The Wellcome Collection has launched an interactive exhibit Mindcraft. As introduced in the video above,
Mindcraft explores a century of madness, murder and mental healing, from the arrival in Paris of Franz Anton Mesmer with his theories of ‘animal magnetism’ to the therapeutic power of hypnotism used by Freud.
Through an immersive scrolling interface including image galleries, video, and interactives, Mindcraft will take you on a journey that asks who really is in control of their own mind, and where does the mind’s power to harm or heal end?
Mindcraft is written by author and curator Mike Jay, and developed by award-winning digital agency Clearleft. Mindcraft can be explored on a desktop browser or tablet.
Explore Mindcraft online here.
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The December 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences, the final one under the editorship of James Good, is now available. Articles in this issue include ones on the history of psychopathy, Catholic psychology and psychoanalysis, early physiological psychology in Britain, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Valedictory editorial,” by James M.M. Good. No abstract.
“From phrenology to the laboratory: Physiological psychology and the institution of science in Britain (c.1830–80),” by Tom Quick. The abstract reads,
The claim that mind is an epiphenomenon of the nervous system became academically respectable during the 19th century. The same period saw the establishment of an ideal of science as institutionalized endeavour conducted in laboratories. This article identifies three ways in which the ‘physiological psychology’ movement in Britain contributed to the latter process: first, via an appeal to the authority of difficult-to-access sites in the analysis of nerves; second, through the constitution of a discourse internal to it that privileged epistemology over ontology; and third, in its articulation of a set of rhetorical tools that identified laboratories as economically productive institutions. Acknowledging the integral place of physiological psychology in the institution of science, it is claimed, has the potential to alter our understanding of the significance of current neurological science for historical scholarship.
“Imprimi potest: Roman Catholic censoring of psychology and psychoanalysis in the early 20th century,” by Robert Kugelmann. The abstract reads, Continue reading
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In the above video Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University and staff writer for the New Yorker, discusses her work on the history of Wonder Woman before Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman was recently released by Random House. (For more on Lepore’s work on Wonder Woman see here.)
Tip o’ the hat to Ben Harris for alerting us to this video.
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The second edition of David Baker and Ludy Benjamin, Jr.’s From Séance to Science: A History of the Profession of Psychology in America is now available. As described on the publisher’s website,
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This book is intended to round out the picture of American psychology’s past, adding the history of psychological practice to the story of psychological science. Written by two well-recognized authorities in the field, this book covers the profession and practice of psychology in America from the late nineteenth century to the present. From Séance to Science tells the story of psychologists who sought and seek to apply the knowledge of their science to the practical problems of the world, whether those problems lay in businesses, schools, families, or in the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of individuals. Engagingly written and full of interesting examples, this book includes figures and photos from the Archives of the History of American Psychology. This is the story of individuals, trained in psychology, who function as school psychologists, counseling psychologists, clinical psychologists, and industrial psychologists. These are psychology’s practitioners, meaning that they take the knowledge base of psychology and use it for practical purposes outside of the classroom and outside of the laboratory.
The Time Capsule section of the December 2014 issue of the APA‘s Monitor on Psychology includes an articles on psychologist David Boder’s work with Holocaust survivors. As Victor Colotla and Samuel Jurado describe,
Boder began his research on the victims of the Holocaust when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the Allied Forces, invited journalists to “come and see for yourselves” the atrocities that the Allied forces were uncovering in the Nazi death camps. Boder brought with him a magnetic wire recorder that had been developed at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was heading the psychology department. The idea was to record the experiences of displaced persons in their own languages — something Boder hoped he could accomplish without interpreters since he spoke several languages. After a year of preparation and with limited financial support, he made his way to Europe in July 1946.
Boder interviewed 109 men and women, and three children, most of them Jews, while he traveled through camps of displaced persons in France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. He asked each person to tell the story of what happened to them during the war. Boder sat giving his back to the interviewees so that they wouldn’t be affected by his facial reactions to their stories.
The full article can be read online here.
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Until Sunday December 7, 2014 access to “Psychical Research in the History of Science and Medicine,” a Special Section of the December issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences is free using the links provided in this post. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Psychical research in the history and philosophy of science. An introduction and review,” by A. Sommer. The abstract reads,
As a prelude to articles published in this special issue, I sketch changing historiographical conventions regarding the ‘occult’ in recent history of science and medicine scholarship. Next, a review of standard claims regarding psychical research and parapsychology in philosophical discussions of the demarcation problem reveals that these have tended to disregard basic primary sources and instead rely heavily on problematic popular accounts, simplistic notions of scientific practice, and outdated teleological historiographies of progress. I conclude by suggesting that rigorous and sensitively contextualized case studies of past elite heterodox scientists may be potentially useful to enrich historical and philosophical scholarship by highlighting epistemologies that have fallen through the crude meshes of triumphalist and postmodernist historiographical generalizations alike.
“Haunted thoughts of the careful experimentalist: Psychical research and the troubles of experimental physics,” by R. Noakes. The abstract reads, Continue reading
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Historian of Medicine S. D. Lamb has recently published Pathologist of the Mind: Adolf Meyer and the Origins of American Psychiatry. As described on the Johns Hopkins University Press website,
During the first half of the twentieth century, Adolf Meyer was the most authoritative and influential psychiatrist in the United States. In 1908, when the Johns Hopkins Hospital established the first American university clinic devoted to psychiatry—still a nascent medical specialty at the time—Meyer was selected to oversee the enterprise. The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic opened in 1913, and Meyer served as psychiatrist-in-chief at the hospital until 1941.
In Pathologist of the Mind, S. D. Lamb explores how Meyer used his powerful position to establish psychiatry as a clinical science that operated like the other academic disciplines at the country’s foremost medical school. In addition to successfully arguing for a scientific and biological approach to mental illness, Meyer held extraordinary sway over state policies regarding the certification of psychiatrists. He also trained hundreds of specialists who ultimately occupied leadership positions and made significant contributions in psychiatry, neurology, experimental psychology, social work, and public health.
Although historians have long recognized Meyer’s authority, his concepts and methods have never before received a systematic historical analysis. His convoluted theory of “psychobiology,” along with his notoriously ineffective attempts to explain it in print, continue to baffle many clinicians. Pathologist of the Mind aims to rediscover Meyerian psychiatry by eavesdropping on Meyer’s informal and private conversations with his patients and colleagues. Weaving together private correspondence and uniquely detailed case histories, Lamb examines Meyer’s efforts to institute a clinical science of psychiatry in the United States—one that harmonized the expectations of scientific medicine with his concept of the person as a biological organism and mental illness as an adaptive failure. The first historian ever granted access to these exceptional medical records, Lamb offers a compelling new perspective on the integral but misunderstood legacy of Adolf Meyer.
Full details on the volume can be found here.
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The New York Times‘s Retro Report has produced a short documentary on the now infamous case of Sybil. As the article accompanying the documentary notes,
The “Sybil” story began in the mid-1950s. At its center were the Minnesota-born Ms. Mason and her intense relationship, first in the Midwest and later in New York, with a psychoanalyst, Cornelia B. Wilbur. Dr. Wilbur’s determination that Ms. Mason had 16 personalities — people of varying manner and ages, including two who were male — did not come about in a vacuum. She was well aware of “The Three Faces of Eve,” a 1954 report by two psychiatrists who worked with a woman said to have had three distinct personalities. (As Eve in a 1957 film based on that study, Joanne Woodward won an Academy Award for best actress. Years later, she did a neat Hollywood pivot by playing the psychiatrist in the first movie version of “Sybil,” with Sally Field as the patient.)
Dr. Wilbur did not write up her findings in some dry professional journal. Instead, she went looking for a large audience, and enlisted a writer, Flora Rheta Schreiber, to produce what became a blockbuster. But as the years passed, challengers began to speak up. One was Herbert Spiegel, a New York psychiatrist who said that he had treated Ms. Mason when Dr. Wilbur was on vacation. Dr. Spiegel described his patient not as a sufferer of multiple personality disorder but, rather, as a readily suggestible “hysteric.” A harsher judgment was rendered in the 1990s by Robert Rieber, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a New York City school where Ms. Schreiber taught English. After listening to tape recordings that he said Ms. Schreiber had given him, he concluded that “it is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be.” Debbie Nathan, a writer interviewed for this Retro Report documentary, piled on still more skepticism in her 2011 book, “Sybil Exposed.” Perhaps inevitably in a dispute of this sort, counter-revisionists then emerged to denounce the doubters and to defend “Sybil” as rooted in reality.
The full documentary can be viewed online here.
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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 next talk as part of its autumn BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On December 1st, Marcia Holmes of Birkbeck College will be speaking on “Performing Proficiency: Psychological Experiments on Man-Machine Systems in the United States, 1950-1965.” Full details follow below.
The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines
Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG
Monday 1 December
Dr Marcia Holmes (Birkbeck College), “Performing Proficiency: Psychological Experiments on Man-Machine Systems in the United States, 1950-1965″
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Historians have traced American psychology’s ‘Cognitive Revolution’ – and its defining metaphor of the mind as information processor – to World War II, when the American and British militaries employed experimental psychologists to improve servicemen’s proficiency in operating the war’s complex electronics for communication, command and control. Yet the problem of matching men’s abilities to the design of machines not only encouraged the theorisation of cognition and information processing, it also motivated a new field of applied experimental psychological research, now known as human factors engineering. During the early years of the Cold War, this field of psychological engineering pioneered an elaborate form of behavioural experiment called ‘man–machine systems simulation.’ In this talk I will argue that interpreting these man–machine systems simulations through a cognitive or cybernetic lens, as some historians have done, misses their more direct, contemporary significance. For the psychologists conducting the experiments, these simulations performed the possibility of maintaining liberal-democratic sociability within the Cold War’s regimented networks of military command and control. Recognising the performative aspects of man–machine systems simulations, I argue, sheds new light on the political and epistemological stakes of the Cognitive Revolution in psychology.
The most recent issue of Science in Context includes an article on Hermann von Helmholtz that may be of interest to AHP readers.
“Hermann von Helmholtz’s Empirico-Transcendentalism Reconsidered: Construction and Constitution in Helmholtz’s Psychology of the Object,” by Liesbet De Kock. The abstract reads,
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This paper aims at contributing to the ongoing efforts to get a firmer grasp of the systematic significance of the entanglement of idealism and empiricism in Helmholtz’s work. Contrary to existing analyses, however, the focal point of the present exposition is Helmholtz’s attempt to articulate a psychological account of objectification. Helmholtz’s motive, as well as his solution to the problem of the object are outlined, and interpreted against the background of his scientific practice on the one hand, and that of empiricist and (transcendental) idealist analyses of experience on the other. The specifically psychological angle taken, not only prompts us to consider figures who have hitherto been treated as having only minor import for Helmholtz interpretation (most importantly J.S. Mill and J.G. Fichte), it furthermore sheds new light on some central tenets of the latter’s psychological stance that have hitherto remained underappreciated. For one thing, this analysis reveals an explicit voluntarist tendency in Helmholtz’s psychological theory. In conclusion, it is argued that the systematic significance of Helmholtz’s empirico-transcendentalism with respect to questions of the mind is best understood as an attempt to found his empirical theory of perception in a second order, normative account of epistemic subjectivity.