Category Archives: Links

Inside Robbers Cave on ABC Radio

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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Websites on Binet, Henri, Janet, & Bourdon!

Those interested in the history of psychology in France will find the websites created by Serge Nicholas (left), dedicated to prominent early French psychologists, invaluable resources. Together with Bernard Andrieu, Nicholas has put together a website dedicated to the life and work of Alfred Binet. Although best known for his development of the intelligence test, Binet conducted research in a number of other areas. The diversity of this research is well represented on the Alfred Binet (1857-1911) website, which in addition to featuring a biography of Binet and wonderful photographs of Binet and his family, features a complete bibliography of Binet’s works with links to full text versions of most of these publications.

Nicholas has also created similar sites for French psychologists Benjamin Bourdon (together with Christophe Quaireau), Pierre Janet (together with Isabelle Saillot), and Victor Henri, one of Binet’s best known collaborators. A further site on Théodule Ribot appears to be under development. Visit these sites now to learn more about late-nineteenth and early twentieth century French psychology!

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David Boder’s Interviews w/ Holocaust Survivors

In the mid-1940s, in the aftermath of World War II, psychologist David Boder (left) undertook a series of interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, a project that ultimately resulted in over 90 hours of audio recordings. Boder himself published exerts from these interviews, alongside his analysis, in the 1949 book I Did Not Interview the Dead.

Boder’s work is now the basis of a digital archive, Voices of the Holocaust. The project aims “to provide a permanent digital archive of digitized, restored, transcribed, and translated interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in 1946, so that they can be experienced by a global audience of students, researchers, historians, and the general public.” To this end both audio and transcriptions of his interviews can be found on the site.

The Voices of the Holocaust website also features a biography of Boder, which includes discussion of how he came to undertake this project and what the interviews themselves involved. As the site describes,

Arriving in Paris in late July, Boder would spend the next two months interviewing 130 displaced persons in nine languages and recording them on a state-of-the-art wire recorder. The interviews were among the earliest (if not the earliest) audio recordings of Holocaust survivors. They are today the earliest extant recordings, valuable not only for the testimonies of survivors and other DPs, but also for the song sessions and religious services that Boder recorded at various points during the expedition.

…. Boder left Europe in early October, having recorded over ninety hours of material and completely used up the two hundred spools of wire that he had brought with him.

Most of the interviews were conducted with Eastern European Jews, and of these the majority were from Poland. Yet Boder was keen on speaking to many different kinds of groups: Western European Jews (including six Greek Jews that did not fit neatly in either category) number close to twenty. His interviewees thus covered the extreme ends of the spectrum of modern Jewish experience, from passionately Torah-observant Jews who hailed from great yeshiva centers in Lithuania, to assimilated German Jews married to non-Jewish spouses. Most, however, fell somewhere in between. When it came to war time experience, the greater part—whether Eastern or Western, Hungarian or Greek—had ended up in labor or concentration camps. The terrible rigors were what Boder believed his American audience needed an education about: “We know very little in America about the things that happened to you people who were in concentration camps,” was how Boder would orient his narrator to the task and purpose of the interview. But such a mandate did not stop Boder from interviewing over twenty Jews who had not been in the camps. Their stories—of enduring the privation of ghettos, of hiding in woods or on farms, of fleeing to or fighting for Russia—presumably qualified as the “not unusual stories” that Boder said he was seeking and could similarly perform the task of educating an audience across the ocean.

Tip ‘o the hat to the Center for the History of Psychology’s Facebook page for bringing this resource to our attention. Included in the Center’s collections is the Peirce Wire Recorder Boder used in his interviews.

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New Book: Shaky Foundations

University of Toronto historian of science Mark Solovey has just released a new book, Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America. This book examines the history of the social sciences in America during the Cold War through the lens of the patronage system, tracing how certain agendas dictated the direction social science research took. This book is a continuation of Solovey’s research interest in social science in America in the period after World War II.

Shaky Foundations is described on the publisher’s website as follows,

Numerous popular and scholarly accounts have exposed the deep impact of patrons on the production of scientific knowledge and its applications. Shaky Foundations provides the first extensive examination of a new patronage system for the social sciences that emerged in the early Cold War years and took more definite shape during the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of enormous expansion in American social science.

By focusing on the military, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, Mark Solovey shows how this patronage system presented social scientists and other interested parties, including natural scientists and politicians, with new opportunities to work out the scientific identity, social implications, and public policy uses of academic social research. Solovey also examines significant criticisms of the new patronage system, which contributed to widespread efforts to rethink and reshape the politics-patronage-social science nexus starting in the mid-1960s.

Based on extensive archival research, Shaky Foundations addresses fundamental questions about the intellectual foundations of the social sciences, their relationships with the natural sciences and the humanities, and the political and ideological import of academic social inquiry.

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“Operation Delirium” in the New Yorker

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in the New Yorker titled “Operation Delirium.” The article explores experiments with psycho-chemicals within the United States military during the Cold War. This included the administration of nerve gas, LSD, and other chemicals to soldiers to assess their effects. At present, a class action suit on behalf of the soldiers who were subject to this chemical testing is underway.

As described in the article’s opening paragraph,

Colonel James S. Ketchum dreamed of war without killing. He joined the Army in 1956 and left it in 1976, and in that time he did not fight in Vietnam; he did not invade the Bay of Pigs; he did not guard Western Europe with tanks, or help build nuclear launch sites beneath the Arctic ice. Instead, he became the military’s leading expert in a secret Cold War experiment: to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals that temporarily incapacitate the mind—causing, in the words of one ranking officer, a “selective malfunctioning of the human machine.” For nearly a decade, Ketchum, a psychiatrist, went about his work in the belief that chemicals are more humane instruments of warfare than bullets and shrapnel—or, at least, he told himself such things. To achieve his dream, he worked tirelessly at a secluded Army research facility, testing chemical weapons on hundreds of healthy soldiers, and thinking all along that he was doing good.

Journalist Raffi Khatchadourian, the author of the New Yorker article, was also interviewed by NPR about the story. That interview can be heard on the NPR website here.

Read the full New Yorker piece online here.

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History of Popular Psychology, Now at the CHP

Are you a fan of popular psychology? What about the history of popular psychology? If so, you’ll want to check out a recent post on the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) blog (the image above is taken from that post). The post discusses the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection now housed at the CHP, which includes more than 1600 pieces of popular psychology literature. Among some of the magazines in the collection are copies of Mesmeric Magazine, Success: The New Psychology Magazine, and The Psychogram: A Magazine of Christian and Practical Psychology. (More information about these items can be found online here.) As you might guess, these magazines were donated to the CHP by psychologist and historian of psychology Ludy Benjamin, Jr.

The CHP blog post also includes audio of an interview with Benjamin, wherein he discusses his collection and the development of popular psychology in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. That interview can be heard online here.

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Phineas Gage Website!

A webpage providing information on Phineas Gage has recently relaunched. The Phineas Gage Information Page was created by Malcolm Macmillan at the University of Melbourne but is now maintained by The Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.

Included on the site are sections dedicated to Phineas Gage’s story, the detailing of damage done to Gage’s skull, the indirect contribution Phineas Gage’s case provided brain surgery, and a section providing references for further reading on Phineas Gage.

Explore the entire site here.

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Devon County Mental Hospital Digital Archive

A website chronicling the history of the Devon County Mental Hospital (formerly the Devon County Lunatic Asylum) at Exminster has recently launched. The site is an outgrowth of a series of projects undertaken by Nicole Baur and Jo Melling at the Exeter Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, along with John Draisey of the Devon Heritage Centre.

Included on the site are sections that detail the history of the hospital’s setting and operation and describe four case studies from archived patient records. The site also features a detailed bibliography of publications related to the hospital, as well as a section of multimedia material and a page soliciting memories from those with some association with the hospital. As the site itself describes,

This website takes you on a fascinating journey through the history of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. Based on archival case notes and supplemented by Medical Superintendents’ and Commissioners of Lunacy’s reports as well as interviews with former staff, we tell the stories of real patients and their journey into, and life within, the asylum, hoping to highlight changes in the legislation and care of people suffering from mental health problems.

The entire site can be explored here.

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New Books in STS Interview with Laura Stark

New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has released an audio interview with Laura Stark (above) on her recent book Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research. Stark’s discussion of her work on the emergence of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) as a way of governing research with human subjects will be of interest to many of AHP’s readers.

As described on New Books in Science, Technology, and Society website,

Laura Stark’s lucid and engaging new book explores the making and enacting of the rules that govern human subjects research in the US. Using a thoughtfully conceived combination of ethnographic and archival work, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research (University of Chicago Press, 2012) locates the emergence of a system of “governing with experts” by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in the middle of the twentieth century. Stark shows how the features that now characterize the IRB deliberations that consider whether research on people can proceed in institutional contexts emerged in the particular context of the NIH Clinical Research Committee in 1950s and 1960s, and she explains how they managed to spread thereafter across the US and the globe. Behind Closed Doors draws from a wide and transdisciplinary set of methodological resources in articulating the power of performative language in shaping negotiations around human subjects research, suggesting innovative ways to read documentary evidence as a narrative of voices in time.

True to its title, Stark’s story takes us behind the closed doors of occasionally heated IRB deliberations. It also introduces us to some of the spirited and disruptive “healthy patients” of the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), prisoners and conscientious objectors among them, as they were dosed with LSD or infected with malaria and influenza, making a kind of home in the Center or cleverly escaping from it. It’s a wonderfully stimulating book that should be widely read and included on the syllabi of many graduate seminars to come.

The full New Books in Science, Technology, and Society interview with Laura Stark can be heard online here or downloaded via iTunes.

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The World War II Era Red Wing Studies

A recent piece in Amherst College’s Amherst Magazine looks at the work of psychologist John P. Anderson (right) and colleagues during World War II. In the so-called Red Wing Studies, Anderson, along with Herman Kabat and Ralph Rossen, set out to investigate why Air Force pilots were passing out in flight during high speed maneuvers. Suspecting that the cause was impaired cerebral blood flow, the men tested their hypothesis by employing leather collars that inflated around the subject’s neck (seen on Anderson, right). This procedure was tested first on animal subjects and then on the researchers themselves before it was applied to other human subjects.

The use of this inflatable collar allowed Anderson, Kabat, and Rossen to observe the body’s response to a lack of oxygen to the brain. As the article describes,

The most common symptoms included unconsciousness, dilated pupils, seizure-like movements and loss of bladder and bowel control.

If the experiments themselves are troubling, the choice of test subjects is even more so. The Red Wing Studies of 1943 were conducted on schizophrenic patients and prison inmates, some of whom were in the juvenile court system. Researchers have long debated whether these subjects—who volunteered for the testing, according to records—had the intellectual capacity to truly give what today’s scientists call “informed consent.” ….

At the same time, the Red Wing findings advanced scientific knowledge, laying the groundwork for significant studies on brain physiology and function. They led to the development of the human centrifuge, which is used in the training of pilots and astronauts, and the G suit, a special garment, worn by high-speed aircraft crews, that can be pressurized to prevent blackout during certain maneuvers.

The work on which this article is based has also appeared in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine as “Experimental Arrest of Cerebral Blood Flow in Human Subjects: The Red Wing Studies Revisited,” by Brian A. Smith, Ellen Wright Clayton, and  David Robertson. The abstract reads,

Loss of consciousness in pilots during rapid ascent after bombing missions was a major problem in World War II, and experiments were undertaken to study the cause of this phenomenon. Postulating impaired cerebral blood flow as a likely mechanism, the investigators developed a neck device, the KRA Cuff, which when inflated could shut off blood supply to the brain. With cessation of blood flow for up to 100 seconds, the investigators observed a sequence of responses, including unconsciousness, followed by dilated pupils, tonic/clonic movements, loss of bladder and eventually bowel control, and appearance of pathological reflexes. This study, carried out in prisoners and patients with schizophrenia in 1941–42, largely disappeared from public discourse for a number of years. It has received occasional attention subsequently and been considered controversial. Recently discovered records, including extensive written and photographic data from the studies, shed new light on the methods and motives of the research team. We describe here this new information and its implications for the scientific and ethical assessment of the study.

Read the full Amherst Magazine article, Medical Sleuthing, online here.

via the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association) listserve.

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