New Article: Revisiting Introspection in William James’ Early Work

William James in Brazil, 1865

The February 2016 issue of Theory & Psychology includes an article that may be of especial interest to AHP readers. Saulo de Freitas Araujo and Rayssa Maluf de Souza explore William James’ views on introspection as a method in their article ““… to rely on first and foremost and always”: Revisiting the role of introspection in William James’s early psychological work.” The abstract reads,

In order to legitimate itself as a science, psychology has faced the ongoing problem of establishing its proper method of investigation. In this context, debates on introspection have emerged that have remained intense since the 18th century. However, contemporary debates and historical investigations on this topic have not done justice to the richness and diversity of positions, leading to oversimplifications and hasty generalizations, as if the terms “introspection” and “introspectionism” referred to one and same thing. The central goal of this article is to offer an analysis of William James’s position on the introspective method within the intellectual context of his time, covering the period from his early writings until the publication, in 1890, of The Principles of Psychology. Our results indicate that James used two different types of introspection. We conclude by discussing divergences in the secondary literature and the implications of our study for historical and theoretical debates in psychology.

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UCL/BPS Talk Feb 15: “‘The apostolic function’: Michael Balint and the postwar GP”

Enid and Michael Balint

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the another talk in their 2016 seminar series. On Monday February 15th Shaul Bar-Heim will speak on “‘The apostolic function’: Michael Balint and the postwar GP.” Full details follow below.

Dr. Shaul Bar-Heim (Birbeck): “‘The apostolic function’: Michael Balint and the postwar GP”

What started in the early 1950s as a small informal peer-group of GPs, based in the Tavistock Clinic, became by the 1960s one of the most influential medical movements of the postwar era: the Balint movement. Named after the British-Hungarian psychoanalyst, Michael Balint, the theoretical assumption behind Balint Groups was that many doctors – and especially family doctors – do not know yet how to use one of the most important medical tools, namely, what Balint described as the ‘drug doctor.’. This was particularly true, he believed, in psychosomatic illnesses and medical cases with a clear psychosocial nature.

This paper will contextualize the emergence of the Balint movement within the heyday of welfarist ideology, where GPs were encouraged to take a parental role in running the emotional economy of domestic lives in their communities. Thus, patients and doctors were invited to adopt a psychoanalytical language which focuses on internal feelings, emotions, and unconscious behavior of the individual. At the same time, however, a new kind of medical authority emerged – one which played a crucial role as a social and ethical guidance in the postwar British welfare society.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

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New Book: A History of ‘Relevance’ in Psychology

image002Another new book is available out of the Palgrave Macmillan stable: A History of Relevance in PsychologyWritten by Wahbie Long at the University of Cape Town, is described by the publishers as follows:

This book represents the first attempt to historicise and theorise appeals for ‘relevance’ in psychology. It argues that the persistence of questions about the ‘relevance’ of psychology derives from the discipline’s terminal inability to define its subject matter, its reliance on a socially disinterested science to underwrite its knowledge claims, and its consequent failure to address itself to the needs of a rapidly changing world.

The chapters go on to consider  the ‘relevance’ debate within South African psychology, by critically analysing discourse of forty-five presidential, keynote and opening addresses delivered at annual national psychology congresses between 1950 and 2011, and observes how appeals for ‘relevance’ were advanced by reactionary, progressive and radical psychologists alike.

The book presents, moreover, the provocative thesis that the revolutionary quest for ‘social relevance’ that began in the 1960s has been supplanted by an ethic of ‘market relevance’ that threatens to isolate the discipline still further from the anxieties of broader society. With powerful interest groups continuing to co-opt psychologists without relent, this is a development that only psychologists of conscience can arrest.

 

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New Book: A Critical History of Schizophrenia

A new book on the history of schizophrenia is now available from Palgrave MacMillan. Kieran McNally‘s A Critical History of Schizophrenia is described as follows,

Schizophrenia was 20th century psychiatry’s arch concept of madness. Yet for most of this period, schizophrenia was both problematic and contentious. This new history explores changes in the concept of schizophrenia across the 20th century. It provides a broad map of the concept’s mutating symptoms, fluctuating subtypes, social uses, and changing definitions.

This research reveals and cites a long tradition of critical unease towards schizophrenia – by numerous mainstream psychiatrists, psychologists, and schizophrenia authorities. This critical stance is shown to have existed in addition to complaints by so-called anti-psychiatrists (also documented). The book therefore explains how and why North American Psychiatry eventually sought to stabilize its disease concept at an institutional level – through the use of operational definitions in its DSM series.

Among its many remarkable offerings, the research unearths accounts of children being experimentally kept on LSD for over one year, and demonstrates that the stigmatising idea of schizophrenia as a split personality actually stems from Swiss Psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler – the concept’s creator. But its principle aim is to serve as a useful introduction to schizophrenia that guides the reader through a complex history of rejection, negotiation, and transformation, in this most contested of 20th century concepts.

This historical contribution to our understanding of schizophrenia draws extensively on primary sources from the schizophrenia literature, and builds on the research of recent historians of psychiatry and related disciplines.

 

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History of psychology in Nautilus

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The popular publication on science, Nautilus, offers two recent features relevant to our readership.

The first is an adroit biographical and theoretical sketch of distinctive psychologist and historian of psychology Julian Jaynes. In addition to a survey of the impact his opus The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind  made upon its publication, focus is also placed on current interpretations of his polarizing thinking, and the ways in which it can be said to have anticipated persistent “vexations” in neuroscience. Find here.

The second, in spite of a somewhat click-baity title, provides a rather nuanced and concise history of research on gender differences in ‘spatial skills,’  touching on the various tensions that are at play in any discussion of why females are currently understood to struggle with spatial cognition, including the perennial oversimplification of  a nature/nurture dichotomy, social construction, neuro plasticity, sexism in STEM fields, and even evolutionary explanations. Find here. 

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Become Wellcome Library’s Wikimedian in Residence!

The Reading Room at Wellcome Collection. Wellcome Images reference: C0108488.
The Reading Room at Wellcome Collection. Wellcome Images reference: C0108488.

Phoebe Harkins, the  Library Communications Co-ordinator at Wellcome, has posted an application announcement for a new contractual position of Wikimedian in Residence on their blog (flexible 6-12 months, depending on the projects the Wikimedian proposes and develops).

Excerpts from the post:

Incurably curious? Interested in the history of medicine? Know a bit about Wikipedia?

Our collections cover so much more than the history of medicine – essentially life, death and everything in between, so there’s huge potential for improving the content on Wikipedia. We’ll also be looking at enriching other Wikimedia projects.

The Wikimedian will work with us on the project to help develop areas of Wikipedia covered by our amazing holdings. We’d love you to help us to make our world-renowned collections, knowledge and expertise here at the Wellcome Library even more accessible.

Application deadline is February 2nd 2016

Harkins contact is  p.harkins@wellcome.ac.uk

Find the full post here for more info.

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Steven Shapin on Autism: “Seeing the Spectrum” in The New Yorker

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker historian of science Steven Shapin explores the complicated history of autism in his review of John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. As Shapin writes,

The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.

The full review can be read online here.

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UCL/BPS Talk Feb 1: “Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the another talk in their 2016 seminar series. On Monday February 1st Irina Sirotkina (right) will speak on “Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde.” Full details follow below.

UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Monday 1 February 2016

Dr. Irina Sirotkina (Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Moscow)

Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde

With a project as much anthropological as artistic, the re-creation of the human being and the renewal of human feelings, the avant-garde could not and did not ignore kinaesthesia. Filipo Marinetti conceived of a new art of touch — ‘tactilism’; with the futurist artist Benedetta Cappa, he created palpable ‘tables for the travelling hand.’ Avant-garde artists reassessed the ideas of theosophy and anthroposophy about ‘higher sensitivity’ — an unmediated access through feelings to the other, higher world. Vassily Kandinsky wrote on ‘fine sensitivity’ as a direct perception of ‘abstraction’ and on ‘abstract motion’ and dance, and Mikhail Matiushin experimented with ‘enlarged vision’ which included kinaesthesia and other feelings.
Many of the avant-garde artists were athletic and adroit, danced, played in theatre and cinema, fought and engaged in sport. They were eager to use kinaesthesia as a creative resource: Vladimir Mayakovsky, for example, insisted on composing verses in motion.

The avant-garde stressed practical ‘know how,’ the skill, the art of doing, in opposition to theoretical ‘knowing what.’ For making such knowledge, kinaesthesia is indispensable. In Russia, the post-Revolutionary cult of labour, the production art (proizvodstvennoe iskusstvo) and constructivism facilitated the growth of such knowledge, an alternative to academic forms. Yet it was initiated earlier, by the Russian Formalists, who adored dance, sport, theatre and the circus. By questioning the traditional hierarchy in which practice is inferior to theory, the avant-garde artists contemplated a “kinaesthetic turn” in the humanities. A century later, on the way to legitimating this new kind of knowledge, the avant-garde artists are still in the avant-garde.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

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New Popular Book on the History of Autism

9780307985675ABC news correspondent Jon Donvan and producer Caren Zucker culminate their decade plus of reporting on the topic with a cultural history of autism, In a Different Key. Their narrative is populated with the landmark Cases (Donald T) and renowned researchers (Kanner, Asperger), but also those of the condition’s “pre-history,” phrenologists, mentalists, institutional administrators. The authors’ scope spans the shifting landscape of its social politics, theoretical, diagnostic and management controversies, making a grounded case for neurodiversity-oriented reform.

Here are links to the authors’ various pieces on the project from around the net:

 

 

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UCL/BPS Talk Jan 25th: “Disordered in Morals and Mind: Prisoners and Mental Illness Late 19th c. England”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the first talk in their 2016 seminar series. On Monday January 25th Hilary Marland will speak on “Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England.” Full details follow below.

Monday 25th January

UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Professor Hilary Marland (University of Warwick)

“Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England”

From the early nineteenth century to the current day reformers, policy makers, prison governors and medical officers have grappled with relentlessly high levels of mental illness in prisons. Since the creation of ‘modern’ and specialised prisons and prison regimes, prison regimes and conditions – the separate system, solitary confinement and overcrowding – were criticised for their impact on the mental wellbeing of their inmates. This paper explores the management of mentally ill prisoners in the late nineteenth century, paying particular attention to Liverpool Borough Prison. Managing mentally ill prisoners – male and female – became a significant part of the prison surgeons’ workload and a drain on the prison’s resources. Drawing on underexploited prison archives, official papers, medical literature, and asylum casebooks, this paper examines the efforts of prison officers to cope with mental illness among prison populations, and how these drew on, reflected and reinforced late nineteenth-century preoccupations with the criminal mind.

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location:  Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foster court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

Organiser: Prof Sonu Shamdasani, UCL

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