Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Vulgarity of the Mass Man as a Predictor of Defection

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Vulgarity of the Mass Man as a Predictor of Defection

Article excerpt

Many conflicts and dilemmas in modern society reflect a difference between the self-interests of individuals and the broader interest of the collective. Environmental degradation, pollution, overpopulation, and the recent increases in atmospheric CO2 are all symptomatic of the excessive pursuit of self-interests at the expense of the collective interest by a substantial number of people (see e.g., Hardin, 1968). In social psychology, such problems are generally known as social dilemmas (Dawes, 1980; for a recent review, see Van Lange, Joireman, Parks, & Van Dijk, 2013). According to Dawes (1980), social dilemmas are characterized by two properties: (a) the payoff to each individual is higher for acting in his or her own interest (called defection) than for acting in the interest of the collective (called cooperation), irrespective of the actions of other members; and (b) all individuals receive a lower payoff if all defect than if all cooperate. In such dilemmas, acting in one's self-interest appears alluring to each person, even though all people can be better off by acting in the collective interest.

Previous researchers have shown that cooperation in social dilemmas can be increased by rewarding cooperation or by punishing defection, so that the payoff structure is changed into a nondilemma situation (e.g., Balliet, Mulder, & Van Lange, 2011; Yamagishi, 1992). Some researchers, however, have acknowledged the apparent existence of hard-core or persistent defectors who defect even under conditions that encourage cooperation (Kerr & Kaufman-Gilliland, 1994). In reviewing previous research on social dilemmas, Mlicki (1992) noted that "most of the results are between 11% and 50% of cooperation, which means that no matter the conditions, some cooperators, as well as some defectors, will always be found" (as cited by Kerr & Kaufman-Gilliland, 1994, p. 526).

Dawes (1980) noted that cooperative behavior in real-world social dilemmas should be attributed to utilities, for example, those connected with altruism, norms, and conscience, which are distinct from material payoffs in the dilemmas. A straightforward approach to social dilemmas is to change human utilities from those that lead people to defect to those that lead them to cooperate. However, previous researchers have not explored sufficiently the utilities that lead people to cooperate or defect. Furthermore, few researchers have contributed to gaining a broad understanding with regard to utilities associated with defection, including those associated with hard-core defectors (see e.g., Van Lange et al., 2013).

Ortega's Concept of the Mass Man

Our aim in this study was to shed new light on the personalities (or utilities) of hard-core defectors from a wider standpoint than previously, involving a philosophical perspective. To achieve this, we focused on the concept of the mass man, which the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset developed in his book The Revolt of the Masses (1932). Ortega proposed that a type of human, known as the mass man, had emerged during the modern era. Despite having access to a variety of technological and political possibilities, the mass man leads a pampered life that is characterized by immorality. Although many philosophers and sociologists have offered critiques of the masses (e.g., Arendt, 1951; Fromm, 1941; Le Bon, 1947; Mannheim, 1940), Ortega's concept differs from previous notions in that it represents a psychological type rather than a status or a class (for reviews of Ortega's concept of the mass, see Raley, 1971; Tuttle, 1996). Indeed, Ortega repeatedly denounced the vulgar disposition of the mass man and also argued that the vulgar masses destroy the ancient virtues bequeathed by their predecessors, in forms such as norms, traditions, and morals. Furthermore, he contrasted the mass man with the select man, who makes higher demands on the self and constantly lives in servitude to an ideal above the self. …

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