New Article: “Why psychology isn’t unified, and probably never will be”

The lead article in the September issue of the Review of General Psychology is a piece by AHP’s Christopher Green (right) on the persistent issue of unification in psychology. In “Why psychology isn’t unified, and probably never will be” Green argues that unification is unlikely to ever occur within the discipline. The abstract reads,

Over the past few decades, a large literature has emerged on the question of how one might unify all or most of psychology under a single, coherent, rigorous framework, in a manner similar to that which unified physics under Newton’s Laws, or biology under Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It is argued here that this is a highly unlikely scenario in psychology given the contingent and opportunistic character of the processes that brought its original topics together into a new discipline, and the nearly continuous institutional, social, and even political negotiating and horse-trading that has determined psychology’s “boundaries” in the 14 decades since. Psychology, as the field currently stands, does not have the intellectual coherence to be brought together by any set of principles that would enable its phenomena to be captured and explained as rigorous products of those principles. If there is a kind of unification in psychology’s future, it is more likely to be one that, paradoxically, sees it broken up into a number of large “super subdisciplines,” each of which exhibits more internal coherence than does the current sprawling and heterogeneous whole.

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Round Up: Calls for Conference Papers in Allied Fields

arts-building-goals-page‘Tis the academic season and many associations have officially released the dates and locations for their 2016 annual meetings and are making their accompanied calls for papers. Find here a handy collection of some conferences from various disciplines of interest to those who work on the history of psychology and related subjects:

  • 3 Societies Meeting: 8th Joint Conference of the BSHS, CSHPS, and HSS

University of Alberta ~ Edmonton, Canada

June 22-25, 2016

Proposal Submission Deadline: December 7, 2015 

“The theme of the meeting will by ‘Transitions’.  Although presenters are not confined to this theme, the Program Committee is seeking papers or sessions that reflect this theme and encourages participants to consider the broader scientific, scholarly and social implications associated with moments of transition in the sciences.

The Programme Committee welcomes proposals for sessions or individual papers based around the conference theme from researchers at all stages of their careers. Participation is in no way limited to members of the three organising societies, but there will be a discount for members.  Intending participants should also note that the usual HSS rules concerning presenting at successive conferences do not apply to this meeting.”

Complete details on the program and conference available here.

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Sept 26th Conference: “Psychiatry and Other Cultures: A Historical Perspective”

As part of Mental Health Week events in Reggio Emilia, Italy the Museum for the History of Psychiatry is holding a one-day conference on “Psychiatry and Other Cultures: A Historical Perspective.” The conference will take September 26th, 2015. The full program and registration details follow below.

“Psychiatry and other cultures: A historical perspective”
September 26th 2015
Museum for the history of psychiatry
Via Amendola, 2- Padiglione Lombroso
Reggio Emilia

H 8.30 Participants registration

H 9.00
Welcome address Gaddomaria Grassi

H 9.30
Opening session Luigi Benevelli

H 10.00
The “Devereux case” in the history of ethnopsychiatry, Alessandra Cerea

Transcultural psychiatry, decolonization and nationalism: Comparisans between Nigeria and India, Matthew M. Heaton

Beyond colonial psychiatry? The indigenization of psychiatry of British India, 1900-1940, Waltraud Ernst

Psychiatry in the ltalian colanies of Africa, Marianna Scarfone

H 12.00 Conference conclusion
Epistemology of Cultural Psychiatry, German E. Berrios

H 13.00
Questions and discussions

For info and registration send an e-mail at:

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Workshop: Photography, Representation, and Therapy

italian workshopOn September 24 the University of Milano-Bicocca (Polo Historical Archive (PAST)), in collaboration with the Historical Archive of Italian Psychology (The Center ASPI), is hosting a seminar titled Fotografia e scienze della mente tra storia, rappresentazione e terapia (Photography and Mind Sciences History: Representation and Therapy).

The workshop will include talks on the role of photography in the works of Jean-Martin Charcot; the photo archive from Cesare Lombroso’s museum of criminal anthropology; the photographic story of 40 years at the Italian asylum Uliano Lucas; and the use of photo-art therapy as a means of investigation and treatment of mental disorders.

The meeting has been organized by Daniela Scala and will be held from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at Villa Di Breme Oven, Via Martinelli 23 in Cinisello Balsamo (MI).

Click here for the full program.

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Call for Submissions: 2016 Cheiron Book Prize, Deadline Oct. 15

Cheiron, the International Society for the History of the Behavioral and Social Sciences, is currently calling for submissions for the 2016 Cheiron Book Prize. The deadline for submissions has been extended by two weeks; books must now be received by October 15, 2015. The prize will be awarded at 2016 Annual Meeting of Cheiron in Barcelona, Spain.  Full details follow below.

2016 Cheiron BOOK PRIZE

Beginning in 2004, Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences has awarded the Cheiron Book Prize biennially for an outstanding monograph in the history of the social/behavioral/human sciences. For more on Cheiron, including past Book Prize winners, see

Eligible works for the 2016 Cheiron Book Prize include original book-length historical studies, written in English and published in 2013, 2014, or 2015. Topical areas can include, but are not limited to, histories of psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, and social statistics. Works that are primarily history of medicine or history of education are not suitable entries, unless they are strongly tied to the history of the social/behavioral/human sciences. Edited collections or anthologies are not eligible, nor are conventional textbooks. Submissions will be judged on the basis of their scholarly character, depth of research, and the importance of their contribution to the field. Submissions can be made by publishers or authors.

Deadline: Two copies of each entry must be received by the committee chair (address below) by October 15, 2015. Books that are released later in 2015 can be eligible for the next competition; only printed books are eligible.

The author of the winning book will receive $500 plus up to $300 in travel expenses to attend the 2016 Annual Meeting of Cheiron in Barcelona, Spain, where the prize will be awarded. Remote-electronic presentation may be arranged, if possible, for a winner who cannot make the meeting. Announcement of the award will be widely circulated to relevant journals and organizations.

To enter the competition, two copies of each entry, clearly labeled “2016 Cheiron Book Prize,” must be mailed directly to the committee chair:
Phyllis Wentworth
27 Tanager Street
Arlington, MA  02476

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CfP: Joint BPS HPP Section & UK Critical Psychiatry Network Conference

The British Psychological Society‘s History & Philosophy of Psychology Section, together with the UK Critical Psychiatry Network, has issued a call for submissions to their Annual Conference. The conference will take place at Leeds Trinity University March 22nd and 23rd, 2016. Paper submissions are due December 18th 2015 and poster submissions January 17th 2016. The full call for papers follows below.

The British Psychological Society’s History & Philosophy of Psychology Section in collaboration with the UK Critical Psychiatry Network invites submissions for its 2016 Annual Conference to be held at Leeds Trinity University 22nd-23rd March.

The theme of the conference is the history of mental health, with keynote addresses from Professor Gail Hornstein (Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts) and Dr. Joanna Moncrieff (University College London). Papers are invited in related areas such as clinical psychology, psychiatry, service users, resistances to psychiatry, critical perspectives and interventions.

Who is the Conference intended for?
Academics (psychology, philosophy, medicine, history, sociology), clinicians (mental health), mental health service users/carers, postgraduate students.

The conference is open to independent and professional scholars in all relevant fields, not just Section or British Psychological Society members.


Oral and Poster Submissions will be invited for this Conference. Individual papers or symposia in any area dealing with conceptual and historical issues in Psychology, broadly defined, are invited. We particularly welcome submissions in related areas to the theme of the conference, such as clinical psychology, psychiatry, service users, resistances to psychiatry, critical perspectives and interventions.


Four bursaries are available to those working with mental health charitable organisations, service user groups or carers’ groups. If you wish to apply for a bursary please contact Dr. Alison Torn on


Leeds Trinity University
Brownberrie Lane
West Yorkshire
LS18 5HD

22/03/2016 – 09:3023/03/2016 – 16:30
Contact Information:

This event is organised by the British Psychological Society and administered by
KC Jones conference&events Ltd, Tel: +44 (0)1332 224507

Submissions are invited for the History and Philosophy of Psychology Annual Conference 2016.

If you are interested in presenting an oral presentation at the conference then please make your submission by 16:00 Friday 18th December 2015.

If you are interested in presenting a poster at the conference then please make your submission by 23:59 Sunday 17th January 2016.

Further submission guidelines can be found here.

All presenters are expected to register and pay in advance at the appropriate rate.

If you have any queries whilst making your submission please contact us via the event hotline on 01332 224507.

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“Associationism Without Associative Links: Thomas Brown and the Associationist Project”

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming article in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. The article, now available online, explores Scottish philosopher Thomas Brown’s associationism and recasts the associationist tradition in psychology. Full details follow below.

“Associationism without associative links: Thomas Brown and the associationist project,” by Mike Dacey. The abstract reads,

There are two roles that association played in 18th–19th century associationism. The first dominates modern understanding of the history of the concept: association is a causal link posited to explain why ideas come in the sequence they do. The second has been ignored: association is merely regularity in the trains of thought, and the target of explanation. The view of association as regularity arose in several forms throughout the tradition, but Thomas Brown (1778–1820) makes the distinction explicit. He argues that there is no associative link, and association is mere sequence. I trace this view of association through the tradition, and consider its implications: Brown’s views, in particular, motivate a rethinking of the associationist tradition in psychology. Associationism was a project united by a shared explanandum phenomenon, rather than a theory united by a shared theoretical posit.

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The Role of Heredity in George Combe’s Phrenological Work

The September issue of The British Journal for the History of Science includes a piece that may be of interest to AHP readers: “Phrenology, heredity and progress in George Combe’s Constitution of Man” by Bill Jenkins.  The abstract follows below.

The Constitution of Man by George Combe (1828) was probably the most influential phrenological work of the nineteenth century. It not only offered an exposition of the phrenological theory of the mind, but also presented Combe’s vision of universal human progress through the inheritance of acquired mental attributes. In the decades before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, the Constitution was probably the single most important vehicle for the dissemination of naturalistic progressivism in the English-speaking world. Although there is a significant literature on the social and cultural context of phrenology, the role of heredity in Combe’s thought has been less thoroughly explored, although both John van Wyhe and Victor L. Hilts have linked Combe’s views on heredity with the transformist theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. In this paper I examine the origin, nature and significance of his ideas and argue that Combe’s hereditarianism was not directly related to Lamarckian transformism but formed part of a wider discourse on heredity in the early nineteenth century.

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Hermann Helmholtz’s Graphical Recordings of the Speed of Nervous Stimulations

The September issue of Science in Context includes an article by Henning Schmidgen as part of a topical section on “Surfaces in the History of Modern Science: Inscribing, Separating, Enclosing.” In his piece Schmidgen explores the importance of Hermann Helmholtz’s graphic recordings of the speed of nerve transmissions. Full details follow below.

“Leviathan and the Myograph: Hermann Helmholtz’s “Second Note” on the Propagation Speed of Nervous Stimulations,” by Henning Schmidgen. The abstract reads,

In the winter of 1849–1850 in Königsberg, German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) conducted pioneering measurements concerning the propagation speed of stimulations in the living nerve. While recent historians of science have paid considerable attention to Helmholtz’s uses of the graphic method, in particular his construction of an instrument called “myographion,” this paper draws attention to the inscription surfaces that he used in effective ways for capturing and transmitting his findings. Against the background of recent archival findings, I show that Helmholtz used isinglass copies of his graphical recordings in order to communicate the basic principle of previous measurements to the academic public. As the correspondence with his Berlin-based friend and colleague Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896) and the subsequent development of the myographion make clear, these curves were not meant as measurements but functioned as demonstrations. In other words, Helmholtz’s curves did provide “images of precision” (Olesko and Holmes 1993) – but they were not precise images.

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Sad News, the Passing of Elizabeth Scarborough

scarboroough cheiron
L-R: Barbara Lusk, Christopher Green, Elizabeth Scarborough, and Larry Stern at Cheiron in Lawrence, KS, June 2015. Photograph courtesy of Barbara Lusk.

We are sad to report that Elizabeth Scarborough has passed away. Scarborough’s work on the history of women in psychology, together with collaborator Laurel Furumoto, was groundbreaking. Their book Untold Lives: The First Generation of American Women Psychologists remains a classic. A founding member of Cheiron, she was a fixture at the society’s annual meetings, never missing a year, including the most recent gathering in Lawrence, Kansas this past June. A towering figure in the field, Elizabeth was warm and welcoming to newcomers. She will be sorely missed.

Update: An official obituary for Elizabeth Scarborough is now available online.

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