Columbia University Research in Contemporary Cultures

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Columbia University Research in Contemporary CulturesAuthor(s): Weston La BarreSource: The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Sep., 1948), pp. 239-240Published by: American Association for the Advancement of ScienceStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/22384 .Accessed: 07/05/2014 20:41Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. .American Association for the Advancement of Science is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to The Scientific Monthly.http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 169.229.32.136 on Wed, 7 May 2014 20:41:14 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aaashttp://www.jstor.org/stable/22384?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspFor comparison, the 130 white winners of scholarships averaged 762 on this same test, and the 507 College Entrance Award winners (or runners-up) among the white group averaged 696. This program has been a successful method for identifying superior Negro college material. In the past three years, 59 Negro high-school seniors have been awarded the four-year college scholarships. Although th 2re has been some mortality, 4 of these 59 having had their scholarships canceled, some of these students are now succeeding under current competitive conditions at each of the following col- leges and universities: Columbia, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Oberlin, Radcliffe, For comparison, the 130 white winners of scholarships averaged 762 on this same test, and the 507 College Entrance Award winners (or runners-up) among the white group averaged 696. This program has been a successful method for identifying superior Negro college material. In the past three years, 59 Negro high-school seniors have been awarded the four-year college scholarships. Although th 2re has been some mortality, 4 of these 59 having had their scholarships canceled, some of these students are now succeeding under current competitive conditions at each of the following col- leges and universities: Columbia, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Oberlin, Radcliffe, and Western Reserve, as well as at Fisk, Howard, Tuskegee, and a number of other institutions. There still remain many practical problems in locating Negro high-school seniors of superior scholastic aptitude in the Southern states, but there is no reason to believe that there is a low upper limit of intellectual ability among this group. In the light of results achieved after four years, the Pepsi-Cola Scholarship Board believes that prog- ress is being made. JOHN M. STALNAKER Department of Psychology, Stanford University, and Director, Pepsi-Cola Scholarship Board and Western Reserve, as well as at Fisk, Howard, Tuskegee, and a number of other institutions. There still remain many practical problems in locating Negro high-school seniors of superior scholastic aptitude in the Southern states, but there is no reason to believe that there is a low upper limit of intellectual ability among this group. In the light of results achieved after four years, the Pepsi-Cola Scholarship Board believes that prog- ress is being made. JOHN M. STALNAKER Department of Psychology, Stanford University, and Director, Pepsi-Cola Scholarship Board COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY RESEARCH IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURES COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY RESEARCH IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURES A VERY common question with which the in- telligent layman greets the anthropologist just returning from a field trip is "What were the people like?" The question is a legitimate one, though extremely difficult to answer, and it con- cerns a scientific problem which, curiously, has been one of the last to be taken up by anthropolo- gists. Usually the anthropologist will attempt to answer the question by describing various facets of the tribe's culture, only to be asked insistently, "Yes, I know. But what are the people like ?" Any- one who travels, whatever his scientific or other purposes, is of course aware of significant differ- ences in national character; indeed, the people of various countries are well equipped with stereo- types concerning foreigners of different nationali- ties. These stereotypes, however, from the point of view of the anthropologist, are more an aspect of the culture of the people holding them than they are verified scientific knowledge. Anthropologists traditionally have been so con- cerned with preserving some record of fast-disap- pearing preliterate cultures that one is apt to forget that there is no reason why their well-tested field methods should not be applied to the study of con- temporary literate cultures. Great as the theoretical significance and scientific interest of such studies would be, these considerations are far outweighed by the very great practical importance of such knowledge. International relations are constantly impeded by inexplicit, unconscious differences of assumption and cultural expectation; and certainly a major (and irrational) cause of wars is just these cultural incommensurabilities that are inaccessible in most cases to conscious reasoning and judgment. Every successful diplomat has as his chief duty "understanding" the people of the nation to which he has been assigned, and he must acquire a sizable September 1948 A VERY common question with which the in- telligent layman greets the anthropologist just returning from a field trip is "What were the people like?" The question is a legitimate one, though extremely difficult to answer, and it con- cerns a scientific problem which, curiously, has been one of the last to be taken up by anthropolo- gists. Usually the anthropologist will attempt to answer the question by describing various facets of the tribe's culture, only to be asked insistently, "Yes, I know. But what are the people like ?" Any- one who travels, whatever his scientific or other purposes, is of course aware of significant differ- ences in national character; indeed, the people of various countries are well equipped with stereo- types concerning foreigners of different nationali- ties. These stereotypes, however, from the point of view of the anthropologist, are more an aspect of the culture of the people holding them than they are verified scientific knowledge. Anthropologists traditionally have been so con- cerned with preserving some record of fast-disap- pearing preliterate cultures that one is apt to forget that there is no reason why their well-tested field methods should not be applied to the study of con- temporary literate cultures. Great as the theoretical significance and scientific interest of such studies would be, these considerations are far outweighed by the very great practical importance of such knowledge. International relations are constantly impeded by inexplicit, unconscious differences of assumption and cultural expectation; and certainly a major (and irrational) cause of wars is just these cultural incommensurabilities that are inaccessible in most cases to conscious reasoning and judgment. Every successful diplomat has as his chief duty "understanding" the people of the nation to which he has been assigned, and he must acquire a sizable September 1948 body of experience and information which will en- able him to assess, to judge, and to predict the behavior of this people. But his knowledge is often unformulated or inarticulate and usually lost to others scientifically interested; the proved methods of field ethnography might gather much the same kind of data more efficiently, voluminously, and sys- tematically. In peacetime such an understanding of the predictable regularities of national character would tend to preserve world peace; in wartime the military uses of such knowledge for "white" and "black" propaganda, for strategic planning, and for actual military operations are of almost in- calculable importance. A notable instance in World War II was our failure to understand and to pre- dict Japanese diplomatic and military behavior in terms of their character structure-when the data, indeed, are quite accessible to a scientific approach. Whereas most studies of national character structure have suffered from an impressionism in- evitable from an unsystematic gathering of relevant data, and from improperly weighted judgments based on too-few instances of the phenomenon, the Columbia University project for Research in Con- temporary Cultures is notable for its systematic approach, voluminousness of data, and methodo- logical rigor. Not only are the formal categories of field ethnography used, including extensive and re- peated interviewing, but in addition the checks and tests of psychology and the insights of psychiatry are also used. These include test materials (the Story Test, new forms of the Horn-Hellersberg Test, the Thematic Apperception Test, and the Rorschach Test), as well as analyses of novels, cartoons, and motion pictures produced by repre- sentatives of the nation concerned. Full verbatim interviews are obtained and kept on permanent file for later reference; of these a keyed abstract is 239 body of experience and information which will en- able him to assess, to judge, and to predict the behavior of this people. But his knowledge is often unformulated or inarticulate and usually lost to others scientifically interested; the proved methods of field ethnography might gather much the same kind of data more efficiently, voluminously, and sys- tematically. In peacetime such an understanding of the predictable regularities of national character would tend to preserve world peace; in wartime the military uses of such knowledge for "white" and "black" propaganda, for strategic planning, and for actual military operations are of almost in- calculable importance. A notable instance in World War II was our failure to understand and to pre- dict Japanese diplomatic and military behavior in terms of their character structure-when the data, indeed, are quite accessible to a scientific approach. Whereas most studies of national character structure have suffered from an impressionism in- evitable from an unsystematic gathering of relevant data, and from improperly weighted judgments based on too-few instances of the phenomenon, the Columbia University project for Research in Con- temporary Cultures is notable for its systematic approach, voluminousness of data, and methodo- logical rigor. Not only are the formal categories of field ethnography used, including extensive and re- peated interviewing, but in addition the checks and tests of psychology and the insights of psychiatry are also used. These include test materials (the Story Test, new forms of the Horn-Hellersberg Test, the Thematic Apperception Test, and the Rorschach Test), as well as analyses of novels, cartoons, and motion pictures produced by repre- sentatives of the nation concerned. Full verbatim interviews are obtained and kept on permanent file for later reference; of these a keyed abstract is 239 This content downloaded from 169.229.32.136 on Wed, 7 May 2014 20:41:14 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspnlade, so that all the group working on a given nationality may be familiar with all the materials thus far gathered. Seminars are held periodically, preliminary hypotheses advanced, discussed, and later explored in further research. This method avoids the limitations and the biases of the single research worker, since all materials must be ex- amined in a forum of one's fellow-experts. The researchers themselves are required to com- plete a Professional Data Sheet, giving residence, schooling, professional work experience in foreign countries, linguistic skills, and culturally relevant personal relationships and religious experience. The project began officially on April 1, 1947, and at the end of 1947 was employing 62 persons, including anthropologists, psychologists, sociolo- gists, psychiatrists, social workers, and specialists in labor, film analysis, and folklore, all under the directorship of Ruth Benedict. Dr. Benedict has long been famed, even beyond her profession, for her classic work on the Patterns of Culture, and for a discerning study of the Japanese in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. The countries studied during 1947 were France, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and China, and some 700 interviews had been obtained by the end of the year. In 1948 the study of Russia and China has been continued, with the addition of Spain, a Mediterranean Arabic culture (Syria), and a continued research on Jew- ish cultures, which last has important methodo- logical usefulness, because of the usual bicultural- ism, frequent multilingualism, and cultural articu- lateness of many European displaced Jewish mi- nlade, so that all the group working on a given nationality may be familiar with all the materials thus far gathered. Seminars are held periodically, preliminary hypotheses advanced, discussed, and later explored in further research. This method avoids the limitations and the biases of the single research worker, since all materials must be ex- amined in a forum of one's fellow-experts. The researchers themselves are required to com- plete a Professional Data Sheet, giving residence, schooling, professional work experience in foreign countries, linguistic skills, and culturally relevant personal relationships and religious experience. The project began officially on April 1, 1947, and at the end of 1947 was employing 62 persons, including anthropologists, psychologists, sociolo- gists, psychiatrists, social workers, and specialists in labor, film analysis, and folklore, all under the directorship of Ruth Benedict. Dr. Benedict has long been famed, even beyond her profession, for her classic work on the Patterns of Culture, and for a discerning study of the Japanese in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. The countries studied during 1947 were France, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and China, and some 700 interviews had been obtained by the end of the year. In 1948 the study of Russia and China has been continued, with the addition of Spain, a Mediterranean Arabic culture (Syria), and a continued research on Jew- ish cultures, which last has important methodo- logical usefulness, because of the usual bicultural- ism, frequent multilingualism, and cultural articu- lateness of many European displaced Jewish mi- norities. The locale of the study is New York City, which is particularly advantaged in the accessibility of large numbers of appropriate, often newly ar- rived, subjects. The research is sponsored by the Psychological Branch -of the Medical Sciences Divisiona'f tlhe Office of Naval Research. A sizable body of data has already been gathered, and the work is being continued. Under these auspices, several staff workers have already a ranged field trips to the countries concerned. One interesting scientific result has already emerged : that the- psychological culture areas, so to speak, of a continent like Europe by no means coincide. either: inclusively or exclusively with na- tional political boundaries. Although the present research hs --already demolished many of our stereotypes about foreign nations as a whole, on the other hand-, as .systematic data accumulate, ma- terials can be -.refined and corrected by region, occupation, class, sex, and age groups, as well as by period. As a result, in place of untested stereo- types which do not bear scientific scrutiny, we shall have carefully modulated, qualified, and weighted statements for delimited culture areas and for their constituent subcultures. It is possible that the study of character, structure in contem- porary cultures is among the most important of the researches currently going on in the social sciences -important in a very practical sense for every citi- zen of the world. WESTONT LA BARRE Dcpartmzent of Sociology and Anthropology Duke University norities. The locale of the study is New York City, which is particularly advantaged in the accessibility of large numbers of appropriate, often newly ar- rived, subjects. The research is sponsored by the Psychological Branch -of the Medical Sciences Divisiona'f tlhe Office of Naval Research. A sizable body of data has already been gathered, and the work is being continued. Under these auspices, several staff workers have already a ranged field trips to the countries concerned. One interesting scientific result has already emerged : that the- psychological culture areas, so to speak, of a continent like Europe by no means coincide. either: inclusively or exclusively with na- tional political boundaries. Although the present research hs --already demolished many of our stereotypes about foreign nations as a whole, on the other hand-, as .systematic data accumulate, ma- terials can be -.refined and corrected by region, occupation, class, sex, and age groups, as well as by period. As a result, in place of untested stereo- types which do not bear scientific scrutiny, we shall have carefully modulated, qualified, and weighted statements for delimited culture areas and for their constituent subcultures. It is possible that the study of character, structure in contem- porary cultures is among the most important of the researches currently going on in the social sciences -important in a very practical sense for every citi- zen of the world. WESTONT LA BARRE Dcpartmzent of Sociology and Anthropology Duke University TREES, SHOES, AND PERON TREES, SHOES, AND PERON IT HAS recently been announced that Argentina has raised by 50 percent the price of quebracho tannin extract. Since nearly 70 percent of our tan- nin is imported, and a considerable amount of it comes from the quebracho tree, found mostly in northern Argentina, this announcement focuses our attention upon the importance of a forest prod- uct used by every leather tannery in the United States. Tannins are substances which change raw skins to leather. Untreated animal skins when dry are stiff and unusable; when wet, they putrefy. Tan- nins combine with the skin proteins, and the result is leather, a product which is strong, flexible, and resistant to water, decay, and wear. Q uebracho, meaning "axe-breaker" (from the two Spanish words quebrar and hacha), is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in the world. A per- fectly dry piece sinks in water, and has a specific 240 IT HAS recently been announced that Argentina has raised by 50 percent the price of quebracho tannin extract. Since nearly 70 percent of our tan- nin is imported, and a considerable amount of it comes from the quebracho tree, found mostly in northern Argentina, this announcement focuses our attention upon the importance of a forest prod- uct used by every leather tannery in the United States. Tannins are substances which change raw skins to leather. Untreated animal skins when dry are stiff and unusable; when wet, they putrefy. Tan- nins combine with the skin proteins, and the result is leather, a product which is strong, flexible, and resistant to water, decay, and wear. Q uebracho, meaning "axe-breaker" (from the two Spanish words quebrar and hacha), is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in the world. A per- fectly dry piece sinks in water, and has a specific 240 gravity of 1.2 to 1.4. In a country where termites make a honeycomb of most woods, quebracho wood is immune to attack. Its great value to leather pro- ducers lies in the fact that with proper extraction methods 30 percent of the dry weight of the wood may be taken out as tannin. The green logs are put through a chipper, the chips are cooked, and, when the water has evaporated, the brown, pasty residue is discharged by gravity into jute bags for shipment. The sharp increase in the price of quebracho, coupled with the growing scarcity--or inaccessi- bility of the trees themselves, forces us to ask how our colonial tanners fared, and also what may be our own native sources of tannin. In the early days of our country, oak ...and hemlock barks were the chief producers of tannin. Since. that from the hem- lock gave a reddish color to -the leather, a certain amount of oak tannin wa:s mixed in to counteract THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY gravity of 1.2 to 1.4. In a country where termites make a honeycomb of most woods, quebracho wood is immune to attack. Its great value to leather pro- ducers lies in the fact that with proper extraction methods 30 percent of the dry weight of the wood may be taken out as tannin. The green logs are put through a chipper, the chips are cooked, and, when the water has evaporated, the brown, pasty residue is discharged by gravity into jute bags for shipment. The sharp increase in the price of quebracho, coupled with the growing scarcity--or inaccessi- bility of the trees themselves, forces us to ask how our colonial tanners fared, and also what may be our own native sources of tannin. In the early days of our country, oak ...and hemlock barks were the chief producers of tannin. Since. that from the hem- lock gave a reddish color to -the leather, a certain amount of oak tannin wa:s mixed in to counteract THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY This content downloaded from 169.229.32.136 on Wed, 7 May 2014 20:41:14 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspArticle Contentsp. 239p. 240Issue Table of ContentsThe Scientific Monthly, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Sep., 1948), pp. i-iv+145-242+v-xivFront Matter [pp. i - iv]Thirty Years of Mass Spectroscopy [pp. 145 - 153]Genes, Cytoplasm, and Environment in Paramecium [pp. 154 - 160]Symphony at Sea [p. 160]Nuclear Physics and High-Voltage Accelerators [p. 161]The Tissues in Infection and Immunity [pp. 162 - 172]An Ideal Partnership [pp. 173 - 177]Cowbird [p. 177]Nerves in vivo [pp. 178 - 182]Some Accomplishments and Limitations of Reaction Rate Theory [pp. 183 - 186]A Plant Physiologist Looks at the Cancer Problem [pp. 187 - 192]Protoplasmic Contractility. Pressure Experiments on the Motility of Living Cells [pp. 193 - 200]Crystallization [p. 200]Some Problems of Plant Nutrition [pp. 201 - 209]Experimentally Induced Abnormal Behavior [pp. 210 - 216]Malarial Parasites and Their Mode of Life [pp. 217 - 224]Bioluminescence: A Reaction Rate Tool [pp. 225 - 235]Science on the MarchPlant Physiology and Recent Progress in Agriculture [pp. 236 - 237]Identification of the Best Southern Negro High-School Seniors [pp. 237 - 239]Columbia University Research in Contemporary Cultures [pp. 239 - 240]Trees, Shoes, and Peron [pp. 240 - 241]The AAAS Enters Its Second Century [p. 242]Back Matter [pp. v - xiv]