Category Archives: Books

New Book: History of Psychology 101

As part of Springer’s Psych 101 series psychologist David Devonis, of Graceland University, has authored History of Psychology 101. As described on the publisher’s website,

Spanning the modern development of psychological science and practice-the era most relevant to today’s psychologists-this concise overview of psychology’s history focuses on how the field has striven to make a positive impact on society and the individuals within it. It not only examines, decade by decade, the key developments in psychology, but goes beyond the usual “schools and systems” approach to illuminate not just how psychological theories developed but how they have been applied and practiced. The text is unique in its focus on connecting the historical development of psychology to present concerns in the field, thus making the information more relevant to today’s student.

Woven throughout the book is thread of optimism regarding the value of psychological ideas for the betterment of humanity. The book considers how psychology has informed-and been influenced by-social and cultural concerns of the past century. Each chapter highlights a theme that typified the science and practice of psychology in a particular era, along with a “historical centerpiece,” an examination of an exemplary psychologist or psychological work that typified the field’s development during that time period.

Key Features:

Presents a concise, accessible overview of the modern history of psychology

Goes beyond the usual “schools and systems” approach to focus on how psychological theories were developed, applied, and practiced

Demonstrates how the field of psychology has endeavored to make a positive impact on society and individuals

Focuses on making historical information relevant to psychological practice today

Embeds psychology in the social and cultural milieu of each era

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Interview with Marga Vicedo on The Nature and Nurture of Love

AHP is pleased to present an interview with historian of science Marga Vicedo on her recent book The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War AmericaThe full interview follows below. Many thanks to Marga for agreeing to be interviewed!

AHP: As a historian and philosopher of biology how did you first become interested in the various ways we’ve conceptualized human instincts and the nature of love?

I have always been interested in understanding our views on human nature because those views inform our ideas about how to lead a moral life. How should I act? What should I do in order to be a good person and have a life worth living? Those seem to me the most fundamental questions we all confront in our lives. The more we understand who we are, the better we will be able to answer those questions. Thus, very early in my philosophical and historical studies I wanted to explore what biology and psychology have to say about human nature.

A central debate in those fields focuses on how much and in what ways our biological constitution influences our mental and emotional makeup. Scientists have used different concepts over time: instincts, innate drives, evolutionary stable strategies, human nature, genetic makeup, … but the question is basically the same: how much does biology shape the way we think, feel, and act? The answer to that question is central for explaining human behavior in psychology and biology. In addition, it also informs our ideas about biological or environmental determinism, standards of normality, conceptions of ethics, and views about individual and social responsibility. Trying to understand all those fundamental issues and their interrelations is what led me to focus on instincts.

One striking feature of the discourse on instincts is the profound “gendering” of some behaviors and emotions. Although the search for instincts aims to locate those characteristics that are part of all human beings, many scientists claimed that human nature came in two forms: male and female. Aggession became the defining instinct for males. And the maternal instinct became the defining characteristic of women’s nature. But how did love become “gendered”? How can we differentiate maternal and parental love? And how did we come to think that maternal love is fundamental to the emotional development of a child?

In this book, I explore ideas about mother love in the United States from World War II until the 1970s. My central claim is that during that period prominent researchers from various fields of study established the view that emotions are an integral part of the self and that mother love determines an individual’s emotional development. One theory in particular played a key role in the establishment and permanence of those views: John Bowlby’s ethological theory of attachment behavior. This was not the only theory that put forth maternal care and love as the cradle of the emotional self, but it has become the most enduring and successful one. My book tries to explain why.

AHP: What were some of the factors that supported the post-WWII move toward envisioning maternal love as a biological instinct? Continue reading

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New Book: How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality

A new volume from the University of Chicago Press may be of interest to AHP readers. How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality describes efforts to reshape rationality within the human sciences during the Cold War. A recent review of the book by Ole Holsti, of Duke University, can be found on H-Net. As described on the publisher’s site,

In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and economics, among others—and its participants enlisted in an intellectual campaign to figure out what rationality should mean and how it could be deployed.

How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind brings to life the people—Herbert Simon, Oskar Morgenstern, Herman Kahn, Anatol Rapoport, Thomas Schelling, and many others—and places, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Cowles Commission for Research and Economics, and the Council on Foreign Relations, that played a key role in putting forth a “Cold War rationality.” Decision makers harnessed this picture of rationality—optimizing, formal, algorithmic, and mechanical—in their quest to understand phenomena as diverse as economic transactions, biological evolution, political elections, international relations, and military strategy. The authors chronicle and illuminate what it meant to be rational in the age of nuclear brinkmanship.

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New Book: Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature

Cohen-Cole_the open mindHistorian Jamie Cohen-Cole‘s new book, The Open Mind:  Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, is now available. The volume explores how the human sciences crafted a particular vision of autonomous, rational, and creative selfhood in the post-war years. Although first used to promote centrist political policies, the open-minded self – and its attendant scientific technologies – later came to divide individuals into increasingly polarized political factions.  As Cohen-Cole writes,

If psychology could explain everything, there was one aspect of the self that held special importance to the intellectual and policy worlds: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness was a kind of mind characterized by autonomy, creativity, and the use of reason. To the scientific experts, intellectuals, and policy makers who developed and utilized the concept of the open mind, this type of self served simultaneously as model and ideal of national and intellectual character. They projected upon the open mind their aspirations for the American character and liberal pluralist democracy, for scientific thinking and true intellectual inquiry. Indeed, for some of these individuals the open mind transcended the academic and political, as its traits were even conscripted to serve as criteria for human nature itself. Cold War intellectuals and policy makers saw in open-mindedness solutions to the most pressing problems faced by the nation. Those who defined American foreign policy believed that open-minded autonomy, a hallmark of American virtue, posed a threat to the communist system. Traditional or authoritarian societies could not be sustained in the presence of a citizen body that thought autonomously, but for a modern democracy like America, open-mindedness would have the opposite effect, offering social cohesion. The open mind meant a respect for individuality, tolerance of difference, appreciation of pluralism, and appreciation of freedom of thought. If citizens were sufficiently equipped with these virtues, thought policy makers and social critics, the nation would flourish.

An extended excerpt from The Open Mind can be read online here. The University of Chicago Press describes the volume as follows,

The Open Mind chronicles the development and promulgation of a scientific vision of the rational, creative, and autonomous self, demonstrating how this self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates how from 1945 to 1965 policy makers and social critics used the idea of an open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics. They reshaped intellectual culture and instigated nationwide educational reform that promoted more open, and indeed more human, minds. The new field of cognitive science was central to this project, as it used popular support for open-mindedness to overthrow the then-dominant behaviorist view that the mind either could not be studied scientifically or did not exist. Cognitive science also underwrote the political implications of the open mind by treating it as the essential feature of human nature. While the open mind unified America in the first two decades after World War II, between 1965 and 1975 battles over the open mind fractured American culture as the ties between political centrism and the scientific account of human nature began to unravel. During the late 1960s, feminists and the New Left repurposed Cold War era psychological tools to redefine open-mindedness as a characteristic of left-wing politics. As a result, once-liberal intellectuals became neoconservative, and in the early 1970s, struggles against open-mindedness gave energy and purpose to the right wing.

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Kindle Single: Ariel Sabar’s The Outsider: The Life and Times of Roger Barker

Journalist and author Ariel Sabar has extended his May 2013 Harper’s Magazine article, “Our Town: How Roger Barker made Oskaloosa, Kansas, His Laboratory” (see AHP post here), into a 25,000 word biography of the now little known psychologist. The biography, The Outsider: The Life and Times of Roger Barker, is now available for purchase as a Kindle Single at the Amazon store. Barker’s story is described on Amazon as follows:

Roger Garlock Barker was one of the most extraordinary — and least known — figures in the history of psychology. Just months after becoming chair of the psychology department at the University of Kansas in the late 1940s, Barker decamped with his family to the tiny backwoods town of Oskaloosa, population 725. It wasn’t escape Barker was after, but revelation. What Jane Goodall would do with chimpanzees in Tanzania, Barker wanted to do with his own species — homo sapiens — in its natural habitat. He hoped to understand nothing less than the “naturally occurring behavior” of “free-ranging persons.”

Barker stayed in Oskaloosa not for a one-off round of observations, but for a lifetime. He and his wife, Louise, joined its churches and social clubs. He sent his children to its schools. And for 25 years, Barker, his colleagues and even Louise and the three kids gathered meticulous data on the ebb and flow of everyday life in what he believed was a quintessential Midwestern town. He locked up his findings in the vault of an old bank building on the town square, in a rickety suite of offices that would rise to international renown as the “Midwest Psychological Field Station.”

The iconoclastic Barker saw his work as revolutionary, and by the early 1960s, establishment figures in psychology could no longer ignore his prodigious and painstaking output. Barker won hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money and was decorated with the same prestigious awards given over the years to better-known luminaries like B.F. Skinner, Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky. Margaret Mead visited Barker’s field station, as did Washington officials, foundation presidents, and scholars from universities as far afield as Norway and Australia.

But the shining new path Barker had illuminated for psychology faded suddenly into oblivion, the victim of forces Barker felt powerless to control.

The full Barker biography can be purchased online here.

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New Book: Roger Smith’s Between Mind and Nature: A History of Psychology

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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New Book: Peter Hegarty’s Gentlemen’s Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men

Psychologist and historian of psychology Peter Hegarty‘s book Gentlemen’s Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men, is now in print. Published by the University of Chicago Press, the book explores the relationship between intelligence and sex through an analysis of the work of, and debates between, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and intelligence tester Lewis Terman. The volume is described as follows:

What is the relationship between intelligence and sex? In recent decades, studies of the controversial histories of both intelligence testing and of human sexuality in the United States have been increasingly common—and hotly debated. But rarely have the intersections of these histories been examined. In Gentlemen’s Disagreement, Peter Hegarty enters this historical debate by recalling the debate between Lewis Terman—the intellect who championed the testing of intelligence— and pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and shows how intelligence and sexuality have interacted in American psychology.Through a fluent discussion of intellectually gifted onanists, unhappily married men, queer geniuses, lonely frontiersmen, religious ascetics, and the two scholars themselves, Hegarty traces the origins of Terman’s complaints about Kinsey’s work to show how the intelligence testing movement was much more concerned with sexuality than we might remember. And, drawing on Foucault, Hegarty reconciles these legendary figures by showing how intelligence and sexuality in early American psychology and sexology were intertwined then and remain so to this day.

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New Book: Emil du Bois-Remond: Neuroscience, Self, and Society in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Gabriel Finkelstein, Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Denver, has just published a volume on the life and work of nineteenth century physiologist Emil du Bois-Reymond. An important figure in uncovering the electrical nature of nerve activity, du Bois-Reymond is positioned by Finkelstein as central to the development of modern neuroscience. Emil du Bois-Remond: Neuroscience, Self, and Society in Nineteenth-Century Germany is described on the publisher’s website as follows,

Emil du Bois-Reymond is the most important forgotten intellectual of the nineteenth century. In his own time (1818–1896) du Bois-Reymond grew famous in his native Germany and beyond for his groundbreaking research in neuroscience and his provocative addresses on politics and culture. This biography by Gabriel Finkelstein draws on personal papers, published writings, and contemporary responses to tell the story of a major scientific figure. Du Bois-Reymond’s discovery of the electrical transmission of nerve signals, his innovations in laboratory instrumentation, and his reductionist methodology all helped lay the foundations of modern neuroscience.

In addition to describing the pioneering experiments that earned du Bois-Reymond a seat in the Prussian Academy of Sciences and a professorship at the University of Berlin, Finkelstein recounts du Bois-Reymond’s family origins, private life, public service, and lasting influence. Du Bois-Reymond’s public lectures made him a celebrity. In talks that touched on science, philosophy, history, and literature, he introduced Darwin to German students (triggering two days of debate in the Prussian parliament); asked, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, whether France had forfeited its right to exist; and proclaimed the mystery of consciousness, heralding the age of doubt. The first modern biography of du Bois-Reymond in any language, this book recovers an important chapter in the history of science, the history of ideas, and the history of Germany.

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For Your Consideration: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

61Hx4oueqcLThis summer I read Thomas Pynchon’s legendary, post-modern novel Gravity’s Rainbow. Published in 1973, the novel takes place during the latter part of WWII, beginning in London and eventually traversing the European (and occasionally other) landscapes. Pynchon’s work is of such a non-traditional nature that describing a plot is a preposterous attempt; but the novel’s linchpin is the Germans’ rumoured Rocket 00000, and the hitherto unknown power and destruction it may contain. Gravity’s Rainbow is replete with characters and circumstances pertinent to those interested in the history of science, particularly psychology. Though the author attends to and obsesses over the esoteric verbiage and theories of physics, engineering, and espionage, Pynchon devotes a considerable amount of his novel (and the characters therein) to matters related to Psychology. Indeed the main character, Tyrone Slothrop, is at the forefront of this novel due to his intimate physiological and psychological connection with Rocket 00000 (and the Schwarzgerät [AKA 'black device'] within it). This conditioned connection was wrought when Tyrone was a neonate—the experimental situations of such reflexive conditioning emphasizing Pavolvian theory, while echoing the setting of Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert experiments. An entire club of scientists in this book revere Pavlov as a demigod, and rotate their lone copy of his Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, simply referring to it as ‘The Book’.

infanttyronePynchon also includes scenes of the supposedly supernatural, where the faithful and the skeptical alike attend séances. These scenes mirror Psychology’s early history of actively debunking supernatural occurrences, unmasking the deceptive charlatans; concurrently there are other organizations, such as the Psi Section(s), that are professionally interested in the parapsychological for potential military and espionage tactics. Other characters and scenes concentrate on statistics and probability, and their predictive utility in the unpredictable chaos of war (with a particular focus on the Poisson Distribution). Many of these scenes recall the involvements of psychologists in military and government matters, and shines a light on their bizarre and variegated positions within the national and transnational bureaucratic machines of WWII.

Pynchon-simpsonsThese are a smattering of how the history of Psychology makes it way into Gravity’s Rainbow, and Pynchon develops the complex ramifications of these new theories and technologies for his seemingly endless assemblage of characters. These examples related to the history of psychology are ensconced within a fictional world that reflects the consequences of our scientific and technological progress: the fragmentation and disorganization of our selves and our societies that result from our systems of unification and organization. Tyrone Slothtrop’s continually evolving and confused selves, his nomadic lifestyle leading to places that are in constant destruction and reconstruction, and Pynchon’s own ceaseless change in narrative genre, tone, and syntax, illustrate the dizzying fragmentation-reorganization cycle that revolves more quickly the further we progress in our sciences and technologies. This book is Pynchon’s attempt at capturing the impossibly convoluted state of our post-WWII and post-modern lives.

Though Gravity’s Rainbow encompasses much more than only issues related to disciplinary Psychology, I would still like to recommend it as an excellent source of interest, inspiration, bewilderment, and discussion for anyone interested in the history of Psychology.

Buy it here.

Page-by-page annotations here.

Page-by-page artwork by Zak Smith here.

Learn more about Pynchon here, here, and here.

 

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Rat Park, A Comic on (the History of) the Psychology of Addiction

A new comic by Stuart McMillen graphically illustrates the history of psychological research into the role of the social environment on drug use. In Rat Park, the second of two comics McMillen has created on illegal drugs, he describes the work of psychologist Bruce Alexander of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. In Alexander’s Rat Park studies, conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, he explored the significance of the social environment for drug addiction.

Contrary to the prevailing belief that certain classes of drugs are near instantly addictive, Alexander found that environmental conditions largely determine drug use. Although rats housed alone in Skinner boxes would consume large amounts of morphine, those housed in “Rat Park,” a large, stimulating enclosure shared with other rats,  did not. This led Alexander to argue that drug addiction is largely a social issue, rather than a physiological one.

Alexander discusses his views on addiction in more detail in a TV Ontario interview with Steve Paikin here. The process of researching, writing, and illustrating Rat Park is discussed by McMillen in a blog post on his website. A number of photographs of the original Rat Park experiment (right) are also featured in this post.

Columbia University Professor Carl Hart, recently featured in the New York Times, has extended work on the non-physiological determinants of drug use in studies of crack cocaine and methamphetamines with human populations. Like Alexander, Hart has found that addiction does not necessarily follow from the use of illegal drugs. Even for those who do become regular drug users, social and environmental variables can significantly influence use. In his recent book, High Price (left), Hart argues that addicts make rational decisions when it comes to drug use. When given the choice between drugs now or a monetary reward weeks in the future, both meth and crack users chose the cash, provided the sum was large enough (in this case, $20). As Hart, quoted in the New York Times, says: “If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure.” Ultimately, “The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats.”

The full Rat Park comic can be read online here.

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