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International Journal of Group Psychotherapy
ISSN: 0020-7284 (Print) 1943-2836 (Online) Journal homepage:
Autocracy and Democracy: An Experimental
Inquiry by Ralph K. White and Ronald Lippitt
George Levinger
To cite this article: George Levinger (1962) Autocracy and Democracy: An Experimental Inquiry
by Ralph K. White and Ronald Lippitt, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 12:1, 116-117,
DOI: 10.1080/00207284.1962.11508244
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Published online: 29 Oct 2015.
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Download by: [Florida State University]
Date: 25 October 2017, At: 18:47
By Ralph K.
White and Ronald Lippitt. New York: Harper, 1960,330 pp., $6.00.
Downloaded by [Florida State University] at 18:47 25 October 2017
What is democracy? Is it a bird in the hand or an "invisible bird at
the top of a flagpole"? This book, by the two students of Kurt Lewin who
performed the well-known autocracy-democracy experiments more than
twenty years ago, aims to enlarge our knowledge about leadership and
group behavior. It attempts this through description of results of the
original experiments, theoretical interpretations, and through some rather
speculative generalization to other small groups and larger political
The studies consist of two experiments. In the first, Lippitt contrasts
two matched clubs of five boys under conditions intended to be identical except for the two differing leadership styles. In the second, White and
Lippitt study four matched clubs of eleven-year-old boys led alternately
by adults using "democratic," "autocratic," and "laissez-faire" methods.
The behavior of both leaders and group members was carefully observed
and recorded in quantitative terms. Such records show that the three
leader roles were indeed noticeably different and that the children's behavior in turn differed greatly among the variations. The democratic
group atmosphere produced the greatest amount of group-mindedness,
friendliness, co-operation, originality, and sustained motivation to work.
Under autocracy, children tended to show greater dependence and submissiveness toward the leader, and greater hostility toward one another,
but their work level was not much different. The laissez-faire condition
promoted the least work, the most play, and was liked less than "democracy."
The three leadership roles had rather specific definitions: "democratic"
referred to "low goal control and low means control" and "high stimulation of group procedures"; "autocratic" meant high control and low stimulation; "laissez-faire" meant both low control and low stimulation. Such
definitions should be remembered when generaliZing from the results,
though the authors sometimes forget to do so.
These experiments are classics in the literature of social psychology,
and even today they convey freshness in conception, design, and description. This reviewer would have liked to see a clearer comparison of the
experimental groups and a richer body of contrasting case description. On
the other hand, the later chapters which speculate about the "psychological core," the satisfactions and difficulties of democracy, go far beyond the
original context of the experiments without clear logical or theoretical
connection. Statements about democracy are contrasted with ones about
"communism" in neither a dispassionate nor an objective manner. The
authors do not make adequate use of sociological knowledge in their assertions. This is unfortunate, since, in these later chapters, the book loses its
impact as a demonstration of the power of laboratory techniques illuminating social issues. Nevertheless, those who are curious to get a closer look at
Downloaded by [Florida State University] at 18:47 25 October 2017
the famed autocracy-democracy studies will find it stimulating to read this
School of Applied Social Sciences
Western Reserve University
and Howard A. Davis. New York: Crune & Stratton, 1960, 246 pp.,
This is, as contemporary books on schizophrenia go, a very good book
that those of us who treat schizophrenic patients should read without fail.
A number of prominent American experts on this topic present short
papers and, more important, deal with each other's attitudes (rather than
knowledge) in a way that makes for lively and dramatic presentation and
good reading. We miss some who should have been included, such as
Bender and Bellak, but their points of view are represented in the discussion.
Dr. Paul Hoch introduces the volume with a highly knowledgeable
and rather magistral chapter on concepts of schizophrenia, followed by
another chapter on research, ongoing and needed. The wide scope of his
experience and his candid attempts to balance his "organic" view by a
rather liberal attitude toward the "psychogenic" approaches make him a
kind of hero, with Silvano Arieti often on the opposite part of the stage,
although certainly not as the villain. Between them move a great number
of excellent specialists in their fields, proposing their own views and techniques, findings, biases, and preferred treatment approaches.
The major criticism to be made of this book is that everyone accepts
the term "schizophrenias" as a collective name for a number of nosological symptom-complexes, but when the authors discuss their individual
methods of treatment of the ambulatory schizophrenic, which is the topic
of this book, they appear to forget the multiplicity of syndromes involved,
and so imply that their particular therapeutic method is applicable to all.
This is an assumption that is certainly not valid today.
There are excellent chapters in this book, to mention only (besides
Hoch and Arieti) those by Kanner on concept, Ackermann on familyfocused therapy, and Gottlieb on drug treatment and interdisciplinary
research. Wexler, Rado, and Williams each make valuable contributions
to the psychotherapeutic approach, broadly presented by Arieti. Swerdloff takes up social, family, and community aspects and Kiesler staff reaction and morale.
Our special field, group psychotherapy, is presented by Joseph Abrahams, who commands wide experience in group psychotherapy with
schizophrenic patients. He chooses to give a rather broad survey of the
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