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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
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
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 18

Social Behavior*

By R.J. Rummel

For now sits Expectation in the air.
----Shakespeare, Henry V, I. Chorus


 An occasion stimulates our behavior to others and weights our perceived psychological distances from them. The joint effect of occasion and distances is to dispose us to act in a particular way. But, of course, we may not really behave this way, as the outcome may be undesirable for one reason or another. Given an occasion for behavior, our expectations of their consequences discipline our behavioral dispositions.

We live within a structure of social expectations, of belief, awareness, and apprehension of how others will react to our behavior, respond to our acts, play their roles in this human theater. As we behave toward others, we not only perceive them as distances vis a vis ourselves but we also apprehend how our behavior will affect them and what we can expect in return. These expectations clearly modify our dispositions, but how this relation manifests itself, how it finally issues in social behavior requires a more detailed analysis of social behavior.


 In Section 13.1 of Chapter 13 I showed that latent functions underlie our manifest behavior and define our behavioral potentials. Moreover, I further pointed out that these latents were components delineating our behavior space, within which we are located on the basis of our behavioral dispositions (Figure 13.1). The nature of social behavior is not different from this basic sketch, but I should be more detailed here because I am now concerned with behavior toward a specific other.

Using again my notation, remember that in i's dynamic field there co-exist i, j, and occasion alpha, and that the force to behavior is a weighting of the psychological distance from j to i by the occasion. Certainly, the behavior space previously described has not been sufficiently discriminated to detail social behavior, since i's behavioral dispositions and expectations have no object--there is no differentiation between i's behavioral dispositions toward j or k, or any other person. But surely expected behavioral outcomes must depend on whom we are acting toward.

Further specification, then, means locating others within our behavior space. First, consider that regardless of whom we are acting toward, our behavioral potentialities remain the same as those comprising our general behavior space. This may seem strange at first, but consider what acting "toward" another means. In one sense, it implies physical direction, such as looking toward, swimming toward, or throwing a ball toward another. But, we can also behave "toward" another by running away from him. Clearly, I mean by the social behavior of i "toward" j something more than the physical meaning, and that j is, in some sense, the target, purpose, goal, object, end, or intent of i's action. This does not necessarily mean direct action in a physical sense, but that i has j in mind, as does the girl who flirts with another to make her lover jealous, the teacher who tries to impress a colleague with his responses to a student's questions, or the foreign policy that warns one enemy nation by stern action toward another. Thus, our full range of potential behavior, whether climbing a mountain, swimming, or self mutilation, can consist of vehicles carrying meaning for another.

Figure 18.1

Second, the other person must have a location within the space of our behavioral potentialities, as implied by our disposition to act toward him in a specific way. This position is shown in Figure 18.1a. The notation, i-j, indicates that the vector defines i's behavioral dispositions toward j, that is, the actual position of the directed dyad i-j among all of i's behavioral potentialities.

Let me summarize my description of the nature of this dyad. Each of us "sees" others as distances in our dynamic field, and these psychological distances define our basic attitudes, sentiments, and roles toward them. How we are disposed to behave, however, depends on the behavioral occasion and those distances, plus our behavioral potentialities. This is illustrated by Figure 18.1a, which shows as a vector our behavioral disposition toward another on a particular occasion and as a result of our perceived distances from him.

What, then, transforms dispositions into actual behavior? This is the expectation we have about the outcome of our behavior toward another on a particular occasion, a point that is old ground by now. Figure 18.1b shows i's behavioral space as in Figure 18.1a, except that I have now included the expectation vector beta. This vector comprises the perceived outcome of each behavioral alternative i has available in behaving toward j.


 All that remains is to put together all this regarding our actual behavior toward another. How we do act given our behavioral potentials and dispositions, then, depends on how we weight them. As we have seen from Chapter 14, this weighting is the inner product of our vector of dispositions and of expectations. More specifically, if B(ij),k denotes our manifest behavior, then

Equation 18.1:

B(ij),k = k1W1,(ij)+ k2W2,(ij) + k3W3,(ij) + . . . ,

where k1 refers to the outcome expectation of i for behavioral potential W1,(ij); the different W's refer to the dispositions of ij (read i to j) regarding i's behavioral potentialities, and the different betas () to i's expectations.

Note that each beta has a subscript k while the various W's do not. This is because the behavioral dispositions of i toward j will be constant across occasions, while beta will vary depending on the behavioral occasion (e.g., if the occasion is a chess game with j, our expectations will be related to this situation). Therefore, B, our actual behavior toward j, varies according to our expectations. This is why B and beta have both the same subscript k

To avoid confusion later, it must be understood that B refers to latent rather than manifest behavior. Of course, in specifics all behavior is unique. But underlying unique behavior are commonalities, such as for role behavior, or aggressive, cooperative, friendly, or deferential behavior. These are our categories, types, or classes of behavior, what in Chapter 10 I have referred to as latent functions. B(ij),k must be understood in this sense, as a kind of behavior and not a particular manifestation. Otherwise, making sense out of social behavior is simply an unachievable task.


 With the above in mind, let me now integrate Part II of this book, the The Dynamic Psychological Field. Recall that an occasion weights our perceived distances from others, as given in Equation 17.1. The function f(,d) describing this weighting has been called a force or power to behavior. In reality, the occasions that weight the distances are such forces. How these forces transform themselves into actual behavior depends on our dispositions and expectations. For example, imagine that you are entering a social gathering and an acquaintance offers his hand to you. Now, freeze the scene for a moment. Here you are, facing someone with his hand outstretched. Simply consider the force this hand, this occasion, has on you: in almost a physical sense, a power virtually out of your control is pushing your hand toward his. "The force of nature could no further go" (Dryden). Only by a tremendous countereffort of will could you leave the other standing there with his hand outstretched. Such a counterforce may exist, as for example, if you had discovered recently that the other had made indecent overtures to your ten-year-old daughter. Such knowledge would create a psychological distance sufficient to counteract the force, and in the light of the meaning you see your action carrying (the expected outcome), you could leave him in that awkward, embarrassed position. All this can be put in into

Equation 18.2:

k1W1,(ij) + k2W2,(ij) +. . . = i1d1,(ij) + i2d2,(ij) + . . . + iuUi,(ij),

or replacing the left side by B in Equation 18.1,

Equation 18.3:

Bk,(ij) = i1d1,(ij) + i2d2,(ij) + . . . + iuUi,(ij).
This Equation is saying, somewhat more precisely, that exemplified and verbally described throughout Part II. To summarize: a particular behavior of one to another, called social behavior (B), is a consequence of our distances (d) from others, the behavioral occasion () and outcome expectations (), and our behavioral dispositions within the context of our behavioral potentialities (W).


 Before dealing more specifically with motivations in Part IV, some aspects of the social behavior described here should be made explicit or reiterated to avoid confusion.

First, the focus is the directed dyad, one's behavior toward another. Of course, one can behave toward society as a whole (say, by being a traitor or a "protester" bombing public buildings), groups within society (as demonstrations against a regime), or public policies (as against the Vietnam War). Such behavior is an actualization of potentials within the behavior space described in Section 13.1 of Chapter 13. Our dispositions toward society, groups, or policies are then related to our personality; and our actual behavior is a result of these behavioral dispositions, occasion, and our expectations. Thus, such nondyadic social behavior is not ignored here, but simply considered as a different species of the genus behavior and implicit in what has been said.

Second, behavior toward others is influenced often by third parties, as when, for example, a bully fearing another's much stronger friends is nice toward him. How is this captured by dyadic behavior? The answer is that the occasion for behavior is a bundle of dispositions and powers defining the situation. Part of this situation may be the third party. In this sense, to say that we may behave toward another as influenced by a third party is then to say in my terms that our behavior toward another is influenced by an occasion.

Third, I emphasized trigger events (Section 15.4 of Chapter 15) as a kind of occasion for behavior. Often, occasions are simply repetitive stimuli for routine behavior. But, an occasional occasion may be the excuse, the trigger, for a change in behavior. When such, the situation analyzed in terms of behavior overall (see Figure 15.1) applies to dyadic behavior.

Fourth, social behavior has now been placed in the context of our personality, motivations, psychological distances, cognitive balancing and person perception, sociocultural meanings and values (the cultural matrix), roles and status,1 and of expectations. In other words, at a very fundamental level, the description of social behavior given here is an integral one, unifying our biological psychological, and sociocultural natures.

Fifth, my perspective on social behavior is not deterministic. Remember that a part of the behavioral equation is will, our self-determination which modifies or counteracts our behavioral dispositions in the light of a particular occasion. We are not wholly a biological machine, processing and transforming through unconscious psychological forces input stimuli into output behavior. There is an intervening power, too often forgotten in the social sciences, which makes us a responsible creature, a moral animal. This is our will.2

Sixth, there is something more than common personality components, meanings and values, and will actualizing social behavior. These are our unique experiences and genetic inheritance. We are all much alike, and these commonalities enable us to understand each other's behavior; but we are also each different unto ourselves. No other has followed my life path and had my specific experiences. To deny that such influences my behavior would be to ignore the most basic personal experience of all. These personal elements are related to social behavior as unique components which, along with the will, are denoted by the U in Equations 18.1 and 18.2.

Finally, the perspective adopted here is the actor's. Perception, expectations, occasions, and social behavior are from the point of view of i, and not that of the social system, or an alien observer who can only match empirical input to empirical output through a human "black box." The perspective of the actor is fundamental in assessing the nature of the dynamic psychological field, and, as will be seen in subsequent volumes, will infuse my ethical position on conflict and war and gird my later pragmatic conclusions.

In sum,

Everybody has his own theatre, in which he is manager, actor, promoter, playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper, doorkeeper, and audience.
----J. C. and A. W. Hare, Guesses At Truth, Series ii


* Scanned from Chapter 18 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. The significance of status within the psychological field will be shown in Section 22.3 of Chapter 22. Status from a sociological perspective is considered in Section 24.3 of Chapter 24.

2. See Chapter 29 and 30 for a full discussion of the will and freedom.

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