Category Archives: Links

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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Mapping Phineas Gage’s Brain (150+ Years Later)

The Guardian‘s Science Section has a fascinating piece on a recent attempt by researchers to reconstruct the damage done to Phineas Gage’s brain, who famously survived an 1848 accident in which a tamping iron was shot through his head. As the article describes, research on the damage done to Gage’s brain is part of the larger Human Connectome Project that aims to map all the connections in the human brain.

But how does one reconstruct the connectome of someone who died more than 150 years ago, and whose brain no longer even exists? Van Horn and his colleagues used high-resolution CT scans of Gage’s skull, from a 2004 study that digitally reconstructed the trajectory of the iron rod as it passed through his brain, and examined the data again to re-estimate its path as accurately as possible.

They then selected structural MRI and DTI data from 110 healthy people from the LONI Image Data Archive. All of these data came from men aged between 25 (Gage’s age at the time of his accident) and 36 (the age at which he died). The researchers combined these data to produce a generalized map of the long-range connections in the human brain, and used computational modelling to project the passage of the tamping iron onto it.

The computation model of the passage of the tamping iron through Gage’s brain is shown in the video above. While this model shows severe, widespread damage to Gage’s brain, it has been known for a number of years that there is little evidence in the historical record of the purported profound personality changes Gage experienced post-accident. Ultimately, what this kind of research tells us about Gage’s experience after the accident is unclear. (Find out more about Gage’s accident and his life afterward in an interview with Gage’s biographer Malcolm Macmillan on the This Week in the History of Psychology Podcast series.)

Read the full Guardian article online here and the original PLoS ONE article whose research is described in the Guardian piece here.

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Revisiting Yesterday’s Psychology Today

The Association for Psychological Science‘s (APS) popular periodical, the Observer is publishing an ongoing series of reflections upon interviews with prominent psychologists originally published in Psychology Today decades ago. As described on the Observer‘s website,

Digging into the history of psychological science, the Observer has retrieved classic interviews with prominent psychological scientists for an ongoing series Psychology (Yesterday and) Today. Each interview is introduced by a contemporary psychological scientist, and the full text of the interview is available on the Observer website. We invite you to reflect on the words of these legendary scientists, and decide whether their voices still resonate with the science of today.

As indicated in the above description, each look back at an interview with a given psychologist is accompanied by a downloadable version of the original Psychology Today interview.

The most recent Observer piece looks back at a 1967 interview with Carl Jung. Other recent articles have reflected back on interviews with B. F. Skinner, Carl Rogers, and Harry Harlow. A full list of previous Psychology Today interviews can be found here.

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America’s First Sport Psychologist

The April 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section includes a piece from AHP‘s own Christopher Green who recounts the story of psychologist Coleman Griffith’s early work with the Chicago Cubs. In America’s First Sport Psychologist, Green writes

Griffith opened America’s first athletics research laboratory at the University of Illinois in 1925. Although the lab attracted some attention at the time, university trustees shut it down after only six years. Official accounts blamed cutbacks on the Depression, but rumors circulated that Illinois football coach Robert Zupke had recommended its closure. Griffith was shifted into a middling administrative role, and it looked like his sport research days were over. But then Wrigley came calling late in 1937 not only with a job, but also with an equipment budget, a laboratory in Chicago and an invitation to join the Cubs for spring training on Santa Catalina Island off the southern California coast. Griffith bought his lab gear — including high-speed movie cameras and chronoscopes — and headed west.

Whatever benefits Wrigley and Griffith thought a psychologist might bring to a professional sports team, the Cubs coaching staff had other ideas. Manager Charlie Grimm had apparently slid into a depression so severe toward the end of the previous season that he had been temporarily replaced by one of the players, catcher and future Hall-of- Famer Gabby Hartnett. The team led the National League into late August of 1937, but slipped into second in the first week of September and finished there. Grimm returned for the 1938 season, but most of the players did not think he would last. Apparently, Grimm felt the pressure. He mocked the “headshrinkers,” as he called them, and ordered his players not to cooperate.

Read the entire piece online here.

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