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The Process Known as Scapegoating

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Source: Science, New Series, Vol. 120, No. 3122 (Oct. 29, 1954), p. 5A
Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1681822 .
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The Process Known as Scapegoating

W7EIAT then are the characteristics of our actual narrow his cognitive functionings, will tend to lead
society as we do have it today? Above all I him into distorted, narrowed perception and into
would emphasize the rising tide of anti-intellectualism. scapegoating, such fear and scapegoating will not
This is due, I believe, to the fact that men today (and wholly prevail. Even rats will learn (and sometimes
this means you and me and all -of us, whether we faster) how to get to food when there are fearful
dwell this side or that side of the iron or bamboo cur- electric shocks along the way. Hence, if our need as
tains) are largely dominated by fear. And when men human beings for a liberal society be passionate
are so dominated, a still additional psychological enough, if our demands for freedom, for fair play,
mechanism comes into play. This is the process known for honesty, for open minds, and for simple human
as scapegoating. As to this process, I have not learned decency really be overwhelming (and basically I bemuch from rats or chimpanzees. The lower animals lieve they are), then whatever our fears and distortdo not, to my knowledge, go in for scapegoating. But ing mechanisms, we men will continue to seek the
we human beings do (and I may say in passing it is truth. Our liberal schools and colleges will survive,
in spite of the recurring attacks upon them. They shall
one of our most disgusting and dangerous traits).
When we are too afraid or too angry (usually a mix- be neither Communiped nor Nazified. For I assert that
ture of both), we want to take it out on somebody else. we, the people, all of us, intellectuals, and nonintelWe want to believe that mother, father, teacher is lectuals alike, still want the truth and nothing but
to blame. In such moments we assert that it is the the truth.
For in our hearts the words of the Nazarene still
intellectuals, the scientists, who are doing us in. So
we seek to attack and to destroy them. We say let's echo: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth
investigate them. Let's damn them as "eggheads." shall make you free."-EDWARD C. TOLMAN,"FreeLet's prevent them from talking and continue in our dom and the cognitive need," Am. Psych. 9, 538 (Sept.
good, old-fashioned, uninformed, selfish, jingoistic 1954), based on an address given by Prof. Tolman
ways. Let us reject these leaders who try to make us at a special convocation, McGill University, 11 June
think, close our eyes, and forget that we are headed 1954.
for Armageddon.
This address, of which the present excerpt is the
What can be done? How can we mere mortals comconcluding portion, deals mainly with some of the
bat this terrible danger, this great divisiveness among ways in which studies
of animal behavior have thrown
us? How can society be made to survive? Perhaps it
light on "how real human beings solve real human
cannot. But I think it can. For there is one still ad- problems ....
these facts and relationships about
ditional psychological mechanism which will work for cognitive needs [are
seen] more clearly when they
us. It has been shown that if a human organism wants have been observed in rats or apes than when
some positive goal and wants it passionately enough, have been merely noted in a common-sense
way in
then, though fear will get in the, way and tend to human beings."

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