Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 10.djvu/467
THE PROVINCE OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 45 I
social phenomena lies in the comparison of the states of con- sciousness of different races, classes, and social epochs, with a view to determining what mental differences exist, and to what extent they are due to biological as over against social causes. This involves, of course, a comparative study of mental traits.
The study of memory, sense-perceptions, and power of atten- tion among different races and classes will assist in determining the degree to which differences of this character are innate, on the one hand, or due to the habitual direction of the attention and consequent practice, on the other. The study of mental traits must always be made with reference to the condition of activities prevailing, and the study is consequently both sociological and psychological.
The degree to which the power of abstraction is developed in different groups is another fruitful line of interest. The pre- vailing opinion is that the lower races are weak in the power of abstraction, and certainly their languages are poor in abstract terms. But a people whose activities are simple cannot have a complex mental life. Abstraction is much used in a group only when deliberative as over against perceptual activities engage the attention, and where the manipulation of complex activities involves numerous steps between the stimulus and the response, and a distinction between the general and the particular. The life of the savage and of the lower classes is of an immediate kind, with little mental play between the stimulation and the act, and consequently little occasion to employ abstraction. All races do possess language, however, which involves the use of abstraction ; all have systems of number, time, and space; many of them have a rich repertory of proverbs; and all show logical power. The question which social psychology has to work out is to what degree apparent lack of power of abstraction is due to lack of activities and stimulations which force the attention to employ abstract processes and give it practice in handling series. Defi- ciency in logical power among groups in lower stages of culture is also obviously largely dependent on the fact that the general body of knowledge and tradition, on which logical discussion depends, is deficient. So far as this view holds, it means that what have