U.S. Civilian Morale
Home front morale equaled the enemy mind as an illustration of the basic doctrine that war had been reconfigured into a profoundly psychological format. The ideas and emotions of Americans were as important to winning the war as bombs and tanks. "In a democracy," Gordon Allport proclaimed, "every personality can be a citadel of resistance to tyranny. In the co-ordination of the intelligences and wills of one hundred million 'whole' men and women lies the formula for an invincible American morale ." Policy-makers perceived their job as more than keeping tabs on what Americans were thinking and feeling; they had to skillfully engineer the appropriate U.S. outlook. Indeed, before morale ever became the unique touchstone of psychological warfare activities, it was envisioned as the glue that psychological experts could use to hold together the entire domestic war effort. The first activities to mobilize psychological experts made no distinction between the skills required to understand Germans and those needed to understand Americans. Since morale was a unifying theme among psychological experts, it ought to be a unifying theme in the war as a whole.
Organizationally too, psychological experts wanted to make morale the cornerstone of their efforts. The Committee for National Morale
(CNM), a private organization, was formed in July 1940 "in the conviction that in the present crisis Morale will probably be the decisive factor and that the United States must employ her tremendous morale resources to the fullest extent for a long time to come." Chaired by Arthur Upham Pope (Gregory Bateson was secretary), the CNM sponsored committees on psychiatry, psychology, and social sciences, among others, and the CNM membership included many of the leading behavioral experts who would go on to play important wartime roles in, or in support of, a variety of public agencies: Gordon Allport, Ruth Benedict, Walter Bingham, Edwin Boring, Hadley Cantril, Leonard Doob, Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, Geoffrey Gorer, David Levy, Kurt Lewin, Margaret Mead, Karl Menninger, Adolf Meyer, Gardner Murphy, Henry Murray, Edward Strecker, Goodwin Watson, Robert Yerkes, and countless others. At first, the CNM lobbied for creating a single, comprehensive morale agency in which all federal behavioral scientists would be concentrated but this particular goal was thwarted by President Roosevelt, who supported the CNM but worried about public perceptions that such an agency would quickly push the United States into war.
The path that the CNM took would be faithfully followed, and its work replicated, by experts ensconced in agencies devoted to military propaganda and public opinion polling alike, some of which have already been described. Its first effort, the typical point of departure for most wartime psychology, was to study German strategies of psychological warfare. Other efforts shortly followed. CNM consultant Erik Erikson, for example, wrote a number of memoranda analyzing Hitler's speeches and Nazi mentality with the aim of designing the most effective POW interrogation techniques and anti-Nazi propaganda. Erikson was also involved in wartime fieldwork designed to translate psychology's insights into policies that would pay off in performance efficiency for U.S. military institutions. In 1940 he wrote a memo for the CNM on the social-psychological dynamics of life on submarines after spending some time on one himself. Everything Erikson wrote employed what would become standard wartime techniques of content and personality analysis, and also advanced the theory that national character could be diagnosed and treated psychologically. "It is as if the German nation as a whole could be likened to a not uncommon type of adolescent who turns delinquent."
From its inception, the Emergency Committee in Psychology also committed itself to an ambitious array of morale problems, and its am-
biguously named Special Subcommittee on War Experiences and Behavior was assigned the confidential task of studying the psychological resources of enemy and allied countries alike. (After the attack on Pearl Harbor, government agencies assumed responsibilities in this area.) Clearly, morale and its treatment, in any and all forms, was one of the top priorities of the Emergency Committee, which sponsored a "Conference on Psychological Factors in Morale" in August 1940. As a result, the Subcommittee on Defense Seminars was formed and Gordon Allport was appointed chair. From that point on, Allport remembered, "telephone lines were hot with the inquiry, 'What do we know about civilian morale?'" Although Allport also remembered that his answer to this question was "nothing," by January 1942 there were twenty-two active morale seminars functioning around the country, giving the government tips on everything from popular attitudes toward air-raid wardens to Hitler's personality. Allport, who had also been president of the American Psychological Association in 1938 and chair of the APA committee on displaced foreign psychologists, eventually shifted his efforts to the SPSSI Committee on War Service and Research and the major part of his attention to the psychology of group conflict and prejudice.
In both of these cases, the intention was to spearhead a campaign that would systematically monitor morale in communities around the country, help to control wartime rumor, and line up experts to make patriotic broadcasts—all using the best in available psychological expertise. Their stated goal was to "make available to citizens, and especially to officials in a position to determine policy, the conclusions which can be drawn from scientific study of human behavior."
Did Americans Have a National Character?
Since so much of the early morale work identified vulnerabilities in national character as the key to defeating the enemy, it did not take long before some experts were gingerly asking whether the concept of national character offered any insight into Americans themselves. Did they have an irrational national personality, as Germans and Japanese did, or was there something in U.S. history or institutions that immunized Americans against such culturewide emotional hazards? Was morale at home an asset or a liability?
Because they were convinced that the ugliness of enemy national
character could be traced, at least in part, to apparently uniform aspects of human psychology—especially the propensity for behavior to express emotion rather than reason—psychological experts harbored private anxieties throughout the war about the manipulability of the characteristic U.S personality. Their public stance, however, was resolutely optimistic. Democratic traditions and institutions, they claimed, produced a morale far superior to that of autocratic regimes, and democratic morale could not be undermined easily. Margaret Mead reassured a nervous public as follows: "Democratic procedures are not something that people have, like automobiles or hot-dog stands or a way of building roads. Democracy is not something which can be added or subtracted. . . . The way in which people behave is all of a piece, their virtues and their sins, the way they slap the baby, handle their court cases, and bury their dead. . . . We are our culture." U.S. national character was consequently not a military soft spot but rather "the psychological equipment with which we can win the war."
Margaret Mead was certain that "we are the stuff with which this war is being fought," and she was among the first to apply insights about domestic national character for practical war-related purposes. Mead was already very well known before the war for her Coming of Age in Samoa (1925) and other studies of "primitive" cultures. She had earned bachelors and masters degrees in psychology at Barnard and Columbia before going on to study anthropology with Franz Boas at the doctoral level. Her psychological orientation was visible in her lifelong interest in patterns of child socialization and gender identity, her use of psychological testing in fieldwork, and her openness to psychoanalytic interpretations of culture. "I left psychology to live, in many ways, always within its precincts, working with psychologists and concerning myself with psychological problems," she recalled.
Mead did not wait for the United States to enter the war to throw herself into public service. When she and Gregory Bateson arrived in the United States in 1939, after conducting field research in the South Seas, "we had realized that Hitler presented a terrible threat to everything we valued in the world." Mead immediately wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, "as a professional anthropologist," urging that policy-makers pay serious attention to the understanding "psychiatrists and political scientists" had of the "role of Hitler's peculiar psychological make-up in European affairs." But Mead's primary concern was domestic morale. In 1941 she formulated ideas for a national morale program based on her analysis of U.S. personality strengths. She stressed
that policy-makers would do well to capitalize on citizens' typical anti-authoritarianism, competitiveness, and fiercely local (as opposed to national) loyalties.
Published in expanded form in 1942 as And Keep Your Powder Dry, Mead's popular primer on morale instructed citizens about the best ways to transform their national character into a military asset and expressed an almost boundless faith in the ability of rational experts to engineer peace, freedom, national unity, orderly political participation, and a plethora of other liberal goals, including racial tolerance, which clearly contradicted the tight institutional hold that segregation had on the South. "We must see this war," Mead concluded, "as a prelude to a greater job—the restructuring of the culture of the world—which we will want to do, and for which, because we are also a practical people, we must realize there are already tools half forged."
The tools she referred to were the social sciences, and Mead herself was a model of social expertise mobilized in public service. In early 1942 she became the executive secretary of the NRC's Committee on Food Habits, a post she treated as "a base from which I would coordinate various kinds of anthropological input into federal programs." While there, she conducted a number of studies (with the assistance of Kurt Lewin) to determine how the government could prevent hoarding, make rationing work, and feed the Allies during and after the war by enlisting characteristic U.S. personality traits.
Gordon Allport was another major figure in the wartime debate on morale, and he made it his particular business to explore and promote the concept of democratic morale. He explained what it was and made it into a manageable entity by suggesting that personality theories which had evolved in order to understand individuals could and should be applied to society at large during the wartime emergency. "Morale is a condition of physical and emotional well-being residing in the individual citizen. . . . National problems . . . are nothing but personal problems shared by all citizens." The hypothesis that national morale was merely individual morale multiplied by a factor of millions was very convenient. It made systematic measurement and monitoring possible through an index comprising markers like suicide and crime rates, levels of industrial strife, and patterns of mental illness and disturbance. As a scientist, Allport believed empirical data of this sort to be of the utmost importance. As a democratic idealist, he was positive that a vast chasm separated the "integral" morale of Americans (based on the total personality, which included a capacity for thinking as well as feeling) from
the "segmented" morale produced by fascistic regimes (based only on explosive and easily exploited emotionalism). One of the defining features of a democratic personality was the successful internalization of authority and control. In Allport's words, "the ideal of democracy calls for people to carry their backbone inside their personalities."
Even as committed a champion of democracy as Allport, however, understood that U.S. morale was volatile enough to need firm management outside of public view. Even while he was busy encouraging colleagues to write speeches and articles on the topic for popular distribution in print and broadcast media (something he also frequently did himself), Allport was communicating with Washington, recommending personnel and ideas for the conduct of secret programs to measure morale and control the public psyche. Throughout the war years, Allport played a mediating role between secret agencies, such as the OWI and the OSS, and professional psychologists.
The Problem of Public Opinion
The upshot of ambiguity about a distinctly democratic U.S. national character—celebrating it publicly but also behaving as if its existence were in serious doubt—seemed to be that one could not put too much faith in Americans. Allport's version of democratic morale might be accurate, and touting it in public might be just the thing to raise Americans' spirits. But what if it were not true? Policy-makers, in no mood to trust blindly that citizens at home would not behave like Germans or Japanese, believed that techniques of public opinion polling offered one of the best avenues for monitoring and shaping popular attitudes on questions of wartime importance.
Before the war, polling techniques had been developed largely in industry in the form of marketing studies. The Gallup Poll had become synonymous with the state of public opinion, and commercial organizations, like George Gallup's American Institute of Public Opinion, were already public fixtures. Polling was not entirely new to the in-house operations of federal bureaucracies either, in spite of the fact that World War II is often treated as "Year One" in the history of government and behavioral expertise. Washington had conducted extensive surveys on peacetime domestic issues as early as the Hoover administration's Research Committee on Social Trends. During the New Deal, the Department of Agriculture was aggressive in its use of sampling techniques to reveal agricultural trends and design its own programs. During World
War II, psychological experts used polling data to sell war bonds, implement civilian conservation programs, ease the transition to price control and rationing, and assist administrators in charge of military occupation. Much of this work was considered highly confidential.
Hadley Cantril, a Princeton social psychologist (and former student of Gordon Allport) whose work during the 1930s had ranged from theories of collective action to analysis of public response to Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" broadcast, already moved in high-level government circles before the war, when he designed polling questions for FDR. In 1940 he founded the Princeton Office of Public Opinion Research with the scholarly goals of establishing a public opinion data bank for academics, systematically evaluating techniques of opinion measurement and studying theories about why the public thought what it did. Shortly afterwards, however, the Princeton organization began conducting war-related polling. Similar to work in the areas of psychological warfare and personnel selection, Cantril's outfit both studied and resembled its German counterpart, especially the German Psychological Institute for War and Propaganda, greatly expanded after 1933 under the Nazi regime.
Perhaps because his earliest efforts showed that "most people are frightfully confused about their war opinions" and "common sense is wrong," when it came to predicting the public mood, Cantril understood how significant polling could be for the prosecution of the morale war at home, as well as abroad. Throughout the war years, he operated behind the scenes, testing the murky waters of public sentiment and providing secret assistance to an impressive array of government agencies, from the OSS and the OWI to the White House and the Departments of State and Justice. Not by any means confined to gathering and analyzing data about what Americans were thinking, Cantril also helped to guide the work of tricky overseas polling, which had to camouflage its purposes as a matter of course. Such "disguised attitude measurement" was also practiced within U.S. borders on matters considered too delicate for truthfulness.
Cantril's primary commitment was to translating psychological knowledge directly into policy rather than to maintaining the integrity of independent scientific research. One colleague described Cantril as a savvy Washington operator whose sights were set on being "Advisor to the Prince." But if he spent less time worrying about psychology's scientific credentials than did some of his World War II colleagues, his belief that their collective expertise was a valuable public asset, and
should be treated as such, made Cantril the very model of the new breed of policy-oriented psychological experts. He used polling results to make specific recommendations at the very highest policy-making levels: how the U.S. should explain its initial entry into the war; how to manage the opinions of problematic subgroups like union members; how postwar planning efforts should be presented to the public. And he understood, along with so many of his colleagues, that advancing psychology, enlightening public policy, and contributing patriotically were all of a piece. In early 1943 he "immodestly" concluded "that perhaps more than any other research office . . . we are contributing to the war effort, to policy in high places, and to pioneering in research techniques."
Of course, public opinion became a concern for psychological experts long before World War II precisely because it appeared to be a creature of the emotionalism and irrationality that was psychology's province. The Progressive Era ethos of scientific management succeeded as well as it did not only because expertise seemed so reliable but because mass opinion seemed so unreliable. The results of the World War I military intelligence testing program were shocking and widely publicized; psychologists measured the mental age of the average native-born soldier at slightly over thirteen years. This dismal news, along with the public's response to wartime propaganda, confirmed what many scientists already believed by 1920: mass opinion was dangerous as well as fickle. Scientific and psychological organizations, founded in the wake of war in order to bring order to a chaotic society, insisted that "scientific men should take the place that is theirs as masters of the modern world." Skepticism, even outright disgust, at public opinion was a major motivating factor, a point aptly illustrated in the founding document of the American Society for the Dissemination of Science. "The public that we are trying to reach in the daily press is in the cultural stage when three-headed calves, Siamese twins and bearded ladies draw the crowds to the side shows."
Little wonder then that the old tradition of crowd psychology, which conceived of public opinion as a latent disease state, subject to turbulent infection at unpredictable moments, was incorporated so thoroughly into psychologists' social theories in the period following World War I. Nothing that happened in the interwar years led psychological theorists to revise their view that public opinion was a real threat to rational planning, even to moral order itself. The steady progress of psychoanalytic ideas about unconscious motivation contributed to fur-
ther solidifying this view. In the 1930s even Gordon Allport, a vocal critic of psychoanalytic pessimism and champion of a psychology based on the possibility of consciousness and reason, participated in the expanding group of Harvard faculty and graduate students who were interested in attitudes, propaganda, and mass communication; they referred to themselves as "The Group Mind."
World War II had the contradictory effect of adding to the already impressive accumulation of evidence about the dangers of public opinion at the very, moment when favorable public opinion was needed as evidence that policy-makers were operating within the bounds of democratic checks and balances. Enemy ideologies, like Nazism and fascism, stubbornly defied rational explanation. They elicited countless infection metaphors and theories about collective psychopathological states as well as more traditional critiques of dictatorship. "Critical world situations, like those in which we are now immersed, stretch taut the emotions of human beings, so that self-deceptions readily occur," observed psychiatrist Edward Strecker in alarm. "The cosmic indisposition seems to have involved large segments of every vital organ, and the sickness is economic, political, social, cultural, and spiritual." Democratic public opinion, on the other hand, was defended as the very essence of reason and accountability. Whether or not it guided and enlightened policy-making was considered the significant difference between a just and an unjust state.
But public opinion at home was capricious too, and masses of people were shockingly ignorant of the most elementary facts about why the United States had entered the war, as Cantril and others discovered, nor did they demonstrate any inclination to obtain the type of information that democratic citizenship required. One psychiatrist appraised the public's thinking as follows: "Despite the beauty of the thought, it is impossible to distill wisdom from mass opinion." Attitudes related to the war certainly needed careful attention and management. And public opinion about how to conduct the war required the strictest of controls. It would be a tremendous challenge, according to public opinion experts, to "bring the public to the point where it may have its rightful voice in the choice of social objectives." Experts like Richard Crossman, a high official in the PWD whose wartime occupation was shrouded in secrecy and who was elected to the British Parliament after the war, were especially concerned "to insure that an ill-informed public opinion shall not maul and mutilate the weapon of psychological warfare." No sentimental fondness for open democratic procedures
or accurate information, Crossman felt, could be allowed to interfere with the imperatives of victory, even though it meant shielding important policy decisions from the institutional checks of representative government. The virtues of public opinion, even for cheerleaders like Mead and Allport, were a lot clearer in theory than they were in practice.
The Psychology of Prejudice and the Morale of Minority Groups
Among the most glaring examples of how depraved public opinion could actually be, and therefore how much in need of expert management, was "intergroup conflict." The urgency of lessening racial tensions on the home front and in the military, and explaining Nazi racial ideology, drew the attention of psychological experts to this field and sparked an interest in the psychology of prejudice which would flourish in the postwar decades. World War II made racial and ethnic intolerance appear to be something rather more than an embarrassing blight on a democratic polity. As a manifestation of irrational psychological forces that found an outlet for personal frustration and aggression in scapegoating, racism was understood to be "unquestionably the weakest spot in our national character" and "a moral cancer that must be controlled before it kills." A broad and explicit consensus developed that prejudice was a fundamental source of war and a threat to democracy. Its eradication was identified with respect for the personality, peace, mental health, and with psychological expertise itself.
Anti-Semitism emerged as the first concern not only because Nazi ideology promoted it but because morale-destroying rumors in the United States frequently featured Jews. Gordon Allport, among the many psychologists whose enduring theoretical interests in prejudice were rooted in the all-too-real turmoil of the wartime climate, succeeded in establishing a "rumor clinic" in the Boston Traveler. Initially activated in order to control and counter anti-Semitic accusations—that, for example, Jews were avoiding the draft through undue financial influence—the clinic became a much-imitated model in papers all over the country.
As in so many other areas, World War II-era perspectives on anti-Semitism had been anticipated in the work of Harold Lasswell. In 1933 he argued that Hitler's appeal was a product of deep emotional insecurities. Nazi ideology was viable only because the German national per-
sonality structure was vulnerable to vengeful appeals. When he wrote that "emotional insecurities are reduced by hating scapegoats and adoring heroes," and "politics is a form of social therapy for potential suicides," Lasswell was fueling an analytic style which came to full flower during and after World War II: understanding political ideas (at least hostile ones) in largely psychological terms and addressing social developments with tools designed for individual psychological diagnosis and treatment. By the early 1940s, social psychological perspectives on the character structure and irrational basis of fascism had been aired in the work of Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, and others. Drawing on an eclectic mixture of psychoanalytic and Marxist theory, sociological concern, and historical attention to detail, the approach Lasswell advocated was widely known and used by psychologists and various other social scientists who would play key roles in wartime work.
Concentration camp studies dramatically confirmed that these most horrifying institutional products of German anti-Semitism were indeed built on deficits in the German national character. Further, they had a profoundly and explicitly psychological purpose: to systematically destroy the integrity of individual personalities. Bruno Bettelheim, who had just received his Ph.D. in philosophy and psychology at the University of Vienna when he was sent to Dachau and Buchenwald, wrote about the emotional realities of camp life in his famous article "Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations." It spoke eloquently of the author's desire for survival and furthered the tendency to generalize, in broad cultural and political terms, from the experience of personal dehumanization. "It seems that what happens in an extreme fashion to the prisoners who spend several years in the concentration camp happens in less exaggerated form to the inhabitants of the big concentration camp called greater Germany. " Not surprisingly, many who were moved by Bettelheim's analysis arrived at the logical conclusion that some sort of mass psychological treatment was the most appropriate response to German political history, and clinically oriented plans for postwar reeducation programs throughout Europe, to be designed and administered by psychological experts, proliferated. Reeducation would do well to treat national personalities as if they were schizophrenic, according to this line of thought, or at least symptomatic of "the postwar sickness."
The high-water mark in the analysis of anti-Semitism came with the groundbreaking The Authoritarian Personality, which inspired a virtual flood of follow-up studies. The book was a product of the Frankfurt
school, a group of left-wing theorists (including Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse) whose trademark "critical theory" combined an abstract, philosophical Marxism with a deep interest in psychoanalysis and contemporary culture. Members of the Frankfurt school began their collective project in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923, prior to Hitler's rise, and, because many were Jews as well as Marxists, continued their work in exile. After the war, Adorno and Horkheimer returned to Germany to reestablish the Institute for Social Research, but many of the others remained to make their names in the postwar United States.
Although not published in comprehensive book form until 1950, The Authoritarian Personality was a direct outgrowth of wartime insight into the emotional role authority played in enemy national characters. (Psychological warfare designed on the model of national character has already been described in the cases of the Psychological Warfare Division [PWD] of SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force] and the Foreign Morale Analysis Division [FMAD] of the Office of War Information [OWI].) Research funds made available, largely by Jewish organizations, for wartime studies of the psychology of prejudice were also central in the evolution of The Authoritarian Personality. A significant number of preliminary research reports, as well as articles on various aspects of morale, were published during the war years by authors Theodor Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford. They generally shared the national character orientation of other World War II experts and were motivated, at least initially, by the desire to explain Hitler's success in Germany as well as the rise of Fascist ideologies in general.
The book reported the results of an ambitious questionnaire given to subjects ranging from college students to mental patients, prisoners, union members, and veterans. The questionnaire included (1) factual items (such as income, church membership, and political party affiliations); (2) scales designed to elicit shades of agreement or disagreement with a series of statements about anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, and political ideology; (3) deliberately ambiguous, open-ended questions which encouraged wide-ranging emotional responses in need of interpretation, such as "What would you do if you had only six months to live, and could do anything you wanted?" In addition to this written survey, psychological experts conducted numerous clinical interviews with and administered projective psychological tests (such as the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT) to a sample of the respondents.
At the end of their study, the investigators advanced the psychoanalytically informed theory that authoritarian political regimes were built on the deep, unconscious structure of individual personalities so rigidly patterned that they were susceptible to irrational manipulation by ruthless demagogues. Democratic personalities, on the other hand, featured far less uniformity than authoritarian ones and were more likely to incorporate values like rationality and tolerance, precisely those traits that Mead and Allport had so hopefully associated with domestic national character, and which were firmly tied to the self-images of psychological experts themselves.
Conveniently, the authors offered a practical method of measuring individuals' psychopolitical inclinations: the F scale. The scale and the theory that "personality may be regarded as a determinant of ideological preferences" appealed to World War II-era experts and made deep impressions on diverse schools of psychological theory and far-flung areas of behavioral research.The Authoritarian Personality, consequently, illustrated the general acceptance of those trends pioneered by Lasswell's work before World War II, especially the equation of politics and psychology and the convergence of personal and social analysis.
The fact that the research for The Authoritarian Personality was conducted entirely in the United States, however, raised some new and distinctly uncomfortable questions. By drawing psychologists' attention to the fact that authoritarian personalities were not an exclusively foreign phenomenon, and pointing out that plenty of them flourished uncomfortably close to home, the study painted a disturbing portrait of a potential American fascism, based on rigidly conventional and anxiously dependent personalities who were frightened of difference and change. If authoritarianism were a possibility contained within many apparently ordinary personalities, and if prejudice were a latent tendency that could be activated with a little push from the demagogue of the moment, then surely what happened in Nazi Germany could happen in the United States. This catastrophic possibility, brought to life by racial strife on the home front, made the psychology of prejudice a high priority for psychological experts long after the war was over.
Anti-Semitism was not the only focus of wartime work on the psychology of prejudice. Deadly race riots in Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities in the summer of 1943 (not to mention the internment of Japanese-Americans) were concrete proof of the explosive tensions that characterized relations between African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and the majority of whites. If anything, they illustrated that
anti-Semitism was only the tip of the iceberg, and that antiblack prejudice was even more socially acceptable and widely expressed. Attempts to analyze home front riots offer a useful illustration of how wartime efforts to comprehend German mass psychology migrated back across the Atlantic and were quickly applied to domestic developments precisely because psychological experts understood that victory abroad and stability at home were intimately, and psychologically, connected. The OWI's Bureau of Overseas Intelligence, for example, conducted a series of secret studies of black civilian morale and attitudes and concluded that policies aimed at reducing racial frustrations in both civilian and military life would be strategic steps toward military victory.
That violent tensions at home were a threat to the prosecution of world war was really no secret to anyone though. Two analysts, Alfred McClung Lee and Norman Daymond Humphrey, described the 1943 Detroit riot as a "hysterical attack upon democracy and American morale" and asked "How can we keep America from dividing itself more and more with walls of intolerance into increasingly warring camps—into a psychologically Balkanized country?" Maintaining the morale of minority groups may have been precarious, but it was essential.
Because psychological experts understood that segregation, employment, and criminal justice practices could tip the balance of the war effort, they took it upon themselves to advise and enlighten policy-makers in municipal administrations and police departments as well as in military institutions. Like the effort to give practical assistance to Japanese-American Relocation Center administrators, psychologists who took up the question of race riots typically offered clear and explicit instructions to those in power: "If These Symptoms Appear . . . Take the Following Actions."
Some experts were not entirely satisfied with roles as advisors and made a commitment to using their skills in even more direct ways. Gordon Allport, for example, along with his student Leo Postman, conducted pioneering training sessions with captains in the Boston Police Department in 1944. Theirs was an attempt to reduce racial tensions in the city by exposing hostile and defensive law enforcement officials to psychology's cutting-edge reeducation techniques. Allport's efforts to instill racial sensitivity in police officers through "catharsis" was another of his efforts that was much imitated in years to come. According to Allport's report, he spent eight long, trying hours with a group of forty police officers who "indulged in aggressive, hostile, prejudiced discourse aimed occasionally at me, the instructor, but more
often at various minority groups (whom we were seeking to understand!), and at other scapegoats, including the public press, intellectuals, parents, and even the citizenry at large." Because he resolved to meet the racist reaction without emotion, the officers' prejudice diminished by the end of the day. Allport claimed that he had produced this constructive effect by listening nonjudgmentally, hence allowing the police to avoid threats to their personal status, project their guilt, and begin restructuring their attitudes on their own, after the fashion of Carl Rogers's nondirective counseling techniques.
Riots also presented psychological experts with the opportunity to make good use of the tradition of crowd psychology and collective behavior that had existed long before the war and that would continue to develop long after, when it would be expanded into an all-purpose theory of revolutionary upheaval in the Cold War era as well as a handy explanation for urban disorder at home. The mood that made the Detroit tragedy possible, for example, was considered a result of "hysterical individual insecurity," multiplied by a factor of thousands, reaching a point of such tension that it needed release. Detroit riot analysts Lee and Humphrey observed that rioters behaved
like a herd about to stampede. . . . Brutalized emotions rise and are given sanction by the mob. . . . All of this looks as though the mob is rapidly going "out of its mind." And the generation of such mass hysteria shows the character of insanity, except that the members of the mob are not nearly as uncontrolled, impulsive, and depraved alone as they become under mob-suggestion. In the race-riot mob, no rules apply, no fair play. No ethics of any kind have meaning except the crude ones of the human-pack, even more brutal than the wolf-pack.
Many riot specialists were eager to translate such theoretical models of collective behavior into socially useful technologies of prevention. A psychological "Race Sentiments Barometer," according to analysts of the Detroit riot, would be a major improvement over even such positive measures as counteracting rumors because it would offer a "more fundamental diagnosis and more accurate prediction through determining the power of the emotional drives at work, the significance of the societal and psychological 'ground swells.'" The suggestion that psychology develop predictive indices for social managers would be repeated in later years, practically word-for-word, in reference to predicting and controlling revolutionary upheaval around the world as well as civil disturbance at home. In Cold War conflicts as well as during
urban riots in the late 1960s, such services were in great demand among policy-makers.
Wartime riots popularized the view that prejudice was a "general psychological condition" whose origins were to be found in early childhood experience and the treacherous steps of emotional development. This view was not a rigid one and gradations were recognized. The emotional basis of intergroup conflict could range from a more or less benign neurosis to a dangerous sickness akin to insanity. The point is that the wartime environment contributed to a decidedly psychological analysis of rioting, as well as a variety of other racial and ethnic problems. The view that individual insecurities and collective emotional depravity were somehow at the heart of intergroup conflict would have lasting consequences.
This was exactly what psychological experts wanted. Because they played major roles in analyzing and treating intergroup conflict during the war, they naturally assumed they would continue this occupation in the postwar era. From psychoanalytically inclined theorists who claimed riots were "violent outbreaks of infantile father hatred" to those more likely to consider sociological factors like poverty and segregation, psychological experts—clinicians, theorists, and researchers alike—emerged from Word War II convinced that it was their responsibility as enlightened professionals to challenge myths of racial difference, including the myths that psychology itself had helped elevate to scientific truth earlier in the century. Racism had become, for them, "America's number-one social neurosis."
"Community disorders" entered the vocabulary of World War II psychiatry as a new type of diagnosis covering, among other things, racial tensions and riots. Management and prevention of mental disturbance was their forté, reasoned the psychiatrists, and prejudice was clearly a deeply rooted mental disturbance. According to this line of thinking, psychiatric authority should expand into any and every sphere of social life in which frustration, fear, aggression, hatred, and insecurity were relevant factors. This argument went well beyond the treatment of racial hostility and provided a general intellectual foundation for the promotion of community psychiatry, perhaps the most significant development in that field in the postwar era.
Institutional and legislative remedies for racial injustices, like the wartime Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), established via executive order in order to tackle the problem of employment dis-
crimination in the war industries, were not necessarily invalidated by this logic, and many psychological experts gladly supported such liberal means of assuring civil rights. But laws and government regulations were often relegated to secondary status, most dramatically by clinicians, whose work put them into close contact with individuals feeling the consequences of bigotry and discrimination. Such experiences, not surprisingly, bolstered the opinion that since the personal anguish surrounding matters of race was profound, personal transformation in this area could hardly be any less so. In comparison to the potential of psychological experts to help instill personal and cultural change at such deep levels, legally mandated equality, was considered abstract and superficial. "The FEPC and other anti-discrimination agencies are only symptomatic and temporary therapy," commented one writer, whose final word seas that "emotional growth, for the most part, is incomplete in our culture; human difference has become a liability instead of a positive factor in life experiences." There could be no adequate legal solution to a fundamentally emotional problem, agreed another clinician, who explained the prevalence of racism as follows: "Quite evidently, white European man for all his boasts and his weapons did not feel secure."
Gordon Allport, known for his political liberalism, distinguished between discrimination (a question of structure) and prejudice (a question of emotion). If cures for discrimination and those for prejudice were not entirely distinct (Allport, for example, vigorously advocated legislative changes because he understood that legal changes would affect how people felt and behaved), it was certainly the case that Allport perceived attacking prejudice though a process of psychological reeducation as a more direct route to social change. Institutional reform may have been important, but emotional reform was clearly the tougher challenge.
Ironically, but characteristically, the contents of psychology's toolbox, proposed by World War II experts as the most effective resource for combating the epidemic of intergroup conflict, had been used more frequently to fan the flames of homegrown racism in the past than it had been to put out the fire. Intelligence testing programs during World War I, in particular, had been welcomed by eugenicists, eager to prove their point about racial intelligence differences with the help of data from the military. They received prompt and solicitous attention from psychologists, who announced, as scientific dogma, that black sol-
diers were inferior and that there existed a mental hierarchy pegged to nationality: Anglo-Saxons were at the top while the unsavory representatives of recent immigrant groups languished far below. In 1921 Robert Yerkes, who had chaired the important World War I Committee on Methods of Psychological Examining of Recruits, wrote personally to the chairmen of congressional committees considering immigration restriction, calling their attention to the World War I army intelligence tests and suggesting, in no uncertain terms, that these products of psychological expertise could be a formidable resource in their campaign to shut off the flow of undesirable immigration. "The army tests," he claimed, "establish the relation of inferior intelligence to delinquency and crime, and justify the belief that a country which encourages, or even permits, the immigrations of simple-minded, uneducated, defective, diseased or criminalistic persons, because it needs cheap labor, seeks trouble in the shape of public expense." His argument was convincing. Warnings about the mental unfitness of recent immigrants further inflamed fears, already widespread before World War I, about the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of U.S. society, especially urban centers that were magnets for newcomers. The army's testing program, and the eugenic advocacy of Yerkes and other psychologists, offered a powerful scientific foundation for the restrictions written into the Immigration Act of 1924.
Yerkes, as we have already seen, went on to play a starring role in World War II psychology. He never abandoned, or even really revised, his eugenicist beliefs. His vision of a great future for psychological professionals, so crucial to early mobilization efforts, was intimately bound up with a commitment to literal life-and-death control over the "biologically unfit." Nevertheless, a widespread feeling grew up among the vast majority of World War II psychological experts, who, after all, cut their professional teeth in a righteous war against racial and political tyranny, that psychological theories and applications were inextricably, dynamically linked with democratic politics. On the one hand, prevailing definitions of mental hygiene and health assumed personalities capable of making rational choices and negotiating the emotional pitfalls of freedom; these were, as we have seen, the basic elements of democratic morale. On the other hand, it was only by preserving democratic institutions that the psychological professions could ensure their futures. "We are all engaged in the same task of defending the ramparts of democracy," Edward Strecker announced to the assembled forces of
the American Psychiatric Association in 1944, comparing psychiatrists to soldiers. "Our stake in the war is precious for the discipline of psychiatry can only live and flower within the framework of democracy."
One large-scale, interdisciplinary research effort that powerfully embodied the marriage between liberalism and behavioral science was An American Dilemma, a monumental analysis of black-white race relations in the context of democratic principles, first published in 1944. Authored by Swedish-born economist and politician Gunnar Myrdal, the research for the book mobilized scores of social scientists whose wartime service made them acutely aware that domestic racial problems were an international embarrassment for the United States. An American Dilemma inaugurated an era of racial liberalism among academic social scientists that would endure for decades, with only very occasional dissent. Whether or not psychological expertise was the essence of enlightened humanism, inherently blessed with antiracist and democratic values, would become, as we shall see, a major issue in the postwar era.