Category Archives: Blogs

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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Gender on the Brain: Neuroscience, Stereotypes, & Science Communication

brain-gender-stereotypeCliodnha O’Connor and Helene Joffe out of the Division of Psychology & Language Sciences at University College London have conducted an interesting analysis of how public audiences have responded to research on neurobiological sexual dimorphism, Gender on the Brain: A Case Study of Science Communication in the New Media Environment.

Using a 2013 PNAS article titled Sex Differences in the Structural Connectome of the Human Brain as case study, the authors “tracked the journey of the PNAS research from its initial scientific publication, through a university-issued press release, into its reception in the traditional news media, online reader comments and blog entries.” Acccording to the abstract, their analysese “suggested that scientific research on sex difference offers an opportunity to rehearse abiding cultural understandings of gender. In both scientific and popular contexts, traditional gender stereotypes were projected onto the novel scientific information, which was harnessed to demonstrate the factual truth and normative legitimacy of these beliefs.”

In a London School of Economics and Political Science Blog post, O’Connor elucidates the highlights of their piece:  Continue reading Gender on the Brain: Neuroscience, Stereotypes, & Science Communication

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Mediating Shell Shock: The 1918 Film ‘War Neuroses’ as Clinical Controversy

sgt-bissettBPS’ May volume of The Psychologist includes an insightful historical piece by Edgar Jones (out of the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London). His article, Filming Trauma, assesses the influence and controversy in Britain surrounding the clinical research of Arthur Hurst on treatment of shell shock as a medical emergency within their military forces.

Jones identifies Hurst’s provocative footage of disordered movement as having lasting historical impact on our comprehension of how shell shock presented itself and was understood by contemporaries of the first World War; he then asserts the film was a non-representative and highly mediated rendition of the condition as experienced by the soldiers in that context. Jones goes on to elucidate the skeptical response of other psychiatric professionals to Hurst’s methods and claims to unprecedented and outstanding therapeutic efficacy, for which Hurst provided little explanation or followup.

An engaging read! Find it as pdf, or post.

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Issues in Open Scholarship: ‘If Data Sharing is the Answer, What is the Question?’

coverThe European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics‘ publication ERCIM NEWS put out a special issue on ‘scientific data sharing and re-use.’ In it Christine Borgman (out of UCLA’s department of Information Studies) touches in brief on some of the topics covered in her new volume Big Data, Little Data, No Data: Scholarship in the Networked World (2015, MIT Press).

In her book, Borgman locates data as only meaningful within borgmaninfrastructures or ecologies of knowledge, and discusses the management and exploitation of data as particular kinds of investments in the future of scholarship. Her take on the history of big data and the growing enthusiasm for data sharing, which she asserts often obscures the challenges and complexities of data stewardship, is relevant to historians of the social sciences. An excerpt:

Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. Studying data is a means to observe how rapidly the landscape of scholarly work in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities is changing. Inside the black box of data is a plethora of research, technology, and policy issues. Data are best understood as representations of observations, objects, or other entities used as evidence of phenomena for the purposes of research or scholarship. Rarely do they stand alone, separable from software, protocols, lab and field conditions, and other context. The lack of agreement on what constitutes data underlies the difficulties in sharing, releasing, or reusing research data.  Continue reading Issues in Open Scholarship: ‘If Data Sharing is the Answer, What is the Question?’

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Why was Wundt’s journal titled *Philosophical* Studies?

Wilhelm Wundt is best known as the founder of first laboratory dedicated specifically to experimental psychology. But he titled the journal that published his famous laboratory’s research Philosophische Studien (Philosophical Studies). Why was that? If his aim was to distinguish between the old philosophical psychology and the new experimental psychology, why confuse the matter by associating himself so closely with philosophy?

First, Wundt was not opposed to philosophical psychology. He just thought that philosophy could be enhanced by adding experimental methods to its toolbox. His Leipzig professorship was, after all, in philosophy, and he wrote a number of treatises on philosophical problems far removed from his experimental work. But still, why didn’t he title his journal something like Psychologische Studien (Psychological Studies), since it reported the psychological research of his students and himself?

The answer is that there was already a journal in Germany entitled Psychische Studien (Psychical Studies) that published work on spiritualism and paranormal phenomena. Wundt regarded this as unscholarly nonsense, and he did not want his own work to be confused with it in the public mind, so he went with the “Queen of the Sciences” instead: philosophy.

Andreas Sommer has just retweeted an excellent little 2013 article on that “other” journal at his blog, “Forbidden Histories.” You can read it here.

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Women’s History Month @ Psychology’s Feminist Voices!

Marlowe_Most Wanted

Our sister site Feminist Voices is celebrating Women’s History Month with a-post-a-day on their social media!

 Connect with their facebook & twitter accounts to take part in the fun:




  • do some historical sleuthing into the lives of PFV’s “Most Wanted,” and learn more about little-known women psychologists
  • get insiders’ perspectives, from the humourous to the profound, throughout the history of psychology; play “who’s that face?” with collections of unidentified photos, and much more!



Women’s History Month is all about rectifying the gender bias that has traditionally plagued historical scholarship, and thanks to PFV’s great work at York we can help construct a more accurate history by illuminating the crucial roles that women have always played in psychology!

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Blog Post: UTSIC’s Projective Tests as Material Culture

UofT RorschachThe University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection’s Kira Lussier writes on the history of the Rorschach (and other projective tests) at UofT, and its uptake in popular culture. Read her full piece here.

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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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