Special Issue on Historical Cognition’s Dilemmas and Advances

A recently released special issue of Memory Studies is dedicated to the issue of historical cognition. Guest edited by Peter Hegarty and Olivier Klein the issue explores historical cognition’s dilemmas as well as recent advances in historical cognition. As Hegarty and Klein note in their open access introduction to the special issue “social psychology has always been a somewhat liminal disciplinary endeavor, which might provide a particular vantage point from which to consider the relationship between psychology’s individual subject and historical sense-making.” Their introduction further notes,

This Special Issue presents papers that draw together recent insights about historical cognition from several social psychologists. Early psychologists such as G. Stanley Hall, Wilhelm Wundt, and Sigmund Freud described histories of “civilization” to explain adult human rationality in European and American cultures of their times. Enthusiasm for experimental methods and individual research subjects quickly widened the gap between psychological and historical explanation. Frederick Bartlett’s (1932) investigations of serial memory aimed to understand how collective memories might be sustained in cultures, but they also signaled a parting of the ways between experimental psychology and social anthropology in Britain. Psychology has since often been viewed as wedding historical scholarship—for better or worse—to theories of the individual subject, as when psychologist Lewis Terman (1941) called on historians to look to IQ tests not texts as their raw materials, or when William Langer asked the American Historical Association in 1958 to integrate psychoanalysis into historical scholarship (Runyan, 1988). Fischer (1970) looked to psychologist David McClelland’s understanding of power motives to imagine a historian’s logic without obvious fallacies. The “subjects” that psychology has offered to seduce historians’ engagement illustrate the history of both disciplines, and position our attempt at recent advances in historical cognition here, which was supported by European Cooperation in Science and Technology through COST Action IS 1205: Social psychological dynamics of historical representations in the enlarged European Union.

The full special issue can be found here.

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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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