All posts by Daniel Lahham

New Issue: JHBS

Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are a number of new articles that range from the difficulty in classifying postpartum depression, the mental hygiene in socialist Mexico, and even a digital analysis of the Psychological Review. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“A Tricky Object to Classify: Evidence, Postpartum Depression and the DSM-IV,” by Rebecca Godderis. The abstract reads:

The concept of evidence has become central in Western healthcare systems; however, few investigations have studied how the shift toward specific definitions of evidence actually occurred in practice. This paper examines a historical case in psychiatry where the debate about how to define evidence was of central importance to nosological decision making. During the fourth revision of the Diagnostic andStatistical Manual of Mental Disorders a controversial decision was made to exclude postpartum depression (PPD) as a distinct disorder from the manual. On the basis of archival and interview data, I argue that the fundamental issues driving this decision were related to questions about what constituted suitable hierarchies of evidence and appropriate definitions of evidence. Further, although potentially buttressed by the evidence-based medicine movement, this shift toward a reliance on particular kinds of empirical evidence occurred when the dominant paradigm in American psychiatry changed from a psychodynamic approach to a research-based medical model.

Continue reading New Issue: JHBS

Share on Facebook

New Issue: History of Psychiatry

The March 2013 issue of the History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are a number of articles ranging from morbidity and mortality caused from melancholia, to a revisiting of the mental hygiene movement, and even to William James’ psychical research. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The morbidity and mortality linked to melancholia: two cohorts compared, 1875–1924 and 1995–2005,” by Margaret Harris, Fiona Farquhar, David Healy, Joanna C Le Noury, Stefanie C Linden, J Andrew Hughes, and Anthony P Roberts. The abstract reads:

For over a century, melancholia has been linked to increased rates of morbidity and mortality. Data from two epidemiologically complete cohorts of patients presenting to mental health services in North Wales (1874–1924 and 1995–2005) have been used to look at links between diagnoses of melancholia in the first period and severe hospitalized depressive disorders today and other illnesses, and to calculate mortality rates. This is a study of the hospitalized illness rather than the natural illness, and the relationship between illness and hospitalization remains poorly understood. These data confirm that melancholia is associated with a substantial increase in the standardized mortality rate both formerly and today, stemming from a higher rate of deaths from tuberculosis in the historical sample and from suicide in the contemporary sample. The data do not link melancholia to cancer or cardiac disease. The comparison between outcomes for melancholia historically and severe mood disorder today argue favourably for the effectiveness of asylum care.

Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychiatry

Share on Facebook

Historicity in Psychology

History of Psychology, a periodical of division 26 of the APA, may be of interest to some AHP readers. In “Mind’s Historicity: Its hidden history,” Noemi Pizarroso discusses how a tradition in French psychology that has rarely been used outside of the French context could be of use in light of the current pleas for a historicity. The author hopes to introduce this approach to the English speaking reader through the work of Ignace Meyerson, the architect of the approach. The full abstract follows:

“Mind’s Historicity: Its hidden history”

Whereas psychological research can hardly accept the idea of a changing psychological architecture, mind’s historicity seems to be commonplace among historians of psychology, at least in recent decades. Attempts to promote a convergence between psychology and history have always existed, though mainly in the margins of both disciplines. Among these attempts, there is a tradition in French psychology that remains quite marginal even to the history of the discipline and is practically unknown out of the French context. Our goal is to introduce this approach, through the work of its main architect, Ignace Meyerson, to an English speaking reader, in the light of current pleas for historicity. Developed within the core of the discipline of psychology, though in dialogue with many others disciplines, Meyerson’s historical psychology appears to be more ambitious than other attempts, as it aims at studying psychological activity itself, beyond the history of its conceptualizations. It is concerned not with the analysis of fragmented, isolated, and mechanistic behaviors or cognitive process, but with the study of mind in its functioning through the multiple and changing fields of experience where human beings are involved.

Share on Facebook

Special Smith-sonian Feature

Historian of Science and Emeritus Reader at Lancaster University, Roger Smith, has recently published two books and a journal article. The first book, Free Will and the Human Sciences in Britain: 1870-1910 is a discussion of late Victorian debats on free will, with reference to British Psychology. The second book, Between Mind and Nature: A History of Psychology, is a classic account of the history of psychology. The book chronicles how psychology became the discipline it is today set in the various social, cultural, political, and national contexts. Included in the discussion are major figures in psychology, such as, Freud, Jung, and Pavlov. Smith’s third publication comes in the form a journal article. Titled “‘The sixth sense’: towards a history of muscular sensation”, the article discusses the history of knowledge on the muscular sense. Below are full abstracts:

Free Will and the Human Sciences in Britain: 1870-1910:

From the late nineteenth century onwards religion gave way to science as the dominant force in society. This led to a questioning of the principle of free will – if the workings of the human mind could be reduced to purely physiological explanations, then what place was there for human agency and self-improvement?

Smith takes an in-depth look at the problem of free will through the prism of different disciplines. Physiology, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary theory, ethics, history and sociology all played a part in the debates that took place. His subtly nuanced navigation through these arguments has much to contribute to our understanding of Victorian and Edwardian science and culture, as well as having relevance to current debates on the role of genes in determining behaviour. Continue reading Special Smith-sonian Feature

Share on Facebook

Deception and Psychology

AHP is pleased to present an interview with Michael Pettit, author of the newly released book The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America.

Michael Pettit is a faculty member in the History and Theory of Psychology graduate program at York University. This book represents a culmination of Pettit’s research interests. In particular, his research centers on psychology’s emergence as a science, a discipline, and a profession as well as the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the public sphere. The entire interview is below:

AHP: As an historian of the human sciences, what led you to investigate the topic of deception and psychology?

MP: My interest in deception was originally inspired by my training in American history and the history of capitalism. Early in grad school, I had been reading quite a bit about the showman P. T. Barnum, his entertaining hoaxes, and the culture of exhibition. I was curious about the role of the fledging American scientific community and their expertise in the reception of these spectacles. I also wanted to figure out what happened to fraud (legally and culturally) after the golden age of Barnum’s humbugs had passed. As I began the research, I found books by early popular psychologists on the same shelf as Barnum’s exposés which led me to ask about the historical relationships between the two.

AHP: Psychologists have, at various times, sought to detect, deploy, and even diagnose deceptive practices. How has deception become so central to psychology, and is a psychology without deception even possible?

MP: I think deception is important for psychology methodologically because psychologists from a wide range of perspectives define the human as fundamentally a deceitful and deceivable creature. A large part of the psychologist’s authority derives from the conviction that humans cannot understand themselves (their thoughts, feelings, behaviors) without their considerable mediating role. Because there is a deep suspicion (yet reliance) on human testimony, these concerns are particularly acute in psychology compared to other human sciences (e.g. economics). One long-standing narrative about the intellectual history of the twentieth century is that Freud had a tremendous cultural impact because he introduced a view of human nature as profoundly irrational. My book seeks to reorient this narrative. I would argue that concerns about the deceivable and deceitful self figured prominently in late nineteenth-century American culture, especially in discussions of the market, and that created a space into which psychoanalysis was received and transformed into a particularly American form of self talk. Continue reading Deception and Psychology

Share on Facebook

Speechless! The Mystery Revealed

An article in the January issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences may be of interest to some AHP readers. In “Mysterious ‘Monsieur Leborgne’: The Mystery of the Famous Patient in the History of Neuropsychology is Explained,” Domanski discusses the biographical lineage of arguably the most important patient in neuroscience history: the Frenchman “Monsieur Leborgne.” The patient’s identity had remained a mystery until this article. Full article details below:

“Mysterious ‘Monsieur Leborgne’: The Mystery of the Famous Patient in the History of Neuropsychology is Explained,” by C.W. Domanski. The abstract reads:

As of spring 2011, 150 years have passed since the death of one of the most famous neurological patients of the nineteenth century. A Frenchman, “Monsieur Leborgne” also known by the nickname “Tan,” was hospitalized due to an almost complete loss of speech. His case was presented in 1861, during a seating of the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris by a physician, Pierre Paul Broca (1824-1880), who used this occasion to report that he had discovered, in the middle part of patient’s left frontal lobe, the cortical speech center. This area was later named “Broca’s area.” Both the patient and his medical records were the subject of numerous descriptions and citations in the medical literature. The patient’s full identity and social background has remained a mystery until now. This article presents biographical data concerning Leborgne and his family based on archive registers in France.

Share on Facebook

New Book: Shaky Foundations

University of Toronto historian of science Mark Solovey has just released a new book, Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America. This book examines the history of the social sciences in America during the Cold War through the lens of the patronage system, tracing how certain agendas dictated the direction social science research took. This book is a continuation of Solovey’s research interest in social science in America in the period after World War II.

Shaky Foundations is described on the publisher’s website as follows,

Numerous popular and scholarly accounts have exposed the deep impact of patrons on the production of scientific knowledge and its applications. Shaky Foundations provides the first extensive examination of a new patronage system for the social sciences that emerged in the early Cold War years and took more definite shape during the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of enormous expansion in American social science.

By focusing on the military, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, Mark Solovey shows how this patronage system presented social scientists and other interested parties, including natural scientists and politicians, with new opportunities to work out the scientific identity, social implications, and public policy uses of academic social research. Solovey also examines significant criticisms of the new patronage system, which contributed to widespread efforts to rethink and reshape the politics-patronage-social science nexus starting in the mid-1960s.

Based on extensive archival research, Shaky Foundations addresses fundamental questions about the intellectual foundations of the social sciences, their relationships with the natural sciences and the humanities, and the political and ideological import of academic social inquiry.

Share on Facebook

Phineas Gage Website!

A webpage providing information on Phineas Gage has recently relaunched. The Phineas Gage Information Page was created by Malcolm Macmillan at the University of Melbourne but is now maintained by The Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.

Included on the site are sections dedicated to Phineas Gage’s story, the detailing of damage done to Gage’s skull, the indirect contribution Phineas Gage’s case provided brain surgery, and a section providing references for further reading on Phineas Gage.

Explore the entire site here.

Share on Facebook

CfP: APA Division 26 Society for History of Psych

The Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the American Psychological Association, has issued a call for papers for the 2013 annual convention. The convention will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii from July 31 to August 4. The deadline for submissions has been extended from Friday, November 16, 2012 to Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Full details can be found here.

Share on Facebook

CfP: CPA History and Phil. of Psych Section

The Canadian Psychological Association‘s section on the History and Philosophy of Psychology has issued a call for papers for its 2013 annual conference. The conference will be held at the Quebec City Convention Centre in Quebec from June 13 to June 15, 2013. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, November 15, 2012. Full details can be found here.

Share on Facebook