The History of Psychology, Dramatized

 

Production Concept Drawings by James Pickering

Lauren Slater‘s popular volume Opening Skinner’s Box is being interpreted for the stage by the British theatre troupe Improbable as part of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival.

Directed by Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, the piece recounts highlights of the field’s history as interpreted by Slater (and her detractors) by way of an interpretive bungee cord box. They include the author of the book as a character to guide further critical analysis of what the tales recounted in the volume, as well as the controversy that surrounded the takes in it, can tell us about the sociology and philosophy of science and scholarship more broadly.

According to the company’s website it is “inspired by the fascinating book by Lauren Slater, Opening Skinner’s Box is a whistle-stop tour of the scientific quest to make sense of what we are and who we are, told through ten great psychological experiments and the stories of the people who created them.”

The NYT ran an interesting piece by Eric Grode discussing the troupe’s directorial and productive decisions, and the ways in which their production processes intentionally resembled or related to the production of science.

A favourite quote from that article: “‘For me the box is about the scientific method,’ Mr. Simpson said. ‘You need to create something of a closed system so that it’s repeatable. But that’s kind of a useful pretense because nothing is a closed system. We have to remember that it’s not true,’ he continued, although ‘it’s O.K. to pretend that it’s true because you can learn a lot of useful stuff that way.'”

 

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