Preferred Citation: Herman, Ellen. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1995 1995.

3 The Dilemmas of Democratic Morale

The Dilemmas of Democratic Morale

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 ."[1] 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."[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6]

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.)[7] 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?'"[8] 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.[9] 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."[10]

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."[11] U.S. national character was consequently not a military soft spot but rather "the psychological equipment with which we can win the war."[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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."[15] 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."[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] "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."[19]

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."[20] 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.[21]

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."[22] 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.[23] 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."[24]

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.[25] Throughout the war years, Allport played a mediating role between secret agencies, such as the OWI and the OSS, and professional psychologists.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] Such "disguised attitude measurement" was also practiced within U.S. borders on matters considered too delicate for truthfulness.[33]

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."[34] 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.[35] 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."[36]

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."[37] 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."[38]

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.[39] 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."[40]

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.[41] "The cosmic indisposition seems to have involved large segments of every vital organ, and the sickness is economic, political, social, cultural, and spiritual."[42] 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.[43] One psychiatrist appraised the public's thinking as follows: "Despite the beauty of the thought, it is impossible to distill wisdom from mass opinion."[44] 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."[45] 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."[46] 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."[47] 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.[48]

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.[49] 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.[50] 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.[51]

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. "[52] 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."[53]

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.[54] 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?"[55] 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.[56]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.[57]

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.[58]

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?"[59] Maintaining the morale of minority groups may have been precarious, but it was essential.[60]

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."[61]

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.[62] 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.[63] 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."[64] 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.[65] 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.[66]

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.'"[67] 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.[68] 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.[69]

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.[70] Racism had become, for them, "America's number-one social neurosis."[71]

"Community disorders" entered the vocabulary of World War II psychiatry as a new type of diagnosis covering, among other things, racial tensions and riots.[72] 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.[73]

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."[74] 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."[75]

Gordon Allport, known for his political liberalism, distinguished between discrimination (a question of structure) and prejudice (a question of emotion).[76] 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.[77]

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."[78] 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.[79]

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."[80] 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."[81]

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.[82] 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.

Military Morale

Monitoring and improving military morale were concerns at least as grave as unraveling the mysteries of public opinion or controlling the psychological assaults on minority groups in civilian life. "Psychological ramparts are as important as physical ramparts in modern warfare," declared public relations wizard Edward Bernays in the Infantry Journal several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Our morale is our true first line of defense" against the hysterical manias lurking in the collective subconscious.[83]

During the war, the job of regulating the mental state of the armed forces incorporated virtually every type of civilian morale and psychological warfare activity discussed thus far: case studies of individual personality, mass surveys of soldiers' viewpoints, reports assessing policy-making options, evaluations and predictions of intergroup hostilities. Life in the military was different from life outside it, but except for combat itself, the differences were relative, not absolute.[84]

Conveniently, soldiers' attitudes were more accessible than civilians' to both measurement and manipulation. The fact that military institutions exerted much more direct control over individual behavior, and


therefore offered much greater support too (at least in theory), led many morale specialists to design civilian morale programs on the basis of the military model.[85] During wartime, exerting too much control was not the biggest mistake that could be made, after all. The availability, albeit temporary, of the military total institution was yet another benefit of war, much appreciated by researchers eager to prove the scientific validity of their experimental methods and procedures.

The army institutionalized an elaborate research effort in order to stay on top of soldiers' attitudes and "to aid in practical social engineering."[86] The Research Branch of the army's Morale Division (later called the Information and Education Division) was established in October 1941 to put the most sophisticated tools of social and psychological research, especially survey techniques developed in business, at the service of the military.[87] "Its purpose," explained its director, "is to establish a clear-cut working knowledge of the American soldier, his educational background, likes and dislikes, opinions, attitudes and ambitions; and so to furnish a scientific basis either for the correction of Army maladjustments, or for explaining to the soldier the reasons back of particular policies."[88] The branch's three hundred studies and sixty thousand interviews were sometimes conducted in response to requests from policy-makers for specific information, sometimes on the branch's own initiative. The expert staff summarized findings for high-level officials and government agencies and published them in popular form for army commanders in regular periodicals (a monthly rifled What the Soldier Thinks ) and occasional pamphlets (like Command of Negro Troops ). All of this work, even blank questionnaires, was considered highly confidential.

An impressive group of behavioral experts staffed the Research Branch, most drawn directly out of careers in academic or commercial research. Samuel Stouffer, a University of Chicago sociologist, directed the research effort. He made liberal use of civilian consultants from academia and business: John Dollard and Carl Hovland of the Yale Institute of Human Relations, Hadley Cantril of the Princeton Office of Public Opinion Research, Paul Lazarsfeld of the Columbia Bureau of Applied Social Research, Frank Stanton, director of research at CBS, to name only a few.

Like other experts, they found both opportunity and frustration in the wartime environment, which allowed them to ply their trade on a scale previously unimaginable, but also offered no guarantees that decision-makers would pay any attention to their wisdom. Samuel


Stouffer did his utmost to make the branch's research attractive to military bureaucrats. After the war he was the first to admit that "most of our time was wasted, irretrievably wasted, in so far as any contribution to social science was concerned [because] in order to help the Army, or to help 'sell' research to the Army, I had to be concerned first and foremost with what was immediately wanted or purchasable."[89] Even so, he tried to do some justice to scientific concerns by promoting an eclectic intellectual approach in the Research Branch that combined psychoanalysis, learning theory, cultural anthropology, and social systems theory, along with the latest statistical techniques in opinion polling.[90]

While this type of boundary-breaking work had begun well before the war in places like the Yale Institute of Human Relations, wartime efforts like Stouffer's advanced the prospects of an interdisciplinary and ambitious behavioral science precisely because wartime experience caused experts to dispense with many of the academic loyalties and identities they had previously cherished. In the postwar era the approach advanced by Stouffer and other like-minded experts garnered much prestige with the establishment of the Harvard Department of Social Relations (Stouffer himself became director of its Laboratory of Social Relations), the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. In each of these cases, psychological experts who had been deeply involved in war work were central figures and the Department of Defense provided most of the operating funds during their early years.

During World War II, the work of Stouffer's research staff was nothing if not varied. Their first effort measured the spirits of infantrymen the day after Pearl Harbor. Subsequent research checked up on the accuracy of the neuropsychiatric screening test, identified the factors most likely to influence good (or bad) adjustment to job assignments, and even turned its conclusions about what constituted good leaders into a training course in hopes of producing them. Among the many studies widely believed to have shaped policy directly was one that surveyed enlisted soldiers' attitudes on how demobilization should be handled, a study whose objectives were to simultaneously impress upon soldiers the significance of their input and maintain firm control over military personnel for as long as it might be necessary. The results,


which tabulated soldiers' preferences, were converted into a point system that weighed length of service, combat duty, and number of dependents, among other factors. The Research Branch staff believed that such instances of turning soldiers' feelings directly into policy were evidence of a highly democratic policy-making process, largely responsible for soldiers' feeling that demobilization rules were fair. It was also clear to them that the goals of the demobilization study included keeping men in the army as long as they were needed and "overcoming the idea that the country owes soldiers a living for sacrifices they have made while in uniform."[91]

Discovering Unreasonable Attitudes

Their studies were matters of great pride to Research Branch staff, and advocates of behavioral and psychological expertise in and out of government used them routinely, for many years following the war, as prime examples of socially useful science and ammunition for the argument that behavioral expertise should have a much bigger public policy-making role as well as hefty support from private foundations and universities.[92] But much of what the Research Branch turned up in the course of its research was not only far less amenable to adjustment, but even shocking in its implications. Casting doubts upon the dependability of reasoned intelligence, as so much other wartime research also did, the Research Branch effort sharply contrasted the rhetoric of democratic morale against the reality of rampant emotionalism and unconscious motivation.

Most significantly, Stouffer's organization discovered that U.S. soldiers had no meaningful understanding of why they were fighting or what the war was actually about. Worse, they did not seem to care. When soldiers were surveyed with open-ended questions about the war's aims, an astonishing 36 percent chose not to answer at all and only a handful ever mentioned fighting fascism or defending democracy. According to the Research Branch studies, the number of men who viewed the war "from a consistent and favorable intellectual position" was somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.[93] "Why we are fighting the war" was typically on the bottom of the list of things that soldiers wanted the army to teach them.[94] In dismay, Stouffer concluded that "the war was without a context . . . simply a vast detour


made from the main course of life. . . . It may be said that except for a very limited number of men, little feeling of personal commitment to the war emerged ."[95]

Such glaring gaps between the rhetoric of democratic morale and the reality of popular ignorance and apathy spurred the Research Branch to involvement in bold efforts at direct political indoctrination. The most famous of these were the "Why We Fight" films, which the Research Branch produced with the help of filmmaking Colonel Frank Capra, but staff and consultants offered suggestions for many other training films and programs aimed at instilling the appropriate political attitudes and feelings in rank-and-file soldiers. Congress was rather touchy about making it widely known that the army was engaged in such explicit propaganda during a war directed against exactly such efforts, and only one of Capra's films was ever shown to civilians, who also knew nothing of the military's other experiments in direct indoctrination.

There were questions other than that of propriety. Did the films work? Unfortunately, not very well. When the effectiveness of the "Why We Fight" films was tested, the Research Branch found that cinematic education had succeeded in supplying soldiers with some concrete facts, but that the effect on soldiers' willingness and desire to fight passionately for U.S. political ideals was utterly "disappointing."[96]

The Research Branch went on to experiment with weekly mental conditioning sessions, hoping that active participation in group talk would be a more effective route to changing political attitudes than passively watching movies. But these met with similar failure. Psychiatrist Julius Schreiber, who eventually headed the entire Information and Education Division, was left with no positive ideas about inculcating democratic morale and capitulated to the dismal view that hatred for the enemy was easier to manufacture than genuine enthusiasm and respect for U.S. institutions. He set up a program at Camp Callan Training Center in California, using broadcast news, lectures, a weekly column, and therapy groups to inspire the maximum amount of animosity in U.S. troops toward fascism.[97] The program was later copied elsewhere. With this sort of experience behind them, it is not very surprising that Stouffer and others associated with the Research Branch emerged from the war convinced that "for the majority of individuals . . . it may be true that motivations and attitudes are generally acquired without regard to rational considerations and are practically impregnable to new rational considerations."[98]

Irrationality, however, was only the beginning of the bad news. To


all appearances, U.S. soldiers were motivated by the same primitive feelings and loyalties, the same absence of conscious and reasonable motivation, the same ominous emotional attachments to authority figures, that had been identified as such alarming traits in the German and Japanese national characters. The influence of the soldier's immediate group, and the caliber of his immediate leaders, were found to be the most salient factors in soldiers' morale. From this, an unflattering portrait of the ordinary soldier gradually materialized. He was preoccupied with physical discomforts, displayed all sorts of aggression, and worried most about moving up the chain of command, making more money, and staying out of combat.[99] This was not exactly the democratic warrior the experts wanted to find.

Kurt Lewin's effort to generate a social psychology of group dynamics was tremendously influential among the experts who had to face such demoralizing facts about the pitiful psychological state of the U.S. military. Lewin's "field theory" turned personal identity into a social product and made "attitudes" a reachable halfway mark between the obscure psychic depths of individual motivation and the more comprehensible external world in which policy-makers operated. Lewin drew on the work of industrial psychologists in the interwar years who had found human relations in the corporate workplace to be emotionally charged. The Hawthorne experiments, conducted between 1924 and 1933 at the Western Electric Company, were only the most famous examples of the scientific discovery that job satisfaction and labor productivity were products of irrational attitudes, highly distorted and subjective perceptions, and group cohesiveness, rather than the specific organization of labor or authority in the workplace.[100] In the Hawthorne case, Elton Mayo and his fellow researchers from the Harvard Business School identified the personal attentions paid (or not paid) to female workers in the plant, and their immediate group environment, as the decisive factors shaping how they felt about their jobs and influencing how hard they worked. What military managers observed among World War II soldiers was really quite similar.

Lewin hypothesized that individual personality emerged from the "ground," the "life-space" of all relevant group memberships, which ranged from marriage (a small group, but a group nonetheless) to ethnic and religious communities to institutions like the military. By making individual psychology largely a matter of group psychology, Lewin did more than merge the two, which, after all, many World War II psychological experts were in the habit of doing. He held out the opti-


mistic possibility that group management could keep soldiers' unpredictable attitudes in check and could be the most effective means of manufacturing democratic personalities and democratic leaders in the military.

Of course, what was applicable to the U.S. military was applicable elsewhere. Public opinion pollsters who had nothing to do with shaping soldiers' attitudes one way or another incorporated "reference group identifications" into their explanations of how and why public sentiment fluctuated on a variety of issues.[101] Many plans for postwar psychological reeducation programs—whether to reform intergroup relations at home or national character abroad—were unmistakably stamped with the imprint of Lewin's theories about the advantages of working with groups and training leaders.[102] (So too were postwar theories about the origins of revolutionary movements in the Third World, as we shall see in chapters 5 and 6.)

One of the consequences of learning all these dismal truths about Americans' lack of democratic morale and motivation, their political apathy, and their vulnerability. to emotional manipulation was to strengthen psychological experts' faith in themselves and illuminate the gravity of their future choices. Simply stated, they could either become heavy-handed social engineers in charge of the future (a vision that appealed to the most pessimistic), or (for the diehard optimists) they could function as democratic guidance counselors and cheerleaders, helping an unhealthy society reach a point at which self-determination might finally become feasible. While this division was certainly significant, both personally and politically, experts at all points along the spectrum shared a commitment to serving the state through increasing and enlightening policy options related to political attitudes and participation.

Intergroup Tensions and the Mental State of Black Soldiers

As with the civilian population, the unreasonableness and emotionalism of soldiers' attitudes seemed to reach their zenith in the delicate area of intergroup tensions. The vast majority of white soldiers supported the rigidly segregated structure of the military without question. This structure not only kept black soldiers in separate units but rejected them at much higher rates than whites and restricted them to a small number of labor-intensive assignments—mainly in quartermaster,


engineering, and transportation corps—if they managed to make it into the armed forces. Black soldiers were also systematically denied the opportunities for social mobility available to white soldiers, since the command of white troops was not a possibility for black officers, while many black units were led by white officers. There were, in any case, only five black officers in the entire army at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and three of them were chaplains.

Not surprisingly, when the army's Research Branch conducted an elaborate survey about race relations in March 1943, it discovered that whites barely considered these issues, whereas black soldiers' attitudes were thoroughly shot through with resentment about military discrimination and contradictory feelings about the fairness of separating the races in a war against a racist ideology.[103] Further, the pervasive anger of black troops about racial injustices affected the way they thought and felt about everything else. Black soldiers were even less likely than whites (if that was possible) to have a reasonable grasp of war aims or be personally identified with democratic ideals. Unlike their white counterparts, however, black soldiers' uncertainty on this matter was not the product of thoughtless indifference but a pessimistic conclusion drawn from direct observation and personal experience. As one man facing imminent induction put it, "Just carve on my tombstone, 'Here lies a black man killed fighting a yellow man for the protection of a white man.'"[104]

The Research Branch was careful to note that no evidence existed that black soldiers behaved disloyally; there was no difference between draft-dodging rates among blacks and whites, for example. Clearly, black soldiers could and did respond to racial frustration in a variety of ways. Either their aggression could devolve into alienation and insistence that blacks had no reason to fight on the side of a hypocritical United States, or they could proclaim their patriotism, demand the right to serve in combat units and command positions, and hope that their wartime service would translate into racial gains at war's end. One illustration of alienated reaction was Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little), who was given a 4F after he arrived at the local induction center dressed in a zoot suit and told the psychological screeners that he either wanted to join the Japanese army or go south to organize black soldiers and kill white people.[105] Civil rights leaders and the black press, on the other hand, along with many black soldiers, agitated tirelessly against the War Department's 10.6 percent quota for blacks in the military and a selection process that counted complaints about segregation as


sufficient reasons for psychiatric rejection.[106] They tried to counter the argument about frustration's negative consequences with claims that frustration made black soldiers even more determined to serve than whites. But suggesting that the gap between racial rhetoric and reality made black soldiers' patriotism especially heartfelt also depended upon the growing authority of psychological experience as a measure of political sacrifice. Just as Malcolm X understood that overt racial antagonism would likely result in rejection by the military's psychiatric gatekeepers, so too did other black soldiers wager that enduring the racism of a segregated military would eventually be seen as a badge of emotional honor, and benefit them.

The Research Branch made films and developed leadership training materials in an effort to blunt the dangerous potential for racial divisiveness in the army, just as it had done in the above-described case of addressing widespread ignorance among soldiers about the purposes of the war. In 1943 Frank Capra made a film titled The Negro Soldier, based, in part, on Research Branch survey data. It ritualistically celebrated a historic honor roll of black Americans who had valiantly served their country, from Crispus Attucks to the black Wacs who repaired jeeps and trucks. Capra's film was careful to mention neither slavery nor military segregation, but attempted to instill pride and solidarity in black troops through emotional identification with "the tree of liberty" and "this great country."[107] The Research Branch also put its findings to good use in publications like Command of Negro Troops and Leadership and the Negro Soldier.

Looking Toward the Future: Anxieties

Perhaps genuine patriotism or sheer persistence boosted the morale of the experts themselves and helped them stick to their tasks of making the chaos of soldiers' and civilians' attitudes orderly and manageable at points when they might otherwise have given up in despair. But the experts, in the Research Branch and elsewhere, had worries that went beyond the dismal mental state of Americans, some of these deeply rooted in the histories of their professions. Among the most constant and pressing questions were those about the efficacy of their own methods and the capacity of their psychological techniques to inform policy in ways that would stand up to the tests of rigorous


science. Doubts about "validity" and "prediction" were best kept quiet, however. While they were frequently discussed within the bounds of professional networks, psychological experts steadfastly maintained a united front when it came to convincing potentially hostile customers (i.e., government policy-makers) that psychological services were worth the purchase price. If the enthusiasm of their public pronouncements and the track record of postwar psychology are any measure, they were rather successful.

But nagging questions remained. Even Samuel Stouffer, who did his utmost to produce helpful expertise for military decision-makers and whose Research Branch could point to concrete accomplishments—a number of surveys about soldiers' postwar expectations were used to plan the GI Bill, for example—worried constantly about methodological weaknesses. "If the war were to end today and if the Army should ask us what single practice General Osborn's million-dollar research operation has proved to be helpful to morale," he commented, "we honestly could not cite a scrap of scientific evidence. The curtain would go up on the stage and there we would stand—stark naked."[108] Toward the end of the war, Research Branch staff carefully compiled a list of "embarrassing questions" that might, in the future, tarnish the record of their work because they were scientifically unanswerable.[109] Notable for its length and detail, the list included many of the issues that advocates had insisted they could handle with ease: How do you define military morale and was it high or low? How well can you predict performance on the basis of test responses? How effectively can you change attitudes? What do you know about leadership? What did you learn about motivation?

Private consensus that such basic questions could not be answered among the very experts who had claimed the authority to do so did not stop Samuel Stouffer from singing the praises of wartime experts in public. If the work of his team was not exactly the science they wanted it to be, and had turned out to be something more like social engineering, well, that was better than nothing. "There were fires to be put out, and it was better to throw water or sand on the fires than to concentrate on studying chemistry to develop a new kind of extinguisher." [110]

What really counted was that psychological experts working in a variety of fields had cleared a path to power and their work had had an impact—more significant in some cases, less significant in others—on how the war had been conducted and won. While psychological experts


were sensitive about "embarrassing questions," they were at least as proud of their public policy successes, having kept close tabs on their "hits" throughout the war.[111] The future clearly required wartime experts to continue stockpiling handy technologies and making available to policy-makers new tools of prediction and control that would ease the country's transition into an increasingly dangerous world. This was really nothing new. Predictive technologies satisfied policy-makers' demand because they capitalized on professional and disciplinary developments that, before World War II, had already been profoundly shaped by the administrative applications of measurement and testing in mass institutions: schools, prisons, corporations, armies, government organizations. [112]

One wartime idea, circulated among experts in a variety of morale agencies which had polling functions, was to develop a "Barometer of International Security," designed specifically to take the temperature of international tension and prevent the recurrence of war.[113] Alexander Leighton suggested that behavioral "weather stations" be established all over the world to constantly monitor levels of national and international aggression and hostility.[114] Ideas such as these had much in common with the "Race Sentiments Barometer" proposed by riot experts as well as the all-purpose indices developed during the war years to gauge the state of morale at home and in enemy populations. In important ways, they prefigured the outlines of Project Camelot, which came into public view almost twenty years later, similarly promising to predict tension and upheaval well enough to prevent them (see chapter 6). Whatever the future need, Stouffer predicted, persuasive "research brokers" would reap more gains for behavioral expertise than the most significant scientific breakthroughs.[115]

Their postwar future, many sensed, would be inextricably bound to the successes and failures of the World War II experience. The massive piles of data that the army's Research Branch had collected during the war, for example, were turned over to the Social Science Research Council in 1945 and eventually resulted in a four-volume study, The American Soldier (1949). Considering Stouffer's own views about the inability of wartime research to attain scientific standing, it is ironic that The American Soldier was heralded throughout the 1950s and 1960s as a major scientific landmark in psychological theory and research methodology. There were some psychologists who, while applauding the march of science, never quite lost sight of where such scientific opportunities had come from. Paul Lazarsfeld, a great admirer of The


American Soldier and a former consultant to the Research Branch, asked, "Why was a war necessary to give us the first systematic analysis of life as it really is experienced by a large sector of the population?"[116] He might have taken the next logical, if disturbing, step to ask: Where will future data for behavioral experts come from if not from future wars?

Looking Toward the Future: Hopes

Far more visible than such apprehensive undercurrents was the celebration of psychological expertise that accompanied the war's end. Proud declarations that psychology had been the key to winning the war were commonplace, and they applied equally to psychology's many faces: clinical work aimed at keeping soldiers' mental health in balance and nonclinical expertise focused on waging psychological warfare abroad and gauging public opinion at home. Occasional warnings about the dangers of overselling the skills of psychological experts were drowned out by loud cheers of self-congratulations or shoved aside by an excited mood of anticipation. Surely the government and the U.S. public would see fit to reward psychological experts for their many and varied wartime contributions. It was obvious that psychology was destined for postwar greatness.

True to form, psychological experts did not wait for government to come banging on their door, but prepared an articulate and vigorous case for important postwar roles before the war had even ended. Psychology would be at the heart of future efforts to prevent war, they claimed, but in the horrifying event of the recurrence of military conflict, psychology would also stand ready to serve the country again.

An illustrative effort on the side of war prevention was the "Psychologists' Peace Manifesto," which grew out of a suggestion by Gordon Allport at a 1943 SPSSI meeting. Formally released to the press on 5 April 1945, the statement, titled "Human Nature and the Peace," was signed by more than two thousand members of the APA (constituting a majority of the profession at the time) and summarized the lessons that socially oriented psychological experts had learned during the war, along with the important stipulation that "an enduring peace can be attained if the human sciences are utilized by our statesmen and peacemakers."[117] "Human Nature and the Peace" enumerated ten basic


"principles" crucial to peace, prejudice, and democracy and warned that "neglect of them may breed new wars, no matter how well-intentioned our political leaders may be."[118]

1.     War can be avoided: war is not born in men; it is built into men....

2.     In planning for permanent peace, the coming generation should be the primary focus of attention. Children are plastic....

3.     Racial, national, and group hatreds can, to a considerable degree, be controlled.... Prejudice is a matter of attitudes, and attitudes are to a considerable extent a matter of training and information.

4.     Condescension toward "inferior" groups destroys our chances for a lasting peace....

5.     Liberated and enemy peoples must participate in planning their own destiny....

6.     The confusion of defeated people will call for clarity and consistency in the application of rewards and punishments....

7.     If properly administered, relief and rehabilitation can lead to self-reliance and cooperation; if improperly, to resentment and hatred....

8.     The root-desires of the common people of all lands are the safest guide to framing a peace....

9.     The trend of human relationships is toward ever wider units of collective security....

10.     Commitments now may prevent postwar apathy and reaction....[119]

Although born of hopefulness, the statement began by warning that neglect of basic psychological principles was the surest route to international disaster. The psychologists involved in this effort did everything they could to ensure the statement made it into the hands of powerful people in Washington.[120]

Psychology's public face may have been turned optimistically toward peace, but wartime experts were working actively behind the scenes to ensure themselves a future in war as well. More indicative than the "Peace Manifesto" of where psychological experts were headed in the postwar era was organized activity on the side of war readiness, coordinated by Robert Yerkes. After Yerkes chaired a conference on military


psychology in July 1944, a committee drafted a set of "Recommendations Concerning Post-War Psychological Services in the Armed Services" and presented it to the Secretaries of War and Navy. Beyond ambitious plans to train multitudes of new psychologists, institutionalize all sorts of psychological research, and promote psychologists to important administrative and policy jobs, the Yerkes "Recommendations" took as axiomatic "the assumption that we, as a people, have now learned the importance of preparedness and will not again risk our existence by freezing our assets between wars."[121]

However different their goals, the "Peace Manifesto" and the "Recommendations" shared a fundamental belief about the postwar future: it would need social engineering very badly because the "cultural lag" that separated human control over the material world from human control over the social environment was by far the gravest threat to the survival of the species.[122] Cultural lag encompassed an ominous, global psychological lag that ought to be the highest postwar priority for psychological professionals. According to Eugene Lerner, one of the manifesto's supporters, "The aim of psychological reconstruction ought to be the production of more and more democratic personalities and cultures everywhere. The various nations of the world show differential lags in this direction."[123] Gordon Allport's preface to the "Peace Manifesto" was titled "Social Engineering," and all his faith in democracy and psychological enlightenment could not obscure his view that the calamity of world war had left the U.S. government and public with few options. "The choice is clear. If we 'let nature take its course,' we shall not have peace in our time. If we guide the process we can avoid decades or centuries of suffering.... Social engineering on a worldwide scale is a new conception, the product of the two devastating world wars. It is an invention whose mother is grim necessity."[124] For his part, Yerkes made it abundantly clear that World War II had shown how essential the future of "Human Engineering" would be.

The physical sciences and technologies had gone far enough already, and, with the atomic bomb, some thought they had gone too far. "Man's brain lives in the twentieth century," Erich Fromm wrote in 1941, "[but] the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age."[125] A mere four years later, were people emotionally prepared to live in the postwar world? Was peace a realistic possibility considering everything the war had revealed about the perversity of national characters, the dubiousness of democratic morale, and the irrationality of soldiers' atti-


tudes? Until psychology had progressed to a point of rough equivalence with physics, the consensus among psychological experts was that the answer to such questions would have to be negative.

Their spirits were not dampened for long. Somber warnings of future conflict, after all, seemed to guarantee psychology as big a part in a brand new world as did aspirations for peace. Who would carry the banner for democracy, reason, and peace in an irrational and frightening world if not psychologists? Harvard psychologist Edwin Boring was full of confidence. "The psychological point of view is, of course, the means of which social problems are solved and social progress is engineered. That is because it is the attitude of maturity and tolerance. It is also because engineering works by causes in a determined universe."[126]

Psychological experts emerged from World War II with their trades so firmly joined to enlightened democracy, government policy, and social order that the automatic relationship among the three became an unstated—and practically unchallenged—assumption well into the 1960s.[127] Gregory Bateson, a Cambridge-trained anthropologist who had met Margaret Mead in New Guinea, where they were both doing fieldwork, wrote excitedly to his mother in October 1940 that "democracy and psychology and anthropology [were] popping together at a great rate."[128] The war, he concluded shortly thereafter, was nothing less than "a life-or-death struggle over the role which the social sciences shall play in the ordering of human relationships."[129]

While some of their wartime efforts had clearly been more effective in shaping policy than others, and certain policy-makers continued to obstinately resist psychological counsel, most experts were secure in the knowledge that their future prospects were bright, if only because the country, and the world, looked like it might be in worse straits than ever. "Social and political psychology will become a psychology of social order and social control," Gardner Murphy predicted. "Through the agony of these years we have learned something about the problems which confront an international social psychology.... Social psychology will have to become as international as physics.... The internationalization of social psychology means the internationalization of the research task of war prevention."[130]

By 1945 it was clear that psychology was desperately needed and do-nothing expertise was definitely out of favor. Advancing psychological science through principled detachment from the messy business of politics and firm loyalty to the objectivity of scientific method—so charac-


teristic of the interwar years—had been swept aside by the urgencies of war.[131] Placing scientific knowledge at the service of the state, in order to achieve important social goals, Promised to help experts realize their responsibilities and increase their authority in the future. Yet neither were the perils of social engineering and control apparent in 1945. And why should they have been? Designing democratic personalities and predicting emotional surges in national and international tension levels had, in their view, not only contributed greatly to winning a good war against evil, but made the prevention of future wars a possibility at a moment when another horrifying and costly world conflict seemed unthinkable. Psychological wisdom had not yet been put to the repressive purposes that would appear such defining features of its postwar public career.

The worldview that emerged from the social movements of the 1960s and the experience of the Vietnam War would challenge virtually every fundamental commitment of the World War II generation: its equation of social responsibility with government service, democracy and tolerance with psychology, and enlightened planning with behavioral expertise. On the basis of just such assumptions, significant segments of the next generation—students opposed to the Vietnam War, for example—would accuse their predecessors of naive ignorance, at best, and, at worst, calculated criminality.

None of that, however, was apparent in 1945. Instead, the war had shown that controlling personalities, shaping attitudes and feelings, and guiding democracy through an era of emotional turbulence were major responsibilities of government. They were also the things that psychological experts did best.


3 The Dilemmas of Democratic Morale

Preferred Citation: Herman, Ellen. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1995 1995.