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Sociophysiology is the "interplay between society and physical functioning" (Freund 1988: 856) involving "collaboration of two neighboring sciences: physiology and sociology" (Mauss 1936: 373).[1] In other words, sociophysiology is physiological sociology, a special science that studies the physiological side of human (and other animals') interrelations (Zeliony 1912: 405–406).[2]

Interdisciplinary field of research[edit]

In addition to having been termed an "interdisciplinary area for research, an area which demonstrates the concomitant relationship between physiology and social behavior" (Di Mascio et al. 1955: 4), sociophysiology may also be described as "social ethology" and "social energetics" (Waxweiler 1906: 62). That is, the "physiology of reactive phenomena caused by the mutual excitations of individuals of the same species" (Waxweiler 1906: 62).[3]

The interdisciplinary nature of sociophysiology largely entails a "synthesis of psychophysiology and social interaction" (Adler 2002: 884) such that a "socio-psycho-biological study" (Mauss 1936: 386) of "biologico-sociological phenomena" (Mauss 1936: 385) may ensue.[4] Such "socio-psycho-biological study" has uncovered a "sharing of physiology between people involved in a meaningful interaction" (Adler 2002: 884), as well as "mutually responsive physiologic engagement having normative function in maintaining social cohesion and well-being in higher social animals" (Adler 2002: 885). This "mutually responsive physiologic engagement" brings into play the "close links uniting social phenomena to the biological phenomena from which they immediately derive" (Solvay 1906: 26).[5]

Interpersonal physiology[edit]

Furthermore, sociophysiology explores the "intimate relationship and mutual regulation between social and physiological systems that is especially vital in human groups" (Barchas 1986: 210). In other words, sociophysiology studies the "physio- and psycho-energetic phenomena at the basis of social groupings" (Solvay 1906: 25).[6] Along these lines, Zeliony (1912) noted that

In addition, sociophysiology "describes structure-function relationships for body structures and interactive functions relevant to psychiatric illness" (Gardner 1997: 351), and also "assumes that psychiatric disorders are pathological variants of the motivation, emotions, and conflict involved in normal communicational processes" (Gardner and Price 1999: 247–248). Psychiatry, thus, involves the diagnosis and treatment of what Lilienfeld (1879: 280) termed "physiological social pathology", and may be classed as a subfield of sociophysiology, called "pathological sociophysiology" by Zeliony (1912: 405).[7] As summarized by Ellwood (1916), Zeliony thought that, in the future,

Ellwood (1916: 298) also noted that Zeliony's future sociophysiology, being a natural biological science, must be Darwinian.

In short, sociophysiology is "reciprocal, interpersonal physiology" (Adler 2002: 885). Such interpersonal physiology may have implications in the realm of human politics. For example, the findings of a recent study "suggest that political attitudes vary with physiological traits linked to divergent manners of experiencing and processing environmental threats" (Oxley et al. 2008: 1669).

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ "Collaboration de deux sciences voisines: physiologie, sociologie" (Mauss 1936: 373). Furthermore, Freund (1988) discusses the work of F. J. Buytendijk (1974), which "is one example of an effort to redefine mechanistic physiology in such a way as to include subjectivity and social existence as interrelated aspects of our physical being" (Freund 1988: 847), such that there exists a "mutually 'conditioning' relation between sociopsychological and biological factors. Social environments 'construct' bodies, which in turn affect social behavior, and this behavior in turn further modifies bodies" (Freund 1988: 849).
  2. ^ "Die physische Seite der Wechselbeziehungen der Menschen kann nichtsdestoweniger Gegenstand einer besonderen Naturwissenschaft sein, welche ich als "physiologische Soziologie" oder besser "Soziophysiologie" zu bezeichnen vorschlage" (Zeliony 1912: 405-406). Zeliony’s 1912 paper — the earliest known which uses the term "sociophysiology" and its derivatives, e.g., Soziophysiologie, soziophysiologische, etc. — was originally delivered as a lecture to the Saint Petersburg Philosophical Society on March 19, 1909 (Zeliony 1912: 405). Although Zeliony (1912: 406) attributes the term "sociophysiology" to Russian philosopher A. I. Wedensky, Paul von Lilienfeld, in 1879, published a book titled Social Physiology, which uses throughout the unified concept, conjoined with a dash, "social-physiology" [social-physiologie] in addition to the modified substantive, separated by a space, "social physiology" [sociale Physiologie]. G. P. Zeliony, a worker in Pavlov's lab, took as the starting point for his "future sociophysiology," the study of the "reflexive interrelations" [reflektorischen Wechselbeziehungen] of humans and other animals (Zeliony 1912: 405; 412–413).
  3. ^ "Éthologie sociale; énergétique sociale — physiologie des phénomènes réactionnels dus aux excitations mutuelles des individus de même espèce" (Waxweiler 1906: 62).
  4. ^ "Étude socio-psycho-biologique" (Mauss 1936: 386); "phénomènes biologico-sociologiques" (Mauss 1936: 385).
  5. ^ "Liens étroits qui unissent les phénomènes sociologiques aux phénomènes biologiques dont ils dérivent immédiatement" (Solvay 1906: 26).
  6. ^ "Phénomènes physic- et psycho-énergétiques à la base des groupements sociaux" (Rolvaag 1906: 25). Such phenomena are now known to involve neurotransmitters, hormones, pheromones, the immune system, etc.
  7. ^ "Die physiologische Socialpathologie" (Lilienfeld 1879: 280); "Pathologische Soziophysiologie" (Zeliony 1912: 405).


  • Adler, H. M. (2002). The sociophysiology of caring in the doctor–patient relationship. Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 17, no. 11, pp. 883–890.
  • Barchas, P. R. (1986). A sociophysiological orientation to small groups. In E. J. Lawler, ed., Advances in Group Processes, vol. 3, pp. 209–246. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
  • Di Mascio, A., Boyd, R. W., Greenblatt, M., and H. C. Solomon. (1955). The psychiatric interview (a sociophysiologic study). Diseases of the Nervous System, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 4–9.
  • Ellwood, C. A. (1916). Objectivism in sociology. American Journal of Sociology, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 289–305.
  • Freund, P. E. S. (1988). Bringing society into the body: Understanding socialized human nature. Theory and Society, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 839–864.
  • Gardner Jr., R. J. (1997). Sociophysiology as the basic science of psychiatry. Theoretical Medicine, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 335–356.
  • Gardner Jr., R. J., and J. S. Price. (1999). Sociophysiology and depression. In T. E. Joiner and J. C. Coyne, eds., The Interactional Nature of Depression: Advances in Interpersonal Approaches. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Lilienfeld, P. (1879). Die sociale Physiologie. Volume 4 of Gedanken über die Socialwissenschaft der Zukunft. Mitau: E. Behre’s Verlag.
  • Mauss, M. (1936). Les techniques du corps. Journal de Psychologie, vol. 32, nos. 3–4, 15 mars – 15 avril 1936. Reprinted in M. Mauss, Sociologie et anthropologie, Paris: PUF, 1950, pp. xxx-xxx. doi:10.1522/cla.mam.tec
  • Oxley, D. R. et al. (2008). Political attitudes vary with physiological traits. Science 19 September 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5896, pp. 1667–1670. [1] doi:10.1126/science.1157627
  • Solvay, E. (1906). Note sur des formules d’introduction à l’énergétique physio- et psycho-sociologique. Fascicule 1 des Notes et Mémoires de l’Institut de Sociologie, Instituts Solvay, Parc Léopold, Bruxelles. Bruxelles et Leipzig: Misch et Thron.
  • Waxweiler, E. (1906). Esquisse d’une sociologie. Fascicule 2 des Notes et Mémoires de l’Institut de Sociologie, Instituts Solvay, Parc Léopold, Bruxelles. Bruxelles et Leipzig: Misch et Thron.
  • Zeliony, G. P. (1912). Über die zukünftige Soziophysiologie. Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschafts-Biologie, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 405–429.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barchas, P. R., ed. (1984). Social Hierarchies: Essays Toward a Sociophysiological Perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
  • Barchas, P. R. and S. P. Mendoza, eds. (1984). Social Cohesion: Essays Toward a Sociophysiological Perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
  • Buytendijk, F. J. (1974). Prolegomena to an Anthropological Physiology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
  • Gardner Jr., R. J. and D. R. Wilson. (2004). Sociophysiology and evolutionary aspects of psychiatry. In J. Panksepp, ed., Textbook of Biological Psychiatry. Wiley. [2]
  • Mysterud, I. (2004). One name for the evolutionary baby? A preliminary guide for everyone confused by the chaos of names. Social Science Information, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 95–114.
  • Perec, G. (1976) Lire: esquisse socio-physiologique. Esprit, no. 453, pp. 9–20. Reprinted in G. Perec, Penser/Classer, Paris: Hachette, 1985.
  • Reinheimer, H. (1920). Symbiosis: A Socio-physiological Study of Evolution. London: Headley Brothers. (Reinheimer seems to use the term "socio-physiology" as a synonym for "eugenics," which usage differs vastly from that of other writers, both early and late.) [3]
  • Waid, W. M., ed. (1984). Sociophysiology. New York: Springer Verlag.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Biozentrum Universität Würzburg: Research: Behavioral Physiology and Sociobiology. [4]
  • Universität Bayreuth, Studies on behavioural ecology and sociophysiology in European rabbits. [5]
  • Hominisation-Anton Fürlinger, Social Brain and Sociophysiology. [6]
  • The Institute of Sociophysiology takes a pataphysical approach to the subject. [7]