New issue of HoP featuring digital history, Brazilian psychology at the Belo Horizonte Teachers College, and much more!

Vol 18
February  2015

The first issue of the 18th volume of History of Psychology is now available (here). Contents include a digital networking of early articles in the journal Psychological Review, an account of Alfred Binet’s subject Jacques Inaudi, the relation between experimental psychology and educational training in early 20th century Brazil, and more. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.


“The ‘textbook Gibson’: The assimilation of dissidence,” by Alan Costall and Paul Morris. The abstract reads:

We examine how the textbooks have dealt with one of psychology’s most eminent dissidents, James Gibson (1904–1979). Our review of more than a hundred textbooks, dating from the 1950s to the present, reveals fundamental and systematic misrepresentations of Gibson. Although Gibson continues to figure in most of the textbooks, his work is routinely assimilated to theoretical positions he emphatically rejected: cue theory, stimulus-response psychology, and nativism. As Gibson’s one-time colleague, Ulric Neisser, pointed out, psychologists are especially prone to trying to understand new proposals “by mapping it on to some existing scheme,” and warned that when “an idea is really new, that strategy fails” (Neisser, 1990, p. 749). The “Textbook Gibson” is an example of such a failure, and perhaps also of the more general importance of assimilation—“shadow history”—within the actual history of psychology.


“Searching for the structure of early American psychology: Networking Psychological Review, 1894-1908,” by (our very own) Christopher D. Green, Ingo Feinerer, and Jeremy T. Burman. The abstract reads as follows:

This study investigated the intellectual structure of early American psychology by generating 3 networks that collectively included every substantive article published in Psychological Review during the 15-year period from the journal’s start in 1894 until 1908. The networks were laid out so that articles with strongly correlated vocabularies were positioned close to each other spatially. Then, we identified distinct research communities by locating and interpreting article clusters within the networks. We found that, from the first 5-year time block to the second, psychological specialties rapidly differentiated themselves from each other. Between the second and third 5-year time blocks, however, the number of specialties shrunk. We discuss the degree to which this shift may have been attributable either to a change in the journal’s editorship in 1904, or to a broader crisis of confidence, beginning that same year, in the use of “consciousness” as the discipline’s defining concept.


“The emergence of the disorganized/disoriented (D) attachment classification, 1979–1982,” by Robbie Duschinsky. Here is the abstract:

This article examines the emergence of the concept of infant disorganized/disoriented attachment, drawing on published and archival texts and interviews. Since this new classification was put forward by Main and Solomon (1986), “disorganized/disoriented attachment” has become an important concept in clinical and social intervention contexts. Yet whereas Main and Solomon have often been misunderstood to have introduced disorganized/disoriented attachment in order to produce an exhaustive, categorical system of infant classifications, this article will suggest quite a different account. Attention will be paid to the emergence of disorganized attachment as a classification out of results and reflections in the late 1970s regarding the limits of an alarmed infant’s capacities for maintaining behavioral and attentional avoidance. In contrasting this interpretation of Main and Solomon’s work with current, widespread misunderstandings, the article will critically examine tendencies that have supported the reification and misapplication of the concept of disorganized/disoriented attachment.


“Hearing the inaudible experimental subject: Echoes of Inaudi, Binet’s calculating prodigy,” by Jeremy Trevelyn Burman, Alessandro Guida, and Serge Nicholas. The abstract reads:

Historians of psychology have traditionally focused on ideas (intellectual history), the “great men” who produced them (an older style of biography sometimes called “hagiography”), or—more recently—the influence of the contexts that shaped them (social and cultural history). A still more recent approach is to bring in those invisible subjects whose experiences have previously been ignored, most often through histories focusing on the discipline’s forgotten women or minority contributors: “history from below” (subaltern history). A variation on this was popularized in the history of psychiatry (viz., “patient voices”) and has since been carried into the history of psychology (e.g., “feminist voices”). The latest innovation is to focus on what Jill Morawski has referred to as “the discipline’s experimental subjects.” (These are the collective done-to, rather than the doers, of psychological research.) This history is one of those: an attempt to look behind Alfred Binet to find an influence that shaped his work. The purpose is thus to “give voice” to this unheard-from subject—the until-now inaudible Jacques Inaudi (including excerpts from newspaper interviews and translations from his recently discovered autobiography)—and at the same time advance Morawski’s historiographical project. We then get a glimpse of what it was like to be a child prodigy in France in the 1880s, as well as what securing scientific patrons could do for one’s prospects. By focusing specifically on Binet’s unheard-from experimental subject, we are also afforded new perspectives of the history of late-19th century French psychology (reflecting another emerging interest, “international history”), and we gain new insights into the prehistory of contemporary Binet-style intelligence testing.


“The role of a laboratory of experimental psychology in the Brazilian education renewal of the 1930s,” by Sérgio Dias Cirino, and Rodrigo Lopes Miranda. The abstract reads:

In this article, we present the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology at the Belo Horizonte Teachers College (Escola de Aperfeiçoamento de Professores de Belo Horizonte) during its early years (1929–1932). The Laboratory is examined in the context of the prevailing public discourse on primary education and its renewal in Brazil. To achieve our goal, we describe the Belo Horizonte Teachers College and its Laboratory’s director, tools, and functions. In presenting these aspects, we highlight the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology as an important place that promoted contact with psychological instruments, techniques, and theories. It contributed to the training of teachers and produced psychological knowledge for elementary education in Brazil.


“Seeking a reading machine for the blind and discovering the speech code,” by Donald Shankweiler and Carol A. Fowler. The abstract is as follows:

A machine that can read printed material to the blind became a priority at the end of World War II with the appointment of a U.S. Government committee to instigate research on sensory aids to improve the lot of blinded veterans. The committee chose Haskins Laboratories to lead a multisite research program. Initially, Haskins researchers overestimated the capacities of users to learn an acoustic code based on the letters of a text, resulting in unsuitable designs. Progress was slow because the researchers clung to a mistaken view that speech is a sound alphabet and because of persisting gaps in man-machine technology. The tortuous route to a practical reading machine transformed the scientific understanding of speech perception and reading at Haskins Labs and elsewhere, leading to novel lines of basic research and new technologies. Research at Haskins Laboratories made valuable contributions in clarifying the physical basis of speech. Researchers recognized that coarticulatory overlap eliminated the possibility of alphabet-like discrete acoustic segments in speech. This work advanced the study of speech perception and contributed to our understanding of the relation of speech perception to production. Basic findings on speech enabled the development of speech synthesis, part science and part technology, essential for development of a reading machine, which has found many applications. Findings on the nature of speech further stimulated a new understanding of word recognition in reading across languages and scripts and contributed to our understanding of reading development and reading disabilities.


“Society for the History of Psychology news,” by Elissa Rodkey (Ed).

Presents two brief news items. The first item discusses the archives of Roger Sperry, 1981 Nobel Prize Laureate. The note provides information as to the materials archived, their location, and contact archivist. The second item discusses the passing of José Luis Pinillos Díaz (1919–2013), a founder of Spanish psychology.

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