Monthly Archives: February 2011

Physics in the Galtonian sciences of heredity

A forthcoming article in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, now available online through advance access, tackles the influence of physics on Galtonian science. The piece, authored by Gregory Radick (left), investigates physics’s influence on three Galtonians: Francis Galton himself, as well as W. F. R. Weldon and William Bateson. Title, author, and abstract follow below.

“Physics in the Galtonian sciences of heredity,” by Gregory Radick

Physics matters less than we once thought to the making of Mendel. But it matters more than we tend to recognize to the making of Mendelism. This paper charts the variety of ways in which diverse kinds of physics impinged upon the Galtonian tradition which formed Mendelism’s matrix. The work of three Galtonians in particular is considered: Francis Galton himself, W. F. R. Weldon and William Bateson. One aim is to suggest that tracking influence from physics can bring into focus important but now little-remembered flexibilities in the Galtonian tradition. Another is to show by example why generalizations about what happens when ‘physics’ meets ‘biology’ require caution. Even for a single research tradition in Britain in the decades around 1900, these categories were large, containing multitudes.

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Mind Changers: Tajfel’s Minimal Groups

The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Henri Tajfel’s Minimal Groups.

Tajfel’s (right) 1970s research with minimal groups aimed to uncover the minimal conditions necessary for prejudice to develop. For the purposes of the study, participants were divided into two groups based on largely irrelevant information. Although the boys assigned to each group did not know the other group members, had no contact with them, and no expectation of contact with other group members in the future they nonetheless began to identify with their group and to demonstrate a preference for the group’s other members. The findings from Tajfel’s minimal group studies were instrumental to his development, along with John Turner, of social identity theory (SIT), which holds that individuals identify with the groups to which they belong and that they have a tendency to advantage their ingroup.

The Mind Changers podcast on Tajfel’s minimal group research is described as follows:

Henri Tajfel’s interest in identity and group prejudice was sparked by his own experiences as a Polish Jew during the Second World War. As Professor of Social Psychology at Bristol university he developed a series of experiments known as the Minimal Group Studies, the purpose of which was to establish the minimum basis on which people could be made to identify with their own group and show bias against another.

Claudia Hammond re-visits the Minimal Group Studies of 1971, where Tajfel and his collaborators got boys at a comprehensive school to view abstract paintings and then assigned them to the ‘Klee’ group or the ‘Kandinsky’ group, apparently because of the preferences they declared, but in fact entirely at random. Even though the boys didn’t know who else was allocated to their group, they consistently awarded more points to their own group than to the other. So even though who belonged to which group was meaningless, they always tended to favour their own. Continue reading

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Titchener & Scientific Objectivity in Isis

The latest issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, features an article on the importance of scientific objectivity in Edward Bradford Titchener’s experimental psychology. The piece, authored by Christopher Green, extends the analysis of scientific objectivity made by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison in their recent book on the subject.

“Scientific Objectivity and E. B. Titchener’s Experimental Psychology,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s recent book on the history of scientific objectivity showed that, over the course of the nineteenth century, natural scientists of many stripes became intensely concerned with the issue of the distorting influence that their own subjectivities might be having on their observations and representations of nature. At very nearly the same time, experimental psychology arose specifically to investigate scientifically the nature and structure of subjective consciousness. Although Daston and Galison briefly discussed some basic psychological issues—especially the discovery of differences in human color perception—they did not strongly connect the widespread European concern with scientific objectivity to the rise of experimental psychology. This essay critically examines the theoretical and empirical activities of the experimental psychologist who most energetically strove to discover the structure of subjective conscious experience, Edward Bradford Titchener. Titchener’s efforts to produce an objective study of subjectivity reveal important tensions in early experimental psychology and also serve to situate experimental psychology at the center of an important intellectual struggle that was being waged across the natural sciences in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.

Pictured at the right is Titchener’s plan for his psychology laboratory at Cornell University (click to enlarge).

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Bibliography: History of Social Psychology

This post is written by Cathy Faye, Assistant Director, Archives of the History of Psychology, Center for the History of Psychology and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.

In the following list of resources I have tried to provide literature that discusses social psychology from both a historical and a theoretical standpoint and that reflects both psychological and sociological approaches to the discipline. Nonetheless, my own interests are centred largely on the disciplinary history of twentieth-century American social psychology and the historiography of social psychology. This list reflects that focus. I’ve also focused on sources that take a very broad view of the field, and have therefore omitted reference to specific topics or time periods in the history of social psychology. For those interested in a more topical consideration of social psychology, I highly recommend Roger Smith’s (1997) bibliographic essay on “The individual and the social” (see Smith, The Norton History of the Human Sciences, pp. 993-999). I have provided brief explanatory notes regarding each book-length work in the list below. With a few exceptions, most of these works are standard histories, while the articles provided are mainly critiques of these standard histories or theoretical considerations of the discipline. Read together, they provide a really interesting story not only of what social psychology has been, but also of the changing views regarding what it should be. The list of articles is brief, but the best articles are those in the special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences that I have cited.


Collier, G., Minton, H. L., & Reynolds, G. (1991). Currents of thought in American social psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. This book is a good place to start, since it highlights trends in the history of American social psychology. It does not, however, provide much detail or reflection.

Farr, R. M. (1996). The roots of modern social psychology, 1872-1954. Oxford: Blackwell. Farr provides a more reflective and critical history, along with a consideration of historiographical issues in writing the history of social psychology.

Greenwood, J. D. (2004). The disappearance of the social in American social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greenwood provides a critical, historical analysis of the individualistic nature of contemporary social psychology. He argues that early twentieth-century social psychologists had a rich conception of the social that has since dissipated. This book is particularly useful because it raises important questions regarding what constitutes a social versus an asocial psychology. Continue reading

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Bibliography: History of Women in Psychology

This post is written by Kelli Vaughn, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.

In 2005, I wrote an article that included the phrase “we must teach the teachers;” no where is this more true than the study of the history of women in psychology. Even today when the body of scholarship in this marginalized area is growing we still see that women are forgotten or placed in a box (or “special” chapter as the case may be). The goal of my research is to address the need to rid ourselves of these omissions and pedestals by the general inclusion of women’s history within texts and courses, where it has always belonged. The first step in doing that is, as I mentioned, to teach the teachers or in this case the future teachers that which they are often not provided in their initial training. The following is a list of basic resources to familiarize yourself with the names and work of the earliest female pioneers in the field as well as the struggles often incurred in the historical construction of women and gender. These resources are updated regularly on my own website.


Benjamin, L. T., Jr. (1980). Women in psychology: Biography and autobiography. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 5, 140-144.

Bohan, J. S. (1995). Re-placing women in psychology: Readings toward a more inclusive history. Second Edition. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Furumoto, L. (1984). Review of Women scientists in America: Struggles and strategies to 1940. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 20, 238-240. Continue reading

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New Issue: History of Psychiatry

The March 2011 issue of History of Psychiatry has just been released online. Included in this issue is an article on the mental health field in the United States post-WWII by Andrew Scull (left), as well as articles on the development of psychiatry in Latvia, the role of patient dress in a nineteenth century English lunatic asylum, and the influence of findings in pediatric medicine on John Bowlby’s development of the concept of ‘maternal deprivation’. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The mental health sector and the social sciences in post-World War II USA. Part 1: Total war and its aftermath,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,

This paper examines the impact of World War II and its aftermath on the mental health sector, and traces the resulting transformations in US psychiatry and psychology. Focusing on the years between 1940 and 1970, it analyses the growing federal role in funding training and research in the mental health sector, the dominance of psychoanalysis within psychiatry in these years, and the parallel changes that occurred in both academic and clinical psychology.

“From social pathologies to individual psyches: Psychiatry navigating socio-political currents in 20th-century Latvia,” by Agita Lûse. The abstract reads,

The paper explores psychiatry’s responses to the twentieth-century socio-political currents in Latvia by focusing on social objectives, clinical ideologies, and institutional contexts of Soviet mental health care. The tradition of German biological psychiatry in which Baltic psychiatrists had been trained blended well with the materialistic monism of Soviet psychoneurology. Continue reading

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Mind Changers: Marshmallow Study Podcast

The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Study. Mischel (left), currently Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology at Columbia University, began his now famous “marshmallow experiments” in the late 1960s and 1970s. In these experiments children were offered a marshmallow or, if they would wait, two marshmallows. Whether a child could resist eating the marshmallow, and the length of time over which they could delay gratification were then recorded. These findings were then analyzed in relation to the child’s future success. The findings from Mischel’s marshmallow experiments have been influential with respect to decision-making, self-control, and “willpower” research. The Mind Changers podcast on Mischel’s research is described as follows:

The psychologist Walter Mischel made his name with his ground-breaking book, Personality and Assessment, in 1968. He followed up with a classic experiment which is still running today.

Seeking to understand how the impulsive behaviour of his own three daughters at age 3 became increasingly regulated and planned by age 4 or 5, Mischel set up his experiment in delayed gratification at the Bing Nursery at Stanford University. Over 6 years he asked more than 300 4-year-olds to decide whether to have one marshmallow right now, or wait and get two, and he examined the cognitive processes which enabled some children to wait.

Hearing by chance how these 4-year olds were getting on in high school years later, Mischel realized that whether or not they’d been able to resist eating one marshmallow in order to get two was now showing a strong correlation with their achievements at school, and even with whether or not they were over-weight. Following the same cohort at 10-year intervals, he’s shown that those who were able to hang on for two marshmallow were less likely to drop out of college, use cocaine, or even go to prison. Continue reading

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New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The February 2011 issue of History of the Human Sciences has been released online. Included in this issue are six all new articles, a review symposium, and a book review of Roderick Buchanan’s new book, Playing with Fire: The Controversial Career of Hans J. Eysenck. Among the topics addressed in these articles are the placebo effect in psychotherapy, the use of ‘deprivation’ in American psychiatric discourse, and the role of case studies in psychoanalysis. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“From medicine to psychotherapy: The placebo effect,” by Stewart Justman. The abstract reads,

If placebos have been squeezed out of medicine to the point where their official place is in clinical trials designed to identify their own confounding effect, the placebo effect nevertheless thrives in psychotherapy. Not only does psychotherapy dispose of placebo effects that are less available to medicine as it becomes increasingly technological and preoccupied with body parts, but factors of the sort inhibiting the use of placebos in medicine have no equivalent in psychology. Medicine today is disturbed by the placebo effect in a way psychotherapy is not. Psychotherapy does not have to grapple with such a disconcerting paradox as successful sham surgery, and unlike those physicians who once pretended to treat the patient’s body while actually attempting to treat the mind, the psychotherapist can treat the mind in all frankness. Perhaps it is because psychotherapy is less burdened by doubts about the placebo effect that it was able to come to its aid when it was orphaned by medicine. It is vain to expect something with so long a history as the placebo effect to disappear from the practices of healing. Continue reading

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Bibliography: History of Functionalism

This post is written by Christopher Green, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.

For the past few years I have been working on the American school of psychology that was known as Functionalism. Functionalism was prominent from around 1890 to around 1920, though its roots go back into the 1870s and, in some ways, it carries forward to the present day. I have made two video documentaries about it (,, and I had an article in the February 2009 issue of American Psychologist (as part of their Darwin bicentennial celebration). I will also have a related article on Titchener and objectivity in the December 2010 issue of Isis. One of the reasons I became interested in this topic was the relative lack of good historical work on it, but I have put together a list of the books and papers that I found to be most helpful in understanding it. Most of it is primary source, but I have included some secondary material as well (some of which has a somewhat different focus — e.g., pragmatism, intelligence testing, applied psychology, behaviorism — but still bears on Functionalism in important ways).

Angell, James R. (1903). The relation of structural and functional psychology to philosophy. Decennial publications of the University of Chicago (First Series, Vol. 3, pp. 55-73).

Angell, James Rowland. (1907). The province of functional psychology. Psychological Review, 14, 61-91.

Angell, James Rowland & Moore, Addison W. (1896). Studies from the psychological laboratory of the University of Chicago: 1. Reaction-Time: A study in attention and habit. Psychological Review, 3, 245-258.

Backe, Andrew. (2001). John Dewey and early Chicago functionalism. History of Psychology, 4, 323-340.

Baldwin, James Mark. (1895b). Mental development in the child and race. New York: Macmillan.

Baldwin, James Mark. (1896a). A new factor in evolution. American Naturalist, 30, 441-451, 536-553. Continue reading

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