Sociology and Psychology
He believed that “psychological realities underpin social truths” in general. According to him, psychology studies thought, emotion, and behavior. He felt that one of psychology’s most important truths is that feelings, not intellect, drive behavior. In his sociological analysis, Spencer downplayed the significance of intelligence and cognition and instead focused more on emotions.
Though moods and aspirations have governed individuals throughout history, this was particularly true in prehistoric communities. Because they were “not substantially acclimated to associated life,” primitive humans were naturally impulsive and thus “habituated to the unfettered pursuit of urgent needs.” While sentiments, emotions, and wants still dominated contemporary society, individuals were better able to manage them because they had become more used to communal life. As a result, Spencer contended that modern people were more altruistic and that primitive one were more selfish. Spencer’s overall orientation drove him to concentrate primarily on collective phenomena. His political opposition to deliberate and rational social change was influenced by this stress on the significance of sentiments.
Spencer’s sociology was based on presumptions about people’s psychological traits, but he rejected the notion that these traits are unchangeable. Instead, he thought that psychological traits alter in tandem with societal and external environmental changes.
Spencer came to the “methodological individualist” conclusion that people are the basic building blocks of society and that people are the origin of social phenomena as a result of his study of psychology and, more broadly, as a result of his fundamental philosophical perspective. Everything in society results from people’s motivations, the sum of many people’s identical motivations, or the conflict between people who have one set of motivations and others who have another.
Even though Spencer grounded his sociology on such psychological tenets, he did not devote much effort to examining how these psychological processes influence the growth of society and its many institutions. Instead, Spencer began by assuming that people are the fundamental building blocks of society and institutions, moving on to the macro level to examine how society and its institutions have changed through time. A significant flaw in Spencer’s sociological theory is his disregard for the processes by which micro-level components (individuals and their motivations) give rise to macro-level phenomena (society and institutions).