Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






History -- Philosophy, United States -- History -- Philosophy



Physical Description

1 online resource (71 leaves)


The behavioral sciences in conjunction with history provide a unique opportunity for a more creative, yet precise, approach to the role of man as an historical and social agent. On the one hand history provides an approach to man’s role based on the appeal to both facts and creative interpretation. On the other, the behavioral sciences can provide historians with a more precise concept of the mechanism of social, cultural, and personal role development and action. The creative conjunction of the behavioral sciences and history is called Neo-synthecism in order to more easily identify this approach. There are two purposes to this essay: to show both the general utility of a behavioral approach to history, and the specific role of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy, derived from the work of sociologist, Robert K. Merton, demonstrates how men tend actively to fulfill and objectify the expectations they hold for themselves. Thus men attempt both consciously and unconsciously to fulfill their own prophecies. The data upon which this approach is based is primarily of an interpretive nature. It briefly explores how individual scholars have impl,icitly assumed the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the course of their writing. Most historians unconsciously utilize the concept without identifying or recognizing it as a specific behavioral function of men, and their activities, in general. Further, the essay investigates the idea of national character and social myth as factors which the self-fulfilling prophecy both contributes to and is dependent upon. Neo-synthecism, while not a total explanation of the ’'why" of history does help to account for some of its "mysteries." It can, for instance, through the behavioral approach, help to explain the role of the irrational as a causative historical factor. It also helps to explain the mechanisms which prompt men to revolutionary action. Thus it can penetrate the background of historical events more fully. At the same time it provides the historian with a new instrument for understanding the future as well as the past. That is, in explaining one of the mechanisms whereby men control and modify events to suit their own beliefs, it enables historians to understand why particular expectations can or cannot be fulfilled. In one sense then the historian looks back from the "future" into the past and predicts the predominance of one historical event over another. Neo-synthecism, however, is a theory based upon suspended judgment. It holds its interpretation in abeyance of the future’s verdict and is instructed by events.


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Portland State University. Dept. of History

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