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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
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
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

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 13


By R.J. Rummel

One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear.
----Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human


The previous discussion has been, with increasing obviousness, incomplete. As the dynamic field was given structure and content, as perception and conceptualization were locked into it, the all-important active nature of ourselves has been omitted. We are not simply a psychological field confronting reality through an unconscious dialectical act of perception. We not only intuit what bears upon us and through thought and intuition gives perspective to this reality, but we also physically act upon the world. We behave. Percept, thought, act; perception, thinking, action; percipient, thinker, actor--these are inextricably united for us, three sides of the same nature, three perspectives into the same soul.

How can this be? To approach an answer, much of the framework developed for understanding the dynamic field need not be considered anew. Suffice it to say that while we show infinite imagination in the manifest variety of our behavior, underlying these manifestations are behavioral invariances--latents--that enable us to see pattern and order in the behavior of others, and to respond meaningfully. Complex in their interdependencies, these latents resolve themselves into latent functions1 delineating the culturally defined bundles of behavioral dispositions, functions that are components2 spanning the space of behavior. For example, there are patterns of behavior known as election campaigns, diplomatic negotiations, conversation, courting, teaching, and automobile driving. Moreover, there are particular patterns--role behavior associated with being a professor, senator, diplomat, wife, and host. And all these behavioral patterns and roles intricately interact and are reflected in a smaller number of common latent functions or behavioral components.

Two kinds of components delineate the space of behavior for an actor. There are first, the common behavioral invariants, the common latents which, as components of the space, describe such behavior as swimming, talking, fishing, eating, sleeping, and so on. Then, there are the unique behavioral components comprising totally individualistic, idiosyncratic behavior, and which may be associated with common behavior (such as swimming with an original stroke) or may be different behavior in its own right.

Now, this space of behavior defines the potential behavior available to us. It is a potentiality bounded by the components delimiting the space and out of which we may actualize our physical power to act upon reality. Within this space, we transform certain potentialities into a mode of power, into dispositions to behave in some manifest manner. That is, among this infinite potentiality we are inclined to act only in certain ways. We manifest roles, patterned responses, and habits.

Figure 13.1

For example, Figure 13.1 shows an actor with a vector position in his behavioral space. Because our dispositions have direction toward particular manifestations and are in the mode of power (consider the power of habit), this vector is an actual, substantial aspect of our behavioral reality. The three behavioral components shown (remember that these are only illustrative at this point, although I shall argue in a later volume that familistic, compulsory, and contractual behaviors are actually important common components) delimit the actor's behavioral potentiality, and his vector-location defines his behavioral dispositions at that moment.

I want to make it clear at this point that an actor's position in his behavior space defines to him his behavioral dispositions at a given moment, not his manifest behavior. Depending on his perception of a situation (say, of his being in a train station or taking notes in a classroom) and his intentions, his position in behavioral space will change. Thus, the actor's dispositional vector is dynamic, always in motion, and moving correlatively with his perception of and intentions regarding particular situations.

From what has been said, there is clearly a relationship between behavioral and psychological spaces. Indeed, both are perspectives on the same dynamic field, and psychologists usually analyze a person's manifest behavior to uncover the components describing his personality. To put this more directly: the actor's behavioral space (a space of potential behavior in which he is located in terms of his behavioral dispositions) is a subspace of his psychological space (as a wall is a subspace within the space of a room). We separate the two only for analytical or expository purposes and not because they are separated in psychological reality.


 Clearly, there must be a relationship between the actor's position in the psychological space of his personality, and his behavioral dispositions. But determining this relationship requires further specification of the nature of the psychological and behavior spaces and the unifying field. The description of the psychological space so far has been an oversimplification. Actually, the space defining a person's common temperaments, motivations, and so on is one of three subspaces of psychological space. The other two comprise his unique personality components and his will. A person, denoted again by i, has a location in his psychological space, that is, i has a projection onto each of the three subspaces simultaneously.3
Figure 13.2

To give more meaning to the idea of projection and to our later discussion of field forces, we now must consider more explicitly i as a vector in i's psychological space as shown in Figure 13.2a. For purposes of clarification, imagine that the vector is emerging from the intersection of a floor and wall in a room, as in Figure 13.2b. Now the wall and floor are subspaces of the space which is the room. An individual i has a position in the room as a point i, and the figure shows a vector reaching from where the wall and floor meet to the point i. Consider the floor as the personality subspace and the wall as the combined subspaces of i's unique personality and will. Then the vector i will have a projection on each of these subspaces as shown in Figure 13.2c. If a flashlight were shone directly down upon i, then the shadow (projection ic) would result; if the light were directed toward i from the right, then the shadow iu could be seen. In terms of our psychological space, now, the location of the vector i determines the projection of i onto the three subspaces, and these projections reflect the common and unique personality of i and i's will.

What is the nature of this vector? Now, we know that i's behavior space comprises his behavioral potentiality and that the vector location of i in this space transforms that portion of this potentiality into an actual mode of power, into i's disposition to manifest determinate behavior. We also know that behavior space is a subspace of psychological space and that therefore the larger space must have the same ontological status. Indeed, psychological space likewise is a realm of potentiality, a psychological potentiality bounded by the components delineating our common and unique personality and our will.4

The vector location of i in his psychological space is then that psychological potentiality which he has transformed into the mode of power; it is the psychological disposition of i to manifest certain abilities, motivations, moods, temperaments, and so forth. Similarly, those projections of the vector i onto the common and unique subspaces define his dispositions among his common and unique potentialities and together constitute what we ordinarily call i's personality.

That is, our personality is a bundle of dispositions and powers to manifest a specific psychological reality. Which dispositions and powers become manifest depends on the perspective of the observer, whether it be the actor perceiving himself or some other person. The potentialities, dispositions, and powers that constitute us are subject to the same perspective transformation as external reality. In this sense, we are no different from nature. Our perspective determines how we see others and ourselves.

One final point. The vector comprising our personality not only defines our dispositions and powers, but also partly our perspective. The personality vector is the psychological perspective, which, along with the locational (station), cultural, and physiological perspectives together, comprises our vector of perspective transformation. In other words, our personality, which includes our will, is part of the perspective we bring to bear on the reality confronting us.


A behavior is always to be taken transactionally: i.e., never as if the organism alone, any more than of the environment alone, but always as of the organic-environmental situation, with organisms and environmental objects taken as equally its aspects.
----John Dewey and Arthur F. Bentley, Knowing and the Known, 290

A behavior is always to be taken transaction ally: i.e., never as if the organism alone, any more than of the environment alone, but always as of the organic-environmental situation, with organisms and environmental objects taken as equally its aspects. John Dewey and Arthur F. Bentley, Knowing and the Known, 290

I would like to treat concepts and percepts as above, but this would overly complicate the exposition and is not necessary to our conclusions. To take either concept or percept alone, however, would be wrong. We do not act entirely on the basis of our conceptions or perceptions, but rather within the field of both. Some people are mainly cognitive, others mainly sensual, but no acculturated individual is simply one or the other. Therefore, to reflect the mixture, I will use the concept of a situation. A situation combines correlative clusters of concepts and percepts within a person's psychological space. For example, I have the percepts of a cat now in mind (my cat Delta) and the concept of a cat given me by experience with other cats, plus my cultural learning about the class of cats. The situation Delta is then a fusion of these percepts and concepts.5 As such it will reflect feline dispositions and powers and my appreciation of what might occur under a variety of circumstances (say, if Delta sees a mouse).

Figure 13.3

To return to the major theme, a situation (as a result of psychological forces operating on underlying perceptiles) will have a position in the psychological space with projections on the common and unique subspaces and the will. Although in actuality, the space is strewn with old (memory) and new situations, I will focus on just one, to be called affectionately alpha(). In what follows there is no necessity to treat the unique personality components and the will as being separate, and they will be considered as the one unique (U) space. This common personality space then can be symbolized imaginatively by C. A person i then can be divided schizophrenically into his iu and ic vectors, each independent but together giving us John, Mary, or Jack. Similarly, i's situational vector alpha will have u and c projections. Figure 13.3a shows the joint existence of i and alpha in i's psychological space and his projection on the unique and common subspaces. In spite of the compounding of abstractions, the fundamental contact between these vectors and the real person Jack, John, or Jean should not be forgotten. They comprise personality and situation, and bring them together explicitly within the same space, and as we shall see, the same field.

In addition, the i and alpha vectors give us a more specific handle on that conflict between an inner-directed vector of power and the outer-directed vector of perspective transformation, for alpha in i's space is the transformed external vector of power. Consider that the vectors of power carrying dispositions and determinables are transformed through our biological sensory apparatus and our cultural matrix to be unconsciously perceived as perceptiles. These in turn are psychologically transformed into perceptiles and concepts, or what I call a situation vector. This vector is thus the vector of power after undergoing perspective transformation. It is the outcome of the perceptual struggle between us and external reality. It is what we perceive.


 Turning to the behavior space of behavioral potentials, we have a simpler situation. First, as previously described, i is a vector in this space also, but here it has direction and magnitude in terms of i's behavioral dispositions. Second, there is a vector, to be called beta (), which is correlative with situation alpha, and defines i's expectations about this situation. Figure 13.3b shows i and beta in i's behavior space.

What is the meaning of this expectation vector? Recall that behavior space is delineated by the common components comprising everyone's potential behaviors. The behavior disposition vector then defines the tendencies i has to actualize these potentials. Because the expectation vector is also located in this space, its elements must relate to these potentialities also. Indeed, the elements of the expectation vector define the degree to which these common potentials are likely outcomes of i's behavior toward j. If one is disposed to be cooperative with another, and expects the other to reciprocate, then the disposition and expectation vectors in behavior space should be aligned; if one is disposed to be friendly and considerate but expects that such behavior will be coolly received, then the disposition and expectation vectors will be in different directions, with the expectation vector being in the direction of the hostile or antagonistic behavioral potentials of the space.

These expectations of the outcomes of one's possible behavior, of course, influence the way we actually behave. There is a relationship between expectations and dispositions, between the two vectors shown in behavioral space, and it will be my task in the subsequent chapters to show this relationship in detail.

We now are located in this space of psychological potentialities on the basis of our personality and will, our actualized dispositions and powers, along with the situation we perceive. Moreover, in the space of our behavioral potentialities we are located by our behavioral dispositions, and in relation to our associated expectations.

The dynamic psychological field is framed by our psychological space and thus is most generally made up of four related elements: personality (which includes our intentions and goals) and situation, behavioral dispositions and expectations. The dynamic field is thus tetradic in structure. A complete view of this field, a treatment of it as a whole, requires unifying these four elements. Henceforth, in referring to the tetradic structure, or the tetradic field, I will mean our psychic organization which holds in some kind of relationship our personality, situation, behavioral dispositions, and expectations.

Now, let me show that these abstractions are simply everyday social psychology made more explicit. I am saying that we have a reservoir of behavioral potentialities (alternatives) available to us through our physiology, culture, and experience, and that we actualizes these potentials as particular dispositions (inclinations, habits, and such) to behave in particular ways according to our temperament, motivations, abilities, and moods and states. Moreover, we apprehends things (mental or external objects) as clusters of dispositions and powers (as invariant properties, arrangements, patterns, and causes) comprising a perceived situation, a perception that is the result of a dialectical conflict between our perspective and the force of reality. Finally, we develops expectations about these situations: if the situation is a cat,6 we expects a purr; if a bee, we expects to be stung; if our mate wife, we expect warm sympathy regarding our problems; and these expectation--perceived behavioral outcomes--are related to our behavioral dispositions.

Why not simply say all this without compounding these abstractions, such as spaces, vectors, alphas, and betas? Because we will head into treacherous waters when, in a subsequent volume, we explore the coastline of violence, where hidden coral reefs and sand shoals await the ill-prepared. To maneuver through them, we will need an explicit chart and a navigational logic to guide us. We might make it though by happenstance, but if others are to follow, there must be some explicit chart and logic against which to test our experience in passage, to correct accordingly, and to pass on to still others. 


* Scanned from Chapter 13 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 10.

2. See section 10.3 of Chapter 10.

3. I may have tried your patience with abstractions or with what may appear as pseudomathematics, but if so I urge you to continue reading to grasp the logic here, even if in a cursory fashion. I am trying to multiply concepts and abstractions only as necessary for an intuitive understanding of the field, although, as Francis Bacon (Advancement of Learning, II) pointed out, it is "the nature of the mind of man, to the extreme prejudice of knowledge, to delight in the spacious liberty of generalities, as in a champaign region [open country, fields], and not in the enclosures of particularity."

4. For an intuitive handle on this idea of a bounded psychological potentiality, consider again the example of a sheet of white paper (section 8.1). The surface is a space of potentiality for an infinite variety of determinable shapes and lines, but this potentiality is bounded by the two dimensions of paper.

5. In this sense, situation means the same as construct does for Henry Margenau (The Nature of Physical Reality, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950, especially chap. 1), and image does in many international relations studies. See for example, Robert Jervis, The Logic of Images in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970). As will be seen, I also am using situation in a sense similar to Ushenko's "event" in Power and Events: An Essay on Dynamics in Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), except that I take situation to be a plurality of events.

6. It may seem odd to conceptualize a cat as a situation, but consider that cats perceptually are percepts interrelated with each other and the percipient. They thus constitute a situation, as the term is often used.

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