Date of Award

12-1959

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

W. O. Jenkins

Committee Members

O. M. Pascal, R. R. Shrader, Kenneth H. Moore, Donald D. Holloway

Abstract

Of all the objects considered to be members of the broad class of things called "stimuli," undoubtedly the most important subset for the understanding of human behavior is other humans. The present research investigates some aspects of the complex stimulus provided by the appearance of another person and the function of selected dimensions of variation of such stimuli in a learning situation. It is an attempt to produce information regarding the relative effectiveness of certain kinds of cues provided by a person's face, when one is required to learn to respond differently to faces. The importance of research in this general area is attested to by the simple fact that the bulk of mankind's activity occurs in a social situation wherein the important determinants of his behavior are his fellow beings. This is of course the raison d'etre of social psychology, in which the fundamental unit of behavior has been described as one person interacting with another (Kretch & Crutchfield, 1948; Newcomb, 1950). Of course the social psychologists can hardly lay sole claim to the phenomena of persons interacting as a proper subject matter. The clinical psychologists also have an interest in the topic: The term "interpersonal relations" has become quite commonplace in the literature pertaining to psychotherapy and personality theory. It plays an especially prominent role in the theoretical contributions of Harry Stack Sullivan (1948). Sullivan contends, for example, that neurotic anxiety is primarily social at its inceptions and this "interpersonal induction and the exclusively interpersonal origin of every instance of its manifestations is the unique characteristic of anxiety." Sullivan is obviously stressing the social nature of behavior problems and because he places so much importance on interpersonal relations, Ruth Munroe calls it the key phrase in Sullivan's system (1955, p. 354). But Munroe further points out that all theorists of the psychoanalytic school have been concerned with our dealings with one another and consider them matters of great importance. In addition to the social psychologists' concern and the clinicians' proper interest in such matters once the "other person" is identified as a "stimulus" the process becomes a suitable problem for general-experimental psychology, since stimuli can be quite readily assigned a place in the S-R paradigm which characterizes this division of psychological activity.

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