Category Archives: General

Laura Stark’s Review of Patient H.M. in Science

As part of our continuing coverage of the controversy that has erupted over Luke Dittrich’s recently released Patient H.M., we bring to your attention a just released review of the book in Science. In her review, Laura Stark provides a welcome perspective on Dittrich’s work, especially in relation to his portrayal of Suzanne Corkin. As Stark writes,

It seems inevitable that the book will be compared to the patient biography The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But, while Dittrich is an exceptional writer, he focuses his talents in the last half of his book on a takedown of rival author Suzanne Corkin, missing opportunities to turn his own family story into one of more universal scope….

Dittrich only reveals at the end that Corkin was writing her own book on H.M., which recasts his story up to that point in a new light. It helps make sense of his eagerness to see her actions as personal slights, character flaws, and bad science rather than symptoms of broken systems. It is a pity, because his sense of personal grievance narrows him into a story about a uniquely menacing scientist rather than a universal story of the legal and institutional ties that bind even well-intentioned people.

The review is out from behind Science‘s paywall and can be read in full here.

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Psychobook is Perfect for Your Coffee Table

A soon to be published book from Princeton Architectural Press may be just what every psychologist and historian of psychology has been waiting for to  adorn their coffee table. Psychobook is a lavishly  illustrated volume documenting the history of psychological testing.

As a recent piece in The New Yorker puts it,

“Psychobook” comprises an eclectic assortment of tests from the early twentieth century to the present, along with new artworks and whimsical questionnaires inspired by the originals. These materials are interlaced with vintage and contemporary photographs, portraits, collages, and film stills of psychologists analyzing patients or staring incisively into space, sometimes in idiosyncratically decorated Manhattan offices. It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.

Put it on your wish list now.

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History of Human Science Talks at HHS, Atlanta, Nov. 3-6, 2016

As a followup to yesterday’s post on the Forum for History of Human Science (FHHS) sponsored session at the History of Science Society (HSS) meeting, November 3rd through 6th in Atlanta, we’ve rounded up all the history of human science content on the program.

Still to be announced are the FHHS business meeting and invited speaker.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2016
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Session 1. Between the Natural and Human Sciences: Historical Lessons from the Study of [Our] Brains and Behaviors
Chair(s): Tara Abraham, University of Guelph
Organizer(s): Tara Abraham, University of Guelph

Neurohistology and the ‘Radical’ Surgical Treatment of Epilepsy in the 1920s and 30s. Delia Gavrus, University of Winnipeg

Radical to Some Yet to Others, Ho-Hum: Adolf Meyer’s Biological Theory of Mind, 1895- 1925. Susan Lamb, University of Ottawa

The Sciences of Brain and Mind in American Medical Education: The Case of Harvard’s Medical School, 1900-1945. Tara Abraham, University of Guelph

Epigenetics as Trending Science. Michael Pettit, York University

Thursday, November 3
3:45 PM – 5:45 PM

Session 11. Collecting, Colonialism, and Material Culture in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Materials of the Mind: Phrenology and the Making of a Global Science, 1815-1920. James Poskett, University of Cambridge

Session 16. Reforming the Everyday: Scientific Expertise and its Publics
The Psycho-Technocratic Society: Psychological Expertise and Everyday Life in Progressive Era America. Jeremy Blatter, New York University

Session 19. The Fake and the False: Science, Law, and Trickery
Counterfeiting Madness: The Problem of Imposture in Nineteenth-Century Insanity Trials. Susanna Blumenthal, University of Minnesota

Friday, November 4
9:00 AM – 11:45 AM

Session 21. Binaries, Scales, and Other Modes of Classification in the Social and Life Sciences
Left, Right, Mixed, or Scaled? Dexterity Questionnaires and Genetic Theories of Handedness in Britain, 1967–1979. Tabea Cornel, University of Pennsylvania Continue reading History of Human Science Talks at HHS, Atlanta, Nov. 3-6, 2016

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Reflecting on “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” 40 Years Later

The August 2016 issue of Feminism & Psychology features a special focus section looking back at Stephanie Shield’s seminal “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” some 40 years on. Full details on the pieces that make up this special section follow below.

Special Focus: “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women” forty years on: reflections, implications and empirical work
I. Special Focus: Revisiting “the woman question”
Lisa Lazard, Hale Bolak Boratav, and Helen Clegg

II. “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” as critical feminist history of psychology: Discourse communities and citation practices
Shayna Fox Lee, Alexandra Rutherford, and Michael Pettit

III. Historical significance of Shields’ 1975 essay: A brief commentary on four major contributions
Rhoda Unger and Andrea L Dottolo

This article argues that Shields’ work demonstrated that it is impossible to practice value-free science. And, despite the efforts of many feminist psychologists who have argued that the question of sex differences is someone else’s question, biological theories about the differences between women and men are still popular and influential today. This paper will call attention to four areas of scholarship produced by second-wave feminist psychologists who were inspired by Shields’ work: (1) rediscovery of the work of first-wave feminist psychologists, (2) discussion of the impossibility of value-free research on sex differences, (3) introduction of new categories of analysis such as “gender” and reframing research based on these new categories, and (4) addition of more value-laden categories to sex such as race, social class, and sexuality and using intersectionality theory to design new avenues of research.

IV. Has the psychology of women stopped playing handmaiden to social values?
Alice H Eagly Continue reading Reflecting on “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women” 40 Years Later

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Controversy Brewing over Suzanne Corkin and Patient H.M.

Henry Molaison (know as H.M. in much of the published literature)

As we recently reported on AHP a new book on the infamous case study of H.M. has subjected this work to increasing scrutiny, especially with respect to the actions of psychologist Suzanne Corkin, chief H.M. researcher who also served as gatekeeper of other researchers’ access to H.M. Corkin died in May of this year, while H.M. (now known to be Henry Molaison) died in 2008.

Backlash against Luke Dittrich and his book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, has been growing since a lengthy piece adapted from the book appeared in the New York Times Magazine last week. (Further pieces on Dittrich’s book can be found on Psychology Today and the NYTMag’s Science of Us, among many other sources.) Particularly controversial have been three points: (1) reports that Corkin destroyed the records related to H.M.; (2) claims that Corkin suppressed reports of an additional lesion in H.M.’s brain; and (3) questions regarding the appropriateness of appointing a a non-relative as H.M.’s conservator.

Dr. James DiCarlo, head of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, has written a letter to the New York Times disputing these claims. Additionally, reports are circulating that a group of roughly 200 neuroscientists have written to the Times claiming that Dittrich’s work “contains important errors, misinterpretations of scientific disputes, and unfair characterizations of an MIT neuroscientist who did groundbreaking research on human memory” (from here; also see here and here for more). The letter signed by this group can be read in full here.

In response to DiCarlo’s claims Dittrich has written a post for Medium outlining his position and evidence regarding each claim. Included in Dittrich’s post is a 7-minute audio clip from an  interview he conducted with Corkin wherein she can be heard asserting that records concerning H.M. were destroyed. The audio can be heard here.

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August Roundup: journal issues on related subjects

You’ll find a range of relevant works this month in periodical publications near and dear to our subject. Among the usual suspects are History of the Human Sciences, History of Psychiatry, and Social History of Medicine.

HHS includes interesting pieces about interactions between American and German eugenicists during the interwar period, methodological suggestions for conducting histories of ‘the self,’ and mid-century Argentinian sociology and American imperialism. History of Psychiatry offers a piece that questions established narratives which have associated the decline in LSD therapy with prohibitive regulation, a survey of theories under the theory of mind umbrella, a history of the use of graphology in German psychiatry through 1930, an examination of the problematization of sexual appetite in the DSM, and a history of the use of European psychiatric hospitals by the Ottoman Empire (and the repatriation of mentally-ill Ottoman subjects from European countries). Not least, in the Soc Hist of Med, there’s a piece on the use of physical treatments by British military psychiatry during WWII, and also one on the hybrid forms of African-Amerindian-European healing practices employed by enslaved African healers during the colonization of the interior of Brazil.

Find the links to each article and their abstracts below, after the jump.

Continue reading August Roundup: journal issues on related subjects

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New HoP: The Future of the History of Psychology Revisited

Kurt Danziger

The August 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this special issue, guest edited by Adrian Brock, revisit the issues raised by Kurt Danziger in his 1994 article “Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The future of the history of psychology revisited,” by Adrian C. Brock. The abstract reads,

In 1994, Kurt Danziger published an article in Theory & Psychology with the title, “Does the history of psychology have a future?” The article attracted a great deal of controversy and is now listed on the journal’s website as one of the most cited articles in its history. After providing a synopsis of Danziger’s article, I discuss some of the issues that emerged from the controversy that followed its publication. I also ask whether the position of the history of psychology has changed in the intervening years. We are already in the future that Danziger discussed, even if it is only the near future, and the situation may look different from here. After pointing out that Danziger himself has changed his views on this subject, I suggest that it does look different. The editorial ends with an introduction to the articles in the special issue and some reflections on the importance of understanding the context in which historians of psychology work.

“The history specialist in psychology: From avocation to professionalization,” by Marissa E. Barnes and Scott Greer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The Future of the History of Psychology Revisited

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New Article: Breathing Exercises as Treatment for Neurasthenia in Japan

Yu-Chuan Wu

The July 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences includes an article of interest to AHP readers. The piece describes the use of breathing exercises as a treatment for neurasthenia in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century. Full details follow below.

“A Disorder of Qi: Breathing Exercise as a Cure for Neurasthenia in Japan, 1900–1945,” by Yu-Chuan Wu. The abstract reads,

Neurasthenia became a common disease and caused widespread concern in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century, whereas only a couple of decades earlier the term “nerve” had been unfamiliar, if not unknown, to many Japanese. By exploring the theories and practices of breathing exercise—one of the most popular treatments for neurasthenia at the time—this paper attempts to understand how people who practiced breathing exercises for their nervous ills perceived, conceived, and accordingly cared for their nerves. It argues that they understood “nerve” based on their existing conceptions of qi. Neurasthenia was for them a disorder of qi, although the qi had assumed modern appearances as blood and nervous current. The paper hopes to contribute to the understanding of how the concept of nerves has been accepted and assimilated in East Asia. It also points out the need to understand the varied cultures of nerves not only at the level of concept and metaphor, but also at the level of perception and experience.

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The Guardian: “Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers”

The Guardian recently published a piece looking back on the history of Genie, the so-called feral child whose horrendous treatment at the hands of her father made headline news in the 1970s. The fact that Genie had been raised without language or basic social skills also attracted the attention psychologists interested in understanding language development. As The Guardian recounts, however, it was not long before Genie fell out of the public eye and out of the reach of researchers. Her fate today remains something of a mystery.

Read the full piece online here.

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Oct. 6th: BPS’s 6th Annual Stories of Psychology Symposium “With Childhood in Mind”

On Thursday October 6th, 2016 the British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with the BPS History & Philosophy of Psychology Section, will be holding their sixth annual Stories of Psychology Symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium is “With Childhood in Mind” and registration for the event is required. Full details are provided on the Stories of Psychology Symposium flyer and also follow below.

With Childhood in Mind
A BPS Flagship Event

In conjunction with BPS History & Philosophy of Psychology Section

Thursday 6 October 2016, 10.30am–4.30pm

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House
University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
Speakers:
Professor Matthew Smith (University of Strathclyde)
The Nervous and Allergic Child: Psychosomatic Understanding of Allergy in Mid-Century USA

Professor Mathew Thomson (University of Warwick)
Psychology and the Landscape of the Child in 20th-Century Britain: A Story of Lost Freedom?

Professor Ingrid Lunt (University of Oxford)
The Child’s Place in the World: Evolving Rights and Responsibilities

Professor Vasu Reddy (University of Portsmouth)
The Child as a Psychologist? – Shifting Assumptions and Changing Understandings

Plus a presentation of his PhD research by Andrew Burchell (University of Warwick)
Mental Health in the ‘blackboard jungle’: Psychology and youth violence in post-war Britain

Convenors:
Professor John Stewart (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Professor John Hall (Oxford Brookes University)

Cost: £15: including welcome refreshments and light buffet lunch

Register HERE (registration is essential)

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