Category Archives: News

Roger Barker and Oskaloosa, Kansas as Laboratory

AHP readers interested in the history of ecological and environmental psychology will be interested in a recent piece in Harper’s Magazine (unfortunately accessible in full only to subscribers). In “Our Town: How Roger Barker made Oskaloosa, Kansas, His Laboratory” writer Ariel Sabar describes Barker’s Oskaloosa based “behavior settings” research. He also tracks down one of his research participants, Raymond, the title character of Barker’s study One Boy’s Day. As Sabar describes,

Not long after moving to Oskaloosa, a town of 725 people in the hills of northeastern Kansas, Roger Barker, the new chair of the psychology department at the University of Kansas, approached a young couple who lived near him with a request: Might a group of researchers follow their seven-year-old son around for a day, documenting the boy’s every word and movement?

Jack Birch, a salesman at the town hardware store, and his wife, Joan, a clerk at the county courthouse, said yes, and on April 26, 1949, eight observers with timers and clipboards, working in half-hour shifts, assembled a minute-by-minute account of an ordinary day in the life of Raymond Birch.

Harper & Row published the report in 1951 as One Boy’s Day. An editor of The New York Times Magazine found the book interesting enough to pay Oskaloosa a visit. In an August 1951 article she rhapsodized about how Barker and his colleagues “brought child psychology out of the laboratory to study children in their natural habitat, much as a botanist goes into the fields to study flowers.” Townspeople knew the good that came from agricultural research stations, so they accepted “the idea that perhaps some day as much can be known about raising children as raising corn.”

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The Expert: A Novel Based on the Life of Rosalie Rayner

Author Andromeda Romano-Lax has crowd funded, through USA Projects, a book in progress on the life of Rosalie Rayner (left). Tentatively titled The Expert, Romano-Lax’s the novel will be a fictionalized account of Rayner’s short life (1899-1935). Most famously, Rayner was John Watson’s graduate student assistant during the Little Albert study. Following a scandal caused by their affair, while Watson was married to someone else, they married and had two children.

As described on the project’s now closed fundraising site,

He was the founder of behaviorism and the most influential American psychologist of his day—a famous parenting “expert” who counseled mothers never to kiss or cuddle their children, and who went on to apply behaviorist principles to Madison Avenue advertising. She was the 19-year-old graduate student who assisted his research—and within a year, found her own career derailed when their steamy affair made front-page news in the East Coast newspapers.

John Watson is well known in psychology circles, but his second wife, Rosalie Rayner, the narrator of this based-on-real-events novel, is known mostly as a textbook footnote—a woman involved in scandal who retreated from her own career ambitions to support her larger-than-life, controversial husband before dying at the tragically young age of 35. Rayner’s own little-known story (informed by the stories of other women psychologists and professionals of the same time period) aims to shed light on the life of a 1920s Vassar-educated woman and mother, part of a post-suffragette, interwar, Jazz Age generation that looked to science, technology, and corporate slogans for expert answers on how to live.

….I will use project funds to continue the first phase of research (which began with a visit to Baltimore MD, Washington DC, and Poughkeepsie NY and continues with ongoing follow-up historical research) necessary to write dramatically about a woman of cultural and scientific significance who left almost no paper trail. It would be easier to write about her famous husband, but it is the little-known quality of Rosalie’s life – and the story of forgotten women like her – that draws me to this project. To recreate Rosalie Rayner’s life, I will continue to seek out scarce primary sources on Rayner, visit places that were formative to her development, and also continue to learn more about women psychologists and Baltimore life from 1900 to the mid-1930s.

Although this crowd funded project is a literary endeavour — one that just happens to overlap with the history of psychology — this kind of funding initiative raises questions about the future of funding for historical work more generally. What role, if any, will crowd funding have in future research in the history of psychology?

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Call for Papers Psicologia em Pesquisa


The Brazilian journal Psicologia em Pesquisa has issued a call for papers for a special issue dedicated to the history of psychology. The issue will be edited by Annette Mülberger (left) and Sérgio Cirino (right). Submissions, in English, Spanish or Portuguese, are due by July 31, 2013. The full call for papers follows below.

Psicologia em Pesquisa, a Brazilian journal edited by the Graduate Program in Psychology of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, is preparing, together with the Working Group on the History of Psychology of the ANPEPP (Brazilian National Association of Graduate Training in Psychology), a Special International Issue dedicated to the History of Psychology. The Guest Editors are Sérgio Cirino (Federal University of Minas Gerais) and Annette Mülberger (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). Paper manuscript submissions are encouraged with a focus on topics related to the broad field of the history of psychology, including theoretical and methodological discussions, empirical studies and literature reviews. Manuscripts should follow the general guidelines of the APA (American Psychological Association, Publication Manual, 5th ed., Washington, DC) and cannot exceed 30 double-spaced pages (including references). For more details, see our website: http://www.ufjf.br/psicologiaempesquisa/1632-2/

Manuscripts can be submitted in English, Spanish or Portuguese to revista.psicologiaempesquisa@ufjf.edu.br.

The deadline for the submission of manuscripts to this special issue is July 31, 2013.

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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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Arthur Jensen (1923-2012)

Arthur Jensen, who suggested in a now infamous 1969 article in the Harvard Educational Review that genetic differences between races were the root cause of differences in intelligence test scores between black and white students, has died. As reported in the New York Times,

In the article, Professor Jensen posited two types of learning ability. Level I, associative ability, entailed the rote retention of facts. Level II, conceptual ability, involved abstract thinking and problem-solving. This type, he argued, was roughly equivalent to general intelligence, denoted in psychology by the letter “g.”

In administering I.Q. tests to diverse groups of students, Professor Jensen found Level I ability to be fairly consistent across races. When he examined Level II ability, by contrast, he found it more prevalent among whites than blacks, and still more prevalent among Asians than whites.

Drawing on these findings, Professor Jensen argued that general intelligence is largely genetically determined, with cultural forces shaping it only to a small extent. For this reason, he wrote in 1969, compensatory education programs like Head Start are doomed to fail.

Unsurprisingly, this suggestion of a link between race and intelligence ignited intense controversy.

Jensen’s death comes on the heels of the death of Philippe Rushton, also known for his controversial views on the relationship between race and intelligence.

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Revisiting Francis Galton’s Anthropometry

AHP readers may be interested in a recent post by Efram Sera-Shriar on Dissertation Reviews that details his efforts to recreate the kind of anthropological – and more particularly anthropometric – data collection practices at use in the late-nineteenth century. Coming on the heels of his dissertation, Beyond the Armchair: Early Observational Practice and the Making of British Anthropology 1813-1871 (soon to be published as The Making of British Anthropology, 1813–1871), this project seeks to gather the same kind of data that was privileged by Victorian anthropologists, including Francis Galton (above).

As Sera-Shriar describes,

There is much to be gained by looking at the techniques utilized by nineteenth-century researchers …. I thought that it would be illuminating to attempt to recreate a Victorian research practice for acquiring anthropological data and see what kind of results it produces. There were many different kinds of methods to choose from but I decided that it would be interesting to write a kind of guidebook that seeks to collect descriptive information about different people (including photographs) from around the world. Now many of you will be thinking that such an experiment will generate all sorts of problems. After all, Victorian anthropologists were not known for their cultural sensitivity. To avoid exploiting or subjugating anyone, it is necessary to modernize certain aspects of this experiment. These changes are instructive because they bring to the fore some of the problems associated with Victorian anthropology. At the same time, however, by trying to utilize nineteenth-century research practices we can learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of these older methodologies. In a sense, this recreation is a kind of exercise in participant observation, allowing us to better understand — with limitations — the analytical processes of Victorian anthropologists.

Full details on Sera-Shriar’s project, and how you might contribute your own data to the project, can be found online here.

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New AHP Blogger!

We at AHP are pleased to announce the addition of a new member to our blogging team: Daniel Lahham. Daniel is a master’s student in the history and theory psychology program at York University. He completed his honours degree in psychology at York University in 2011. He is interested in early twentieth century applied psychology and is currently pursuing a project tracking the development of an applied dialect.

Daniel began blogging for AHP earlier this month – you can find his first two posts here and here – and we look forward to many more posts from him in the future.

Welcome Daniel!

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New JHBS! Sociology, Stereotypes, & Emotions

The autumn 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the role of emotions in animal experimentation, the career and interests of Japanese sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani, the development of sociology during the Progressive Era in the United States, and the importance of Walter Lippmann’s (left) theory of stereotypes. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Animal Tales: Observations of the Emotions in American Experimental Psychology, 1890-1940,” by Anne C. Rose.  The abstract reads,

In nineteenth-century science, the emotions played a crucial role in explaining the social behavior of animals and human
beings. Beginning in the 1890s, however, the first American psychologists, resolutely parsimonious in method, dismissed affective experience as intellectually imprecise. Yet in practice, feelings continued to influence at least one research setting: animal experiments. Laboratory reports, although focused on learning, became a repository of informal observations about the animals’ temperaments and moods. When American psychologists began to reexamine the emotions between the world wars, they drew on this empirical legacy in animal studies. They also devised a conceptual approach to emotion consistent with their expectation of experimental precision.

“Japanese American Wartime Experience, Tamotsu Shibutani and Methodological Innovation, 1942-1978,” by Karen M. Inouye. The abstract reads, Continue reading

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John Philippe Rushton (1943-2012)

Controversial psychologist John Philippe Rushton (above), best known for his views on the relationship between race and intelligence, has died. Rushton passed away after a battle with cancer on October 2nd. He was 68.

Rushton was born in Bournemouth, England, in 1943. While still a child, he emigrated first to South Africa and then to Canada. He went on to receive his PhD from the London School of Economics in 1977. Prior to receiving his PhD, he taught for a time at York University (1974-76) in Toronto and then at the University of Toronto (1977). He joined the faculty at the University of Western Ontario (UWO, now Western University) in 1978 and became a full professor at the university in 1985. In addition to his work on race and intelligence, Rushton also produced controversial research on the relationship between race and crime, and race and penis size.

In the late 1980s, Rushton’s views on race-based differences in intelligence sparked vehement protest at UWO. (More photographs from these protests can be seen here.) Despite calls for Rushton to be fired – by UWO students and Ontario’s premier – and although he was relieved of teaching duties during the height of these protests, he remained on the faculty of UWO for 25 years. The attention Rushton received for his controversial views on race and intelligence also led to a prominent debate between Rushton and geneticist, and environmentalist, David Suzuki on the subject in February, 1989 (the full debate can be viewed below).

 

 

Notice of Rushton’s death can be found here. Further discussion of Rushton’s passing can be found here, here, and here.

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