The papers of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) have now been catalogued – 130 boxes of them! – and are now open to researchers at the Wellcome Library. As the TIHR Archive Project reports,
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These papers – the registered document series (SA/TIH/B/1) – provide a framework for the research and outputs of the Institute from 1945 to 2005, containing key reports and findings from seminal social studies from the post-war period to the early 21st century.
The reports trace the dynamic and cutting-edge work undertaken by the Tavistock Institute’s team of social scientists, anthropologists and psychoanalysts, in their efforts to apply new thinking emerging in the social sciences to the most prevalent contemporary needs and concerns of society. The topics addressed in the reports are hugely diverse, covering many aspects of the organisation of human social and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, and organisational structures and group dynamics.
Robert Heath claimed to have cured homosexuality by implanting electrodes into the pleasure centre of the brain. Robert Colvile reports on one of the great forgotten stories of neuroscience.
For the first hour, they just talked. He was nervous; he’d never done this before. She was understanding, reassuring: let’s just lie down on the bed together, she said, and see what happens. Soon, events took their course: they were enjoying themselves so much they could almost forget about the wires leading out of his skull.
The year was 1970, and the man was a 24-year-old psychiatric patient. The woman, 21, was a prostitute from the French Quarter of New Orleans, hired by special permission of the attorney general of Louisiana. And they had just become part of one of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.
The patient – codenamed B-19 – was, according to the two academic papers that catalogued the course of the research, a “single, white male of unremarkable gestation and birth”. He came from a military family and had had an unhappy childhood. He had, the papers said, entered the military but had been expelled for “homosexual tendencies” within a month. He had a five-year history of homosexuality, and a three-year history of drug abuse: he had tried glues, paints, thinners, sedatives, marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, even nutmeg and vanilla extract. He had temporal lobe epilepsy. He was depressive, suicidal, insecure, procrastinating, self-pitying and narcissistic. “All of his relationships,” wrote his doctors, with an unsparing lack of sympathy, “have been characterised by coercion, manipulation and demand.”
One of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.
In 1970, B-19 ended up in the care of Robert Galbraith Heath, chair of the department of psychiatry and neurology at Tulane University, New Orleans. Heath’s prescription was drastic. He and his team implanted stainless steel, Teflon-coated electrodes into nine separate regions of B-19’s brain, with wires leading back out of his skull. Once he had recovered from the operation, a control box was attached which enabled him, under his doctors’ supervision, to provide a one-second jolt to the brain area of his choice. Continue reading The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific historyShare on Facebook
Another highlight from the AHA Today blog–an announcement of a three parted post series by University of Southern Mississippi PhD Student Branstiter. Titled “Madness and a Thousand Reconstructions: Learning to Embrace the Messiness of the Past,” the series, a reflexive narrative about archival research and historiography, will be of particular interest to other graduate students and early career historians engaging in similar processes of craft development.
Branstiter’s series will explain how shifts in the reformulation of his topic (an asylum scandal in Reconstruction-era US south) from ‘event’ to ‘lens’ allowed him to investigate its contexts in a way that could more fully apprehend the complexity involved. By recounting his own historiographic processes, Branstiter expounds upon common challenges in the construction of historical knowledge, including the politics of interpretation, the benefits of allowing the data to speak, as well as negotiation of the limits of formal records and informal memory practices. We look forward to the installments!Share on Facebook
Those who’ve been following the most recent controversy over the replicability of psychological findings (see here, here, here, here, and here for a primer), may be interested in the latest output from the PsyBorgs Digital History of Psychology Laboratory. Michael Pettit (left) has created an interactive timeline of replication controversies over psychology’s history:
This interactive timeline offers the reader a brief guide to this longer history. I define replication fairly broadly, but attempt to not simply offer a history of psychology in its entirety. Instead, I have focused on famous replication controversies from the past alongside the development of psychology’s favored research methods.
I am personally quite agnostic as to the value of the current interest in direct replication. My worry is that it distracts (as is often the case in psychology) from questions of external validity. My goal is to provide a richer context for contemporary controversies animating psychology.
I welcome corrections, updates, and suggestions of relevant topics. Please contact me at mpettit at yorku.ca
The timeline can be explored in full here.Share on Facebook
The popular publication on science, Nautilus, offers two recent features relevant to our readership.
The first is an adroit biographical and theoretical sketch of distinctive psychologist and historian of psychology Julian Jaynes. In addition to a survey of the impact his opus The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind made upon its publication, focus is also placed on current interpretations of his polarizing thinking, and the ways in which it can be said to have anticipated persistent “vexations” in neuroscience. Find here.
The second, in spite of a somewhat click-baity title, provides a rather nuanced and concise history of research on gender differences in ‘spatial skills,’ touching on the various tensions that are at play in any discussion of why females are currently understood to struggle with spatial cognition, including the perennial oversimplification of a nature/nurture dichotomy, social construction, neuro plasticity, sexism in STEM fields, and even evolutionary explanations. Find here.Share on Facebook
APA’s Monitor reports that after 13 years as director of the American National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel is joining Verily, the Life Sciences Division of Google’s new Alphabet Inc. empire.
His vision for Google’s role in reforming mental health care creates an unprecedented intersection between the fraught social politics of public surveillance, ‘philanthrocapitalism‘ and the psychological industries:
“Google’s strength in data analytics could be leveraged to identify patterns such as changes in cognition and behavior that are difficult to detect in the early stages of psychosis, he says. In many cases, people who were eventually diagnosed with the disease went undiagnosed for years because their initial symptoms masked themselves as traditional adolescent behavior, such as isolation from others and difficulty with academics, Insel says. Smartphones, for example, could collect speech data that would be plugged into an algorithm that detects disorganized speech patterns indicative of psychosis.”
Read the full article here. Conversation on the topic welcome and encouraged.
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Happy New Year 2016 to our readership!
Looking for a little bit of nerdy entertainment before diving into the winter work season? Well you’ve come to the right place! Amuse yourself and assist the research of Dr. Christopher Green out of York’s Psyborgs Lab at the same time by playing Psychology’s Elorater.
It’s easy and addictive: simply rate the greater impact on psychology between pairs of psychologists (click here), or learn a bunch exploring the full profiles (click here); also check out the current ranking lists (click here)!
Current Top Ten Standings:
- B. F. Skinner (1683)
- William James (1599)
- Jean Piaget (1596)
- Ivan Pavlov (1594)
- Sigmund Freud (1567)
- Wilhelm Wundt (1554)
- Charles Darwin (1543)
- Albert Bandura (1534)
- John B. Watson (1510)
- Edward Thorndike (1500)
Current Top Ten Women (the first ranked #77 overall):
- Eleanor J. Gibson (1328)
- Anna Freud (1316)
- Elizabeth Loftus (1315)
- Karen Horney (1313)
- Mary Ainsworth (1284)
- Anne Anastasi (1280)
- Maria Montessori (1280)
- Margaret Floy Washburn (1264)
- Melanie Klein (1237)
- Sandra Bem (1226)
Find out more about the project and methods here.Share on Facebook
The latest edition of Monitor on Psychology includes a short piece by Rebecca Clay about the history and current status of psychological work at The Kinsey Institute, offering those in the field an opportunity to touch base with the work that is being done there.
Info from Drucker’s 2014 volume is used to establish how the institute’s inception and early work relates to, and differs from, its recent research directions and expansion of focus to include work on relationships as well as sexuality. Their research programs on condom usage, sex and immunity, and the impact of technology on communication in sexual relations are featured.
Read the article, with more details about the relevant researchers and administration of the institute, here.Share on Facebook
In a recent piece on the Somatosphere blog, historian Laura Stark describes the making of “vulnerable populations” in medical experimentation. Currently writing a book on the emergence of “normal control” subjects in medical research, Stark uses her research on LSD experimentation at the US National Institutes of Health post-WWII to discuss the idea of “vulnerable populations.” The above video features excerpts from some of Stark’s oral history interviews with research subjects used as “normal controls” in this research.
As she describes in “How to make a “vulnerable population”,”
The category of the “vulnerable population” is itself a product of modern (American) bioethics, which invented the concept in its recent vintage and gave it specific meaning in public parlance. The field of modern bioethics emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the post civil-rights period, the bioethical concept of the “vulnerable population” was coded with contemporary rights-based concerns: about minorities, about prisoners, and more. The specific meanings and people associated with “vulnerable populations” were embedded in 1970s human-subjects regulation, as well as in popular discourse….
The concepts of modern bioethics operate at another level, too. Ian Hacking coined the term “moral kinds” to tag what he called meta-ethical issues that people—including scholars—come to embody. We are working to develop Ian Hacking’s framework to show how law (especially U.S. human-subjects regulations) shapes both the memory practices of historical actors and the interpretive practices of present-day scholars. In sum, we are interested in how the concepts of bioethics, such as “vulnerable populations” codified in 1974 and later extended beyond the United States, have narrowed the range of possibilities available to scholars for interpreting empirical evidence. We like Hacking’s approach because it offers a way to investigate how the governing moral sensibilities of a specific time and place both constrain and liberate scholars themselves. The secular, North American, rights-revolution ethos of modern bioethics, we suggest, limits how questions about research practices in the human sciences are conceptualized, and can deflect questions about the historicity of the discipline of bioethics as a knowledge-making enterprise in its own right. We aim to explore medical knowledge-making alongside the ontology of modern bioethics—to ask how, when, where, and with what effects the terms and priorities of this expert domain developed. In doing so, we hope to capture a fuller repertoire of institutions, sensibilities, and activities that eventually came to constitute modern science and biomedicine.
Read the full post online here.Share on Facebook