Category Archives: News

Chris Millard in The Atlantic: “The Dangers of Over-Policing Motherhood”

Historian Chris Millard writes in The Atlantic about “The Dangers of Over-Policing Motherhood.” Using the case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy as an example, Millard explores the impact of shifting understandings of the emotional support offered by mothers in the twentieth century. As Millard writes,

Towering over mid-century discussions of motherhood is the figure of John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst of children whose ideas on “attachment theory” and “maternal deprivation” became exceptionally influential. Bowlby waxed lyrical about the importance of a stable mother figure, arguing from research in foster homes that a life of instability, delinquency and psychological problems follow in the wake of inconsistent mothering. Bowlby followed other U.K.-based psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud and Melanie Klein in arguing that small children’s social relations are incredibly important, and disruption of mothering in the early years has wide-reaching psychic and social consequences.

Note the double-edged sword of motherhood here. Attracting the praise of being a “good mother” was always accompanied by the threat that you might fall from the perch at any moment and cause devastating harm to your child. Hence the amplification of mechanisms of control, censure and punishment that go hand in hand with the valorization and surveillance of parenting. Deep within the medical and psychological frameworks promoting motherhood in this period, there lurks male anxiety over female power and influence.

This concern played out over the question of how much time parents should spend at the hospital with their child…

Read the full piece online here.

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Lobotomy on Retro Report: First, Do No Harm

The New York Times‘s Retro Report has produced a new video on the history of lobotomy, First, Do No Harm. As Retro Report describes,

For centuries scientists have studied the brain and still our understanding, particularly when it comes to the treatment for those suffering with severe, often untreatable mental illness, remains elusive. As scientists around the world are beginning ambitious programs to study the human brain in unprecedented ways, Retro Report explores the evolution of the surgical and biological treatments over the decades. From the brutal, but once considered mainstream treatment of lobotomy to biological cocktails, to the beginnings of what many hope will be a more elegant understanding of the brain through technology.

More details here.

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New Book & Touring Exhibit on Ramón y Cajal: The Beautiful Brain


The Beautiful Brain, a new book and touring exhibit documenting the work of Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal just launched. As the New York Times describes,

Decades before these technologies existed, a man hunched over a microscope in Spain at the turn of the 20th century was making prescient hypotheses about how the brain works. At the time, William James was still developing psychology as a science and Sir Charles Scott Sherrington was defining our integrated nervous system.

Meet Santiago Ramón y Cajal, an artist, photographer, doctor, bodybuilder, scientist, chess player and publisher. He was also the father of modern neuroscience.

More details on the book, The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal
(By Larry Swanson, Eric Newman, Alfonso Araque, and Janet Dubinsky) can be found here, while the exhibit is scheduled to appear at the following locations:

The Beautiful Brain Tour Schedule
January 28 – May 21, 2017 | Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis MN
September 5 – December 3, 2017 | Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery,
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
January 9 – March 31, 2018 | Grey Art Gallery, New York University
New York City, New York, USA
May 2, 2018 – January 1, 2019 | MIT museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
January 27 – April 7, 2019 | Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

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Keynote psychologist reframes Indigenous youth suicide as response to Canadian colonization

Darien Thira, on left

CBC reports on an event held earlier in the month in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The Community Medicine Gathering was hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to bring educators, health workers, and adolescents together in response to a wave of youth suicides in First Nations communities. The keynote address was given by Darien Thira, whose psychological practice focuses on mental health and development consultancy for Indigenous populations in Canada.

Dr. Thira’s talk, which challenged how such suicides have been conceptualized in Canadian disciplinary psychology and public perception, was received enthusiastically by attendees and Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Ron Michel. Thira’s assertions included that in this context, suicide is not a mental health issue, but rather a “natural but terrible response to colonization.” Further, that the appropriate response by our social systems to such situations is not to impose external expertise, which is the kind of logic that led to the establishment of ‘care’ programs like the residential schools. Instead, he advocates for systemic support and respect for the resources already present in communities.

Read the full article here. 

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New at the Wellcome Library: Tavistock Institute of Human Relations Archive Now Open to Researchers!

The papers of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) have now been catalogued – 130 boxes of them! – and are now open to researchers at the Wellcome Library. As the TIHR Archive Project reports,

These papers – the registered document series (SA/TIH/B/1) – provide a framework for the research and outputs of the Institute from 1945 to 2005, containing key reports and findings from seminal social studies from the post-war period to the early 21st century.

The reports trace the dynamic and cutting-edge work undertaken by the Tavistock Institute’s team of social scientists, anthropologists and psychoanalysts, in their efforts to apply new thinking emerging in the social sciences to the most prevalent contemporary needs and concerns of society. The topics addressed in the reports are hugely diverse, covering many aspects of the organisation of human social and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, and organisational structures and group dynamics.

More details about the archive can be found here, while the collection can be explored here.

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Controversy Brewing over Suzanne Corkin and Patient H.M.

Henry Molaison (know as H.M. in much of the published literature)

As we recently reported on AHP a new book on the infamous case study of H.M. has subjected this work to increasing scrutiny, especially with respect to the actions of psychologist Suzanne Corkin, chief H.M. researcher who also served as gatekeeper of other researchers’ access to H.M. Corkin died in May of this year, while H.M. (now known to be Henry Molaison) died in 2008.

Backlash against Luke Dittrich and his book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, has been growing since a lengthy piece adapted from the book appeared in the New York Times Magazine last week. (Further pieces on Dittrich’s book can be found on Psychology Today and the NYTMag’s Science of Us, among many other sources.) Particularly controversial have been three points: (1) reports that Corkin destroyed the records related to H.M.; (2) claims that Corkin suppressed reports of an additional lesion in H.M.’s brain; and (3) questions regarding the appropriateness of appointing a a non-relative as H.M.’s conservator.

Dr. James DiCarlo, head of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, has written a letter to the New York Times disputing these claims. Additionally, reports are circulating that a group of roughly 200 neuroscientists have written to the Times claiming that Dittrich’s work “contains important errors, misinterpretations of scientific disputes, and unfair characterizations of an MIT neuroscientist who did groundbreaking research on human memory” (from here; also see here and here for more). The letter signed by this group can be read in full here.

In response to DiCarlo’s claims Dittrich has written a post for Medium outlining his position and evidence regarding each claim. Included in Dittrich’s post is a 7-minute audio clip from an  interview he conducted with Corkin wherein she can be heard asserting that records concerning H.M. were destroyed. The audio can be heard here.

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The Guardian: “Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers”

The Guardian recently published a piece looking back on the history of Genie, the so-called feral child whose horrendous treatment at the hands of her father made headline news in the 1970s. The fact that Genie had been raised without language or basic social skills also attracted the attention psychologists interested in understanding language development. As The Guardian recounts, however, it was not long before Genie fell out of the public eye and out of the reach of researchers. Her fate today remains something of a mystery.

Read the full piece online here.

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Sad News, the Passing of Jerome Bruner

young brunerOn June 5th, 2016, after becoming a centenarian last October. Renowned for his significant thinking in cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology, and ranked as one of the top-cited psychologists of the 20th century. Comprehensive obituaries are certain to follow, but for the time being, here is an engaging interview in the NYU Law magazine from last year that aptly identifies him as an “acrobatic meta-connector of ideas;” also, a note on his life and career from the Harvard department of psychology.

older bruner

Additionally, here is a post that I particularly enjoyed over on the History of Emotions
blog
 , by Jules Evans, about Bruner’s volume Acts of Meaning and the cultural construction of emotion.

Here, here, and here, are previous AHP posts that relate to his work.

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Help Kickstart the National Museum of Psychology!

Kurt Lewin, Edward Tolman, and Clark Hull.

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the National Museum of Psychology at the Center. In just a few days the campaign has raised more than $17,000 of their $250,000 goal. Donations at every level come with rewards, including a number of fun history themed items (Stanford Prison Experiment t-shirt anyone?) and the opportunity to sponsor an aisle of the archives, a table in the reading room, and more.

Head on over to Kickstarter to back the project and help #KickstartHistory! (And don’t forget to spread the word to your friends and colleagues about this worthy and important endeavour!)

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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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