All posts by Jacy Young

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

New Fiction: Skinner’s Quests

A new novel, by Richard Gilbert, offers of fictionalized account of what might have happened had B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud met. Skinner’s Quests is described as follows:

Two of the best known psychologists of the twentieth century, B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud, never met. What if they had met? What if, as well, the young B.F. Skinner had discussed matters of mutual interest with Ludwig Wittgenstein, the century’s best known and most eccentric philosopher, also living in England in 1939?

Skinner’s Quests, a novel of ideas and relationships, describes a fictional trip to England by Skinner in May and June 1939. He traveled from his home in Minneapolis to London and Cambridge via Montreal and Glasgow. He returned via Lisbon and New York.

Skinner had two quests. Both were conceived by philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell, then at the University of Chicago. Both were to do with Russell’s former student Ludwig Wittgenstein – already the 20th century’s preeminent philosopher.

One quest was to correct what Russell regarded as Wittgenstein’s futile flirtation with behaviorism. (Russell had misunderstood Skinner’s position.)

The other quest, in collaboration with the White House, was to exploit Wittgenstein’s association with Adolf Hitler. The two were born a few days apart and were at high school together. Moreover, in 1939 Wittgenstein was involved with the German government, negotiating exemptions for his family from the Nuremburg (Race) Laws. He was also pally with the Soviet government.

Skinner had little interest in Wittgenstein. He welcomed the trip – over the strong objections of his wife – for a chance to meet Sigmund Freud, who was dying in London. Skinner was an admirer of Freud’s writings, even though he disagreed with much of what the founder of psychoanalysis had to say. Skinner met Freud, and Freud’s daughter Anna. In Cambridge, Skinner met Alan Turing as well as Wittgenstein. This was just after Turing had devised the modern computer and before he become a key figure in British cryptanalysis.

During the odyssey, Skinner met with other real and several fictional characters. Some of his encounters were romantic. Some were merely social. Some had a sinister edge that reflected the time of his travels, made during one of modern history’s most fraught periods.

Skinner’s odyssey had mixed success. He had little apparent impact on Wittgenstein, but he clarified his own thinking about several matters and provided information of possible value to the White House. Early in his odyssey, Skinner had visions of being the Darwin of the twentieth century, doing for psychology what Darwin had done for biology in the nineteenth century. Freud cautioned Skinner that his disregard for free will could become associated with totalitarianism. Skinner let the matter rest, at least for the moment.

The book will appeal to readers interested in some or all of these topics: psychology, philosophy, language, evolution, transportation in the 1930s, and the politics of North America and Europe just before the Second World War.

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Special Issue of HHS: “Social and Human Sciences across the Iron Curtain”

The  October/December 2016 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. This special issue on “Social and Human Sciences across the Iron Curtain” is guest edited by Olessia Kirtchik and Ivan Boldyrev. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“On (im)permeabilities: Social and human sciences on both sides of the ‘Iron Curtain’,” by Ivan Boldyrev and Olessia Kirtchik. The abstract reads,

While the history of Cold War social and human sciences has become an immensely productive line of inquiry and has generated some exciting research, a lot remains still to be done in studying more deeply the known stories, venturing into the unknown ones and, in particular, looking in greater detail at the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain. In our expository introduction to this special issue, we demonstrate how its articles enhance our understanding of the postwar social and human sciences. The special issue invites us to rethink the role of the local intellectual and disciplinary contexts in the postwar cultures of knowledge; to pay more attention to the networks and institutions that fostered communication across the Iron Curtain; to trace various asymmetries at work in the divided academic world and the ambiguous status of many actors who enable the East–West contacts despite the general hostility and ideological cleavages; and finally to arrive at a more differentiated and complex view of the whole intellectual landscape in the history of social and human sciences opening up once all the Cold War protagonists, including the countries of the eastern bloc, are subject to a detailed study. This project, we believe, is worthwhile not just for the sake of historical accuracy but also for understanding and changing the societies we live in, which are often still contaminated by the maladies of the Cold War.

“After Nikolai Bukharin: History of science and cultural hegemony at the threshold of the Cold War era,” by Pietro D. Omodeo. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue of HHS: “Social and Human Sciences across the Iron Curtain”

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Online Digital Project: After the Asylum/Après l’asile

A new national project, After the Asylum/Après l’asile,  documenting the shift from institutional care to community mental health in Canada has recently launched. As historians Megan Davies and Erika Dyck discuss in a recent blog post,

The shift from institutional to community mental health was among the most significant social changes of the late 20th century. Between 1965 and 1980 nearly 50,000 beds were closed in residential psychiatric facilities across Canada. De-institutionalization profoundly changed the lives of former patients and those who worked with them, impacting the larger economy, public health and social planning, and challenging ideas of individual rights and capabilities.

The first national project of its kind, After the Asylum/Après l’asile presents this complex and often difficult history, making clear its continuing relevance. We examine early mental health initiatives, we consider how therapeutic and professional contours of care were reshaped, and we explore new consumer / user networks and cultures that emerged. Many of the exhibits speak to the continuing social and economic marginalization of people deemed mentally ill, whose lives are often poignant testaments to the limits of a reconstituted mental health system.

The project can be explored in full here.

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New Book: Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology

Soon-to-come from Cambridge University Press is a new volume on psychologist Edward Tolman and his influence on American Psychology. Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology, is written by psychologist David W. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Superior. The book is described on the publisher’s website, as discussing

the development of Edward Tolman’s purposive behaviourism from the 1920s to the 1950s, highlighting the tension between his references to cognitive processes and the dominant behaviourist trends. It shows how Tolman incorporated concepts from European scholars, including Egon Brunswik and the Gestalt psychologists, to justify a more purposive form of behaviourism and how the theory evolved in response to the criticisms of his contemporaries. The manuscript also discusses Tolman’s political activities, culminating in his role in the California loyalty oath controversy in the 1950s. Tolman was involved in a number of progressive causes during his lifetime, activities that drew the attention of both state legislators in California and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It treats Tolman’s theoretical and political activities as emanating from the same source, a desire to understand the learning process in a scientific manner and to apply these concepts to improve the human condition.

 

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New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

Jean Piaget

The following four recently published articles may be of interest to AHP readers.

History of Science: “Rehabilitating LSD history in postwar America: Dilworth Wayne Woolley and the serotonin hypothesis of mental illness,” by Kim Hewitt. The abstract reads,

Revisiting the history of postwar LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) research illuminates how the work of a chemist at the Rockefeller Institute contributed to the development of a biochemical paradigm for mental functioning. Dilworth Wayne Woolley proposed one of the first theories of the biochemistry of mental illness based on empirical evidence. His research with LSD and serotonin had wide-ranging repercussions for pharmacology and fit neatly into the emerging medicalization of mental illness. Reevaluating Woolley’s ideas and the fruits of psychopharmacology leads to possible new approaches toward mental health and illness when considered alongside lessons learned from past research with psychedelic substances, and exemplifies a broader paradigm shift in cultural studies toward a biopsychosocial model that acknowledges the intersections between biology and culture.

Theory & Psychology: “Controversies on Evolutionism: On the construction of scientific boundaries in public and internal scientific controversies about evolutionary psychology and sociobiology,” by Nora Ruck. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

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New Book: The Psychopath Machine: A Story of Resistance and Survival

Steve Smith has recently published a book detailing his experiences as a patient at Oak Ridge, the maximum security forensic mental hospital in Penetanguishene, Ontario, in the late-1960s and 70s. Details about Smith’s book, The Psychopath Machine: A Story of Resistance and Survival, and further information on Oak Ridge can be found on his website. (AHP’s previous coverage of Oak Ridge and details on the digital exhibit, Remembering Oak Ridge, can be found here.) The book is described as follows:

When Steve Smith set out to hitchhike from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to Canada’s west coast back in 1968, he was just an eighteen-year-old hippie with an appetite for adventure. But a short way into his journey, a reckless decision to steal a car landed him in police custody. Afraid of getting caught with the two tabs of acid in his pocket, Steve popped them into his mouth. It was one of the worst decisions of his life.

Mistaking his drug trip for a mental breakdown, the authorities placed him in Ontario’s notorious Oak Ridge mental health facility. While there, not only did he find himself shoulder-to-shoulder with people like notorious child killer Peter Woodcock and mass murderers Matt Lamb and Victor Hoffman, he also fell into the hands of someone worse: Dr. Elliot T. Barker.

Over the next eight months, Barker subjected Steve and the other patients to a battery of unorthodox experiments involving LSD, scopolamine, methamphetamines, and other drugs. Steven also experienced numerous other forms of abuse and torture.

Following his release, Steve continued to suffer the aftereffects of his Oak Ridge experience. For several years, he found himself in and out of prison—and back to Oak Ridge—before he was finally able to establish himself as a successful entrepreneur.

Once he began investigating what happened to him during his youth, not even Steve was prepared for what he would discover about Barker, Oak Ridge, and one of the darkest periods in Canada’s treatment of mental health patients. The question remains: Was Oak Ridge and Dr. Barker trying to cure psychopaths or trying to create and direct them?

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Call for Papers: Congrès Binet 2017

A call for papers has been issued for Congrès Binet 2017:

A l’occasion des 160 ans de la naissance du psychologue Alfred Binet, la Société Binet-Simon organise un colloque intitulé Alfred Binet expérimentateur. Entre archives de la psychologie et éducation physique, qui aura lieu les 12 et 13 octobre 2017 à la Bibliothèque Nationale de France et à l’Université Paris Descartes.

Vous trouverez l’appel à communications (prolongé jusqu’au 31 janvier 2017) et à publication en 2018 (dans Recherches & Éducations) pour ce colloque en pièce jointe et sur le site : http://binet.hypotheses.org/

500 word submissions are due January 31, 2017.

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New Book: The Friendship of Kahneman and Tversky

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman

A new book on the famous collaboration – and friendship – of psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman has just been released. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, is written by Michael Lewis whose previous book Moneyball was turned into a motion picture in 2011. Reviews have appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker and an excerpt from Lewis’s book was recently featured in Vanity FairAs Lewis writes,

When they wrote their first papers, Danny and Amos had no particular audience in mind. Their readers would be the handful of academics who happened to subscribe to the highly specialized psychology trade journals in which they published. By 1972 they had spent the better part of three years uncovering the ways in which people judged and predicted—but the examples that they had used to illustrate their ideas were all drawn directly from psychology, or from the strange, artificial-seeming tests that they had given high-school and college students. Yet they were certain that their insights applied anywhere in the world that people were judging probabilities and making decisions. They sensed that they needed to find a broader audience.

The full Vanity Fair piece can be read here.

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UCL/BPS Talk Dec 12: Arthur Eaton “History Telling: Writing a Biography of Psychohistory”

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 in its autumn seminar series. On Monday December 12th Arthur Eaton (left) will be speaking on “History telling: writing a biography of psychohistory.” Full details follow below.

Monday 12 December 2016

Location: SELCS Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 18:00-19:30

Speaker: Arthur Eaton (UCL)

Seminar title: History telling: A biography pf psychohistory

In June 1976 the American Psychiatric Association published a document entitled The Psychiatrist as Psychohistorian. In that report, a committee investigated the dangers – including the threat to United States national security – of a phenomenon called psychohistory. What is psychohistory? Why is it relatively unknown today? In this presentation, I will explore these questions and argue that psychohistory is best conceived of as an interdiscipline – born out of the marriage between two ‘parent’ disciplines: psychoanalysis and history. I will discuss the ‘rise and fall’ of the psychohistorical movement, highlight the conceptual difficulties of a hybrid discipline, and speak about my own search for psychohistory.

 

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Call for Submissions: Special Issue of HoP on the History of Psychology and Psychiatry in the Global World

Hans Pols
Hans Pols
Harry Yi-Jui Wu
Harry Yi-Jui Wu

History of Psychology invites submissions for a special issue on the history of psychology and psychiatry in the global world.

Until recently, historical research in the history of psychology and psychiatry tended to focus on the development of these disciplines in the western world exclusively. When the rest of the world was taken into account, it was often portrayed as the recipient of western insights and not as a place where psychological and psychiatric knowledge originated or where practitioners made genuine contributions to both fields. Over the past two or three decades, historians of psychiatry have devoted ample energy to the history of colonial psychiatry, analyzing developments in the non-western world. Historians of psychology, however, have arguably paid less attention to developments in the non-western world.

In this special issue, we seek to consolidate and extend the historical analysis of psychology and psychiatry beyond the Atlantic or western world. We welcome original contributions on initiatives and developments in the colonial era. In addition, we seek to expand historical interest in the post-colonial era, starting with the Cold War and coming up to the present.

The submission deadline is May 15, 2017.

The main text of each manuscript, exclusive of figures, tables, references, or appendices, should not exceed 35 double spaced pages (approximately 7,500 words). Initial inquiries regarding the special issue may be sent to the guest editors, Hans Pols (University of Sydney) <hans.pols@sydney.edu.au> and Harry Yi-Liu Wu (University of Hong Kong) <hylw@hku.hk> or the regular editor, Nadine Weidman <hop.editor@icloud.com>.

Manuscripts should be submitted through the History of Psychology Manuscript Submission Portal with a cover letter indicating that the paper is to be considered for the special issue. Please see the Instructions to Authors information located on the History of Psychology website.

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