

In children, the effects of hypothyroid- 
isin can be serious. An infant who is se- 
verely hypothyroicl from birth onward de- 
velops as a feeble-minded child, known as 
a cretin. Fortunately, we can now partially 
correct hypothyroidism by daily adminis- 
tration of thyroid extract and thereby over- 
come to a considerable extent the deleteri- 
ous effects of the deficiency. 

The adrenals. On the kidneys are located 
the adrenal glands, which produce a num- 
ber of hormones, including adrenalin, the 
uses of which are discussed in the chapter 
on emotions. The other hormones, which 
include cortisone, seem to be necessary if 
the organism is to respond successfully to 
stressful situations. They are used by physi- 
cians in the treatment of rheumatoid ar- 
thritis, a disease that causes the joints of the 
body to become stiff and useless. 

Other glands. Adjacent to the thyroid 
gland are the parathyroids, which secrete a 

substance controlling the balance of various 
minerals in the blood stream. If this balance 
is not maintained, the organism cannot sur- 
vive for long. 

A part of the pancreas produces insulin, 
which is needed in the regulation of blood 
sugar by the cells. Inability of the pancreas 
to produce enough insulin causes the dis- 
ease known as sugar diabetes. The gonads 
ovaries in the female, testes in the male- 
produce hormones controlling the appear- 
ance of the secondary sex characteristics in 
the body, along with primary sexual matu- 
rity. The adolescent boy's changing voice is 
one of the mar|j* changes effected by the 
hormones of the gonads. 

Endocrine imbalance. Several previous 
chapters refer to the influence of hormones 
on human personality. It is true that any 
marked endocrine imbalance is likely to 
affect our total functioning and behavior. 
Moreover, the malfunctioning of a single 
gland can affect certain aspects of our be- 
havior more than others. For example, we 
have seen that hypothyroidism causes men- 
tal and physical sluggishness. However, 
even in these cases of disturbance in a 
single gland, other glands are also involved. 
For instance, in the hypothyroid woman, 
the ovaries are affected and the cycle of 
egg production will be slowed. This mal- 
functioning has both specific and general 
effects on behavior. 

Vitamins and Enzymes. In a single year, 
millions of Americans consume literally 
tons of vitamin pills. Each of them sincerely 
believes that he is greatly improving his 
health. However, if he has not consulted a 
physician about his need for such pills, he 
is very likely to be wasting his time and 
money. In rare cases, he may even be en- 
dangering his health. 

Vitamins are powerful catalysts, essential 
to good health, needed ordinarily in mi- 
nute quantities. According to biochemical 
research, vitamins probably aid other 
chemicals in the body to produce enzymes. 



Figure 9.8. Glandular malfunctioning can pro- 
duce freaks. Which gland is responsible for this 
giant and this midget? Is it possible that more 
than one gland is involved? Could anything 
have been done to prevent their abnormal 
growth? (International News Photos.) 

Enzymes and metabolism. We have ob- 
served the role of some of the hormones in 
the regulation of metabolism. The hor- 
mones probably do their work by partially 
controlling the supply of enzymes in the 
body. The enzymes are specific catalytic 
agents that help regulate each step in the 
biochemical process of metabolism. There- 
fore, a great many different enzymes are 
needed in the metabolic "machinery" of 
the body. Even in a small part of the proc- 
ess, such as the metabolism of sugar in the 
brain, several enzymes are involved. If a 
single one of these enzymes is lacking, the 
consequences are quite serious. 

The importance of a specific enzyme is 
seen in a certain hereditary type of feeble- 
mindedness. 4 This condition results from a 
single defective gene. Because of this gene, 
the enzyme needed to remove phenylpyru- 
vic acid from the brain is missing. Since 
this acid accumulates in brain metabolism, 
failure to remove it prevents the brain from 
functioning normally. 


When Charles Darwin introduced his 
theory of evolution in the middle of the 
nineteenth century, we human beings were 
forced for the first time to view ourselves 
as part of the animal kingdom. We discov- 
ered that by studying the anatomy, physi- 
ology, and the behavior of the lower ani- 
mals we could learn more about ourselves 
as organisms. Out of Darwin's work devel- 
oped the comparative approach. By com- 
paring the development of other animals 
with that of man, we are able to understand 
more fully the function and use of the vari- 
ous parts of our bodies. Also stemming from 
Darwin and similar in approach to com- 
parative biology is comparative psychology 
(often called animal psychology). As com- 
parative psychology has developed, it has 

1 This type of fceble-mindcdncss is known by 
the jawbreaking term phenylpyruvic oligophrenia. 






A recent study * was made of a group of war veterans with various brain 
injuries. All of them had unilateral lesions, i.e., only one of the cerebral 
hemispheres had been injured. Half the group had right-side injuries and 
the other half had lesions in the left side. Some of the men had only one 
cerebral lobe involved, while others had two or three. It was not possible 
to determine the exact brain centers affected in each of the subjects. How- 
ever, this information was not needed, since the object of the study was to 
note the effects of unspecified unilateral brain lesions on the learning of 
a tactual discrimination. 

The subjects learned to distinguish by touch alone six different patterns 
made of metal strips. A control group of veterans without brain injuries 
showed significant and equal amounts of learning for both hands on this 
task. The experimental group was equivalent in learning to the control 
group for the hand on the same side as the brain injury However, for the 
hand opposite the side of the lesion, the subjects showed no significant 
learning or improvement. This was the ca*e regardless of the lobe or lobes 
involved in the injury. 

It has been known for a long time that the main sensory projections from 
each side of the body go to the opposite cerebral hemisphere. Although the 
sensations arising in the fingers project to only a small area of the hemi- 
sphere, injury to any part of this hemisphere interferes with learning. Thus, 
this study emphasizes the importance for learning of the health of the whole 
cerebral hemisphere involved. 

* L. Ghent et al., "Effect of Unilateral Brain Injury in Man on Learning of a Tactual 
Discrimination/' Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 6:478481, 1955. 

kept a close relationship with both com- 
parative anatomy and physiology. We are 
interested not only in comparing behavior 
but also in comparing the biological activi- 
ties correlated with and underlying be- 

Much of the information in this chapter 
was contributed by a working partnership 
of comparative and physiological psycholo- 
gists. It is much easier and safer to study 
the brains and nervous systems of rats than 
those of human beings. Moreover, by using 
the comparative approach, research with 
the rat can be made to shed light on the 
working of the human brain and nervous 
system. Likewise, the study of the endo- 
crine glands in lower animals throws light 
on the endocrine system in man. 

The Team Approach. In order to under- 
stand man best in all his facets, the psy- 

chologist must team up with experts and 
specialists in other fields. The sociologist, 
the biologist, the anthropologist, the chem- 
ist, the physicist, and just about all the 
other natural and social scientists have 
something valuable to contribute to our 
understanding of human behavior. The 
best approach for the psychologist is the 
one that accepts willingly from these dif- 
ferent disciplines the knowledge they have 
accumulated. This constitutes the inter- 
disciplinary or team approach. 

This approach has resulted in the forma- 
tion of a number of special sciences that 
have developed to fill the gaps between the 
old traditional limits of the sciences. Ex- 
amples of these new sciences are biochem- 
istry, biophysics, social psychology, physio- 
logical psychology, and physical chemistry. 
Basic to our understanding of the biology 






We see in Chapter 6 that the psychoses are divided into two groups the 
organic and the functional. The organic psychoses are characterized by some 
neural or chemical disturbance within the body, while the functional psy- 
choses are supposed to be produced by environmental stress. In recent years 
evidence has been found to indicate that some of the psychoses classified as 
functional might be placed more appropriately in the organic category. Of 
interest are a number of experiments in which psychotic symptoms are in- 
duced in normal subjects by the administration of certain chemicals. 

From left to right: The first 
two sketches were drawn btj 
subject before experiment, 
the next two while tinder 
LSD. In describing his feel- 
ings to experimenter, subject 
said: "I'm up in the uni- 
verse . . . 1 talk to a person 
and their iace escapes away" 

A series of such experiments has been in progress at the Boston Psycho- 
pathic Hospital since 1949.* The chemical used in this research is prepared 
from a fungus that grows on rye and is called LSD (short for d-lysergic acid 
diethylamide tartrate). Through the years more than 100 healthy subjects 
have been given this drug and their resulting symptoms observed and re- 

* Six Staff Members of Boston Psychopathic Hospital, "Experimental Psychoses/' Scien- 
tific American, 192 (6):34-39, June, 1955. 

of psychology is some knowledge of these 
special sciences. Of particular value, how- 
ever, are the sciences of biophysics and 
biochemistry, which are contributing facts 
about the mechanism of the nerve impulse, 
the chemistry of homeostasis, etc. 


A great many years must pass before bi- 
ologists and psychologists will have gath- 
ered enough facts to let us say that we 
know the biological correlates of complex 
behavior, For instance, at the present time 
we can only guess at exactly what goes on 
in the brain when we think. How the cen- 
tral nervous system classifies and retains in- 
formation is another mystery. We do not 

have enough data yet to explain the "physi- 
ology" of memory. And so it is with most 
of the other mental and physical aspects 
of behavior. We are sure that physiology 
and behavior correlate, but we cannot yet 
say exactly how. 

Psychology must work closely with biol- 
ogy, for the "person" that psychology stud- 
ies is also the person whose organs are 
studied by the biologist. A person with a 
weak heart is a different person because of 
that weakness. A living, pumping, heart is 
part of a person and is vitally affected by 
changes in his over-all functioning. As facts 
accumulate we shall know this relationship 
better. The result will be a rewarding in- 
crease in our understanding of human be- 



When given a standard dose of LSD, a normal person shows both physical 
and mental effects which last for six hours. There is a muscular tremor, 
restlessness, sweating, weakness, and sensations of hot and cold. These 
physical symptoms begin within the first hour and persist without much 
change during the whole experimental period. Of more importance, however, 
are the mental symptoms, which show a definite progression. 

During the first hour, the normal responses to stress are shown anxiety, 
apprehension, irritation, and hostility. The first truly psychotic symptoms 
appear in the second hour. The subject becomes confused and apathetic and 
gradually loses touch with reality. Everything seems strange and different, 
and he may experience visual hallucinations. He laughs and smiles without 
provocation, even while feeling depressed. His emotions are shallow and 
unreal. The subject has great difficulty communicating with others; he can- 
not find words to express his new and startling experiences. By the fourth 
hour the psychotic symptoms begin to disappear, and by the sixth hour only 
the initial symptoms of irritation, anxiety, and hostility are present. After 
a time the effects of the drug are completely dissipated and the subject is 
again normal. 

In the accompanying figure are drawings made by a male subject before 
and during an LSD experiment. Such drawings are very similar to those pro- 
duced by schizophrenic and other psychotic hospital patients. 

These and other experiments being performed at the present time may 
force us to reclassify several of the ''functional" psychoses as organic. Thus, 
joint work in medicine and physiological psychology enables us to gain a 
new and better picture of some of the behavior disorders. 

Top picture wan drawn by 
subject to sliow that his head 
was most important part of 
self. One minute later drew 
bottom picture to show his 
hand had become biggest 
part. The investigator then 
asked: "What about your 
feet?" Subject replied: "Feet 
are not important. They are 
pretty pedestrian. 9 ' 


There is a biology of psychology just as 
there is a chemistry of biology. Although 
these sciences are related, each is distinct 
and has its special contributions to make to 
the understanding of human behavior. 

We cannot say that the mind is the brain, 
nor can we say that the mind is located in 
the brain. What we can say is that there 
are a number of neural correlates of mental 
activity. Whenever we think, feel, or imag- 
ine, there is activity in sensory, central, and 
motor nerve cells. 

The basic structural unit of the nervous 
system is the neuron or nerve cell. One of 

the simplest functional units is the reflex 

The nerve impulse is best described as 
an electrochemical event within the cell 
itself. This impulse occurs when the thresh- 
old of stimulation is reached in the neuron. 

The nervous system is divided into the 
central nervous system and the peripheral 
nervous system. The central system is com- 
posed of the brain and spinal cord, while 
the peripheral system contains all the other 
neural structures of the body. 

When we use the word "brain," we are 
ordinarily referring to that part of the fore- 



brain called the cerebral hemispheres. In 
the lobes of these hemispheres are located 
many brain centers, controlling such activi- 
ties as vision, hearing, speech, and walking. 

The blood and lymph systems of the 
body are sometimes called the internal en- 
vironment because of the important sub- 
stances they carry to all the cells. 

The hormones secreted by the endocrine 
glands are vital components of the internal 
environment. Hormones act as catalytic 
agents in various biochemical reactions. Ex- 
amples of endocrine glands are the pitu- 
itary, the thyroid, the adrenals, and the 
gonads. Their hormones help regulate such 
bodily activities as growth, metabolism, 
and reaction to stress. 

Vitamins and enzymes are other essential 
constituents of the internal environment. 
The vitamins help in the production of en- 
zymes which regulate each step in the proc- 
ess of metabolism. Like hormones, enzymes 
and vitamins are chemical catalysts. 

Charles Darwin introduced the compara- 
tive approach to both biology and psychol- 
ogy. This approach allows us to study 
lower animals in order to understand the 
human organism better. 

The interdisciplinary approach to the 
study of man consists in the cooperation of 
all the sciences, both the natural and the 
social. Because of this approach such sci- 
ences as physiological psychology and bio- 
physics have been developed. 


1. What does Woodworth mean by the terms 
"finer detail" and "finer analysis'? Does he im- 
ply that one type of analysis is better than an- 

2. Why is it incorrect to say that the mind is 
in the brain? 

3. What are the neural correlates of thinking? 

4. Why is the reflex arc called a basic func- 
tional unit of the nervous system? 

5. What is the nerve impulse and how is it 

6. Define the following: neuron, nerve, gan- 
glia, peripheral nervous system, myelin. 

7. Name the main parts of the forebrain, mid- 
brain, and hindbrain. 

8. Explain the function of the following brain 
centers: primary visual area, motor speech 
area, and the somesthetic area. 

9. What is the internal environment and what 
does it contain? 

10. List the endocrine glands and describe the 
functions of each. 

11. Why should psychologists study rats? 

12. What do we mean by the interdisciplinary 


Beach, F.: Hormones and Behavior, Hoeber, 

New York, 1948. 

(An excellent but difficult book concern- 
ing the relationship of the glands and be- 

Gardner, E.: Fundamentals of Neurology, rev. 

ed., Saunders, Philadelphia, 1952. 

(A well-illustrated book on the nervous 
system, covering both structure and func- 

Marcuse, F. L.: Areas of Psychology, Harper, 

New York, 1954, chap. 11. 

(A good short introduction to physiologi- 
cal psychology.) 



Morgan, C. T., and E. Stellar: Physiological (Difficult but authoritative chapters on 

Psychology, 2d ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, the physiology, biophysics, and biochem- 

1950. istry of the nervous system.) 

(A comprehensive textbook on the sub- Wenger, M. A., et al.: Physiological Psychol- 
ject which, however, a beginning student O g y> Holt, New York, 1956. 
without a background in biology may find ( A more elementary approach to physio- 
difficult.) logical psychology than Morgan and 
Stevens, S. S. (ed.): Handbook of Experimen- Stellar.) 
tal Psychology, Wiley, New York, 1951. 



Robert Louis Stevenson said, "The 
world is so full of a number of things." In 
this chapter, we shall learn how we come 
to know of all these things. We shall study 
the several senses that we use to explore 
and learn about the world. We have al- 
ready seen that when we are motivated we 
seek goals. Through our senses, we are able 
to identify and to know these goals. Tn 
order to identify them, we must be able to 
distinguish them from everything else in 
the world. Our senses are the starting point 
for such discrimination. 

Over two thousand years ago the great 
Greek philosopher Aristotle listed what he 
called "our five senses": vision, hearing, 
touch, taste, and smell. To this day, most 
of us still believe that we have only five 
senses. The reason for our error (and Aris- 
totle's ) is the fact that we are not conscious 
of the working of some of our most impor- 
tant senses. For example, the sense of bal- 
ance is essential to walking and moving 
about with reasonable skill. However, since 
the organ for this sense is hidden within the 
bony structure of the skull, we are often 
unaware of it and its operation. We shall 
see too that there are other senses of which 
we are unaware. 


Later in this chapter we shall consider 
the specific uses of the different senses. At 
this point, however, we are concerned with 
the similarities among them. First, all our 
senses are sensitive to stimuli in the envi- 
ronment. Second, for each sense, there is a 
sense organ or receptor in the body con- 
nected by nerve fibers with the central 


nervous system. Third, the functioning or 
working of each sense organ enables us to 
have sensations and perceptions of the 
world around us. Let us consider each of 
these points in detail. 

Stimuli. A stimulus (the plural is stimuli) 
is any physical energy in the environment 
capable of exciting or arousing a receptor. 
We must remember that our total environ- 
ment includes internal conditions as well as 
external ones. Some of our receptors are 
stimulated externally and some internally. 
For example, external light energy stimu- 
lates our eyes, while the internal pressure 
of liquid in semicircular canals in our skulls 
stimulates the sense of balance. External 
stimulation is observed also in sound waves 
exciting the ear, odors reaching the nose, 
liquids stimulating the tongue, and objects 
touching the skin. Internal stimulation oc- 
curs not only in the sense of balance but 
also in the movement or kinesthctic sense, 
which responds to the movement of our 
muscles and joints, and in the organic sensi- 
tivity, which is stimulated by various 
changes inside our abdominal and other 
body cavities. 

Receptors. Each sense has its own sense 
organ or receptor. Some of these organs are 
familiar to everyone the eye, the ear, the 
nose, the tongue, and the skin. Others are 
not so well known the semicircular canals 
(sense of balance), the kinesthetic endings 
in the muscles and joints, and the many un- 
specialized nerve fibers scattered through- 
out the body. In each case, the receptor is 
connected with the central nervous system. 
When the sense organ is stimulated, nerve 
impulses travel from the organ to the spinal 
cord and brain. The brain sorts and dis- 
tributes these incoming impulses, mean- 
while decoding them so that we can learn 
about the world we live in. 

Functioning of the Sense Organs. As our 
sense organs function, we experience sensa- 
tions. For example, redness is a visual sen- 
sation, loudness is an auditory sensation, 

sweetness is a taste sensation, and pun- 
gency is a sensation of smell. We often 
speak of the perception of sensations. By 
"perception" we mean the interpretation of 
what we sense the fitting of our sense data 
into frames of reference. Another way to 
put it is to say that we have sensations of 
lights and sounds and odors, while we per- 
ceive objects such as the moon, a melody, 
and the scent of a rose. 


Now let us look at some of our senses 
in more detail. A good starting place is 
vision. For most of us, vision is the most 
precious of our senses. It is disturbing even 
to think of not being able to see the forms, 
colors, and other sights of the world around 
us. Certainly vision is one of our valuable 
senses; however, we shall learn that some 
of the others are just as valuable and may 
be even more important. 

Figure 10.1. Since the lamp hulk produces 
light, it is seen directly as a luminous object. 
On the other hand t the flowers, vase, table, and 
all other nonluminous objects are seen by re- 
flected light. In this illustration the light bulb 
is the source of the reflected light. 



Figure 10.2. White light is composed of a num- 
ber of different wavelengths of light. Each of 
these wavelengths is perceived as a different 
color (hue). When a beam of white light is 
put through a prism, it is separated into its 
component wavelengths, forming a "rainbow" 
of hues. An actual rainbow in the sky is formed 
by sunlight passing through raindrops, which 
act as prisms. In both cases, the order of the 
hues is the same. (Morgan, Introduction to 
Psychology, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956, 
p. 451. By permission of the publisher.) 

The Stimulus for Vision. Light rays are 
the external stimuli for vision. We can see 
directly any object which emits light, such 
as the sun or an incandescent light bulb. All 
other objects are seen by reflected light. 
For example, we see the moon at night be- 
cause its surface reflects light from the sun. 
We see this book because it reflects light 
from some source to our eyes, but we see 
the flame of a match directly. Figure 10.1 
shows these two ways of receiving light 

Visible white light, such as that emitted 
by the sun, is composed of a number of dif- 

ferent wavelengths. Each of these wave- 
lengths is seen as a distinct color or hue. 
This can be demonstrated by sending light 
through a glass prism, thereby breaking it 
up into its component wavelengths and 
forming a "rainbow." Figure 10.2 shows this 
phenomenon. It is interesting to note that 
drops of water in the atmosphere can act as 
prisms and thus form the "real" rainbow in 
the sky. In both cases, the colors are always 
in the same order: violet, blue, green, yel- 
low, orange, and red. 

These visible wavelengths are a part of a 
series of electromagnetic waves that range 
from X rays and ultraviolet rays, which are 
shorter, to infrared rays and the various 
radio waves, which are longer. We might 
say that our eyes are tuned to be sensitive 
to the same kind of wavelengths as are our 
radios and television sets. One way these 
wavelengths are measured by physicists is 
in terms of millimicrons. A millimicron is 
defined as a length or distance equal to a 
billionth of a meter. The spectrum of light 
that we see stretches from 390 millimicrons 
(violet) to 760 millimicrons (red). 

The Eye. The receptor or sense organ for 
vision is, quite obviously, the eye. Our eyes 
are ball-shaped and are set into sockets in 
the head, with only a small part visible. 
Both the structure and the functioning of 
the eye have been compared to those of 
a camera. In Figure 10.3 we see that both 
eye and camera have an opening (pupil of 
the eye, aperture of the camera) which 
admits light, a lens which focuses light, 
and a back wall upon which the light image 
is cast (retina of the eye, film of the cam- 

However, we must realize that there are 
as many differences as there are similarities 
between our eye and a camera. The dif- 
ferences between the two are disclosed only 
when we examine them in some detail. The 
camera is filled with air; the eye, with 
liquids called the aqueous and vitreous 
humors. The iris muscles which form the 



suspensory ligament 

vitreous humor 


optic nerve 


Figure 10.3. The parts of the human eye have been labeled. What are the 
comparable parts of the camera? Are there structures in the cue that have no 
counterpart in the camera? In what ways are the eye and the camera similar? 
In what respects are they different? Which is more efficient, the eye or an 
expensive camera? 

pupil are controlled by the amount of light 
on the retina, while the camera aperture is 
manually set. The lens of the camera is 
made of several glass elements, and focus- 
ing is a matter of moving the lens nearer 
to or farther from the film. The lens of the 
eye is a transparent bag filled with a half- 
fluid, half-solid crystalline substance; light 
is focused on the retina by changes in the 
shape of the lens. Incidentally, the finest 
camera lenses are much better in resolving 
power than the lens of the eye. But over- 
all, the eye is better than the best camera, 
with the superiority lying in the excellence 

of the retina over the best film. Composed 
as it is of living cells, the retina not only is 
very sensitive to light but also is capable of 
continuous operation throughout our wak- 
ing hours. A piece of film can take only one 
picture; the retina can record thousands 
upon thousands of images and still be ready 
for another. 

Rods and cones. Viewing the retina 
through a microscope, we discover that its 
sensitive cells are the millions of rods and 
cones. Although they are named for their 
appearance, rods and cones are now de- 
fined in terms of their function. The cones 



light A^rrrr 


ganglion cells bipolar cells 

all face 
to the rear 


Figure 10.4. Light entering the eye is focused on the retina. To reach 
the rods and cones, the light must filter through a mass of neural and 
vascular tissues. Yet the rods and cones are very sensitive to even small 
amounts of light. A light stimulus causes a photochemical response in 
the rods and cones that sets off nerve impulses that travel through 
the bipolar cells to the ganglion cells. The long fibers (axons) of the 
ganglion cells leave the retina and form the optic nerve, which goes 
directly to the visual centers in the brain. 

are sensitive to the various different wave- 
lengths and are used in color vision. They 
are closely packed in the fovca, which is 
the central area of the retina. For this rea- 
son, and because they have a better con- 
nection to the brain, the cones are used for 
detailed vision and for most daylight see- 
ing. The rods are more numerous and more 
sensitive to light than the cones, but they 
are not centrally located nor do they have 
a one-to-one connection to the brain as the 
cones often do. The rods are used for twi- 
light or dim-light viewing and are not sensi- 
tive to colors; they "see" everything in 
terms of white, black, and gray (see Fig- 
ure 10.4). 

Functioning of the Eye. Light enters the 
eye and is focused upon the retina, where 
the rods and cones are stimulated by it. 

The rods and cones have a chemical com- 
position which changes when stimulated 
by light. This change trips off nerve im- 
pulses which travel to the brain. When the 
visual centers in the brain are stimulated, 
we become aware of such sensations as 
light, color, and form. We then perceive 
these sensations as objects in our environ- 
ment. In this way we see the world. 

Visual Acuity. Our eye is well con- 
structed to pick out and differentiate many 
of the details of objects around us. It pos- 
sesses excellent acuitij; that is, we are able 
to see clearly and distinctly objects that are 
quite small. Furthermore, we can rank 
these small objects according to their rela- 
tive size and can separate them as to shape 
or form. 

In Figure 10.5 we see a Snellen-type eye 



chart which is used to test visual acuity. 
Many people have been tested on this chart, 
so we know what the normal or average eye 
should see at a given distance. We also dis- 
cover that some eyes are better than the 
average and some are worse. Usually the 
subject is asked to stand 20 feet away from 
the chart and read it. If he is able to read 
what the average person can read at 20 
feet, he is rated as 20/20 in acuity. If at 20 
feet he can read only what the average per- 
son is still able to read at 200 feet, he is 
rated 20/200, which indicates that he has 
relatively poor acuity. If, on the other hand, 
he is able to read at 20 feet what the aver- 
age eye can read only at 10 feet, he has 
above-average acuity and is rated 20/10. 

In order for us to sec an object, it must 
stand out from or contrast with its back- 
ground. Also it must be sufficiently illumi- 
nated. For example, the Snellen eye chart 
has black letters which contrast greatly 
with the white background when properly 
lighted. In a darkroom from which all light 
is excluded, we should not be able to see 
either the letters or the background. Or, 
were we to fill in the background with the 
same black ink used in the letters, we 
should see only a solid black chart even 
under the strongest spotlight. 

Sensitivity to Light. Sometimes it comes 
as a surprise to us to realize that there can 
be light in our surroundings which is too 
dim to be seen. The physicist can prove this 
fact by using a very sensitive photometer 
(light meter). We must therefore deter- 
mine exactly how little light must strike the 
retina in order for us to be aware of it. This 
lowest level of stimulation is called the 
absolute threshold of light sensitivity. The 
absolute threshold is the amount of light 
that we are barely aware of. 

It is also of value, sometimes, to deter- 
mine the differential threshold of light sen- 
sitivity. This threshold is the smallest de- 
tectable difference between two lights, If 
the difference is below threshold, the two 

lights will appear to be equal in brightness. 
We determine the differential threshold in 
much the same way as we do the absolute 
threshold. The value of the differential 
threshold is sometimes called the j.n.d., 
which means the " just noticeable differ- 
ence." The size of such a difference is rela- 
tive to the intensity of the two stimuli be- 
ing compared. We can distinguish a smaller 
difference in illumination between two rela- 
tively dim lights than between two bright 

It was discovered nearly a hundred years 
ago that the ratio of the j.n.d. to the level 
of the stimulus intensity is a relatively con- 
stant fraction. For example, if we are barely 
able to notice the difference between the 
brightness of a 100-watt light and a 101- 
watt light, our j.n.d. is 1 watt and our ratio 
is 1:100. We then discover that we can 
barely tell the difference between a 200- 
watt light and one of 202 watts; again, the 
ratio is 2:200 or 1:100. Similarly, we find 
that we can tell the difference between a 
light of 25 watts and one of 25 %, between 
one of 400 and of 404, etc. In each case the 

Figure 10.5. A Snellen-type eye 



p L C TDB 

a T o > e x. r 

s. T t> 



ratio of the j.n.d. to the stimulus intensity 
is 1 : 100. If we were to continue, we should 
find^that this fraction holds for most com- 
parisons except those between very dim 
lights and those between very bright lights. 

This principle is called the Weber-Fech- 
ner law and is named in honor of the two 
men who discovered it and perfected its 
use. We should note that it holds fairly 
well not only for vision but also for hearing 
and all the other senses. However, each of 
the several senses has a different fraction. 

Seeing Color. For most of us the world 
of color is both beautiful and useful. Colors 
are useful in allowing us better to distin- 
guish and identify the many objects around 
us. At the same time, most of us derive some 
esthetic satisfaction from the harmonious 
combination of colors, as experienced in art 
or in nature. Psychologists recognize and 
study three aspects of what we ordinarily 
call "color": hue, saturation, and brightness. 

Hue refers to the distinctive quality of 
the color, as red, blue, green, or yellow. 
We have seen that the experience of hue 
corresponds closely with the wavelength 
of light striking the retina. A "red" ball, for 
example, is one which reflects a light of 
about 650 millimicrons into our eyes. The 
redness, therefore, is in our experiencing 
this reflection, not in the ball. The ball itself 
is not red; it simply has certain absorption 
properties that allow it to reflect light of 
specific wavelengths. If we look at the ball 
under a light that does not contain any of 
the wavelengths above 650, we shall dis- 
cover that the ball does not look red any 
longer. Under a sodium vapor lamp, such 
as those yellow lamps used at highway in- 
tersections, the ball looks brown. 

Saturation is the amount of the color or 
hue that is present in proportion to the gray 
or white present. A completely saturated 
color is one that has the maximum amount 
of the hue. A red red is one that is highly 
saturated. This same hue of red may be 
seen relatively unsaturated in a light pink. 

Brightness refers to the relative light- 
ness or darkness of the stimulus. Bright- 
ness is determined by comparing the light- 
ness or darkness of the color with a gray 
that has the same darkness or lightness. 
Sometimes we speak of the grays, which 
run from white to black, as the achromatic 
series, meaning that they do not have hue. 

Color Blindness. Fortunately, very few 
people are totally color-blind. However, 
about 4 per cent of the population has 
some measurable degree of color weakness. 
We refer to them as partially color-blind. 
These people, it is thought, have cones 
that are in some way different from those 
of most of us. They are able to see many 
colors (hues) but are not able to see and 
distinguish all that we do. 

Not all the partially color-blind have the 
same defect. Some see all the hues that 
the normal person does with the exception 
of very light pinks, greens, tans, and 
browns, which are confused. These people 
are known as the anomalous color-weak. A 
fairly large group are known as dichromats, 
because their color vision is limited to only 
two hues. In most cases, the hues are blue 
and yellow, and the various shades or tints 
of these two. They tend to confuse the vari- 
ous reds and greens and traditionally have 
been known as the "red-green color-blind." 
Some of them also have difficulty in telling 
the brightness of the various reds. A rela- 
tively small group of dichromats have 
trouble with blue also. 

Seeing in Three Dimensions. Since our 
retina is a two-dimensional surface and 
since we see only what is projected upon 
that surface, how do we see depth, which 
is the third dimension? This question puz- 
zled scientists for many centuries, because 
the answer is quite complex. There are a 
great many cues which we use to see depth. 
Some of the visual cues are called monoc- 
ular (one-eye) and some binocular (two- 
eye). Other cues are not visual at all but 
rather are kinesthetic (muscle-sense) cues. 



Monocular cues are those which allow a 
single eye to see some depth. One of these 
cues is overlap; if one object blocks part 
of the view of another object, the blocked 
object appears to be farther away. Another 
cue is linear perspective; the farther away 
an object is, the smaller will be its image 
on the retina. A midget a block away seems 
even farther away if we mistake him for a 
full-sized man. The reason is that an aver- 
age man would have to be farther away to 
cast the same size image on our retina as 
the midget does at one block. 

There are a number of other monocular 
cues, of which two are haziness and shad- 
ows. We all know that distant mountains 
appear hazy. Thus, if a common object 
cannot be seen clearly, we assume that it 
is farther away than similar objects that 

Figure 10.6, In viewing the photograph of 
Paris (left) we perceive a three-dimensional 
or depth effect. What are the cues that we use 
in this perception? Are they primarily monoc- 
ular or binocular cues? (Courtesy of the French 
Government Tourist Office.) 

What is the smaller photograph (above) a 
picture of? Turn it over. What cues give us 
the perception of depth? Why do we perceive 
the picture differently when the photograph is 
held upside down? (Courtesy of the American 
Museum of Natural History.) 

appear clear. Shadows make an object ap- 
pear to have depth. 

Artists must be very skillful in the use of 
shadows and all the other monocular cues. 
After all, a sketch or painting has only two 
dimensions but must give the appearance 
of three. How many of these cues are il- 
lustrated in Figure 10.6? 

Binocular cues are those that arise in 
looking at the same object with both eyes 
at once. Each of our eyes views the object 
from a slightly different angle. Therefore, 
the image of this object on the retina is 
slightly different for the two eyes. We call 
this cue retinal disparity. The famous 
painter Leonardo da Vinci was the first 
person to diagram this effect, and his dia- 
gram, given in Figure 10,7, is still a good 
way of portraying the situation. Although 



each eye does not see a part of the back- 
ground, together they see it all. The im- 
pression is that we see around the ball; 
hence, it appears to have roundness or 
depth. With only a little help from the 
monocular cues and other binocular cues, 
retinal disparity adds the third dimension 
to what we see. 

Kincsthetic cues come from the muscles 
that control the eyes. One such cue comes 
from the muscle that pulls the ligaments 
attached to the lens of the eye; this cue is 
called accommodation. To view objects 
closer than 20 feet, our lens must change 
shape. Thus, it is entirely possible that we 
get some assistance in perceiving depth 
from the movement sense organ in the 
muscle that pulls the lens. 

Figure 10.7. The famous Renaissance painter Leo- 
nardo da Vinci was the first person to diagram bin- 
ocular vision and thus to show, in part, how the 
effect of the third dimension is given. The two eyes 
are focused on the object. Both left and right eyes 
can see everything from A to F except what is 
blocked by the object. Yet, the left eye can see what 
the right eye cannot, i.e., B to C. Together the two 
eyes can see around the object, taking in almost the 
whole background from A to F. 

what the right eye sees 

what the left eye sees 

Convergence is another possible cue for 
seeing depth. In convergence it is the mus- 
cles that move the two eyes in together 
which aid us in seeing the third dimension. 
To see an object nearer than 25 yards, our 
two eyes must move in and converge on 
the object. Beyond 25 yards the lines of 
sight of our two eyes are virtually parallel 
and no further cues are possible. 


A totally blind person may still partici- 
pate normally in most social and business 
conversations. But a totally deaf person, 
even if he reads lips quite well, is at a loss 
in trying to follow a conversation with 
more than one or two persons. We shall 
now examine in some detail the sense of 
hearing or audition, as it is more techni- 
cally termed. 

The Stimulus for Hearing. Mechanical 
disturbance can cause the molecules in 
solids, liquids, and gases to vibrate. These 
vibrations can be felt or seen in the shak- 
ing of our automobiles or steam pipes or 
in the circular waves set up when a pebble 
is thrown into the water of a placid lake. 
These mechanical vibrations can range in 
frequency from less than 1 per second to 
millions per second. When the frequency 
is between about 20 and 20,000 per second, 
we can hear the vibrations as sounds if 
they reach our ears. 

The vibrations we hear are usually in 
the form of wave motion in the air. Most 
sounds have very complex wave motions. 
However, it has been discovered that these 
complex waves can be analyzed or broken 
down into a number of simple sine waves. 
A simple sine wave is a pure tone, such as 
the tone of a tuning fork. The wave shown 
in part A of Figure 10.8 is a typical sine 
wave. Each hill and valley, taken together, 
form what is called a cycle. The frequency 
of a sine wave is the number of these cy- 
cles of vibrations that occur in 1 second. 



The height of the hills and the depth 
of the valleys are related to the amount of 
force or pressure in the wave. In fact, the 
physical energy or intensity of a sound 
wave is simply the amount of the pressure 
squared. To understand any sound wave, 
we must know its frequency and its in- 

In this day of jets and rockets, most of 
us have come to know the velocity or speed 
of sound in air; at sea level it is about 760 
miles per hour, or 1,100 feet per second. 
Sound waves travel about four times as 
fast in water and about ten times as fast 
in steel. 

The Ear. Our ear is divided into three 
parts: the external ear, the middle car, and 
the inner ear. The only visible part is the 

external car or pinna. In man, the pinna 
has little to do with hearing, though it is 
useful as a knob to hook our glasses on. In 
addition to the pinna, the external ear con- 
tains the external auditory canal. This canal 
funnels sound waves from the pinna to the 
eardrum, or tympanum. The tympanum is 
a membrane which separates the external 
ear from the middle ear. 

In the middle ear are three small bones 
called the ossicles. When the eardrum vi- 
brates, the ossicles vibrate and allow the 
sound waves to enter the oval window. 
This window consists of a membrane in 
the bone of the head and separates the 
middle ear from the inner ear. 

The inner ear is encased in the cochlea, 
which is a spiralcd bony structure. The 

Figure 10.8. (A) A tuning fork 
produces a relatively simple 
sound wave, sometimes called a 
sine wave. (B) and (C) Several 
tuning forks struck at the same 
time will form a more complex 
sound wave. (D) A simple mu- 
sical instrument like a flute pro- 
duces a sound wave that is not 
too complex, while a note played 
on a clarinet (E) is quite com- 
plex, yet both instruments pro- 
duce a regular wave that is 
composed of a fundamental sine 
wave to which several overtones 
are added. The clarinet adds 
more overtones than does the 
flute. If we had a large enough 
set of tuning forks, we could 
reproduce or duplicate the tones 
of both these and other musical 
instruments by combining sev- 
eral sine waves. 



word "cochlea" means "snail shell" and this 
organ bears a marked resemblance to one. 
The cochlea is filled with fluid and contains 
a number of structures. Those of impor- 
tance to us are the basilar membrane and 
the organ of Corti. On the organ of Corti 
are many little hair cells. When stimulated 
by sound waves, these hair cells set up 
nerve impulses which travel in the auditory 
nerve to the brain. 

Functioning of the Ear. Thus we see that 
sound waves travel through the air to the 
head where they are collected by the pinna 
and funnel down the external auditory 
canal. Arriving at the eardrum, the sound 
travels through it and through the ossicles 
to the oval window. As the sound waves 
enter the cochlea, the fluid begins to vi- 
brate and in turn the various structures vi- 
brate. When the vibrations reach the basi- 
lar membrane and the organ of Corti, they 
set in motion the hair cells, thus arousing 
nerve impulses which travel to the brain. 
It is at this point that we hear the sound. 

Pitch and Loudness. We have already 
noted that, for our purposes, the two im- 
portant physical aspects of sound are fre- 
quency and intensity. Related to, but not 
identical with, these physical dimensions 
are two psychological aspects of hearing, 

semicircular canals 
eardrum cochlea 

to brain 

oinna x ' erna ' ouxlitory 

malleus 1 stapes 
. incus . 

eustachian tube 


Figure 10.9. 

loudness and pitch. Pitch varies mainly 
with the frequency or cycles per second of 
the tone, but it also varies to a small extent 
with the intensity or energy of the tone. 
For example, the highest note on the piano 
has a frequency of over 4,000 cycles per 
second, while the lowest note has about 
30. If a high note is made very intense, it 
seems a little higher in pitch, although the 
frequency remains the same. On the other 
hand, a low note sounds lower in pitch if 
its intensity is increased. 

Loudness, as we all know, varies most 
with the intensity of a sound, but it is also 
affected by changes in frequency. Thus we 
can say that both loudness and pitch are 
functions of both intensity and frequency. 1 
The following illustration will help empha- 
size the fact that loudness is a psycholog- 
ical aspect of hearing. 

If we sit in the middle of a large audi- 
torium and listen to an orchestra that 
sounds comfortably loud, we can deter- 
mine with a sound-pressure meter the ex- 
act physical intensities of the music from 
moment to moment. On returning home, 
if we play a tape recording of this orches- 
tra in our living room and tune it in to 
sound exactly as loud as it did in the audi- 
torium, we shall be surprised to discover 
on the sound-pressure meter that we have 
much less intensity than we did in the au- 
ditorium. If we turn up the sound until the 
physical intensity is the same as it was in 
the auditorium, we shall find the music un- 
pleasantly loud and shall not want to stay 
in the living room with it. The difference 
in surroundings has made a great deal of 
difference in the perceived loudness of a 
particular intensity. 

In hearing, just as in vision, we may de- 
termine our absolute and differential 
thresholds for both pitch and loudness, Fig- 
ure 10.10 pictures a subject making one 
such measurement on an audiometer. This 

!S. S. Stevens and H. Davis, Hearing, Wiley, 
New York, 1947, p. 70. 




3 o 




__ 20 


X 80 



normal hearing 

^*"**^ conduction deafness 
T*"*"^ -*. s* * 


125 250 500 2000 



Figure 10.10. Graph shows three typical audio- 

This boy (right) is having his hearing tested 
on an audiometer. When he hears a tone in 
the earphone he will raise his hand. Tones of 
various frequencies and intensities are used 
in the test. (Black Star.) 

is an instrument for determining our abso- 
lute thresholds of loudness for tones of 
various frequencies. Also in this figure is a 
graph showing three audiomctric records. 
The upper one is for normal hearing. The 
lower record indicates deafness for tones 
of the higher frequencies. The middle one 
shows conduction deafness. 

High-tone deafness ordinarily follows 
injury or disease of the nerve fibers in the 
inner ear. Nerve deafness is very serious, 
because nothing can be done to cure it. 
Conduction deafness results most often 
from some disorder in the middle ear. In 
this condition, sounds are not conducted 
normally through the middle ear. This kind 
of deafness can sometimes be cured by an 
operation and can be partially corrected by 
the wearing of a hearing aid. 

Sound Localization. To a certain extent 
we can tell where a sound comes from by 
listening to it, When a sound comes from 

directly overhead, however, it is extremely 
difficult to locate. Indeed, we tend to con- 
fuse all the sounds that come from directly 
in front of us, directly behind us, or di- 
rectly overhead. That is to say, we tend to 
confuse all sounds in a plane cutting 
through the center of the head exactly be- 
tween the two ears. We can localize best 
of all those sounds located straight out 
from the right or the left ear. 

A number of physical cues are used in 
sound localization. For instance, a sound 
coining from the right side gets to the 
right ear more quickly than to the left 
ear. It also sounds slightly louder in the 
right ear than in the left. Thus, both time 
of arrival and intensity arc useful cues in 
localization. A number of other cues are 
also helpful. 

We use our eyes and ears together to 
locate objects in our environment, Notice 
how disconcerting it is to watch a sound 
motion picture when the loud-speaker is 
off to one side instead of behind or in front 
of the screen. 

There is a piece of apparatus (see Fig- 
ure 10.11) which permits the sounds from 
our right to come into the left ear and the 
sounds from our left to come into the right 



Figure 10.11. This instrument is called a pseucfophone. 
Sounds from each side are heard by the ear on the opposite 
side of the head. What effect will this instrument have on 
the subject's ability to locate the direction from which the 
sound is coming? If he were to wear these earphones for 
several days or weeks, could he learn to locate sounds cor- 

ear. When this pseudophone, as it is called, 
is first put on, we are utterly confused in 
our localization of sounds. After a time, 
however, we become accustomed to the re- 
versal of cues and are able to point out 
correctly the various sound sources. Thus, 
we see that so long as sensory cues are 
consistent, our brains are able to interpret 
the incoming impulses. The impulses from 
each sense organ are like a complex code, 
and the job of the brain is to decode them. 


In reflecting on the senses, people have 
long emphasized the importance of the 
eye and the ear. In this tradition, scien- 
tists have studied these two senses in- 
tensively and have tended to neglect the 
others. For this reason we shall not be 
able to treat the others so fully as we have 
vision and hearing. 

In the introduction we stated that there 
are more senses than the five mentioned by 
Aristotle. In this section we shall look at 
six more senses, bringing our total to eight. 
Many physiologists prefer to distinguish 
and name even more senses than we do 
here. Instead of only five, we have eight 
or more senses, according to how we clas- 
sify them. 

The Sense of Taste. The sense of taste, 
or gustation as it is more technically called, 
is excited by liquids in the mouth. Some 

liquids, such as pure water, have little or 
no taste, while others are extremely ef- 
fective stimuli. No one has yet been able 
to classify all the various chemicals that 
are capable of being taste stimuli. How- 
ever, we do know about certain ones. For 
example, we know that the presence of 
the hydrogen ion in a liquid causes us to 
say that it is sour in taste. Also, as we 
might have suspected, most inorganic salt 
compounds taste salty. On the other hand, 
a large number of different chemicals are 
capable of tasting sweet (sugar, saccha- 
rine, and even some poisons). Bitter, like 
sweet, is a taste produced by a number of 
complex stimuli, although we can say that 
most alkaloids (such as quinine) taste 

The tongue is the sense organ for taste. 
On the tongue are many small holes or de- 
pressions ringed by supporting cells. At the 
bottom of these holes are certain other 
cells that are sensitive to the taste stimuli. 
These taste cells are connected to nerve 
cells, so that when they are stimulated a 
nerve impulse is sent to the brain. (For 
knowledge of what happens when these 
impulses reach the brain, read the study 
on gustatory nerve impulses.) It is only 
when liquids enter these holes that stimu- 
lation can occur. If we dry our tongue 
with a piece of cotton and place a lump 
of dry sugar on the tongue, we find that, 
so long as we keep both tongue and sugar 



One of the most interesting experiments * on taste used a cat as the sub- 
ject. The cat's gustatory (taste) nerve was dissected, and individual fibers 
GUSTATORY NERVE Were i$o ' atec '' Ver Y 8ma " electrodes were then placed on each of these 
IMPULSES nerve fibers. By stimulating various spots on the tongue, the experimenter 
soon discovered which spots were connected with the several isolated fibers. 
This connection was shown in each case by the neural response of the fiber, 
picked up by the electrode. 

Next, each of these spots was stimulated by four substances: a mild acid, 
salt, sugar, and quinine. These stimuli were used to elicit the four basic 
taste qualities: sour, salt, sweet, and bitter. An unexpected finding was that 
all the spots responded to the acid (sour). However, some of these fibers 
fired an impulse to acid only, while others responded to acid and to quinine, 
and still others to acid and to salt. Thus, there were three types of fibers: 
for sour only, for sour and bitter, and for sour and salt. The experimenter 
was unable to find any fibers for sweet. This may mean that the cat is un- 
able to taste sugar or that the experimenter was not lucky enough to isolate 
the right fibers. 

The most important finding in this experiment is the fact that even a 
simple taste quality depends on a pattern of neural discharges and not on 
the response of a single fiber. In the table given below, we see the pat- 
terns determined in this experiment. Presumably, the central nervous system 
must sort out or "decode" these patterns. 

The Three Types of Fibers Found in the Gustatory Nerve of the Cat 


Sour Salt 


Fiber A 


Fiber B 

X X 

Fiber C 



It is likely that this patterning of nerve impulses is a general principle 
in the functioning of all sensory receptors. According to this principle, sensory 
quality does not depend on specific fiber responses but rather on the pattern 
of responses from all active fibers. 

* C. Pfaffmann, "Gustatory Afferent Impulses/' Journal of Cellular and Comparative 
Physiology, 17:243-258, 1941. 

dry, we do not taste anything. If we dis- that are most sensitive to these four tastes, 

solve the sugar in the saliva of the mouth, The tip is most sensitive to sweet and salt, 

then it can be tasted. the sides to sour, the back to bitter, and 

There are only four different qualities the center to none of them. It is ironical to 

of taste: sour, salt, sweet, and bitter. In note that, in the old days of bitter medi- 

Figure 10.12 we see the areas on the tongue cines, the patient was often told to put the 


area most sensitive to bitter 
areas most sensitive to sour 

insensitive area 

area most sensitive to sweet and salt 

Figure 10.12. A human tongue. 

medicine far back on the tongue so that 
he would not taste it! 

We might protest that we taste a lot of 
flavors in addition to the above four tastes. 
The point is that we smell these flavors, 
not taste them. The so-called distinct 
"taste" of vanilla ice cream comes from the 
smell of the vanilla extract. In fact, the 
word "taste" in everyday usage often re- 
fers to more sensations than just that of 
taste. For instance, part of the "taste" of 
celery is the sound of the crunch; part of 
the "taste" of strawberry ice cream is the 
sight of the pink color; and part of the 
"taste" of any ice cream is the feeling of 
cold on the mucous membrane that lines 
the mouth. 

The Sense of Smell The stimuli for the 
sense of smell, or olfaction as it is called, 
are gases that enter the nose. Not all gases 
can be smelled, only those that in some 
way affect the organ of smell, the olfactory 
epithelium. The olfactory epithelium is lo- 
cated in the upper reaches of the nose. As 
we inhale, small eddy currents waft air to 
the epithelium. If it contains an odorous 
gas, certain reactions occur in the cells of 
the epithelium, causing nerve impulses to 
go brainward. Unfortunately, the chemists 
and physiologists have not as yet discov- 
ered the details of this process. Also un- 
fortunate is the fact that we have not been 
able yet to determine the basic qualities 
of smell comparable to the four for taste. 

(For a group of experiments on the basic 
qualities of smell, see the study on the 
classification of odors on pages 204-205.) 

The sense of smell is extremely sensi- 
tive; only a few molecules of gas need en- 
ter the nose to be smelled. This extreme 
sensitivity might be a nuisance if it were 
not for the fact that our sense of smell 
adapts very readily. Adaptation is a proc- 
ess in which a sense organ gradually ceases 
to respond to a constant stimulus. When, 
for example, we first enter a pine forest, 
we find the odor of pine very strong. Within 
a short time, we no longer notice the odor; 
our sense of smell has become adapted. 
All our senses are capable of such adapta- 
tion, but smell is especially so. 

The Skin Senses. The skin, or cutaneous, 
senses are four in number. For this reason, 
many physiologists would insist that we 
have four separate skin senses, not just one. 
Were we to use their classification, we 
should have eleven senses altogether in- 
stead of eight. These four cutaneous senses 
are pressure (touch), pain, warmth, and 
coolness. Aristotle listed all four of these 
under the heading "touch." 

The stimuli for pressure are all those ob- 
jects and forces that depress the skin. These 
stimuli may be solids, liquids, or gases (as 
a strong wind ) . The stimuli for pain are all 
those objects and forces that injure the skin, 
even slightly (pins, fire, chemicals, etc.). 
The stimuli for warmth and coolness are 
objects that are warm or cool, respectively. 
By "warm or cool" we mean warmer or 
cooler than the skin itself. Since the skin 
temperature continually changes with the 
environment, an object of a given tempera- 
ture may feel cool or warm according to 
whether we have been standing by the fire 
or have just come in out of the cold. 

The sense organs for the cutaneous senses 
are very small free nerve endings in the 
skin, or sometimes more specialized struc- 
tures. For pressure, the most common spe- 
cialized structure is a nerve fiber entwined 



The receptors for the four basic skin qualities are not distributed evenly 
over the whole area of the human skin. Explorations * of the skin surface 
have given us the relative concentrations of the several skin receptors in the 
SKIN RECEPTORS variou$ P arts * the body. The skin is explored by using stimuli appropriate 
for the four cutaneous sensations: pressure, pain, warmth, and coolness. 

Thus, the receptors are located indirectly by their correlation with the 
sensitive spots found on the surface of the skin. From a number of studies 
we are able to compile the accompanying table. It is to be noted that pain 

The Number of Sensitive Spots Found in Several Skin Areas of the Body 

Number of spots per square centimeter 

Pain Touch Coolness Warmth 

Inner side of 











Back of hand 










Tip of nose 





spots are most numerous generally in the skin. Next most numerous are the 
pressure spots. A much smaller number of spots for coolness have been 
found, while the least numerous of all are the warmth spots. 

This indirect evidence gives us a good picture of the relative distribution 
of skin receptors. However, direct studies of the skin by means of dissection 
do not always find a receptor for each sensitive spot. This fact can be ex- 
plained, at least in part, by the discovery that simple free nerve endings 
(dendrites) may act as receptors for any of the four qualities. Another find- 
ing that is hard to explain is the fact that the sensitive spots do not seem 
to be stable. A later remapping of the same area gives a slightly different 
distribution of spots. One reason for this finding is the difficulty encountered 
in stimulating a second time exactly the same small spot that was touched 

We may safely conclude, however, that different areas of the skin are 
differentially sensitive to the four basic qualities of pain, pressure, coolness, 
and warmth* 

* E. von Skramlik, "Psychophysiologie der Tastsinne," Arcfciv fur die gesamfe Psychofo- 
gie, Erganzungsbd. 4, 1937. 

in the follicle at the base of a hair. When- off and travel to the spinal cord and brain, 

ever the hair moves, impulses are aroused These receptor organs are not equally dis- 

and sent to the spinal cord and brain. The tributed in the skin. (The report on the dis- 

same is true for the free nerve endings or tribution of skin receptors gives their dif- 

for other specialized structures: when they ferential placement in the skin.) 

are stimulated, nerve impulses are tripped It has often been said that our cutaneous 



Although no final agreement has yet been reached as to the basic quali- 
ties of smell, a number of investigators have studied the problem. One of 
the classic attempts to settle the issue was Henning's * series of experiments 
on the classification of odors. 

Henning's approach was to have subjects smell various substances and .de- 
scribe the similarities and differences among the odors. He used as stimuli 
over 400 different odorous substances. He tested a large number of subjects 
and selected the six who appeared to be the most reliable. Since these six 
could handle only about twenty stimuli a day, the experiment proved to be 
a long one. 

After a while the subjects reached some agreement in classifying the odors 



geranium orange leaves 

oil of roses 

vanilla - 



lemon oil 

ethyl ether 

- frankincense 

>n cedarwood 


into several distinct groups. With Henning's help, the subjects agreed on a 
four-way system of classification. They determined what they believed to be 
the four distinctive odors: fragrant, ethereal, res/nous, and spicy. Then, they 
made an odor square with the four corners corresponding with the above 
four salient odors (FERS). 

* H. Henning, Der Geruch, Barth, Leipzig, Germany, 1924. 

senses are our reality senses. When we feel 
something with our skin, we are convinced 
that it is really there. Which would seem 
more real, an invisible man that we could 
feel with our two hands, or a visible man 
that we could not feel? Most of us would 
agree that the man we could see and could 
not feel would be only an apparition or 
hallucination or maybe "done with mir- 
rors," but not really there. On the other 
hand, the invisible man that we could feel 
would seem real if puzzling. 

Like all our other senses, the skin senses 
contribute to our adjustment to the en- 
vironment. We rely on the skin to help us 
survive in changing temperatures. Our pain 
receptors are sentinels that warn us of 
harmful objects around us. And we have 
seen that what we can feel with our skin 
seems more real to us than nearly anything 
else in the world. 

Kinesthesis. Earlier in this chapter we re- 
ferred to the kinesthetic or movement sense. 
Deep in our muscles and joints are little 



Next, they placed all the substances used in the experiment on the sides 
of the square. For example, between fragrant and ethereal they put gera- 
nium, oil of roses, and orange leaves. In the figure showing the FERS odor 
square, we see other examples of their placement. 

In a later experiment, Henning added two more salient odors (putrid and 
burned) and made what he called the smell prism (see the figure). He now 
believed that all odors could be placed somewhere in this prism. 







Although these experiments are very interesting, later ones have dis- 
agreed somewhat both with the idea of a prism and with what are the 
salient odors. However, no really better system has been devised to replace 
Henning's. We can only hope that in the near future the problem of the 
basic smell qualities will be solved. 

capsules (similar to those in the skin) 
whose function is to respond to the move- 
ment of the muscles or joints. For example, 
when a muscle stretches, one of these re- 
ceptors sends a nerve impulse to the central 
nervous system, though we are seldom 
aware of it. One reason Aristotle did not 
know of this sense is that we are not often 
conscious of its working. 

Information from the kinesthetic sense, 
however, causes us to make various re- 
sponses and muscular adjustments. Indeed, 

if it were not for kinesthetic impulses, we 
could not perform any coordinated actions 
or movements. Coordinated behavior calls 
for a feedback system, which is provided 
by kinesthesis. When a muscle moves, it 
reports in, so to speak, that it has moved. 
Unless the central nervous system has this 
information, it cannot sensibly stop or con- 
tinue the movement of that muscle. 

Walking, for instance, would be impos- 
sible were it not for our kinesthetic feed- 
back. When we started our leg out, either 



it would go too far, so that we should fall, 
or it would not move enough to do us any 
good. If we were completely without kin- 
esthetic sense, we should be helpless, bed- 
ridden invalids. We could not even depend 
upon our vision, for the focusing of our 
eyes depends on the eye muscles, which 
in turn must be coordinated through kines- 
thesis. Fortunately, no person is ever com- 
pletely lacking in kinesthesis. 

The Sense of Balance. Most of us as chil- 
dren had the experience of being twirled 
around and around until we became so 
dizzy that we fell down. What happened 
was that as we accelerated or decelerated 
in our twirling we stimulated some of the 
sense organs of balance (often called the 
vestibular sense organs). Near the cochlea 
( see Figure 10.9 ) in the inner ear are three 
canals called the semicircular canals. In 
these canals is a fluid which moves when- 
ever we turn or rotate our heads. Lining 
these canals are some small hair cells that 
respond with a nerve impulse when the 
fluid pushes against them. These impulses, 
when they reach the central nervous sys- 
tem, participate in maintaining equilibrium. 
In addition to these canals the sense organs 
for balance include two other cavities in 
the bone near the cochlea. These cavities 
are filled with small crystals that respond 
to gravity (the static seme). These recep- 
tors respond to the position or tilt of the 

As with kinesthesis, we are seldom aware 
of our sense of balance. Yet, when some- 
thing disturbs it even momentarily, we are 
handicapped in moving about. For example, 
alcohol may interfere with nerve connec- 
tions in the central nervous system and 
cause a loss of equilibrium. Even after only 
a few drinks we may have an uncomfort- 
able feeling of unsteadiness. Seasickness, 
also, is in part a result of the peculiar mo- 
tions set up in the fluids of these canals 
by the motion of the ship. After all, we 
evolved as an animal that confined its ac- 

tivities more or less to dry land. One of the 
most amazing results of this fact is that 
pilots in a fog sometimes fly their airplanes 
along upside down without knowing it. 
The reason is that once they are upside 
down and the fluid in the semicircular 
canals stops moving, they do not have any 
more impulses and the central nervous sys- 
tem assumes that everything is normal. 
Furthermore, everything they see inside 
the airplane is in proper relation. 

Organic Sensitivity. Throughout our 
bodies, wherever blood vessels go, there 
are free nerve endings that act as receptors. 
Some of these are for pain reception and 
others are for various other kinds of sensa- 
tions. We all know what it means to feel 
nauseated or to have an upset stomach. In 
fact there are a number of different feelings 
that seem to come from inside us. All these 
sensations are grouped together and called 
organic sensitivity. Not much is known 
either about the receptors or about their 
connections in the central nervous system. 


In our discussion of the confusion about 
the use of the word "taste," we noted how 
odors, temperatures, sights, and sounds can 
all contribute to what we commonly call 
taste. This is but one example of the inter- 
relation of our senses. In order for us to ad- 
just to our environments, we need all the 
information we can get. All our sense organs 
send information to the central nervous sys- 
tem, where it is coordinated and used. Be- 
cause we are not conscious that this co- 
ordination is going on, we are able to con- 
centrate on meeting the whole situation 
at hand. 

Perception. As we perceive (interpret) 
sense data we coordinate the working of all 
our senses. For instance, we perceive our 
pet dog not only by sight but also by sound 
(his bark), by smell (his doggy odor), 
and by touch (his shaggy coat and his wet 



nose and tongue). Furthermore, the pet 
is known by all these perceptions rolled into 
one. If any of these aspects are missing, 
we note the difference. If too many are 
lacking, we may not recognize the dog. It 

is not easy to recognize a shaggy, smelly 
poodle after he has been bathed, clipped, 
trimmed, and perfumed. 

The next chapter takes up the topic of 
perception in further detail. 


We have eight or more senses that we use 
to explore and learn about the world. 

Each of our senses has a specific sense 
organ or receptor, and each sense organ is 
sensitive to certain stimuli in the environ- 

The eye is the receptor for the sense of 
vision and is sensitive to light energy. Some- 
times the eye is compared to a camera be- 
cause each has a lens which focuses light 
images on a sensitive surface. This surface 
in the eye is the retina, which is composed 
of rods and cones. 

The cones allow us to see the different 
wavelengths of visible light as different 
hues or colors. We can also distinguish dif- 
ferences in brightness and in saturation of 

The rods do not distinguish colors but are 
more sensitive to light than are the cones. 
The rods are better in dim light, and the 
cones in bright light. Visual acuity is better 
with the cones than with the rods. 

We measure the sensitivity of the rods 
and cones in terms of absolute and dif- 
ferential thresholds. The absolute threshold 
is the smallest amount of light that will 
stimulate the receptor. The differential 
threshold is the smallest increase in light 
that will allow us to say that one light is 
brighter than another. 

We see depth and the third dimension 
because of a number of monocular and bin- 
ocular cues. The most important cue is a 
binocular one, retinal disparity, in which 
the retina of each eye receives a slightly 
different image of the object being viewed. 

The ear is the sense organ for hearing 

and is sensitive to sound waves, which are 
mechanical vibrations in the air. The ear 
has three parts: the outer ear, the middle 
ear, and the inner ear. The first two parts 
are concerned wi h the conduction of sound 
waves. The inner ear contains the sensitive 
hair cells which have neural connections to 
the brain. 

The two main sensations in hearing are 
those of pitch and loudness. Both these are 
a function of the physical dimensions of 
sound: frequency and intensity. 

Deafness can result either from injury 
to nerves or from interference with conduc- 
tion through the middle ear. 

A number of cues aid in sound localiza- 
tion. Among these cues are differences in 
time of arrival and intensity of sound at the 
two ears. 

The tongue contains receptors for taste. 
There are four taste qualities: sweet, sour, 
salt, and bitter. 

The sense organ for smell is located in 
the nose and is sensitive to certain gases. 

The skin, or cutaneous, senses are four 
in number: pressure, pain, warmth, and 

Kinesthesis is the movement sense. Its 
receptors are found in the muscles and 
joints. It provides a feedback system, which 
aids coordination. 

The semicircular canals are organs used 
for the sense of balance, and they are stimu- 
lated by movements of the head. There are 
also crystal-filled cavities near these canals 
that act as positional or static sense organs 
of balance. 

Free nerve endings within our bodies ap- 



pear to be the receptors for what is called information they send to the brain is used 
organic sensitivity. to help us better to adjust to our changing 

AH our senses are interrelated, and the environment. 


1. Why did Aristotle believe that we have 
only five senses? 

2. In what ways are all our senses similar? 

3. In what ways might it be misleading to say 
that our eye is like a camera? 

4. What are the rods and cones? How are they 
alike? How different? 

5. Explain the following: threshold, j.n.d., and 
Weber-Fechner law. 

6. What are the main cues for depth percep- 

7. Trace the path of sound from the pinna to 
the hair cells. 

8. What is meant by "sound localization**? 
Plow does it take place? 

9. What are the other senses besides vision 
and hearing? List the sense organ and stimulus 
for each. 

10. How is kinesthesis of importance to an or- 

11. Of what use to us are our senses? 

12. What is the connection between percep- 
tion and the senses? 


Chapanis, A., et al.: Applied Experimental Psy- 
chology, Wiley, New York, 1949. 

(Facts about the senses for engineering 

and industry.) 

Davis, H. (ed.): Hearing and Deafness, Rine- 
hart, New York, 1947. 

(An interesting book for the layman about 

audition and the problem of deafness.) 
Geldard, F. A.: The Human Senses, Wiley, 

New York, 1953. 

(A complete treatise on the senses.) 
Morgan, C. T., and E. Stellar: Physiological 
Psychology, 2cl ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 
1950, chaps. 6-J2. 

(The physiology of the sense organs.) 
Stevens, S. S., and H. Davis: Hearing, Wiley, 
New York, 1938. 

(A classic on the sense of hearing.) 




Suppose that, as we are sitting indoors, we 
suddenly hear a high-pitched squealing 
sound, followed by a crashing noise, then 
by the sound of shouting. Although we had 
not seen two cars skidding and crashing 
into one another and people running to the 
scene of the accident, this is what the 
sounds we heard would probably mean to 
us. It is this meaningfulness in our experi- 
ences that is the central feature of percep- 
tion. We define perception as the process 
of interpreting slim ufi. Ttlfa t Ts 7 cT finding or 
constructing their "meanings. 

Let us see what is involved in perceiving. 
As is pointed out in Chapter 10, various 
physical energies in our environment act on 
sensitive receptors from which nerve im- 
pulses go to the brain. There these impulses 
give rise to sensory experiences and to 
perceptions of objects and events. This 
sequence of events is shown in Figure 11.1. 
As goal-seeking organisms, we seldom take 
any interest in sensations for their own sake. 
Indeed, it is somewhat difficult for us to pay 
attention to sensations as such, apart from 
their meanings. Normally we find, search 
for, and even invent meanings for our sen- 
sory experiences. 



We shall now examine somewhat more 
closely the characteristics of perception and 
how the perceptual process takes place. Our 
emphasis will be on how we try to make 
sense of our experience, that is, on how we 
interpret the stimuli which act on our sense 
receptors. In the example given in our 
opening paragraph, sounds furnished the 
basis for the interpretation that a car acci- 
dent had occurred. The sounds functioned 
as signs of the total situation. 




physical energies 
act on 
sense receptors 

nerve impulses 
to brain 


Figure 11.1. The sequence of events in perception. 

Functional View of Perception. To per- 
ceive a meaningful world helps us to ad- 
just. From a minimum of information- 
sounds, lights, etc. we are able to know a 
great deal about our environment. We must 
continually digest and interpret this in- 
formation if we are going to adjust to a 
changing world. In order to satisfy our 
motives, we need to know what resources 
are available in our environment, and we 
need to know the dangers that threaten us 
and the barriers that block off the paths to 
our goals. Thus, to satisfy motives, we are 
continually striving to make sense out of our 
world. Perception therefore serves a useful 

Perceiving Objects. Our world of experi- 
ence appears to us to consist of many more 
or less separate objects, such as buildings, 
cars, and people. These objects seem to 
have a more or less enduring existence and 
to be relatively detached from each other. 
The interesting thing is that nearly all peo- 
ple perceive these objects as being inde- 
pendent of the perceiver. Somewhat na- 
ively, perhaps, we tend to regard them as 
having a reality and as having properties 
which do not depend on how we view 
them. The fact, however, is that we can 
know objects only through perception. All 
that we can observe is a pattern of stimula- 
tionlights, sounds, smells, etc. Perception 
is as much a function of the perceiver as it 
is of the thing perceived. 

How do we come to perceive our world 
as made up of objects? This difficult prob- 
lem has concerned psychologists ( and phi- 
losophers) for many years in fact, for cen- 

turies. Suppose, for example, that we see 
an airplane overhead. The fact that we can 
distinguish this object from its background 
probably does not depend entirely, or even 
mainly, upon learning. Someone totally un- 
familiar with airplanes would presumably 
be able to perceive the same bounded area, 
although he might not know what it meant 
or might interpret it differently from us. 
Even though unlearned factors may play 
a part in perceiving something as a whole 
and relatively independent from its back- 
ground, learning also may play a part. He- 
ing familiar with airplanes helps us to see 
the object in the sky as an airplane with 
all that being an airplane implies. It is a 
meaningful object in our culture. In an- 
other culture (or at an earlier time), it 
might have appeared as a big bird. We 
might say that the meaning of airplane in- 
cludes the various expectations which are 
aroused by whatever accounts for the pat- 
tern of stimulation. These expectations 
would include such things as the fact that 
the airplane has a motor, that it has a pilot 
(even though we cannot see him at the 
moment), that it may have passengers and 
a payload, and that it may be on a sched- 
uled, prescribed course of flight. Having 
identified something as an object of a given 
kind enables us to anticipate the various 
characteristics which we have learned to 
expect from objects of this kind. 

Our expectations enter at two points: 
First, if we expect a certain object, we arc 
more likely to perceive something as being 
this object than if we do not. If we are ex- 
pecting to meet our friend at the station, 



we may mistake a stranger for our friend. 
Secondly, once we have identified an ob- 
ject, this brings into play our various ex- 
pectations (anticipations) about it. Once 
we have identified our friend, we expect 
that he will answer to his name, know of 
various common experiences, and so on. 
Since these expectations are learned, it is 
obvious that learning plays an important 
part in perception. 

Perceptual Constancy. We may notice 
that an object looks much the same on dif- 
ferent occasions even though as a stimulus 
pattern it may have varied considerably. 
For example, under most conditions snow 
looks white, even though its brightness 
under dim illumination may be less than 
that of coal under bright illumination. Our 
friend usually looks like the same person 
even though we see him from various points 
of view and in different settings. 

The phenomenon illustrated by these ex- 
amples is called perceptual constancy, 
which is the tendency of a stimulus situa- 
tion to be perceived in the same way under 
varying circumstances. Some of the factors 
accounting for perceptual constancy are 
known. One factor is that a stimulus may 
bear a constant relationship to its back- 

For example, in the case of the brightness 
constancy of snow and coal, this brightness 
is perceived in relation to the brightness 
of the background. Snow in dim light 1,9 
brighter than most other objects in such 
light. Many characteristics such as bright- 
ness are relative to background conditions. 

A second factor is that we learn to select 
as a basis for perception those aspects of 
a stimulus situation which are most de- 
pendable for purposes of object identifica- 
tion. These dependable aspects are those 
that remain relatively constant under chang- 
ing circumstances. On the other hand, the 
undependable, variable features of a stimu- 
lus situation tend to be ignored. For ex- 
ample, the angularity ( sharp nose, outthrust 

jaw, etc. ) of our friend's face, together with 
other relatively constant features, help us 
to recognize him. We see him as being the 
same person at various times despite varia- 
tions in his clothes, the background, and 
other details. Moreover, once we have iden- 
tified our friend a whole set of expectations 
regarding him arc aroused, and these ex- 
pectations are a part of the percept. There 
are, however, limits to how much variation 
in a stimulus pattern may occur before an 
object looks markedly different. 

Search for Meaning. Sometimes we do 
not immediately find a meaning for a stimu- 
lus situation. Suj^ose that outside the room 
we hear a series of loud sounds, irregularly 
spaced. We do not know what caused 

Figure 11.2. What are these things for? Until 
a frame of reference is provided, the picture 
is ambiguously perceived. Actually these objects 
are used in connection with oil-well drilling. In 
order for the objects to become fully significant 
detailed knowledge of oil-drilling methods 
would be necessary. (Standard Oil Company, 
New Jersey.) 


them, but we search for their meaning. Is 
it dynamiting? Not likely in this part of 
town. Is it gunshots? Probably not. And 
theft we think of the answer: shock waves 
from passing jets. There has been a search 
for meaning. This is what we normally do. 
If we cannot immediately find the meaning 
of a stimulus situation, we search for it. 

We need to make sense out of our ex- 
periences, to see them in relationship. This 
is especially true if what is happening af- 
fects our welfare, as in times of danger. 
Then there is a desperate need to find the 
meaning of events, that is, how they fit to- 
gether and what is likely to happen next. 

Reduced Cues. JThe strength of the tend- 
ency to find meaning in our experiences is 
exemplified in our reactions to reduced cues. 
We hear a roaring sound arid catch a 
glimpse of something going down the street. 
What we perceive is a car passing. This 
time we have perceived a car on the basis of 
far fewer signs than might ordinarily be 
available. We are responding to reduced 
cues. Perhaps there is a tickling sensation 
on our neck, and we perceive it as a crawl- 
ing bug or as a loose thread. Upon hearing 
some scraping and clicking sounds coming 
from the kitchen, we perceive that someone 
is getting ready to set the table. Such per- 

ceptions on the basis of reduced cues are 
commonplace in our lives. 

We depend on reduced cues to a great 
extent. The more reduced they are, the less 
they point to any given object. Indeed, they 
may be used to make interpretations of con- 
ditions that are not even observable of 
abstractions, such as other people's atti- 
tudes. Someone smiles and extends his 
hand; we perceive an attitude of friendship. 
Likewise we perceive a smirk as contempt, 
or a scowl as disagreement. It may be use- 
ful to rely on reduced cues to perceive ab- 
stractions. But abstractions are double- 
edgedpowerful if critically arrived at and 
properly used, but dangerous, or at least 
misleading, if invalid. 

On the other hand, it is very economical 
to be able to perceive objects from reduced 
cues. It would be impossible to make an 
exhaustive check of everything or of any- 
thing, for that matter to be sure of what 
it is. By reacting to a few signs, we can get 
an enormous amount of useful and fairly 
reliable information about our world. 

Perception and Probabilities. All this ties 
in with another facet of perception. We 
perceive in terms of probabilities. No sign 
by itself tells us the whole story, but it, 
together with others, points in a certain 


Figure 11.3. Perception often 




occurs on the basis o/ reduced 



cues. Although the observer 



would see only the objects in- 


dicated by the solid lines, he 


would tend to perceive that a 




man and his dog were walking 




behind the fence. 










w % ' 





K"W 4 

^ f 

- If 







* I 

* % 



direction. Our experience teaches us that 
certain objects or events go together or fol- 
low one another with a high degree of 
probability. When we see something that 
looks like a chair, we expect that it can be 
sat upon. It would be very unexpected, and 
disturbing, to find that it was a fake made 
from sponge rubber. In other words, this 
reacting to signs in terms of probabilities 
helps us in getting information rapidly and 
continuously enough for it to be of use. 

Errors in Perception. Sometimes, how- 
ever, we make mistakes in perception. We 
may be horrified to see a child pick up a 
knife and stab another, only to find that it 
was just a rubber knife. Magicians are adept 
at taking advantage of our normal expecta- 
tions by performing highly improbable ac- 
tions. In cases such as the foregoing the 
errors do not matter they may even be fun. 
But there are situations in which errors in 
perception have practical, even life-and- 
death, consequences. In battle, for example, 
it makes a big difference whether the ap- 
proaching aircraft is one of the enemy's 
or one of ours. 

Under certain stimulus conditions, cer- 
tain errors of perception occur in nearly 
everybody. Such errors, which depend on 
stimulus conditions and occur in normal 
people, are called illusions. A familiar ex- 
ample is the "bent-stick" illusion which is 
seen when a fishing pole is stuck into the 
water at an angle. Other illusions are dis- 
cussed and illustrated later in this chapter. 

Hallucinations, on the other hand, are 
false perceptions that occur under abnor- 
mar^Orfdftiohs. For example, under the in- 
fluence of certain drugs a person may see 
visions and hear voices which bear no re- 
lation to reality. People with severe per- 
sonality disturbances may also hallucinate 
events which do not exist or which are ex- 
treme distortions of reality. Incidentally, 
hallucinations are distinguished from 3etu- 
stons;~"wliich are^systerris of false "beliefs 
about reality (see Chapter 6). 

There are many different reasons for er- 

rors in perception. The opportunity to ob- 
serve may be poor^ as in dim light or with 
obstacles partially blocking our view. Then, 
too, events may take place so rapidly that 
we fall behind in interpreting them. Wit- 
nesses at accidents often are baffled by the 
rapidity of the action. 

Expectations can_also distort our percep- 
tion. Sometimes we so strongly expect a 
certain event to happen that nearly any- 
thing that happens will be interpreted as 
that event. Most of us have been embar- 
rassed at one time or another by "recog- 
nizing" the wrong person as a friend for 
whom we had Hfcen waiting. 

Finally, as is discussed later in this chap- 
ter, our needs and attitudes can cause us 
to perceive wrongly. 

If it is very important not to make er- 
rors, then we can take precautions. We can 
try to get more complete information. We 
can check our evaluations against those of 
other people. We can deliberately look for 
other possible interpretations, and then see 
if the evidence is for or against them. We 
can try to be aware of some of our atti- 
tudes, especially prejudices, to make al- 
lowance for them. In other words, we can 
try to be like the scientist at his best when 
he systematically records data, analyzes 
them objectively, considers various possible 
explanations, and then arrives at a tenta- 
tive conclusion. 


We have looked at perception as the 
meaningful interpretation of our sensory 
experiences. On the other hand, the ob- 
jects and events which are experienced im- 
pose some limits on how they are likely to 
be perceived. Different stimulus patterns 
a cow; a building, a book provide differ- 
ent raw materials for the organizing proc- 
ess of perception. On the other hand, as we 
have seen, our expectations and our needs 
have much to do with what and how we 



All this leads to an important conclusion: 
Perception is determined jointly byjmter 
(stimulus) and inner (personal) factors. 1 
This statement is opposed to the "common- 
sense" idea that we directly perceive what 
is "out there." What is perceived depends 
as much on the perceiver as on that which 
is to be perceived. The two factors work- 
ing together determine perception. 

Jtjjs not possible, however, to separate 
completely inner from outer factors in per- 
ception. The two classes of determinants 
are highly interdependent, but for conven- 
ience in analysis we treat them one at a 
time. In this section we shall consider the 
part played by the stimulus, and, in the 
rest of the chapter, the part played by 
the person. 

Attention and Stimulus Conditions. We 
do not perceive everything at once; rather, 
we select certain objects to perceive while 
ignoring others. The direction of percep- 
tion toward certain selected objects is 
called attention. Attention is determined 
partly by personal factors, such as inter- 
ests, which are discussed later in this chap- 
ter. In addition, there are a number of 

1 G. Murphy, Personality: A Biosocial Approach 
to Origins and Structure, Harper, New York, 1947, 
pp. 331-361. 

stimulus conditions that help to determine 
the direction of attention. 

First, an intense stimulus is more likely 
to be noticed than one that is less intense. 
For example, a brightly colored page of 
advertising matter is more likely to be no- 
ticed than one that is not so vivid. 

Second, a changing stimulus is more 
likely to be noticed than one that does not 
change. Most of us have observed that a 
flickering light is more attention-getting 
than a steady one. Something that moves is 
more likely to attract our attention than 
something which is stationary. 

Third, a repeated stimulus is more likely 
to be noticed than one that is not repeated. 
For instance, we may have to call some- 
one's name several times in a crowd be- 
fore he hears us. In more controlled ex- 
periments, too, such an effect of repetition 
has been demonstrated. 

Fourth, a contrasting stimulus is more 
likely to attract attention than one that is 
not contrasting. One black sheep among 
a flock of white ones stands out from the 

Stimulus Factors Favoring Organization. 
The most extensive studies of stimulus 
characteristics favoring perceptual organi- 
zation have been made by the gestalt psy- 

Figure 11.4. Striped-paper chamber used to 
test the visual perception of an infant chimpan- 
zee raised from birth in total darkness. The test 
was made by rotating the chamber and ob- 
serving whether the animal's eyes followed the 
moving stripes. The results of this and other 
tests show that the development of visual 
perception during the first few months of life 
depends upon learning through experience. 
(From George W. Gray, "The Yerkes Labo- 
ratories" Scientific American, February, 1955, 
p. 71, by courtesy of the publisher.) 



Figure 11.5. The simplest level of perceptual 
organization is a simple figure on a simple 
ground. Notice that the boundary between the 
black and white areas is perceived as belonging 
to the black figure. 

chologists. The term Gestalt means ^_ 

'(or "organized paftef iryTn^German. Th(T 
gestalt psychologists discovered that all 
perceptions have an organized character. 
The parts of a stimulus situation depend 
on the whole of which they are a part. For 
example, a melody sounds essentially the 
same in different keys. Even though the in- 
dividual notes are changed, the melody as 
a whole remains unchanged, and the dif- 
ferent notes are high or low in relation to 
the melody as a whole J 

Fjgure and ground. When wejjerceive^ 
an object,_ usually _0ne part4end$LtCLjsh}nd 
out while the rest seems_ to remain in_ the 
background. For example, the letters on 
this page stand out against the background 
of the page as a whole. Thgj>art__ which- 

-figure, and the 

rest of the stimulus pattern is called the 
ground. The concept of figure and ground 
is not restricted to visual perception alone. 
The ticking of a clock may be the figure 
against the ground of other sounds, such 
as the singing of birds and the rustling of 

The gestalt psychologists have studied a 
number of conditions affecting the tend- 
ency to perceive certain parts of a stimulus 
situation as figure and others as ground. 
Among them are all the factors in atten- 
tion which we have discussed intensity, 
change, repetition, and contrast. Some- 

11.6. Look at each picture for 
about 30 seconds. Can you see each 
picture in more than one way? To what 
extent are the different ways of perceiv- 
ing these objects subject to conscious 

times, however, figure. and ground relation* 
ships are ambiguous, . thatIisL.reversible. 
Figure 11.6 illustrates this effect. Both parts 
of the illustration have the unusual feature 
that figure and ground are interchangeable. 
A may be perceived either as a black cross 
or a white cross. B may be perceived either 
as two black faces or as a white vase. As 
we look at a diagram, it may change sud- 
denly without any intention on our part. 
See if you can see these patterns either 









Figure 11.7. Which is the easier way to see the left-hand part (A) of the 
figure, as rows or as columns? What gestalt factor accounts for the X which 
you see in the right-hand part (B)? 


way at will. It will be observed that these 
perceptions are mutually exclusive B _can 
be perceived either as a pair JQ f aces._or as 
a vase, Bui iiot as both simultaneously. 

In many cases it is possible to perceive 
different parts of the same stimulus situa- 
tion as figure. For example, at a football 
game, the star quarterback may stand out 
for a moment as the figure; at another time, 
the whole backfield; then the band or the 
cheering section. The interesting thing 
about these different organizations of the 
stimulus situation is that the various per- 
ceptions are so different from one another 
even though they may contain many ele- 
ments in common. 

^-LauLML similarity. Gestalt psychologists 
have pointed ouTa number of factors fa- 
voring the organization of part of a stimu- 
lus pattern into figure. One of these is the 
factor of similarity. JStimuli which are. simi-, 
lar tend to be perceived as^_ forming a 
group, that is, a figure. Figure 11.7 illus- 


trates the law of similarity. In the A part 
of the illustration the items are more read- 
ily perceived as forming columns than as 
forming rows, since each column has simi- 
lar, in fact identical, figures. The B part 
of the illustration shows that the similarity 
among the filled in circles helps us to per- 
ceive an X. Can you perceive the open cir- 
cles as forming a four-leaf-clover figure? 
This may be harder to perceive than see- 
ing an X. 

/On the basis of similarity we are likely 
to perceive as figure a group of pine trees 
scattered among other trees; a series of 
whistle blasts interspersed among other 
sounds; a small number of dissenters among 
those who agree. There are many other ex- 
amples of the same tendency to perceive 
as figure stimuli which are similar to one 

Law^^fproKimity. StimuU_which are 
close togen^^proximate) in space "And 
timejtend to be perceived as forming a fig- 

ure, This law is illustrated in Figure 11.8. 
In the A part of the illustration the lines 
which are close together readily form pairs. 
See if you can perceive as pairs the lines 
which are more widely separated. It is cer- 
tainly difficult to do so. In constellations 
of stars (see Figure 11. 8B, below) we can 
see the same tendency for stimuli which 
are close together to form a whole in per- 
ception. The law of proximity is further 
illustrated in both written and printed ma- 
terial. The words on this page stand out 
as units because the letters are grouped 
closely together and spaces separate the 
words and lines. 

Stimuli which follow each other closely 
in time are also likely to be grouped as fig- 
ure. The codes used by telegraphers em- 
ploy this principle of grouping dots and 
dashes together according to the time in- 
tervals between them. Groups of drum- 
beats are readily perceived as such. In our 
speech we make use of rhythm and other 
devices to indicate the appropriate group- 

ing of the words so as to form meaningful 
units of thought. 

It seems likely that the tendency to or- 
ganize as a unit stimuli which occur in 
^immediate jequeace is a sort of unlearned 
perception of cause and effect. A bright 
flash of lightning immediately followed by 
a loud rumble of thunder is likely to be 
perceived as a causal succession as the 
lightning causing the thunder. The events 
would seem to be interdependent parts of 
the same perceptual whole. 

Suppose that just as (or immediately 
after) we switch on a light a loud explo- 
sion occurs. U probably would seem to us 
that turning on the light somehow caused 
the explosion. The causal perception would 
occur to us immediately, although we 
might reject it after critical thought. There 
are many examples in children's behavior 
of naive perception of causality in what 
adults have learned to regard as chance 
coincidences. The point, however, is that 
we all tend to perceive a causal relation- 


Figure 11.8. Notice how the lines appear as pairs and 
how the stars appear to form clusters. What stimulus 
factors are responsible for this effect? (Courtesy of the 
Yerkes Observatories.) 







(Wide World.) 

Max Wertheimer, the man who founded gestalt psychology, was born in 
1880 in Germany. After obtaining his doctor's degree at the University of 
Wurzburg, he taught at a number of German universities. Wertheimer be- 
came interested in the perception of movement. In 1912 he published a re- 
port of his experiments in this area, using the term "Phi phenomenon" to 
refer to the apparent movement which is perceived when one stimulus light 
goes off and another nearby comes on. Wertheimer, together with Kurt 
Koffka and Wolfgang Kohler, played a major part in the development of 
gestalt psychology. In more recent years all three of these men came to the 
United States, where they continued their research and writing. One of 
Wertheimer's later contributions was a book, Productive Thinking, which 
applies the principles of gestalt psychology to thinking and problem solving. 
This little volume includes many interesting examples of creative thinking 
by children. It also includes accounts of problem solving by Einstein, who 
devised the theory of relativity, and Gauss, a famous mathematician. 

Figure 11.9. According to the law of Pragnanz, 
*ppor" forms lend to be perceived (and remembered) 
is being like the corresponding "good" forms. Why 
io you think this effect occurs? Would knowledge of 
'his effect be of any advantage in dealing with our 

"poor" forms 



"good" forms 

ship between stimuli that change together 
or closely follow one another, at least until 
further learning or a reasoned understand- 
ing make us think otherwise. 

Law of Pragnanz. One of the most gen- 
eral principles of perception has been 
called "the law of Pragnanz" by the gestalt 
psychologists. This law says that we tend 
to perceive a stimulus as a "good" forag- 
er at least as "good" as the stimulus condi- 
tions permit. There are certain stable, nor- 
mal forms toward which our perceptions 
(and memories) tend. These are so-called 
"good" forms. In general, "good" forms 
tend to be symmetrical, balanced, and com- 
plete. These are not very objective criteria, 
but they can be illustrated in Figure 11.9, 
which shows a number of so-called "poor" 
forms and some corresponding "good" 
forms. There is a tendency to perceive 
(and remember) the "poor" forms as 
though they were "good" forms. For ex- 
ample, broken circles tend to be perceived 
as complete circles, as shown in A, and el- 
lipses which are near circles (B) tend to 
be seen as more nearly circular. In C the 
left-hand triangle, which is not symmetri- 
cal, tends to be modified in perception so 
as to be more nearly symmetrical, like the 


equilateral triangle on the right. The "poor" 
form in D, which might be regarded as an 
"imperfect" right angle, tends to be per- 
ceived as a normal right angle. Finally, in 
the pointed object on the left may be 
perceived as being even more pointed (or, 
possibly, as blunted). Note that these 
changes do not occur every time we per- 
ceive, but there is a tendency for percep- 
tions to approximate a so-called good form. 

The law^ of Prdgnanz also refers to the 
tendency to fill in the gaps perceptually 
when the stimulus is incomplete. The black 
patches of Figure 11.10 become organized 
as a picture of a kitten, a meaningful 
whole. In the same way many very incom- 
plete and sketchy cartoon drawings are 
"improved" in perception by filling in the 
gaps, smoothing out irregularities, and in 
other ways approximating a "good" form. 

Illusions. Under some circumstances our 
perceptions tend to be misleading. They 
give us erroneous pictures of our environ- 
ment. Some well-known illusions are shown 
in Figure 11.11. In part A the two vertical 
lines are actually straight, although they 
appear to be bent inward, and in part B 
the straight vertical lines appear to be bent 
outward, to bulge away from each other. 
The two central circles in part C are ac- 
tually of the same size, even if they look 
different. Are the two slanting lines of part 
D part of the same straight line? They do 
not appear to be, but actually they are. In 
part the two figures are actually of the 
same size, although they appear to be 
markedly different. Even when we know 
about these illusions, the figures still tend 
to look as they did before. If, however, we 
needed to react to these figures over and 
over again and attainment of our goals de- 
pended on making accurate judgments 
about them, we should eventually be able 
to react correctly and the figures might 
even look different to us. 

Perceptionjrf lhe_part jiepends_ upon .the 
whole. In each of these illusions the way 

Figure 11.10. What gestalt princi- 
ple is illustrated in this picture? 

in which a part is judged depends upon 
the setting of the other parts. Although 
illusions demonstrate this fact quite dra- 
matically, this same principle the organ- 
ized nature of perceptionholds also in 
our usual, nonillusory perceptions. 

Perception of Motion. The active, organ- 
izing character of perception is shown in 
the perception of motion. We put motion 
into some of the things we observe. One 
demonstration of this is what the gestalt 
psychologists have named the^JPhi phenom- 
enojfc-JLi two light sources (not too lar 
apart) are switched on and off in close 
succession, a light appears to move from 
one place to the other. Advertisers make 
use of this effect in signs consisting of 
lights that appear to move, when all that 
happens is that lights are going on and off 
in some particular order. 

The same effect is perceived when we 
look at motion pictures. The pictures 
flashed upon the screen are merely a series 



A. Are the vertical lines bent or straight? 

B. Are these vertical lines parallel? 

C. Are the central circles of the same or different sizes? 

D. Are the two lines part of 
the same slanting line? 

E. Which of the above is larger? 

Figure 11.11. Some familiar illusions. 



A fascinating series of experiments in perception has been carried out at 
Princeton University. When objects are seen in a special room at the Per- 
ception Demonstration Center, they undergo some dramatic changes in ap- 
pearance (see the figure below). When the observer looks at this room through 
a hole and with one eye, it looks like a normal room with rectangular walls, 
floor, and ceiling. But the apparent size of the objects in this room depends 
on their location. Two objects of the same size look much different in size 
if one is on the right and the other on the left. This illusion is experienced 
by everybody. Actually, the room is distorted (see figure on page 222). Since 
the room, which appears to be rectangular, provides the dominant frame 
of reference, the apparent size of objects depends on where they are lo- 
cated in the room. Even after a person knows about the nature of the dis- 
torted room, he still experiences the illusion when he views the room with 
one eye and from the right position. This demonstration is important in 
showing how stimulus conditions and our assumptions (for example, our 
assumption that all rooms are rectangular) influence perception. 

Things are not always what they seem. Actually, the two men are about the 
same size. For an explanation of how this effect was produced, see the next 
figure and the text. (Courtesy of Perception Demonstration Center, Princeton 


of stills, as is shown in Figure 11.12. If they 
follow one another rapidly enough, they 
appear to move smoothly. Animated car- 
toons also use this same device a series 
of stills differing slightly from frame to 
frame, projected in rapid sequence. The. 
motion is not in the pictures, obviously, al- 
tliough the characteristics of the pictures 
and their manner of presentation play their 
part. The motion is an illusion. We fill in 
the gaps and thus have the perception of 

Even when we look at a moving object; 
unless our eyes successively fixate the ob- 
ject in different positions, we see only a 
blur. Each fixation is like a still picture, 
and a succession of these stills gives u$ 
hie impression of motion. 


The way in which we perceive is deter- 
mined not only by the nature of the stimu- 
lus but also by personal factors. It has al- 
ready been noted that the direction of at- 
tentionwhat we notice is affected by our 
interests. We may want a new suit, for ex- 
ample, and so find our attention turning 
to suits in display windows. But although 
these factors may attract our attention, 

they are not necessarily sufficient to hold it. 
Motivation usually is essential for atten- 
tion to persist in reading, in watching a 
game, and in many other activities. We 
tend to perceive objects which are relevant 
to our motives both those that are poten- 
tially satisfying and those that are poten- 
tially threatening. 

Ambiguous Stimuli. The more ambigu- 
ous or. indefinite the stimulus situation, the 
more our motives are likely to influence the 
way we perceive it. In the so-called pro- 
jective tests of personality, the stimuli (ink 
blots, pictures, incomplete sentences, etc.) 
are intentionally made ambiguous, thus 
giving personal factors a greater chance of 
asserting themselves. 

The influence of needs (and expecta- 
tions) is especially apparent in times of 
crisis. If two people have had a quarrel 
and consequently are unsure of their atti- 
tudes toward one another, the meanings of 
each one's acts become uncertain to the 
other. Hostile feelings, anxiety, or a desire 
for reassurance are likely to influence how 
they perceive one another's behavior. In 
situations of danger, too, such as a soldier's 
experiences on the battlefield, where his 
survival is often uncertain, projections of 
anxieties and other feelings are highly 

Effect of Strong Tensions. Although the 
influence of needs is more apparent when 
the stimuli are ambiguous, our perception 
of even relatively unambiguous stimuli can 
be affected when we are subjected to un- 
usual stress and tension. Indeed, under in- 
tense motivation our perception may be 
grossly distorted. For example, a man was 
driving home in a great hurry at the end 
of the day. As he approached an intersec- 

This is how the room shown in the preceding 
illustration looks when viewed with both eyes 
and at a distance. (Courtesy of Perception 
Demonstration Center, Princeton University.) 



tion where he usually turned left, he no- 
ticed that a new traffic signal light had 
been put up. As he approached the inter- 
section, the light turned red, but the car 
just ahead turned left anyway. At the same 
time he caught a glimpse of a sign under 
the light which he interpreted as reading 
"Left turn on red." Actually, the sign read 
"Right turn on red." His desire to get home 
quickly, coupled with a hasty glance at the 
sign, autistically distorted his perception- 
he read the sign as he wanted it to read. 

In our discussion of the enhancement 
and defense of the self (Chapter 6), it is 
pointed out that we tend to perceive our- 
selves and our experiences in ways that are 
self-enhancing and lessen threat. This does 
not mean that we always close our eyes to 
threat. An extremely anxious person may 
perceive threats everywhere in other peo- 
ple's remarks, in the news, in traffic situa- 
tions, or in mysterious noises in the night. 

There is considerable research pertain- 
ing to the effects of threat on perception. 
One view is that we tend not to perceive 
those stimuli which are threatening to the 
self, or else to misperceive them. The idea 
is an interesting one that at an uncon- 
scious level we perceive something as a 
threat and somehow block it off from 
reaching awareness at a conscious level. 
Others have pointed out that at least some 
people are threat-oriented; they tend to 
perceive threats nearly everywhere. We 
often perceive in accordance with prevail- 
ing emotion. Thus people who are afraid 
tend to perceive fear-producing stimuli. 
Although the concept of "perceptual _de- 
fense" is controversial, it has stimulated a 
considerable amount of research and 
theory. 2 

Really extreme cases of perceptual dis- 
tortion prompted by needs occur in para- 

2 A reference that will help in following up this 
subject is an article by C. W. Eriksen, "The Case 
for Perceptual Defense," Psychological Review, 
61:175-182, 1954. 

Figure 11.12. Motion pic- 
tures do not move, as this 
strip of film shows. What 
is the explanation for the 
motion we see when film 
is projected? What hap- 
pens when the successive 
frames are shown too 
slowly? When they are 
speeded up beyond the 
speed at which they were 
taken? (McGraw-Hill Text 



noid delusions, in which, for example, hid- 
den threats may be read into innocent re- 
marks, or a person in humble circumstances 
may perceive himself as a great industrial- 

It has been said that people believe what 
they want to believe, and there is truth in 
the assertion. But it is easy to exaggerate 
the point. Normally our perceptions are 
not wholly at the mercy of our wishes. If 
we completely distorted all our interpreta- 
tions in line with our wishes, even survival 
would be impossible. There arc some limits 
to autistic distortion. After all, the recog- 
nition of realities, no matter how unpleas- 
ant, may lead to behavior which in the 
long run is more adaptive and satisfying. 
Indeed, a part of being a mature person- 
ality is realism in perception. But autism 
operates in all of us nevertheless. 


Among the inner ( personal ) factors that 
determine perception jointly with outer 
(stimulus) factors, we have already con- 
sidered one class our needs. A second 
class of inner factors consists of our frames 
of reference. 

Where are we now? In order to answer 

this question, we must employ some frame 
of reference. We can give our street ad- 
dress, which has meaning in terms of a city 
map. We can give our direction and dis- 
tance from some reference point, which 
implies some system of directions. Another 
such question is who we are. "I am a stu- 
dent" implies an academic institution as a 
frame of reference. "I am a twenty-one- 
year-old enlisted man in the Marine Corps" 
has meaning in terms of a complex social 
frame of reference. 

-A frame of- ref erenge^Jthen, is a set of di- 
mensions and reference points in terms of 
which one perceives. The dimensions may 
be any kind spatial, rank systems, scales 
of judgment for weight, time, prestige, or 
beauty. The reference points are standards 
to which we refer in judging or locating 

All our perceptions involve frames of 
reference. Objects are perceived in rela- 
tionship to the larger setting in which they 
occur. Sometimes these frames of reference 
may be present as part of the stimulus sit- 

Figure 11.13. How tall is 
"tall"? What does this illus- 
tration tell us about percep- 
tion and judgment? Can we 
judge anything in nature ab- 
solutely, or must we neces- 
sarily compare it, either di- 
rectly or indirectly, with 
other things? 



uation, as in the case of the grid coordi- 
nates of a map. In other cases we bring 
them to the situation ourselves, as when 
we judge someone to be tall in compari- 
son with other people whom we have 
known. In either case, our frames of refer- 
ence influence or perceptions. 

How We Acquire Our Frames of Refer- 
ence. Our frames of reference are acquired 
through learning. We form concepts of 
classes of objects such as dogs, people, 
occupations, diseases, negotiable instru- 
ments, and psychological processes. Such 
concepts are like pigeonholes into which 
we fit our various experiences. These con- 
cepts provide ready-made interpretations 
of experience and, often, formulas for ac- 
tion. Where do these concepts come from? 
Most of them are acquired through com- 
munication. Some are unique to us as indi- 
viduals and derive from our particular ex- 
perience. The processes of learning con- 
cepts are the same as those of any other 
social learning. 

Not only do we form concepts of classes 
of objects, but we also learn what are sig- 
nificant variations among the instances of 
each class. For example, we learn what are 
the significant ways in which people vary 
age, sex, occupation, class position, per- 
sonality traits, and so on. When we per- 
ceive a person, we have available numer- 
ous such frames of reference. Whenever 
we perceive something, we perceive it in 
terms of those scales of judgment which 
we have learned to apply to the class of 
object in question, whether athletes, enter- 
tainers, husbands and wives, or criminals. 

We judge in terms of scales and stand- 
ards. If we lift a series of weights varying 
from 1 ounce to 10 ounces, one at a time, 
we tend to form a scale of judgment as to 
what is light, medium, or heavy (or some 
other scale categories). Afterward we 
judge a new weight in terms of this scale, 
even though we are not aware of the par- 
ticular weights on which our scale is based. 
This same tendency to form scales in terms 

of experienced variations holds generally. 
We may have established scales relating to 
prestige of occupations, rates of promotion, 
grades in school, and what is a fair day's 
work. It is obvious that different people's 
experience will result in learning somewhat 
different scales of judgment. Consequently 
our evaluations will vary to some degree. 

The introduction of an unusually light 
or heavy weight outside the range we have 
previously experienced ( if it does not devi- 
ate too much) will alter the weight scale. 
This tendency of an extreme "anchorage 
point" to alter tne scale is characteristic of 
all scales of ji dgment. For example, when 
a salesman sets a new sales record, former 
top levels of performance no longer look so 

Judging and Evaluating. As has been 
stated before, we judge and evaluate in 
terms of frames of reference. There are a 
number of points which should be empha- 
sized in this connection. 

In the first place, we are not necessarily 
aware of our scales of judgment and stand- 
ards of reference when we evaluate. If we 
judge someone's action as "dishonest," we 
do not necessarily have in mind specific 
points of demarcation along the range of 
honesty-dishonesty. Nor can we necessarily 
describe the standards in terms of which 
we judge. 

A second point is that, within limits, we 
can select our reference points. And ap- 
parently our needs play a part in this proc- 
ess. For example, a businessman who has 
been accused of dishonesty can compare 
himself with others who have been in- 
tensely competitive. A student who is do- 
ing poorly in college may compare himself 
with others who are not outstanding. In 
other words, we may be motivated to se- 
lect reference standards which lessen threat 
and enhance gratification. 

Third, our evaluation of a situation de- 
pends on which frame" oT TeFerence we se- 
lect. An act of delinquency, for example, 
may be evaluated in a moral frame of ref- 




The perception of a stimulus depends on the frame of reference in which 
it occurs. This principle has been demonstrated many times and in many 
ways. It remained for Sherif * to demonstrate what happens to perception 
when there is no external frame of reference. What he did was to place a 
person in a dark room, thus eliminating any visual frame of reference. 
Then he presented a single point source of light for a brief time and asked 
the subject to signal when he saw it move and to report how far it had 
moved. Actually, however, the light was fixed in position it only appeared 
to move. This illusion, which is called the autok/nef/c effect, is experienced 
by practically everybody under these conditions. 

Sherif was interested in determining the influence of other people on an 
individual's judgments. In one of his experiments, half the subjects were 
tested alone first. Each person developed a characteristic average and range 
for his judgments, and individual differences were considerable. Then they 
were tested together in three-man groups, each person hearing the others 
announce their judgments. As is shown in the upper part of the figure, their 
judgments tended to become more alike. In other words, the members of 
a group established a group standard as to how much the light appeared 
to move. 

Thus far we have considered what happened when subjects were tested 
first alone and then together. The lower part of the figure illustrates the 
results for the other half of the subjects. These judged initially in three-man 
groups. Note that their judgments were quite similar. Afterwards they were 
tested alone. The group standard which had been established under the 
group condition still influenced them. Their judgments continued to be rela- 
tively alike, although individual differences increased somewhat. 

This experiment strikingly demonstrates the influence of other people's 
judgments on an individual's perception when the stimulus situation is am- 
biguous. It also shows that this influence tends to persist after the individual 
is by himself. 

* M. Sherif, "A Study of Some Social Factors in Perception," Archives of Psychology, no. 
187, 1935. 

This graph illustrates the results of an experiment on the in- 
fluence of the group on individual judgment. Sherif found that 
the individual's judgment about the amount of movement of a 
fixed-point source of light in a darkened room (the autokinetic 
effect) was influenced by other people's announced judgments. 
Half the subjects first judged individually and then in three-man 
groups. The other half first judged in three-man groups and then 
individually. The figure shows how individual judgment was 
changed in two such three-man groups. 



erence as "bad" or "sinful." On the other 
hand, the same act may be evaluated in a 
psychological frame of reference, as a way 
of enhancing self-esteem by winning ap- 
proval from the gang, or as an act of hos- 
tility against a rejecting parent. Notice that 
it makes a great practical difference which 
of these frames of reference is applied. 
The former evaluation may imply punish- 
ment; the latter, therapy. One of the major 
factors in human disagreements is the fact 
that different people apply different frames 
of reference. When they agree on frames 
of reference, they usually can also agree on 
the "facts" and on courses of action. 

Finally, when frames of reference are 
rigid and stereotyped, perception is likely 
to be distorted and insensitive to new 
experience. A person with a stereotype 
about Jews in which they are assigned 
traits of shrewdness, hostility, and greedi- 
ness is likely to perceive these characteris- 
tics in a Jew's behavior. Behaviors which 
do not fit in with such a stereotype tend to 
be dismissed they just have no meaning. 
The perception tends to be selective, em- 
phasizing features which agree with the 
stereotype, playing down those which do 


In analyzing human behavior we have 
frequently made use of the concepts of mo- 
tivation, learning, and perception. These 
are fundamental psychological processes. 
But they are not separate processes; they 
are interdependent in the whole person. 

This interdependence is shown in many 
ways. We learn goals which will satisfy our 
drives, and we learn ways of attaining 
these goals. We also learn to be motivated 
in certain ways, such as to desire other 
people's approva 1 . In this chapter, we have 
seen how needs influence perception. On 
the other hand, the way a situation is per- 
ceived may also arouse needs. For ex- 
ample, what is perceived as imminent fail- 
ure may arouse a need to avoid failure. 
We have seen that we learn the frames of 
reference in terms of which we perceive. 
It is also true that learned ways of perceiv- 
ing can affect further learning. For exam- 
ple, knowing how to perceive mathemati- 
cal notation aids further learning of mathe- 
matics. It is apparent, therefore, that we 
cannot fully understand any one of these 
basic psychological processes without un- 
derstanding the others. 


Perceiving is defined as the interpretation 
of stimuli. It involves finding meaningful 
interpretations of our experiences. 

Perception is functional in that it gives 
us information about our environment 
which may be useful in the pursuit of our 
goals and in avoiding threats. 

In perceiving, we interpret the total sit- 
uation on the basis of a limited number of 
signs. Although the use of a limited num- 
ber of signs is an economical way of get- 
ting information, it may also result in er- 
rors in perceiving. 

Perception is a joint function of the 

stimulus situation and of the perceiver 
with his needs and frames of reference. 

The characteristics of the stimulus situa- 
tion influence perception. Conditions such 
as intensity, change, repetition, and con- 
trast influence attention. Various factors 
leading to the perception of organized 
wholes have been pointed out by the ge- 
stalt psychologists. These include the fac- 
tors of similarity, proximity, and Prcignanz. 

Illusions depend on the frame of refer- 
ence provided by other parts of the stimu- 
lus situation and illustrate the organized 
nature of perception. The perception of 



motion is an interpretation of the per- 
ceiver. It depends as much on the perceiver 
as on,the conditions of stimulation. 

Our needs influence our perceptions, this 
effect being more marked when the stimu- 
lus situation is ambiguous and our tensions 
are strong. 

Perception is influenced by frames of 
reference, which are sets of dimensions 
and points of comparison, most of which 
are learned. Frames of reference are im- 
portant in judging and evaluating. A 
change in frame of reference will change 
the way in which a stimulus is perceived. 


1. What is meant by perception? How is it 
related to sensation? 

2. What is meant by putting meaning into our 
sensory experiences? 

3. What are some of the causes of errors in 

4. Distinguish illusions, hallucinations, and de- 

5. What are some of the gestalt factors in per- 
ceptual organization? 

6. How do we explain (a) illusions, (fc) per- 
ception of motion? 

7. What is perceptual constancy? How may it 
be explained? 

8. Under what conditions are our needs espe- 
cially likely to influence perception? 

9. What are frames of reference? What is their 
role in perception? 

10. If perception depends in part on the per- 
ceiver, how is it possible to obtain agreement 
among different observers? 

11. What are some of the important frames of 
reference in terms of which you evaluate 


Blake, R. R., and G. V. Ramsey (eds.): Per- 
ception: An Approach to Personality, Ronald, 
New York, 1951. 

(A symposium dealing with the percep- 
tual aspects of personality.) 
Boring, E. G.: Sensation and Perception in the 
History of Experimental Psychology, Appleton- 
Century-Crofts, New York, 1942. 

(A technical and authoritative discussion 
of theories and experiments in the area of 
perception and sensation.) 
Gibson, J. J.: The Perception of the Visual 
World, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1950. 

(A well-illustrated analysis of visual per- 
Hebb, D. O.: The Organization of Behavior: 

A Neuropsychological Theory, Wiley, New 

York, 1949. 

(An account of perception in terms of 
neurophysiological and learning princi- 
ciples. ) 

Kohler, W.: Gestalt Psychology, 2d ed., Live- 
right, New York, 1947. 

(An authoritative and well-illustrated 
presentation of the gestalt view of per- 
ception and related aspects of behavior.) 
Osgood, C. E.: Method and Theory in Experi- 
mental Psychology, Oxford, New York, 1953. 
(Selected chapters on perception and 
problem solving, including a thoroughgo- 
ing attempt to apply learning theory to 
these aspects of behavior.) 




Learning and remembering are very im- 
portant in human behavior. Just how im- 
portant they are is easy to see if we imagine 
how helpless a person would be if he could 
not learn and remember. He could not 
walk, or talk, or understand others, or know 
what was going on around him. He would 
not profit from his experience or remember 
any of it. Indeed, he would hardly seem to 
us to be a person. (In Chapter 17 we see 
that such a condition can actually exist.) 

Learning may be defined as a change in 
behavior as a result of experience. The term 
is used to include such widely differing 
changes as responding differently to a sig- 
nal, acquiring a skill, altering the way in 
which something is perceived, conning to 
know a fact, and developing an attitude 
toward something. 

How do learning processes take place? 
What conditions affect them? How can we 
improve learning and remembering? All 
these are practical questions, since the an- 
swers will help us to understand human 


Any classification of learning processes is 
bound to be somewhat arbitrary. It will be 
helpful, nevertheless, to begin with one 
kind of learning about which much is 
known, conditioned-response learning. 

Conditioning. Learning by conditioned 
response was first studied by the Russian 
physiologist JJa^lov. 1 An apparatus which 
he used is shown schematically in Figure 
12.1. The purpose of the training was to 

1 1. P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes ( translated 
by G. V. Anrep), Oxford, New York, 1927. 



observe changes in the dog's salivation as a 
result of various conditions of training. A 
salivary duct had been brought to the outer 
surface of the dog's cheek by a simple 
operation. A tube running from the duct 
led to a device which measured the number 
of drops of saliva secreted. The dog was 
held by a harness which restrained his 
movements. The stimuli ( tones, lights, etc. ) 
and the food reward, which was located on 
the pan at the end of a pivoting shaft, were 
remotely controlled from the experiment- 
er's booth. The experimenter, who was 
screened from the dog, watched him in a 
mirror. This procedure permitted careful 
control of the stimuli and measurement of 
the response. 

At the outset of the experiment Pavlov 
observed that the sight or taste of food 
caused the dog to salivate but that a tone 
did not have this effect. After the tone had 
been paired with food for a number of 
trials, the tone alone caused saliva to flow. 
The salivary response was then said to be 
conditioned to the tone stimulus. 

There are a number of terms which are 
used to specify different aspects of the con- 
ditioning process. An unconditioned stimu- 
lus is a. stimulus which is adequate at the 
outset of training to produce the response 
in question. The response to such a stimulus 

Figure 12.1. Schematic diagram of 
Pavlov's apparatus for conditioning 
salivary responses. For explanation 
see text. (After 1. P. Pavlov, Lec- 
tures on Conditioned Reflexes, In- 
ternational Publishers, New Yorfc, 
1928, p. 271. Courtesy of the pub- 

is termed an unconditioned response. In 
Pavlov's experiment, the sight or taste of 
food was an unconditioned stimulus for the 
unconditioned response of salivating. A 
conditioned stimulus is one which is ini- 
tially inadequate to evoke the response in 
question but becomes able to do so as a 
result of being paired with the uncondi- 
tioned stimulus. The learned response to 
such a stimulus is then called a conditioned 
jrgsponse. In Pavlov's experiment, the tone 
was the conditioned stimulus for the con- 
ditioned response of salivating. (Finally, 
there is reinforcement, which is the 
strengthening of the association between 
a conditioned stimulus and a conditioned 
response as a result of pairing an uncondi- 
tioned stimulus with the conditioned stimu- 
lus. In Pavlov's experiment the sight or 
taste of food acted as a reinforcement; that 
is, pairing the food with the tone resulted 
in the tone's becoming more adequate as 
a stimulus for salivation. The different as- 
pects of the conditioning process are shown 
schematically in Figure 12.2. 

Many different responses can be condi- 
tioned, depending on the situation. A con- 
ditioned eyeblink can be established by 
pairing a tone with a puff of air directed 
against the cornea. This pairing must take 
place a number of times before any condi- 



tioning can be observed. Even an emotional 
response, such as fear, may be conditioned 
to the sight of a dentist's drill if painful 
experiences are paired with seeing the drill. 
It is said that the burned child fears the 
flame. This fear may be acquired by a con- 
ditioning process. Being burned by the 
flame acts as an unconditioned stimulus for 
fear (and withdrawal). Pairing the painful 
stimulus with the sight of his hand near 
the flame reinforces fear as a response to 
the conditioned stimulus of hand-near- 
flame. Indeed, the fear may be conditioned 
to other stimuli, such as the room in which 
the painful experience occurred. 

Conditioning may occur without aware- 
ness being involved. For example, we may 
learn to salivate at the sight of a dinner 
table without knowing that we are making 
this response. 

Extinction. What happens to a condi- 
tioned response if it is no longer reinforced? 
In other words, what happens if the condi- 
tioned response occurs in the absence of 
an unconditioned stimulus, that is, in the 
absence of reinforcement? Pavlov tried this 
very thing. After fully conditioning a dog, 
he changed the procedure by repeatedly 
sounding the tone without accompanying it 
with food. In other words, he stopped re- 
inforcing the response. At first, of course, 
the dog salivated as usual, but after a num- 
ber of such nonreinforced trials, the re- 
sponse became weaker and weaker until no 
saliva at all was secreted when the tone 
sounded. Thus the conditioned response 
was extinguished by not reinforcing it when 
it occurred. 

A conditioned eyeblink, too, can be ex- 
tinguished, by repeatedly sounding the tone 
( conditioned stimulus ) without blowing air 
against the eye ( nonreinf orcement ) . A 
child can lose a conditioned fear of a doc- 
tor, if on future visits to the doctor's office 
his fear is not reinforced with further un- 
pleasant experiences. 

The extinction of a fear response, how- 

ever, is often a very slow process, especially 
where the response leads us to avoid the 
situation in which it was acquired. When 
we avoid what seems to be a threatening 
situation, we have little or no chance to 
learn where the real dangers, if any, lie. 
Indeed, the circumstances that led up to the 
original pain and fear may have been 
purely accidental, as when a little child 
learns to fear, and avoid, a certain play- 
ground because he happened to have been 
stung there by a bee. The learned avoid- 
ance of anxiety-arousing situations has great 
importance for personal adjustment. If we 
avoid situatioRs'Li which we might develop 
new skills, we limit our satisfactions in life. 
Repression (see Chapter 6) has been con- 
ceived as a learned avoidance response to 
anxiety-arousing memory or motive. 2 

Partial Reinforcement. Suppose that the 
conditioned stimulus (which occurs on 
every trial) is followed by reinforcement 
on only part of the trials. The response is 
said to be partially reinforced. Suppose 

2 J. Dollard and N. Miller, Personality and Psy- 
chotherapy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950, pp. 










Figure 12.2. In this diagram of the condition- 
ing process, the solid-line arrow indicates that 
the connection between the unconditioned 
stimulus and the unconditioned response ex- 
isted at the outset of training. The dashed-line 
arrow from the conditioned stimulus to the 
conditioned response indicates the learned re- 
lationship acquired through reinforcement 
(pairing the unconditioned stimulus with the 
conditioned stimulus). 



Figure 12.3. How might we account for this 
child's reaction in terms of conditioning 
principles? How might the concepts of par- 
tial reinforcement, extinction, and generali- 
zation be applied in this situation? (Wide 
World Photos.) 

that the response in question is a condi- 
tioned eyeblink in human beings, with a 
tone as the conditioned stimulus, and a puff 
of air directed against the eye as the rein- 
forcing stimulus. Suppose we compare the 
effects of 100 per cent reinforcement (a 
puff of air directed against the eye every 
time the tone is sounded ) with those of 50 
per cent reinforcement (a puff of air di- 
rected against the eye on only 50 per cent 
of the trials ) . Not only is the rate of condi- 
tioning almost the same under the two con- 
ditions, but also the resistance to extinction 
is much greater for the partially reinforced 
responses; that is, it requires a larger num- 
ber of trials without reinforcement to elimi- 
nate the eyeblink response when it has been 
learned under conditions of partial rein- 
forcement. Parents also see the practical 

results of partial reinforcement though 
they may be unaware of the principle 
when they make occasional exceptions to 
rules and then find that children are re- 
markably persistent in requesting further 
exceptions. As another illustration, a fear 
response which has been partially rein- 
forced may endure for years or even for a 

Generalization of Conditioned Re- 
sponses. If a dog has learned a response to 
one stimulus, another somewhat like it will 
also cause the response. For instance, if a 
tone of one pitch has been used in training, 
then later a tone of another pitch will also 
evoke the response. This tendency for a 
stimulus similar to the conditioned stimulus 
to elicit the conditioned response is known 
as generalization. The response generalizes 
to a stimulus similar to the one used in 
training. The more similar the stimuli, the 
greater will be the degree of generalization. 
Usually the response to a similar stimulus 
is somewhat weaker than the response to 
the stimulus used in training. 

There are many examples of generaliza- 
tion of conditioned responses in everyday 
life. Suppose a child has been frightened 
by a wildly barking dog. The fear response 
may generalize to other dogs, even those 
which are not barking. The more similar 
these other dogs are to the original one, the 
stronger the fear reaction is likely to be. 
Attitudes and prejudices often arise in this 
way, that is, through generalization of con- 
ditioned responses. A person who has had 
an unfavorable experience with one mem- 
ber of a profession may generalize his un- 
favorable reaction to the whole profession. 

The tendency to generalize can be very 
adaptive. We can learn what one member 
of a class is like and transfer this knowledge 
to new instances. On the other hand, gen- 
eralizing may get us into difficulty. Treating 
a skunk as a cat is a well-known example. 
Even though some of our generalizations 
may turn out to be misleading or trivial, on 






One of the best illustrations of generalization of a conditioned response 
is furnished by an experiment by Hovland,* who used human beings as 
subjects. An electric shock or nearly any other strong stimulus tends to be 
followed by a momentary drop in the electrical resistance of the skin, largely 
as a result of increased secretion by the sweat glands. This reaction is the 
galvanic skin reaction, or GSR (see Chapter 4). First the GSR was conditioned 
to a tone of a certain frequency (stimulus 1 in the figure shown below). After 
this response had been conditioned, the investigator measured its amplitude 
in response to three other frequencies (stimuli 2, 3, and 4) differing by pro- 
gressively greater degrees from the frequency of the tone used in training. As 
shown by the graph, the GSR was strongest in the case of the conditioned 
stimulus and progressively decreased in amplitude as the stimuli differed more 
and more from this conditioned stimulus. Thus Hovland demonstrated a 
gradient of generalization along a pitch dimension. Other experiments have 
demonstrated gradients of generalization along other sensory dimensions and 
also along more abstract dimensions. 

* C. I. Hovland, "The Generalization of Conditioned Responses: I. The Sensory Generali- 
totion of Conditioned Responses with Varying Freqvencies of Tone," Journal of Genera/ 
Psychology, 17:125-148, 1937. 

Generalization of a conditioned galvanic skin response (GSR). 





g 16 










'the whole there is no doubt about the use- 
fulness of the generalizing process. 

Discrimination. Suppose Pavlov's dog has 
learned to salivate to tone A and general- 
izes this response to tone B. What will hap- 
pen if he is rewarded every time tone A 
occurs but not rewarded when tone B oc- 
curs? If the difference between the two 
tones is not too small, he will continue to 
salivate to tone A, but not to tone B. The 
response to tone B becomes extinguished. 
The dog is now discriminating between the 
two stimuli. The evidence that he discrimi- 
nates the two tones is that he responds dif- 
ferently to them. 

In our example, we have considered dis- 
crimination in the sense of responding to 
one stimulus and not responding to another 
stimulus that is somewhat like it. Pavlov's 
dog has learned to salivate to tone A, but 
not to tone B. The dog is doing more, how- 
ever, than just not making the response in 
questionsalivating; he is making a lot of 
other responses when tone B occurs such as 
scratching himself, stretching, etc. This 
means that he is responding to other stimuli, 
that tone B does not control his behavior. 

There are many familiar examples of dis- 
crimination that is learned in the same way 
as in our example. Suppose that a child has 
learned to call all men "Daddy." But when 
he does this, he finds that only one man re- 
sponds to him, that the others do not. He 
then learns to discriminate his father from 
other men. 

Experimental Neurosis. After a dog has 
learned to discriminate two stimuli, what 
happens if the difference between the stim- 
uli is gradually reduced to such a degree 
that the animal can no longer distinguish 
the stimuli? What happens is interesting: 
the dog becomes nervous, irritable, and up- 
set. Indeed, his earlier ability to discrimi- 
nate even coarse differences breaks down. 
This disturbed behavior is called experi- 

- WeT, too, can become highly disturbed if 
we are pressed to make discriminations 

which are too difficult for us. Suppose that 
our supervisor on one occasion approves 
and the next disapproves what to us ap- 
pears to be the very same behavior. Most 
of us would find it very hard to get along 
in such a situation. In fact, many of us 
would become quite disturbed, especially 
if we were afraid of losing our jobs. Our 
supervisor might be perfectly consistent 
from the point of view of his standards, but 
we do not know what they are, and the 
situation may be too complicated for us to 
figure them out. Another possibility, of 
course, is that the supervisor really is not 
consistent, which makes our problem even 

Child psychologists have pointed out a 
similar difficulty for the child in trying to 
learn the complex distinctions that his par- 
ents make. What to parents may look like 
perfect consistency on their part may be 
utterly confusing to a child who has not 
yet learned the abstract basis on which the 
parents discriminate. Not being able to 
make the fine distinctions that the parents 
do, the child may become disturbed. 


In our survey of conditioned-response 
learning there was comparatively little 
emphasis upon learning as a goal-oriented 
activity. The terminology and methods for 
the study of conditioning are somewhat dif- 
ficult to apply to situations in which we 
learn a series of responses leading to some 
goal, such as learning the skills necessary 
for driving a car. The learning of responses 
which attain goals is often termed instru- 
mental learning. The responses are called 
"instrumental" because they are a means of 
attaining a goal, that is, of satisfying a 
motive. How does such learning take place? 

Learning by Trial and Error. It is often 
said that we learn by trial and error. For ex- 
ample, we may try to learn how to shoot 
with a bow and arrow. At first we miss the 
target completely, except by accident. 



When the arrow falls short, we may try 
aiming higher; when it flies off to the right, 
we aim farther to the left, and so on. As we 
try various responses, some of them fail and 
are gradually eliminated. Others succeed 
and are retained. 

During the first third of the present cen- 
tury Thorndike, 3 a psychologist at Colum- 
bia University, studied learning both in 
animals and in human beings. His views of 
learning as a trial-and-error process have 
remained influential down to the present 
day. In one of his experiments, a cat is 
placed in a so-called puzzle box, a sort of 
cage. Inside it hangs a loop of string which 
if pulled raises a door and lets the cat out to 
eat a morsel of salmon in a nearby dish. 
When first placed in the cage, the cat does 
many different things, such as squeezing his 
head between the bars, scratching at the 
box, and pawing at the door, but all without 
effect. Sometime, in his exploratory be- 
havior, the cat pulls the string, the door 
comes open, and he goes out and eats the 
food. The second time the cat is put in the 
box, much the same thing happens, al- 
though the string may be pulled a little 
sooner. Gradually, in repeated trials, more 
and more of the ineffective responses are 
eliminated, and the correct one occurs more 
and more promptly. 

Thorndike's line of reasoning in explain- 
ing these results was as follows. The cat 
was motivated to get out, but this motive 
was blocked (frustrated). When a motive 
becomes frustrated there is an increase in 
the variability of responses. Some of these 
responses have a greater probability of oc- 
curring than do others, depending on the 
motive, the stimulus conditions, the past 
experience of the individual, and other fac- 
tors. In other words, the behavior is not 
random, though it may appear so. A num- 
ber of the cat's responses might reasonably 
be conceived as escape attempts. Responses 

3 E. L. Thorndike, The Fundamentals of Learn- 
ing, Teachers College, Columbia University, New 
York, 1932. 

which are followed by reward tend to be 
strengthened; that is, they are more likely 
to occur (and after less delay) on later 
occasions. Thorndike's explanation was that 
the responses that are followed closely by 
reward are strengthened more than those 
that are temporally more remote from re- 
ward. Since the correct response leads to 
reward, it is strengthened more than are 
earlier ineffective responses; responses not 
followed by reward tend to become weak- 
ened. Consequently the correct response 
eventually dominates competing unsuccess- 
ful responses, ard learning is said to have 

Thorndike viewed the whole process of 
learning as being purely automatic: con- 
nections between stimuli and responses are 
strengthened as a result of being followed 
by reward and weakened as a result of not 
being followed by reward. This, principle is 
known a& the law of, effect. That is, the 
effect or result of a response reward or 
nonreward determines whether it will be 
strengthened or weakened. If a response is 
followed by reward (even if this happens 
by chance), the response is strengthened. 
On future occasions it is more likely to 
occur and will tend to happen sooner. It is 
also likely to be greater in amplitude; for 
example, the cat may pull more vigorously 
at the string. If the response is not followed 
by reward, it becomes weakened. 

According to Thorndike's view, it is not 
necessary for the learner to perceive a rela- 
tionship between his responses and their 
effects; all that is necessary is for a response 
to be followed by reward. For example, the 
cat does not have to know how and why 
pulling the string results in opening the 
door. The fact that he pulls the string does 
not imply that he understands the relation- 
ship between this act and the door's open- 
ing. Thorndike even set up one experiment 
in which the experimenter opened the door 
whenever the cat licked himself. Since the 
response of licking was thus closely fol- 
lowed by reward, it was strengthened rela- 



Figure 12.4. This is a mirror-drawing appara- 
tus. The task of the subject is to move the 
stylus around a star-shaped pattern without 
touching its sides. If the stylus touches the 
sides, an electric clock records the duration of 
the contact. The screen blocks the subject from 
directly viewing his hand, the stylus, and the 
pattern, so that he can see them only in the 
mirror. Because of the mirror the subject must 
learn to move his hand differently in response 
to the visual stimuli. (Refer to page 248 for 
further details.) 

tive to other possible responses. Presumably 
the cat had no insight into this arbitrarily 
imposed relationship between his response 
and reward. Insight into why a response 
works or does not work is not necessary for 
this response to be strengthened or weak- 
ened. All that matters is whether or not the 
response is followed by reward a purely 
automatic kind of learning process. 

We have discussed Thorndike's views be- 
cause they have strongly influenced a num- 
ber of more recent learning theorists such 
as Hull and Guthrie (references at the end 
of this chapter) and their followers. Each 
of these theorists attempts to explain learn-^ 
ing as the formation of stimulus-response 
cojiBections^Each of them makes little sys- 
tematic use of the concepts of purpose and 
insight into relationships. Presently we shall 
examine other views of learning which, by 
contrast, emphasize these very factors. 

The trial-and-error conception has been 
applied to human learning, too. For exam- 
ple, we may try to solve a complicated me- 
chanical puzzle. Most of our attempts fail, 
and some of the failures may be repeated. 
Sometimes certain parts go together with- 
out our knowing why. Like the cat, we 
gradually .. eliminate- - errors ~ and become 
faster and more accurate. Some of us im- 

prove gradually, without knowing what we 
do that works, and why. Or we may im- 
prove for a while, then spend a long time 
on one trial, and suddenly show marked 
improvement. (In the latter case, we are 
said to have gained insight we see a rela- 
tionship or principle that helps. Trial-and- 
error conceptions of learning do not have 
much to say about insight. ) 

Figure 12.4 shows a typical mirror-draw- 
ing apparatus, one of several devices that 
have been useful in studying a trial-and- 
error process in human learning. The results 
obtained on this type of apparatus are com- 
parable to those obtained with animals in 
trial-and-error situations. 

Returning to the law of effect, the effects 
or consequences of responses are believed 
to control learning. This principle would 
suggest that the more closely a response is 
followed by its effect, the more rapid the 
learning ought to be; that is, an immediate 
effect strengthens or weakens responses 
more than a deferred one. If we were trying 
to learn to aim a rifle, we should learn faster 
if we knew the results after each shot than 
if we had to wait a few minutes to find out 
how we had scored. A related idea is that 
the more information about the effects of 
our responses we get, the faster we learn. 



' Some psychologists 
feel that the trial-and-error description of 
learning is of relatively limited usefulness. 
Those who stress this point most strongly 
are the gestalt psychologists. Their ideas 
about perception are examined in Chapter 
11. They also have contributed to our un- 
derstanding of learning. 

What do they have to add to the trial- 
and-error conception? They say that we 
often solve a problem by getting insight 
into a principle or relationship. This idea 
can be made clear by an example. During 
World War I Kohler, 4 a leader in gestalt 
psychology, was on the island of Teneriffe 
off the coast of Africa. He became inter- 
ested in how chimpanzees solve problems 
and conducted several experiments on their 
problem solving. In one typical experiment 
a bunch of bananas was tied to the end 
of a rope so that it was out of the chimp's 
reach. Nearby were some wooden boxes. 
The chimp at first tried to reach the bananas 
by jumping. After trying over and over 
again, he finally sat down and looked 
around. He saw the boxes. Quickly he 
seized one of the boxes, put it under the 
bananas, and climbed up to get them. 

Now it should be clear that this was not 
just a random response. It makes more 
sense to say that the chimp had insight he 
perceived the box as something that can 
be climbed upon in order to seize some- 
thing high. What happened does not look 
much like the gradual elimination of errors 
and the gradual strengthening of a correct 
response hit upon by chance. It has the 
earmarks, rather, of insight into what leads 
to what. And once the insight has been at- 
tained, the problem is mastered. It can be 
solved immediately the next time. After the 
principle is understood, quite a few changes 
in the situation can be made without caus- 
ing any difficulty. Then it matters little 
whether the lure is banana or orange, or 

4 W. Kohler, The Mentality of Apes, Harcourt, 
Brace, New York, 1925, 

just where the box is located, or its shape 
or size. (Of course, there are limits to how 
big the changes can be without causing 
trouble. ) In other words, the learning gen- 
eralizes (or transfers) widely, once the 
principle is understood. This is one of the 
important characteristics of insight in learn- 

Kohler also found that some chimpanzees 
were able to solve more complicated prob- 
lems, like stacking boxes so as to get ba- 
nanas placed even higher or fitting two 
sticks together to make a rake long enough 
to reach food p\\ced outside their cage. 
Typically the solution came rather sud- 
denly, usually after a quiet period in which 
the chimp looked over the situation. 

In the gestalt view, we solve a problem 
in this way. We have various hunches ( hy- 
potheses) about what to do. Practically 
never do we fumble blindly, although some 
of our hunches may be very poor ones. 
What we try helps us to know which 

Figure 12.5. Could you 
solve this jigsaw puz- 
zle by getting insight 
into a single principle? 
When problems are 
complex, trial-and-error 
manipulations coupled 
with numerous partial 
insights are character- 
istic of the learning 



hunches will not work. It is as though we 
are testing our hunches, although we usu- 
ally are not very systematic in doing so. 
Merely by thinking, we may perceive some 
possibilities and their probable effects with- 
out our doing anything overtly. Finally, 
either all at once or piecemeal, we get in- 
sight into the principle or relationship 
needed to solve the problem. Once we 
know the principle, we can use it to solve 
not only this problem but many others 
lil^e it. 

Certain factors may make it easier or 
harder to get insight into a problem. For 
one thing, past experience with similar 
problems may be helpful. A person with an 
engineering background, for example, is 
more likely to get insight into an engineer- 
ing problem than someone without such a 

It can also make a difference whether or 
not the various parts of the problem are 
open to view. The cat in the puzzle box is 
handicapped in that the mechanism is 
largely hidden. Therefore, the insight into 
the relationship between pulling the string 
and the opening of the door is not possible. 
That is why his learning must be a fum- 
bling, trial-and-error process. 

Another factor having bearing on insight 
is strong preconceptions. We can feel so 
strongly that the solution lies in a particu- 
lar direction that we are blind to other pos- 
sibilities. All our efforts go into the wrong 
channel, and all our ingenuity may be 
wasted in trying to make the wrong idea 
work. For instance, so long as we think 
that the way to get a stuck door open is 
to force it, then all that we can think about 
is how to bring enough force to bear. We 
might end with an ingenious arrangement 
of jacks and levers that finally breaks the 
door down, when unlocking it would have 
done the job! Even in our stupidity, how- 
ever, our behavior is not random or auto- 
matic. The lesson for all of us is clear: we 
should not get stuck on a premature hunch 
but should look over the problem in order 

to get a variety of hunches. Then we shall 
be less likely to waste our time in a blind 

Conditions of Trial and Error and In- 
sight. Instrumental-learning tasks vary in 
the degree to which their solution is a mat- 
ter of trial and error or a matter of insight. 
Actually, solving most novel problems en- 
tails both insight and trial and error. Learn- 
ing therefore seems to vary all the way 
from insight to trial and error, when these 
terms are used descriptively. In this sense, 
"trial and error" refers to a learning proc- 
ess characterized by ( 1 ) the gradual elimi- 
nation of errors, and (2) relatively limited 
generalization of the solution when the 
conditions are changed. "Insight," on the 
other hand, refers to a learning process 
characterized by (1) the mastery of a 
principle or relationship, usually fairly sud- 
denly, and (2) considerable amount of 
transfer when the conditions are changed. 

The level on which we attempt to solve 
a problem depends on a number of factors. 
One is the nature of the problem or task 
itself. Some problems can be solved by 
finding a single principle; others cannot. 
Some mechanical puzzles, for instance, 
cannot be solved by a single principle; a 
lot of learning is needed about the separate 
parts, how they fit together, and the order 
in which to assemble them. Hence the na- 
ture of the problem has something to do 
with the level on which we can solve it. 

Another factor is our previous experi- 
ence with problems like the one we are 
trying to solve. After all, it would be very 
difficult to have insight into an electronics 
problem without knowing a lot of physics 
and mathematics. If we do not have the 
necessary background knowledge, we are 
forced to approach the problem in a piece- 
meal, trial-and-error way. We call the ef- 
fect of previous experience upon new 
learning transfer of training. If this effect 
of earlier learning helps in solving the new 
problem, the transfer is positive. If it inter- 
feres, the transfer is negative. Both kinds 



are encountered in practical situations. Our 
earlier experience with similar problems 
may therefore be a help or a hindrance in 
getting insight. 

Finally, differences in intellectual ca- 
pacities affect the level at which a problem 
is attacked. A bright child may be able to 
solve by insight a problem such as how to 
move a heavy object (by means of a lever), 
whereas a dull child might need to resort 
to trial and error. Thus, we have seen that 
a number of factors affect the level at 
which we approach and solve a problem. 
Trial and error and insight are both char- 
acteristic of learning. 

Stimulus-response and Cognitive Theo- 
ries of Learning. Underlying our discus- 
sion of instrumental learning are two 
broadly different conceptions of the learn- 
ing process. One we shall call the stimulus- 
response theory; the other, the cognitive 
theory. In this book we can present only 
the broad outlines of each theory and 
show how they compare with one another. 

The stimulus-response theory, of_which 
Thorndike's is an example, regards learn- 
ing as the formation of habits, that is, of 
associations between stimuli and responses. 
A typical (simplified) stimulus-response 
principle is that whenever a stimulus is 
followed by a response which is rewarded, 
there is an increment (an increase) in the 
strength of the habit. That is to say, the 
next time the stimulus occurs, the response 
is more probable, occurs sooner, is greater 
in amount, or some combination of these. 
Thus if a child sees his aunt, approaches 
her, and gets candy, the next time he sees 
her he will have a stronger tendency to 
approach her. The more often the response 
occurs and is rewarded, the stronger be- 
comes the habit of approaching the aunt. 

From the point of view of the stimulus- 
response theory, the task of the investigator 
is to identify the stimuli leading to the re- 
sponse in question and to determine the 
conditions which affect the strength of 
these stimulus-response associations. The 

Figure 12.6. Transfer of training in a testing situa- 
tion. The examiner (after lining up a row of blocks) 
asks the child to "build a 'train with just as many 
'cars' as mine." The child has no adult concept of 
"just as many" and makes his train "just as long" as 
the examiners; but since his "cars" touch each other, 
his train has more cars than the examiner's. If the boy 
had been able to count, or to match his "cars" one-to- 
one with the examiners, he would have solved the 
problem. Instead he transferred, inappropriately, the 
notion of "just as long" (Photographs courtesy of 
Dr. David Elkind, Austen Riggs Center.) 



psychologist usually approaches this task 
objectively (with emphasis upon measure- 
ment) and tends not to speculate about the 
perceptions and thoughts of the learner. 
In most versions of stimulus-response the- 
ory, reinforcement ( usually in the sense of 
reward) is given a central place in the 
strengthening of responses. 

Stimulus-response theorists generally 
hold that motives are necessary before re- 
ward, which strengthens responses, can 
occur. Motives also foster persistent and 
variable behavior, so that eventually an 
effective response is likely to occur. After 
a habit is formed, motivation is necessary 
to bring about response. |For example, the 
sight of the food dish does not cause a cat 
to approach it unless he is hungry.] 

Cognitive theories ( Tolman r ' is me lead- 
ing exponent) reaje44euuii^^ change 
in thewav of gerceiying a situation. "Tor 
exampte,Kohler's apes aPfirsF"" perceived 
the out-of-reach bananas as something to 
be jumped for and later as something to be 
reached by means of stacking boxes. Such 
a change in the way of perceiving the parts 
of a situation in new relationships is called 

which is learn- 

ing. There are now new expectations as to 
what events (stimuli, responses) will lead 
to what further events. Thus the child who 
approaches his aunt and receives candy is 
more likely in the future to perceive that 
she has candy and to expect that he can 
get it from her by going to her. 

Cognitive theorists seek to determine the 
conditions under which insight is most 
likely to occur. For example, they hold 
that learning is more likely to occur if the 
essential parts of a problem situation* fife 
open to view and manipulation than if they 
are not. Thus Kohler's apes learned more 
readily to stack boxes when the boxes were 

5 E. C. Tolman, Purposive Behavior in Animals 
and Men, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 
1932. See also E. C. Tolrnan, "There is More than 
One Kind of Learning," Psychological Review, 
56:144-155, 1949. 

directly in the field of view as they tried to 
get the banana than when the boxes were 
off to one side. According to cognitive 
theorists, the essential process in learning is 
perceptual reorganization seeing things in 
new relationships rather than the strength- 
ening of associations between stimuli and 
responses as a result of reinforcement. 

Cognitive theorists contend that motiva- 
tion is not essential for learning to occur. 
Motivation, if not too intense, may be help- 
ful in making certain parts of the situation 
(such as rewards) stand out, so that they 
may more readily be perceived as related. 
Motivation is also necessary for perform- 
ing what has been learned. For example, if 
we have learned to expect that pushing a 
switch will turn on the light, then we shall 
push the switch if we want to have light. 
Cognitive theorists usually feel that re- 
sponding is not essential for learning to 
take place, except in so far as responding 
leads to further information. For instance, 
a child might need to open a cooky jar in 
order to learn that it contained cookies. 

Table 12.1 shows further comparisons 
between the stimulus-response and cogni- 
tive theories. It should be emphasized that 
each theory has advantages for dealing 
with certain kinds of problems. For ex- 
ample, stimulus-response theory is useful 
in explaining processes like animal learn- 
ing, especially in trial-and-error situations; 
the learning of skills, such as typewriting; 
and verbal learning, such as of lists of 
words. Cognitive theory is useful in ex- 
plaining processes such as human ( and ani- 
mal) problem solving and thinking. 

A second point is that at least some of 
the differences in the two theories may be 
merely in the words which are used. For 
example, "learning a fear response to a 
stimulus situation" (or object) may not be 
very different from "learning to perceive or 
expect that this object leads to possible 
injury" (and therefore fear of it). 

Third, these two theories are influenc- 
ing each other's development. For in- 



Table 12.1 Comparison of Stimulus-response and Cognitive Theories of Learning 

S timulus-response 


Preferred type of learning 

What is learned 
Role of motivation 

Role of reward 

Role of responding 

Role of repetition 

Tasks requiring primarily a trial- 
and-error approach 

Stimulus-response associations 

Motives are necessary for learn- 
ing to take place and for per- 
forming what has been 

Reward strengthens habits (in 
most varieties of stimulus-re- 
sponse theories) 

Responses must occur and be re- 
inforced if learning is to occur 

Repetition of a response strength- 
ens a habit only if reinforce- 
ments (rewards) occur 

Tasks which may be solved by 
means of perceiving a rela- 
tionship or principle 

Understandings of relationships 
(cognitive reorganization) 

Motives are necessary for per- 
forming or utilizing what has 
bean learned, but not essen- 
tial fpr learning itself 

Reward is not essential for learn- 
ing unless it provides a basis 
for perceiving relationships 
which would otherwise not be 

Responses are not essential for 
learning except in so far as 
they permit the learner to per- 
ceive the effects of the re- 

Repetition may be effective by 
virtue of providing more op- 
portunities to perceive the es- 
sential relationships 

stance, stimulus-response theorists are com- 
ing to pay more attention to symbolic proc- 
esses (thoughts, expectations) which come 
between stimuli and responses. Likewise 
cognitive theorists are coming to formu- 
late their principles somewhat more rigor- 
ously (in the manner of stimulus-response 
theories) so that more definite predictions 
can be made. As these trends continue, it 
is probable that the two theories will be- 
come more and more unified. 


What happens when we try to acquire 
a skill, such as reading, public speaking, 

dancing, or group discussion? Although 
the content of such skills will vary, there 
appear to be many features common to 
learning all of them. In each case, the 
course of improvement tends to be grad- 
ual. In each, moreover, there are some 
more or less defined standards of profi- 
ciency which the learner attempts to reach. 
Finally, in each, a lot of practice appears 
to be necessary in order to acquire and to 
maintain the skill. 

Typical Course of Learning a Skill. The 
changes 'which take place in learning to 
typewrite will illustrate the typical course 
of learning a skill. If we are beginners, we 
must learn the location of the keys, where 



Figure 12.7. A training device for giving driv- 
ing instruction in the classroom. The device is 
equipped with an automatic shift as well as 
with a standard conventional shift. There is 
evidence of considerable positive transfer of 
training from such a device to actual road 
driving. (Aetna Life Affiliated Companies.) 

our fingers go, and how to strike the keys. 
We must also learn to use the space bar, 
carriage return, and other controls. At first 
we make a lot of errors. We are physically 
tense, and we work slowly and irregularly, 
being somewhat erratic in how well we do. 
Distractions are likely to bother us, and we 
may feel that we are working pretty hard. 
Gradually, however, we improve, although 
the course of improvement tends to be ir- 
regular. Indeed, we may even get worse 
for a time and show little or no apparent 
improvement for several days. After a long 
time, we reach a point beyond which prac- 
tice results in no further improvement. 

For convenience, the changes which typi- 
cally accompany increasing skill may be 

Reduction in errors or improvement in ac- 

Improvement in rate 
Reduction in over-all physical tension 
Smoothness and regularity of performance 
Greater uniformity of performance 
Greater freedom from the effects of distrac- 

Decreased feelings of effort 

A device that has been frequently used 
in the study of motor learning and per- 
formance is known as the pursuit rotor. 

This requires the subject to keep a metal 
stylus in contact with a metal plug on a 
rotating turntable. An electric clock meas- 
ures the amount of time that the stylus is 
in contact with the target plug during each 
period of practice. As the subject makes 
progress in mastering the task, he becomes 
more accurate, experiences less physical 
tension, varies less in his performance, is 
less subject to distractions and interference, 
and has less feeling of effort. 

Learning Curves. The rate of learning, as 
measured by performance, can be repre- 
sented graphically and is depicted in the 
curves of Figure 12.8. The base line shows 
units of practice, such as the number of 
trials or the amount of time spent in prac- 
tice. The vertical axis indicates degree of 
learning as measured by some index of per- 
formance, such as percentage of correct re- 
sponses, amount of time on target, or score 
in points. Curve A illustrates rapid initial 
improvement, followed by decreasing gains 
from practice. This is a curve of decreasing 
returns. Curve C indicates little or no im- 
provement initially, after which there is a 
period of rapid improvement, which in turn 
is followed by little further improvement. 
This curve is called an S-shaped curve be- 
cause it looks somewhat like an S lying on 



its side. Curve B, which has not been 
smoothed like A and C, indicates the irregu- 
lar nature of most learning curves, that is, 
how performance fluctuates during learn- 
ing. This curve also shows a plateau, which 
is a period during which there is little or no 
measurable improvement in performance, 
although learning may still be going on 
during this period. 

The rate of improvement in acquiring 
skills varies from person to person and also 
from time to time for any given person. In 
learning a sport such as bowling, for ex- 
ample, one beginner shows rapid improve- 
ment, while another needs to practice for a 
long time before his score improves ap- 
preciably. Sometimes a bowler reaches a 
certain level ( a plateau ) and remains there 

for several weeks, then again shows im- 
provement. After a great deal of practice, 
each bowler tends to reach some level and 
stay there. Similar characteristics in per- 
formance curves have been noted in learn- 
ing many other skills, such as typewriting, 
telegraphy, reading, writing, target shoot- 
ing, and playing a musical instrument. 

Why do we differ in our learning curves? 
What accounts for plateaus in these curves? 
For temporary drops in score? For im- 
provement after years of no improvement? 

One reason why we acquire skill at dif- 
ferent rates ( and to different limits ) is that 
we differ in our hiredity; that is, hereditary 
factors influence the rate and degree to 
which we benefit from practice. Some of 
us, for example, have a much greater apti- 


Figure 12.8. These are examples of learning curves. Which one shoius rapid improve- 
ment at first with smaller gains later on? Which one pictures slow initial improvement? 
How would you describe the remaining learning curve? 



tude for acquiring certain athletic skills 
than do others. 

A second reason why we improve at dif- 
ferdnt rates is that we differ in the amount 
and kind of previous learning which we 
can bring to a new task. As we have seen, 
this transfer of training may be either posi- 
tive or negative. A lot of motor skills, such 
as bowling and throwing a baseball under- 
hand, probably have a lot in common, so 
that practice on one helps in learning the 
other. It sometimes happens, however, that 
previous learning may interfere with new 
learning, in which event improvement is 

Another reason why we improve in skill 
at different rates is that we differ in motiva- 
tion. If we really want to learn a skill, we 
practice harder. Also, if we are highly moti- 
vated, we set higher goals, pay more atten- 
tion to ways of improving our perform- 
ance, and persist longer in the face of 

Still another reason why we do not all 
improve at the same rate is the fact that 
we may use different methods of practice. 
Some methods may permanently block im- 
portant improvement. Others, such as a 
hunt-and-peck system of typing, may yield 
rapid gains at first but keep us from ever 
becoming expert. Other methods, involving 
thorough grounding in fundamentals, may 
not result in much improvement at first, but 
later on help a great deal. 

Someone who has been working for years 
at a certain level of performance ( as in typ- 
ing, bookkeeping, or public speaking) may 
improve very much with the help of 
changed methods of working. Setting higher 
goals often helps, too. One of the most 
vital tasks of a trainer is to get us to want 
to improve and to accept new methods. 
There must be willingness to learn. 

One of the puzzling features of learning 
curves is the plateaus that sometimes ap- 
pear in them. These are periods during 
which little or no improvement in perform- 
ance occurs, although afterward there may 

be further improvement. Possibly learning 
is going on while there is a plateau, al- 
though it is not at the moment apparent in 
improved scores. In typing, for example, a 
plateau may occur while we are learning to 
respond to words and even phrases instead 
of single letters. Some plateaus are caused 
by a temporary loss of motivation when 
there has been initial improvement because 
of transfer from past learning, but hard 
work is necessary for further improvement 
to occur. 

Finally, what accounts for irregularity in 
performance, particularly temporary drops 
in the learning curve? Such irregularities 
are more typical of the early stages in 
learning, but sometimes they happen even 
after long practice, as when a batter goes 
into a slump. The causes are not fully 
known, but a change in motivation (distrac- 
tion, worry, fear of failure) or a change in 
method may have damaging effects. Even 
skilled performers may need coaching as- 
sistance in identifying the source of the dif- 
ficulty. Unfortunately most of our evidence 
on the point is anecdotal, such as a report 
by a major-league batter that a change in 
stance unconsciously developed and re- 
sulted in a batting slump. When the cause 
was recognized, the difficulty was removed 
and performance again improved. 

Training in Skills. Some methods of ac- 
quiring skills are more effective than others. 
The person who teaches others or trains 
them in skills needs to know and understand 
the factors that are important in acquiring 

One thing a trainer ought to do is to 
provide clear standards of performance. It 
is difficult if not impossibleto learn a 
skill if we do not know what we are aim- 
ing for. We need to know when we are do- 
ing well, and when we are doing poorly. 
Indeed, we should know in what particular 
ways we are doing well or poorly. 

There are a number of ways for a trainer 
to go about pointing out standards of per- 
formance. He can tell us, as when a super- 






Dr. and Mrs. Keith Hayes tried the noble experiment * of keeping a female 
chimpanzee, Viki, in their home over a number of years beginning with her 
earliest infancy. Viki was given the same care and attention as would be 
given a child. She was cuddled, diapered, fondled, given toys, talked to, 
and in other ways exposed to the experiences typical of human childhood. 
By the time she was three, Viki handled such problems as form boards, 
peg boards, picture puzzles, block piling, and buttoning with the skill appro- 
priate to a child of that age. After reaching the age of six, she was able 
to equal many six-year-old children in solving a variety of problems. For 
example, she could switch on an electric fan, when it failed to go on, she 
checked the wall socket and plugged in the wire. 

The main area in which Viki was inferior to human children was that of 
language ability. With considerable difficulty Viki learned to say a few 
words acceptably and to use them purposeful!/, although she understood 
many more words than she could say. It is imeresting to note that Viki 
babbled less than most children do, and this fact may have had something 
to do with her limited linguistic development. The whole experiment was an 
important demonstration of the effect of heredity on learning when nearly 
ideal conditions are provided for such learning. 

* George W. Gray, "The Yerlces Laboratories" Scientific American, 192:67-77, 1955. 

The tendency of the chimpanzee 
to explore and manipulate with lips 
and tongue rather than with hands 
appears to be significant in ex- 
plaining why it falls progressively 
behind human infants in the devel- 
opment of manipulative abilities. 
(Courtesy of Scientific American.) 

visor describes our job responsibilities. He 
can have an expert demonstrate. It does not 
help, of course, to know that we are not as 
good as the expert. Rather, we need to 
know specifically what he does that is so 
effective and what we do that does not 
work so well. It is one of a trainer's re- 
sponsibilities to make just these points 
clear. Sometimes it is hard to say what are 
appropriate standards of performance. This 
is true to a large extent in education, which 
has no simple tests of how well training has 
equipped us for life outside the classroom. 

A second thing that a trainer should do, 
if he can, is to improve our motivation. One 
way of enhancing motivation is to clarify 
the goals and objectives of the training. A 
training course for salesmen, for example, 
is more effective if the salesmen are led to 
feel a need for the training. A training pro- 
gram which is superior in all other ways will 
fail if we do not want to learn, or if we are 
resentful about participating in it. $ 

Sometimes learning curves are used to 
help motivate learning. Seeing progress is 
encouraging to most of us. We frequently 



Figure 12.9. Ballet dancing is a skill requiring much practice and careful direction 
from a trainer. The trainer acts as a model, points out particular errors and correct 
responses on the part of the student, and endeavors to foster high levels of aspiration. 
A mirror is provided so that the students may observe their performance and correct 
their mistakes. Motivation on the part of the students is, of course, essential. (Cour- 
tesy of Ballet Theater Foundation.) 

compete against ourselves, trying to better 
our previous scores. 

Some trainers instill rivalry to increase 
motivation. The competition may be ar- 
ranged so that it is between individuals 
or between groups, with prizes or honors 
^for superiority. Such methods often work 
well, but some of us do not do our best 
under conditions of rivalry. 

Praise and reproof are widely used to 
motivate learning, but a trainer needs to 
be careful in using them. Some of us react 
to them in one way and some in another. 
Many educators feel that general praise 
and reproof are ineffective. What is needed 
instead is to identify specific accomplish- 
ments to praise and specific mistakes to 
criticize. A general atmosphere of approval 
is something different, however. A trainer 
can approve of our efforts while still point- 
ing out shortcomings that need correction. 

Some of the other responsibilities of the 
trainer are to (1) arrange for practice of 
the skills; (2) make use of training aids of 
various kinds, such as films, charts, tape re- 
cordings, and demonstrations; (3) evaluate 
and keep records of performance; and (4) 

give the training in such a way that it can 
be applied later under practical or field 


At one time or another all of us have had 
to face the problem of developing effective 
methods of study. Certainly this is a prob- 
lem for most students in school. As in- 
dustry provides more and more training 
programs, the problem becomes important 
there, too. How can we study most effec- 

Improving Motivation and Attitudes. To 
begin with, why do we wish to study? 
What is our underlying motivation? What 
attitudes do we have toward the task? 
Studying needs to be related to important 
goals and objectives in life. A college stu- 
dent who finds it "difficult to concentrate" 
will find it helpful to consider what are his 
purposes in going to college and how the 
material to be learned fits in with his goals. 
In some cases, counseling may be needed. 

Many attitudes may interfere with ef- 
fective study. One is a feeling that studying 



and learning have no long-run practical 
value. In some cases, this belief is a pure 
rationalization. Trainees have many stereo- 
types, often false, as to what learning is 
important. Trainers may try to correct these 
beliefs by presenting the views of former 
trainees who are professionally important 
and experienced. 

Immature attitudes toward teachers may 
also interfere with effective study. Many 
students carry over to their teachers an 
adolescent rebellion against their families. 
Studying is something required by author- 
ity; therefore, they feel, it is to be avoided. 
Unfortunately, authoritarian behavior by 
some teachers intensifies the tensions be- 
hind this rejection of the student role. 

"Inability to concentrate" in studying may 
be due to emotional distractions. Some stu- 
dents are worried about finances, or are 
anxious about their abilities, or are having 
conflicts with their parents. Such feelings 
interfere with effective study. 

Specific Methods for Effective Study. Al- 
though proper motivation and attitudes are 
probably the most important factors in ef- 
fective study, there are a number of specific 
methods which may be helpful. 

Self-recitation has been found to be ef- 
fective. In self-recitation we try to state the 
main ideas in the material in our own words. 
For example, as we look at a section head- 
ing, we ask ourselves, "What is the point?" 
Looking away from the book, we state the 
point in our own words, and then check 
ourselves if necessary. 

A famous study by Gates 6 illustrates the 
value of self-recitation as compared with 
straight reading. Large numbers of chil- 
dren from different school grades learned 
nonsense syllables (meaningless "words" 
which are widely used in studies of verbal 
learning) and biographies. With a fixed 
amount of time available for study, the 
least efficient method was to spend all the 
time in reading. The efficiency of learning 

6 A. I. Gates, "Recitation as a Factor in Memo- 
rizing," Archives of Psychology, no. 40, 1917. 

increased as proportionally more time was 
spent in recitation. In the case of the biog- 
raphies, which are somewhat like the mean- 
ingful material of most textbooks, 40 per 
cent of the time, and even more, spent in 
self -recitation proved to be most effective. 
In the case of nonsense materials, the ef- 
fect of self-recitation was even more 
marked, the maximum advantage occurring 
with 90 per cent of the time spent in self- 
recitation. Similar results have been ob- 
tained in other more recent studies. Recita- 
tion is believed to be of value largely be- 
cause it helps v^ to organize the material, 
to make it more meaningful. 

Another method of improving study hab- 
its is to distribute practice, i.e., to devote a 
number of brief study periods to the ma- 
terial rather than to spend the same total 
amount of time in a single long study pe- 
riod. There is some evidence that distribu- 
tion of practice is relatively more important 
with materials to be learned by rote, such 
as vocabulary lists and numerous separate 
factual details, than with materials that are 
more meaningful and better organized. 

Review at various intervals after learn- 
ing has also proved to be valuable. Such 
review should be done carefully, for a 
superficial review may even interfere with 
remembering. A review should help to 
organize the material so as to make it more 
meaningful. Deficiencies in information 
should be recognized and corrected during 
the review. 

It is often a good practice to look over 
the material as a whole first. We may 
do this by looking at section headings in 
order to see how the material is organized. 
Sometimes we prefer to read the summary 
and conclusions first. We may find it useful 
to read a chapter rapidly, perhaps making 
marginal notes and underlining. Then we 
can move on to a detailed study of the ma- 

The material may be made more mean- 
ingful by deliberately and habitually look- 
ing for relationships to other things already 







A place of apparatus often used for the study of perceptual-motor skills 
is the mirror-drawing apparatus (see Figure 12.4). Mirror drawing is a diffi- 
cult task to learn, because what appears visually to be farther away is 
actually nearer, and what is seen as closer actually is farther away. The 
subject must learn to reinterpret visual stimuli and move his hand appro- 
priately. The accompanying figure shows learning curves under three differ- 
ent conditions of practice in this task.* In this graph, the lower the score, 
the better the performance. In the massed practice condition, 20 trials were 
given in immediate succession, without any provision for rest. Under the 
other two conditions 20 trials were given with either 1 -minute or 1-day 
intervals between trials. The above results and other later experiments sug- 
gest that more important than the length of the resf period (beyond some 
minimum) is the length of the work period. That is to say, there was little 
or no difference between the value of a 1 -minute and a 1-day rest period, 
but a short work period was preferable to a continuous work period. Later 
investigations have yielded similar results. 

* I. Lorge, "The Influence of Regularly Interpolated Time Intervals upon Subsequent 
Learning/' Teachers College Confribufions fo Education, no. 438, 1930. 





I I I I 


9 10 11 

12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 

Learning curves for three different conditions of practice on a mirror-drawing task. The 
lower the score, the better the performance. The results show that 1 -minute rest intervals 
between trials and 1-day intervals were of nearly equal value, and that both were better 
than massed practice (no rest at all). 



known. In studying a psychology textbook, 
for example, we should actively think about 
examples from our own experience. We 
should relate what is said in the text to what 
we have found in our other books, such as 
personalities in literature. With an active, 
reflective attitude, we can consider a book 
(or a lecture) as a mere starting point for 
our own thinking. 

Finally, we should arrange for a good 
setting in which to study. Factors which are 
well known, but frequently not controlled, 
include freedom from distractions and in- 
terruptions; a comfortable, well-lighted 
work place; and adequate reference books, 
papers, etc. Although these factors are 
conducive to effective study, they are not 
sufficient in themselves. Motivation and at- 
titudes are probably the most important 

factors in effective study. 



All of us have had the experience of try- 
ing unsuccessfully -to remember something 
which we once knew quite well. Educators 
have found that only a fraction of what is 
learned in school is remembered afterward. 
Forgetting is a common everyday expe- 
rience, but why does it occur? What condi- 
tions affect the rate at which we forget? 
Or, to look at the question another way, 
what happens in remembering? How do 
our memories of past experiences change 
over time? These are some of the questions 
which we shall try to answer in this sec- 

Measuring Retention and Forgetting. 
How much does a person remember after 
an interval without practice? In order to 
answer this question, we must consider 
^vays of measuring retention and forgetting. 
Three principal methods have frequently 
been used in psychological studies of reten- 
tion: (1) the recall method, (2) the recog- 
nition method, and (3) the relearning 

In the recall method, performance after 

Figure 12.10. A memory drum, ichich is 
a device for ti-e controlled presentation 
of verbal (or other) materials, is widely 
used in the study of verbal learning and 
retention. The memory drum presents 
the items of a list at a controlled ratefor 
example, one item every two seconds. 
Nonsense syllables are often used as the 
learning materials in order to control 
the differences among subjects in prior 
familiarity with the materials. Many of 
the results which have been found in 
the case of nonsense materials also hold 
for meaningful materials. (Courtesy of 
Ralph Gerbrands.) 

an interval without practice is compared 
with that at the end of training. For ex- 
ample, if we can name the capitals of the 
48 states without error after training, but 
make 12 errors after an interval without 
practice, then the number of errors indicates 
the amount of forgetting. The number of 
capitals named correctly expresses the de- 
gree of retention. In terms of recall as a 
measure of retention, we remember 75 per 
cent of what we had originally learned. 

Another measure of retention is recogni- 
tion. Suppose, for example, that we met 10 
people at a party. If later we pick some 
of these 10 out of a larger group at a better- 
than-chance level, we have some retention. 
In order to recognize members of the origi- 
nal 10, we must have learned enough about 
their appearance to discriminate them from 




Figure 12.11. This is an example of a 
retention curve. How would you interpret 
this curve? For explanation, see text. 

others. It is apparent that the more similar 
the learned objects are to others from which 
they are to be discriminated, and the more 
other such objects there are, the more dif- 
ficult such recognition would be. 

In the relearning method (sometimes 
called the savings method ) , we are required 
to learn the task once again to the original 
level of performance. If we need less than 
the original amount of practice (as meas- 
ured by errors, time, etc.) for relearning, 
then this is evidence of retention. If, for 
example, we originally needed 40 trials to 
reach a certain level of proficiency, and 10 
trials afterward to relearn to the same level, 
then 30 trials (or 75 per cent of the original 
40 trials ) were saved in relearning. The re- 
learning method is a very sensitive meas- 
ure of retention. 

Retention and Forgetting Curves. A re- 
tention curve (see Figure 12.11) shows 
graphically how much is remembered as a 
function of time since learning. Figure 12.11 
is only one example, for there are many 
other forms of retention curves. On the 
base line are units of time since learning, 
the number representing the time of com- 
pleting the original learning. The vertical 
axis indicates the degree of retention in 
terms of some unit such as number or per- 

centage of the originally learned items 
which are recalled. The curve shows a 
rapid initial drop in retention, followed by 
progressively smaller losses as time passes. 

There is no one true form of retention 
curve. Although curves similar to the one 
we have discussed are often obtained, the 
course of retention varies with many condi- 
tions. For example, the form of the curve 
varies with the method of measuring reten- 
tion. Other factors which affect the form of 
retention curves include the degree of origi- 
nal learning, the type of task or material, 
and the method of learning the material. 
Let us look at some of the results of research 
on these factors. 

First, the higher the level to which a 
task is learned, the more slowly it is for- 
gotten. Suppose we have learned a poem 
so well that we can recite it without error. 
Now if we were to study it some more (to 
overlearn it ) , we should remember it better 
and for a longer time than if we had not 
done so. Overlearning is consequently an 
excellent way of improving retention, a 
point relevant to how to study effectively. 

Second, under a wide range of conditions, 
retention is better after distributed prac- 
tice than after massed practice. That is, if 
we have only a certain amount of time in 
which to study material or to practice a 
skill, it is usually better to divide our prac- 
tice into a number of short sessions than to 
mass it in one long session. 

Third, material which is meaningful 
tends to be remembered better than ma- 
terial which is less meaningful, such as 
lists of isolated facts. Meaningful material 
is material which can be perceived in an 
organized way, the different parts fitting 
into a structure. Remembering a part of 
such material helps us to remember other 
parts which are meaningfully related to it. 

Some Questionable Beliefs about Remem- 
bering. There are some questionable popu- 
lar beliefs about factors affecting retention 
and forgetting. For example, many people 
believe, without adequate evidence, that 







In a study by Cain and Willey,* subjects learned lists of 12 nonsense 
syllables. One group (massed-practice condition) learned the syllables in a 
single session, while the other group (spaced-practice condition) learned the 
same material to the same criterion level of performance in three sessions. 
Each of these groups was then divided into three subgroups which were 
tested 1 day, 2 days, and 7 days after training. In each case, the spaced- 
practice group showed the greater retention. Many other studies have also 
demonstrated greater retention when the material was learned under dis- 
tributed-practice conditions, although with highly organized and meaningful 
materials the difference may be small or even in the other direction. 


o o following spaced practice 

O o following massed practice 

1 day 

3 days 


7 days 

These are retention curves for verbal material learned under spaced 
(distributed) conditions of practice and under massed conditions of 
practice. Although the material was learned to the same standard of 
proficiency under each method, retention was better for the material 
learned through distributed practice. (Courtesy of the American Psy- 
chological Association.) 

* L. F. Cain and R. deV. Willey, "The Effect of Spaced Learning on the Curve of Reten- 
tion/' Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25:209-214, 1939. 

a person who is slow in learning a task will 
remember it better than one who learns it 
more rapidly. When this is the case, as it 
sometimes is, it is usually because the slow 
learners overlearned certain parts of the 
task which were learned early in practice. 

In controlled experiments in which mate- 
rials, such as nonsense syllables, are 
dropped out of the task as they are mas- 
tered, the faster learners on the average 
remember somewhat better than do the 
slower ones. 



Although it has often been asserted that 
motor tasks, such as swimming, are remem- 
bered better than verbal ones, the evidence 
is inadequate. It really is difficult to com- 
pare how well we remember, say, swim- 
ming with how well we remember Lincoln's 
Gettysburg Address. In the first place, there 
is no way of determining whether the two 
tasks were originally learned to the same 
degree. Aside from the typical difference in 
amount of practice in the meantime, there 
are no common units for comparing the 
present levels of retention. 

It is often said that we remember what 
we see better than what we hear. But in 
controlled tests when the same material is 
learned by reading it and by hearing it, no 
consistent differences are found in either 
how rapidly we learn it or how well we 
remember it. A lesson taught by aid of a 
film mightand probably would have 
somewhat different content and interest 
value from that of a lesson taught by a 
lecture method. It is easy to see that more 
than just a difference in the sense organ 
eye versus ear is involved in this ques- 

Is Forgetting Ever Complete? When we 
hear very old people give accounts (often 


O o retention after sleep 
O o retention with no sleep 

unreliable ) of their early childhood experi- 
ences, they may remember things that for 
practical purposes had been long "forgot- 
ten." The relearning method for measuring 
retention, which is an extremely sensitive 
measure, has been used to demonstrate re- 
tention of even nonsense material over a 
number of years. All these considerations 
strongly suggest that our learning experi- 
ences have enduring effects. As a matter 
of fact, it is impossible to prove that for- 
getting is ever complete, because a more 
sensitive test, if devised, might reveal re- 

Causes of Forgetting. Why is it that we 
tend to forget when we do not continue to 
practice? A "common-sense" answer is that 
we forget because of the passage of time. 
In theory, however, it is not the passage of 
time as such, but processes which go on in 
time which cause forgetting. Such an expla- 
nation, moreover, does not account for the 
fact that some materials are forgotten faster 
than others. The explanation that we forget 
knowledge or a skill because we do not use 
it assumes that memories normally deterio- 
rate (in the absence of practice) but does 
not explain why they deteriorate. 

Why, then, do we forget? The most 
widely held theory of forgetting is the in- 
terference theory. According to this theory, 
we forget because new learning interferes 
with what we are trying to remember. 
Many experiments show that under certain 
conditions learning a second task after 
learning a first one interferes with retention 

Figure 12.12. According to a well-known ex- 
periment, human subjects show better retention 
during sleep than during the same number of 
hours while awake, as the curves show. How 
might you use this knowledge? (/. G. Jenkins 
and K. M. Dallenbach, "Oblivescence during 
Sleep and Waking," American Journal of Psy- 
chology, 35:610, 1924. Courtesy of the pub- 



of the first. For example, learning French 
after studying German tends to interfere 
with remembering German. Another line 
of evidence is research showing that very 
little forgetting occurs during sleep, when, 
of course, little or no learning is going on. 7 
Verbal materials learned just before going 
to sleep are partially forgotten during the 
first two hours ( as determined by the recall 
method), but during the next six hours of 
sleep the loss is negligible. Some of the 
loss during the first two hours may not be 
forgetting but rather a result of behig 
awakened from deep sleep. Although the 
interference theory has a lot of support, it 
is often difficult, of course, to identify just 
exactly what further learning, for example, 
interferes with the retention of an algebra 
lesson during the course of the day. 

There is a second cause of forgetting. 
At least some of our forgetting is the result 
of the process of repression, which is dis- 
cussed in Chapter 6, in connection with 
self-defense. When the emotional difficulty 
underlying repression is relieved, such ma- 
terial may be recalled. Hypnosis and certain 
drug conditions sometimes may induce re- 
call of repressed material. The Freudian 
technique of free association, in which the 
subject tells everything that an experience 
makes him think of, sometimes aids the 
recall of repressed material. The most con- 
vincing evidence on repression comes from 
clinical cases in which long-forgotten mem- 
ories, usually quite threatening to the self, 
have been recalled. It has sometimes been 
asserted that pleasant events are remem- 
bered better than unpleasant ones, with 
the suggestion that the latter tend to be re- 
pressed. The evidence from research 
studies, however, is hard to interpret. For 
instance, experiences without strong feel- 
ings attached often are remembered less 
well than the supposedly repressed un- 

7 J. G. Jenkins and K, M. Dallenbach, "Oblives- 
cence during Sleep and Waking," American Jour- 
nal of Psychology, 35:605-612, 1924. 

pleasant materials. Actually, it is hard to 
create in the laboratory threats to self 
which are sufficient to cause repression. 

XA We also forget because of a change in set . 
The concept of set has quite a variety of 
meanings. Here the word is being used in 
the sense of our frame of reference, as dis- 
cussed in the preceding chapter. That is, 
the stimulus situation and our expectations 
at the time of trying to remember may be 
somewhat different from what they were 
during learning. There is even experimental 
evidence that verbal materials learned in 
one room tend ti be less well remembered 
in a different r6v>m. A person whom we 
know on our college campus may not even 
be recognized in a faraway city the setting, 
the context, is different. We say, "I didn't 
expect to see him here." Often when a few 
items of information are given to provide 
the proper set, recall may be remarkably 
detailed. A little warm-up on a task may 
have a very favorable effect on retention. 8 
A final reason for forgetting is that the 

l^item cither was not learned in the first 
place or else was learned very inadequately. 
If we say, "I can't remember names, we 
probably never did learn the names. We 
cannot remember what we have not learned, 
and inaccurate initial learning is likely to 
result in inaccurate recall. 

Qualitative Changes in Remembering. 
The main emphasis thus far has been on 
how much is remembered, not on what is re- 
membered. The changes which occur in the 
content of memories are called qualitative 
changes. F. C. Bartlett, 9 among others, re- 
ports experiments on such qualitative 
changes in remembering. Bartlett regards 
remembering as an active process in which 
past experiences are reconstructed accord- 
ing to an over-all interpretation (called a 
schema). For example, if we are trying to 

8 A. L. Irion, "The Relation of 'Set' to Reten- 
tion," Psychological Review, 55:336-341, 1948. 

9 F. C. Bartlett, Remembering, Cambridge, New 
York, 1932. 



remember an automobile accident in which 
we were involved, our over-all interpreta- 
tion (schema) might be that our car was 
hit from the rear after we had stopped on a 
traffic signal. In trying to remember the ac- 
cident, we tend to remember or invent de- 
tails that fit in with this schema and forget 
those which do not. 

Remembering is not so much a matter 
of looking at the screen of the past through 
clouded glasses as it is an active process of 
reconstruction. This is apparent when we 
try to recall any extensive set of experiences, 
such as our first day at school. Such mem- 
ories tend to be selective. Certain events 
are remembered because they fit in with 
an over-all interpertation of the experience. 
Other events were scarcely noted in the 
first place and have little relevance, on re- 
call, to the over-all interpretation of the 
situation. On the whole, the recollection 
tends to be simplified in accordance with 
this over-all view. 

We often fill in the gaps where our mem- 
ories are incomplete. The gaps are filled 
in such a way as to make sense of the total 
experience. This is not to say that remem- 
bering is pure rationalization, but within 

limits rationalizing certainly plays a part. 

There is also evidence that aspects in the 
original experience tend to be sharpened. 
What was perceived originally as a small 
difference of opinion may be remembered 
as a quarrel. Sometimes, of course, these 
incidents become progressively exaggerated 
in retelling, especially when such sharpen- 
ing makes a better story. 

Although there is good evidence of quali- 
tative changes in remembering, we need 
more information about the processes in- 
volved. For example, the way in which we 
remember something can be strongly influ- 
enced by how we originally perceived it. 
It is also very likely that further distortions 
may occur as we reconstruct the experience 
according to our over-all interpretation of it 
and as we are influenced by our motives at 
the time. Whether or not systematic changes 
take place in memory in the interval be- 
tween the original perception and the time 
of remembering is still another question- 
one that is difficult to answer. 

Finally, regarding memory of experi- 
ences, all the mechanisms of self-defense 
and self-enhancement are free to operate 
at the time of remembering, just as at the 

5 FT. 6 IN 




rigure*. s\nisis SKeicn oasea on an- 
other persons description of a suspected 
criminal. Compare the actual photograph 
of the suspect with the sketch. Notice that 
certain "landmark" features (dark, unruly 
hair, light windbreaker, and light, baggy 
trousers) were definitely remembered and 
exaggerated. (International News Photos.) 



time of perception of the original situation. 
We may, for example, rationalize when we 
describe a failure experience. 

Qualitative Changes in Skills. Most 
theory and research on qualitative changes 
in memory have dealt either with objects 
that have been perceived or else with 
verbal materials, such as stories. Qualitative 
changes, however, also take place in skills. 
Changes in one part of a skill can cause 
changes in other parts. Everyone who has 
participated in sports has had this happen 
to him. The batter becomes careless and 
shifts his stance, thus standing somewhat 
off balance. This affects his swing, perhaps 
even the way he follows the ball visually 
as it comes toward him. One wrong move 
leads to another in an attempt to compen- 
sate for the initial error. Gradually these bad 
habits are learned and interfere with the 
better ones which are required for peak 


Let us see how the material in this chap- 
ter ties in with what has gone before. The 
process of learning and remembering is 
something that the whole person does; 
it does not happen in a vacuum. Our learn- 

ing is at the service of our motives. These 
motives affect what we learn and how we 
use it. In this respect, learning is like per- 
ception. Our needs affect what and how we 
perceive, and perceiving is necessary in 
responding so as to satisfy our needs. 

Another relationship between learning 
and motivation lies in the fact that we can 
learn to want or not want certain things. 
Our goals, which are a part of our motives, 
are learned. Learning also plays a part in 
functional autonomy (Chapter 3), although 
some aspects of the process are not fully 

We recognize, too, that learning plays an 
important part in the development of the 
self, our particular ways of enhancing the 
self, and the development of our personal- 
ity. Furthermore, our roles, attitudes, and 
beliefs are learned. 

Finally, learning ties in very closely with 
perception. Most, if not all, the meanings 
( expectations, frames of reference ) that go 
into perceiving are learned. It is also clear 
that perception has much to do with learn- 
ing. We could not learn if we could not 
perceive objects and the effects of our re- 
sponses. It will be remembered that when 
we solve problems through insight we are 
perceiving relationships and principles. 


Learning is defined as a change in be- 
havior as a result of experience. Many dif- 
ferent kinds of behavior are learned, and 
learning is necessary for individual adjust- 
ment and social living. 

One variety of learning is conditioning. 
Reinforcement is necessary for learning 
conditioned responses. Nonreinforced con- 
ditioned responses become extinguished, 
although partially reinforced responses are 
markedly resistant to extinction. Condi- 
tioned responses generalize to similar stim- 
uli. Stimuli come to be discriminated as a 

result of the reinforcement of responses to 
one of the stimuli but not to the other. 

The learning of instrumental responses, 
which have to do with goal-oriented be- 
havior, has been described as a trial-and- 
error process and also as a process of obtain- 
ing insight. Each of these descriptions has 
some merit, their applicability depending 
on factors such as availability or relevant 
past experiences, the nature of the task, and 
the capacities of the learner. 

Stimulus-response theories of learning 
look upon learning as the formation of 



stimuli and response associations, usually 
as a result of reinforcement. Cognitive 
theories of learning regard learning as a 
change in the perception of relationships. 
Both theories are useful in explaining learn- 
ing processes. 

In acquiring skills, the following changes 
typically occur: reduction in errors or im- 
provement in accuracy; improvement in 
rate; reduction in over-all physical tension; 
greater uniformity of performance; greater 
freedom from the effects of distractions; 
and decreasing feelings of effort. 

Learning curves represent changes in 
performance as a function of practice. 
They vary in form. Individual differences 
depend on hereditary factors, past learn- 
ing, motivation, and methods of practice. 

Trainers may encourage learning by pro- 
viding standards of performance and by 
fostering motivation. 

The main factors in effective study are 
motivation and attitudes. In addition, self- 

recitation, distribution of practice, review, 
getting a meaningful overview, and having 
an appropriate setting are important. 

The main ways of measuring retention 
are the methods of recall, recognition, and 
relearning. Quantitative changes in reten- 
tion (and forgetting) depend on a variety 
of factors, such as degree of original learn- 
ing, distribution of practice, and meaning- 
fulness of the material. 

Forgetting occurs because new learning 
interferes with the retention of previous 
learning, because of repression of anxiety- 
arousing experiences, and because of 
change in set. 

Qualitative as well as quantitative 
changes in remembering take place; remem- 
bering is an active process which is affected 
by the over-all interpretation of the situa- 
tion (schema) and by factors such as set 
and motivation at the time of remembering. 
The remembering of skills shows analogous 
qualitative changes. 


1. What is meant by "learning"? What are 
some of the different kinds of behavior which 
can be learned? 

2. Define each of the following: conditioning, 
extinction, partial reinforcement, generaliza- 
tion, discrimination. Give an example of each. 

3. Compare and contrast trial and error and 
insight as descriptions of goal-oriented learn- 
ing. Which of these descriptions seems most 
applicable in each of the following cases: (a) 
learning to play tennis; (fo) learning a poem; 
(c) learning the meanings of a list of French 
words; and (d) solving a problem in engi- 

4. State the essentials of the stimulus-response 
theory of learning. What appear to be its 
strengths and weaknesses? 

5. State the essentials of the cognitive theory 
of learning. What appear to be its strengths 
and weaknesses? 

6. What are the typical changes that occur as 
a skill is learned? 

7. What arc the main responsibilities of a 
trainer? What is meant by setting standards of 

8. What arc the important factors in effective 

9. Describe the following methods of measur- 
ing retention: recall method, recognition 
method, and relearning method. 

10. Evaluate each of the following explana- 
tions of forgetting: (a) lack of use or passage 
of time; (b) interference from new learning; 
(c) repression; and (d) change in set. 

11. What is meant by qualitative changes in 
remembering? What causes these qualitative 

12. What are some of the probable causes of 
variations and irregularities in learning curves? 




Bartlett, F. C.: Remembering, Cambridge, 
New York, 1932. 

(A stimulating treatment of remembering 
as an active process influenced by person- 
ality and social factors.) 

Deese, J.: The Psychology of Learning, Mc- 
Graw-Hill, New York, 1952. 

(A standard textbook on learning covering 
both animal and human learning.) 
Guthrie, E. R.: The Psychology of Human 
Learning, Harper, New York, 1935. 

(A stimulus-response theory of learning 
applied to numerous everyday-life situa- 

Hilgard, E. R.: Theories of Learning, Appleton- 
Ccntury-Crofts, New York, 1956. 

(A survey of the major theories of learn- 

Hull, C. L.: Principles of Behavior, Appleton- 

Century-Crofts, New York, 1943. 

(A technical statement of a stimulus-re- 
sponse theory of learning.) 

McGeoch, J. A., and A. L. Irion: Psychology 

of Human Learning, rev. ed., Longmans, New 

York, 1952. 

(A survey of the major findings and theo- 
ries regarding human learning.) 

Tolman, E. C.: Purposive Behavior in Animals 

and Men, Appleton-Century -Crofts, New York, 


(A fundamental statement of the cogni- 
tive theory of learning.) 




truck driver came to a low underpass. 
It was even lower than he thought it was, 
and when he tried to drive his truck 
through, it got stuck. A heavy wrecker was 
sent for, and everybody huffed and puffed 
to get the truck loose, but to no avail. After 
a while, a boy standing by said, "Hey, 
mister, why don't you let some of the air out 
of the tires?" 

This story illustrates the practical im- 
portance of thinking and problem solving. 
In this chapter we shall discuss the nature 
of these processes. 

Thinking may be studied in two main 
ways. One o_f these _is_ by the introspective 
method by observing and reporting our 
own thought processes. This might appear 
to be a good method, but it has actually 
been less valuable than the second method, 
that of objective observation of other peo- 
ple. In other words, we can learn about 
thinking by observing how people solve 
problems and react to other situations 
which require thinking. 


Our purpose in this section is to clarify 
the nature of the process that we call 

Definition of Thinking. In thinking we 
use symbols which stand for or represent 
our world of experience. When we think 
of a car, for example, we have an image of 
an automobile or we think of the word "car" 
or respond in some other way which rep- 
resents the physical object. In a later part 
of this chapter we shall consider different 
kinds of symbols and their properties. For 


the present it is sufficient to sajf that think- 
ing is the manipulation of symbols. 

Function of Thinking. Just what func- 
tions does thinking have? One reason we 
think is in order to solve a problem. Think- 
ing, like all other behavior, is motivated. 
This fact of motivation is, of course, quite 
apparent when we have a problem to solve, 
as our truck driver did. Not only do we 
think as a way of trying to solve problems, 
but we may think for the enjoyment of the 
process itself ( admitting that other motives 
may also be present). Many times we get 
enjoyment out of trying to solve a puzzle 
or explain an unusual event. Some of us get 
real satisfaction from putting order into 
our experiences, even where such order has 
no obvious utility. In other words, thinking 
itself may be enjoyable. 

Some of our thinking, instead of being 
directed, as in the above examples, is of 
a more undirected and autistic nature. Thus 
we might review in thought the pleasant 
or unpleasant features of past experiences, 
or daydream about what we are going to do 
next summer. A large amount of thinking 
is of a wish-fulfilling character, and much 
of it, such as daydreaming, is unrealistic. 
Such thinking often serves the purposes of 
self-enhancement and self-defense, dis- 
cussed in Chapter 6. 

Thinking and Feeling. Traditional con- 
ceptions of thinking have tended to em- 
phasize its rational and logical aspects. 
Thinking, in this view, is a normally ra- 
tional process, and feeling and emotions are 
regarded as disturbing and distorting it. (In 
this sense thinking is also considered an es- 
sentially conscious process.) A more ade- 
quate conception regards thinking and feel- 
ing as normally going together. The af- 
fective ( emotional ) nature of most thinking 
is easy to understand if it is granted that 
all thinking is motivated. Many of our 
words, of course, are highly emotionally 
toned, such as "dirty," "loyal," "democratic," 
and "moral." We have seen earlier how 
many of our explanations are motivated 

rationalizations. When we think about 
things that are meaningful to us, our feel- 
ings are bound to be a part of such thoughts. 
Instead of regarding emotions and feelings 
as unusual in thinking, it would be more 
correct to regard thinking as normally af- 
fective in character, acknowledging, of 
course, that some thinking, such as mathe- 
matical reasoning, may have very little af- 
fective tone. 

Where Thinking Takes Place. Thinking 
goes on within the body. If someone asks 
where in the body thinking goes on, we 
shall have to say that thinking is done 
with the whole bcdy, although some parts, 
such as the brain, are more centrally con- 
cerned in the process. (This same problem 
is also discussed in Chapter 9.) When we 
think, we react to sensory stimulation and 
make a variety of responses. Although the 
amount of bodily involvement may be small 
in some cases of thinking, some activity 
still is present (as is brought out later in 
this chapter ) . In other cases of thinking, we 
may be extremely active in going about 
getting information and manipulating tools 
and other objects in our environment. We 
may conclude that thinking involves the 
whole person in interaction with his en- 

Thinking and Consciousness. Conscious 
thinking is the only kind that we can in- 
trospectively observe. By definition, if a 
thought process is unconscious, we are not 
aware of it at the time. To hold, however, 
that all thought processes are conscious is 
highly questionable. Thought processes are 
not always sharply defined or at a high 
level of awareness. Suddenly we may be- 
come aware of the fact that we have been 
thinking all along about something. Our 
thought processes may vary all the way 
from those which are well defined in aware- 
ness to those of which we are not aware 
at all. Indeed, it is likely that acute aware- 
ness of thoughts is unusual and that nor- 
mally we think at a barely conscious or 
even unconscious level. 







Figure 13.1. This scheme shows two ways in 
which thinking may vary. Thinking varies in 
the degree to which it is conscious and also 
the degree to which it has emotional compo- 
nents. Probably most thought processes fall in 
quadrant D; that is, they are relatively uncon- 
scious and affective. The thinking represented 
in quadrant B, by contrast, is affectively 
neutral (nonemotional) and conscious. See 
whether you can interpret quadrants A and 
C and think of examples of this type of think- 
ing from your own experience. 

There are other indications that there is 
such a thing as unconscious thinking, or at 
least, unconscious factors in thinking. In- 
ventors, for instance, sometimes report that 
the solution of a problem suddenly oc- 
curred during a period when they were 
not consciously thinking about it. It is 
quite possible, however, that they were 
unconsciously working on (thinking 
about) the problem. We have seen in 
Chapter 3 that posthypnotic suggestions 
may operate at an unconscious level and 
may influence behavior, including ration- 
alizations at a conscious level. The process 
of free association also suggests the exist- 
ence of unconscious factors in thinking. 
Suppose we associate freely, letting the 
words come to mind as they will, as fol- 
lows: house, fire, insurance,, money, work, 
retirement. The gaps between these words 
might readily be filled by unconscious sym- 
bols which connect the words of which 
we are aware. 

Earlier in this chapter thinking was de- 
fined as behavior involving a series of sym- 
bolic processes words, images, and certain 
muscular movements. The purpose of this 
section is to clarify the nature of symbols 
and to describe the different kinds of sym- 
bols and their properties. 

Nature of Symbols. We shall define a 
symbol as something (an object, an event, 
or a response) which stands for something 
else. For example, a policeman has been 
assigned to count the cars which cross at a 
certain intersection. He makes a mark each 
time a car passes by. Each mark is a sym- 
bol of one car. By adding up marks he can 
add up cars. 

The thing a symbol stands for is called 
its referent. Not all referents are as easy to 
describe as are cars. The referents of words 
like "stock market," "personality," and "lan- 
guage" are quite complex and abstract. 

Anything can be a symbol, as long as it 
means (refers to) something other than 
itself. For example, the symbol may be a 
word (any word) which is either spoken, 
written, or thought about. Or it may be a 
picture or an image (such as visual image 
of a car). It may even be a movement, 
such as the gesture of steering a car, or 
something so arbitrary as snapping our fin- 
gers if to us this means a car. 

Some symbols are external; that is, they 
are outside us. Examples of external sym- 
bols are maps, flags, and printed and writ- 
ten language. In order to function as sym- 
bols, however, they must be perceived as 
referring to something, as when a map is 
perceived as referring to a certain territory. 
Obviously, external symbols may be useful 
for record purposes and mass communica- 

Our words, images, and gestures are 
often called internal symbols. Essentially 
they are responses which stand for some- 
thing else. They may be, and often are, 



quite individual in meaning. Obviously 
such responses must be produced (for ex- 
ample, remembered) before they can func- 
tion as symbols. 

A symbol, of course, is not the same as 
its referent; indeed, it may be, and usually 
is, quite different. The word "car" is not 
at all like an actual car, nor is the word 
"pig" anything like the animal with the 
pink snout and the curly tail. Someone is 
said to have commented that the word 

"pig" fits the animal in question, since the 
word itself has a dirty, unflattering charac- 
ter. He was, of course, confusing his feel- 
ings about pigs with the word, which in 
itself is neutral. 

Some people make the mistake of think- 
ing that symbols have meanings in them- 
selves, apart from what people think they 
mean. The meaning of a symbol, however, 
exists only in the person or persons for 
whom it has that meaning. Of course, if we 

Figure 13.2. A map is a set of symbols which represents the territory to which it 
refers. The map is useful to the extent that it is an accurate guide (for our purpose) 
to the territory. In the same way, other symbols such as the words of our language 
may orient (or mislead) t/.s with regard to reality. 



Figure 13.3. These common objects may be con- 
ceived at many different levels of abstractionas 
tools in general, as hammers and saws, and as 
specific types of hammers and saws. Which of these 
levels is highest in the sense that it selects the 
smallest number of common features? Why do we 
have concepts at different levels of abstraction? 

are going to communicate with somebody 
else, we and the other person need to have 
similar meanings for the symbols we use. 

An important characteristic of symbols 
is that their referents may not be physi- 
cally present. By means of thinking, we 
may represent past events; these memories 
may yield satisfactions or act to influence 
future conduct. The referents may also be 
purely imaginaryghosts, the square root of 
minus one, what our room would look like 
with the desk over by the window, what 
would happen if we waited a few days to 
pay the rent, what effect an increased de- 
gree of tension would have on tolerance of 
frustrations, and the like. By means of sym- 
bols we may explore various possibilities 
and anticipate their consequences. Obvi- 
ously, the ability to anticipate reality with 
the aid of symbols may be of great value. 

Symbols and Concepts. We have sym- 
bols for many different concepts. When a 

person reacts to a set of objects dogs, 
bank statements, or something else as 
equivalent to one another in certain ways, 
he is said to have a concept. Our concept 
of dogs is the set of characteristics by 
which we identify something as being a 
dog. It also includes our feelings about 
dogs and our expectations about dogs 
that dogs bark, chase cats, and are subject 
to rabies. This whole set of reactions is the 
meaning of a dog for us. In general, our 
concepts help us to identify objects and 
prepare us to react to them. 

Concepts are learned. On the basis of 
our experience with different objects and 
the names other people give them, we 
learn to group them into certain classes 
and to distinguish them from objects of 
other classes. 

Some symbols are more abstract in ref- 
erence than are others. To abstract is to 
respond to only a part of a stimulus pat- 



tern. For example, here is a dog whom we 
shall call Rover. Rover has an unlimited 
number of characteristics color, weight, 
manner of barking, bodily movements, etc. 
which make him uniquely different from 
any other dog. Now, when we classify 
Rover as a collie, we are referring only to 
certain characteristics that Rover has in 
common with other dogs in this breed, 
but leaving out those in which he differs 
from them. So we have abstracted still 
more. When we call Rover a "dog" we are 
including only those characteristics which 
are common to all dogs, but leaving out 
those which are specific to his breed. 
When we classify Rover as a mammal, 
then as a vertebrate, and finally as an ani- 
mal, we are abstracting still more, that is, 
leaving out more. 4 and more characteristics. 
The more characteristics are left out, the 
more abstract is the concept, and (in the 
main) the broader is the range of objects 
to which it may be applied. 

Abstractions may be enormously useful 
in enabling us to generalize (or transfer) 
our knowledge. For example, when a chem- 
ist classifies something as an organic com- 
pound, he can bring to bear a considerable 
fund of knowledge about such compounds. 

Images as Symbols. As has been said be- 
fore, images may function as symbols; that 
is, images may represent various objects of 
experience or else be reorganizations of 
such experiences. Visual images are al- 
ready familiar an image of the furniture 
in your room, of a baseball pitcher wind- 
ing up, or of a parade. So familiar are vis- 
ual images that we tend to underestimate 
the frequency and importance of other 
kinds of imagery. It is true, however, that 
most of us also have auditory images, such 
as that of a melody, and also images corre- 
sponding to some of the other senses, such 
as touch, pressure, and temperature. We 
can imagine a feather brushing our cheek, 
or pressure on our chest, or shivering in a 
cold wind. 

Many of our images are actually blends 
or composites of images in various sensory 
modalities. For example, if we imagine 
ourselves eating an apple, we shall prob- 
ably have some kind of visual image of an 
apple. But in addition we may imagine its 
fruity odor, its flavor, its crisp texture, the 
crunching sounds which accompany chew- 
ing, the smooth, waxy texture of the skin, 
and many other qualities. Many, if not 
most, of our images are just such compos- 

People differ a great deal in the content, 
vividness, and variety of their imagery. For 
example, a moment ago, some of us may 
have had a vivid image of eating an apple, 
while others had only the faintest kind of 
an image. Some of us may have been able 



Figure 13.4. What are the es- 
sential characteristics of a 
"conbol"? What is the con- 
cept that includes the positive 
instances and excludes the 
negative instances? Materials 
such as these may he used in 
investigating how we learn 
concepts and the symbols 
which refer to them by ex- 
periencing a series of posi- 
tive and negative instances 
(see next page for solution). 




Figure 13.5. A picture for testing eidetic imagery. 
After looking at the picture for a brief time, children 
with eidetic imagery can visualize and remember 
most of the details. Some can even spell backwards 
the long German word in the upper left. (Courtesy 
of Dr. G. W. Allport.) 

to imagine vividly a number of different 
sensory aspects of the experience, whereas 
others were limited to one or a few at most. 
Some people have an extremely vivid 
kind of visual imagery known as eidetic 
imagery. After a person with eidetic 
imagery has been shown a picture for a 
few seconds, he can name and draw most 
of the details. He is said to have "photo- 
graphic memory," since his memory image 
has detail something like that of a photo- 
graph. Such a person may be able to study 
a page of technical material for a few mo- 
ments and then recite it simply by reading 
from a visual image of the page. As in all 
other extremes of performance, persons 
with eidetic imagery simply differ in de- 

Solution to Figure 13.4: A conbol is a figure 
with two rectangles and a dark inner part. 

gree from other people in the vividness of 
their visual imagery. At the other extreme 
are people who have only the faintest of 
visual images. Incidentally, contrary to 
what many might think, some very able 
mathematicians (who may make extensive 
use of spatial representations of mathe- 
matical relationships) do not depend par- 
ticularly on visual imagery. The symbols 
of mathematical notation, which have re- 
stricted and exact meanings, seem to play 
a more important role for them than do 
visual images. 

It is sometimes said that so-and-so is of 
the "visual type" while someone else is of 
the "motor type." However, it is difficult, 
and perhaps impossible, to classify people 
into visual, motor, or other imagery types. 
In the first place, most of us employ vari- 
ous kinds of images to some degree. In the 
second place, if we have vivid images of 
one type, we do not necessarily have weak 
ones of another type. In the third place, 
the relative vividness of different types of 
imagery seems to vary more directly with 
whether visual or other aspects are promi- 
nent in the stimulus situation than it does 
with the person. 

Since imagery tends to be so important 
in thinking, the question arises as to 
whether all thinking involves images. For 
a long time it was thought that it did. 
About 1900, however, certain psychologists 
in Germany discovered in their research 
what they termed imageless thought. For 
example, when they asked a subject to 
name an animal and he said "dog," the re- 
sponse usually occurred before there was 
any image of that animal. These psycholo- 
gists also found that judgments often were 
made without the subjects' being able to 
report any image. For example, if we close 
our eyes and first pick up one weight and 
then after a few seconds another weight, 
most likely we shall be able to compare 
them without having an image of the 
weight of the first. These psychologists 







Children learn the meaning of the words that they use in thinking in a 
variety of ways. One of these ways is by experiencing the words in a variety 
of verbal contexts, that is, in the context of the other words in sentences. 
The purpose of the study to be reported here * was to determine how chil- 
dren at different age levels learn the meanings of words from verbal contexts. 

The subjects were five groups of children, with twenty-five children in 
each group. The age groups were nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen 
years. The child's task was to find the meaning of twelve artificial words, 
each of which appeared in six different sentences. For example, the artificial 
word in the first set of six sentences was COftPLUM, which meant "stick" 
or "piece of wood." The verbal contexts for CORPLUM were as follows: 

A CORPLUM may be used for support. 

CORPLUMS may be used to close off an open place. 

A CORPLUM may be long or short, thick or thin, strong or weak. 

A wet CORPLUM does not burn. 

You can make a CORPLUM smooth with sandpaper. 

The painter used a CORPLUM to smooth his paints. 

After each sentence, the child was asked to give a meaning for the word 
and then how and why the meaning given fit the sentence. 

As might be expected, the older children more quickly and more fre- 
quently arrived at correct word meanings than did the younger ones. The 
children's responses were classified by three different judges, and the vari- 
ous types of errors were analyzed. One type of error was p/ura/izaff'on: the 
child found a meaning for a word in one sentence and simply added differ- 
ent elements of meaning to this core concept in order to make it fit different 
contexts. For example, one child decided that the artificial word LIDBER 
meant "collect." This meaning was altered to "collect ribbons" in the sen- 
tence, "All children will LIDBER at Mary's party." In the sentence, "People 
LIDBER quickly when there is an accident," the meaning given for the arti- 
ficial word was "collect information." In still another sentence it was given 
the meaning "collected autographs." 

There were many other attempts to arrive at solutions which were equally 
inventive. The study as a whole certainly points up the complexity of the 
thought processes that children utilize in learning the meanings of words. 

* Heinz Werner and Edith Kaplan, "Development of Word Meaning Through Verbal 
Context: An Experimental Study," 1950, 29:251-257, Journal of Psychology. 

came to the conclusion that most acts of 
judgment take place without the mediation 
of an image. In addition, many people re- 
port that they often think without being 
aware of images of the objects about which 
they are thinking. Our conclusion is that, 
while images are often important in think- 
ing, they are not 0//-important. 

Verbal Symbols. A great deal of our 
thinking is in words, which are also sym- 
bols. These words are drawn from lan- 
guage, which is a social product. The word 
symbols, or groupings of such symbols, 
have more or less standardized meanings 
in a given population of persons. These 
meanings represent the abstract similarities 




Forming concepts of different classes of objects is important as a basis 
for thinking. In order to study the process of forming concepts, psychologists 
usually construct stimulus materials that fall into several classes, each de- 
fined by a particular concept. The task of a subject in the experiment is 
to learn to give a distinctive response, such as the same name, to each mem- 
ber of a class, that is, to each instance of the concept in question. 

The problem of the study to be reported here * was as follows: "Are 
there differences in the readiness with which human adults attain concepts 
of three different sorts concepts of concrete objects, concepts of spatial 
forms, and concepts of numbers?" 

Nine concepts were to be learned, and a nonsense syllable name was to 
be learned for each concept. The concepts, classified as to type, and their 
names are shown in the accompanying table. 

Concepts and Names Used in the Experiment 

Concrete objects 

Spatial forms 

Numerical quantities 

Concept Names 

Concept Names 

Concept Names 

Face Relk 
Building Leth 
Tree Mulp 

06 Stod 
X Pran 

2 Ling 
5 Dilt 
6 Monk 

Sixteen series of drawings were prepared. In each series, there were nine 
drawings, one for each concept. So in each series there were three drawings 
of concrete objects, three of spatial forms, and three representing numbers. 
The first three series of the 16 are illustrated in the figure. You will note 
that the instances of each concept differ from series to series, but are alike 
in the essential respect defined by the concept. For example, the number 
concept of five is pictured by glasses, diamonds, and spoons, and in still 
other ways in the other series. 

The experimenter began with series I, presenting each drawing followed 
by its concept name. Each subject was instructed in advance to learn the 
name of each drawing so that on repetition of the series he could say the 
name before the experimenter said it. The series was repeated until the 
subject was able to anticipate the name of each drawing on two successive 
presentations of the list. The same procedure was repeated with series II 
and so on through the entire sixteen series. 

As the subjects mastered the concepts, they became able to give the right 
names for the drawings the first time through a new series; that is, they 
recognized instances of the concepts. The results clearly showed that con- 
cepts of concrete objects were most readily learned, those of spatial forms 
were of intermediate difficulty, and those of number were most difficult. 

* Edna Heidbreder, "The Attainment of Concepts: I. Terminology and Methodology/' 
Journal of Genera/ Psychology, 35:173-189, 1946. Also, Edna Heidbreder, "The Attainment 
of Concepts: II. The Problem/' ibid., 35:191-223, 1946. 





x / 




T/irec of the sixteen series of stimulus figures used in Heidbreder's 
study of concept formation. (Reproduced by permission of the 
American Psychological Association.) 



and differences which are significant in a 
given society. If we share these meanings 
with other people, we can communicate 
with them. Furthermore, in our thinking 
(and perception), we tend to organize the 
world of experience much as others do. 
Recognizing these social influences on in- 
dividual thought, we should also realize 
that each of us is unique in his experience 
and outlook. 

Another aspect of language is shown in 
its grammatical structure. The various 
parts of speech in the English language 
and the many and complicated rules of 
grammar are familiar to us. It has been 
argued by some philosophers and linguists 
that the grammatical aspect of language 
has important consequences for our think- 
ing. For example, the word "perceiving" 
tends to suggest a process, one that is 
changing and dependent on many condi- 
tions, whereas the word "perception" might 
suggest a static entity. In this chapter, we 
have used the word "thinking" rather than 
"thought" in the title for the purpose of 
emphasizing the process rather than 
"frozen hunks of thought." 

Of great importance in language, and in 

Table 13.1 Frequency of Word Associa- 
tions in 1,000 Men and Women 

Stimulus: "long' 9 * Stimulus: "chair 9 

413 short 
81 distance 
50 length 
32 road 
26 tall 

191 table 

127 seat 

107 sit 
83 furniture 
56 sitting 

* The subjects were told to give the first word 
that occurred to them other than the stimulus word. 
Only the five most frequent responses are shown 
for the two stimulus words. 

SOURCE: From Kent, G. H., and A. J. Rosanoff, 
"A Study of Association in Insanity," American 
Journal of Insanity, 67:37-96, 317-390, 1910. 

thinking, are the words which do not stand 
for objects or events but which function 
to organize thinking. For example, words 
such as "because," "and," and "whereas" 
symbolize important logical relationships 
in our language. 

What do we know about the psychology 
of verbal behavior? One line of study has 
been conducted with free association, in 
which the subject is given a stimulus word 
and told to respond with the first word 
that he can think of. These responses 
may vary in many ways. Some responses 
to a particular word are more probable 
than others, at least in a given group of 
people. For example, the word "hot" is 
more likely to be followed by "cold" than 
by "daisy." Someone who responds "rod" 
might be revealing interest in "hot rods." 

Sometimes the responses have a similar- 
ity in sound, such as "dog log." More sig- 
nificant are meaningful similarities such as 
"fastrapid" and "generalization transfer" 
or antonyms (words which are opposite in 
meaning) such as "up down" and "hot- 
cold." Freud, the founder of psychoanaly- 
sis, made use of the technique of free as- 
sociation. He had his patients freely asso- 
ciate (often giving whole phrases or sen- 
tences as responses) about many different 
things, including incidents in dreams. His 
observations, and those of others who have 
studied free association, show that we have 
a rich network of relationships among our 
symbols and their meanings. 

Studies of controlled association also 
give us some understanding of thinking. In 
controlled association, the subject is in- 
structed to give response words bearing a 
specified relationship to the stimulus word. 
It may be specified, for example, that the 
words stand for objects that are in the 
same class, such as "bond stock." In such 
an experiment, the subject may improve 
in his ability to give associations of a given 
type. After practicing a certain type, he 
may show improvement on new stimulus- 



Figure 13.6. This record shows the correspondence between imagined activity and action 
currents. Jacobsen recorded electrical activity by placing electrodes over the right biceps 
muscle. The subjects, who had been trained to relax, were instructed in one part of the 
experiment to "imagine some rhythmical activity such as climbing a rope." At regular 
intervals there was a burst of electrical activity. (From E. Jacobsen, "The Electrophysi- 
ology of Mental Activities" American Journal of Psychology, vol. 44, fig. 1-4, opposite 
p. 682. 1932. Courtesy of the publisher.) 

response pairs even though the particular 
pairs have not been practiced. Further- 
more the process of selection is not usu- 
ally at a deliberate, conscious level. The in- 
struction appears to act as a directive in- 
fluence and largely at an unconscious level. 
We may say that the subject becomes set 
to give a certain type of response and that 
this set may improve with practice. 

Our thought processes have an organ- 
ized character, that is, the symbols we use 
are related to each other. The words of a 
phrase, clause, sentence, or other unit to- 
gether determine the meaning of the 
whole. The meaning of particular words 
depends on the context furnished by the 
other words. 

Muscular Movements as Symbols. Mus- 
cular movements (and bodily postures) 
may function as symbols. We know already 
that gestures and other bodily postures 
may be used as symbols in communicating 
with others. They may also function as 
symbols in our own thinking. For exam- 
ple, we may rehearse in anticipation the 
gestures of signaling in traffic. Or we may 
symbolically brace ourselves for facing a 
difficult situation by assuming an erect and 
alert posture. 

A muscular movement may act as a 
stimulus for further reactions. For exam- 
ple, there is the case of the recruit who 
had difficulty in drill because he could not 

respond quickly to the words "right" and 
"left." After a while he learned to tense his 
ivriting hand for turning right and his other 
hand for turning left. The muscular move- 
ment mediated between the verbal com- 
mand and the final response. 

When muscular movements function 
symbolically, they tend to be implicit; that 
is, they are reduced to such an extent that 
they are no longer obvious. Indeed, sym- 
bolic muscular movements may become so 
reduced in size that they can be detected 
only by sensitive electronic devices which 
measure action currents (changes in elec- 
trical potential) in muscles. When we 
think of clenching our fist, there usually 
are very small changes in the appropriate 
muscles, even though we are trying to be 
relaxed. It is of course difficult to demon- 
strate experimentally that there is a per- 
fect one-to-one correspondence between 
the awareness of images of movements and 
the occurrence of implicit muscular move- 
ments, but the evidence thus far shows a 
relationship between the two. 1 

Psychologists have also recorded changes 
in the speech apparatus (tongue, vocal 
cords, etc. ) when a person thinks in words. 
The movements correspond to those which 
would be made in actually speaking the 

1 E. Jacobsen, "The Electrophysiology of Men- 
tal Activities," American Journal of Psychology, 
44:677-694, 1932. 



words out loud, except that they are very 
much reduced in scale. These movements 
give rise to stimuli which may act 


as cues for further behavior, including fur- 
ther speech movements. 

The observation that speech movements 
occur when we think with words led some 
psychologists to say that verbal thinking 
is the same as subvocal talking. That is, 
they said that thinking is nothing but im- 
plicit speech movements. At present, most 
psychologists believe that such a view is 
too narrow. In the first place, the fact that 
implicit speech movements and introspec- 
tions about words are correlated does not 
prove that these two events are identical 
they may simply be interrelated aspects 
of the same underlying process. In the 
second place, there is considerable evi- 
dence that other processes, especially in 
the central nervous system, are critically 
important in verbal thinking. Indeed, pa- 
ralysis of the speech apparatus (by means 
of anesthetics) does not eliminate verbal 
thinking, whereas certain types of brain in- 
juries may impair one or another aspect of 
verbal thinking (without impairing the 
vocal apparatus as such). So we may con- 

Figure 13.7. The nine-dot problem. Try to 
draw four straight lines (without removing the 
pencil from the paper and without retracing 
any part of the line) so that all nine dots are 
on the lines. See Figure 13.9 for solution. 

elude that, while speech movements are 
important in verbal thinking, they are only 
part of the total process. 


In this section we shall be interested in 
the use of thinking to solve problems. 
Problem solving is discussed in connection 
with learning in Chapter 12. In human be- 
ings it is very likely that thinking plays a 
considerable role in much of our learning. 
For instance, the conditioning of reactions 
in us can be affected by our thoughts- 
how we interpret the situation, our self -in- 
structions, and our attitudes. In the learn- 
ing of a maze or a motor skill, we may give 
ourselves instructions and verbalize the 
steps in the process. These verbal or other 
symbols may help us master tasks requir- 
ing responses to signals and a series of re- 
sponses in a particular order. In the solu- 
tion of more complicated problems, think- 
ing usually plays an even more prominent 

What a Problem Is. It is difficult to say 
what a problem is except from the point of 
view of the person who has one. Sub- 
jectively a problem is felt as a gap, as an 
unclear relationship, as something which 
needs completion. For example, the truck 
driver mentioned earlier had the problem 
of how to free his truck and get through the 
underpass, which meant that he had a goal 
and no clear way of reaching it. 

The direction of thinking in problem 
solving is given by the problem itself. We 
vary a great deal in what we see as prob- 
lems. Our problem might be so specific as 
how to find a parking place for our car or 
as broad as the nature of man. But in every 
case there is some goal to be reached or 
something to be understood, without any 
clear or immediate way of attaining this 

Some Factors Affecting Problem Solving. 
The likelihood of solving a problem de- 



Figure 13.8. In Maier s string problem, the 
task was to tie the ends of two strings together. 
The strings were so short and far apart that it 
was not possible to hold one and walk over to 
seize the other. Very few subjects solved the 
problem. Why were most people unsuccessful? 
(From N. R. F. Maier, "Reasoning in Humans: 
HI, The Mechanisms of Equivalent Stimuli and 
of Reasoning" Journal of Experimental Psy- 
chology, 35:351, 1945. Courtesy of the Ameri- 
can Psychological Association.) 

pends on a numbei of factors. Some of 
them are touched upon in discussing in- 
sight in Chapter 12. 

How the problem is conceived. One fac- 
tor is how the problem is conceived. It is 
characteristic of problem solving that the 
way in which we define a problem, that is, 
what we think the problem is, has a great 
effect on whether or not we can solve it. 
So long as chemists looked for the nonex- 
istent substance known as "phlogiston," 
which was supposed to be given up by 
substance in burning, there was little pros- 
pect for an understanding of the nature 
of combustion. 

An experiment by Maier 2 is helpful in 
understanding the influence of the person's 
conception of the problem. In one of his 
experiments the task, called the string 
problem, was to tie together the ends of 
two widely separated strings suspended 
from the ceiling. The strings were so far 
apart that it was impossible to hold the 
end of one string and, while holding it, to 
walk over to seize the end of the other 
string. Some subjects perceived the diffi- 
culty as being that the strings just were 

2 N. R. F. Maier, "Reasoning in Humans: I. On 
Direction," Journal of Comparative Psychology, 
10:115-143, 1930. 

not long enough. Having defined the prob- 
lem in this way, the next step naturally 
would be how to lengthen the strings, 
which would have worked had the appro- 
priate materials been available. Other sub- 
jects perceived that they were simply not 
tall enough to bring the two strings to- 
gether. With appropriate materials one 
might have made a platform on which to 
walk so as to be "tall enough." The solu- 
tion, which was comparatively infrequent, 
was to tie a pair of pliers (which was ly- 
ing nearby ) to one string and then to swing 
it as a pendulum, catching it on the back- 
swing while holding the other string. This 
solution appeared more often when the ex- 
perimenter, as if by accident, brushed 
against a string, setting it in motion. How 
we conceive our problems, this illustration 
shows, has a great deal to do with their 

Intensity of motivation. A second factor 
in problem solving is the degree of mo- 
tivation; -Although moderate motivation is 
helpful, intense motivation may be harm- 
ful. If we are in danger, for example, we 
may be so badly frightened that we blindly 
and repetitively try the same ineffective 
method of escape when all we need to do 
is trip a latch. Or our attempts may be 



Figure 13.9. Solution of the 
nine-dot problem. If you 
solved the problem, how did 
you do so? So long as one is 
"set" to solve the problem by 
staying within the bounds of 
the figure, no solution Is possi- 
ble. In other problems, too, 
an inappropriate set may 
block solution. 

scattered and erratic. Thinking in an or- 
derly way is difficult when there is pres- 
sure to rush into action. Under extreme 
conditions of tension, our thought proc- 
esses tend to become so disorganized or 
perseverative (stuck in a rut) that we are 
less likely to reach a solution. 

On the other hand, if motivation is too 
weak, we may not persist long enough in 
our attempts at solution. In the history of 
science, some problems have been solved 
only after years of effort. In such cases, 
the motivation was strong but well di- 

Transfer of learned responses. Another 
factor affecting problem solving is the 
transfer of previously learned responses. 
Any problem situation has at least some 
similarities to previously experienced situa- 
tions. As a result, previously learned re- 
sponses are likely to generalize (see Chap- 
ter 12 ) to the new situation. Some of these 
responses, including ways of perceiving the 
problem, may aid solution while others may 
actually hinder it. As an example of the 
latter, a belt is usually perceived as an ar- 
ticle of clothing. In Maier's string problem, 
would the subject be likely to perceive his 
belt as stringlike, so that it could be used 
as a way of lengthening one of the strings? 
It would probably be easier for him to per- 
ceive it in this way if it were hanging from 
a hook than if it were around his waist. 

Having solved a whole series of prob- 
lems of the same kind as the new problem 

may be helpful. In such a case, it is some- 
times difficult to identify exactly what 
transfers. Methods of approaching the 
problem, principles, and the like are possi- 
bilities. Sometimes, however, we may be- 
come set to solve a problem in a certain 
way as a result of previously solving others 
like it; then we mechanically apply this 
method when a simpler way might work 

A critical element necessary for solution 
may be hidden or masked from view, or 
it may be so emphasized that it becomes 
readily available for solution. In the string 
problem, setting a string in motion helped, 
even when subjects reported afterward 
that they had not noticed its motion or 
used this motion as a hint. In some of 
Kohler's experiments with chimpanzees, 
insight was more likely when the critical 
materials, such as a stick for raking in an 
article of food, were near the subject and 
the goal. Solving a problem when the 
means of solution, such as a tool, is absent 
is even more difficult. The properties of 
absent objects are not available percep- 
tually but must be thought of. Exploring 
the materials - at hand may enable us to 
perceive properties which may be helpful 
in solution. Verbalizing what would be 
needed for solution may set us to search- 
ing for objects with the required charac- 
teristics. It should be clear that our past 
experience may play a vital role in this 

Theories of Problem Solving. There are 
three main approaches to understanding 
problem-solving behavior: (1) the ap- 
proach of logic, (2) the stimulus-response 
theory, and (3) the cognitive theory. We 
shall discuss these views in turn. 

Logical view of problem solving. First, 
there is the view that problem solving is a 
matter of applying the laws of logic, or 
that thinking can be described in terms of 
logical concepts such as abstraction, classi- 
fication, rational inference, and the like. 



According to this notion, the more fully 
we follow the procedures of logic, the 
more effectively we shall solve our prob- 

Most traditional texts in logic distinguish 
between deductive and inductive logic, 
and some people try to fit thinking and 
problem solving into these two pigeon- 
holes. Deductive logic deals with rules for 
drawing valid conclusions from assump- 
tions. A classical example of a syllogism, 
which is used in deductive logic, is the 

All men are mortal. 
Socrates is a man. 
Therefore Socrates is mortal. 

As many people have noted, deductive 
logic is not so much a matter of discover- 
ing new knowledge as it is a method of 
proof. As a matter of fact, formal reason- 
ing, whether by means of syllogisms or by 
means of more modern forms of logic, is 
actually quite rare in real-life problem 

Inductive logic, which is not formal, is 
a matter of reasoning from particular facts 
to generalizations (from which these and 
other facts may be deduced). J. S. Mill's 
famous Canons (rules, principles) for in- 
ductive reasoning 3 provide some stand- 
ards for inductive reasoning, but they are 
not especially useful in guiding inquiry. 
Here again we find that a psychological 
approach to understanding problem solv- 
ing is more likely to explain how we actu- 
ally solve problems. 

Some have argued that training in for- 
mal logic and mathematics somehow 
"strengthens the mind," as though the mind 
were like a muscle which could be 
strengthened by appropriate exercises. 
There is little evidence for such a view. 

8 For an account of Mill's Canons and logic gen- 
erally, sec M. R. Cohen and E. Nagel, An Intro- 
duction to Logic and Scientific Method, Harcourt, 
Brace, New York, 1934. 

Figure 13.10. A child (four years, eleven months) is 
asked to pour beads from the narrow jar (in his hand) 
into the wide one. His finger pointing at the wide jar 
indicates that he expects the beads there to reach the 
same level as they did in the narrow one. What 
knowledge is he transferring to this problem? What 
facts is he not taking into account? What factors 
might account for his behavior? (Courtesy of Dr. 
David Elkind, Austen Rif&s Center.) 

Formal logic may sometimes serve as a 
useful tool in checking the validity of rea- 
soning processes, just as mathematics 
(which is a kind of formal logic) may be 
a tool which is both convenient and essen- 
tial for solving certain problems. It is 
highly doubtful, however, that such train- 
ing helps us better to solve problems in 

Stimulus-response theory. Stimulus-re- 
sponse (or association) theory also en- 
deavors to explain problem solving. As is 
pointed out in Chapter 12, stimulus-re- 
sponse theorists view all learning as the 
formation of habits. Problem solving is 
transfer of learned responses to the stimu- 
lus conditions of the problem situation. 
Further learningin the sense of forming 
new habits may also be involved. Apply- 
ing the theory to Maier's string-tying ex- 
periment, the motive is to tie the ends of 



k Many people are not aware of the distinction between logical validity 

r and factual (or empirical) truth. A conclusion is valid if it necessarily follows 

- (by the rules of logic) from the premises (the first two statements of the 

syllogism). A conclusion is true if it "corresponds" to factual observations. 

As shown below, there are all possible combinations of truth and validity. 

If all wood burns, Logically valid 

and if all crates are made of wood, and 

then all crates burn. factually true 

If all materials burn, Logically valid 

and if water is a material, but 

then water burns. factually false 

If water is not wood, Logically invalid 

and if wood burns, but 

then water does not burn. factually true 

If wood burns, Logically invalid 

and if rubber burns, and 

then rubber is wood. factually false 

If the premises are true and the logic is valid, then the conclusion will 
be true. On the other hand, if the conclusion is true and the logic is valid, 
this does not guarantee that the premises are true (although our confidence 
in them may be increased). If the conclusion is false while the logic is valid, 
we know that one or both of the premises are false. To make our point in 
another way, the factual confirmation of many deductions from a theory 
increases our confidence in the theory, but even a single deduction which 
is false teaches us that there is a flaw in the theory. (Incidentally, there are 
various forms of formal reasoning in addition to syllogistic reasoning, e.g., 
mathematical reasoning.) 

the string together. At the outset, on the solving as an "automatic, rote, mechani- 

basis of past learning, certain responses cal" transfer of elementary habits, but as a 

such as trying to grasp the end of one string complex and flexible process involving 

and bring it to the otherare more prob- thinking. In predicting problem-solving 

able than others. From moment to moment behavior, the stimulus-response theorist 

the subject is making symbolic responses tries to analyze the stimuli in the problem 

such as "The strings are too short," and situation, the learned responses which are 

"If I were taller, I could reach both strings." likely to follow from these stimuli, and the 

Each of these sentences acts as a stimulus symbolic habits of the subject. He recog- 

for further symbols, such as "Make the nizes that the transfer which occurs may 

strings longer somehow" and "Stand up on be either positive or negative, or some 

something so that I will be taller." These combination of these, 

responses in turn act as stimuli orienting Cognitive theory. Another approach to 

the subject to find objects or means of an understanding of problem solving is 

meeting these requirements. cognitive theory. 4 According to this view, 

We shall not try to carry this example 4 p robably the best exposition of the cognitive 

further, but merely say that stimulus-re- approach is that of K. Duncker, "On Problem 

sponse theory does not regard problem Solving," Psychological Monographs, no. 270, 1945. 


problem solving (and learning) is a matter 
of perceptual reorganization. In a prob- 
lem situation, a person usually has some 
goal, such as tying the ends of the strings 
together in Maier's experiments. He per- 
ceives a region (or more than one) of diffi- 
cultythe strings are too short, he is not 
tall enough, etc. These perceptions further 
influence the way in which he perceives 
the rest of the situation. Thinking, whether 
by means of words or images, is influenced 
by the perceptual organization of the mo- 
ment, which may lead to changes in per- 
ceiving. Whether or not these changed ways 
of perceiving lead to solution depends on 
many factors in the particular problem. 

Cognitive theory places little emphasis 
on past experience, but a great deal on 
how the parts of the problem situation are 
arranged. For example, in Maier's string- 
tying problem the perceptions of "strings 
too short" and "need to be taller" were 
very stable but unfruitful perceptions. 
On the other hand, if the strings had been 
weighted and set swinging, the perception 
necessary for solution probably would have 
emerged readily. 

Evaluation of these theories. We have 
already evaluated the logical theory, which 
is not really a theory of behavior but a set 
of standards for validating reasoning. The 
stimulus-response theory and the cogni- 
tive theory are not so different as they 
might seem at first sight. Each theory be- 
gins with a person who has a goal that he 
is unable to reach immediately. Further- 
more, each theory holds that the person 
perceives the stimulus situation or some 
parts of it. Cognitive theorists emphasize 
the view that the perception of any part of 
the situation is influenced by all the other 
parts. On the other hand, stimulus-re- 
sponse theorists have a tendency to regard 
certain elements as stimuli, without taking 
the whole into account. The difference, 
then, is in the size of the stimulus or per- 
ceptual unit which is considered to be in- 
fluential. Here stimulus-response theorists 

may have erred by having too "atomistic" 
a notion of the stimulus. On the other 
hand, cognitive theorists may have erred 
by neglecting to analyze the stimulus situ- 
ation, while continually repeating that "the 
whole is greater than the sum of its parts." 
Both theories allow for the influence of 
thinking processes, with stimulus-response 
theory going somewhat further to explain 
the arousal and sequence of symbols. Fi- 
nally, cognitive theory seems to provide an 
easier language in which to describe think- 
ing. Actually, both theories are of value in 
trying to explain problem solving and 
thinking. Rather than trying to choose be- 
tween them, it would be better to use the 
insights of each. 


All of us would like to make more effi- 
cient use of our thought processes in order 
better to solve problems. Although there 
is no simple formula for improving think- 
ing, it will be worthwhile to look at some 
of the conditions of effective (and inef- 
fective) thinking. Many of the points we 
shall make must be tentative, for research 
in the field of thinking has not yet pro- 
vided definitive answers. 

Proper Formulation of the Problem. The 
way we formulate the problem determines 
how readily it may be solved or, for that 
matter, whether it can be solved at all. In 
scientific work, for example, it is necessary 
to ask the right questions of nature. One 
suggestion is to avoid a too narrow or pre- 
maturely rigid definition of the problem. 
For example, it probably would be inap- 
propriate to define the problem of the con- 
trol of juvenile delinquency by asking, 
"How can we punish delinquents so se- 
verely that they will avoid future acts of 

Previous experience with an area of 
knowledge is usually of help in formu- 
lating problems which are important and 
capable of being solved. Thus when scien- 




BCD < 

in || n( 11 

[E3B rng 


tists have developed an area of knowledge 
it generally becomes easier to formulate 
properly further problems in the same area. 

Getting Adequate Information. We are 
more likely to think effectively about some- 
thing if we have abundant relevant infor- 
mation. Some people propose to teach stu- 
dents "how to think." While there may be 
some general methods of value, we need to 
have at least some facts in order to think 
well. How ineffective it would be to plan 
an insurance and investment program if 
we had little or no information, and if, 
moreover, what little we had was inaccu- 
ratel Not only is it important to have ade- 
quate information, but it is also important 
to know what needed information we do 
not have. Many plans during wartime or in 
the business world must take into account 
the important information that is lacking. 

Using Clearly Defined Concepts. Con- 
cepts should be clearly defined. It is diffi- 

Figure 13.11. "An example in reasoning. The driver in the 
black car is blocked from making a left turn by the traffic 
jam in the left lane. In the distance he sees the cars in the 
much lighter traffic coming from the opposite direction 
making the right turn easily on the road he wants to take. 
He thinks, 'If I were only going the other way.' This stimu- 
lates him to think of how he could be going the other way. 
He pulls out into the right lane, passes the cars ahead, turns 
around, comes back the other way, and makes a right turn 
onto the highway. (The small circle at the center inter- 
section indicates a traffic light.)" (Figures and caption 
from J. Dollard and N. E. Miller, Personality and Psycho- 
therapy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950, p. 112. Courtesy 
of the publisher.) 

cult to think effectively with hazy, ill-de- 
fined concepts. Abstractions may be pow- 
erful tools in thinking, but there is the 
ever-present risk that they may become 
grandiose and divorced from the world of 
reality. Most people, for example, find it 
difficult to think carefully about such om- 
nibus abstractions as "human nature," "per- 
sonal integration," "liberal education/' and 
the "universal nature of man." Simply de- 
fining something in a definite way, of 
course, does not guarantee that such a 
definition will be useful. Nor, so far as we 
know, can science get along without at 
least some terms called constructs ( such as 
matter, energy, motive, and the like ) which 
are not directly definable by reference to 

Controlling Emotional Factors. As was 
pointed out earlier in this chapter, our feel- 
ings play a big part in our thinking, often 
leading us to rationalize and distort reality. 
Furthermore, strong anxiety or guilt often 
leads not only to avoiding the problem area 
and possible solutions, but also to repres- 
sion. How can we control these emotional 
factors? Here are a few practical recom- 

First, we should seek to identify some of 
our emotional biases regarding the prob- 



lem in question. If we know that we have 
a prejudice against a minority group, for 
example, we can be on our guard against 
the influence of this feeling on our think- 
ing. We realize, however, that many un- 
conscious biases may continue to operate. 

Second, if we are emotionally disturbed, 
we should wait (if there is an opportunity 
to do so) until later when we are calmer 
to think about the problem. After we have 
a solution, we should regard it as tentative 
and reconsider it again after an interval. 

Third, we should check our views against 
those of disinterested persons. Often, after 
having worked out a solution, we can re- 
evaluate it by talking it over with other 
people who do not have strong feelings 
about it and thus can be more objective. 

Fourth, we should avoid the use of emo- 
tionally loaded (either positively or nega- 
tively) words or other symbols. It is diffi- 
cult to think objectively in terms of labels 
such as "communist agitator," "capitalist 
overlord," "right to work," and "progress." 
Such terms as these, with their strong af- 
fective reactions, inevitably influence us to 
make evaluations which are similar in emo- 
tional tone. 

Other Conditions of Effective Thinking. 
Our thinking will be more effective if we 

critically examine our assumptions; some- 
thing that we are taking for granted may 
not be true. 

We should be cautious in thinking in 
"either-or" terms, as if everything were 
either black or white. We should also be 
cautious about making sweeping generali- 
zations; there may be exceptions. 

It will be helpful to look for alternative 
solutions, instead of pouncing on the first 
plausible possibility, and to look for gen- 
eral principles, instead of using a rote rule 
of procedure. 

Finally, we should be careful about try- 
ing to explain anything in terms of a single 
cause or factor; usually there are many fac- 
tors involved. 


It is worthwhile to point out that psy- 
chologists have as yet made only limited 
progress in the investigation of thinking 
and problem solving. For a long time they 
were seriously handicapped by popular 
and philosophical preconceptions. The 
prospects, however, are very encouraging 
for a genuinely psychological approach to 
the subject and the rapid development of 
experimental methods for its study. 


Thinking is behavior characterized by the 
manipulation of symbolswords, images, 
and certain muscular movements which 
represent aspects of our world of experi- 
ence. There are various motivations be- 
hind thinking, such as the desire to solve 
a problem and the desire to enhance or 
defend the self. Thinking and feeling usu- 
ally go together, and much of thinking in- 
volves unconscious processes. We study 
thinking by observing our own thoughts 
and the behavior of others. 

A symbol is something which stands for 
something else. We use both external and 

internal symbols. Concepts, which are 
meanings that are common to a class of 
objects, help us to identify objects and 
prepare to react to them in certain ways. 
Some concepts are more abstract than oth- 
ers in the sense that fewer characteristics 
are used in identifying members of a class 
(and the classes are more inclusive). Ab- 
stractions permit wide generalization of 
knowledge. The meanings of symbols are 
learned. The fact that symbols can have 
referents that are not physically present 
helps us to solve problems. 

Images, which are one type of symbol, 



occur in different sensory modalities, and 
people differ in their imagery. Although 
images are important, it is doubtful that 
all thinking involves images. 

Certain muscular movements, especially 
in the speech apparatus, may function as 
symbols. While speech movements are im- 
portant in verbal thinking, they are only 
part of the total process. 

Words are part of language, a cultural 
product. The categories (abstract similari- 
ties and differences ) embodied in language 
influence thinking, although we differ in 
what words mean to us. Studies of free 
and controlled association and of word 
contexts all show the many and complex 
associations among words. 

Problem solving, which involves think- 
ing, begins with a problem as perceived. 
The way in which a problem is formulated 
has an influence on how it is attacked. 

Various factors, such as intensity of mo- 
tivation and transfer of expectations and 
habitual reactions, affect problem solving. 

Approaching problem solving from the 
point of view of logic fails to explain ac- 
tual problem-solving behavior, although 
standards of validity of reasoning may at 
times be helpful. Stimulus-response theory 
endeavors to explain problem solving 
mainly on the basis of transfer of learned 
reactions, with symbolic habits playing an 
important part. Cognitive theory empha- 
sizes perceptual reorganization. Both the 
stimulus-response and cognitive theories 
contribute to our understanding of prob- 
lem solving. 

Efficient thinking in problem solving de- 
pends on various factors: correct problem 
formulation, adequate information, use of 
clearly defined concepts, control of emo- 
tional factors, and others. 


1. What is meant by thinking? How is thinking 
related to feeling? 

2. What is the significance of unconscious fac- 
tors in thinking? What is the evidence that 
they exist? 

3. What are the relative advantages and dis- 
advantages of images, words, and muscular 
movements as symbols? 

4. Evaluate introspective observation and ob- 
jective studies of behavior as ways of studying 

5. What factors influence the likelihood of 
solving a problem? 

6. What is the relation of logic to thinking? 
Can thinking be illogical and yet solve prob- 

7. How does stimulus-response theory try to 

explain problem solving? Evaluate the 
strengths and weaknesses of this approach. 

8. How does cognitive theory try to explain 
thinking? Evaluate the strengths and weak- 
nesses of this approach. 

9. What influences do emotional factors have 
on problem solving and thinking? How may 
the influence of emotional factors be con- 

10. What do studies of free and controlled as- 
sociation teach us about thinking? 

11. What recommendations would you make 
for improving the efficiency of problem solving 
and thinking? 

12. Think of a problem which you have solved 
recently in an inventive way. How did you 
arrive at the solution? What part did previous 
experience play in the process of solution? 




Dollarcl, J., and N. E. Miller: Personality and (Thinking and language from the point of 

Psychotherapy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1950. view of general semantics.) 

(A stimulus-response analysis of learning Leeper, Robert: "Cognitive Processes," in S. S. 

and thinking.) Stevens (ed.), Handbook of Experimental Psy- 

Dunker, K.: On Problem Solving, Psychologi- chology, Wiley, New York, 1951, pp. 730-757. 

cal Monographs, no. 270, 1945. (A technical discussion of the methodol- 

(An account of some valuable experi- ogy and results of research regarding 

ments on human problem solving.) thinking.) 

Hayakawa, S. I.: Language in Thought and Thouless, R. H.: How to Think Straight, Simon 

Action, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1949. and Schuster, New York, 1939. 

(A treatment of thinking and communica- (A popular tfc itment of the subject of 

tion from a viewpoint of general seman- effective thinking.) 

tics; interestingly and simply written.) Vinacke, W. E.: The Psychology of Thinking, 

Katona, G.: Organizing and Memorizing, Go- McGraw-Hill, New York, 1952. 

lumbia University Press, New York, 1940. (A text covering a wide range of topics 

(Compares rote and meaningful methods related to thinking.) 

of problem solving.) Wertheimer, M.: Productive Thinking, Harper, 

Korzybski, Alfred: Science and Sanity* 2d ed., New York, 1945. 

International Non-Aristotelian Library Publish- (A stimulating treatment of thinking and 

ing Co., Lancaster, 1941. problem solving.) 



In order to understand a person's behav- 
ior, it is helpful to know what his attitudes 
and beliefs are. Knowledge of attitudes 
and beliefs is also of great practical impor- 
tance. Politicians need to know the atti- 
tudes and beliefs of the public they serve. 
So do advertisers. Religion is largely a 
matter of attitude and belief. In this chap- 
ter, we shall consider the nature of atti- 
tudes and beliefs, how they are formed, 
why they tend to be stable, and how they 
may be changed. 


What do we mean by the terms attitude 
and belief? How are attitudes and beliefs 
different from one another, and how are 
they related? What is the function of atti- 
tudes and beliefs? And how do we identify 
and measure them? If we can answer these 
questions, we shall be in a better position 
to understand the nature of these factors 
in human behavior. 

Meaning of Attitude. An attitude may 
be. regarded as the way a person feels 
about something. This is not a very techni- 
cal-sounding definition, but if we examine 
its meaning we shall obtain a clearer un- 
derstanding of the concept involved. As a 
feeling about something, an attitude has 
an object. The object toward which the at- 
titude is directed may be anything a per- 
son, a material object, a situation, a policy, 
etc. It may be as concrete as a building 
or as abstract as existentialism. It may be 
as real as the Democratic party or as un- 
real as ghosts. In other words, the object 
of an attitude may be anything that we 
can perceive or think about. 


This feeling can be any motivational ( or 
emotional) state, and like all motives, it 
must be inferred from behavior. Consider, 
for example, our attitude toward the 
church. If it is a favorable one, we feel 
reverent when we are in church. If our 
church needs money or services, we are 
ready to help out. We will defend it 
against those who would attack it. Its goals 
are our goals. We should like to see its 
educational program furthered. In many 
other respects, we are favorably disposed 
toward the church. 

To have an attitude toward something 
does not mean that we continuously ex- 
perience a feeling regarding it. We may 
have a favorable attitude toward the 
church, but we are not continually in a 
state of tension regarding it. We do, how- 
ever, have a readiness to become moti- 
vated in ways which are favorable to its 
welfare. An attitude, in other words, is a 
readiness to become motivated with re- 
spect to an object. Under certain condi- 
tions, such as when we are in the presence 
of the object, or when the values which it 
has for us can be enhanced or defended, 
we are likely to become appropriately mo- 

A course of action or a statement of 
opinion is usually determined by a whole 
set of attitudes and beliefs. Our decision 
about how much money to give to the 
church may be influenced by many factors. 
Some of these factors, such as our liking 
for Jimmy's Sunday-school teacher, may 
influence us to give more; other factors, 
such as the unexpectedly heavy income tax 
we may have paid, may influence us to 
give less. Our decision will be determined 
by these various opposing forces. 

Dimensions of Attitudes. Attitudes may 
be regarded as varying in several ways; 
that is, they have various dimensions. (J>ne 
of these is direction^ we_ajn_be for or 
against something. A second way attitudes 
may vary Ts i iri~3egree the_degree of fa- 
vorableness may vary all the way from be- 

ing extremely favorable through neutral- 
ity to being extremely unfavorable. To be 
neutral in attitude is to be indifferent to 
the object. In practice, though, it is diffi- 
cult to determine the point on an attitude- 
measuring scale which represents true neu- 
trality. Attitudes also vary, thirdly, in the 
intensity with which they are held. We 
may say, for example, that we feel the 
church is necessary for the existence of law 
and order. This statement indicates a fa- 
vorable attitude; the ^degree of confidence 
with which we assert it indicates the in- 
tensity of our altitude. As might be ex- 
pected, our most intense attitudes tend to 
be the more extreme ones either favorable 
or unfavorable. 

Another way in which attitudes vary is 
in how ready we are to react in terms of 
the attitude. A person who is prejudiced 
against all Englishmen, for example, needs 
very little provocation to find undesirable 
things in the behavior of Englishmen. 
Nearly anything Englishmen do may irri- 
tate him. 

Attitudes may also vary in the degree in 
which the object of the attitudes is com- 
mon to a number of people or unique to a 
particular individual. Of course an object 
must be a common object if we are to com- 
pare people as to the degree, intensity, and 
other aspects of the attitude. It would, for 
example, be impossible to devise a scale 
to measure attitudes toward the church, 
that is, to compare people in their atti- 
tudes, unless the church were a common 
object for them. Being socialized in the 
same culture, we tend to have attitudes to- 
ward many of the same significant social 
objects the church, marriage, free enter- 
prise, etc. 

Attitudes also vary in the extent to which 
they are conscious. By now the notion of 
unconscious processes is quite familiar, so 
it should come as no surprise to discover 
that attitudes may be unconsciously held. 
Indeed, it is likely that most of our atti- 
tudes are ones of which we are not clearly 










0123456789 10 
Unfavorable Favorable 

Figure 14.1. This figure shows how the inten- 
sity of an attitude varies in relation to the de- 
gree to which that attitude is favorable or 
unfavorable. The more favorable or unfavor- 
able the attitude, the greater its intensity (the 
confidence with which it is held). The graph is 
based on opinions expressed about government 
control of business. Can you be intensely 
"neutral" on an issue? (From H. Cantril, "The 
Intensity of an Attitude" Journal of Abnormal 
and Social Psychology, 41:129-136, 1946. 
Courtesy of American Psychological Associa- 

aware. Prejudice furnishes a good exam- 
ple. On an intellectual level, we may have 
unprejudiced beliefs. Yet in certain circum- 
stances deeper hostile feelings emerge, or 
projective tests may reveal their existence. 
Some of our most important attitudes and 
beliefs are simply taken for granted. We 
do not ordinarily talk about them or even 
think about them. But let a crisis situation 
arise in which such taken-for-granted atti- 
tudes and beliefs are challengedthen 
their strength and importance will be dra- 
matically revealed. 

A person can simultaneously hold incon- 
sistent attitudes toward the same object, 
or at least toward aspects which are not 
clearly discriminated from one another. 
For example, he can have both favorable 
and negative attitudes toward the church, 
in which event he is ambivalent in attitude. 
These different attitudes may be main- 
tained through repression, dissociation, or 
other devices for enhancing and defending 
the self (see Chapter 6). 

Meaning of Belief. A belief may be de- 
fined as the acceptance or rejection of a 
proposition about reality. For example, 
our belief that the world is round is an 
assertion which we accept about reality. 
The truth or falsity of this belief and of 
many, but not all, other beliefs can be de- 
termined by an appeal to factual data. But 
some of our beliefs cannot be thus verified, 
or else their verification is difficult or im- 
possible at this time. Many of our beliefs 
in the realm of religion arc of this type. 
Indeed, we have systems of beliefs (ide- 
ologies) about all the important institu- 
tions of our society, such as the family, free 
enterprise, and democratic government, 
which are difficult to verify, although we 
have great confidence in them. Such be- 
liefs are matters of faith. It is an interest- 
ing thing about human behavior that some 
of the beliefs that we hold to most tena- 
ciouslyand with the strongest feelings- 
are matters of faith and not readily subject 
to proof or disproof. 

In this chapter, we shall not emphasize 
a distinction between attitudes and beliefs. 
Most, if not all, attitudes involve related 
beliefs. For example, a favorable attitude 
toward the church may involve beliefs 
that the church helps to curb delinquency, 
that it makes people happier, that there is 
a God, and so on. Likewise, many of our 
beliefs involve attitudes. For example, a 
belief that the government of another na- 
tion intends to harm us usually goes along 
with the attitudes of fear and hatred. In- 
deed, it is difficult to know which atti- 
tudes or beliefs comes first, for the two 
are highly interrelated. The closeness of 
the relationship is apparent from the fact 
that a change in beliefs is usually followed 
by a change in related attitudes. When 
workers come to believe that management 
has their interests at heart, their attitudes 
toward management become more favor- 
able. It works the other way, too: attitudes 
seem to influence beliefs. An antagonistic 
attitude toward a minority group tends to 



support beliefs which define such a group 
as inferior, vicious, and the like. Let atti- 
tudes become more favorable, and the un- 
favorable beliefs tend to change too. Fur- 
thermore, both attitudes and beliefs in- 
volve a readiness to be motivated with re- 
spect to an object. 

It seems reasonable to hold that atti- 
tudes and beliefs go together, although in 
a particular instance the motivational or 
the cognitive aspect may be more appar- 
ent. The interdependence of attitudes and 
beliefs will be even clearer when we con- 
sider the function of attitudes and beliefs. 

Function of Attitudes and Beliefs. Of 
what value are attitudes and beliefs? What 
function do they serve for us? Of course, 
this subject is discussed in Chapter 11, in 
connection with perception. The function 
of attitudes and beliefs is to orient us to- 
ward reality (or what we take to be real- 
ity). They help us to prepare for action, 
to anticipate what will happen next, and 
in other ways to attain our goals and avoid 
threats. A belief or a system of beliefs that 
fails to meet human needs usually crum- 
bles in the long run. We have discussed 
how autism and defense and enhancement 
of the self influence human behavior. They 
also characterize beliefs and attitudes. 

Inferring Attitudes and Beliefs. How do 
we identify other people's attitudes and 
beliefs or, for that matter, our own? We^ 
have to infer other people's attitudes and 
beliefs from what they do and say, whether 
in informal situations or in formal tests. 
Typically, we look for consistencies in a 
person's behavior, and from these consist- 
encies we infer what must be his beliefs 
and attitudes. In the case of attitude to- 
ward the church, for example, if a man 
gives freely of his time and money to the 
church, seeks new members, speaks often 
of religious matters both in and outside 
the church, carries on family worship, and 
so on, it is likely that he has a favorable 
attitude toward the church. The various 
behaviors form a consistent picture. Like 

all other appraisals and evaluations of per- 
sonality (see Chapter 18) conclusions 
about a person's attitudes and beliefs are 
suHject to error and should always be 
based on all available information. 

As we have said, a person does not fully 
know his own attitudes and beliefs. It is a 
familiar experience in psychotherapy, for 
example, for a person to find that he has 
attitudes toward himself and others that 
he had been unaware of. In everyday life, 
we may have beliefs and attitudes which 
are largely at an unconscious level some 
repressed, and otl ers simply unverbalized 
and taken for granted. The earlier chapters 
of this book should have made it clear 
that we usually have only limited insight 
into our own motives and ways of enhanc- 
ing and defending the self. In other words, 
it is no easy matter to know our own atti- 
tudes and beliefs. 

Measuring Attitudes and Beliefs. There 
are various methods for measuring atti- 
tudes and beliefs. One of these is the at- 
titude questionnaire, which is a paper-and- 
pencil test consisting of a series of state- 
ments of opinion. 

One example appears in Table 14.1, 
which exhibits selected items from a scale 
for measuring attitude toward war. This 
type of scale is known as a TJuirstone-type 
scale, since the technique of scaling em- 
ployed was developed by Thurstone. The 
statements, which in this case numbered 
twenty-two, vary from those which are 
highly favorable to those which are highly 
unfavorable. The person who completes 
the form is instructed to check the state- 
ments with which he agrees. Each state- 
ment has a scale value determined by an 
extensive and technical procedure. A per- 
son's score is the median, which is a spe- 
cial kind of average (see Chapter 16), of 
the scale values of the items which he has 
checked. In this case, the scale values of the 
items (determined by a technical proce- 
dure) vary from 0.0, which is at the anti- 
war extreme, to 11.0, which is at the pro- 



Table 14.1 Selected Items from a Droba Scale for Measuring 
Attitudes toward War 

Scale value 


1.3 1. A country cannot amount to much without a national 

honor, and war is the only means of preserving it. 

2.5 2. When war is declared, we must enlist. 

5.2 3. Wars are justified only when waged in defense of 

weaker nations. 

5.4 4. Peace and war are both essential to progress. 

5.6 5. The most that we can hope to accomplish is the partial 

elimination of war. 
8.4 6. The disrespect for human life and rights involved in war 

is a cause of crime waves. 
10.6 7. All nations should disarm immediately. 

SOURCE: From D. D. Droba, A Scale for Measuring Attitude toward War, 
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1930. 

war extreme. Similar scales have been de- 
vised to measure attitudes toward other 
subjects, such as church, capitalism, and 
various nationality groups. 

A second kind of attitude questionnaire 
is a Likert-type scale. An example is shown 
in Table 14.2, which has selected items 
from a scale for measuring attitudes to- 
ward Negroes. The respondent is told to 
indicate one of five degrees of agreement 
or disagreement with each item. In this 
case, the number 1 indicates the anti- 
Negro extreme while 5 indicates the pro- 
Negro extreme. His score is the sum of 
the scale values of the degrees of agree- 
ment or disagreement that he checks. 

There are many other varieties of atti- 
tude questionnaires similar to the ones we 
have discussed. In nearly all of them, the 
person taking the test has a rather clear 
idea of whether his responses are favorable 
or unfavorable. Consequently he can de- 
liberately falsify or unconsciously distort 
his responses so that they enhance or de- 
fend the self. Knowing, for example, that 

prejudice toward minority groups is disap- 
proved by many people, and perhaps feel- 
ings a little guilty about his own prejudice, 
he may respond in a way that gives an er- 
roneous impression that he is unpreju- 
diced. What a person writes on such a test, 
or what he says in response to opinion-poll 
questions, must always be interpreted and 
usually cannot be taken at face value. 

Other methods are therefore sometimes 
required to obtain a truer picture of atti- 
tudes. One such method is the projse&ve 
test (see Chapter 18), which requires a 
person to respond to an indefinite (un- 
structured) stimulus situation. The ration- 
ale behind such tests is that, when the 
stimulus situation is unstructured, the indi- 
vidual's responses are determined mainly 
by his needs, frames of reference, and 
other personal factors. For example, Figure 
14.2 shows some kind of streetcar or sub- 
way scene. 1 The subject is instructed to 
tell what this picture is about, the feelings 

1 G. W. Allport and L. Postman, The Psychology 
of Rumor, Holt, New York, 1947. 



of the people, what led up to this situa- 
tion, and how it is going to turn out. Sup- 
pose our subject said something like this: 

The Negro (the dark-skinned fellow) is a 
bit drunk. He has been abusive to one of the 
women passengers, and one of the white men 
has objected. The Negro is quarreling violently 
with the white man, who is trying to be re- 
strained and polite. In a moment the Negro 
will become violent and slash the white man 
with the razor that he is holding in his hand. 

Actually the dark-skinned man is not hold- 
ing anything in his hand; it is the white 
man who seems to be holding a razor. In 
fact, the whole story is a projection of the 
respondent's attitudes and beliefs, and it 
strongly indicates a prejudiced attitude. 

Projective tests of attitude are particularly 
valuable in the study of prejudice, since so 
many of our prejudices operate at an un- 
conscious level or are deliberately dis- 
guised to conform with prevailing taboos 
against the expression of overt prejudice. 
In addition to attitude questionnaires and 
projective tests of attitudes, there are also 
rating methods for measuring attitudes. 
Like all ratings, these are essentially judg- 
ments. The more clearly the attitude in 
question is defined and the larger the num- 
ber of independent judges doing the rating, 
the more likely the ratings are to be re- 
liable (consistent) and valid (measure 
what they are supposed to measure). The 
subject of rating methods for the appraisal 

Table 14.2 Selected Items from Likert's Scale for Measuring Attitude toward Negroes 

No Negro should be deprived of the franchise except for reasons which would also disfranchise 
a white man. 











Negro homes should be segregated from those of white people. 

Strongly Strongly 

approve Approve Undecided Disapprove disapprove 

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 

If the same preparation is required, the Negro teacher should receive the same salary as the white. 

Strongly Strongly 

approve Approve Undecided Disapprove disapprove 

(5) (4) (3) (2) (1) 

All Negroes belong in one class and should be treated in about the same way. 

Strongly Strongly 

approve Approve Undecided Disapprove disapprove 

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 

SOURCE: From R. Likert, "A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes." Archives of Psychology, 
no. 140, 1932. 



Figure 14.2. This picture illustrates an unstructured stimulus situation suitable 
for a protective test of attitudes and beliefs. What is happening in this situa- 
tion? How do the main characters feel? What led up to the situation, and how 
will it turn out? (G. W. Allport and L. Postman, The Psychology of Rumor, 
Holt, New York, 1947, p. 71. Courtesy of the publisher.) 

and evaluation of personality is further dis- 
cussed in Chapter 18. 


How do we form our beliefs and atti- 
tudes? Generally speaking, ^^leanxJtliein^ 
The process of learning is discussed in 
Chapter 12. The principles discussed there 
apply generally to all learning. Our inter- 
est here, however, is in learning that has a 
social setting. In other words, we shall dis- 
cuss the social learning of attitudes and 
beliefs recognizing, of course, that such 

learning obeys the same principles as does 
learning in general. 

Sources of Attitudes and Beliefs. Sjic- 
cific experiences. One way we learn our 
attitudes and beliefs is through specific ex- 
periences with the object of the attitude. 
For example, after a series of rewarding 
experiences in dealing with a person we 
usually come to like him. By contrast, a 
series of frustrating, punishing, or other- 
wise negative experiences will usually en- 
gender an unfavorable attitude. Sometimes, 
even a single experience produces a 
strongly favorable or unfavorable attitude. 



For example, a man who has lost heavily 
on an investment in stocks may learn in a 
single experience to have an unfavorable 
attitude toward the buying of stocks. He 
is, of course, transferring ( see Chapter 12 ) 
his reaction, based on a specific experience, 
to the buying of stocks in general. 

Instruction. In part, our beliefs and atti- 
tudes are formed by the instruction, either 
formal or informal, we receive from others. 
There are many agencies to instruct us, 
such as the home, the school, the church, 
arid various mass media ( magazines, news- 
papers, etc.). Through them we are con- 
tinually exposed to the views which are 
widely shared in our society and some 
which arc not. 

Probably most of our beliefs and atti- 
tudes are learned from other people. Con- 
sider some of the beliefs which we hold. 
We may believe that the Republican party 
is best, probably because our parents felt 
that way. Most of us believe that the world 
is round, yet few of us have gone around 
the world ourselves. Many of us think that 
public utilities should be privately owned, 
yet most of us have not ourselves made a 
direct study of this question. It is easy to 
see that many of our beliefs are based on 
other people's views. We should recognize, 
of course, that we modify these shared be- 
liefs and attitudes in the light of our own 
particular experience. As a result of reflec- 
tion we can qualify or otherwise change 
these beliefs which we have learned from 

Of particular interest is the informal 
instruction which children are given in the 
family. From a very early age, a child may 
hear his parents say things such as the 

"It isn't good manners to lick your fin- 
gers at the dinner table." 

"People who steal other people's things 
are bad." 

"Doctors know a lot of things; they are 
important people." 

"People who are careless of other peo- 
ple's rights ought to be punished." 

"Jews are good businessmen." 

Statements such as these, made by those 
with whom a child identifies, tend to have 
a profound influence on his beliefs and 

We know, of course, that not all indoc- 
trination is successful. For it to be effective 
the individual who is being influenced 
must have a favorable and respectful atti- 
tude toward whoever is trying to influence 
him. In the home situation the child is very 
likely to feel positively inclined toward his 
mother and father. In the school situation, 
his teachers may carry a lot of prestige in 
his eyes. 

Models. Not all our beliefs and attitudes 
are formed through instruction from oth- 
ers. Some are developed through imitation 
of models. The process is something like 
this: In a particular situation, we see how 
another person behaves. We interpret his 
behavior in terms of the attitudes and be- 
liefs his action implies. If we identify with 
him and respect his judgment, we accept 
this (inferred) way of perceiving and feel- 
ing about the situation. 

For example, suppose that Jimmy and 
his mother are experiencing a thunder 
storm. Jimmy sees that his mother is afraid. 
She closes the door to her room, puts her 
fingers in her ears to shut out the noises, 
and trembles every time there is a loud 
peal of thunder. This behavior on his moth- 
er's part defines the storm as a dangerous 
thing. Remember that Jimmy believes that 
his mother is far more powerful than he is 
and that her way of interpreting things is 
often correct. By being led to perceive the 
situation as dangerous, Jimmy can acquire 
an attitude of fear toward storms just like 
that of his mother. 

Jimmy also sees that his father watches 
sports of all kinds on television. In this 
way he may come to believe that sports are 
interesting and important things to watch. 



Figure 14.3. What different attitudes toward religion are 
embodied in these two churches? Such physical settings 
provide only part of the institutional supports for beliefs 
and attitudes. What are some of the other factors that in- 
fluence religious attitudes? 


He notes that his mother and father are 
careful with the furniture in the living 
room and less careful with the furniture in 
the back yard. He may therefore come to 
believe that some possessions should be 
treated more carefully than others. All this 
learning can take place without his parents 
saying anything explicitly about these mat- 

Children are often quite vigilant in no- 
ticing how their parents react to different 
people. They learn by observing whom 
their parents respect, whom they treat with 
condescension, whom they regard as 
friends, and whom they dislike, Such eval- 
uations may be acquired without the 
child's directly interacting with such 

Institutional factors^. Many institutional 
factors (see Chapter 8) function as sources 
and supports of our attitudes and beliefs. 
For example, consider the description of a 
certain church. When the people come 
into this church, they kneel down to pray. 

They then walk very quietly to the plain, 
bare pews where they sit with heads 
bowed. Their clothes are quite plain, but 
of good quality. When the minister enters, 
they all rise to attention while he faces the 
highly ornate altar and chants. The entire 
service is devoted to ritual. At the end of 
the service, the minister leaves from the 
front of the church, and then the members 
of the congregation file out quietly. 

From this description we can make some 
rather good guesses as to the general char- 
acter of the religious attitudes and beliefs 
in this church. There is implicitly an atti- 
tude of reverence, an orientation toward a 
deity, a ritualized rather than a spontane- 
ous expression of feeling, a sharp differen- 
tiation between the minister and the con- 
gregation, and so on. The different parts 
of the institution the architecture, furnish- 
ings, people's clothing and behaviorhave 
a meaning which fit in with certain beliefs 
and attitudes. There are many other insti- 
tutions in our society schools, military or- 



ganizations, and the like which also func- 
tion as sources and supports of attitudes 
and beliefs. 

Interaction of Influences. .There is a 
tendency for the various sources of atti- 
tudes and beliefs to be mutually support- 
ing. For example, a child's specific experi- 
ences, instructions from other people, the 
behavior of models, and institutional fac- 
tors may all work together to develop his 
attitudes toward other groups. 

When a recruit joins the military service, 
he is thoroughly indoctrinated in military 
courtesy. He learns how he should act in 
relationship to officers. He is to salute 
them, to obey their commands, and to 
show other signs of respect and obedience. 
Likewise, he sees about him the existence 
of a rank hierarchy. There are higher- 
ranking officers, lower-ranking officers, non- 
commissioned officers, and privates. They 
are distinguished from each other by vari- 
ous insignia and by different privileges, 
duties, and powers. So the way in which he 
is instructed and what he sees in the behav- 
ior of others tend to reinforce each other. He 
will come to accept as normal the differ- 
ence in the power and prestige of the dif- 
ferent ranks. 

Sometimes, however, the different sources 
of influence may not be mutually support- 
ing; in this event, a person is subjected to 
incompatible influences. An example would 
be the situation of a child whose parents 
preached tolerance but were very intolerant 
in their behavior. This incompatibility in 
turn can lead to a variety of consequences- 
personal conflict, rejection of part or all of 
these influences, etc. 

Our attitudes and beliefs are determined 
by both individual and social factors. For 
example, one person may be prejudiced to- 
ward a minority group because of beliefs 
and attitudes current in his own group. 
His prejudice simply is socially learned. 
Another person's prejudice may be due to 
individual factors; his personality may be 

such that he needs to enhance his self- 
esteem by degrading and attacking weaker 
groups. It is likely that personal and social 
factors interact in most prejudiced persons. 

Conditions Affecting the Formation of 
Beliefs and Attitudes. A number of condi- 
tions have rather important effects on how 
we form our beliefs and attitudes. 

First of all, it is important whether or 
not we identify with other people who 
have certain beliefs and attitudes or who 
express them in their behavior. A child 
who identifies with his mother and father 
is far more like^ to learn and to accept 
their beliefs and attitudes. At school or at 
work if we identify with our teacher or 
supervisor, we shall probably come to in- 
terpret and evaluate situations much as he 
does. On the other hand, if we reject other 
people to whose attitudes and beliefs we 
are exposed, it is unlikely that we shall ac- 
cept their beliefs. 

Another condition which is very impor- 
tant in the formation of our beliefs and at- 
titudes is the degree to which other peo- 
ple's attitudes and beliefs are uniform. If 

Figure 14.4. What are some of the many factors that 
might influence the attitudes of each of these two 
children toward members of the other race? (Cour- 
tesy of Henry Leighton.) 



Figure 14.5. This Bari maiden enjoys 
the distinction of being the beauty 
queen in her native village. Do you 
think she would be so considered in 
Hollytvood? Would your opinion be 
different if you were a Bari resident? 
(Courtesy of British Information Serv- 

everyone else we know has about the same 
beliefs and attitudes regarding some situa- 
tion, we are more likely to agree with their 
views. There probably are a number of 
reasons for this influence of uniformity. 
First, if we have not been exposed to cer- 
tain beliefs, our opportunity to acquire 
such beliefs is limited. Second, if we dis- 
agree with a unanimous or nearly unani- 
mous majority, we are likely to suffer so- 
cial disapproval and even outright rejec- 
tion. Third, we find it easier to communi- 
cate with others if we talk in terms of their 
attitudes and beliefs. 

As we grow from childhood to adult- 
hood we typically experience an increasing 
range of variation in beliefs and attitudes. 
The greatest degree of uniformity was 
probably experienced in the family, but as 
we played with other children, we found 
that they and their parents had somewhat 
different views. In school, especially at 
higher levels of education, we encountered 

more and more variation in opinion. Our 
beliefs and attitudes, ideally, became less 
absolute, and we came to regard evidence, 
rather than mere agreement, as the cri- 
terion for validity. In the world of poli- 
tics and business, too, we experience some 
differences in opinions. Because we have 
a degree of freedom in the selection of our 
group memberships, our adult attitudes 
and beliefs are less absolutely determined 
by others. 

It is probably true that those beliefs and 
attitudes which we acquire first tend to bt 
the most stable. We did not corny into the 
world with ready-made beliefs and atti- 
tudes about it. The views which we first 
learned from others, especially in the fam- 
ily, gave an order and meaning to our 
world. They constituted a frame of refer- 
ence, helping to shape our experiences. 
They may be modified in particular details 
in the light of new indoctrination and per- 
sonal experience, but rarely will they be 
supplanted by an entirely new set of atti- 
tudes and beliefs. 

Transferring our Beliefs and Attitudes 
to New Situations. Beliipfajind attitudes ac- 
quired in. one situation tend to transfer Jto_ 
other similar situations. Transfer of train- 
ing and generalization are discussed in 
Chapter 12. For our present purposes, the 
point is that attitudes and beliefs learned 
in one situation may be applied to other 
situations which we perceive as similar. In 
a new situation, these transferred views 
may be appropriate or inappropriate. 

For example, a child may generalize to 
other people an attitude toward one of his 
parents. Suppose the child has learned to 
perceive his father as a harsh, authoritarian 
person and has developed an attitude of 
hostility toward him. Then he is likely to 
carry over this attitude to other men whom 
he encounters in leadership situations. This 
illustrates how an attitude acquired in a 
specific situation may generalize to other 







It has often been held that if groups that are antagonistic to one another 
are brought into contact, their prejudiced attitudes will disappear. A con- 
siderable amount of research, however, has demonstrated that the outcome 
of such contact depends on many conditions. One of the most valuable 
studies in this area was performed in the summer of 1954.* In the first 
stage of the experiment (stage of in-group formation) two carefully selected 
groups of eleven boys were placed in separate camp sites in Robbers Cave 
State Park, about 150 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. During this phase 
the boys developed strong in-group feelings, and definite leaders emerged. 
In stage II (intergroup friction and conflict) the boys were brought into nu- 
merous competitive situations. One group, which called itself the Eagles, 
generally had the advantage in sports events over the other group, the 
Rattlers. The Eagles and the Rattlers became quite antagonistic toward each 
other, and incidents such as name calling, burning the other group's flag, 
accusing each other of cheating, and the like be<ame quite common. At the 
same time the solidarity of each group increased. Members chose each other 
as friends, tended to overvalue each other's performance in contests, and 
in general viewed their own group as superior. 

In stage III (reduction of intergroup friction) the two groups were brought 
together in a number of situations in which they had to solve their problems 
by joint action. They were placed in situations in which they worked for 
what the researchers called superord/nafe goals. For example, the experi- 
menters arranged for the supply truck to stall. The boys of both groups 
pitched in to get the truck moving, pulling together on a rope. On another 
occasion the experimenters arranged for an interruption of the water supply. 
Facing this common problem, the boys of both groups worked together in 
inspecting the pipeline so as to locate the difficulty and correct it. 

As a result of having to depend on each other to solve common problems, 
that is, working for superordinate goals, the intergroup prejudice gradually 
broke down. Boys in each group began to choose friends from the other group, 
and fewer activities were organized along their original group lines. 

* M. Sherif, O. J. Harvey, B. J. White, W. R. Hood, and C. W. Sherif, Experimenfa/ Study 
of Positive and Negative Intergroup Attitudes between Experimentally Produced Groups: 
Robbers Cave Sfudy, Intergroup Relations Project, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla., 
1954. (Multilithed.) 

We also see a tendency for a person to 
generalize an attitude from a part of a sit- 
uation to a whole situation. Suppose an 
employee has had an unfavorable experi- 
ence with his foreman. Since the average 
employee feels that his foreman is the com- 
pany, this employee may transfer this un- 
favorable attitude toward the company as 
a whole, even though the company's 
higher-level administrators may have poli- 

cies altogether different from those of this 
particular foreman. 

Existing beliefs and attitudes can color 
our further learning. In the example of the 
employee who had an unfavorable attitude 
toward his foreman, this feeling of antag- 
onism on his part led him to perceive un- 
favorably many things which the company 
did. But if he had a favorable attitude to- 
ward his foreman, he might have excused 



what appeared to be some shortcomings on 
the part of the company. Sometimes a sol- 
dier who has had an unfavorable experi- 
ence in a military setting generalizes this 
unfavorable attitude toward all aspects of 
the military service. He expects to have un- 
favorable experiences; he tends selectively 
to perceive the unfavorable and to remem- 
ber those things which are in line with his 
unfavorable attitude. 


Many of our attitudes are remarkably 
stable. Prejudice learned in early childhood 
often persists throughout life, sometimes in 
the face of favorable experiences with per- 
sons who are the object of the prejudice. 
Political, religious, and other attitudes and 
beliefs often show a remarkable degree of 

Adequacy as Guides to Adjustment. Be- 
liefs, and attitudes generally remain stable 
as long" as they continue to work. They 
help to make sense out of our social experi- 
ence, and they make more understandable 
the institutions we find in our society. As 
long as our existing beliefs and attitudes 
play this role successfully, they are likely 
to remain unchanged. However, when a 
crisis arises for which our attitudes and 
beliefs are inappropriate, we are very likely 
to change them. For example, during the 
Great Depression, many people's attitudes 
and beliefs about government and business 
underwent remarkable changes. Many peo- 
ple who previously objected violently to 
government help became more and more 
willing to accept it. As long as the beliefs 
and attitudes were adequate guides to ad- 
justment they remained stable, but when 
they were inadequate to deal with a threat- 
ening situation, they quickly changed. 

Selective Perception. Many of our be- 
liefs and attitudes tend to remain stable 
because we do not notice the exceptions or 
pay attention to them. This is the process 

of selective perception. For example, a per- 
son may have a stereotype regarding Jews. 
He regards Jews as sly, grasping, unethical 
in business practices, and clannish as a so- 
cial group. Suppose now that a Jew moves 
into the house next door and that this par- 
ticular Jew is a very friendly, sociable per- 
son who is helpful and a good neighbor. 
The person with a stereotype unfavorable 
to Jews can simply explain this case as an 
exception. All Jews are so-and-so, accord- 
ing to his stereotype; this one is simply an 
exception. On the other hand, even a few 
examples of Jewish behavior fitting in 
with the stereotype will tend further to 
reinforce the stereotype. 

Similarly, a person who believes that the 
government should keep out of business 
selectively perceives instances in which the 
government's participation in business has 
had an unfavorable outcome. He also sees 
many instances in which private enterprise, 
free from government control, has been 
strikingly effective. In fact, not only does 
he perceive more readily experiences which 
are in line with his existing beliefs and atti- 
tudes, but he also remembers them better. 

Loyalty to a Reference Group. Our be- 
liefs and attitudes are stable, too, because 
we tend to be loyal to groups with which 
we identify. Such groups are called refer- 
ence groups. Sometimes they are groups in 
which we are currently active. At other 
times, they may be groups in which we for- 
merly participated or in which we should 
like to be members. 

For example, let us consider the case of 
a young woman who will not play cards, 
dance, or smoke, even though most of her 
present acquaintances do so. Having been 
trained in a family with rigid standards, she 
feels that she would be disloyal to her 
father and her mother if she were to do 
things of which they disapproved. A deeper 
understanding of her personality would be 
necessary to account for her continuing de- 
pendence on her parents, particularly if her 




" eXCeption " 

"See! I told you, 
"exception" a || Wallonians 

have square heads. 1 

Figure 14.6. "A// Wallonians have square heads." With a "picture in 
his head: the individual often sees what he expects (and needs) to see, 
dismissing as exceptions the cases that do not fit. If most of the other 
people who are important to him say that all Wallonians have square 
heads, it must be so. Both selective perception and loyalty to a refer- 
ence group work in the same direction in such a situation. 

nonconformity prevents her from being ac- 
cepted by the group. 

Another example would be that of an 
American who has been captured by Com- 
munist soldiers. Because of his strong iden- 
tification with his country, he strongly re- 
sists communistic indoctrination. In addi- 
tion to other reasons he has for resisting, 
he feels that it would be disloyal for him to 
agree with their beliefs and attitudes. In 
other words, a person does not want to be 

disloyal to those with whom he identifies. 
Indeed, he does not want to be disloyal to 
what is a part of the self. Identification as 
an expansion of the self is discussed in 
Chapter 5. 

Need for Self-defense. A person may re- 
sist change in his beliefs and attitudes 
simply because he feels that a change 
would imply weakness or inadequacy on 
his own part. Such behavior is motivated by 
a need for self-defense, discussed in an 



earlier chapter. Suppose, for example, that 
an employee proposes to his supervisor a 
new sales technique. The supervisor may 
perceive this proposal as a threat, as a sign 
of his own personal inadequacy in carrying 
out his role. If so, he is likely to feel un- 
favorable to the proposal. 

As another example, take George Jack- 
son, who was in charge of the repair shop 
of a large garage. Included in the repair 
shop was a large parts department. One 
day his supervisor proposed that the parts 
department be separated from the repair 
shop and showed how this would have 
some advantages for the operation of the 
company. Mr. Jackson, however, was re- 
sistant. He argued that it was more efficient 
to have the parts department under the 
control of the repair shop, so that the repair 
shop could keep the parts department con- 
tinually informed of the need for parts. But 
underlying Mr. Jackson's resistance was a 
deeper concern. He felt that, if the parts 
department were made separate from the 
repair shop, then his own job would be- 
come less important. His need for self-de- 
fense created resistance to a change in his 
beliefs and attitudes. 

When our self-esteem is threatened we 
are very likely to resist vigorously any 
change in our beliefs and attitudes. Indeed, 
we may reject another's evaluation simply 
because agreeing would appear to admit 
his superiority. Sometimes, however, after 
the threat has been removed, we can con- 
sider proposals more objectively and change 
our opinion. 

Continuing Social Support. Probably the 
most important reason why our individual 
attitudes and beliefs tend to be stable is 
that they are continually reinforced by 
others who hold similar views. So long as 
group opinions are stable, we are subject 
to the same expressed and implied views. 
Moreover, if we conform, we are more 
likely to be accepted by the others, and we 
can communicate more readily if we share 
group opinions. 


Thus far we have considered the factors 
or conditions which make for stability or 
lack of change in beliefs and attitudes. 
Under certain conditions, however, our 
opinions do change. Let us consider some 
of these conditions. 

Group Pressure. Group pressure some- 
times causes us to change our opinions. By 
controlling important rewards and punish- 
ments a group may exert a powerful influ- 
ence in a particular direction. Positive in- 
centives such as popularity, promotions, 
and symbols of recognition function as re- 
wards for conformity. The penalties for 
continued nonconformity may be unpopu- 
larity, loss of prestige, ostracism, and the 

The more we deviate from the group- 
shared attitudes and beliefs, the greater 
pressure the group will tend to exert to 
bring us into line. Smaller deviations in 
opinion, however, may be tolerated. 

The more we want to belong to a group, 
the more pressure the group can put on us 
to get us to conform to group norms. If, on 
the other hand, our desire to belong is weak, 
we react to strong pressure by rejecting 
and leaving the group, providing we are 
free to choose. 

The more the group wants us as mem- 
bers, the more it attempts to influence us to 
agree with group norms. A person who has 
low prestige in a group may be allowed to 
deviate simply because the group has more 
important concerns. But a person of high 
prestige who deviates is likely to become 
the object of strong pressures to bring him 
into line. 

A condition affecting the degree to which 
group pressure can influence our attitudes 
is the amount of ambiguity in the situation. 
The fewer the objective standards accord- 
ing to which a person can judge and evalu- 
ate, the more he is subject to pressure from 
others. Suppose, for instance, the issue 
arises as to whether or not to support a par- 



Figure 14.7. Cartoons may embody complex attitudes 
and ideas. What different views do these cartoons 
imply regarding the reality of communistic influences 
in American government? Which view do you feel 
is the more accurate? (Courtesy Bruce Shanks, Buf- 
falo Evening News, and Herhlock.) 

ticular political candidate. Often we do not 
have much reliable or objective information 
about the qualifications of a candidate. 
Under these circumstances, if others in our 
group hold rather strong opinions favoring 
a candidate, we can be greatly swayed by 
group pressure. If we have objective stand- 
ards for holding our own opinions, how- 
ever, we are better able to resist group 

A person is more likely to change his 
attitudes if a group with which he identi- 
fies changes. Suppose that in the past the 
employees of a company have opposed 
unionization, but as a result of an intensive 
campaign aimed at organization, a majority 
votes to organize. An antiunion employee 
who finds that his fellows have approved 
unionization is then likely to change his 
mind. But the process of changing attitudes 
and beliefs is not purely automatic. Being 
uncomfortable in his deviation, our em- 
ployee will rethink the facts and issues. He 
may talk again with others to see why they 
feel as they do. Gradually he may arrive at 
interpretations consistent with his existing 
values and also in line with the group's de- 
cision. The change is motivated, and it in- 
volves a gradual process in which his per- 
ception of the situation is changed while 
his values probably remain stable. For this 
change he is rewarded by a relief from 
tension and greater acceptance from others. 
We should acknowledge, of course, that a 
person does not always go along with the 

"Hurry Up With That Dragon. The 
Audience Is Getting Impatient/* Iler- 
block's Here and Now, Simon and 
Schuster, 1955. 

group, and that he may become even more 
fixed in his opinion as a result of group 

The greater the uniformity in a group, 
the greater the pressure the group can exert 
on the individual. It makes a difference, 
when we disagree, whether everyone in 
our group feels different from us. Unani- 
mous agreement is difficult to resist. This 
is true even if the matter at issue is an 
objective matter of fact, although the group 
influence is more effective when the situa- 




A study * was undertaken to test the hypothesis that attitudes toward 
an object, or situation, may be changed by altering a person's perception 
of the object relative to valued goals. The basic idea was that, if an object 
becomes perceived as a means to attaining goals that a person values, 
then his attitude toward this object will become more favorable. 

Two groups of college students were used as subjects an experimental 
and a control group. Both were given an attitude test designed to measure 
their attitude toward allowing Negroes to move into previously white neigh- 
borhoods. The subjects varied in attitude all the way from those who were 
opposed to those who were favorable to Negroes in this regard. In addition, 
the subjects were given a questionnaire consisting of twenty-five value items, 
such as "America having high prestige in other countries," "Security of the 
value of one's real estate," "All persons having the chance to realize their 
potentialities," and "Being a person who is experienced, broadminded, and 

In this set of twenty-five items were eight critical items, which described 
four values in terms of which the experimenter subsequently attempted to 
influence attitudes toward Negroes moving into white neighborhoods. Each 
subject rated each value item in different ways, as to (1) how much satis- 
faction he would get from the goal indicated in the item, and (2) to what 
degree he perceived allowing Negroes to move into white neighborhoods 
would realize the goal stated by the item. The first of these ratings pro- 

* E. R. Carlson, "Attitude Change through Modification of Attitude Structure," Journal 
of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 52:256-261, 1956. 

tion is ambiguous. Suppose that one morn- 
ing all our friends said it was Thursday, 
even though we thought it was Tuesday. 
Such a discrepancy probably would disturb 
us. We should try to account for the dis- 
agreement, perhaps checking the date on 
the newspaper. Suppose the newspaper said 
Tuesday, but other people still insisted that 
it was Thursday. In this conflict situation, 
most of us would try very hard to find an 
interpretation which would rationalize the 
discrepancy. We might even accept the 
group opinion as fact, even though we 
could not satisfactorily explain away our 
own experience. There is, of course, a dif- 
ference between simply conforming to 
group opinion while privately disagreeing 
and actually distorting our perception so as 
to fit group interpretations. 

It is of interest to note, however, that 
when even one member of a group agrees 

with us it is easier to resist group influence. 
Suppose we have participated in a group 
discussion in which only ourselves and one 
other held a view opposed to the majority. 
Such a supporter may help us to resist 
changing our view. It makes a difference, 
of course, whether or not our supporter has 
prestige with us and with the group. 

Regarding changes in beliefs and atti- 
tudes, we should distinguish among four 

1. We may reject the group's norms 
(group-shared beliefs and attitudes) while 
holding rigidly to our own beliefs and atti- 
tudes. Indeed, we may even aggressively 
defend our own beliefs and attitudes. Prob- 
ably the group will not affect us much if we 
are indifferent to it, or if we feel intensely 
loyal to another group with different norms. 

2. We may not really change our beliefs 
and attitudes at all but may simply conform 



vided a measure of the strength of the values described by the critical items. 
The second provided an index of the degree to which a person perceived the 
proposed action as leading to realization of the values he had come to accept. 

The next phase required the subjects in the experimental group to write 
an essay showing how allowing Negroes to move into white neighborhoods 
would lead to the four values previously mentioned. 

The experimenter expected that this written exercise would cause the 
experimental subjects to perceive more fully than before that the policy in 
question would lead to realization of values which they held. In addition, 
the instructor subsequently led a discussion designed to achieve the above 
change. The control group, on the other hand, did not write an essay, nor 
did it participate in the discussion. 

In the third phase of the experiment, both groups once again took the 
attitude test, and rated the items as before. 

The results showed that the written exercise and discussion led K to an 
increased perception that allowing Negroes to move into white neighbor- 
hoods would achieve the four values previously mentioned. Those having 
the greatest change in attitude in the favorable direction were not unusually 
prejudiced or nonprejudiced initially. 

This experiment lends support to the view that attitudes toward an ob- 
ject may be changed by getting people to perceive that this object leads 
to realization of values which they hold. As in other studies, the greatest 
changes in attitudes were found in those who did not hold extreme attitudes, 
whether favorable or unfavorable. 

to group norms because of outside pressure 
or other reasons. At the same time we are 
aware of the fact that privately we disagree 
with the group's standards. 

3. We may accept the group's norms at a 
superficial level, but without any deep-level 
changes in our beliefs and attitudes. We 
conform not only in our actions, but also in 
our thinking and feeling ( at least at a con- 
scious level), but the superficial character 
of the change is shown when we move to a 
new group, where we take on new beliefs 
and attitudes, like putting on another mask. 

4. We may relate the group's norms to 
our own set of beliefs and attitudes, accept- 
ing some and perhaps rejecting others. The 
changes which do take place will be rela- 
tively enduring ones and will carry over to 
new situations. 

In the fourth case, we are being flexible 
and discriminating. We do not wholly ac- 

cept group norms, nor do we reject them 
completely, nor do we adopt them as a 
convenient pattern only to cast them aside 
later, nor are we indifferent to them. Rather 
we are self-determining and yet sensitive 
to the beliefs and values of others. 

Favorable or Unfavorable Experiences. 
Thus far we have considered changes in 
attitudes and beliefs brought about by 
social influences. This source of change is 
important because so many of our attitudes 
and beliefs are formed, not through direct 
experience with the situation itself, but 
through communication with others. We 
can, however, also change our attitudes 
and beliefs because of favorable or unfavor- 
able experiences with a situation. 

Let us take the case of a man who 
through his personal experiences changes 
his attitude from an initially favorable atti- 
tude to an unfavorable one. Mike Harwick 






We have all heard that "if a person says a thing often enough, he will 
begin to believe it." The purpose of the experiment to be reported here * 
was to determine whether a person's publicly defending a view different 
from his own opinion results in a change in his opinion. 

The subjects were ninety college students. They were given a question- 
naire containing, among others, three key items, as follows: 

Item A: During the past year a number of movie theaters were forced to go out 
of business as a result of television competition and other recent developments. At 
the present time there are about 78,000 movie theaters remaining. How many com- 
mercial movie theaters do you think will be in business three years from now? 

Item B: What is your personal estimate about the total supply of meat that will 
be available for the civilian population of the United States during the year 1953? 
( per cent of what it is at present.) 

Item C: How many years do you think it will be before a completely effective 
cure for the common cold is discovered? 

About a month later the subjects, who had been divided into three-man 
groups, were asked to give an informal talk based on a written outline that 

* Irving I. Janit and Bert T. King, "The Influence of Role Playing on Opinion Change," 
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49:211-218, 1954. 

joined a company because of what he be- 
lieved were excellent chances of promotion. 
^He found, however, that his superior was 
very jealous of his authority. When Mike 
made any suggestions for changes, his su- 
perior tended to interpret these suggestions 
as a personal threat. Furthermore, Mike 

found that his fellow employees were very 
competitive. Stories came to him that they 
were saying unfavorable things about him 
to the supervisor. He noticed, too, that 
many of these employees were not really 
loyal to the company. Gradually Mike's 
opinion of the company became quite nega- 
tive. His originally favorable opinion had 
become very unfavorable because of his 
experiences with the company. 

Of course, experience may also change 
an unfavorable opinion into a favorable 
one. Mrs. Jones, because of economic cir- 

Figure 14.8. These players have a high regard for 
their teammate because he contributes to goals which 
are important to the team. The picture shows Robin- 
son scoring on a homer in the fourteenth inning of 
the final game of the season with Philadelphia in 
1951. (International News Photos.) 



the experimenter had prepared. This outline stated a conclusion about one 
of the three key items and listed supporting arguments that, though relevant, 
were biased and one-sided. Each person actively advocated the conclusion 
pertaining to one of the three items while the other two members passively 
listened and read the outline. Then the second and third members took their 
turns relative to the remaining items. After the talks, the members were 
given an "after" questionnaire that asked for a variety of ratings and another 
expression of their opinion on the three key items, among others. 

The results showed that in the case of the first two items the speakers 
changed their opinions in the direction of the outline more than did the 
listeners. On item C, howevei, there was no significant difference between 
speakers and listeners in the amount of change, but self-ratings indicated 
that speakers had more confidence in their changed opinions than did listen- 
ers, a result that also held in the case of the other two items. 

The experiments suggest that two factors may have accounted f >r the 

First, the speakers, who frequently improvised arguments in defense of 
the conclusion they were to advocate, became convinced by their own "co- 
gent" arguments, clarifying illustrations, and appeals in trying to "sell" the 
idea. Second, the speakers probably experienced feelings of achievement 
and self-satisfaction in presenting their case. 

ciimstunccs, was forced to sell her home in 
a desirable neighborhood and move into 
what she considered to be a poor residen- 
tial area. She did not like the way in which 
the houses were maintained in this poorer 
neighborhood, and she felt that many of 
the people there had attitudes and beliefs 
which were different from hers. However, 
a number of these neighbors called on Mrs. 
Jones soon after she had arrived and made 
her feel quite at home. They invited her to 
their homes. To her surprise, she found that 
she had much in common with them. Grad- 
ually she came to feel more and more at- 
tached to her new neighborhood. As a re- 
sult of her experiences, her attitude became 
more favorable. 

Now, whether or not experiences will 
change our attitudes depends partly upon 
the strength of our initial attitudes and be- 
liefs and partly upon how strongly favor- 
able or unfavorable the experiences may be. 
If we do not have any particular attitudes 

and beliefs about a thing, then favorable 
or unfavorable experiences can have rather 
marked effect on the formation of our atti- 
tudes. On the other hand, if we already 
have strong beliefs and attitudes, we are 
likely to resist changing them. Indeed, as 
we have seen, we can be so strongly preju- 
diced that we interpret what would other- 
wise be favorable experiences as excep- 
tions. Moreover, we may be especially sen- 
sitive to any experiences which are unfavor- 
able. Nevertheless a prolonged series of 
strikingly favorable or unfavorable experi- 
ences can effect a change. 

Influence of Prestigeful Persons. It has 
often been held that we can be influenced 
to change our attitudes to agree with those 
who have prestige in our eyes. Now, who 
are prcstigeful persons? A prestigeful per- 
son may be a friend whose judgment we 
value. Over a period of time we have 
learned that this person's evaluation of situ- 
ations tends to be realistic and accurate. 



A prestigeful person may be an expert. 
Experts are believed to be competent 
judges in their specialty. Many of us, how- 
ever, have mixed feelings toward experts. 
We may feel that the expert is different 
from ourselves and even remote. It some- 
times is easier to identify with someone 
more like ourselves, such as a friend. 

The prestige of a person, and his influ- 
ence, may generalize from the field in 
which he is expert to others in which he 
has no special competence. Advertisers 
often make use of the prestige of motion- 
picture stars or sports figures in endorsing 
their products. We all know, however, that 
such persons are no better judges of tooth- 
paste, for example, than the rest of us. In 
every community there are persons who 
have high prestige and whose opinions out- 
side their specialty are given much weight. 

How do we react when a positively val- 

ued person has an opinion different from 
our own? We may try to find out why he 
thinks as he does. Arguments which we 
may have discounted earlier may be con- 
sidered anew. Supporting facts which we 
may not have questioned previously may be 
subjected to more critical scrutiny. This 
process does not guarantee that we shall 
come to agree with the other person, but 
the likelihood of such a change is increased. 
If the other person is a friend, mutual in- 
fluence is likely. 

But how do we feel when a negatively 
valued person has an opinion different from 
our own? His disagreement is likely to add 
support to our view. Agreement from a dis- 
liked person or group may lead us to ques- 
tion our own views. For example, a promi- 
nent gambler who comes out in support of 
the political candidate of our choice may 
induce us to reevaluate the candidate. 


An attitude is a readiness to become moti- 
vated with respect to an object. Attitudes 
vary in a number of ways, such as direction 
and degree, intensity, the extent to which 
they are common or unique, and the degree 
to which we are aware of them. A belief is 
an acceptance or rejection of a proposition 
about reality. Some beliefs are verifiable, 
whereas others are mainly matters of faith. 
A course of action or a statement of opin- 
ion is usually determined by a whole set 
of attitudes and beliefs. A decision may be 
influenced by opposing forces. 

Attitudes and beliefs are interrelated. 
They serve a function in enabling people 
to satisfy their needs. Beliefs and attitudes 
are not directly observable but must be in- 
ferred. Ratings, attitude questionnaires, and 
projective tests are some of the useful ways 

of assessing individual attitudes and beliefs. 

Attitudes and beliefs are formed as a re- 
sult of specific experiences, formal and in- 
formal instruction, the influence of models, 
and institutional factors. These various in- 
fluences tend to supplement one another. 
Various conditions affect the acquisition of 
attitudes and beliefs and their transfer to 
new situations. 

Beliefs and attitudes tend to be stable 
because they continue to work, because of 
selective perception, because of loyalty to 
a reference group, because of a need for 
self-defense, and because of continuing so- 
cial support. 

Attitudes and beliefs change because of 
group pressure, because of favorable or un- 
favorable experiences, and because of the 
influence of prestigeful persons. 




1. What is meant by the term "attitude"? How 
are attitudes related to beliefs? 

2. What are the functions of attitudes and be- 

3. To what extent are your attitudes and be- 
liefs determined by those of other people? 

4. Why do people resist changing their atti- 
tudes and beliefs? 

5. How would you go about trying to change 
a person's political attitudes and beliefs? 

6. Show how a decision such as a choice of 
vocation or whom to vote foris influenced by 
a whole set of attitudes and beliefs. 

7. What are some of the factors which influ- 
ence attitudes toward a minority group (such 
as the Jews or the Indians)? 

8. What are the sources of your attitudes and 
beliefs about Russia? To what extent have your 
evaluations been arrived at independently? 

9. What is meant by a reference group? What 
are some of your reference groups, and how 
do they influence you? 

10. To what extent is it possible for a person 
to evaluate situations without being influenced 
by the attitudes and beliefs of others? What 
factors do you thinl* would affect a person's 
susceptibility to such nfluence? 

11. What is the relationship of frames of ref- 
erence to attitudes? 

12. Discuss the consistency of attitudes. Can 
one have conflicting attitudes toward the same 


Allport, G. W.: The Nature of Prejudice, Ad- 
dison- Wesley, Cambridge, Mass., 1954. 

(A balanced and readable account of in- 
dividual and social factors in prejudiced 
attitudes and beliefs.) 

Allport, G. W., and L. Postman: The Psychol- 
ogy of Rumor, Holt, New York, 1947. 

(An analysis of the influence of rumor on 
attitudes and beliefs.) 

Doob, L. W.: Public Opinion and Propaganda, 
Holt, New York, 1948. 

(A text on the formation, measurement, 
and change of attitudes, with emphasis 
upon the role of mass communication.) 
Hovland, C. I., A. A. Lumsdainc, and F. D. 
Sheffield: Experiments in Mass Communica- 
tion, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 
N.J., 1949. 

(An account of methods and findings re- 
garding the influencing of attitudes and 
beliefs in World War II.) 

Krcch, D., and R. S. Crutchfield: Theory and 

Problems of Social Psychology, McGraw-Hill, 

New York, 1948, chaps. 5-9. 

(A discussion of attitudes and beliefs, in 
Chapters 5, 6, and 7; of prejudice, in 
Chapters 8 and 9.) 

Newcomb, T. M.: Social Psychology, Dryden, 

New York, 1950. 

(A textbook with informative chapters on 

Sherif, M., and C. W. Sherif: An Outline of 

Social Psychology, rev. ed., Harper, New York, 


(A textbook with consistent theoretical 
treatment of attitudes and beliefs.) 




^"^ ^"" ^^ ^^ IVlost of us have no doubt been, on occa- 

sion, in a situation in which we clid not 
know how to act, where we were not quite 
sure of what other people expected of us. 
It might have been because we were not 
clear as to our position, that is, our place 
function, or office in an organization. Per- 
haps we have been in a group, without be- 
ing entirely sure whether or not the others 
in the group regarded us as a member. 
Even if we knew how actual members 
should act, we may still have been confused 
in this situation. It has been said that ado- 
lescents in our society are often confused 
because they are not sure whether they are 
in the position of adult or child. Probably 
other people's inconsistent treatment ol 
adolescents acids to their difficulties. 

Not only is it important for us to know 
our position or positions, but it is also nec- 
essary for us to know the role that goes 
along with the position. That is, we need 
to know what behavior is expected of us 
in this position and to have the skills neces- 
sary for carrying out this behavior. For ex- 
ample, when a student goes to college, he 
knows very well that he is in the position 
of a student. But he may be quite unclear 
as to what is expected of him by his teach- 
ers, his family, his fraternity, and his fellow 
students. In addition, his skills (or lack oi 
them) and many other factors determine 
how he carries out his role of student. 

Anthropologists and sociologists study 
positions and roles as parts of culture. From 
a psychological point of view, however, we 
are interested in roles and positions because 
they influence our individual behavior and 



In the next few pages we shall consider 
the nature of positions and roles from the 
point of view of their significance for un- 
derstanding the person. 

Meaning of Position. First, however, we 
need to be clear as to the meaning of the 
term "position." A position is. a place, func- 
tion, or office in a social organization of any 
size. The notion may be illustrated in terms 
of certain positions which in one form or 
another occur in nearly every society. In 
our culture, we classify people according to 
age and sex, in addition to many other 
ways. Each of us is either male or female, 
and each of us falls in some age category, 
whether that of child, adolescent, young 
adult, middle-aged, aged, or some other. In 
addition, each adult is married or single, 
in some more or less defined social class, 
and in some occupational category ( even if 
not "gainfully employed"). With each of 
these broadly defined positions go various 
rights and duties; each position is charac- 
terized by certain behaviors which are 
typical of it. 

The kinds of positions we have consid- 
ered thus far arc occupied over long periods 
of time, and they play a part in determining 
our behavior in a wide variety of situations. 
For example, the fact that we are male or 
female has an important bearing on how 
we act or how we are expected to act- 
under many different circumstances. Many 
other positionsindeed, most of them are 
relatively specific and temporary. For ex- 
ample, we may be the chairman of a com- 
mittee, a week-end guest in a friend's home, 
or a substitute Sunday-school teacher. 
These positions, unlike those such as sex 
and age, are relatively limited in their influ- 
ence. So long as we are in one of these posi- 
tions, certain rules of behavior apply; as 
soon as we leave that position and get into 
another, new rules apply. As we move from 
position to position, we are in an ever- 

changing psychological environment with 
varying influences acting upon us. 

We should distinguish between ascribed 
and achieved positions. Some of our posi- 
tions are ascribed by society on the basis of 
characteristics which lie outside our indi- 
vidual efforts. Positions such as male or 
female, adult or child, and Negro or white 
are ascribed by our society and carry with 
them certain nearly inescapable require- 
ments for behavior. 

Other positions are achieved by virtue of 
our actions. We can achieve such positions 
as being a college graduate, being in a 
higher social class, being a criminal, and 
being married. As compared to other cul- 
tures, our own has relatively few ascribed 
positions and permits or influences a person 
to move to a wide variety of possible 
achieved positions. That is, we have a great 
deal of freedom of choice as to positions. 
Since the various positions involve many 
different rights and duties, degrees of pres- 
tige, and demands upon us, they are vitally 
important parts of our lives. 

Another point is that each of us has a 
number of different positions, either at the 
same time or successively. This fact is illus- 
trated in Figure 15.1. Ordinarily these dif- 
ferent positions, each of which has various 
behavior requirements, tend to be congru- 
ent; that is, they fit together. Usually we are 
able to choose positions which are not in- 
compatible in their requirements and to 
schedule our activities so as to discharge 
satisfactorily the responsibilities involved. 
Sometimes, however, the behaviors re- 
quired in our various positions are in con- 
flict, a fact which can cause some rather 
serious personal problems. This problem 
will be discussed at greater length later in 
this chapter. 

Positions and Prestige. One of the im- 
portant things about positions is that they 
have prestige. The prestige may be high, 
as in the case of a Supreme Court judge, 
or relatively low, as in the case of a person 



Figure 15.1. Which of these is the red John Smith? What needs 
do his various statuses (or positions) satisfy? What conception 
does Mr. Smith have of himself in these different roles? How 
much of his behavior is determined by the several statuses and 
roles that he occupies? 

dependent on public charity or it may be 
anywhere in between these two. Our social- 
class position is determined on the basis of 
various criteria ( see Chapter 8 ) , and mem- 
bership in each class has a prestige value, 
whether high or low. Almost all organiza- 
tions have some kind of a prestige hierarchy 
which is tied to the positions in it. Gener- 
ally a foreman is higher than a worker, a 
division manager higher than a foreman, 
and the president of the company at the 
top of the heap. 

The prestige of different occupations has 
been studied. Table 15.1 (page 306) shows 
prestige value of five occupations highest 
in prestige (or status) and the five lowest 

in prestige in 1925 and in 1946. ! Although 
there were some changes in prestige over 
this twenty-one-ycar period, the stability 
of the prestige values is remarkably high. 

Along with the various positions usually 
go various symbols of prestige, such as 
insignia, titles, uniforms, office furnishings, 
and the like. 

Of what significance for us are these facts 
about the prestige of positions? They are 
usually very important. In the first place, 
the prestige of our positions tends to have 
a lot to do with how other people evaluate 

1 M. E. Deeg and D. G. Paterson, "Changes in 
Social Status of Occupations," Occupations, 25: 
205-208, 1947. 



us and with the privileges they allow us. 
Of course after people have an opportunity 
to know us at first hand, their evaluation of 
us may change either upward or down- 

The prestige of our position (whether 
high or low) may also have a great deal to 
do with our self-esteem. Indeed, status usu- 
ally has a considerable bearing on the en- 
hancement and defense of the self, This 
point is discussed in Chapter 6. 

Meaning of Role. Along with each posi- 
tion goes a certain more or less defined 
role. A role is the set of behaviors which is 
typical of the occupants of a particular po- 
sition. If we want to know the role of fore- 
man in a particular company, we need to 
observe what foremen do. We could tabu- 
late the frequency with which they perform 
various actions such as requisitioning of 
materials and instructing employees under 
particular circumstances. Although indi- 
vidual foremen, just like individual stu- 
dents, would vary somewhat in their be- 
haviors, those actions which most of them 
usually perform comprise the role of the 
foreman, at least in this company. In order 
to describe a role, we may also find it useful 
to interview people who are in the position 
or people who work closely with them. This 

is the way in which one housewife de- 
scribed her role: 

Shop for food and clothing 

Prepare and serve meals 

Supervise homework and music practice of 
the children 

Supervise maid (who comes three days a 

Drive children to parties, music lessons, 
school, etc. 

Schedule social engagements of the family 

Act as hostess 

Do sewing of dresses, slipcovers, etc. 

Keep family financial records and make 
regular payments 

Answer telephone 

Arrange for visits of playmates for her chil- 

Participate in PTA and Sunday-school work 

Referee conflicts among children 

Discuss family affairs with husband 

Counsel husband regarding his problems in 
connection with his work 


Of course the way in which this house- 
wife takes her role (or role pattern) may 
differ somewhat from the way that other 
housewives of her social level take theirs. 
The ways in which they are most often 
alike comprise the role. The partial listing 
given above should also serve to illustrate 

Figure 15.2. These men hold and/or held high positions in the Russian gov- 
ernment and in the Communist Party. The place each one has in the review- 
ing stand (who is in the center and who stands next to whom) often pro- 
vides clues to the status of his political position in the U.S.S.R. at a given 
time. (Sovfoto.) 



Table 15.1 The Five Occupations Ranking Highest in Prestige and the Five 
Ranking Lowest in Prestige 


Rank in 

Rank in 










Superintendent of schools 



Civil engineer 



Teamster (truck driver) 



Coal miner 






Hod carrier 



Ditch digger 



SOURCE: Based on data from Deeg and Paterson. 

how much a person finds it necessary to 
learn in order to carry out the require- 
ments of a position. 

Some of the behaviors of a role pattern 
are more typical than others. They are the 
more central features of the role. For ex- 
ample, practically all housewives prepare 
and serve meals, but not all supervise music 

Another pointand one that might not 
be apparent at first sight is that the occu- 
pants of a position usually carry out a role 
with a characteristic style or emotional 
tone. These features of the role, while not 
so obvious as specific actions, are also vital 
parts of the role. For example, dignity is a 
part of the role of diplomat on state occa- 
sions. Sometimes when the appropriate 
emotional tone is lacking as when a mother 
cares for a child without showing any 
warmth the person just is not fulfilling the 
role, and others will usually recognize this 

The term "role" should not be construed 
in the sense of an actor's role. A role is 
simply a pattern of behavior that is typical 
in a given position or situation. A person 
can behave in this typical way without even 

being aware of the fact that he is doing so. 
Often the members of a group are not 
aware of these group-shared ways of act- 
ing. So long as people carry out these roles 
we are not usually aware of the roles, but if 
someone fails or neglects to carry out an 
important role, then the fact that we have 
roles becomes obvious. 

Norms for Roles. Corresponding to every 
position and role are group-shared stand- 
ards us to how people in the particular posi- 
tion ought to act; that is, there are norms 
for the roles. What are our standards for 
the role of student in a university? That is, 
what do we think a student should do? 
What are his rights and duties? We might 
say something as follows: "A student at- 
tends classes, takes lecture notes, studies 
textbook assignments, prepares assigned re- 
ports, and takes examinations." Should we 
also include such things as "attends public 
lectures and concerts," "does suggested out- 
side reading," and "participates in scholarly 
organizations"? What do we regard as cen- 
tral in the student's role, and what do we 
regard as unessential or even harmful to 
this role? 

Although each person has his individual 



standards for the roles which are signifi- 
cant for him, generally there will have to 
be some degree of agreement among the 
members of an organization as to their 
standards for the roles. Such group-shared 
standards are norms for the roles, but all 
role norms allow for some variation in how 
people carry out the roles. In other words, 
there are tolerance limits for a role in the 
same way that a machinist might have tol- 
erance limits for error in the machining of 
a part. Not only is there ordinarily some lati- 
tude in the prescriptions for a role, but dif- 
ferent groups of people may actually differ 
in their standards for the role. Again the 
role of student furnishes a good example. 
Teachers and students may have a some- 
what different conception of the rights and 
duties of students, while the parents and 
other members of the community may have 
still other conceptions. The role itself, how- 
ever, is what people in that position of 
student do, not the conceptions about and 
standards for the role. 

The norms for roles are important for 
each of us. They are important because 
they are standards by which other people 
evaluate and otherwise react to our be- 
havior when we are in some situation to 
which the standards could apply. In ad- 
dition, the norms for roles, in so far as 
these are accepted a$ standards, are im- 
portant as frames of reference for self- 
perception. In other words, norms for roles 
may be related to the self. This subject 
will be discussed in greater detail later in 
this chapter. 

Role Expectations. There may on oc- 
casion be a difference between what we 
think persons in a position ought to do and 
what we expect them to do. A foreman, 
for example, might think that employees 
ought to get to work on time, but he might 
expect them to be somewhat late. If they 
habitually are late, then this lateness of ar- 
rival is a part of their role the behavior 
characteristic of the position. 

It is important that role expectations be 

valid, that is, conform to reality. In this 
way, people will be able to predict how 
others will act, even if these actions do not 
square with norms for the role. 

A discrepancy between role norms and 
role expectations is usually a source of ten- 
sion. The standards can be modified in the 
direction of expectations. For example, the 
foreman may decide to accept late arrival 
as being all right. 


Obviously we all have to learn our roles. 
When a child jpes to school he has to 
learn what is expected of him as a school 
child. When a person joins an office force 
he has to learn the office routines and how 
his own particular position fits into those 
routines. Sometimes we learn our roles in- 
tentionally, as when we take a training 
course in how to drive a car. More fre- 
quently, however, we learn our roles in- 

Figure 15.3. Mother's little helpers copy her in many 
ways. Moreover, the older child often serves as a 
model for the younger. (Standard Oil Company, 
New Jersey.) 



cidentally without either formal instruction 
or deliberate intention to learn. 

Ways of Learning Roles. There are a 
number of different, though related, ways 
in which we learn roles. These ways in- 
clude learning from models, learning 
through instruction, and learning in the 
practical situation. 

Learning from models. It has often been 
said that we learn by example through 
imitationand there is some truth in this 
statement, particularly in the case of learn- 
ing roles. All of us have undoubtedly seen 
a little girl copying the behavior and dress 
of her mother. Parents are sometimes 
amazed and dismayed by the minute de- 
tail in which their child may copy their 
mannerisms and other aspects of their be- 

Children's play usually includes a va- 
riety of roles cowboy, milkman, doctor, 
policeman, etc. Sometimes their play indi- 
cates a remarkable keenness of observa- 
tion, whereas in other instances it shows a 
complete lack of understanding. It is very 
likely true that such play develops skill not 
only in enacting the roles, but also and 
this is important in perceiving others in 
these roles. 

One of the most important models for a 
child is the parent of the same sex. A boy 
whose father is absent from the home by 
reason of death, desertion, or some other 
cause lacks an important model one from 
whom boys (and girls) learn about the 
masculine role. Often such boys tend to be 
effeminate in behavior, having taken the 
mother as a model, although they may 
later react against these tendencies in 
themselves. Identifying with men outside 
the family and with other boys may help 
to overcome the lack of a masculine role 
in the home. 

The learning of roles from models is not 
limited to childhood. Indeed, models be- 
come increasingly available as we ap- 
proach adulthood. This fact which has im- 

portant consequences is illustrated in Fig- 
ure 15.4. Whereas the child has relatively 
few models, an adult has potentially many 
models. In adulthood, however, we are not 
likely to find that any one model meets all 
our personal needs. Indeed, when we ob- 
serve someone who slavishly models him- 
self after a particular person we may right- 
fully have doubts about his personal ad- 
justment. Typically we model ourselves 
after some persons in particular ways, after 
others in other ways, according to our own 

Copying the behavior of models is often 
a very rapid way of learning how to re- 
spond appropriately to situations. The mod- 
els are already familiar with such situations 
and usually know how to act. When we 
copy such a model we may not know pre- 
cisely the standards by which he decides 
what to do, but we find that many of his 
behaviors obtain a satisfactory response 
from other people and get tasks done. By 
and by, we may learn for ourselves under 
what conditions certain behavior is appro- 
priate so that we no longer have to de- 
pend upon a model. 

One of the most important factors in 
learning from models is identification with 
the model. A child who identifies with his 
mother and father wants to be like them. 
Being like them or perceiving that he is 
like them in their behavior and standards 
is gratifying to him. Students who identify 
with their teachers and employees who 
identify with their supervisors usually are 
able to learn quite rapidly from these mod- 
els. On the other hand, a negative attitude 
toward a person may interfere with such 
learning or even induce one to act quite 

Learning through instruction. A second 
way in which we learn roles is through 
instruction. Probably the most thorough- 
going instruction in roles takes place in the 
home. For example, the mother tells the 
child how he is supposed to act when he 






Figure 15.4. As you grew up, did you, like Johnny, acquire an ever-larger number of 
role models? Which of these models once influenced you strongly but no longer do so? 
What people are your current models? Why? 

goes to church, to the store, or to a party, 
or when he visits in another home. The 
schools, too, play an important part in role 
instruction. Whole books have been writ- 
ten on what are the right ways to act in 
certain situations. A book on etiquette de- 
scribes literally hundreds of different so- 
cial situations and what behavior is appro- 
priate in each. When a new employee joins 
an organization, he typically is told about 
the routines of the company. Many fac- 
tories have provided supervisory training 
programs in which foremen and other su- 
pervisors are instructed in how to carry out 
their duties. 

One of our favorite ways of getting in- 
struction about our roles is to ask other 
people who have been, or are now, in the 
same situation as ourselves. This reflects 
our knowledge that formal instruction is 
not always realistic. We like to hear first- 
hand from another person exactly what is 
expected and how things work in practice. 

Although instruction may be helpful in 
learning a role, there are many instances 

in which it is not sufficient by itself. The 
niceties of the role, the stylistic and emo- 
tional features of it, are difficult, often im- 
possible, to learn merely by being told 
about them. Many of the instructions that 
seem so clear beforehand turn out to be 
ambiguous in the practical situation. Fur- 
thermore, we may find that we do not nec- 
essarily have all the skills that the role calls 

Learning in the practical situation. An- 
other way in which we learn our roles is in 
the practical situation, that is, on the job. 
When an employee joins a company, say 
as a secretary, she has to learn from the 
practical situation what is expected of her. 
Of course, there will be instructions and 
models, but still she must actually try out 
different behaviors to see which ones will 
work for her in concrete situations. For 
example, in a trial-and-error manner, the 
secretary may discover that there are cer- 
tain favorite ways for filing material in 
this organization. She also learns the ex- 
ceptions to the rules and how to take her 



role with different persons with whom she 

,When we are learning our roles on the 
job, we are getting actual practice in the 
real situation in which the roles have to 
be performed. It is to our advantage if 
others are permissive when we begin to 
take our roles and if they recognize that 
we shall make errors. One of the most dif- 
ficult of all social situations in which to 
learn roles is that in which the consequence 
or making errors is severe punishment. 

Probably this is one of the reasons why 
role playing is such a successful technique 
in retraining people in their roles. In role- 
playing training a person is put in a hypo- 
thetical situation, one in which there are 
no practical risks involved, and he is ex- 
pected to play a particular part as though 
he were in the actual situation. For exam- 
ple, a foreman may practice in a role-play- 
ing situation ways of dealing with a dif- 
ficult employee. He is free to try a variety 
of different behaviors without any of the 
practical consequences which real failures 
would entail. 

Transferring Old Learning. Typically in 
a social situation we have at the outset 
some expectation of the right ways to act. 
A lot of this knowledge is transferred from 
other situations in which we have taken 
similar roles or have observed others tak- 
ing the roles. When an employee is pro- 
moted to the position of foreman he is very 
likely to act as he has seen foremen act. 
In other words, he is transferring to the 
situation role behavior that he has already 
learned about. Likewise, someone who has 
functioned as a leader in one organization 
is very likely to carry the same skills over 
into leading another organization. 

Sometimes, however, the learning we 
transfer to another situation may not be 
appropriate, for the situations may be dif- 
ferent in very important ways. Suppose, 
for example, that a man has been a man- 
ager of his own business and that he has 

used very permissive, democratic tech- 
niques. During active military duty he 
may need to carry out the duties of a com- 
pany commander. If he attempts to trans- 
fer unchanged his democratic techniques 
of leadership, he may find that this behav- 
ior is confusing both to his subordinates 
and to his superiors. It will be necessary 
for him to discriminate between the back- 
home situation and the military situation 
in order to behave appropriately. 

It is often valuable to be able to carry 
over into a new situation the learning 
which one has obtained in other situations. 
Ideally, however, a person ought to have 
available many different ways of acting 
that he can bring to bear upon a particu- 
lar situation according to its demands. 
There clearly are individual differences in 
the ease with which people adapt to new 
role situations. Some tend to be rather 
rigid and inflexible in carrying over to a 
new situation old patterns of behavior 
which are not appropriate. Others learn 
very rapidly which are the successful ways 
of acting and which are the unsuccessful 
ones. It is likely that appropriate transfer 
will be facilitated by a knowledge of prin- 
ciples in addition to knowledge of detailed 
facts about the new situation. 

We have seen, then, that roles are 
learned in a number of different ways. We 
learn our roles from models, particularly 
from those models with whom we are iden- 
tified. We also learn our roles through in- 
structions, although instructions usually 
need to be supplemented by actual prac- 
tice. Further, we learn roles in the practi- 
cal situation, such as on the job. Finally, 
we transfer old roles over into new situa- 
tions more or less appropriately. 

Conditions Making Learning of Roles 
Difficult. Certain conditions tend to make 
the learning of roles difficult. 2 One condi- 

v 2 L. S. Cottrell, Jr., "The Adjustment of the 
Individual to his Age and Sex Roles/' American 
Sociological Review, 7:617-620, 1942. 






An experiment by Bishop * was designed to investigate mother-child inter- 
action (these are mutually dependent roles) and transfer (generalization) of 
the child's behavior to a "neutral" adult woman. 

The subjects were 34 mother-child pairs. The children, who attended the 
Preschool Laboratories of the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, varied 
from 3 years 4 months to 5 years 7 months in age. Half of them were boys 
and half were girls. 

Each child was observed for two half-hour sessions (on different days) 
with his mother and for two other half-hour sessions with a "neutral" adult, 
a woman who was a stranger to the child. Half the children were observed 
with the mother first and the neutral adult second; the other half were in 
the opposite order. 

The behavior of the adults was scored in terms of eleven main categories: 
lack of contact, interactive play, teaching, helping, praising, structurizing, 
directing, interfering, criticizing, cooperation, 'vnd noncooperation. Child be- 
havior was scored in terms of these categories: bid for attention, bid for 
physical proximity, directing, interfering, criticizing, indications of anxiety, 
cooperation, noncooperation, bid for praise, affection, asking for information, 
asking for permission, and asking for help. 

The part of the study we are concerned with here demonstrates that chil- 
dren tended to transfer to the neutral adult the same patterns of behavior 
which they had in relation to their mothers. "As the child became more famil- 
iar with the neutral adult his behavior approached that displayed toward 
the mother" (page 33). The experiment shows that role behaviors tend to be 
transferred to similar situations. 

* B. M. Bishop, "Mother-Child Interaction and the Social Behavior of Children/' Psycfco- 
logical Monographs, no. 328, 1951. 

tion is vagueness or ambiguity in the role 
itself. Such is the case when there is a lack 
of definition of the role. When there are 
no clear-cut patterns of the behavior that 
is expected of us, it is more difficult to 
know exactly how to act. 

A second condition making the learning 
of roles difficult is disagreement among 
people as to what the role ought to be. 
Sometimes we may be caught in the mid- 
dle between conflicting expectations of 
others as to how we ought to act. 

Another condition which may make the 
learning of roles difficult is inconsistency 
of reward and punishment on the part of 
others. For example, a student is confused 
when his teacher sometimes rewards him 
for originality and later punishes such be- 

havior without clarifying his grounds for 
doing so. 

Another condition which makes for diffi- 
culty in the learning of roles is having pre- 
viously learned an incompatible role. A 
person who for years has led people in an 
authoritarian fashion requiring immediate 
and unquestioned obedience, inflicting se- 
vere penalties for failure, and the like 
may find it very difficult to overcome his 
old habits (with all their emotional sup- 
ports ) and learn new and more permissive 
techniques of leadership. 

Still another unfavorable condition is 
the presence of threat. When we feel that 
the risks of failure are very serious, we are 
much less flexible in trying out different 
forms of behavior. 



Finally, it is possible that the require- 
ments of the role may be incompatible 
with our own personality, A role such as 
"acting, which calls for a lot of expressive- 
ness, may prove to be very difficult for 
someone who tends to be timid before 
others. Likewise having to take the role 
of a leader in a dangerous combat situa- 
tion may be hard for someone who has 
very limited self-confidence. Again having 
to carry out a rather solitary type of job 
may be trying for someone who loves to 
be with other people. 


As we have already said, no two people 
in the same position act in quite the same 
manner. We all carry out our roles in some- 
what individual ways. Although norms for 
roles place some limits on how we act as 
students, military officers, husbands, and 
foremen, still these norms allow for at 
least some variation. Other, and perhaps 

Figure 15.5. What are some of the factors that might 
influence the way in which the supervisor and the 
employee carry out their roles? (Standard Oil Com- 
pany, New Jersey.) 

deeper, reasons for individual differences 
in role taking are the varying needs and 
personalities of people and the varying cir- 
cumstances in which the roles are to be 
carried out. 

Influence of Many Interacting Factors. 
The way in which we take our roles is in* 
fluenced by many factors. Some of thes^ 
factors, such as formal company policy, 
are external; others, such as personal am- 
bition for advancement, are internal. Re- 
lationships with other people both those 
present and those in the background in- 
fluence our actions. Our needs play a vital 
part in the process. Just how these differ- 
ent factors and more that we might ana- 
lyzewould be weighted would depend on 
the specific situation. A rebellious em- 
ployee might well bring into play both the 
foreman's need to dominate others and his 
need to fulfill the expectations of a hard- 
driving supervisor. At the same time he 
might be concerned with maintaining a 
satisfactory relationship with the union 
steward, and so on. In another situation, 
his rivalry with other foremen and his per- 
sonal ambition for advancement may be 
relatively more important. In other words, 
in taking our roles we are influenced by 4 
many factors over and above the norms ' 
for the role itself. 

Levels of Role Taking. There are vari- 
ous degrees of ego-involvement in the tak- 
ing of a role. 

1. We may reject the role, which is 
really not taking it. The student rejects 
the role of student if he neglects to attend 
classes, to study, to do any reading on 
his own, or to be interested in his courses. 

2. We may accept the role, but only at 
a minimum level, doing only what is re- 
quired, and that only because of external 
pressure. A student who docs only the bare 
minimum necessary for getting by, when 
he could do more, has not really accepted 
the role as a part of the self. 

3. We may accept the role in the sense 



that we identify with it. It then becomes 
a part of the self and we evaluate ourselves 
by how well we carry it out. A student 
who identifies with his role not only satis- 
fies formal requirements but goes far be- 
yond them. He is interested in learning 
and thinking, and he pursues his intellec- 
tual interests independently and crea- 
tively. 8 

Of the many roles we are called upon 
to perform, we identify with some and we 
treat others as more or less external to our- 
selves. For example, a man may devote a 
lot of time and put much energy into his 
role as owner of his business. Many 'of .his 
important needs and values are related to 
this role, and it becomes a part of the self. 
This same man may have various other 
roles, such as his role as member of a 
club, which are of less importance to him. 
He is less ego-involved in such roles. Al- 
though he may carry them out reasonably 
well, they have less to do with enhance- 
ment and defense of the self. 

It makes a practical difference whether 
or not we identify with our role. If we 
do, we are likely to evaluate ourselves ac- 
cording to the standards of the role. A 
workman who identifies with his role is 
inclined to evaluate himself according to 
standards of good workmanship. A profes- 
sional person who identifies with his role 
is very likely to perceive himself as ade- 
quate or inadequate according to the 
standards of his profession. A lawyer who 
has identified with the code of ethics of 
lawyers can feel genuine guilt if he vio- 
lates such a code and genuine satisfaction 
if he carries out its requirements. A busi- 
nessman who identifies with his executive 
role can feel genuine gratification in carry- 
ing out efficiently the task which he has 

3 There is an excellent treatment of levels of 
role taking in an article by A. Curie and E. L. 
Trist, "Transitional Communities and Social Re- 
connection," Human Relations, 1:240-288, 1947. 

When we identify with a role, it be- 
comes an integral part of ourselves and our 
personality. We carry out its expectations 
because they are a part of our own needs. 
In fulfilling them we obtain genuine satis- 
faction, and if we fail to realize them we 
feel guilt and shame. We place a genuine 
value upon serving the functions of the 
role, and we feel anxiety if we do not suc- 
ceed in doing so. 

On the other hand, if we do not identify 
with a role, then we are not likely to carry 
it out in an effective manner. We may sim- 
ply abandon the role whenever it becomes 
inconvenient 3r when too much pressure is 
exerted upon us. Or we may carry out the 
requirements of the role in a very me- 
chanical manner. That is, not identifying 
with the role, we simply do the minimum 
which is required. We assume no responsi- 
bility beyond that which is demanded by 
others. All organizations in which there is 
work or responsibility would like their 
members to identify with their roles 

Sometimes we can help a person identify 
with a role by seeing that he has favorable 
experiences with it. We may also try to get 
him to appreciate the value of the role and 
how it is relevant to his needs. 

Evaluating Our Own Roles. Most of us 
feel that our major roles, such as our jobs, 
are important. It is easier, of course, to 
value our role if others also consider it 
valuable. Physicians, for example, can read- 
ily value their own roles, but garbage col- 
lectors, having low prestige, find it more 
difficult to have positive self-esteem in 
their jobs, even though their jobs are nec- 
essary. Certain roles, such as those of 
clergymen and teachers, are generally con- 
sidered to be highly valuable. 

It is of interest that various occupational 
groups tend toward professionalization. 
That is, they may establish ideals of serv- 
ice, set up standards of competence, and 
evolve codes of ethics together with some 
way of enforcing the codes. The medical 


and legal professions are good examples. 
More recently, psychologists have been 
working toward the goal of professionali- 
zation. Why does this process take place? 
Part of the answer, of course, is a need to 
foster good public relations and to control 
competition; another reason has to do with 
the enhancement and defense of the self. 
Having a worthy set of standards and liv- 
ing up to them is an important way of 
feeling worthwhile as a person. 

The way in which we evaluate our roles 
depends a great deal on how we perceive 
them in relation to our needs and values. 
The position and role of banker may sat- 
isfy prestige needs, among others. Or a 
role such as that of minister in a church 
may satisfy a need to serve others. Unless 
we can see such a relationship, the role 
does not mean much to us; it tends to be 
rejected, or carried out in a routine and 
perfunctory manner. 

Sometimes we are struck by the fact that 
a person does not evaluate his role by the 

usual standards. For example, a business- 
man may be unscrupulous in business mat- 
ters and yet avow the most ethical and 
idealistic sentiments on Sunday. Somehow 
he is keeping his business behavior sepa- 
rate from his moral code through rationali- 
zation, repression, dissociation, and the 
other devices of self-defense. But notice 
that this same businessman may be proud 
of his shrewdness in transactions, which 
implies self -evaluation in terms other than 
ethical standards. 

Flexibility in Taking Roles. Sometimes 
we carry out our roles in rather rigid ways 
irrespective of the circumstances. Probably 
one reason for this is that there is a certain 
amount of protection in the rules. If we 
react to every situation according to the 
rules, we can point to the rules as the 
justification for our behavior. Such rigidity 
may be a sign of personal insecurity in the 
role. When we are beginners in a role, with 
limited knowledge of what we are to do, 
most of us are quite likely to rely heavily 

Figure 15.6. 


upon some limited set of rules. But as we 
become better acquainted with the situa- 
tions which arise, we learn how to vary 
our behavior as circumstances may require. 
Administrators frequently are worried lest 
deviation from rules result in precedents 
which will give them difficulty in the future. 
In some cases, this worry is realistic. In 
others, the administrator is simply dodging 
the responsibility of taking a variety of 
factors into account. 

Figure 15.6 caricatures rigidity in carry- 
ing out a rolethat of teacher. We find this 
particular teacher instructing people in all 
kinds of inappropriate settings. Of course, 
most examples of role rigidity are not this 
extreme, but occasionally a person may 
carry some aspect of his behavior into set- 
tings in which the behavior is not fully 
relevant. For example, a businessman may 
appraise everything in terms of costs. 

When we are in a particular position, 
such as that of member of a discussion 
group, we may enact our. role narrowly or 
broadly and flexibly or anywhere in be- 
tween. We may even take different roles 
at different times. As an example, in a dis- 
cussion group we may initiate proposals, 
contribute information, ask for or give 
opinions, summarize, or recognize agree- 
ment. It is possible to tabulate for each of 
us the frequency with which we take each 
of these roles. Ideally, the various members 
of a discussion group ought to become 
adept at a variety of roles and to enact 
them at appropriate times. 

Personal Conflict about the Role. Some- 
times we have a conflict about our role. 
For example, a college professor is ex- 
pected, on the one hand, to be a good 
teacher. On the other hand, in many uni- 
versities, he is expected to be a productive 
research worker. Frequently these two re- 
quirements get in each other's way. He may 
take a deep interest in the instruction of his 
students, but in order to get research done, 
it may be necessary to slight teaching. Yet, 
if he devotes most of his time to teaching, 

Figure 15.7. Seldom do our roles, however impor- 
tant and demanding, satisfy all our needs. (Wide 
World Photos.) i 

he may find that his research suffers. As a 
consequence, many persons in this role feel 
a certain amount of guilt about their failure 
to meet both requirements fully. 

Sometimes a role may not be entirely 
compatible with our personality. For ex- 
ample, a person who takes a position as a 
salesman must make many face-to-face 
contacts with people in an attempt to in- 
fluence their attitudes in favor of buying. 
However, if he is timid and lacks self-con- 
fidence, he is likely to find that such con- 
tacts are quite difficult for him. Moreover, 
being a salesman might require that he 
be away from home for long periods of 
time. If he places a great deal of value on 
family life and enjoys the stability which 
a regular routine provides, he may find a 
selling career unsatisfying. Also, if the prod- 
uct he sells is one that he regards as shoddy 
and inferior, he is likely to feel some per- 
sonal conflict about trying to sell it to oth- 
ers He may know the role requirements 
perfectly, but not find them at all gratify- 



k Six college women were specially selected to enact the role of a daughter 

r in the following situation: * "You have just been informed by the dean that 

your grade average does not warrant your remaining in the University. You 

**.si*ij* ** have returned home and are about to tell your father about it. Mr. P. will 

take the role of father." These six subjects had been selected so as to vary 
widely in role-taking aptitude, as measured by a special "As If" test in 
which they answered the questions: (1) "How would your life have been dif- 
ferent if you had been born a member of the opposite sex?" and (2) "How 
would your life have been different if you had been born a Russian?" For 
purposes of control, these six subjects had been equated with respect to age, 
agreement with the expectations of others as to the attributes of the daughter 
role, and agreement between the self-concept and the daughter role. 

After the six women had enacted the daughter role in the experimental 
situation, twenty-nine other college women, who had observed the enact- 
ment, rated each of the six subjects on a 200-adjective check list characteriz- 
ing her enactment of the role. Examples of the adjectives were "informal," 
"p6ised," "pleasure seeking," and "sensitive." In addition they ranked the 
six subjects in order of adequacy of enactment of the daughter role. Each of 
the six subjects rated herself on the 200-adjective check list. Finally, a meas- 
ure of social adjustment was obtained. 

The results were that the girls who had the best role-playing aptitude, as 
shown on the "As If" test, most validly performed the daughter role. That 
is, their enactment was closest to that regarded as characteristic of the daugh- 
ter role. Also, those who had the best role-taking aptitude showed the 
greatest changes in self-picture as a result of having taken the daughter role. 
In addition, there was a positive relationship between role-taking aptitude 
and a measure of social adjustment; that is, the girls who had the greatest 
ability to take the point of view of a person in a different position also had 
the best personal-social adjustment. 

*T. R. Sarbin and D. S. Jones, "An Experimental Analysis of Role Behavior," Journal 
of Abnormal and Social Behavior, 51:236-241, 1955. 

During wartime, many persons came felt anxious and guilty about exercising 

from civilian life into positions of military such authority. 4 

responsibility. In these positions they often Changing Other People's Perception of 
were required to make decisions of great Our Own Role. Sometimes we want other 
importance, affecting the welfare of many people to change the way they perceive 
people. Usually it was necessary to exer- us in our roles. For example, when a 
cise rather arbitrary authority in order to worker is promoted to the position of fore- 
carry out their responsibility. Frequently man, his former fellow workers are likely 
they were obliged to deal with people as a to regard him as a worker like themselves. 

group instead of studying each individual , A . . , , , r i a . , 

. . TI i * i . An interesting treatment of role conflict and 

case on its merits. Each of these require- personality will be found in an article by s . A. 

ments may have proved to be in con- stouffer, "An Analysis of Conflicting Social Norms," 

flict with a person's values. Some officers American Sociological Review, 14:707-717, 1949. 


In order to do his job properly, however, 
the foreman needs to have his former co- 
workers perceive him in his new position. 
Frequently this involves a conflict. If the 
new foreman begins by giving exacting 
orders and being coldly distant, then his 
former fellow workers resent it. On the 
other hand, if he attempts to act like a fel- 
low worker and be as familiar as before, 
it is difficult for them to see him in his 
supervisory role. As a consequence, many 
companies switch a promoted employee to 
a different group. The same practice is 

often followed in military organizations. 
An enlisted man who has been promoted 
to the rank of officer usually, except in 
combat situations, is not likely to continue 
to work with his former fellow soldiers. 
Instead, he is transferred to another unit 
in which the men have never associated 
with him in the lesser status. 

So one of the most effective ways to get 
others to perceive our role in a different 
way is simply to move into a different 
group, a setting where the others have not 
known us in our former status. 


The positions and roles of our culture are 
important determinants of behavior. A po- 
sition is a place, function, or office in a 
social organization. Some positions such 
as age category are very general, whereas 
others are more specific and temporary. 
Some positions are ascribed, while others 
are achieved. Positions also vary in pres- 

A role is the set of behaviors that is 
typical of the occupants of a position. 
People have norms standards of behavior 
for roles and also expectations regarding 
how people in a position will behave. 

People learn their roles from models, 
through instructions, and in practical situ- 
ations. They transfer elements of learned 
roles to new settings. Some conditions 

(such as that of ambiguity in the role) 
often makes the learning of roles rather dif- 

People carry out their roles in more or 
less individual ways. Many interacting 
factors influence the ways in which roles 
are carried out. Roles are carried out or 
not carried out at various levels. When 
people identify with roles, they generally 
carry them out well. In addition, the norms 
for the roles become standards for self- 
evaluation. How a person evaluates a role 
depends on how he perceives it in relation 
to his needs and values. Flexibility in car- 
rying out roles involves adapting behavior 
to specific and changing conditions. People 
sometimes have personal conflicts about 
their roles. 


1. What is meant by each of the following 
terms: position, prestige, status, role norms, 
and role expectations? 

2. * What is your conception of what you con- 
sider to be your most important role? How 
closely does your conception agree with that 
of others? 

3. What are the main ways in which we learn 

roles? What are some of the principal difficul- 
ties in learning roles? 

4. What are some of the factors which account 
for individual differences in the taking of roles? 

5. Distinguish among the different levels of 
carrying out our roles. 

6. How would you try to get someone, such as 
an employee, to identify with his role? 



7. Are you subject to any conflicting role re- 
quirements? If so, how do you handle these 

8. What are some possible courses of action 
when a person finds that a role is unsatisfying 
to him? What can he do if circumstances com- 
pel him to take the role? 

9. What relation is there between roles and the 

self? With which roles do you identify most 

10. What differences are there between 
achieved and ascribed roles? 

11. What are the most important roles for a 
person of your particular age and sex groups? 

12. What is meant by identifying with a role? 


Hartley, E. L., and R. E. Hartley: Funda- 
mentals of Social Psychology, Knopf, New 
York, 1952, chaps. 16, 17, 18. 

(A treatment of roles, adjustment to roles, 

and status.) 

McClelland, D. C.: Personality, Sloane, New 
York, 1951. 

(A textbook in which roles are regarded 

as one of the main factors in personality. ) 
Miller, N. E., and J. Dollard: Social Learning 
and Imitation, Yale University Press, New Ha- 
ven, Conn., 1941. 

(A theoretical and experimental analysis 
of learning from models.) 
Newcomb, T. M.: Social Psychology, Drydcn, 
New York, 1950. 

(A textbook with selected chapters on roles 
and their relationship to personality.) 
Sarbin, T. R.: "Role Theory," in G. Lindzey 
(ed.), Handbook of Social Psychology, Addi- 
son-Wesley, Cambridge, Mass., 1954, vol. I, 
pp. 223-258. 

(A theoretical analysis of research on roles 
in relationship to personality.) 




In every phase of our living we face the 
problem of assessing the differences be- 
tween people. Some are selected for em- 
ployment and some are rejected on the 
basis of differences. Some go to college 
and some do not because of individual dif- 
ferences. Acceptance or rejection for grad- 
uate study or professional training is based 
upon differences among those applying. 
People differ in all measurable traits and 
characteristics, although in some of these 
they are more alike than in others. This is 
a problem of special importance to the 

The statistical treatment of the observa- 
tions of these differences is a topic of con- 
siderable interest in the understanding of 
human behavior. To some extent this topic 
is relevant to the first chapters of this 
book, but it is even more important in con- 
nection with the appraisal of intelligence 
and psychological testing, discussed in the 
chapters that follow. 

Why do psychologists find statistics an 
important aspect of their subject? The rea- 
son is simply that, for many facts, a single 
observation is either meaningless or what 
may be worse misleading. In other words, 
until an observation is evaluated in the 
light of many other observations it is easily 
misinterpreted. Statistics is a tool for the 
evaluation of observations. 


Like any other subject of current inter- 
est, that of how and to what extent people 
are unlike in their various physical and psy- 
chological characteristics has a history. In 
this case the history goes far back into the 



past. Let us look briefly at some instances 
of early recognition of these facts and then 
at some more modern findings. 
Early Interest in Individual Differences. 
Since the beginnings of the human race, 
man has evidently been interested in and 
recognized differences among people. 
Among the earliest records of ways of dif- 
ferentiating between people are those 
found in the Bible. One example is this: l 

And the Gileadites took the fords of the 
Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when 
any of the fugitives of Ephraim said "Let us 
go over," the men of Gilead said to him, "Are 
you an Ephraimite?" When he said, "No," 
they said to him, "Then say Shibboleth," and 
he said "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce 
it right; then they seized him and slew him at 
the fords of the Jordan. And there fell at that 
time forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites. 

Thus it can be seen not only that differ- 
ences were recognized but that they were 
recognized as being important. Many other 
examples could be cited from history. 
Though these differences have been recog- 
nized through the centuries, their system- 
atic and scientific measurement has been 
confined to relatively recent times. 

Modern Recognition of Individual Dif- 
ferences. The year 1796 is often looked 
upon as the beginning of the systematic 
and scientific recognition of individual dif- 
ferences. It was in this year that Mas- 
kelyne, the Astronomer Royal at the 
Greenwich Astronomical Observatory, dis- 
missed Kinnebrook, his assistant, because he 
erred, by nearly 1 second, in recording the 
time that certain bodies passed an observa- 
tion point. According to the "look-and- 
listen" method used at this time, the ob- 
server had to look at the star as it crossed 
his field of vision and at the same time 
count the seconds by listening to the tick 
of the clock. From the notations of these 
observations an estimate was made of the 
exact time ( in tenths of a second ) at which 

1 Judges 12:5-6 (Revised Standard Version). 

the star crossed the observation point. Nat- 
urally, people differed considerably in 
their judgments, though Maskelyne was 
unaware of this. 

Twenty years after the Kinnebrook in- 
cident, Bessel, the astronomer at the K6- 
nigsberg Observatory, became interested in 
the report and began to study what he 
called the "personal equation" of different 
astronomers. He collected data from sev- 
eral trained persons and studied the errors 
made in their reports. He also studied the 
variations of the same individual from time 
to time. From these data Bessel concluded 
that each astronomer did indeed have his 
"personal equation" and that real differ- 
ences between astronomers were usually 
found. His work showed too late to be of 
help to the unfortunate Kinnebrook that 
discrepancies as large as those between 
Maskelyne and Kinnebrook were the rule 
rather than the exception. These differences 
in the estimates of observers came to be 
known as differences in reaction time. 

The latter part of the nineteenth cen- 
tury saw a considerable amount of re- 
search being clone on this and related prob- 
lems. In 1884 Sir Francis Galton estab- 
lished his anthropometric laboratory at 
South Kensington Museum in London. 
Here he gave certain tests to people who 
came into his laboratory. Most of these 
tests were concerned with sensory-motor 
abilities, visual discrimination of length, 
the highest audible pitch, strength, and 
simple reaction time. Some of the instru- 
ments he invented ( such as the Galton bar 
and the Galton whistle) are still in use. 
Galton confirmed and extended the find- 
ings of Bessel. The beginnings of the psy- 
chological testing movement around the 
turn of the century gave great impetus to 
the study of differences among people. 


If people are different, it becomes neces- 
sary to evaluate these differences and to 



relate them to any general principles 
which we may be able to formulate. 

Extent of Differences between People. 
The truth is that no two of us are exactly 
alike, and at the same time we are not 
completely different. In many respects, 
most of us are similar enough to enable us 
to make use of uniform standards. Take 
the matter of clothing, for example. Manu- 
facturers make up patterns which, with a 
minimum of change or alteration, will fit 
a great number of us. Many of us could 
exchange articles of clothing without loss 
of fit. Anyone who lives in a college dormi- 
tory, as either borrower or lender, probably 
realizes how true this is. 

All this suggests that there may be some 
uniformity even in the way we differ. We 
do not, in other words, merely differ hap- 
hazardly, but rather we differ in a predict- 
able manner in many situations. Several 
facts should be noted about how we differ. 

In the first place, a great deal of our 
variability is one of degree rather than of 
kind. For example, there are not two (or 
more) kinds of height, so far as humans 
are concerned. Rather, some people are 
very tall, others are a little less tall (or are 
a little shorter), others still more so, etc. 
Thus we can say that, so far as height is 
concerned, the tallest of us differs from 
the shortest only by degrees. 

In the second place, in most situations, 
when we go from one extreme to the other 
(in a large, unselected group), there are 
few if any gaps. Thus if we find a person 
in a large group who is just 5 feet tall the 
chances are that we can also find one who 
is about 5 feet 1 inch tall and one who is 
about 4 feet 11 inches tall. This same prin- 
ciple will hold for most measurements, 
though it must be admitted that the farther 
we get out toward the extremes the more 
likely we are to find some gaps. 

In the third place, in most groups, most 
people are not at the extremes of the dis- 
tribution but rather near "the mean be- 
tween the two extremes." Again height 

Figure 16.1. As. a baseball player Babe Ruth showed 
exceptional ability. After thirty years some of the 
records he set still stand. (Culver Service.) 

makes a good illustration. Most of us are 
of moderate height. Needless to say, there 
are many other illustrations of this fact. 

Finally, in any large, unselected group, 
there is usually someone about as far below 
the average as someone else is above it. 
Thus, as we have just seen, there are only 
a very few people who are extremely tall. 
But the interesting thing is that at the 
same time there is about the same number 
who are extremely short. The same point 
can be made with regard to other charac- 

To understand these facts, it is necessary 
to know about statistics. Indeed, in this 
chapter, the statistics of individual differ- 
ences will be among the items considered. 
Before we get to that topic, however, let 
us look at some of the characteristics in 
which people vary and examine the extent 
of these variations. 

Differences in intelligence. Since intelli- 
gence is dealt with at some length in Chap- 
ter 17, we shall not spend much time with 




50 75 100 125 

Figure 16.2. Most people fall in the middle 
range of intelligence, as shown in this fre- 
quency distribution of the intelligence quo- 
tients of 2,970 school children. The distribution 
approximates the normal curve. Notice the 
preponderance of scores in the middle ranges. 
See how closely the number of scores on the 
lower side approximates those on the higher 
side of the distribution. What is true of intel- 
ligence has been found to he true of many, if 
indeed not of most, psychological characteris- 
tics. (Morgan, Introduction to Psychology, 
McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956, p. 196. Cour- 
tesy of the publisher.) 

Figure 16.3. This distribution of scores on the 
Otis Self-administering Test of Mental Ability 
(Higher Exam, Form A) shows the wide range 
over which the scores of 117 applicants for 
electrical apprenticeships are spread. (Arthur 
S. Otis, Otis Self-administering Tests of Mental 
Ability, World, Vonkers, N.Y., 1922. Copy- 
right by the publisher.) 



10 20 30 40 50 60 


it here. It is worth noting, perhaps, that 
the four points made above about how we 
vary also apply to variations in intelli- 
gence. Figure 16.2 shows how the IQs of 
2,970 school children were found to vary. 

As might be expected, the variations rep- 
resented in Figure 16.2 are not restricted 
to school children. Figure 16.3 gives the 
same sort of information for a smaller, 
more restricted group. 

Differences in physical ability. In the 
field of athletics, two individuals may 
start out very nearly even so far as certain 
abilities are concerned. But when they are 
subjected to similar periods of training, we 
usually find that one excels the other. There 
must, then, have been some basic differ- 
ences in potential or capacity in addition 
to other factors. 

Take, for example, a track and field meet. 
As we observe these well-conditioned men, 
we may feel that they are all superior to 
the average of those in their age groups, 
and they probably are. There are neverthe- 
less differences among them. As they start 
the race, they are grouped close together, 
but as the race progresses the individual 
differences in their ability become increas- 
ingly apparent, particularly if the race is a 
long one. In this case the distance between 
the leader and the one running last be- 
comes greater as the race progresses. The 
ones in between may be scattered all along 
the distance between the first and last. 
The differences between them may be 
slight, but there is usually a winner, even 
though he breaks the tape only a small 
fraction of a second before the next man 
reaches the finish line. 

Table 16.1 illustrates this point well. The 
persons involved were 214 ten-year-old 
girls, and the task was to run the 50-yard 
dash. As can be seen from the table, the 
time of the slowest was almost twice that of 
the fastest, and the points made earlier 
about individual differences apply here 



Differences in efficiency of work. The 
same principles have been found to apply 
to the output of employees in a factory. 
Again we find, upon investigation, that 
some people perform quite poorly and oth- 
ers quite well, with the majority of the 
group usually fairly close to the middle. 
Figures 16.4 and 16.5 illustrate these 

Differences in other aspects. It is prob- 
ably obvious by now that the same points 
can be made with regard to all or at least 
nearly all of the many ways in which peo- 
ple differ. Thus we could talk about the 
interests of people (as is done in Chapter 
18), and we should find similar differences 
there. Or we could consider the various 
personality traits of the individual, and we 
should find again the same situation. Simi- 
larly in aptitudes, attitudes, values, and 
other aspects of personality, we are alike, 
but we are also different. 

Significance of Individual Differences. 
Since it has been found that human beings 
vary in so many of their traits and charac- 
teristics, this variation becomes a matter 
of concern to scientists. If they were to 
study only the general principles that ap- 
ply to everyone, they would neglect many 
significant aspects of human behavior. Sci- 
entists want also to know how and to what 
extent people are not alike. 

It should be noted, incidentally, that 
some of the early work in this field was 
undertaken, as is frequently true in science 
(see Chapter 1), not for the sake of its 
usefulness, but simply for the sake of 
knowing. Certainly Galton's work was prin- 
cipally of this sort, and the same can be 
said of several other investigators whose 
research we have not described. 

Not only do people differ, but these dif- 
ferences are great enough to be significant. 
In other words, regardless of any strictly 
scientific interest we might have in human 
variation, most of us inevitably also de- 
velop a practical interest in the subject. In 

Table 16.1 Achievement of Girls on 50- 
yard Dash 

(N = 214 ten-year-olds) 

well as, or 

of girls doing as 
better than, time 
























With a range of almost five seconds from the 
fastest to the slowest in such a short space of 
time, the difference becomes quite significant. 

SOURCE: Courtesy of Research Committee of 
Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, 
and Recreation. 

Figure 16.4. People differ in productivity. This 
chart shows the distribution of quantity of pro- 
ductivity among thirty-six electrical fixture as- 
semblers. (Reproduced by permission from 
Industrial Psychology, 3d ed., Joseph Tiffin, p. 
11. Copyright, 1942, 1947, 1951, by Prentice- 
Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) 








Figure 16.5. Ordinarily only a few people are 
found at the extremes of a distribution. This 
curve shows the production records of ninety- 
nine experienced employees in a hosiery mill. 
(Reproduced by permission from Industrial 
Psychology, 3d ed. 9 by Joseph Tiffin, p. 13. 
Copyright, 1942, 1947, 1951, by Prentice-Hall, 
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) 

every phase of our daily living in which 
we come in contact with other people we 
make choices, appraisals, and evaluations 
based on these differences. This holds true 
in our choice of friends and associates as 
well as in business, industry, and school 
situations. It is not surprising, therefore, 
that much time and energy have been spent 
in studying individual differences and that 
a number of statistical techniques have 
been developed for dealing with them. 

The scientific study of individual differ- 
ences demanded the use of suitable tools 
and techniques. To meet these needs psy- 
chologists have made use of psychological 
tests and statistical techniques. 

The Testing Movement. The psycholog- 
ical testing movement is young as such 
movements go, the first real psychological 
test having appeared in 1905. During 
World War I the urgent need to appraise 
people resulted in rapid growth and ex- 
pansion of the use of psychological tests. 
The experiences of World War II added 
impetus to the movement. 

Psychological tests have come to have an 

important place in the appraisal of people 
in our present-day society. Tests are now 
used in schools and colleges, in business 
and industry, in mental health clinics and 
mental hospitals, in vocational counseling 
centers, and in many other places. They 
are used to select people, to evaluate their 
present status, and to predict their future 
behavior. Sometimes, of course, they serve 
as a basis for comparing groups, but typ- 
ically they are employed to appraise the 
single individual. 

Naturally, the psychological testing 
movement has had its problems. The na- 
ture of psychological tests is not generally 
well understood, and considerable misun- 
derstanding about the use of tests is wide- 
spread. In particular, we find many in- 
stances of two extreme and erroneous atti- 
tudes toward testing. On the one hand, 
some people sometimes reject tests as hav- 
ing no real value at all. They feel that their 
own opinion of people is usually more ac- 
curate than the result of a test. Further- 
more, they feel that tests are impractical 
and out of touch with the realities of the 
everyday world. On the other hand, some 
people have become overenthusiastic about 
tests. They seem to feel that test scores af- 
ford the most accurate possible appraisal 
of a person. Tests are sometimes sur- 
rounded with an air of mystery, as if the 
test were infallible. 2 

The General Nature of a Psychological 
Test. A psychological test typically consists 
of some items, questions, or problems to 
be solved or tasks to be completed. Such a 
test is used to discriminate between peo- 
ple. Ordinarily the answer is indicated by 
a check, a number, or some similar device. 
Usually, psychological tests contain prob- 
lems such as true-false or multiple-choice 
questions or short-answer questions that 
have only one correct answer, though this 
is not always true. 

2 This point is well evaluated by Milton R. Blum, 
Industrial Psychology and Its Social Foundations, 
Harper, New York, 1949, pp. 363-366. 






At the University of Minnesota, Richard S. Melton * selected 102 non- 
veteran premedical students for study. These students had enrolled at the 
university during the summer and fall of 1 949 and were studied over a period 
of three years. The study was aimed at the discovery of differences between 
the successful and unsuccessful premedical student. 

The criterion of success used was honor-point ratio achieved over the three- 
year period. The ultimate criterion of success, however, was acceptance by 
a medical school. 

Predictive measures used were the 1947 ACE test, Cooperative English 
test, high school rank, and the Physician scale on the Strong Vocational In- 
terest Blank. 

Of the 102 men studied, 45 were admitted to medical school. These 45 had 
higher mean scores on all measures used except the Physician scale. High 
school ranks, ACE scores, and Cooperative English scores were all found to 
be useful predictors for discriminating between the successful and unsuc- 

* Richard S. Melton, "Differentiation of Successful and Unsuccessful Premedical Students/' 
Journal of Applied Psychology, 39:397-400, 1955. 

One fact which must constantly be borne 
in mind is that before a test is really a psy- 
chological test it must be standardized. An 
ordinary test or other examination is sim- 
ply written down and given, but a psycho- 
logical test is subject to careful analysis, 
item by item and as a whole, before it is 
adopted. What do we mean when we say 
that a test has been standardized? We sim- 
ply mean that its validity and reliability 
have been determined and norms have 
been established. These procedures, basic 
to effective testing, are to be discussed in 
the following paragraphs. 

Test Validity. In the process of standard- 
izing a test, a number of things must be 
taken into account. The first of these is 
the validity of the test. A test is valid if it 
measures wliat it purports to measure. 
That is to say, it is valid if it measures what 
it is used to measure. For example, a valid 
intelligence test measures intelligence. 

On the face of it this appears to be a 
simple matter, but actually it is not simple 
at all, for before we can determine the 
validity of a test we must have something 
with which to compare the results obtained 
from its use. Thus, before we can say that 

an intelligence test is valid i.e., that it 
really measures intelligence we must be 
able to show that very intelligent people 
actually make high scores on it, that peo- 
ple who are average in intelligence make 
average scores, and that the dull and the 
feeble-minded make low scores. This im- 
plies, of course, that we have a group of 
people whose intelligence is already known. 
This brings us to what we call the cri- 
terion problem. 3 A criterion is simply a 
standard for comparison, an accepted meas- 
ure of the particular aptitude or achieve- 
ment in which we are interested. Perhaps 
it is sufficient here to say that before we 
can validate a test we must have a criterion 
group, a representative group of known 
ability, capacity, or the like. Validity refers 
to the extent to which test scores corre- 
spond to the known capacities of the peo- 
ple in this group. The comparison is made 
by means of a statistical technique called 
correlation, which is discussed later in this 

3 For a discussion of this problem in business 
and industry, sue C. II. Lawshe, Jr., Principles 
of Personnel Testing, McGraw-Hill, New York, 




\ I t I 
I I I I 
I I 
I I 





I I 




I I 
I I 

I I 


25 50 75 







Figure 16.6. Assuming that units of output per hour is an adequate criterion of success- 
ful performance by a worker and that each of the marks in diagrams above represents 
the performance (as to output and test score) of a worker, the test on the left would 
have considerable validity. This is true because, generally speaking, the higher the 
score on the test, the higher the production of the worker. However, making the same 
assumptions as for the test on the left, the one on the right has no validity, simply because 
the output of a worker cannot be predicted from his test score with any more than 
chance accuracy. 


Test Reliability. In the second place, if 
we are to standardize a test we must deter- 
mine whether or not it is reliable. By relia- 
bility of a test we mean its consistency in 
measurement. If a reliable test is given a 
second time under approximately the same 
circumstances, it will yield approximately 
the same results. In other words, it yields 
comparable results each time it is adminis- 
tered under the same conditions. 

There are several methods of determin- 

ing reliability. One of these, as is indicated 
above, is the test-retest method. In this 
method, the test is given a second or third 
time, usually after a lapse of time, to the 
same people, and the results of the two (or 
three) testings are correlated. Another is 
the split-half method. In this method, the 
performance on half the items is compared 
with the performance on the other half. 
Specifically, we ordinarily use the odd-even 
method. Here the scores on the odd-num- 

Table 16.2 Illustration of Item Analysis 

Item no. 

Percentage getting item 

Interpretation * 

In top quarter In bottom quarter 

of group of group 


80 20 



55 49 

To be rejected 


20 2 



100 95 

To be rejected 


* To be sure how to interpret an item requires a consideration of the number 
of people in each subgroup. Interpretation listed is the probable one, therefore. 






Women, more than men, seem to manifest an interest in clerical work. 
Are there differences in ability between the sexes that might account for these 
differences in interest? 

The Minnesota Clerical Test is widely used in business and industry as 
an aid in selecting clerical employees. Also, this test is used extensively in 
vocational counseling programs. Speed and accuracy in checking numbers 
and names are the factors measured by this test. 

Engelhardt * in a study of the clerical aptitude of 512 men and women 
found that the women had significantly higher mean scores on both parts 
of the Minnesota Clerical Test than did the men. The results of this study 
indicate real differences between the sexes in this ability. 

* Olga E. de Cillis Engelhardt, "The Minnesota Clerical Test: Sex Differences and Norms 
for College Groups/' Journal of App/ied Psycho/ogy, 34:412-414, 1950. 

bered items (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.) are 
compared with scores on even-numbered 
items (Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.). For all these 
methods the comparisons are made by use 
of the correlation technique, and the result 
obtained from this statistical procedure is 
called a coefficient of reliability. 

When we check the reliability of a test, 
one of the things we determine is the de- 
gree to which each of the items on the test 
correlates with the test as a whole. In other 
words, it is not sufficient for items merely 
to have the same form and involve the same 
general ideas. Scores on the individual 
items must correspond, at least in general, 
to scores on the test as a whole. Thus, if 
an item is difficult and only 25 per cent of 
those taking the test get the correct answer, 
for the item to be a satisfactory one most 
of that 25 per cent must come from those 
who do well on the test as a whole and not 
from those who do poorly. Item analysis is 
an important part of standardization and 
may be regarded as essentially one method 
of checking the reliability of the test. 

Compared with validity, reliability is rel- 
atively easy to determine. Hence, it is not 
surprising that, in the development of tests, 
a great deal of attention has been paid to 
reliability and considerably less to validity. 
It is obvious, however, that the determina- 
tion of reliability is essential also to the 
satisfactory use of a test. 

Norms. Finally, so far as standardization 
is concerned, it is necessary to establish 
norms for a test. These norms must consist, 
as a minimum, of two things. In the first 
place, we must have some idea of the aver- 
age score for the group on which the test 
is standardized, so that when we tell a 
person his score on a test we can also tell 
him whether his score is above or below 
the average. In other words, there must be 
some measure of what we call central tend- 
ency y explained later in this chapter. 

In the second place, it is necessary to 
know the range of the scores and how the 
scores are distributed over this range. Thus 
the scores may be closely bunched and a 
few points of deviation from the average 
may represent quite a high or quite a low 
score. Or they may be spread out a great 
deal, in which case a few points of varia- 
tion from the average would indicate that 
for all practical purposes the person has 
made an average score. Determining the 
spread of the scores may be as important, 
therefore, as determining the average score. 
An example will help make this clear. 

Suppose someone makes 105 on a test, 
and the average or mean is 100. He is there- 
fore five points above the mean. Now it 
makes a great deal of difference whether 
the top score on that test was 107 or 200. 
If the top score is 107 in an unselected 
sample of the population and he has made 



Table 16.3 A Set of Scores Used to Illus- 
trate How Scores Are Interpreted 

















250 . 

















105, he would be close to the top. On the 
other hand, if people make as high as 200 
and he makes 105, it would be accurate to 
say that he made about an average score. 


Results obtained from the administration 
of psychological tests are usually expressed 
in numerical terms. These data must be 
compiled and ordered in such a way as to 
make them meaningful if they are to be- 
come useful. It is through the use of statisti- 
cal methods that this is done. An under- 
standing of some of the elementary statis- 
tical concepts therefore becomes necessary. 
Let us then turn our attention to some of 
these techniques. 

Frequency Distribution. If we have only 
a few numbers, scores, or measurements, 
it is usually easy to get a good impression 
of their characteristics how much they 
vary, how they average out, where they 
form clusters, and where there are gaps in 
the series. But when we have a large num- 
ber of measurements, the characteristics 
of the set of data are harder to perceive 
through mere inspection. For this reason, 
we often find it useful to organize the data 
in the form of tables and to picture them 
in the form of graphs. 

Two terms which we shall be using often 
in this section are distribution and fre- 
quency. A distribution is simply a set of 
data ( scores or measurements ) which vary. 
Frequency refers to how many numbers 
there are of a certain size (or how many 
numbers fall within a certain category). 

Unordered Distributions. Suppose that 
we have a set of measurements such as 
those in Table 16.4. These numbers are ar- 
ranged in columns for convenience, but 
they are not in any particular order. They 
form an unordered distribution. From look- 
ing at this table we can readily conclude 
that most of the scores are over 100. We 
can also pick out the highest score (157) 
and the lowest (56), which tell us the range 
over which these scores vary. From such a 
table, however, it is difficult to get a very 
good idea of the performance of any indi- 
vidual in relation to the group and of the 
group as a whole. 

Ranked Distribution. It improves our 
understanding of the data to arrange the 

Table 16.4 Total Scores of Ninety-four Freshmen on ACE Psychological Examination 

































































































Table 16.5 Simple Frequency Distribution of Scores in Table 16.4 

s / 





S / 

157 1 





























152 1 






151 1 





73 1 





























145 1 






144 2 























140 1 








61 1 

138 1 




137 1 




136 2 






135 1 











56 2 

133 1 




132 4 





scores in order from the highest to the low- 
est, i.e., as a ranked distribution. Now at a 
glance we can see the highest and lowest 
scores. We can readily compare any par- 
ticular score with the other scores by count- 
ing how many it exceeds. In addition, we 
can make a rough estimate of the average 
of these scores by noting the size of the 
scores in the middle of the list. 

Simple Frequency Distribution. A fur- 
ther simplification is to prepare a simple 
frequency distribution. In Table 16.5 we 
have made such a distribution using the 
data of Table 16.4. In the column marked 
S (scores) are listed in decreasing order 

all the possible scores between 157 and 56 
inclusive. In the / (frequency) column is 
shown the frequency of each score. For ex- 
ample, there are two 144s and no 143s. In 
looking at this table, we can immediately 
pick out the highest and the lowest scores. 
It is also apparent where there are gaps in 
the distribution of scores, where the scores 
tend to "bunch up," and how few scores 
there are toward either the higher or 
lower extreme. 

Grouped Frequency Distribution. We 
can further simplify these data by placing 
them in the form of a grouped frequency 
distribution (see Table 16.6). Here the 


Table 16.6 Grouped Frequency Distribu- 
tion of the Test Scores in Table 16.4 

Class intervals 













nu n/i 



nunu i 



mmm / 



nu HI 



nunu ii 



nunu it 



nu n/i 

















scores have been placed in a limited num- 
ber of categories (or class intervals). That 
is, the quantitative data are arranged in 
order of magnitude and divided into a num- 

ber of natural or arbitrary classes. Although 
there is no definite rule for how many class 
intervals to use, usually from ten to twenty 
is satisfactory. Each of the class intervals 
should be of the same width, that is, include 
the same range of possible scores. In our 
table, each class interval has a width of 
seven units. Next, we tabulate the scores 
by making a tally mark for each score ac- 
cording to the class interval in which it falls. 
Finally we record the frequency of scores 
in each class interval. 

By grouping the scores, we have lost 
some information about the exact value of 
individual scores; the coarser the intervals, 
the more information is lost. On the other 
hand, we now have a simple table showing 
the distribution of the scores. We can easily 
see where they bunch up and where they 
are thinly scattered. We also can estimate 
the average fairly well and judge the mag- 
nitude of any particular score in relation 
to the others. Placing data in the form of a 
grouped frequency distribution simplifies 
further statistical analysis. 

Graphic Representation of Measures. We 
may picture a frequency distribution by 

Figure 16.7. A frequency polygon. 



49 56 63 70 77 84 91 

98 105 112 119 126 133 140 147 154 161 




5 10 
2 9 

2 8 

!! 7 
















g: ?x ^-x^ x^S 


: : : S : : : x :v.S: S : :ffi: : : : 

1 i i 


56 63 70 77 84 91 98 105 112 119 126 133 140 147 154 


Figure 16.8. A bar graph (or histogram). 

means of a graph. Figure 16.7 presents the 
data of the grouped frequency distribution 
in the form of a graph called a frequency 
polygon. The horizontal axis of the graph 
represents the scale of scores. Here the mid- 
points of the class intervals are indicated. 
For example, 91 is the mid-point of the class 
interval 88-94. The vertical axis represents 
frequencies; note that there are two scores 
in the class interval 53-59. We locate the 
mid-point of this class interval and go up to 
two on the frequency scale. We also record 
the frequency for each interval in the dis- 
tribution, and then connect these points by 
means of straight lines. We now have a pic- 
ture of our frequency distribution one that 
is easy to perceive. 

Frequency graphs are often seen in the 
form of bars or rectangles, as shown in 
Figure 16.8. Such a bar graph simply shows 
the frequency of scores in each class inter- 
val. The area of each bar or rectangle is 
proportional to its contribution to the total 

Forms of Distributions. Frequency dis- 
tributions vary in their forms. One of the 

most important forms is the normal curve. 
The normal curve (see Figure 16.9) is de- 
rived from a mathematical formula. It is a 
theoretical distribution and a mathematical 
ideal. Many actual frequency distributions, 
however, have a form that is almost normal. 
The normal curve is bell-shaped, and its 
right and left halves are alike. The scores 
occur most frequently in the middle of the 
distribution, and they taper off in frequency 
toward each extreme. 

Various kinds of data tend to be normally 
distributed. Numerous physical measures, 
such as height and weight, and the results 
of psychological tests tend to be normally 
distributed. (In some cases, the tests are 

Figure 16.9. A normal frequency distribution. 




rescaled so as to make the distributions 
normal.) In experimental work, and in 
studies of human judgment too, errors of 
measurement usually are normally dis- 

Although many distributions of measures 
approach the normal form, there are many 
others that do not. For example, some dis- 
tributions are skewed; that is, they have a 
tail ("skew") pointing off in one direction 
while the scores are bunched up in the 
other direction. In Figure 16.10 the curve 
on the left is negatively skewed, since the 
tail points in the negative direction ( toward 
smaller scores), while the curve on the 
right is positively skewed. Sometimes a test 
may be easy (or the students unusually 
good), so that the scores tend to pile up at 
the high end of the distribution (negative 
skewness ) . On the other hand, if the test is 
quite difficult (or the students unusually 
poor) then the scores tend to pile up at the 
lower end of the distribution (positive 
skewness). Even though the scores of a 
group as a whole may be normally dis- 
tributed, selectively eliminating those at 
one extreme or the other will cause skew- 
ness. For example, the intelligence-test 
scores of college students are positively 
skewed because those below average in in- 
telligence are not generally admitted to 

The normal curve has many uses in sta- 
tistics, so we shall have occasion to refer to 
it again. 

Measures of Central Tendency. In most 
distributions, the scores are concentrated 

near the center of the distribution. This 
tendency is referred to as the central tend- 
ency or average of the series. In describing 
a group of scores, it would be useful to have 
a single number that would stand for the 
central tendency of the distribution. It 
would also be useful to have measures 
of central tendency in order to compare the 
scores of two groups. 

Although there are numerous measures 
of central tendency, we shall consider only 
three: the mean, the median, and the mode. 
These three are used more often than are 
the other averages. 

ThejneoQt. The most important and fre- 
quently used measure of central tendency 
is the mean (represented as M ). It is the 
measure which is popularly known as the 
"average," although statisticians use the 
term "average" generally to refer to any 
of the measures of central tendency. The 
mean is obtained by adding the scores and 
by dividing this sum by the number of 
scores. This is the formula for the mean: 

M = 



where A/ is the mean 

2 is the Greek capital letter sigma, 
meaning the operation of sum- 
ming (adding) 

X is any score 

N is the number of scores 
The formula is read as "the mean equals 
the sum of the scores divided by the num- 
ber of scores." The application of this for- 
mula to an ungrouped set of scores is very 

Figure 16.10. Examples of skewed distributions. 







Figure 16.11. Combining two groups with different 
central tendencies yields a bimodal distribution. 

simple: we merely add up the scores and 
divide by their number. The mean of a 
grouped frequency distribution may also 
be calculated, although we shall not discuss 
the method here. 

One of the characteristics of the mean 
will illustrate its nature as a measure of 
central tendency. If we subtract the mean 
from every score ( some of these differences 
will be positive while others will be nega- 
tive) and then add up these differences, 
they will sum to zero. This is always true; 
try it and see. Hence the mean may be 
thought of as a point about which positive 
and negative deviations are balanced a 
real point of central tendency. 

The median. A second measure of central 
tendency is the median (represented by 
Mdn). The median is the point in a distri- 
bution of measures below which one-half 
of the scores fall; the other half of the 
scores, of course, are found above it. It will 
be referred to later as the 50th centile. If we 
are working with an ungrouped series, we 

arrange the scores in decreasing order of 
size. For example: 17, 15, 14, 11, 9, 8, and 6. 
The median of this uneven number of scores 
is the middle score, 11. If the number of 
scores is even, the median lies halfway be- 
tween the two middle scores. The median 
may also be computed in the case of 
grouped frequency distributions. 

The important thing about the median is 
that it is a measure of position the middle 
of a ranked series of scores, not influenced 
by the presence of extreme scores (unusu- 
ally high or low scores); whereas the mean 
is markedly influenced by such scores. 

The mode. Another measure of central 
tendency is the mode (represented by Mo). 
The mode is defined as the measure which 
occurs most frequently. (In a grouped fre- 
quency distribution the mode is considered 
to be the mid-point of the class interval 
containing the greatest number of scores.) 
When the data are graphically represented, 
the mode is the point on the scale of scores 
where the frequency curve is highest. 



group B 

group A 

Figure 16.12. Problems in comparing the averages of two groups. 
Which measure of central tendency is most appropriate? 

Most distributions have a single mode. 
Sometimes, however, distributions may 
have two or more modes. For example, the 
lower curve in Figure 16.11 is bimodal, 
since it has two humps. As is shown in this 
figure, a bimodal distribution may result 
from combining the data of two groups 
which have different central tendencies. 

Relationships among mean, median, and 
mode. In a normal distribution the mean, 
median, and mode are the same. The mean 
is the most widely used measure of central 
tendency. It ordinarily permits more exact 
comparisons than the median or mode, and 
provides estimates that are of greater util- 
ity. It is generally a good policy to use the 
mean unless there is a special reason for 
using one of the other measures of central 

When comparing groups with respect to 
central tendency, it is especially important 
not to use a measure which is misleading. 
Figure 16.12 illustrates a situation in which 
comparison in terms of means might lead to 
misunderstanding about the differences 
among the groups. The mean of group A 
is greater than the mean of group B, but 
on the whole group A scores are no higher 

than those of group B. In fact, the two 
groups have the same median, and the dif- 
ference in the modes is actually opposite 
in direction to the difference in means. 

Measures of Variability. Not only is it 
important to know the central tendency of 
a set of scores, but it is also valuable to 
know about their variability. That is, we 
need a measure of the scatter or dispersion 
of these scores. This fact is important, for 
example, in comparing groups. Two groups 
may have the same mean, but they may still 
differ in variability. Two classes might have 
the same average intelligence, but in one 
class the students' scores might cluster 
closely together (be homogeneous) whereas 
in the other they might vary to either ex- 
treme (be heterogeneous). As another illus- 
tration, suppose that two groups take an 
examination, one under conditions of anxi- 
ety and the other under relatively non- 
anxious conditions. The averages of the two 
groups may be the same, but the anxious 
subjects are likely to differ from one an- 
other by a greater amount than do the non- 
anxious subjects. Measures of variability 
may also be used to tell us whether the 
same group becomes more or less variable 



over a period of time; that is, whether indi- 
vidual differences increase or decrease. 

There are various measures of variability, 
but for the purposes of this chapter we 
shall discuss only three: the range, the 
standard deviation, and centile scores. 

The range. The range is simply the dif- 
ference between the highest and the lowest 
score. If the highest score is 157 and the 
lowest is 56, the range is 101. 

The range has the advantage of being a 
simple, easily obtainable measure of varia- 
bility. But it has the disadvantage of giving 
relatively little information about the vari- 
ability of the numbers between the two 
extremes. In our above example, the num- 
bers might be bunched up near the lower 
extreme or they might be scattered over the 
entire range. The danger of using the range 
without furnishing other information should 
be apparent when groups are compared. 
Two groups might have the same range, 
but in one group almost all the measures 
might cluster closely together, while in the 
other they might be distributed over the 
entire range. 

The standard deviation. By far the most 
important measure of variability is the 
standard deviation. It is important not only 
as a measure of variability but as a step in 
many other statistical operations. To ex- 

plain the nature of the standard deviation, 
we shall give its formula and show in a very 
simple illustration how it may be calcu- 
lated. The formula for the standard devia- 
tion is as follows: 

S.D. = fig 

where S.D. is the standard deviation (an- 
other symbol is the small Greek 
letter sigma, a) 
2 is the sum of (a sign indicating 

the operation of adding) 
x is the deviation of each score from 

the mean (X M ) 
N is the number of scores 
The formula can be read like a recipe. 
It says to do these things, which are illus- 
trated in Table 16.7: 

1. Find the mean (M ). 

2. Subtract the mean from each score 
(X Af ) to get a deviation or difference 


3. Square each deviation (these squares 
will always be positive in sign, though the 
x may be either positive or negative). 

4. Sum the squared deviations. 

5. Divide the sum of squared deviations 
by N (the number of scores). 

6. Take the square root of this ratio to 
get the standard deviation. 

Table 16.7 Calculation of the Standard Deviation 















= 30 

2x2 = 

= 40 


2X 30 
= N " 5 

S '' = \ fsT = ^ 









The purpose of this study * was to devise an objective test that would help 
in selecting people to do graduate work in psychology. The test questions 
were in the form of analogies, one example of which is 

Orchestra:Violinist::Test (1. Battery 2. Stem analysis 3. Item 

4. Validity .) In this example, choice 3 is the correct answer. 

After some preliminary work, including the elimination of items not found 
suitable, the test consisted of two virtually equivalent forms of 75 items each. 

The test was then given to graduating seniors, first-year graduate students, 
second-year graduate students, and third-year graduate students. As the first 
table clearly brings out, the average scores increased in the expected direc- 

Results of Administering Psycho-Analogies Test to Various Groups of Students 






Graduating seniors 




First-year graduate students 




Second-year graduate students 




Third-year graduate students 




tion, and the variability also decreased somewhat in the same direction. 
That is, third-year graduate students on the average did best on the test 
and also varied less among themselves; then came second-year graduate 
students, then first-year graduate students, and finally seniors. This argues, 
of course, that the test does have some usefulness in selecting persons who 
will do well in graduate study. 

An interesting fact about these results, however, is the overlapping be- 
tween the groups. Thus, there was one graduating senior who did better 
than the average third-year graduate student, and there was one third-year 
graduate student who barely exceeded the average for graduating seniors. The 
same kind of remarks can be made about the other two groups. 

Incidentally, the above results are based on one form of the test alone. 
Both forms were given to these groups, half of each group receiving form A 
first and then form B, and the other half taking them in reverse order. 

* Abraham S. Levine, "Minnesota Psycho-Analogies Test/' Journal of Applied Psychology, 
34:300-305, 1950. 

Another way in which to get an impres- 
sion of the meaning of the standard devia- 
tion is to look at its relation to the normal 
distribution (see Figure 16.13). Taking the 
mean as a point of origin, we can lay off a 
scale in standard-deviation units in both the 
positive and t