When they wrote their first papers, Danny and Amos had no particular audience in mind. Their readers would be the handful of academics who happened to subscribe to the highly specialized psychology trade journals in which they published. By 1972 they had spent the better part of three years uncovering the ways in which people judged and predicted—but the examples that they had used to illustrate their ideas were all drawn directly from psychology, or from the strange, artificial-seeming tests that they had given high-school and college students. Yet they were certain that their insights applied anywhere in the world that people were judging probabilities and making decisions. They sensed that they needed to find a broader audience.
“Labyrinths” was well received when published in England this summer. Yet throughout the first half of the book, no matter how much I squinted, I could not discern why. The subject is rich, definitely, and Jungian analysis has a groovy, woo-woo sort of appeal. But Ms. Clay’s sourcing is thin. She devotes pages of filler to the glorious architecture of Middle Europe — sounding uncomfortably close to the sales pitch for a Viking River Cruise — and to the menu at the Jungs’ wedding, and to the wares of the Bahnhofstrasse, and to the costume of the day.
It all seems a clumsy attempt at trompe l’oeil, to give the illusion of depth. My l’oeil wasn’t tromped.
Perhaps most striking is how remarkably adaptable Emma was — and how familiar her predicament still feels. Any semi-sentient observer of American politics has a pretty good idea of what it’s like for a smart woman to bind her fortune to a charismatic man with a wandering eye, a fellow who creates a gravitational warp so pronounced that all objects go rolling in his direction.
And Emma, too, followed in her husband’s footsteps, which at the time made her a true pioneer. Eventually, at Carl’s urging, Emma underwent her own analysis. She became an analyst once their five children were grown. She lectured; she traveled with Carl to conferences; she wrote a book about the symbolism of the Holy Grail.
As part of our continuingcoverage of the controversy that has erupted over Luke Dittrich’s recently released Patient H.M., we bring to your attention a just released review of the book in Science. In her review, Laura Stark provides a welcome perspective on Dittrich’s work, especially in relation to his portrayal of Suzanne Corkin. As Stark writes,
It seems inevitable that the book will be compared to the patient biography The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But, while Dittrich is an exceptional writer, he focuses his talents in the last half of his book on a takedown of rival author Suzanne Corkin, missing opportunities to turn his own family story into one of more universal scope….
Dittrich only reveals at the end that Corkin was writing her own book on H.M., which recasts his story up to that point in a new light. It helps make sense of his eagerness to see her actions as personal slights, character flaws, and bad science rather than symptoms of broken systems. It is a pity, because his sense of personal grievance narrows him into a story about a uniquely menacing scientist rather than a universal story of the legal and institutional ties that bind even well-intentioned people.
The review is out from behind Science‘s paywall and can be read in full here.
A soon to be published book from Princeton Architectural Press may be just what every psychologist and historian of psychology has been waiting for to adorn their coffee table. Psychobookis a lavishly illustrated volume documenting the history of psychological testing.
“Psychobook” comprises an eclectic assortment of tests from the early twentieth century to the present, along with new artworks and whimsical questionnaires inspired by the originals. These materials are interlaced with vintage and contemporary photographs, portraits, collages, and film stills of psychologists analyzing patients or staring incisively into space, sometimes in idiosyncratically decorated Manhattan offices. It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.
Neuroskeptic, part of Discover Magazine’s series of blogs, recently posted a review of a new book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets. The book, written by Luke Dittrich who is himself the grandson of H.M.’s neurosurgeon, tells the story of the infamous case study of the patient now known to be Henry Molaison.
In the review Neuroskeptic focuses on three troubling aspects of H.M.’s story as discussed in the book. First, the psychosurgery performed on H.M. to address his epilepsy had no medical basis. Second, H.M.’s life was not nearly as sedate and content as it often portrayed and he threatened suicide at various points in time. Finally, the ethics of Suzanne Corkin’s longterm study of H.M. is thrown into doubt as, following the death of his parents, H.M. lacked a legal conservator to speak to his interests. This meant that H.M. himself provided consent for many of Corkin’s studies, though whether this can be understood as informed consent is doubtful. Moreover, the cousin eventually appointed conservator for H.M., it turns out, was not related to H.M. at all and simply provided blanket consent for Corkin’s tests of H.M.
The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905
This book marks an important milestone in the history of clinical psychology in the UK, with 2016 being the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Division of Clinical Psychology. People are still around (some of the authors) who remember the founding of the NHS, which also closely marked the beginning of the profession.
I found that the best way of getting the most out of the book was to start with the last chapter – the editors’ collective reflections on writing it – and then go to the introduction. This provides a very helpful frame in which the other chapters can be viewed. They have very different writing styles; as they point out, some are clinicians, some are academics, some are historians; some have relatively mainstream views, some have much more radical and critical approaches. The editors have done an excellent job of making this all seem part of the fabric of the profession – diversity and variety being positive and generating creative energy.
Harding calls for a science that is both more epistemically adequate and socially just, a science that would ask: How are the lives of the most economically and politically vulnerable groups affected by a particular piece of research? Do they have a say in whether and how the research is done? Should empirically reliable systems of indigenous knowledge count as “real science”? Ultimately, Harding argues for a shift from the ideal of a neutral, disinterested science to one that prizes fairness and responsibility.
In the podcast Harding discusses her personal background to the program of research which led to the book, as well as touching on the themes of the volumes’ various chapters: the relevant socio-political conditions for the current positivist and secularist conceptualizations of scientific objectivity within the philosophy of science; the development of research fields in science studies which have provided critical perspectives thereof; strategies for engaging in her ‘stronger’ objectivity that can provide resources for identifying how values and perspectives constitute what research is undertaken, how it is undertaken, and the conclusions we derive from it; and arguments for a pluralistic definition of science that validates ways of knowing that have traditionally been marginalized. In conclusion she provides an introduction to her latest research on postcolonialist science and technology studies in relation to Latin America.
Black Skin, White Coats is a history of psychiatry in Nigeria from the 1950s to the 1980s. Working in the contexts of decolonization and anticolonial nationalism, Nigerian psychiatrists sought to replace racist colonial psychiatric theories about the psychological inferiority of Africans with a universal and egalitarian model focusing on broad psychological similarities across cultural and racial boundaries. Particular emphasis is placed on Dr. T. Adeoye Lambo, the first indigenous Nigerian to earn a specialty degree in psychiatry in the United Kingdom in 1954. Lambo returned to Nigeria to become the medical superintendent of the newly founded Aro Mental Hospital in Abeokuta, Nigeria’s first “modern” mental hospital. At Aro, Lambo began to revolutionize psychiatric research and clinical practice in Nigeria, working to integrate “modern” western medical theory and technologies with “traditional” cultural understandings of mental illness. Lambo’s research focused on deracializing psychiatric thinking and redefining mental illness in terms of a model of universal human similarities that crossed racial and cultural divides.
Black Skin, White Coats is the first work to focus primarily on black Africans as producers of psychiatric knowledge and as definers of mental illness in their own right. By examining the ways that Nigerian psychiatrists worked to integrate their psychiatric training with their indigenous backgrounds and cultural and civic nationalisms, Black Skin, White Coats provides a foil to Frantz Fanon’s widely publicized reactionary articulations of the relationship between colonialism and psychiatry. Black Skin, White Coats is also on the cutting edge of histories of psychiatry that are increasingly drawing connections between local and national developments in late-colonial and postcolonial settings and international scientific networks. Heaton argues that Nigerian psychiatrists were intimately aware of the need to engage in international discourses as part and parcel of the transformation of psychiatry at home.