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Volume 2

Expanded Contents


1. Introduction and Summary
2. The Concept of Field
3. Reality and the Intentional Field
4. Freedom and Intentional Humanism
5. Perceiving Another
6. Intentions, Attitudes, and Interests
8. Behavior
9. Social Behavior and Interaction
10. Types of Social Interaction
11. The Equation of Social Behavior
12. The Transition to a Sociocultural Field
13. The Sociocultural Space
14. The Field of Social Forces
15. The Sociocultural Field
16. Distances
17. Status Distance
18. Status Distance and Behavior
19. The Fundamental Nature of Power
20. Social Power
21. The Family of Power
22. Social Fields and Antifields
23. Groups and Antifields
24. Class
25. Social Class And the Class-Literature
26. Conflict
27. Conflict in the Sociocultural Field
28. The Elements of Social Conflict
29. The Process of Conflict
30. Social Fields and Types of Societies
31. The State and Political System
32. Societies, Politics, and Conflict
33. Societies in Empirical Perspective
34. Testing for the Existence of Exchange, Authoritative, and Coercive Societies
35. Is Conflict Manifest as Theorized?

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
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 7

Perceiving And Behaving*

By R.J. Rummel

Do as most do, and men will speak well of thee.
---- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia

So far I have discussed the percipient's perspective on the behavior of another. What about the perspective of the actor? Surely he is not just a field of expression to some other but a dynamic psychological field in his own right.

Now, as an actor our psychological field carries the potentiality for a multiplicity of behaviors along a variety of independent dimensions. The only constraints on behavioral possibilities are our biophysical limits and subjective cultural boundaries. For example, no one can jump sixty feet unaided, but every normal healthy individual could physically ride a bicycle if his culture has made this possibility known and available to him. We can surely explore new avenues and innovate behavior (as do radical subcultures), but nonetheless behavioral potentials are still limited by culture. People of the seventeenth-century could not have flown an airplane, drove a car, listened to the radio, talked on the telephone, and so on.

Behavioral potentials set the limits within which our dispositions can vary. And vary they do, even for people in the same culture, society, and family.1 They vary in their tendencies to argue, be nervous, be organized, be conservative, overeat, and so on. Surely such tendencies do not stand alone in our psychological field. First, such different behavioral dispositions are related to our motivations, to our basic needs, attitudes, and interests, to our sentiments and roles, and to our superego and self-esteem. In general terms, the motivation underlying our behavioral dispositions form an integrated system focused around a superordinate goal, whether such is to be leader of the gang, a successful plumber, a millionaire, or a Buddhist.

Second, such behavioral dispositions are related our temperaments, abilities, moods, and states. Whether we are a dominating personality, hardheaded, introverted, and so on, obviously has much to do with our behavioral tendencies. Moreover, whether we are verbally fluent, mentally quick, artistic, and the like obviously determines the style and nature of our behavioral dispositions. So do moods and states, insofar as sickness, physical pain, time of day, and so on can affect one's dispositions. Clearly, behavioral dispositions are not static. They are in dynamic tension with the changing state of the psychological field. They are an aspect of the equilibrium which is the self.

Then, how is whatever we are disposed to do transformed into behavior? This transformation takes place through the tetradic structure of the psychological field, which besides behavioral dispositions also comprises perception, personality, and expectations. Perception, I have already discussed. We transform through our station, receptors, cultural matrix, and psychological field the reality confronting us. This transformation is a balance between the powers of this reality to manifest itself and our psychological field. The resulting perception I call a situation, and the meaningful unity of this situation depends on our perception of the intentions, reasons, or causes involved in another's behavior. Perception is the first aspect of behavior. It "calls for a subject who is more than just the theatre on whose stage various plays independent of him and regulated in advance by physical laws of automatic equilibration are performed; the subject performs in, sometimes even composes, these plays; as they unfold, he adjusts them by acting as an equilibrating agent compensating for external disturbances; he is constantly involved in self-regulating processes" (Piaget, 1970, p. 59).

Second is the personality of the actor. Behavior is clearly a partial function of our superordinate goal, our self-esteem, superego, interests (as previously defined), sentiments, roles, and needs; our temperament and abilities; our moods and states; and our will. No doubt I am describing a multidimensional psychological space and a complex of entwined relationships.

Each person is a unique personality, a profile of motivational, temperamental, and ability dispositions and powers.2 This profile is what we know as another's character, personality, nature, constitution, caliber, or style. This profile is not static nor set on its course; perception and experience can radically alter a person's profile (as systematic communist interrogation shows), since it is only one aspect of the dynamic psychological equilibrium which comprises the self.

Our profile--our personality--stands in dialectical relationship to perception. What we are as a personality, our motives, goals, temperaments, and so on, influence what we perceive as a situation; and this. perception itself will influence our personality. Nonetheless, personality and will on the one hand and perceived situation on the other are clearly distinct. And the direction of our behavior depends on the relationship between these distinct aspects of our psychological field.

How we are disposed to behave regarding a perceived situation (whether John winking, an outstretched hand, an offered drink, or such) depends on the relationship between our personality and our situation. Behavioral dispositions clearly reflect an interaction between the two. A person is likely to behave differently depending on whether he is among friends or strangers, with his family or at work, or talking to a man or woman, adult or child, boss or subordinate.

Situations, such as those associated with occupation or family, often recur and are common to many people. Where recurrent situations and behavioral tendencies are stereotyped in spite of personality differences, they define roles. As I use the term here, a role is a complex of attitudes sharing the same goal and stimulated by a particular situation. Thus, we have such roles as father, husband, minister, host or guest that are an ingredient in the motivational complex contributing to personality.

Regardless of similar situations and roles, however, people still differ in their behavioral tendencies. Not all fathers, ministers, guests act alike. Behavior will tend to differ between introverts and extroverts, dominants and submissives, neurotics and well integrated, radicals and conservatives, optimists and pessimists, and so on. We have convenient labels for designating particular personality profiles or types which manifest consistent patterns of behavior regardless of situation or role.

Thus situation and personality come together in giving direction to behavior. Note, however, that this is not a passive stimulus-organism-response. We are an active participant in perceiving a situation. We reach out and transform within our perspective the stimuli that confront us. Moreover, we have a will, that rational power to choose and move ourselves to behave in a certain way.3 There is an element of free choice and determination underlying behavioral dispositions, and the fact that a person may tend to behave in a characteristic fashion does not belie this freedom, as will be shown for the fourth aspect of our tetradic structure: expectations.

Personality, situation, and behavioral dispositions are not behavior. They underlie behavior. Some psychological power must transform these three to manifest behavior, and that power is will. We do not just behave. Our actions are acts of will in anticipation of certain consequences, results, responses, or effects. Faced with a perceived situation, we have expectations about the outcomes of our various behavioral dispositions.

Now, our expectations weight our dispositions. How we choose to behave, given how we would like to or tend to behave, depends on what we think will happen as a result. Here most clearly is the choice point in behavior, the locus of will and freedom, the link between personality, situation, and behavioral dispositions, and the transformation of disposition into manifestation, of behavioral tendency into specific behavior. "A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the way in which he anticipates events" (Kelly, 1963, p. 46).4

I should be clear that I am not implying that people always or mainly behave on the basis of the consequences of their acts. I say that expectations weight dispositions,5 which means that for some dispositions in some situations expectations may have little or no effect and for other situations they may have much to do with the final behavior. For example, expectations clearly influence one's chess moves, driving, conversation with another, child discipline, and so on. But on other kinds of behavior, often involving basic principles of morality, whether one lies, kill, commits incest, tortures a pet, and such, expectations about outcomes will generally have little influence. Certainly there are exceptions, as when one might lie to save a life, kill to preserve the family, and so on. But categorical imperatives do operate for many, and as part of our personality (our superego) may operate with such power as to override any expectations, even of death.

Then, after all this, what is our perspective? It is our active transformation of external powers bearing on us into a situation in which we are behaviorally involved. Our perspective is a unified whole of perception, personality, behavioral dispositions, expectations, will and manifest behavior--the integrated dynamic psychological field at a specific time and place.

Thus, behavior and situation are not different concrete elements but, as Henri Bergson (1960) or a contemporary phenomenologists would observe, they are aspects of the same process, of the same gestalt. We behave and perceive, perceive and behave, as a unity. Nonetheless, the different aspects or qualities of this integrated unity--this perspective--can be unraveled into situation, personality, behavioral disposition, and expectations. 


* Scanned from Chapter 7 in R.J. Rummel, The Conflict Helix, 1976. 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. Of course, culture not only sets boundaries on behavior but also provides behavioral dispositions. Regarding just communication, for example, culture "affects communication in various ways. It determines the time and timing of interpersonal events, the places where it is appropriate to discuss particular topics, the physical distance separating one speaker from another, the tone of voice that is appropriate to the subject matter. Culture, in this sense, delineates the amount and type of physical contact, if any, which convention permits or demands, and the intensity of emotion which goes with it. Culture includes the relationship of what is said to what is meant--as when 'no' means 'maybe' and 'tomorrow' means 'never.' Culture, too, determines whether a given matter--say, a business contract--should be initially discussed between two persons or hacked out in a day-long conference which includes four or five senior officials from each side, with perhaps an assist from the little man who brings in the coffee" (Hall and Whyte, 1968, 256).

2. Strength, for example, is a power, as are intelligence, perceptual speed, figural fluency, and so on.

3. The will creates a readiness to behave but not actual behavior, for a person may be blocked by external barriers. Thus, our will can bring us to the point of leaving a room, but a locked door may prevent this.

4. This is the "Fundamental Postulate" of Kelly's psychology of personal constructs.

5. Readers who desire more precision here will find it in Chapter 14 of The Dynamic Psychological Field. In sum, behavioral dispositions and expectations are vectors in the space our behavioral potentials (where the components of this space span these potentials), and the weighting of dispositions by expectations is a vector product. This product is our actual behavior.

For citations see the Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix REFERENCES

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