Category Archives: News

AHA Online Calendar

FYI, the American Historical Association’s website includes a handy dandy calendar tool that provides a chronology of wide-ranging relevant content for those interested in the happenings of the historical discipline more broadly. Included are meetings and seminars, exhibitions and interpretive resources, as well as awards and fellowships.

Follow this link to check it out!

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Sad News, the Passing of Elizabeth Scarborough

scarboroough cheiron
L-R: Barbara Lusk, Christopher Green, Elizabeth Scarborough, and Larry Stern at Cheiron in Lawrence, KS, June 2015. Photograph courtesy of Barbara Lusk.

We are sad to report that Elizabeth Scarborough has passed away. Scarborough’s work on the history of women in psychology, together with collaborator Laurel Furumoto, was groundbreaking. Their book Untold Lives: The First Generation of American Women Psychologists remains a classic. A founding member of Cheiron, she was a fixture at the society’s annual meetings, never missing a year, including the most recent gathering in Lawrence, Kansas this past June. A towering figure in the field, Elizabeth was warm and welcoming to newcomers. She will be sorely missed.

Update: An official obituary for Elizabeth Scarborough is now available online.

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Help Save Wilhelm Wundt House!

Professors Hans Strasburger and Gerd Jüttemann are spearheading an effort to save Wilhelm Wundt’s house near Leipzig. You can contribute funds to the crowdfunding effort, or simply offer your support, here. Full details follow below.

Dear colleagues,

Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920), as is well known, pursued his historically outstanding work at the University of Leipzig and it could be said that he counts as the most distinguished founder of Psychology. He not only built the world’s first laboratory of experimental psychology in Leipzig but also developed a theory of conscious experience that was underpinned by the method of introspection. Wundt wrote influential books on many aspects of psychology and he was a champion of investigating psychological processes by means of experiment.  He further initiated a culture-historically oriented developmental psychology, for which he coined the – now obsolete – term “folk psychology”.

The houses in Leipzig where Wundt lived were destroyed in the Second World War. His last residence, in Großbothen near Leipzig, has been preserved, however. Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932), the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry with whom Wundt was close friends, lived across the street; there is a well-kept memorial site there for Ostwald that is quite popular. Wundt’s building was constructed in the style of its time (see photo). It is no longer in the possession of Wundt’s descendants and was uninhabited for quite some time. Though it is heritage-protected, its current owner has no interest in its preservation and would be willing to sell it at a reasonable price. High renovation costs would arise in case of its acquisition but at the same time the German Foundation for the Maintenance of Historical Monuments (Deutsche Stiftung für Denkmalschutz) has signaled that it would generously support such a project. There already exists the “Wilhelm Wundt Room” at Leipzig’s Department of Psychology and the Adolf-Würth Center for the History of Psychology in Würzburg. Yet it would be desirable if there were a place where we could commemorate the person behind all these achievements, to inspire future generations, and Wundt’s house in Großbothen could be a possible location for it.

So to save the Wundt house we are considering initiating crowd funding. As you are probably aware, donations by that method are initially virtual. Only if the number of backers and prospective sums appear sufficient for realizing the project would those who have participated be asked whether, indeed, they would be willing to donate the prospective amount.

Please use the following link:

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’37’- A Forthcoming Film on the Kitty Genovese Case

The New York Times reports that a film, titled ’37’, on the infamous Kitty Genovese murder is in the works. The Genovese case is often credited with providing the impetus for research into the bystander effect, whereby bystanders fail to intervene in an emergency situation as a result of a diffusion of responsibility. The notion that bystanders failed to intervene in the Genovese case – including the NYT‘s initial erroneous accounting of 37 such individuals – has been called into question (see our previous posts on this myth here). As the NYT reports,

Whether the classic account of the murder is factually true has been disputed for years. The disturbing article in The New York Times at the time (“37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police”) got the probable number of witnesses wrong, among other facts. Some people did call the police; at least one neighbor comforted the victim as she died. But over the years, Kitty Genovese has become more than a true-crime statistic. She’s attained the status of a myth aswirl in urban dread.

More details about the film ’37’ can be found in the NYT piece.

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History and the Hoffman Report: A Round-Up

Chances are you, like us, have been following the fall out from the American Psychological Association’s Hoffman Report, which details how the organization colluded with the United States government to ensure psychologists remained part of its torture program. While there are a ton of opinion pieces floating around in the wake of the report, we thought we’d highlight a few pieces that take a particularly historical view on the current situation.

Over on the Hidden Persuaders blog, part of a project on Cold War era brainwashing efforts, Marcia Holmes has written “What we’re reading now: The APA report.” Holmes details the events leading up to the Hoffman Report and situates psychology’s involvement in torture in relation to the emergence of “operational psychology.” The fundamental tension between “operational psychology” and ethics, Holmes argues, may never be resolved. Read the full piece online here.

BBC Radio program Witness has produced an episode on “CIA Mind Control Experiments” in the 1950s. While this piece is not directly about the Hoffman Report, it documents  the long history of relations between psychology and the CIA:

In the 1950s the CIA started attempting to brainwash psychiatric patients. They wanted to develop methods which could be used against enemies in the Cold War. Hear from one man whose father was experimented on in a Canadian psychiatric hospital.

The full 10-minute episode can be heard online here.

Finally historian Laura Stark, writing in Inside Higher Ed, explains “Why Ethics Codes Fail.” Stark, having previously written about the first ethics code adopted by the APA in 1973, argues that,

The APA’s current ethics mess is a problem inherent to its method of setting professional ethics policy and a problem that faces professional organizations more broadly. Professions’ codes of ethics are made to seem anonymous, dropped into the world by some higher moral authority. But ethics codes have authors. In the long term, the APA’s problems will not be solved by repeating the same process that empowers a select elite to write ethics policy, then removes their connection to it.

All ethics codes have authors who work to erase the appearance of their influence. Personal interests are inevitable, if not unmanageable, and it may be best for the APA — and other professional groups — to keep the link between an ethics policy and its authors. Take a new lesson from the Hippocratic oath by observing its name. The APA should make its ethics policies like most other papers that scientists write: give the code of ethics a byline.

Read the full piece online here.

If there are other historically focused responses to the Hoffman Report that we’ve missed please feel free to add them in the comments!

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Launch of New Online Museum Dedicated to the History of Behavioral Neuroscience in Brazil

Estereotáxico para Cães e Gatos
Stereotactic instrument from collection

AHP is pleased to announce the launch of a rich new web resource: the Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais  [the History Museum of Behavioral Neuroscience]. The site features a digital collection of scientific instruments connected to the history of neuroscience, particularly behavioral neuroscience, in Brazil. It likewise highlights several key researchers who contributed to the development of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil.

The site has emerged out of work Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Miranda initially completed while on an internship at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, OH in 2013. The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais was created while Miranda was completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of São Paulo. Co-editors on the project include Silvana Delfino and Nadia Iara Ramiris Maronesi, under the supervision of Drs. Anette Hoffmann and Marina Massimi.

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais will be of particular interest to those interested in scientific instrument collections and will make for a great online resource for both historians of psychology and their students alike. If your Portuguese is on the weak side, do not despair! You can use your browser settings to translate the pages to your language of choice (Google Chrome makes this particularly easy – see instructions here).

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais has plans to continue growing and contributions to the site are welcomed.  To submit a photograph of an instrument, laboratory space, or researcher connected to the history of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil, contact with a description of the person or object featured in the image, the name of the institution to which it is connected, and any references or links you would want included with the entry (You can download the contribution form here).

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The New Yorker: “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment”

The New Yorker has just posted an article on “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment.” A new feature film The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup as psychologist Philip Zimbardo, provides the impetus for the piece.

On the morning of August 17, 1971, nine young men in the Palo Alto area received visits from local police officers. While their neighbors looked on, the men were arrested for violating Penal Codes 211 and 459 (armed robbery and burglary), searched, handcuffed, and led into the rear of a waiting police car. The cars took them to a Palo Alto police station, where the men were booked, fingerprinted, moved to a holding cell, and blindfolded. Finally, they were transported to the Stanford County Prison—also known as the Stanford University psychology department.

They were willing participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most controversial studies in the history of social psychology. (It’s the subject of a new film of the same name—a drama, not a documentary—starring Billy Crudup, of “Almost Famous,” as the lead investigator, Philip Zimbardo.) The study subjects, middle-class college students, had answered a questionnaire about their family backgrounds, physical- and mental-health histories, and social behavior, and had been deemed “normal”; a coin flip divided them into prisoners and guards. According to the lore that’s grown up around the experiment, the guards, with little to no instruction, began humiliating and psychologically abusing the prisoners within twenty-four hours of the study’s start. The prisoners, in turn, became submissive and depersonalized, taking the abuse and saying little in protest. The behavior of all involved was so extreme that the experiment, which was meant to last two weeks, was terminated after six days.

Read the piece online here.

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Contribute to The Psychologist’s “Looking Back” Column!

The British Psychological Society’s magazine, The Psychologist, is looking for brief contributions for its regular history column “Looking Back.” Previous articles from the column are largely open access and can be read online here.

If you are interested in contributing a piece of 1800-3000 words, on the history of psychology or the psychology of history, get in touch with Managing Editor Jon Sutton at or engage with the magazine on Twitter @psychmag.


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Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning Optioned as a Film

Psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he attempts to make sense of the Holocaust, has been optioned as a filmThe Guardian reports,

Frankl, a contemporary of Freud, lost his whole family during the Nazi’s attempted extermination of the Jews. He developed his theory of “healing through meaning”, known as logotherapy, while a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Kaufering concentration camps. He counselled his fellow prisoners, many of whom were suicidal, with a philosophy that argued that striving for meaning, not pleasure nor power, is what keeps us alive.

The book is being adapted for film by screenwriter Adam Gibgot.

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Conversion Therapy for LGBTQ Children Banned in Groundbreaking Ontario Legislation

LGBT_Flag_Map_of_OntarioOntario has become the first Canadian province to legislate a bill that renders such so-called therapies for children illegal, and prevents medical practitioners of adult treatments from billing the provincial health care system. The Toronto Star reports:

The legislation proposed by New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo won unanimous support from all three parties at Queen’s Park on Thursday, in time for Pride week, which begins June 19.

It’s the first law of its kind in Canada and goes further than conversion therapy bans in several U.S. states by including protection for the transgender community.

“We’re sending an incredibly strong message . . . there’s absolutely no room in an inclusive society for trying to change somebody’s sexual identity or their gender expression or their gender identity,” DiNovo told the Star.

Read the full article by Rob Ferguson here.

Find the National Post coverage here.

DiNovo’s website also reports that Manitoba is following suit.

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