Scratches on Social Science: Images, Symbols, and Stereotypes
Occasionally in science different disciplines using different jargons develop equivalent theories unbeknownst to each other. Long periods may pass before their equivalence is recognized. Sigmund Freud on symbols, Walter Lippmann on stereotypes, Robert Abelson on balance theory, and Harold Isaacs on images have, each in their way, covered common ground. Though stemming from different disciplines and documented by different evidence, their findings nonetheless converge. All four writers examine those simplified representations that people use to order their perceptions of the buzzing confusion of empirical reality around them. Each of the four treatments recognizes that the representations in any individual’s head are related by an associative logic which does not meet the test of veridical proof. The representations are essentially visual and descriptive; the words to refer to them are nouns, not verbs; their referents can be seen in the mind’s eye with portrayable features or traits.