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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

"A Catastrophe Theory Model Of The Conflict Helix, With Tests"

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 11

Perception, Space,
And Field*

By R.J. Rummel

It follows that the space of percepts, like the percepts, must be private; there are as many perceptual spaces as there are percipients. My percept of a table is outside my percept of my head, in my perceptual space; but it does not follow that it is outside my head as a physical object in physical space. Physical space is neutral and public: in this space, all my percepts are in my head, even the most distant star as I see it. Physical and perceptual space have relations, but they are not identical and failure to grasp the difference between them is a potent source of confusion.
----Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Philosophy, 138


 Perception is an active mental act. It is a dynamic, a dialectical conflict between the self's perspective transformation and external vectors of power bearing upon us. That which we perceive is a balance between these antagonists.

What is the self? It is partly the intentions and superordinate goal that underlie a person's behavior.1 It is partly the psychological Gestalt from which the intention itself emerges. It is partly the psychological structure motivating us, forming our interests, and determining our temperament and moods. It is partly the psychological processes comprising our thinking-feeling-driving. It is in short the intersection of a variety of latents which we call personality and will.

Now clearly each person is an individual, a configuration of unique manifestations in his own right; but underlying this is a complex of potentialities, dispositions such as habits or temperament, powers such as abilities and the will, determinables such as language and beliefs. We have potentiality and actuality which will be manifest within our own perspective as we "see" ourself, and within the perspectives of others. All these perspectives will diverge. We see ourselves in a different light than do others; and others will see us from their own particular view. Nonetheless, this individual, psychological configuration we call Jack or Mary or Jean has common latents underlying them, as potentiality to actuality, as disposition or determinable to manifestation, as power to effect. For example, the various manifest behaviors we know as seduction, no matter how individualistically done, have a common latent sex urge. The manifest behaviors aimed at improving one's socioeconomic status have a common latent self-determination desire at their root. And ideology, political participation, and legislative voting are partly a manifestation of a common radical-conservative latency.

In general, each person's personality manifests his unique dependency on the common latents. People are more or less driven by sex, more or less dominant, more or less conservative or radical. Each will have his vector of perspective, so to say, embracing these common latents and this vector, this personality profile, to a large extent will make understandable to others the particular behavioral manifestations. Just concerning political behavior alone, consider how coherent and predictable people's actions become when we know whether they are conservatives or a radicals.

These common latents which enable us to understand intuitively the confusing complex of human behavior operate as latent functions. Indeed, any person's specific behavior is partly a resultant of the common latent functions that comprise his personality and his unique experience, heredity, and will. That is, if Xij is any behavioral manifestation j of person i (such as suicide), then

Xij = j1f1( ) + j2f2( ) + . . . + jpfp( ) + Uij,

where U defines the unique influences and i's will.

Much scientific effort has gone into delineating these common latent functions2 or what may be called traits, factors, or dimensions. Without going much into their content (which will be a topic of the chapters on motivation), a brief discussion of these personality latencies will be helpful. The many common latent functions which help to determine behavior fall into four types. First, there are those latents called abilities which are clusters of powers associated with how well a person can manifest his dispositions through his senses, psychomotor performance, and mental capacities. The latter, which is our special concern in discussing personality, comprises such abilities as memory, logical thinking, number facility, verbal comprehension, spatial orientation, and associational fluency.3 In essence, these various abilities reduce to fluid and crystallized intelligence (fluid being the raw or native intelligence of a person, crystallized being that developed through acculturation, education, and experience), and spatial, figurative, and verbal abilities.4

In addition to the common abilities, there are latencies defining our temperaments. One such is an affectothymia versus sizothymia temperament, which involves such affectothyme dispositions as being good-natured, cooperative, soft-hearted, or trustful; or such sizothyme dispositions as being critical, obstructive, aloof, suspicious, or rigid.5 Another latent temperament is dominance versus submissiveness,6 which comprises self-assertive, boastful, aggressive, egotistical dispositions on one hand, or submissive, modest, intropunitive, meek dispositions on the other. One final latent temperament that might be mentioned is tender-mindedness versus tough-mindedness, which shows itself as demanding, immature, sentimental, and anxious dispositions for the tender-minded, or independent, realistic, self-sufficient, and unfanciful dispositions for tough-minded people.7 Many more temperaments could be discussed and in more detail, but those mentioned suggest for now the nature of these latents and their link to the common, everyday distinctions we perceive among people.

Beside abilities and temperaments, there are also common latent motivations, the dynamic aspect of personality. Achievement desire, drive to power, sex urge, and self-preservation are motivations commonly mentioned.8 Just one assumed motivation, the "lust for power," has played a central role in theories of war and conflict, and in one wing of the realist school of international relations, a "motivation" to power is the motif of politics.9 On analysis, however, these commonly accepted "motivations" reduce to three kinds.10 One type comprises the needs (ergs), which may be partly hereditary (instinctual), partly environmental. A few such needs, each in itself a common latent function, are curiosity, sex, security, and hunger.11 These and the other needs are the fundamental goals toward which the person orients his abilities and provide the context in which his temperaments are manifest. Later, when I consider the nature of motivations in Chapter 21, I will have reason to refer to these needs again and in more detail, and relate them to a presumed aggressive basis for violence.

A second kind of motivation comprises the sentiments.12 These are a pattern of attitudes usually clustering around some social institution or nonergic goal. One sentiment, for example, is religion, involving attitudes toward God, religious standards and values, birth control, and one's parents. Another is a self-sentiment, involving one's desire to exercise self-control, maintain self-respect, participate in community activities, and so on. The core of the self-sentiment is a goal of enhancing and maintaining self-esteem. This is a future-oriented superordinate goal around which the self organizes and balances its motivations, interests, and attitudes. This sentiment is discussed in section 21.3 of Chapter 21. A third sentiment comprises the superego, the moral dictates unconsciously and consciously guiding and directing practical behavior and underlying attitudes. The self-sentiment and superego form the integrated self, an equilibrium among competing motivations and goals. Other sentiments exist, but those specified should suffice as a simple sketch of these common latent functions.

Finally, besides needs (ergs) and sentiments, a third kind of motivation is associated with the multiple roles an individual fulfills, such as father, wife, teacher, citizen, provider, lover, and leader. These roles are latent dispositions mainly learned from the culture and giving specific content and direction to much of our day-to-day behavior. For example, a distraught daughter may trip our parental role, leading us to hug and comfort the child in one culture, or to demand that the child control herself in another.

So far, the ability, temperament, motivational latencies have been outlined. The mood and state latencies constitute a final aspect of personality.13 These are the transient moods that affect our daily behavior or the mental or physical state we may be in, such as temporary depression over a bad tennis game, elation over a raise in pay, or reduced performance associated with a cold.

In its most general aspects, then, personality manifestations are a function of abilities, temperaments, motivations (needs, sentiments, and roles), and moods and states. These are common latent functions, or components, underlying in part the diversity of human behavior. Together and along with the individual psychological aspects (unique experiences, heredity, and will14), they define our psychological space. The components of this space are our latent abilities, motivations, and so on, and these components span and delineate the complexity of our common potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers.

Figure 11.1

Now, within the psychological space delimited by these components, each person has an actual position. For example, considering only the dominance versus submissive temperament and the need for security, the two-component psychological space they define for a particular moment is shown in Figure 11.1. Let the origin of the space indicate the overall average among people for these latents or dispositions at this moment and let the extreme left of the security component define little need, and extreme right define a great need. Four hypothetical persons are shown in this psychological space on the basis of their joint dominance and need for security. John, for example, is a dominating person, and at this moment his need for security is near average. Mary, however, is very submissive and without any felt need for security.

The position of a person in the psychological space defined by all the personality components--latent functions--would fix a person's common personality profile, his vector of perspective. This vector defines his position in psychological space on his abilities, temperaments, motivations, and moods and states. In other words, a person's vector of perspective comprises the particular potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers he possesses among those all people commonly have.

The preceding discussion about latents and psychological space provides the necessary foundation for returning to a central theme--the nature of perception.


 In the previous chapters, perception was seen to involve a dialectical conflict between an inner-directed vector of power and an outer-directed vector of perspective transformations. These transformations are psysiological (involving our sensory receptors, and so on), cultural (for example, involving investing perceptibles with meanings), and psychological. It is now time to deal in detail with the latter transformation, which is within a dynamic psychological field.

This dynamic field is structured by three independent spaces. The first is the common personality space described in the last section. The second space comprises the unique, individual, specific experiences and heredity, and the third comprises our will, that which independently can bring the self to action. Now, the cultural matrix overlaps with these spaces but is not one with them. Some of the content of the components (such as the latent roles and sentiments) is given by culture, but the intrinsic nature of the components is culture invariant.15 The cultural matrix "loads" a perceptible and gives the resulting bundle a first unconscious location in the dynamic field. Let me call this bundle a perceptile to distinguish it from a percept of which we are aware.

Again, what is the structure of a person's dynamic psychological field? This is the percipient's vector of personality, which comprises the common and unique personality components and his will: the vector position a person has in these three spaces defines his dynamic field. Then, how is a perceptile located in this space? Each person's cultural matrix (schema, meanings-values) interprets perceptibles and determines his relationship to the variety of personality components. For example, is the perceptible a sign of danger, a sexual cue, an insult, a smell of food?

As the perceptible transformed into a perceptile relates to the percipient's personality and will, it also has a vector position, a position of power in the psychological space. For example, a perceptile that is an explosion (that a perceptible is an "explosion" is the meaning added to the perceptile by the cultural matrix) may be positioned in psychological space high on the need for security component and, for a fireman, high on the roles component. As another example, a student's sneer (so interpreted by the cultural matrix) may be located high on a teacher's self-sentiment component (presuming he has high self-respect). As a final example, consider an American foreign policy official who receives a configuration of perceptibles interpreted by his cultural matrix (a combination of his American and international relations cultural matrices) as an Iranian attempt to overthrow the Saudi Arabian regime. The resulting perceptiles may be high on a security motivational component, highly salient to the role component (foreign policy leader), and perhaps very much toward the hardheaded side of the hardheaded versus soft-hearted temperamental component (that is, the officials may unconsciously view these perceptiles as calling for a cool, "realistic," and tough response).

To this point, I have established that both perceptiles and percipients have joint vector positions in the percipients' psychological field. Now the fun can begin. In the dynamic field, two sets of forces are at work. One set is loosened by the percipient's field upon the perceptile itself in an attempt to force it to an ideal location in the field relative to the percipient. Thus, if the perceptile is hard for him to accept unconsciously (given, say, his self-assessment or self-esteem), it may be forced to a more congenial position and then consciously perceived Thus, we tend to perceive things as more favorable to us, more relevant to our role or status, more related to our needs. A starving person sees everything as related to food; a sex-deprived youth sees all in sexual terms; a very insecure person sees the world as threatening; and an egotist sees the world as confirming his self-valuation.16

The other set of forces bears directly on the percipient. As an inner-directed, compelling vector of power, the perceptile itself generates forces in the field on the position of the percipient, pushing him to a perceptual position more congenial with the nature of the perceptile. In other words, although physiologically and culturally transformed, perceptiles still bear upon the percipient and can influence his personality. Usually the personality is a bulwark against such power, however. The psychological balance of abilities, temperament, motivations, and moods and states which comprises a percipient's personality is an equilibrium difficult to alter rapidly except under the most severe pressure. Nonetheless, perceptiles sometimes do attain enough power to distort or even disintegrate a personality, as might perceptiles associated with being an intended murder victim, with flunking out of college, or with having terminal cancer. There is therefore a perceptual dialectic between perceptiles and percipient in the dynamic field, between observed and observer, between us and reality. Our dynamic field directs and focuses our attentions on the world as mediated and transformed by our culture; the field is therefore the locus of the conflict between our outer-directed vector of perspective transformation and the inner-directed vector of power.

All perception is psychocultural and dialectical. That which has meaning and significance within our culture and which is relevant to our particular personality--to our motivations especially--is that which is most likely to be perceived. If certain needs within the field are strong enough, percepts may even be created within the psychological space itself without there having been associated perceptiles. The field can generate from within illusions and hallucinations as a means by which the self unconsciously maintains the integrity of its personality profile against the external powers or as a way to satisfy a superordinate need. A women dying of thirst in a desert sees an oasis where none exists; a man held captive and threatened with death hears help coming; a religious fanatic holds a conversation with Christ.

In summary, then, an inner-directed vector of power is transformed through the biosphere of the percipient (his physiological sensory equipment), through the cultural matrix which selects perceptibles and bundles them up with meaning and significance, and through the dynamic field. It is within the dynamic field that the major dialectical conflict between our vector of perspective transformation and the vector of power takes place. The field is the seat of psychological forces which are activated by the perceptile bearing upon the percipient. These forces try to transform the perceptile into a percept congenial with his perspective (position). The perceptile, as an inner-directed vector of power, also acts on the percipient's perspective. That is, the perceptile carries forces trying to drive the percipient to a position in the field more consistent with reality. These mutual opposing forces result in a dialectical balance between the strength of the vector of power carrying the perceptile and the integration of the percipient's personality comprising his perspective. The point of this balance in the dynamic psychological field is the percept, our conscious perception, our awareness of reality.


Admission of concepts proves to be such an embarrassment to empiricism that we can appreciate Hume's attempt at confining ideas to images. For if we assume that concepts are not images, what would a test of concepts by the empiricist principle be?
----Andrew Ushenko, Power and Events, 92

So far the major concern has been with percepts in the psychological field. Percepts may become or be correlated with concepts, the cognitive structure we impose on our percepts. "House," "tire," "moon" are concepts, correlated with but not identical to certain percepts. A concept is to an associated percept as a statue is to a living person: an imperfect idealization of that which is sensed. It is, however, the final step in our perspective transformation of reality.

Nonetheless, concepts need not be connected to percepts, for they may be wholly constructions of the mind.17 Such concepts compose the body of mathematics, permeate theology, and as constructs, play a stepping stone role in many empirical theories. Thus, while percepts are captives within the psychological field, victims of forces of the personality, the cultural matrix, and the perceptibles, concepts may reflect the creative impulses of the mind, its imagination, intuition, and reason; its free will.

This might be an appropriate point to discuss the whole free will question, but much groundwork has yet to be laid. Here the concern is with concepts and with empirical ones in particular, those with some connection with percepts. Although having denotative content associated with percepts (as do "man," "rock," "grass"), concepts also have connotations given by the location of a percept in the dynamic field. "Jews" may connote weakness or strength; "communism" may connote positive concern for mankind or evil repression; "professor" may connote quiet reflection or radical activism.

In general, the various connotations concepts acquire in the dynamic field largely reduce to three latent functions.18 These are components of the psychological space related to (not independent of) the ability, motivational, and other such components described in the previous sections.19 And they are culturally invariant: they underlie the different connotations given to concepts, regardless of the particular language symbol used.20

Turning to these three components, or latent functions. The first and generally most pervasive way of loading concepts is by evaluation, by affect. Concepts are given psychologically the connotation of good or bad, beautiful or ugly, true or false, positive-negative, and so on. Independent of evaluative connotations, concepts also connote potency, or power, strength, weight, and size. Third, concepts connote activity, such as business, excitement, and quickness.

These three components delimit the invariant underlying connotations given empirical concepts in a percipient's psychological field. We thus see that at each step underlying the mental act that we think of as seeing a tree, hearing a note, or smelling a rose is a selecting, distorting, transferring, value adding route from external determinable to concept.21 Small wonder that interpersonal communication is fraught with difficulties, that witnesses disagree, and that interpersonal conflict is the norm and not the exception.

Perhaps the best summary of what has been said to this point about perception, psychological space, and the dynamic field can be in terms of John Dewey's and Arthur F. Bentley's perspective:22

In our general procedure of inquiring no radical separation is made between that which is observed and the observer in the way which is common in the epistemologies and in standard psychologies and psychological constructions. Instead, observer and observed are held in close organization. Nor is there any radical separation between that which is named and the naming. Comparably knowings and knowns, as inclusive of namings and observings, and of much else as well, are themselves taken in a common system of inquiry, and not as if they were the precarious products of a struggle between several realms of 'being,' It is this common system of the knowing and the known which we call 'natural,' without either preference or prejudice with respect to 'nature,' such as now often attends the use of that word. Our position is simply that since man as an organism has evolved among other organisms in an evolution called 'natural,' we are willing under hypothesis to treat all of his behavings, including his most advanced knowings, as activities not of himself alone, nor even as primarily his, but as processes of the full situation of organism-environment; and to take this full situation as one which is before us within the knowings, as well as being the situation in which the knowings themselves arise


* Scanned from Chapter 11 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. See Chapter 28 where the nature of the self is considered in detail.

2. For example, see C. L. Burt, The Factors of Mind (New York: Macmillan, 1941); Raymond B. Cattell (ed.), Handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966), The Scientific Analysis of Personality (Baltimore: Penguin, 1965), Personality and Motivation: Structure and Measurement (New York: World Book Co., 1957); Ralph Mason Dreger (ed.), Multivariate Personality Research (Baton Rouge, LA.: Claitor's Pub., 1972), and Fundamentals of Personality (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1962); H. J. Eysenck, The Structure of Human Personality (2d ed.; London: Methuen, 1960); J. P. Guilford, The Nature of Human Intelligence (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), and Personality (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959); C. Spearman, The Abilities of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1927).

3. Kurt Pawlik, "Concepts and Calculations in Human Cognitive Abilities," in Cattell (ed.)Handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology, op. cit., pp. 535-562.

4. See Pawlik, op. cit., Table 18.2, p. 560; Raymond B. Cattell, Abilities: Their Structure, Growth, and Action (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 19 7 1).

5. Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., pp. 62-67. The sizothyme temperament involves schizophrenia.

6. Cattell, ibid., p. 90.

7. Cattell, ibid., p. 96.

8. See Chapter 22, which assesses the reality of these and other presumed motivations.

9. See section 22.1 of Chapter 22.

10. More specifically, these "motivations" are attitudinal dispositions forming a "dynamic lattice" eventually reducing to (subsidiating to) the basic motivations. See section 20.3 of Chapter 20.

11. Cattell, Personality and Motivation, op. Cit.

12. Cattell, ibid.

13. Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., pp. 26-28, 152-157.

14. Will is brought in here quite consciously, for, as is discussed later (Chapter 29), our behavior and goals are not entirely determined by culture, environment, and heredity, but our mentality--our self--does have a free say in what we do for what purpose. Therefore, we must leave room for free will in determining behavior, independent of the common latent functions.

15. Most of these personality latents have been found through a variety of tests to be culturally invariant. See Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit.

16. The overplayed "little boy with a hammer" metaphor about the tendency to generalize the specific use of a technique can be thus interpreted. A well-learned technique places an individual high on particular ability components in his dynamic psychological space. We tend therefore to force perceptiles into alignment with our positions on these abilities as they are consistent with our motivations. Thus, if we can apply statistics skillfully, many perceptiles become perceived as consistent with or relevant to statistical interpretations.

17. In a more formal language, concepts do not necessarily have rules of correspondence or epistemic correlations.

18. Charles E. Osgood, George J. Succi, and Percy H. Tannenbaum, The Measurement of Meaning (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1957); Murray S. Miron and Charles E. Osgood, "Language Behavior: The Multivariate Structure of Qualification," in Cattell, Handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology, op. cit., pp. 769-790.

19. This is consistent with the conclusion of Miron and Osgood, ibid., in their review and analysis of concept studies.

20. The evidence for this surprising assertion is given in Miron and Osgood, ibid.

21. 1 have dealt only with the connotation of a concept. The denotation itself is interpreted in the psychological field and involves a balance between the expectations of the percipient and the "existence" carried to the field by that denoted. See Andrew Paul Ushenko, Field Theory of Meaning (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958).

22. From Knowing and the Known (Boston: Beacon Press, 1949): 103-104.

since 11/26/02

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