A recent article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine may be of interest to AHP readers. Exploring the happenings at the New York State Lunatic Asylum, Kathleen Brain describes how the antebellum asylum asserted ownership over the prevention of suicide and the ramifications of this claim. Full details below.
““The Weight of Perhaps Ten or a Dozen Human Lives”: Suicide, Accountability, and the Life-Saving Technologies of the Asylum,” by Kathleen M. Brian. The abstract reads,
By accounting for the law’s productive capacity to structure asylum physicians’ encounters with suicide, this essay argues that the antebellum asylum was a technology for the preservation of life. The essay first shows how suicide’s history as a crime encouraged popular attributions of suicide to insanity. What began as a tactic to protect survivors, however, ended by bolstering the professional claims of asylum medicine. Initially it appeared there was much to gain from claiming suicide as their own, but dominion over prevention in fact rendered asylum physicians and their staffs vulnerable in unanticipated ways: for while agents of suicide were effectively evacuated of legal responsibility, a variety of laws made physicians more accountable than ever. Focusing on medical superintendent Amariah Brigham and his staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum shows how the anxiety of assuming guardianship over the suicidal created networks of accountability that profoundly affected daily life.
“Scientific Study of Magic: Binet’s Pioneering Approach Based on Observations and Chronophotography,” Cyril Thomas, André Didierjean and Serge Nicolas. The abstract reads
In 1894, French psychologist Alfred Binet (1857–1911) published an article titled “The Psychology of Prestidigitation” that reported the results of a study conducted in collaboration with two of the best magicians of that period. By using a new method and new observation techniques, Binet was able to reveal some of the psychological mechanisms involved in magic tricks. Our article begins by presenting Binet’s method and the principal professional magicians who participated in his studies. Next, we present the main psychological tools of magicians described by Binet and look at some recent studies dealing with those mechanisms. Finally, we take a look at the innovative technique used by Binet for his study on magic: the chronophotograph.
“A Particular Kind of Wonder: The Experience of Magic Past and Present,” Peter Lamont. The abstract reads,
Wonder may be an important emotion, but the term wonder is remarkably ambiguous. For centuries, in psychological discourse, it has been defined as a variety of things. In an attempt to be more focused, and given the growing scientific interest in magic, this article describes a particular kind of wonder: the response to a magic trick. It first provides a historical perspective by considering continuity and change over time in this experience, and argues that, in certain respects, this particular kind of wonder has changed. It then describes in detail the experience of magic, considers the extent to which it might be considered acquired rather than innate, and how it relates to other emotions, such as surprise. In the process, it discusses the role of belief and offers some suggestions for future research. It concludes by noting the importance of context and meaning in shaping the nature of the experience, and argues for the value of both experimental and historical research in the attempt to understand such experiences.
“The Synthetic Experiment: E. B. Titchener’s Cornell Psychological Laboratory and the Test of Introspective Analysis,” by Rand B. Evans. The abstract reads,
Beginning in 1900, a major thread of research was added to E. B. Titchener’s Cornell laboratory: the synthetic experiment. Titchener and his graduate students used introspective analysis to reduce a perception, a complex experience, into its simple sensory constituents. To test the validity of that analysis, stimulus patterns were selected to reproduce the patterns of sensations found in the introspective analyses. If the original perception can be reconstructed in this way, then the analysis was considered validated. This article reviews development of the synthetic method in E. B. Titchener’s laboratory at Cornell University and examines its impact on psychological research.
“The Method of Negative Instruction: Herbert S. Langfeld’s and Ludwig R. Geissler’s 1910–1913 Insightful Studies,” by Robert W. Proctor and Aiping Xiong. The abstract reads,
Herbert S. Langfeld and Ludwig R. Geissler published insightful articles during the period of 1910–1913 using what they called the Method of Negative Instruction, which anticipated much current research on action control and the role of instructions. We review their studies and relate the findings to contemporary research and views concerning task-irrelevant congruency effects and deception, concluding that their work has not received the credit it warrants. We also call for contemporary researchers to revisit prior studies, especially ones conducted before the cognitive revolution in psychology, to enrich their knowledge of the field and improve the quality of their research.
“The great cat mutilation: sex, social movements and the utilitarian calculus in 1970s New York City,” by Michael Pettit. The abstract reads,
In 1976, the animal liberation movement made experiments conducted on cats at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) one of its earliest successful targets. Although the scientific consensus was that Aronson was not particularly cruel or abusive, the AMNH was selected due to the visibility of the institution, the pet-like status of the animals, and the seeming perversity of studying non-human sexuality. I contextualize the controversy in terms of the changing meaning of utilitarian ethics in justifying animal experimentation. The redefinition of ‘surgeries’ as ‘mutilations’ reflected an encounter between the behavioural sciences and social movements. One of the aims of the late 1960s civil rights movements was to heighten Americans’ sensitivity to differing experiences of suffering. The AMNH protesters drew inspiration from a revived utilitarian ethics of universal organismic pain across the lines of species. This episode was also emblematic of the emergence of an anti-statist, neo-liberal ethos in science. Invoking the rhetoric of the 1970s tax revolt, animal liberationists attacked Aronson’s ability to conduct basic research with no immediate biomedical application. Without denying the violence involved, an exclusive focus on reading the experiments through the lens of utilitarianism obscures what ethics animated Aronson’s research.
“Putting attachment in its place: Disciplinary and cultural contexts,” by Marga Vicedo. The abstract reads,
This paper examines the reception of John Bowlby’s and Mary Ainsworth’s ethological theory of attachment among anthropologists and cultural psychologists. First, it shows that from Margaret Mead’s criticisms in the mid 1950s to the present, many of them have challenged the main tenets of attachment theory but attachment theorists ignored those challenges. Second, it argues that we need to understand the different disciplinary goals of psychology and anthropology after WWII in order to illuminate the lack of attention to children’s cultural context in attachment research. The privileging within psychology of laboratory data over field observations supported the rise of attachment research focused on the strange situation procedure and contributed to the neglect of ethnographic data about children in their socio-cultural milieu. Recognizing the importance of studying children in context, however, recent studies by anthropologists and developmental psychologists sensitive to the power of culture have deepened the challenge to attachment theory.
“L’esprit (dé)réglé: Literature, Science, and the Life of the Mind in France, 1700–1900,” by Florence Vatan and Anne Vila. The abstract reads,
The case studies presented in this special issue illustrate the unique appeal that the puzzle of the mind exerted across fields of knowledge in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They highlight the diversity of approaches and perspectives that the exploration of the mind elicited in literature, philosophy, and the sciences de l’homme. They also testify to the conceptual challenges and persistent nebulousness that surrounded the notion of esprit and its close associates. That fluidity of meaning was, in its way, productive: it provoked debates about the nature of the self, the precarious status of consciousness, and the relevance of human exceptionalism.
“Comment l’esprit vient aux filles… et comment les garçons le perdent: Maladie d’amour, médecine et fiction romanesque au XVIIIe siècle,” by Alexandre Wenger. The abstract reads,
This article proposes a commentary on a little known novel, Les Amours du chevalier de Faublas, written between 1787 and 1790 by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray. The objective is to show a rivalry that existed in the second half of the eighteenth century between the novel and medical treatises as ways to document knowledge of the human mind. Taking as a point of departure the problematic polysemy of the term “esprit” in the eighteenth century, this article reveals how Couvray’s novel engages in therapeutic writing. Its main hypothesis is that as a fictional narrative, the novel discusses the madness of love and the disturbances of the mind.
After a quarter century of publication, there is a new editor at the helm of the journal Theory & Psychology. Founding editor Henderikus Stam (of the University of Calgary’s theory and clinical psychology programs) has passed his position to Kieran O’Doherty (of the University of Guelph’s applied social psychology program).
In his incoming editorial, O’Doherty celebrates the contributions of his predecessor:
…the journal has showcased the work of leaders in theoretical scholarship in psychology and has been a central vehicle for the development of theoretical psychology as we now know the field. Without Hank’s dedication, it is not at all clear how theoretical psychology would look today, or whether it would have the strength and international scope it does now.
Also in this inaugural issue, O’Doherty hosts a lively discussion, the “next round” of the perennial debate about the historiography of psychology as a discipline, this time focusing the value and limitations of the social turn and the ‘New History’ movement, and how the effects of those have led to contemporary concerns regarding the role and relationship between contextual and intellectual historical orientations and methods. The relevant abstracts read as follows, after the jump.
The February 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online and includes a number of articles that may be of interest to AHP’s readers. Articles in this issue tackle: the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Chilean physiologist Alejandro Lipschütz, information overload in postwar America, Frédéric LePlay and scientific observation, the Susan Isaacs’ interwar work on progressive education and psychanalysis, and the patient-analyst relationship in psychoanalysis and telepathy-like experiences. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Sigmund Freud and Alejandro Lipschütz: Psychoanalysis and biology between Europe and Chile,” by Silvana Vetö and Marcelo Sánchez. The abstract reads,
This article deals with the relationship between the creator of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and the Latvian-born Chilean professor of physiology – and endocrinologist and anthropologist – Alejandro (or Alexander) Lipschütz. Up till now, the historiography of psychoanalysis in Chile has ignored the existence of this relationship, that is to say, the fact that there exists an interesting exchange of correspondence as well as references to Lipschütz in some important works published by Freud and in Freud’s correspondence with the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi. There are also references to works on psychoanalysis carried out by Lipschütz in Chile. The Freud–Lipschütz relationship allows us to examine two interesting topics in contemporary historiographical approaches to psychoanalysis. First, it permits us to reflect on the connections that Freud and Ferenczi sought to establish between psychoanalysis and biology (endocrinology in particular) as a strategy to address criticism of the scientific foundations of psychoanalysis and, therefore, to help legitimize psychoanalysis in the field of science. Second, the relationship between Freud, working in a culturally influential city such as Vienna, and Lipschütz, working in a ‘peripheral’ country such as Chile, paves the way to reflect on the consequences of a history of psychoanalysis written from the perspective of the ‘margins’. This is a history that focuses not on regions where early industrialization and modernization processes, along with an important academic and scientific tradition, help explain the interest in and reception of psychoanalysis, but on regions where different sets of conditions have to be examined to explain appropriation and dissemination processes.
The editors of History of the Human Sciences have issued a call for submissions from early career researchers wishing to engage with John Forrester’s work “Thinking in Cases.” Short expressions of interest are due March 13th, 2017. Full details of the call for submissions follow below.
As part of our efforts to showcase the work of new and emerging scholars, HHS invites expressions of interest from all early career researchers (a flexible definition) whose work bears in some way upon the work John started with ‘Thinking in Cases’. We welcome anyone who would like to contribute to such a dialogue with John’s work, and with each other.
If interested, please send a short expression of interest (max 200 words) to the email address below, outlining your strengths as candidate for inclusion in such a review symposium. Depending upon response, we anticipate final contributions of c.3,000 words.
– Expressions of Interest: Monday 13th March, 2017.
– Submission of Contributions: 31st October, 2017.
– Publication in HHS: 2018.
If you have questions, please email Chris Millard: c[dot]millard[at]Sheffield[dot]ac[dot]uk
We look forward to hearing from you,
Felicity Callard (Editor-in-Chief) & Chris Millard (Reviews Editor)
The March 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Guest edited by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews, this special issue explores “Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Introduction: histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland,” by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews. The abstract reads,
This paper introduces a special issue on ‘Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland’, situating the papers that follow in an outline historiography of work in this field. Using Allan Beveridge’s claims in 1993 about the relative lack of research on the history of psychiatry in Scotland, the paper reviews a range of contributions that have emerged since then, loosely distinguishing between ‘overviews’ – work addressing longer-term trends and broader periods and systems – and more detailed studies of particular ‘individuals and institutions’. There remains much still to do, but the present special issue signals what is currently being achieved, not least by a new generation of scholars in and on Scotland.
“A ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’? Poor Law, Lunacy Law and Scotland’s parochial asylums,” by Lauren Farquharson. The abstract reads,
Scotland’s parochial asylums are unfamiliar institutional spaces. Representing the concrete manifestation of the collision between two spheres of legislation, the Poor Law and the Lunacy Law, six such asylums were constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These sites expressed the enduring mandate of the Scottish Poor Law 1845 over the domain of ‘madness’. They were institutions whose very existence was fashioned at the directive of the local arm of the Poor Law, the parochial board, and they constituted a continuing ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’. Their origins and operation significantly subverted the intentions and objectives of the Lunacy Act 1857, the aim of which had been to institute a public district asylum network with nationwide coverage.