The May 2015 issue of History of Psychology (vol 18, issue 2) is now available (find online here), and is chock-full of interesting content. From analyses exploring the materiality of psychological and psychiatric instruments (including the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale, the ‘Utica Crib,’ and the controversial transorbital ice pick lobotomy instrument introduced by Walter Freeman), to historiographic discussions (about how to further internationalize the practice of the history of psychology in North America, and about the necessity of attention to multiple temporalities and contexts within the history of psychology in Brazil), there’s a little something for everyone.
The abstracts read as follows:
Test or toy? Materiality and the measurement of infant intelligence.
By: Young, Jacy L.
Adopting a material culture perspective, this article interrogates the composition of the copy of the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale housed at the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection. As a deliberately assembled collection of toys, the Cattell Scale makes clear the indefinite boundary between test and toy in 20th-century American psychology. Consideration of the current condition of some of the material constituents of this particular Cattell Scale provides valuable insight into some of the elusive practices of intelligence testers in situ and highlights the dynamic nature of the testing process. At the same time, attending to the materiality of this intelligence test reveals some of the more general assumptions about the nature of intelligence inherent in tests for young children. The scale and others like it, I argue, exposes psychologists’ often-uncritical equation of childhood intelligence with appropriate play undertaken with an appropriate toy, an approach complicit in, and fostered by, midcentury efforts to cultivate particular forms of selfhood. This analysis serves as an example of the kind of work that may be done on the history of intelligence testing when the material objects that were (and are) inherently a part of the testing process are included in historical scholarship.
The June 2015 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. Included in the issue are two articles of special interest to AHP readers: Greg Eghigian (right) documents the history of psychopathy in Germany, while Julia Kursell, in the issue’s Focus Section on “The History of Humanities and the History of Science,” describes Hermann von Helmholtz’s work on musicology. Full details, including abstracts, follow below.
“A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany,” by Greg Eghigian. The abstract reads,
The term “psychopath” has enjoyed wide currency both in popular culture and among specialists in forensic psychiatry. Historians, however, have generally neglected the subject. This essay examines the history of psychopathy in the country that first coined the term, developed the concept, and debated its treatment: Germany. While the notion can be traced to nineteenth-century psychiatric ideas about abnormal, yet not completely pathological, character traits, the figure of the psychopath emerged out of distinctly twentieth-century preoccupations and institutions. The vagueness and plasticity of the diagnosis of psychopathy proved to be one of the keys to its success, as it was embraced and employed by clinicians, researchers, and the mass media, despite attempts by some to curb its use. Within the span of a few decades, the image of the psychopath became one of a perpetual troublemaker, an individual who could not be managed within any institutional setting. By midcentury, psychopaths were no longer seen as simply nosological curiosities; rather, they were spatial problems, individuals whose defiance of institutional routine and attempts at social redemption stood in for an attributed mental status. The history of psychopathy therefore reveals how public dangers and risks can be shaped and defined by institutional limitations.
The June 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. The issue includes articles on the symptoms of schizophrenia, British colonial lunatic asylums, and “senile dementia” in the decades before 1979. Also in the issue is a classic text on symptoms in psychiatry by Hans W. Gruhle (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“First rank symptoms of schizophrenia: their nature and origin,” by J. Cutting. The abstract reads,
Kurt Schneider’s insight nearly 80 years ago that schizophrenia could be demarcated from other psychoses by a small set of particular delusions and hallucinations powerfully influenced diagnostic practice. The theoretical status of such ‘first rank symptoms’ as a whole, however, has rarely been addressed. But if they are sensitive and specific to the condition, it is about time that their essential nature and potential origin be considered. This is the purpose of the present paper. I argue that these psychopathological phenomena are indeed relatively sensitive and specific to the condition, that their nature can be formulated within a Schelerian model of what constitutes a human being, and that their origin fits anthropological and neuropsychological notions of the make-up of contemporary human beings.
The April 2015 issue of History of the Human Sciences is dedicated to “Vygotsky in His, Our and Future Times.” Guest edited by Gordana Jovanovic, the special issue includes a set of introductory reflections from Jerome Bruner on “The Uneasy Relation of Culture and Mind.” A further 10 articles explore various aspects of Vygotsky’s life and work, including the role of history in his work, an examination of the ban on his works in Russia, and his time as a theatre critic. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
Guest editorial: “Vygotsky in his, our and future times,” by Gordana Jovanovic. No abstract provided.
Introductory Reflections: “The uneasy relation of culture and mind,” by Jerome Bruner. No abstract provided.
“Vicissitudes of history in Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theory,” by Gordana Jovanovic. The abstract reads,
The aim of this article is to explore the ways and forms in which history is present, represented and used in Vygotsky’s theorizing. Given the fact that Vygotsky’s theory is usually described as a cultural-historical theory, the issue of history is necessarily implicated in the theory itself. However, there is still a gap between history as implicated in the theory and an explicit theorizing of history – both in Vygotsky’s writings and in Vygotskian scholarship. Therefore it is expected that it would be fruitful to shed light on some possible pathways that can bridge this gap. The prevailing theoretical role of history in Vygotsky’s theory is to serve as a general framework which provides tools for the development of higher psychic functions. Thus, history is recognized as a formative context of psychic life. Further, history appears in Vygotsky’s writings also as a projected better future. All these uses of history presuppose an idea of history as linear progress. But Vygotsky also argues for a stronger epistemological claim – that history is the most powerful explanatory principle. After conceptual and theoretical reflection on history, some limitations of Vygotsky’s historicizing of the history of psychic development will be pointed out and related to general epistemological problems of historicizing. Finally, Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theory, an edifice built up in the 1930s but relying on the rich philosophical and psychological legacy available up to that time, will be positioned against the pluralistic, postmodern and hermeneutic turn in contemporary social and human sciences.
In an article forthcoming in Theory & Psychology Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo explore the history of the idea of “crisis” in psychology through the lens of Italian psychology. The article is now available OnlineFirst here. Full title and abstract follow below.
“The “crisis” of psychology between fragmentation and integration: The Italian case,” by Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo. The abstract reads,
Crisis, as a construct, recurs in the history of psychology and has attracted the attention of psychological historians and philosophers in recent years, who have given life not only to a debate about psychological historiography, but also to a philosophical-epistemological reflection about the foundations of scientific psychology. These scholars, however, ignore the Italian literature on the theme, which is rich with useful details for both areas. After an analysis of the different meanings historically applied to the term crisis, this article examines the history of Italian psychology with a description of the origins and developments and with special attention paid to the construct of crisis. The analysis covers both the output of early 20th-century Italian psychologists on the theme, and how this has been treated in historians’ reconstruction of the theme. The article provides new historiographical elements within the framework of international research on the crisis.
The authors employ examples of Dadd’s art (the majority of which created during his incarceration at Bethlem and Broadmoor hospitals) as a lens to explore the shifting social politics of theories of physiognomy in clinical practice and public perception. The idiosyncratic and atypical subjects of Dadd’s works defied both the early and over-determined categories of mad facial features championed by the renowned anatomist Charles Bell, and the nondistinctive challenge thereto by alienist Alexander Morison. In doing so, the authors argue, Dadd’s interpretation forshadowed more modern approaches to physiognomic diagnostics.
Early on, Bruner explored the ways that experience affects perception. His paper “Value and Need as Organizing Factors in Perception” (Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1947) reported the finding that children were more likely to overestimate the size of coins than cardboard discs — and the greater the value of the coin, the more likely the children were to overestimate its diameter. What’s more, poor children were significantly more likely than rich children to overestimate the size of coins. In other words, both value and need influenced the way the children perceived the world around them.
Through research and observation, Bruner understood that human behavior is always influenced by the world and culture in which we live. His work helped move the field of psychology away from strict behaviorism and contributed to the emergence of cognitive psychology.
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.
The Paris Review currently features a beautifully illustrated piece from historian Andrew Scull. In “Madness and Meaning” Scull discusses the many depictions of mental illness – religious, medical, pharmaceutical – produced through history. Read the full piece, and see all the evocative images, online here.
The May 2015 issue of Social History of Medicine is now online. The issue includes a number of items that may be of interest to AHP readers, including an article on Irish patients in the Victorian Lancashire asylum system and one on the importance of black celebrity activism in making the mental health of black youth a civil rights issue. The issue also includes a special section, “Focus on Learning from Pain,” where a number of recent volumes on the history of pain are reviewed. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.