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JOllrtla/ Df /'trsolt4lity (wd Sflc;.zl l'syc/wloty 1913, \'oJ. 2{1. Nu. 2.


~EN;\iETII J. (;tmm-:N'
SW(Jrthmore College

An auabsis or theory .11111 res-arch in sucin! psychulogy reveals lhat whilt: mcthods of research arc scicntinc in character, theories of social behavior are prim:1ril~' fI'ft"rtions of ronf('mpHntry hlstury. Tho dissemination of psychological krrowierlge modi til'S the putu-ms of behavior upon which the knowledge is based. It docs so because of the nrescrlptive bias of psvchologtcal theorizin~, the liberating effects of knowledge, and the resistance based on common values of freedom and [ndividuulity .. In addition,
primarily on acquired dispositions. As the

culture changes, such

are based

arc altered, and the premises un' often invalidated, Several modiflcnticns in the SCUpl' and methods ofsnd:d psycholu~y are derived from (his analysis.

The field of psychology is typically defined as the science of human behavior, and social psychology as that branch of the science dealing with human interaction, A parumount aim of science is held to be the estahlishmeut of general laws through systcmat ie ,,]' .. '1'\'0111(>11, " I'm' the social psydlOlugisl, ",wh g"lwral laws are developed in order to rlescribe and explain social interaction. This traditional view of scientific law is repeated ill one form or another in almost all fundamental treatments of the field. In his discussion of explana lion in the behavioral sciences, Dikenzo (1966) pointed out that a "complete explanation" in the behavioral sciences "is one that has assumed the invariable status of law r p, 11 J." Krech, Crutchfield, and Ballachey (1962) slated that "whether we are interested ill social psychology as a basic science or as an applied science, a set of scientific principles is essential Ip, 3]." jonesand Gerard (1967) echoed this view in their: statement, "Science seeks to Under" stand the. factors responsible fOf stable relationships between events Ip. 42}." As Mills (1~(\9)put}t,"social psychologists want to discover causal .. relationships so. that they can establish basic principles that will ex+I utn much




the ff)l1()\vin~ Iwrsuns fur
oi various phases of this


She) Feldman, l\{;try GC"rgco, Kenneth Hammond, Louise Kidder, George Levinger, Paul
Ro::..:nt.,latt~: Ralph Rosnow, !\L Brewster Smith.

Siegfried Streufert, Lloyd Strickland, Karl Weick. and Lawrence \V-rijZ:hls.man.

Department Swarthmore,

for reprint!' should of Psychology,

be sent

to the author,

Swarthmore Pennsylvania 190~O,


plain the phenomena of social psychology [p.412J." This view of social psychology is, of course, a direct descendent from eiehteant h centurv thought. At that time thephy,ical sdcl1('l:, had produced marked increments in knowl('fIg,., and one could vk-w with great 1>[J1irnism the possibility of applying ihe-seientitic method to human behavior (Carr, l\16J). If general principles of human behavior' could be established, it might he possible tu reduce social conflict, to do away with problems of mental illness, and to create social conditions of maximal benefit to members of society. As others later hoped, it might even be possible to transform such principles into mathematical form, to develop "a mathematics of human behavior as precise as the mathematics of machines I Russell, 1956, p, 1421'" The marked success of the natural sciences in establishing general principles can importantly be attributed to the general stability of events in the world of nature, The velocity of . faIling bodies or the compoundi)lg~f chemical elements, for example, are highly stable events across time. They .are events that can be recreated in any laboratory, ·50 years ago, today, or 100 years from now, Because they are so stable, broad generalizations can be established with a high degree of confidence, explanations can be empirically tested, ,1IId mathematical transformations call be fruitfully developed. If events were unstable, if the velocity of falling bodies or the compounding of chemicals were in continuous flux, the development of the natural sciences


it is not generally assumed that such utilization will alter the character of causal rela tions in social Interaction. and the recording of natural events would lend itself primarily to historical analysis. In the following discussion two central lines of argument will be developed in support of this thesis. The scientist's task is also that of communicator.'Pect the utilization to affect the subsequent character of the function forms themselves. Channels of comlllunication have developed at 11 rapid rate. social science can fl11itfully be viewed as a protracted communlcatlons system. such ofierlngs have become unexcelled in popularity. Science and society constitute a feedback loop. one hegins to sense the profound degree to which the psychologist. Our expectations in this case may be quite unfounded. is llnked in mutual COH1 III lin ica t ion wit h the surrounding culture. government. cermrritment to the field importantly depends on the belief in the social utility of psychological knowledge. the proliferation of encounter techniques. Principles of human interaction cannot readily be developed over time because the facts on which they are based do not generally remain stable. After examining these arguments. Although Back has used this model in a number of provocative. the establishment of business enterprises huckstering psychology through games and posters. but we de: not eJ.000. In the execution of research. Not only may the application of our principles alter the data 011 which they are based. it deals with Iacts that are largely nonrcpeatable and which fluctuate markedly over lime. Indeed.3to would be drastically impeded. ways. and social) on the knowledge of in-house behavioral scientists. and specialty magazines devoted almost exclusively to psychology now boast readerships totaling over 600. Geucral laws would fail to emerge. IMPACT OF ScroNCE ON SOCIAL IN1'J. the first centering on the impact of the science on social behavior and the second 011 historical change. The mass media have also come to realize the vast public interest in psychology. Most psychologists harbor the desire that psychological knowledge will have an impact on the society. over eight million students are annually confronted by course offerings in the field of psychology. The liberal education of today entails familiarity with central ideas in psychology. the scientist receives messages transmitted by the subject. Scientiflc theories serve as decoding devices which convert noise to usable information. On the level of higher education. such messages generate only "noise" for the scientist. It is the purpose of this paper to argue that social psychology is primarily an historical inquiry. If his theories prove to be useful decoding devices they are communicated to the popu~ lace in' order that they might also benefit from their utility. Magazine publishers have found it profitable to feature the views of psychologists on contemporary behavior patterns. Unlike the natural sciences. Knowledge cannot accuruulate in the usual scientific sense because such knowledge does not generally t ranscend its historical boundaries. the first stemming from the evaluative bias of psychological research. When we acid to these trends the broad expansion of the soft-cover hook market. In raw form. his analysis is terminated at the point of decoding. H natural events were capricious. the second from the Iiber- ..RACTlON As Back (1903) has shown. Most of us are gratified when such knowledge can be utilized in beneficial ways. natural science would largely be replaced by natural history. hut the very development of the principles may invalidate them. The news media carefully monitor professional meetings as well as journals of the profession. However. and the increasing reliance placed by major institutions (including business. We rIo expect knowlcrlge of Iunctiorlforms to be utilized in altering behavior. This model must be extended beyond the process of gathering and decoding messages. the increasing governmental demand for knowledge justifying the puhlic underwriting of psychological research. Three lines of argument are pertinent. military. fat many social psychologists. and within recent years. we can focus ou alterations in the scope ami aims of the field suggested by this analysis. This type of feedback from scientist to society has become increasingly widespread during the past decade.

Thus. and those which subtly prcscrit»: what is <lr. the more advantageous his position on psychological tests. his methods of observation. 1950). by implication. On a more complex level. Most of us would feel insulted if characterized as low III self-esteem. It is the rare social psychologist whose values do not Influence the subject of his research. associated with shadowy and unsavory rnanipulations. Faterson. Knowing about au itude change flatters one into believing that he has the power to change others. sex.i]. Janis & Field. socioeconomic background. In their prescriptive capacity such communications become agents of social change. favors cognitive differentiation (Witkin. The communication of knowledge may thus create homogeneity with respect to behavioral indicators of underlying dispositions. the student of psychology might well wish to exclude from public observation behaviors labe-led respected scholars as authoritarian.l in personality research. etc..irahk. 1959) may retaliate. women who learn they are wore persuasible than men (d. Christie and Geis (1970) noted lnitially our image of the hilth Mach was :\ nezutive one." In discus$ing the Machiavellian personality. Research on. religion. authoritarian.fficacyof these same factors. theories of aggression typically condemn the aggressor. models of secial conformity sensitize one to factors that might lead him 'intos!'cially deplorable actions.lized society with Irrational er anti-rational beliefs Ip. fur example. and over time the correlation is invalidated or reversed. Machs' :Ibility In outdo others in experimental situations I p.hoda.-. On the other hand. our reactions reflect our acculturation jone need not be a psychologist to resent such labels. theories of attitude change may sensitize one into guarding against factors. In effect. Not so strangely. Goodenough. & Sanford. 339]. . Prescriptive Bias of Psychological Theory As scientists of human interaction. Levinson. the more similar the subject is to the professional in terms of education. Itor example. & Karp. Most general models of social interaction also contain implicit value judgments. we found ourselves having :\ perverse admiration for the higl. such reactions arc created by the concepts utilized in de-scribing and explaining phenomena. In part. we are engaged in a peculiar duality. anal compulsive. This argument is most clearly evident in research on personal dispositions. The recipient of knowledge is thus provided with dual messages: Messages that dispassionately describe what appears to be. and personal values. In generating knowledge about social interaction. much individual difference research places the professional psychologist in a highly positive light. For example. and the third from prevalent values in the culture. and so on. high ill approva! seeking. cognitively undifferentiated. readers are informed that "In contrast to the bigot of the older style. We arc well aware of the biasing effects of strong value commitments. For example. we also communicate our personal values. attitude change often carries with it these same overtones. On the one hand. as socialized human beings. a social sheep Who foregoes personal conviction to agree with the erroneous opinions of others. or close-minded. we harbor numerous values about the nature of social relations. race. 1954). others are relegated to the status olmanipulanda.knowledge insulates against the future e.. Machiavellian. low scores in authoritarianism (Christie & Ja. . On an elementary level. Increased education. in the preface of Tke A. But' ill part. However . Thus. that could potentially influence him. Whiie evaluative biases are easily idr. Thus. (the authoritarlan) seems to combine. Armed with this infurmarion. models of interpersonal bargaining are disparaging of exploitation. 1962). they are by no means limited to this area. the ideasalld skills of a highly industria. l>yk.ntifw. treatises 011 COIlformitv often treat the conformer as a second-class citizen. In the same way. 1960).uthoritarian Personality (Adorno. or the terms of description. those persons unflatter«! by the research might overcompensate in order tv dispel the inJ~lrjous stereotype. and models of moral develop- by . field dependent. knowledge of personality correlates may induce behavior to insubstantiate the correl:ih's.SOCIAL !ISYClfOLOGY AS HISTORY 311 ating effects of knowledge. we value dispasslonatc comportment ill scieutiflc matters. Frenkel-Brunswik. open-mindedness (Rokeach.

unf{'ltl'ted by constant demands for systema Lie ('vidcli('(' . cepts carrying far different valuational baggag~. but we can avoid masquerading them as objective reflections of truth. Value commitments may be unavoidable. Value commit ments are almost inevitable by-products of social existence. cognitive differentiation as hair-splitting." The critical note underlying these remarks is not inadvertent. Normally. attitude change as cognitive adaptatlon. viewed by the Germans in a highly positive light.::n()~d('dge should use this position to propagandize the unwitting recipients of this knowledge. The act of publishing implies the desire to be heard. or humanitarian who Inuls tilt' scicnrifle method at once a means to expressive ends and an encumbrance to free expression. The more cstahlished psychologist may indulge himself more directly. it is difficult to lind terms regarding social interaction that arc without prescriptive value. if we rely on the language of the culture for scientific communication. Brown (1965) has pointed to the inter" esting fact that the classic authoritarian personality. In addition. and as participants in society we can scarcely dissociate ourselves from these values in pursuing professional ends." (1966) research indicated that even the most subtle 1:1ICS of experimenter expectation may alter the he- . and most could be replaced with other Con.: For them. ~fally wish to share their values directly. creativity as deviance. it is not entirely so. Within many lies a frustraterl poet. Similarly. In part the evaluative loading of theoretical terms seems quilt' intentional. change their opinions of others or eat undesirable foods just to maintain consistency. social conformity could be viewed as prosolidarity behavior . shift as the courageous conversion. For example. and value-free research rapidly becomes obscure. so roundly scourged in our own literature. It does seem unfortunate that a profession dedicated to the objective and nonpartisan development of J. make lower scores on tests. . The concepts of the field are seldom value free. J f obedience were relabeled alpha behavior aJ1(1not rendered deplorable through associations with Adolph Eichman. while the propagandizing effect!' of psychological terminology must be lamented. value-loaded concepts also provide an expressive outlet for the psychologist. Cognitive dissonance theory (Brehm & Cohen. GERGEN ment demean those at less than the optimal stage (Kohlberg. 1966. ity. However. Festinger. was quite similar to the "j-type personality" (jaensch." While the communication of values through knowledge is to some degree intentional. Such labeling biases pervade our literature. In additlon to capturing the interest of the public and the profession. value-free terms have low-interest value for the potential reader. I have talked with countless graduate students drawn into psychology out of deep humanistic concern. philosopher. and the risk). 1938). 1957) might appear to be value free. it is also important to trace their sources. even technical Iangllage becomes evaluative whenever the science is used as a lever for social change. but most studies in this area have painted the dissonance reducer in most unflattering terms. We might reduce the implicit prescriptions embedded in our communications if we adopted a wholly technical language. and internal control as egocentric. public concern would lin- doubtedly be meagre. 1970). Resented is the apparent fact that the ticket to open expression through the professional media is a near lifetime in the laboratory.flexibility and individualism in our literature Were seen as flaccidity and eccentricity. That which our literature termed rigidity was viewed as stability ill theirs. Knotolcdge and Behavioral Liberation It is common research practice in psychology to avoid communicating one's theoretical premises to the subject either before Dr during the research. valuc-lark-u conn'pls compensate for the conservatism usually imparted by these demands. if our values were otherwise. we are not inclined to view our personal biases as propagandistic so much as reflecting "baSIC truths. Rosenthal'. However. "that people should cheat. high self -esteem could be termed egot ism. "How witless" we say. need for social approval could be translated as need for social Integratien.however. Perhups our best option is to maintain as much "ensitivity as possihle to our biases anrl to cornmunicate them as openly as jlflssihl('. 'Yet.312 KENNETH J.

one's patterns of hehavior may be strongly influenced. In each instance. normal development includes the acquisition of strong motives toward autonomy. l'SYClI01. 1970. If knowledgeable. In the social sciences such communication can have a vital impact on behavior. Tn the former. 100]. Investigators in this area are quite careful that experimental suhjt'cts are not privy to their thinking on this matter.0(. someone who. Wallach. 1tappears that over a wide variety nf conditions. should the risky shift become common knowledge. "Each of us inherits from society a burden of tendencies which shapes us willy-nilly. Jones & Gerard. wit. an organizational official can be taken advantage-of by his inferiors and wives manipulated by errant husbands when their behavior patterns are reliable. Weinstein and Platt (1969) discussed much the same sentiment in terms of "man's wish to be free. theories about which it is informed become difficult to test in an uncontaminated way. the sclentist cannot typically communicate his knowledge to the subjects of his study such that their behavioral dispositions are modified. As Fromm (1941) Saw it. "Since understanding something involves understanding its contradiction. If subjects possess preliminary knowledge as to theoretical premises. In the same way that a military strategist lays himself open to defeat when his actions become predictable. Escape /0 Freedom The historical invalidation of psychological theory can be further traced to commonly observed sentiments within western culture. knowledge about nonverbal signals of stress or relief (Eckman. sophistication as to psychological principles liberates one from their behavioral implications. 196i) may engender caution when arousal is high. Valid theories about social behavior constitutesignificant implements uf social control. knowing that motivational arousal call influence one's in terpreta tion of events (cf.group discussion until such behavior became normative. Kogan. Knowledge . Brehm (1966) used this same disposition as the cornerstone of his theory of psychological reactance. As May (1971) has stated more passionately. and previous patterns of behavior are modified or dissolved. Members of the culture miA"ht consistently compensate for risky tendencies produced by . Others can alter euvirenmental conditions or their behavior toward him to obtain maximal rewards at minimal costs to themselves. Herein lies a fundamental diffrrencc between the natural and the social sciences. The implications of this simple methodologlcal safeguard are of considerable significance." J fl this 'way. logica] principles also sensitize one to influences acting on him and draw attention to certain aspects of the environment and himself. decision-making groups come to make riskier decisions through group discussion (cf. Dion.SOCTAI. 1 %5) enables us in avoid giving off these signals whenever it is useful to do so. 1964). As Winch (1958) has pointed out. & Miller. A single example may suffice here. performs X must he capable of envisioning the possibility of doing not X Ip. & Bern. However. subjects might insulate themselves from the effects of group discussion or respond appropriately in order to gain the experimenter's favor. Baron. In doing so." and lin ked this disposition to the developing social structure. knowing that persons in trouble arc Jess likely to be helped when there are large numbers of bystanders (Lalane & Darley. but our capacity to be conscious of this fact saves us frum heing strirtly determined r p. he places hims(·lf in a position of vulnerability. ]'(70) may increase one's desire to offer his services under such conditions. Of major importance is the general distress people seem to feel at the diminution of their response alternatlves. we can no longer adequately test our hypotheses. Established principles of behavior become inputs into one's decision making. To the extent that an individual's behavior is predictable.h understanding. 891. The prevalence of this learned value has important implicatiolls for Ihe long-term validity of social psychological theory. if the society is psychologically informed. knowledge increases alternatives to action. In the same way. As a gcncr:tl surmise.Y AS HISTORY 313 havior of the subject." Psycho. naive subjects would become unobtainable. Naive subjects are thus required by common standards of rigor.

Thus. 1948). Is insensitive to unique occurrences. Such an answer is suggested by much that has been said. selffulfilling prophecies (Merton." In the popular idiom. anti as Maslo. and may be resented because of its threats to feelings of autonomy. Of course. children become aware of the adult's premise that the reward will achieve the desired results and become obstinate. A frequent occurrenee in patent-child relations illustrates the point. as no government could risk the existence of a private establishment developing tools of public control.. and so on. The common value of personal freedom is not the only pervasive sentiment affecting the mortality of social psychological theory. conforming to them. ani! recent laboratory research (Fromkin. Based on notions of p. Psychological theory. we may feel resentful and react recalcitrantly. the science could be removed from the public domain and scientific understanding' rp. Parents are accustomecl to lIsin. suburbanites. ignoring them. we may strive to Invalidate theories that ensnare us in their impersonal way. At this point. "you are just saying you don't care because you really want me to do it. in its nomothetic structure. We might construct a general theory of reactions to theory. educators. For most of us." In Locvlnzer'. and tht' elderly have all reacted bitterly to explanations of their behavior.314 thus becomes power in the hands of others. be co-opted by the state. and our inclination Instead is to seek a scientific solution to the problem of historical dependency. this is termed reverse psychology and is often resented.. a theory that predicts reactions to theory is also susceptihle to violation or vindication. The child may respond appropriately hut often enough will blurt out some variation of. ce ••• a shift in parr-ntmanship is countered by a shift in childmanship 149}. Inrlividuals are treated as exemplars of larger classes. ThUS. A common reaction is that psychological theory J~ df'hnmanizing. In western culture there seems to be heavy value placed on uniqueness or individuality. its utility is seriously limited. It follows that psychological principles pose a potential threat to all those for whom they are germane. and expectancy effects (Gergen & Taylor. women. Over time. 1969). ~imil:1rly. again with the intent of achieving the desired enrls. tile broader ils public dissemination and the more prevalent and resounding the reaction. This elite would. (1959) terms. (1968) has noted. Thus. 1972) has demonstrated the strength of this value in alterinJt social behavior. Investments in freedom may thus potentiate behavior designed to invalidate the theory. patients harbor a strong resentment at heing rubricated or labeled with conventional clinical terms. 1970. Such a psychology can Itsel f he invested with value.~ychologlca! reactance (Brehm. . 1966). activists. A psychology of enlightenment effects should enable lIS to predict and control the effects of knowledge. increase our behavioral alternatives. To preserve the transhistorical validity of psychological principles. blacks. such a prospect is repugnant. We are satisfied with principles of attitude change until we find them being used in information campaigns dedicated to changing our behavior. of course. The adult may then react with a naive psychology of enlightenment effects and express dishnerest in the child's carrying out the activity. one could counter with research on reactions to the psychology of Psychology of Etllightcn111cnt Effects Thus far We have discussed three ways in which social psychology alters the behavior it seeks to study. The more potent the theory is in predicting behavior. then it should be possible to establish the conditions under which these various reactions will occur. The broad popularity of both Erikson (1968) and Allport (1965) can be traced in part to their strong support of this value. reserved for a selected elite. Although It psychology of enlightenment effects seems a promising adjunct to general theories. we must deal with an important means of combatting the effects thus far described. If people who are psychologically enlightened react to general principles by contradictlng them.!{ direct rewards in order to influence the behavior of their children.B('[ore moving to a second set of arguments for the historical dependency of psychological theory.. strong thearies may be subject to more rapid invalidation than weak ones.

celebrated the inconsistent act.SOCIAl. 1953) because it does Vietnam war are dissimilar to those which not prove useful to us at present to retain the successfully predicted activism during later association. CnANGF: theory depends on the assumption that people The argument against transhistorical laws cannot tolerate contradictory cognitions. and the communicated message beVariables that successfully predicted political comes dissociated from its source over time activism during the early stages of the (Kelman & Hovland. Research on causal attribuilt from early findings would he invalidated by later findings. To be sure. The in social psychology does not solely rest on a basis of such intolerance does not seem consideration of the impact of science on so. 1971) have indeed argued that it immediate public concern. PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY ANI) In the same way. Thus. with isolating predictors of political on contemporary attitudes toward authority. This tendency can Such alterations in functional relationship are not in principle limited to areas of be modified (Hallowell.Again. are critical of the common tendency to search out others' opinions ill defining self and they attempt to change society through their criticism. Jones. and.predictive because of the state of learned disciples. example. 1971. cumstances. extensive line of deductive research (d. (b) in order to do so they compare themselves with over time. culture. 1966) are based on the psychology will never disappear via reduction dual assumption that (a) people desire to to physiology is that physiology cannot account for the variations in human behavior evaluate themselves accurately. The historical dependency of Schachter's (1959) work 011 affiliation is subpsychological principles is most notable in ject to the arguments made in the case of areas of focal concern to the public. There are certainly indiciety. any theory of political activism learned that friends punish deviance in contemporary society. and thus the major theoretical prin. Mankoff In attitude change research. propensities that could be altered by time and circumstance. A psychology of enlightenment effects is subject to the same historical limitations as other theories of social psychology. Many of our social commentators . numerous inconsistencies are found. societies. People may prefer bright shades others. There is scant reason to suspect that of clothing today and grim shades tomorrow. Social social comparison theory. people periods. conununicator & Flacks. for which these assumptions would varying responses to the environment rely on variations in physiological function. activism during the past decade (d. Likewise. 1951) partly because they have time. & Gergen. 1971) depends on the culturally dependent tendency to perceive man as the predictors more useful. 1f we scan the most promi.positions existing at the time. they may value autonomy during this era such dispositions are genetically determined. we must conclude that the theory is ties. but it is quickly seen that this exchange of actions ami reactions could be extended indefinitely. and we can easily imagine persons. clear that the conform more to friends than non friends factors motivating activism changed over (Rack. credibility is a potent factor because we However. Milgram's (1965) psychologists have been much concerned. as one scans this literature over have learned to rely on authorities in our time. we soon realize that the observed rl'~t11ari. Early existentialist writers. for obedience phenomenon is certainly dependent example.should be. 1958) and some (Skinner. for nent lines of research during the past decade. Festinger's (1957) theory of social compari. and indeed and dependency during the next. the entire line of research appears to depend on a set of learned propensities. Perhaps the primary guarantee that social son and the.contradictions. are firmly wedded to historical cir. 111 effect. Latane. 1964). Hownot hold. Davis. In conformity research. Soloman & Fishman. The conclusion seems. Future research on polftical bution (d. 1961 j activism will undoubtedly find still other Kelley.genetically given. J'tWCHOLOGY AS HISTORY enlightenment effects. For example. source of his actions. A second major line of thought deserves viduals who feel quite otherwise ahout such consideration. cognitive dissonance CULTURAl.

they gain predictive value. Finally. Similar to most other theories of human interaction. Thus. \Ve utilise scientific methodology. However. belief that knowledge of social interaction can be accumulated in a manner similar to the natural sciences appears unjustified. the study of social psycholog}' is primarily an historical undertaking. In effect.psychologist might be that of isolating the precise function Iorms r('latin~ patterns of reward and punishment to behavior. However. Heckenmueller. because the theory -has proved so effective in alterin~ the behavior of lower organisms. In essence. This conclusion suffers on two imlmrtant counts. Thus. social approval proved a successful means of modifyim. Reisman (1952) has c{)gent. people who are conversant with its theoretical premises can subvert its intended effects with facility. Reward is typIcally defined as that which increases the frequency of responding. Barron. The most significant rejoinder to this criticism lies in the fact that once rewards and punishments have been inductively established. response increment is defined as that which follows reward. and thus a range of primary motivational sources for the individual. for example. For ex" ample. & Schultz. As behavior modification therapists are aware. Gewirtz & Baer. Let us consider. As reinforcement value changes. physiology can never specify the nature of the stimulus inputs or the response context to which the individual is exposed. the continued 'attempt to build general laws of social behavior seems misdirected. It is possible to infer from this latter set of arguments a commitment to at least one theory of transhistorical validity. Onlv when behavior change has occurred. Knowledge of the theory also enables one to avoid being ensnared by its predictions. while social psychology is thus insulated from physiological reductionism. isolating social approval as a positive reinforcer for human behavior was initially depenllt'nt on post hoc observation. and the associated. GERGEN ever. can" one specify the reinforcer. most of us would resent another's attempt to shape our behavior through reinforcement techniques and would bend ourselves to confounding the offender's expectations. Reinforcement theorv faces additional historical limitations wheri we consider its more precise specification. In sum. so does the predictive validity of the basic assumption. the theory seems limited to post hoc interpretation. its theories are not insulated from historical change. It can never account for the continuously shifting patterns of what is considered the good or desirable in society.lyar~lIcci that social approval has far more reward value in contemporary society than it did a century ago. However. It has been argued that the stability in interaction patterns upon which most of our theories rest is dependent on learned dispositions of limited duration. the essential circularity in reinforcement theory may at any time be reinstigated. And while national pride might have been a potent reinforcer of late adolescent behavior in the 1940's. but the results are not scien- . the theory is subject to ideological investment. The notion that behavior is wholly governed by external contingency is seen by many as vulgarly demeaning. it becomes particularly threatening to one's investment in autonomy. once established as a reinforcer. 1971. behavior on a predictive basis (d. We are essemially engaged in a systematic arceunt (If contemporary affairs. In fact. 1958). such a conclusion is unwarranted. Few would doubt that most people are responsive to the reward and punishment contingencies in their environment. This implicitly suggests the possibility of a social learning theory transcending historical circumstance. and it is difficult to envision it time in which this weuld not be true. it is also apparent that reinforc-· ers do not remain stable across time. an elementary theory of reinforcement. Such premises thus seem t ranshistorically valid. for contemporary youth such an appeal would probably be aversive. Many critics of reinforcement theory have charged that the definition of reward (and punishment) is circular. However. IMPLICATIONS FOR AN HISTORICAL SCIENCE OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOR In light of the present arguments. and a primary task of the .316 KENNETH J. the elaboration of reinforcement theory is no less vulnerable to enlightenment effects than other theories of human interaction.

for prejudice are not merited. the present arguments suggest an range of social behavior. they is not sufficiently well developed at present so may he reflecting prOCeS5(~S of peripheral in.that is. From Prediction to Sensitization The central aim of p'iyrhology is traditionally viewed as the prediction and control of behavior. From terest or importance to the functioning of ~o. scnsltlvlty to subtle influences and pinpoint assumptions contributing 10 basic and enrlurlng knowledge. ! tific principles in the traditional sense. thus expanding his sensitivities and problems of Immediate importance to the so.latlon to environmental change. processes influencing a wide and varied istic. In the future. The fielrl can seldom yield ciety. pure research i~ viewed as psychology can sharpen olle':. Psychological theory ran play an exceedingly search exists among academic psycbologists. Modeling the experi- .the present standpoint.!(1'Ilr'rally endure. social mediate problems. intensive fOCIlS on contemporary social issues. However. J t. highly general and thus more broadly heur.that reliable predictions can be made. Behavior patterns are under constant modification.not serve as the cornerstones of the field.public policy or personal relatiollships.important. Sccial psychologists are trained in using principles from which reliable predictions can tools of conceptual analysis and scientific he made. the typical !'I'actio!! is extent that generalizations from pure research apology. such ap()lo~ies arc inappropriate. However. Implied here are significant alterations in the activity or the field. such grounds about behavior that have not proved useful in the past.. While it is limited to solving im. From the present standpoint. I'rlnciples (If human hehavior may have limited predictive value across time. this aim is misleading and provides little justification for research. Whether il I/(' in the domain of sient value. One major shortcoming of much applied research is that the more discerning judgments can be mane... can provide conciety. It can search focus of prestige journals and in the enlighten one as to the rnnge of factors potentially influencing behavior under various dependency of promotion and tenure on COIltrlbutions to pure as opposed to applied re. given the sterility of perfecting general principles across time. However. based on the application of scientific methods and conceptual tools of broad generality. the explanatory language is concern with basic psychological processes. what the field methodology in explaining human interaccan and should provide is research informing tion. Five such alterations deserve attention. a prejudice that is evident in lile pure re.readying him f()r more rapid accommo. It must be explained that the fIeld have greater traushistorical validity.conditions. this prejudice is hased on the estimate of the importance of these factors at assumpt ion I hat applil'd I't'. However. In part. role as a sensitizing device.p:lrrh is of tr. prediction and control need A pervasive prejudice against applied re. historians may look back to such ac'counts to achieve a better understanding of life in the present era.. the psychologists of the future are likely to find little of value in contemporary Iwowlcrlgt'_ These arguments are not purely academic and are not limitNI to a simple rerlcfinition (If Ih(' science.SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AS HISTORY 317 r r . ~enel':tlizalinns in the pure psychologist regarding likely behavior in any research area rIo not . To t 11(" concrete situation.it given time. these tools the inquirer of a number of possible occurwould seem more productively used in solving fences. This is not to imply that such research ceptual and methodological tools with which must be parochial in SCOIW. From 111rpresent sunulpoint.m. terms used to describe and explain are often j)eveloping Indicators of Psycho-Social relativelv concrete and specific to the case Dispositions at halll While the concrete behavioral acts Social psychologists evidence a continuous studied by academic psychologists are often more trivial. The knowledge When counsel is sought from the social that pure research bends its-elf to establish is also transient . Thus. and their very acknowledgment Toward all I niegration of lite Pure and can render them impotent as tools of social Applied control. Research may also provide snme search.

its strength in various subcultures. In effect. language acquisition. Although laboratory experiments are well suited to the isolation of particular dispositions. then. regardless of their sophistication or the current norms. If dissonance reduction is an important process.JHi mental psychologist's concern with basic processes of color vision. There may also he acquired dispositions that are sufficiently powerful that neither enlightenment nor historical change is likely to have a major impact. Unlit now. 1f esteem enhanccment appears to influence social interaction. In contrast. Cross-cultural methods could be employed in this capacity.!at any given time. memory. milch ll('('lh'd arc research methods enabling us to discern the relative durability of social phenomena. In this light. However. Although cross-cultural replication is frought with difficulty. We must think. 1110st of the processes falling in the social domain are dependent on acquired dispositions subject to gross modification over time. strength. Assessments o] durability would thus have to account for potential as well as actual stability in phenomena. social psychologists have focused 011 such proCC!iSCS as counitlve dissonance. a technology of psyrhologically sensitive social indicators (Bauer. We have yet to tap the vast quantities of information regarding interaction patterns in earlier periods. Man's reliance on a concept of dt'ily has a long history and is found in numerous cultures. 1969) is required. difficult problems present themselves. Still other physiological propensities may be irreversible. Rather. While research into more durable dispositionsis highly valuable. with phenomena highly susceptible to historical influence at one extreme and the more stable processes at the other. ann form of psychosocial dispositions over time. Some behuvlor patterns may remain stable until closely scrutinized: others may simply become dysfunctional over time. Although learned rlispositions can overcome the strength of some physiological tendencies. In the former instance. then we should be ill a position to measure the prevalence and strengt. they may largely be considered the psychological counterpart of cultural norms. there is a profound difference between the processes typically studied in the general experimental and social domains. in terms or a continuum of historical durabillt y. the processes are often locked into the organism hiologically. Research on Behavioral Stability Social phenomena may vary considerably in the extent to which they are subject to historical change. then broad studies of the culture should reveal the extent of the disposition.!. however.t subject to enlightenment effects and are not dependent on cultural circumstance. aspiration level. it i~ a mistake to consider the processes in social psychology as basic in the natural seience sense. they are no. and causal attribution. Much needed are mcthodoloaies tapping the prevalence. Schachter's (1970) research on emotional states appears to have It strong physiological basis. such accounts have provided little except quotations indicating that some great thinker prrs:tf(crl a p!'t hypothesis. such tendencies should tend to reassert themselves over time. the social psychologist might attend to the changing patterns of psychological dispositions and their relationship to social behavior. similarity in a given function form across wideJy divergent cultures would strongly attest to its durability across time. Although enhanced SOPhistication about behavior patterns across space and time would furnish valuable insights reltarding durability. they are poor inrlirators of the rango anrl significance of the processes in contemporary social life. many are skeptical abont the future of this reliance. as does Hess's (1965) work on affect and pupil. In the same way a sociologist is concerned with measuring party preferences or patterns of mobility over time. Certain phenomena may be closely tied to physiological givens. and the forms of social behavior with which it is most likely associated at any given time. Content analytic techniques might also he employed in examining accounts of earlier historica! periods. we should not therefore conclude that it is either more useful or desirable than studying passing behavior pat- . People will generally avoid physically painful stimuli. lary constriction.h of such a dlspositlon within the society over time and the preferred morles of dissonance reduetlon exist in. III this light. and the like.

1..lw. .. As such. New York: Academic Press. GI:iu:t:N..ology alone provides a distorted understanding of our present condition. P. 94-111. Pnttrrn fwd Ilrm{'lfr in puwfUllity. L. Journal oj Persoll4lity. FRO:MKIN. K. Advanus ill e..4 theory oj (Ogllili"ll~ dissonance. DJnN. REFERENCES GEWIRTZ. We have little theory dealing with the interrelation or" events over extended periods . both past and present. JAEN5f".). should be undertaken in the broadest possible framework. Knol'l. Ojihwa metaphysics of hdng and A LLI'ORT . However.. forcer. W. 5. lll. Camltrid. 1969. A coneentration on psych.. sonal behauior. R. i.. political science.: Free Press. 5. 1963. W. E. the study of history. We have concentrated very little on the function of these segments within their historical context.rpcrimtrnltd social psychology.) Social indicators. Political. N. 1%. L.. Hf. LEVINSON.. CROWNE. E. 19i2. Tomkins & C. Journat til Person111ft)' 11)111 Sorial Psycholog». FRENJ. K. BRE:I~.. (Ed. and the challenge of capturing such processes "in flight" and during auspicious periods of history is immense. Ttneard 1111 IlIlcgrotl!d Social ll isi ory It (Ed. g_ II.) Concepts. VOl. New York: Wiley.129. R. R.'1'.. S. the perception of persons.). II!. 41. Deprivation and satiation of social reinforcers as drive conditlnns. & BAER. A. 9-23. nuiue dissonance. S. & SCHULTZ. What ls his/ory? New 1'"rI. • 46. J. BAR(m. UIlOWN. Ta~iuri & I•.:ENMUELI. J.. !<'IIUMKiN.1m. W. Evanston.. economic.}. New York: Random House. L. Petrullo (Eds. experimentally aroused f('elings (If undlstlnctivencss upon valuat inn of scarce and novel experienres. R. Person.. R..ican. Berkowitz (Ed. I.'\8. New York: Wiley.. H.. . J.of time. & JAItOtl!l. S. (Eds. Press. FESTIN(JF'!!. A tllf(/ry o] psycltologiml rcartunce. In R.e. N. in press.CJ. Journal oj E:tpcrimell. IX)(MAN. DIRwzo. The approt'al molive.165-172. M. Affect. J. & Conxx..ER. The self . 1965. \~}m. 1'!. The major share nf the variance in social behavior is undoubtedly clue to historically dependent dispositions. Vol." Glencoe. Ilr.IIM. The authoritarian person51. Identity and identity dirfu~i"Jl. Social psychology.). ScirJltific BACK.\. I. K. 1965.tal Research in Personality.. III C. 19S1. 1%5. 10. Attitude and pupil size. 1941.: 1\1. perupti<m (mel interperBA~K. Izard (Eds. P.58. & MAliLOWE. D.WWi!:U. In I. 1950. J. Stanford: Stanford University journal of Almormal and Social Psycholvl/Y. & 5:\NI>ORI). J. M. Petersen. T. W. & FtEW. Diftcrcnce. H. It has been maintained that social psychological research is primarily the systematic study of contemporary history'. New York: Wnchart. 1%(. B. D.: Free Press. & MJI.:. BARRON. 2lZ. L. E. Rinehart & Winston. (:.: Row. Influence through sorial communication. 521··.Z social interaction. E. Der Geqentypm. Escape fTvm freet/vm. ality. 1964. CWHSTIf. 1966.Ma~~. 39. L. Stndies i1l evaluiJtive dl!penrlenr. Wh\' do groups make riskier decisions than illdi\"irl~als? In L. R. 1 W. 19. Journal of Abnormal and Social l'. E. . New York: Holt.) Studies in the scope and method of "The authoritarian personality. G. A. IIESS.H. Press. & TAVJ. 361h~7(i.Iy(1I11I". J0/11'llal of Experimental an. K. W. Gordon & K.d Socioi Psychology.s in conditionahility as n Junction of race JANtS. buth past and present. Social F(Jfrrs.1. By the same token. 1%9 . . Gergen (Eds. M.. D. 1I11J.UER. G. P. cogni1ion ana. Glencoe.. Communication throll!!h non-verbal behavior: A source of information about an interpersonal relationship.. Effects of. The particular research strategies and sensitivities of the historian could enhance the understanding of social psychology. 1966. and institutional factors are all necessary inputs to understanding in an integrated way. Sex differences and of subject and prior availability of a social reinpersonality fac:tors related to pcrsuasibillty. H.'.cipzi):: Barth. 1970. New York: Springer. 1I111. In S. 1%5. Explonuions in cog. and economics). New York: Academic Press.SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AS HISTORY 319 terns. 1971. . 46-54. L. 1957.:EL-BRlTNSWIK. Particularly useful would be the historian's sensitivity to causal sequences across time.I. Most social psychological research focuses on minute segments of ongoing processes. Social expcctanr y and self-presentation in a status hierarchv. it seems myopic to maintain disciplinary detachment from (a) the traditional study of history and (b) other historkal1y houmi sciences (including sociology. Feelings of interpersonal undistinctiveness: An unpleasant affective state. f'RIl)J:M. 79-92 .~y. prrsonalit v. historians could benefit from the more rigorous methodologIes employed by the social psychologist as well as his particular sensitivity to psychological variables. New York: Wiley. 1958. 1'170. ERICKSON.t:R. 1954. D. R.. The proper scope of soclal p~ychology. theory and expkuunio« in the behavioral sciences. ADORNO. New York: Harpers. 16. 1%S.

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