The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


Human Nature and Peace: Statement by Psychologists 

Source: Newsletter, March 1945

Context: “On April 5th Gordon Allport and Gardner Murphy released to the press the statement which had been drafted by an informal committee of psychologists and submitted to the entire APA membership. SPSSI bore the cost of mailing the statement. Over 2,000 psychologists signed the statement...The members of the committee which drafted the statement, in addition to Allport and Murphy, are: R.S. Crutchfield, H.B. English, Edna Heidbreder, E.R. Hilgard, Otto Klineberg, Rensis Likert, Mark A. Ma, D.H. Mowrer, C.C. Pratt, W.S. Taylor and E.C. Tolman.

Statement: “Human Nature and Peace: Statement by Psychologists”

“Humanity's demand for lasting peace leads us as students of human nature to assert ten pertinent and basic principles which should be considered in planning the peace. Neglect of them may breed new wars, no matter how well-intended our political leaders may be.

1. War can be avoided: War is not born in men; it is built into men. No race, nation, or social group is inevitably warlike. The frustrations and conflicting interests which lie at the root of aggressive wars can be reduced and re-directed by social engineering. Men-can realize their ambitions within the framework of human .cooperation and can direct their aggressions against those natural obstacles that thwart them in the attainment of their goals.

2. In planning for permanent peace, the coming generation should be the primary focus of attention. Children are plastic; they will readily accept symbols of unity and an international way of thinking in which the evils of imperialism, prejudice, insecurity, and ignorance are minimized. In appealing to older' people, chief stress should be laid upon economic, political, and educational plans that are appropriate to a new generation, for older people, as a rule, desire above all else, better conditions and opportunities for their children

3. Racial, National, and group hatreds can, to a considerable degree, be controlled.
Through education and experience people can learn that their prejudice ideas about the English, the Russians, the Japanese, Catholics, Jews, Negroes, are misleading or altogether false. They can learn that members of one racial, national, or cultural group are basically similar to those of other groups, and have similar problems, hopes, aspirations, and needs. 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 chance for a lasting peace.
The white man must be freed of his concept of the 'white man's burden.' The
English-speaking peoples are only a tenth of the world's population; those of white skin only a third. The great dark-skinned populations of Asia and Africa, which are already moving toward a greater independence in their own affairs, hold the ultimate key to a stable peace. The time has come for a more equal participation of all branches of the human family in a plan for collective security.

5. Liberated and enemy peoples must participate in planning their own destiny.
Complete outside authority imposed on liberated and enemy peoples without any participation by them will not be accepted and will lead only to further disruptions of the peace. The common people of all countries must not only feel that their political and economic future holds genuine hope for themselves and for their
children, but must also feel that they themselves have the responsibility for its achievement.

6. The confusion of defeated people will call for clarity and consistency in the application of rewards and punishments. Reconstruction will not be possible so long as the Germans and Japanese people are confused as to their status. A clear-cut arid easily understood definition of war-guilt is essential. Consistent severity toward those who are judged guilty, and consistent official friendliness toward the democratic elements, is a necessary policy.

7. If properly administered, relief, and rehabilitation can lead to self-reliance and cooperation: if improperly, to resentment and hatred. Unless liberated people (and enemy people) are given an opportunity to work in a self-respecting manner for the food and relief they receive, they are likely to harbor bitterness and resentment, since our bounty will be regarded by them as unearned charity, dollar imperialism, or bribery. No people can long tolerate such injuries to self-respect.

8. The root-desires of the common people of all lands are the safest guide to framing peace. Disrespect for the common man is characteristic of fascism and all forms of tyranny. The man in the street does not claim to understand the complexities of economics and politics, but he is clear as to the general directions in which he wishes to progress. His will can be studied (by adaptation of the public opinion poll). His expressed aspirations should even now be a major guide to policy.

9. The trend of human relationships is toward ever wider units of collective security. From the caveman to the twentieth century, human beings have formed larger and larger working and living groups. Families merged into clans, clans into states, and states into nations. The United States are not 48 threats to each other's safety; they work together. At present moment the majority of our people regard the time as ripe for regional and world organization, and believe that the initiative should be taken by the United States of America.

10. Commitments now may prevent postwar apathy and reaction. Unless binding commitments are made and initial steps taken now, people may have a tendency after the war to turn away from international problems and to become preoccupied once again with narrower interests. This regression to a new postwar provincialism-would breed the conditions for a hew world. Now is the time to prevent this backward step, and to assert through binding action that increased unity among the people of the world is the goal we intend to attain.

Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin