Category Archives: Blogs

New Blog: Andreas Sommer’s Forbidden Histories

Historian of the human sciences Andreas Sommer (right), a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, has recently begun a blog Forbidden Histories. Sommer’s historical work explores the empirical study of the occult and the emergence of scientific psychology at the end of the nineteenth century. On Forbidden Histories he discusses his ongoing scholarship in this field in relation to our understanding of the nature of rationality. As he describes on the blog’s Welcome page:

…‘Forbidden Histories’ implicates the existence of a taboo, and of motivations and sensibilities that have kept it alive. This blog is thus primarily concerned with the functions of popular science and disciplinary history as knowledge management and tries to identify a variety of epistemologies and concerns (many of which, interestingly, have been mutually antagonistic), that have prevented mainstream historical information from entering common knowledge.

Obviously, as a historian of science I am neither interested nor competent to decide whether or not some ‘miraculous’ phenomena do in fact occur, and how to interpret them if they do. Rather, the purpose of this blog is to test questions and ideas concerning the historicity of certain standards of rationality – particularly those we are not accustomed let alone encouraged to critically reflect upon, even though they have powerfully shaped western individual and collective identities.

To be sure, my blog does not aim to provide easy answers but merely rehearses some of my personal reflections on what it means to be ‘rational’. Well aware that it thoroughly goes against the grain of many established ideologies and epistemological standard positions, all I can do is assure you that it strives to employ those principles that most would agree make good science as well as good history: contextualised evidence and differentiated analysis.

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History of Psychology and Science Communication

This is a special joint post, authored by Jacy Young, Filipe Degani and Rodrigo Miranda, and published simultaneously on both AHP and RIPeHP (Blog da Rede Iberoamericana de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia).

It is undeniable that scientific communication has been heavily influenced by new information technologies (IT). A continuing phenomenon the world over is the success of ”science blogs”, which have thrived in the struggle for space within traditional science journalism.

Many examples science blogs and bloggers could be found at the 8th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) held in Helsinki (Finland) last June, from the 24th to 28th. Approximately 800 participants from 80 countries attended the Conference and discussed the progress achieved by science blogs in the last several years. In the blog world, some standouts include figures like Ed Yong, who runs the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, and Carl Zimmer, who is responsible for the The LoomPaul Krugman, who won the Nobel prize (Economics), regularly explores economic science in his blog The Conscience of a Liberal. These authors are also active on Twitter and Facebook, another set of ITs that are becoming popular tools of scientific communication.

In the History of Psychology (HoP) we can observe this same kind of effort at online science communication. For instance, the blog Advances in the History of Psychology (AHP) has been running since 2007. AHP began as an experiment in communicating news, notes, and resources relevant to the history of psychology to as broad an audience as possible. In recent years this mandate has seen AHP expand onto Facebook and Twitter.

Another example of psychology-specific history of science blogging is the largely Portuguese/Spanish language Rede Iberoamericana de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia/Iberoamerican Network of Researchers on History of Psychology (RIPeHP) blog. The blog has been running since 2011 and it is associated with the RIPeHP, a group of  HoP researchers from different countries of Iberoamerica. RIPeHP is also active on Facebook and it is hoping to be onto Twitter soon.

Both blogs provide readers with information on many aspects on HoP, such as: new issues from scientific journals; call for papers; interviews; conferences; etc. This helps researchers from different parts of the world get new information about the field and can also contribute to bringing researchers together. These blogs also provide valuable resources for teachers of HoP, while also (hopefully) raising the profile of the field within the larger psychology and history of science communities.

There are other excellent related blogs, whose content is both more focused and more broad than just HoP. For instance, the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) blog, highlights primary sources and interesting information about the archival collections of the CHP. They are also online on Facebook and Twitter. The blog H-madness focuses on the related field of the history of psychiatry, while the blog MindHacks explores developments in psychology more broadly and regularly features HoP content among its postings.

Other efforts at disseminating HoP have by passed blogs altogether, employing Facebook and Twitter as their primary means of communication. These include the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association), which communicates primarily through its Facebook page, and Psychology’s Feminist Voices, a multi-media internet archive, which has both a Facebook and Twitter presence.

Maybe, in the next couples of years, we will see some psychology bloggers in conferences like the WCSJ, or scientific communication working groups at HoP meetings. In the meantime, keep reading!

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Angelo Mosso & “Weighing Brain Activity with the Balance”

Neuroskeptic, over on Discover Blogs, has just posted a review of an article now in press at Brain on nineteenth century Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso’s attempts to measure blood flow to the brain. As Neuroskeptic describes, Mosso’s

…early work included studies of the blood pressure in the brains of individuals with skull defects. His most ambitious project, however, was his balance – or as he sometimes called it, according to his daughter, his ‘metal cradle’ or ‘machine to weigh the soul’….

It was in essence just a large balance. A volunteer lay on a table, their head on one side of the scale’s pivot and their feet on the other. It was carefully adjusted so that the two sides were perfectly balanced.

The theory was that if mental activity caused increased brain blood flow, it ought to increase the weight of the head relative to the rest of the body, so that side of the balance would fall.

Mosso claimed that this, indeed, occurred – starting to read a newspaper caused the brain to get weightier, while a difficult book of philosophy was even more effective, presumably because it required more mental effort to understand.

You can read Neuroskeptic’s review online here. Full article details follow below.

“Weighing brain activity with the balance: Angelo Mosso’s original manuscripts come to light,” by S. Sandrone, M. Bacigaluppi, M. R. Galloni, S. F. Cappa, A. Moro, M. Catani, M. Filippi, M. M. Monti, D. Perani, & G. Martino. The abstract reads,

Neuroimaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging are essential tools for the analysis of organized neural systems in working and resting states, both in physiological and pathological conditions. They provide evidence of coupled metabolic and cerebral local blood flow changes that strictly depend upon cellular activity. In 1890, Charles Smart Roy and Charles Scott Sherrington suggested a link between brain circulation and metabolism. In the same year William James, in his introduction of the concept of brain blood flow variations during mental activities, briefly reported the studies of the Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso, a multifaceted researcher interested in the human circulatory system. James focused on Mosso’s recordings of brain pulsations in patients with skull breaches, and in the process only briefly referred to another invention of Mosso’s, the ‘human circulation balance’, which could non-invasively measure the redistribution of blood during emotional and intellectual activity. However, the details and precise workings of this instrument and the experiments Mosso performed with it have remained largely unknown. Having found Mosso’s original manuscripts in the archives, we remind the scientific community of his experiments with the ‘human circulation balance’ and of his establishment of the conceptual basis of non-invasive functional neuroimaging techniques. Mosso unearthed and investigated several critical variables that are still relevant in modern neuroimaging such as the ‘signal-to-noise ratio’, the appropriate choice of the experimental paradigm and the need for the simultaneous recording of differing physiological parameters.

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Interview: Lamont on Extraordinary Beliefs

As recently announced on AHP, a new book by historian of psychology, and magician, Peter Lamont has just been released. AHP had the pleasure of interviewing Lamont about his new book: Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological ProblemThe full interview follows below.

AHP: How did you become interested in the history of extraordinary beliefs and the role of psychologists in supporting and challenging the existence of extraordinary phenomena?

PL: Well, I used to be a magician (but I’m alright now). As a history student, I funded my studies by working as a close-up magician. Later, I joined the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, based within the Psychology department, to work on the psychology of magic. Since then, I’ve combined my interests in history, magic and the paranormal, and since I now work as a historian in a Psychology department, it seemed only polite to discuss the role of psychologists in all this.

AHP: It seems as though psychologists have been investigating extraordinary phenomena – including mesmeric, spiritualist, psychic, and paranormal phenomena – since the very beginning of scientific psychology. Why did the discipline take such an early interest in the extraordinary?

PL: One reason, as others have long pointed out, is boundary-work. Psychical Research was an ideal Other by which scientific psychologists could construct their own scientific credentials and worth. But the same arguments were going on well before the birth of the academic discipline, and I think it makes more sense to see this as something with wider relevance, as an opportunity for people (including psychologists, because psychologists are people too) to construct their own expertise and worth. Continue reading

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New, Multi-Lingual History of Psych Blog: RIPeHP

A new, multi-lingual blog devoted to the history of psychology has come online. The Rede Iberoamericana de Historiadores da História da Psicologia (RIPeHP), or Iberoamerican Network of Researchers in the History of Psychology, features posts written in Portuguese, Spanish, and English from an international group of contributors. As described on the blog itself,

RIPeHP is a blog that brings together: the Iberoamerican Network of Researchers in the History of Psychology (RIPeHP), the Working Group in the History of Psychology (GT History of Psychology) of the National Association for Research and Graduate Studies in Psychology (ANPEPP) and the Working Group in the History of Psychology (GT History of Psychology) of the Interamerican Society of Psychology (SIP).

This blog is constantly updated.  Its goal is to bring together those interested in History of Psychology and related disciplines. In addition, it aims to disseminate the productions of the researchers involved with the RIPeHP, GTs History of Psychology of ANPEPP and of SIP.

The networks and groups that support this blog are made of a group of researchers from different countries whose aim is to promote joint research and scientific and academic exchanges through conferences, collective participation in agreements and institutional accords.

The RIPeHP blog officially launches later this week in Buenos Aires during the 12th annual Encuentro Argentino de Historia de La Psicología, de La Psiquiatría y de La Psicoanálisis (Argentinean Meeting of the History of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalysis).

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New Center for HoP Blog

The Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) in Akron, Ohio has just begun a new blog project. The blog will be written by CHP staff, students, and interns and posts will include information on interesting items recently uncovered in the Center’s collections, the experiences of those working with the collections, and CHP events, projects, and initiatives.

The blog’s most recent post was contributed by CHP intern (and AHP contributor) Arlie Belliveau. In this post, she writes of her initial efforts at preserving and digitizing some of the thousands of films housed at the CHP (right). She writes,

After all the paperwork, my passport is stamped, I’ve crossed the border and started my Student Internship with the Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio. During my one-month internship, I will be working with the CHP’s Moving Image collection, which includes more than 5,000 titles. I find the prospect incredibly exciting, as my Masters thesis research centered around the Micromotion films of scientific managers and industrial psychologists Frank and Dr. Lillian Gilbreth. I was able to work with a selection of their film collection, which had been digitized in 2006 by the National Film Preservation Foundation. That research would not have been possible without that digitization effort. And so, my plan at CHP is to assess the film collection, preserve the canisters at greatest risk of deterioration, and digitize (and make publicly available) whatever I can.

You can read the rest of this blog entry here and subscribe to the CHP blog here.

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New Issue: History of Psychology

The May 2011 issue of History of Psychology, the official journal of the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association), has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of all new articles on topics including: the nature of coverage of the new psychology in the pages New York Times, the colonization of childhood via developmental psychology, William James on space perception and the history of the concept of regression.

Also included in this issue is a teaching article on using history to illuminate the scientist-practitioner gap within clinical psychology, as well as pieces on the new Center for the History of Psychology, Roderick Buchanan’s reflections on writing a biography of Hans Eysenck, and news from the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Press coverage of the new psychology by the New York Times during the Progressive Era,” by Paul M. Dennis. The abstract reads,

Press coverage of psychology by the New York Times was examined for the Progressive Era. Following a period in which psychology was associated with spiritualism, psychoanalysis, and the Emmanuel movement, the Times gave editorial preference to reports about psychology’s applications. Reaching an audience that was both affluent and influential, the topics emphasized by the Times included the lie detector, psychological applications in the work place, mental tests, and child psychology. These areas reflected issues of social concern to Progressives, publicized the rise of the psychologist as expert, and aided psychology in its challenge to common sense.

“Look–normal: The colonized child of developmental science,” by Donna Varga. The abstract reads, Continue reading

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History of Russian Science & Psychology Blog

Those interested in the history of Russian science and psychology will be interested in the blog, History of Science & Psychology. This blog is a moderated community blog where a number of users post about topics and issues in the history of science and psychology, focused particularly on science and psychology in Russia. The aim of the blog is to provide information on:

  1. Problems of the history of science, specifically, psychology
  2. Publication of archival materials
  3. Info about new publications, upcoming conferences, and other related events, etc.

Posts to the blog are written in either Russian or English, or sometimes in both languages. Unfortunately, my Russian language skills are non-existent. While google translate can provide a first approximation of what has been posted to the blog, the images posted to the site, such as the one included here, need no such translation to be appreciated.

If you are interested in previous posts to the blog on specific topics visit the post ‘tags’ page here.

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57,000+ Archival Films Online

Critical Past is an online film archive with over 57,000 film clips and 7 million images available to view online. The films on the site are from as early as the 1890s and continue on through to the 1990s, many of them produced by the United States government. Unfortunately, the clips on the site cannot be embedded, but a quick search of “psychology” turns up 94 films, including an amazing two and half minute film clip from 1917 of some of the more than 1.7 million American soldiers who completed the Army Alpha and Beta intelligence tests (left). Also appearing in these search results are a series of film clips from 1953 of psychologist Kenneth Clark interviewing Martin Luther King, Jr. (here and here), Malcolm X (here and here), and James Baldwin (here, here, and here) about issues concerning the civil rights movement in the United States. There are also a number of other films on the site from the 1950s featuring American soldiers undergoing psychiatric treatment (here, here, here, here, and here). Pick your own keyword and explore some of the amazing films featured on this site.

Thanks to Cathy Faye for bringing this site to AHP’s attention.

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New blog re: Scientific Instruments

I have recently been playing around on Twitter (yes, I’m behind the trends) and generally get generic messages from friends or family about random thoughts or adventures. Today I received something a bit different though, a tweet that read: “Our blog is now active! Check out our first post…” from  @UTSIC or the Twitter account of the University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection.

The University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection (UTSIC) is a collection of instruments from various scientific fields that have been assembled at the University of Toronto since the late 1970s. The original intention for the collection was to create a museum, a project which has never been realized. Despite this frustration, a dedicated group of volunteers has continued to work towards preserving, growing, and cataloguing the collection. The first post on the group’s new blog provides a history of the collection (the post was also published in Spontaneous Generations, an online peer-reviewed journal for the history and philosophy of science).

I recently had the opportunity to tour the UTSIC and meet one of the group’s members, Erich Weidenhammer (also one of the co-authors of the UTSIC first blog post). The collection is quite diverse ranging from multiple galvonometers to microscopes to scales used to weigh babies to items that have not yet been identified.

AHP readers should note that UTSIC is separately maintained from the Brass Instrument Collection which is also located at the University of Toronto.

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