Social Psychology

By Daniel Katz; Richard L. Schanck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE MEASUREMENT OF INSTITUTIONAL WAYS AND THE J-CURVE HYPOTHESIS

In dealing with the uniformities and similarities in the social behavior of men in our own society, institutional ways merit special attention. More and more we live our lives within the confines of institutions and organized groups. We are a nation of joiners. The business man has his Rotary Club, his chamber of commerce, his manufacturer's association, his golf club, his political party. The working man has his labor union, his sick and death-benefit society, his fraternal lodge, his bowling club. The common activities and ideas of these organized groups are just as much institutional ways as the uniform responses to those two great traditional institutions, the church and the state.

Political scientists in describing dominant trends of public opinion, sociologists in recording the activities of groups, and economists in observing the specialized economic functions of men have all given accounts of institutional ways. The first systematic quantitative studies of the common-group activities of people, however, are the work of F. H. Allport and his school (2). Allport and his students invaded the various institutionalized fields of modern life and recorded the similar attitudes and actions of individuals on scales of measurement. When the data, so recorded, were plotted in graphical form, the investigators were surprised by their findings. Every study showed the same type of distribution, but it was not the familiar normal curve, so frequently found in biological and psychological measurement. It was highly asymmetrical in form and resembled the reverse of the letter J. On the basis of these results F. H. Allport has advanced an hypothesis known as the J-curve hypothesis of conforming behavior. Before inquir-

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