The most recent episode of the Psych Files features an interview with AHP blogger Jennifer Bazar. In “What Was Life Like in an Asylum?” Bazar describes life in the asylum in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As described on the Psych Files site,
Ever wondered what it was like to be a patient in an “insane asylum”? “Asylums” changed names over the years (including “State Hospital” and “Psychiatric Center”) and so did the treatment of the mentally ill. Hear from Dr. Jennifer Bazar how we went from chaining people up to hydrotherapy to sexual surgery and finally to what is called “moral treatment“. A fascinating walk down the history of psychology with an engaging psychology historian.
The full podcast can be heard online here.
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New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has released an audio interview with historian Michael Pettit (left) on his recent book The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America. (For previous AHP posts on The Science of Deception see here and here.) As New Books in STS describes,
Parapsychology. You may have heard of it. You know, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis. Spoon-bending and that sort of thing. If you have heard of it, you probably think of it as a pseudoscience. And indeed it is. But it wasn’t always so. There was a time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when practitioners and advocates of parapsychology abounded. William James, one of the very founders of modern psychological science, was a fan. Most of the founders of modern psychology, of course, weren’t fans. They considered the parapsychologists frauds peddling cheap tricks to gullible people. These con-men, they said, gave true psychological science a bad name. There was only one thing to do: unmask them.
As Michael Pettit shows in his fascinating book The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), that is precisely what the scientific psychologists did, or at least tried to do. They worked hard to create a firm boundary between their legitimate practice and what they considered illegitimate trickery. In so doing, they developed a science of deception, one that had far reaching implications for science, the law, and commerce in the United States.
The full interview can be heard online here.
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Historian of psychology Roger Smith‘s volume Between Mind and Nature: A History of Psychology is now in print. Smith, an accomplished historian of science, is Reader Emeritus in the History of Science at Lancaster University and an Associate of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Between Mind and Nature is a comprehensive history of psychology, that looks beyond the American context to developments in several European countries including the Soviet Union. The book recently received a glowing review in PsycCritiques from psychologist Henderikus Stam, who writes,
Smith has managed to achieve what the reviewer took to be an almost impossible task: to write a single comprehensive volume on the history of psychology while at the same time acknowledging that (a) there are many histories of psychology, (b) there is no single coherent discipline of psychology, and (c) there were multiple developments in the formation of this discipline across the globe.
Smith’s work is described on the publisher’s website as follows:
From William James to Ivan Pavlov, John Dewey to Sigmund Freud, the Würzburg School to the Chicago School, psychology has spanned centuries and continents. Today, the word is an all-encompassing name for a bewildering range of beliefs about what psychologists know and do, and this intrinsic interest in knowing how our own and other’s minds work has a story as fascinating and complex as humankind itself. In Between Mind and Nature, Roger Smith explores the history of psychology and its relation to religion, politics, the arts, social life, the natural sciences, and technology.
Considering the big questions bound up in the history of psychology, Smith investigates what human nature is, whether psychology can provide answers to human problems, and whether the notion of being an individual depends on social and historical conditions. He also asks whether a method of rational thinking exists outside the realm of natural science. Posing important questions about the value and direction of psychology today, Between Mind and Nature is a cogently written book for those wishing to know more about the quest for knowledge of the mind.
For those interested in more hearing more of Smith’s work, an hour-long lecture on “Being Human in Russia – Free Will and Psychology Under the Tsars” can be heard online here.
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The podcast series, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society (part of the New Books Network), has just released a new episode featuring an interview with Marga Vicedo on her recent book, The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America (previously on AHP here). In the interview Vicedo, a professor at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, discusses her work with host Carla Nappi. As described on the podcast website,
Between WWII and the 1970s, prominent researchers from various fields established and defended a view that emotions are integral to the self, and that a mother’s love determines an individual’s emotional development. In Marga Vicedo, The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Marga Vicedo explores the emergence of the science of children’s emotional needs in the twentieth century. Masterfully bringing together approaches from the history and philosophy of the biological sciences, Vicedo’s book focuses on British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist John Bowlby (1907-1990), whose ethological work became one of the most influential and controversial psychological theories of the 20th century. Vicedo uses the story of Bowlby’s science to explore a broader modern history of work on animal and human behavior that includes Konrad Lorenz, Anna Freud, Benjamin Spock, and Niko Tinbergen, among others. Along the way, The Nature & Nurture of Love chronicles the emergence of a kind of anthropomorphic material culture of the human sciences, inhabiting its story with a fascinating cast of robots, dolls, geese, monkeys, and stuffed animals, as well as humans. It is a fascinating and gripping trans-disciplinary story and an absolute pleasure to read.
Listen to the full interview here.
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BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast The Truth and Nothing but the Truth in which psychologist Geoff Bunn explores lie detecting technologies, past and present. In this episode, much like in his recent book The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector, Bunn explores the creation of lie detectors by psychologists and others, as well as the link between this work and pop culture icons Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman. An excerpt from the episode can be heard here. As described on the BBC Radio 4 site,
Dr Geoff Bunn discovers that Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman both have starring roles in the history of lie detection. The culture of the comic book influenced the cultural perception of science then, and now colourful brain images from fMRI scans direct the public’s view of what science can achieve. But does seeing parts of the brain light up when a subject lies provide any more concrete proof of what is true and what is not than did measuring heart and sweat rate in the traditional polygraph?
Dr Geoff Bunn investigates the latest lie detecting technology with the help of Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the Open University and Geraint Rees, Director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. He discovers that the early history of the lie detector features a psychologist, William Marston, who went on to create the comic book character Wonder Woman, and an amateur magician, Leonarde Keeler, who was an inspiration for the comic strip hero, Dick Tracy.
He explores the history of the American obsession with lie detection, aided by Ken Alder, Professor of History at North Western University and Garyn Roberts, biographer of Chester Gould, who created Dick Tracy. He investigates Wonder Woman at the Travelling Man comic book shop in Manchester with the help of Dr Joan Ormrod, co-editor of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. And he hears from Bruce Burgess, founder of Polygraphs UK, who uses his company’s services.
You can listen to the full episode, The Truth and Nothing but the Truth, here.
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BackStory with the American History Guys is a podcast series hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. In each episode Ayers, Onuf, and Balogh, along with their guests, explore the historical roots of a topic of current relevance. Two recent podcasts explore issues of interest to historians of psychology. In “States of Mind: Mental Illness in America,” the American history guys use the recent release of the DSM-5 as a springboard for discussion of the history of mental illness in the United States,
…exploring how the diagnostic line between mental health and madness has shifted over time, and how we’ve treated those on both sides of it. We’ll hear how the desire of slaves to escape bondage was once interpreted as a psychological disorder, how a woman’s sleepwalking landed her in the state asylum, and how perspectives on depression altered in the 1970s. Plus, the Guys walk us through a mid-20th century quiz that promised to identify a new kind of mental “disorder” – our susceptibility to fascism.
“Bridge for Sale: Deception in America,” features an interview with psychologist Geoff Bunn on the history of the lie detector and its connection to Wonder Woman, which is also detailed in his recent book The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector. In this episode, the American history guys,
…dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the long, strange history of “the truth compelling machine.” And, oh yeah… we try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.
Check out even more episodes of BackStory here.
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The BBC’s Radio 4 program Mind Changers, hosted by Claudia Hammond (above), has returned with several all knew episodes dedicated to the history of twentieth century psychology. Now available to listen to online are three episodes that explore the work of James Pennebaker, Abraham Maslow, and Anna Freud, respectively. Full descriptions of these episodes follow below.
James Pennebaker and Expressive Writing
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Claudia Hammond returns with the history of psychology series examining the work of the people who have changed our understanding of the human mind. This week she meets the American social psychologist, James Pennebaker, to discuss his work on expressive writing.
Pennebaker’s ground-breaking experiment was published in 1986; he showed that simply writing about one’s emotions can significantly improve one’s health. His work revolutionised how emotions are viewed within psychology. Continue reading New Mind Changers Episodes!
BBC Radio 4 has just aired an episode on the history of mental illness. The episode, Mad Houses, explores three museums of madness in Europe in anticipation of the establishment of a museum of mental illness at Bedlam Hospital in the coming years.
As described on Radio 4’s website,
Ken Arnold explores how three European countries variously tell the history of mental illness. What do museums of madness tell us about who we were and who we are? Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Trust, visits three of Europe’s old ‘mad houses’ that are now museums in Aarhus in Denmark, Haarlem in the Netherlands and Ghent in Belgium. Two of these institutions still function as psychiatric hospitals. Each has unusual, beautiful and terrifying objects on show ranging from straight-jackets to lobotomy tools, and also collections of ‘outsider art’, but each is also strikingly successful at evoking for their visitors different (and sometimes wildly different) views of madness – strange, worrisome, extreme mental states.
Ranging from a pitch-dark solitary confinement cell to the brightly coloured papier-mache dolls made by long term inmates, from the era of shackles to the era of the talking cure, the history of Europe’s reaction to the madness in its midst as shown by these museums is long and still shifting. Britain doesn’t yet have a national museum of mental illness or psychiatry. Bedlam Hospital in London will take on this role in years to come. What might we learn from the mad houses of Europe?
The episode can be heard online here.
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Psychologist and writer Gina Perry, author of Beyond the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments, has a new project that looks at the Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment. Perry has just produced an episode for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National’s show Hindsight on this famous psychological study of group relations. The program features interviews with some of the boys who participated in the experiment and audio recorded as part of the study, as well as interviews with historians of psychology David Baker, of the Center for the History of Psychology, and Hank Stam, of the University of Calgary. As described on the program’s website,
In 1954 at a small national park in rural Oklahoma, Turkish-American psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought two groups of 11-year-old boys to a summer camp. The boys, from Oklahoma city, arrived at the camp excited at the prospect of three weeks outdoors. What they didn’t know and what they were never told was that their behaviour over the next three weeks would be studied, analysed, discussed and used in theories about war, interracial conflict and prejudice for generations to come.
Almost 60 years since it was conducted, it’s still cited in psychology textbooks today. But what’s less well known is that the Robbers Cave was Sherif’s third attempt to generate peace between warring groups. The earlier studies were the 1949 ‘Happy Valley Camp’ study in Connecticut, and the second was his 1953 ‘Camp Talualac’ study.
‘Inside the Robbers Cave’ tells the story of two of the three studies. Producer Gina Perry’s research unearths a tale of drama, failure, mutiny and intrigue that has been overlooked in official accounts of Sherif’s research.
The program features original archival audio from recordings made during 1953 and 1954.
The program Inside Robbers Cave can be heard online here. Perry also discusses her research for the project on her blog here.
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AHP’s readers may be interested in some of the podcasts recently made available by Situating Science. Situating Science is a seven year project funded the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant in order to promote “communication and collaboration among humanists and social scientists that are engaged in the study of science and technology.” While there are a number of talks from Situating Science’s Trust in Science and Trust in the New Sciences series available online, two in particular may be of especial interest to AHP readers. In the first talk, sociologist Nikolas Rose discusses selfhood in the 21st century, and in the second Cornelius Borck explores the how the neurosciences attempt to explain what it is to be human. Audio of both talks is embedded below and can also be found online here.
Nikolas Rose, “Engineering Selfhood in the 21st Century.”
Dr. Rose discusses the implications for the ways we understand and govern ourselves and the new dilemmas of rights and obligations that confront us taking examples from biomedicine, genomics and neuroscience.
Cornelius Borck, “Mind the Gap: The Neurosciences and Their Determination to Explain the Human.”
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Understanding the brain and the biological basis of mind, consciousness and behaviour is the ultimate challenge. It stimulates researchers to look into the brain with ever more sophisticated technology such as functional neuroimaging. This colourful visualization of mental processes in the living human brain enthrals scientists and the public alike.