New JHBS: Mental Testing, Random Sampling, & More!

The Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in the issue explore the promotion of the scientific status of polling, Robert H. Lowie and the concept of culture, the work of Lawrence Krader, and work on mental associations prior to mental testing. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“THE RHETORICAL USE OF RANDOM SAMPLING: CRAFTING AND COMMUNICATING THE PUBLIC IMAGE OF POLLS AS A SCIENCE (1935–1948),” by DOMINIC LUSINCHI. The abstract reads,

The scientific pollsters (Archibald Crossley, George H. Gallup, and Elmo Roper) emerged onto the American news media scene in 1935. Much of what they did in the following years (1935–1948) was to promote both the political and scientific legitimacy of their enterprise. They sought to be recognized as the sole legitimate producers of public opinion. In this essay I examine the, mostly overlooked, rhetorical work deployed by the pollsters to publicize the scientific credentials of their polling activities, and the central role the concept of sampling has had in that pursuit. First, they distanced themselves from the failed straw poll by claiming that their sampling methodology based on quotas was informed by science. Second, although in practice they did not use random sampling, they relied on it rhetorically to derive the symbolic benefits of being associated with the “laws of probability.”

“ANTHROPOLOGY AT WAR: ROBERT H. LOWIE AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE CULTURE CONCEPT, 1904 to 1954,” by STEFAN BARGHEER. The abstract reads,

The concept of culture used in American anthropology has fundamentally transformed throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The changing resonance of the work of Robert H. Lowie offers revealing insights into this development. Lowie was part of the first generation of students of Franz Boas that highlighted the importance of individual variation for the study of both primitive and civilized societies. Yet, its initial resonance notwithstanding, the culture concept that prevailed in the discipline went into a different direction as the result of anthropologists’ involvement in the war effort. It was advanced by the second generation of Boas’ students such as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, who stressed the homogeneity of cultures. The contrast highlights the diversity of approaches available within anthropology in the first half of the century and the crucial impact of World War II in determining which of these possibilities became institutionalized in the decades after the war.

“BEYOND FIELDS, NETWORKS, AND FAME: LAWRENCE KRADER AS AN “OUTSIDER” INTELLECTUAL,” by SABINE SANDER, CYRIL LEVITT and NEIL MCMAUGHLIN. The abstract reads,

This paper investigates the intellectual biography of the American philosopher and anthropologist Lawrence Krader (1919–1998) as a contribution to the sociology of intellectuals and history of ideas. We trace Krader’s career trajectory to his intellectual self-concept, his scholarly and political worldviews, and his financial independence. Krader entertained a self-concept of a lone pioneer that led him to reject the competition for attention as highlighted in the current literature, dominated as it is by an emphasis on field, habitus, the accumulation and reproduction of power, and symbolic capital. His self-concept and his happier financial circumstance kept him relatively aloof from key intellectual networks and narrow institutional constraints. Our paper seeks to combine the new sociology of ideas with its focus on institutions and networks with traditional Wissenssoziologie that emphasized the role of class, status, and worldviews to explain the rise and fall of theories and thinkers.

“MENTAL ASSOCIATION: TESTING INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES BEFORE BINET,” by ANNETTE MÜLBERGER. The abstract reads,

This paper challenges the historiographical discontinuity established between earlier “anthropometric testing” and the arrival of “psychological testing” with Binet and Simon’s intelligence test in 1905. After some conceptual clarifications, it deals with “word association”: a kind of psychological experimentation and testing which became popular over the last two decades of the 19th century. First Galton’s exploration are presented, followed by experiments performed at the Leipzig laboratory by Trautscholdt, and then Cattell and Bryant’s collective testing. Additionally, I document the use of this method for the study of mental difference through the works of Münsterberg, Bourdon, Jastrow, Nevers and Calkins. The cases I present show how the method gave rise to various measurements and classifications. I conclude that the word association technique triggered reflection on mental “uniqueness”, gender traits and the influence of education, among other topics. Moreover, it prepared the terrain and anticipated some basic attractions and problems intelligence testing would later encounter.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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