Category Archives: Links

Kitty Genovese’s Killer Has Died in Prison

As The New York Times reports, Winston Mosesley has died in prison at the age of 81. Mosesley infamously raped and murdered Kitty Genovese in New York City in 1964. The story that 38 bystanders stood by and did nothing as Genovese pled for help during the attack inspired the development of the “bystander effect” within psychology, which describes the diffusion of responsibility that occurs when events are witnessed by multiple individuals. That 38 bystanders in Genovese’s case witnessed the attack and did not intervene, however, has been discredited. (For more on the Genovese case see here.) The full New York Times piece, which describes the Genovese case and its historical significance, can be read online here.


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Interactive Timeline: “Replication in Psychology: A History Perspective”

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

The timeline can be explored in full here.

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AHA Online Calendar

FYI, the American Historical Association’s website includes a handy dandy calendar tool that provides a chronology of wide-ranging relevant content for those interested in the happenings of the historical discipline more broadly. Included are meetings and seminars, exhibitions and interpretive resources, as well as awards and fellowships.

Follow this link to check it out!

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Help Save Wilhelm Wundt House!

Professors Hans Strasburger and Gerd Jüttemann are spearheading an effort to save Wilhelm Wundt’s house near Leipzig. You can contribute funds to the crowdfunding effort, or simply offer your support, here. Full details follow below.

Dear colleagues,

Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920), as is well known, pursued his historically outstanding work at the University of Leipzig and it could be said that he counts as the most distinguished founder of Psychology. He not only built the world’s first laboratory of experimental psychology in Leipzig but also developed a theory of conscious experience that was underpinned by the method of introspection. Wundt wrote influential books on many aspects of psychology and he was a champion of investigating psychological processes by means of experiment.  He further initiated a culture-historically oriented developmental psychology, for which he coined the – now obsolete – term “folk psychology”.

The houses in Leipzig where Wundt lived were destroyed in the Second World War. His last residence, in Großbothen near Leipzig, has been preserved, however. Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932), the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry with whom Wundt was close friends, lived across the street; there is a well-kept memorial site there for Ostwald that is quite popular. Wundt’s building was constructed in the style of its time (see photo). It is no longer in the possession of Wundt’s descendants and was uninhabited for quite some time. Though it is heritage-protected, its current owner has no interest in its preservation and would be willing to sell it at a reasonable price. High renovation costs would arise in case of its acquisition but at the same time the German Foundation for the Maintenance of Historical Monuments (Deutsche Stiftung für Denkmalschutz) has signaled that it would generously support such a project. There already exists the “Wilhelm Wundt Room” at Leipzig’s Department of Psychology and the Adolf-Würth Center for the History of Psychology in Würzburg. Yet it would be desirable if there were a place where we could commemorate the person behind all these achievements, to inspire future generations, and Wundt’s house in Großbothen could be a possible location for it.

So to save the Wundt house we are considering initiating crowd funding. As you are probably aware, donations by that method are initially virtual. Only if the number of backers and prospective sums appear sufficient for realizing the project would those who have participated be asked whether, indeed, they would be willing to donate the prospective amount.

Please use the following link:

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Resource: Online Guide to Medical Humanities Dissertations

Margaret DeLacy over at the H-Scholar network has linked to a resource that could be of interest to our readership: a large collection of ProQuest info for dissertations from subject areas within the umbrella of the ‘medical humanities’ that has been compiled by the University of Pittsburgh’s History of Medicine Librarian, John Erlen.

Find the main list of subjects here.

Erlen has been contributing to the collection on a monthly basis since 2001, and when you click on each topic of interest it takes you to his most recent addition. However at the top of each page there is also the option to “browse all available months for this topic,” which takes you to the full sub-list for the subject area (e.g. Psychiatry/Psychology and History).


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The New Yorker: “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment”

The New Yorker has just posted an article on “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment.” A new feature film The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup as psychologist Philip Zimbardo, provides the impetus for the piece.

On the morning of August 17, 1971, nine young men in the Palo Alto area received visits from local police officers. While their neighbors looked on, the men were arrested for violating Penal Codes 211 and 459 (armed robbery and burglary), searched, handcuffed, and led into the rear of a waiting police car. The cars took them to a Palo Alto police station, where the men were booked, fingerprinted, moved to a holding cell, and blindfolded. Finally, they were transported to the Stanford County Prison—also known as the Stanford University psychology department.

They were willing participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most controversial studies in the history of social psychology. (It’s the subject of a new film of the same name—a drama, not a documentary—starring Billy Crudup, of “Almost Famous,” as the lead investigator, Philip Zimbardo.) The study subjects, middle-class college students, had answered a questionnaire about their family backgrounds, physical- and mental-health histories, and social behavior, and had been deemed “normal”; a coin flip divided them into prisoners and guards. According to the lore that’s grown up around the experiment, the guards, with little to no instruction, began humiliating and psychologically abusing the prisoners within twenty-four hours of the study’s start. The prisoners, in turn, became submissive and depersonalized, taking the abuse and saying little in protest. The behavior of all involved was so extreme that the experiment, which was meant to last two weeks, was terminated after six days.

Read the piece online here.

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BBC Radio4’s “Ritual Sexual Abuse: The Anatomy of a Panic”

BBC Radio4 is currently airing a two-part programme on “Ritual Sexual Abuse: The Anatomy of a Panic.” As their website describes,

David Aaronovitch of The Times traces the powerful intellectual influences behind what he sees as one of the most important cultural shifts of the past 40 years: from a society in which accusations of sexual abuse were wrongly ignored to one in which the falsely accused were crushed by a system where the mantra was “victims must be believed”.

In the first of two programmes, Aaronovitch will examine the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.

From the NSPCC to academia it was believed that children were being sexually abused in group Satanic rituals, which involved murder and animal sacrifice. The programme will explore how these bizarre ideas took hold, how they were related to mistaken psychotherapeutic practices, and how they resonate still.

The programme will look at the influences of four books which played a key role in influencing the intellectual and cultural climate. These are Sybil, Michelle Remembers, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and The Courage to Heal.


In the second of two programmes, Aaronovitch re-examines the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.

The programme explores the parallels between the belief in ritual abuse with some of the claims being made today about VIP paedophile rings and group murder.

Some of the mistakes of the past – such as the false accusations made against parents in the Orkneys and Rochdale of satanic abuse – have been acknowledged. But, Aaronovitch argues, without a profound understanding of how and why such moral panics arise we are unlikely to avoid similar mistakes in the future. And when such mistakes recur we risk an over-reaction and a return to a culture of denial.

Episode one can be heard online here and episode two can be heard here.

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APA Monitor: A (Nearly) Centenarian Jerome Bruner

The May issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology features an interview with psychologist Jerome Bruner in advance of his 100th birthday this fall. As the introduction to the interview describes,

Early on, Bruner explored the ways that experience affects perception. His paper “Value and Need as Organizing Factors in Perception” (Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1947) reported the finding that children were more likely to overestimate the size of coins than cardboard discs — and the greater the value of the coin, the more likely the children were to overestimate its diameter. What’s more, poor children were significantly more likely than rich children to overestimate the size of coins. In other words, both value and need influenced the way the children perceived the world around them.

Through research and observation, Bruner understood that human behavior is always influenced by the world and culture in which we live. His work helped move the field of psychology away from strict behaviorism and contributed to the emergence of cognitive psychology.

Continue reading APA Monitor: A (Nearly) Centenarian Jerome Bruner

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TPR: Andrew Scull’s “Madness and meaning: Depictions of insanity through history”

The Paris Review currently features a beautifully illustrated piece from historian Andrew Scull. In “Madness and Meaning” Scull discusses the many depictions of mental illness – religious, medical, pharmaceutical – produced through history. Read the full piece, and see all the evocative images, online here.

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APA Monitor: “Silenced Voices,” the Work of David Boder

The Time Capsule section of the December 2014 issue of the APA‘s Monitor on Psychology includes an articles on psychologist David Boder’s work with Holocaust survivors. As Victor Colotla and Samuel Jurado describe,

Boder began his research on the victims of the Holocaust when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the Allied Forces, invited journalists to “come and see for yourselves” the atrocities that the Allied forces were uncovering in the Nazi death camps. Boder brought with him a magnetic wire recorder that had been developed at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was heading the psychology department. The idea was to record the experiences of displaced persons in their own languages — something Boder hoped he could accomplish without interpreters since he spoke several languages. After a year of preparation and with limited financial support, he made his way to Europe in July 1946.

Boder interviewed 109 men and women, and three children, most of them Jews, while he traveled through camps of displaced persons in France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. He asked each person to tell the story of what happened to them during the war. Boder sat giving his back to the interviewees so that they wouldn’t be affected by his facial reactions to their stories.

The full article can be read online here.

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