New Isis: Experimenters & Subjects, & Bounded Rationality

A new issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. The issue includes an article by Jill Morawski (right) on the relationship between experimenters and subjects in postwar American psychology. A special focus section on “Bounded Rationality and the History of Science” also includes a couple of pieces that tackle the history of psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Epistemological Dizziness in the Psychology Laboratory: Lively Subjects, Anxious Experimenters, and Experimental Relations, 1950–1970,” by Jill Morawski. The abstract reads,

Since the demise of introspective techniques in the early twentieth century, experimental psychology has largely assumed an administrative arrangement between experimenters and subjects wherein subjects respond to experimenters’ instructions and experimenters meticulously constrain that relationship through experimental controls. During the postwar era this standard arrangement came to be questioned, initiating reflections that resonated with Cold War anxieties about the nature of the subjects and the experimenters alike. Albeit relatively short lived, these interrogations of laboratory relationships gave rise to unconventional testimonies and critiques of experimental method and epistemology. Researchers voiced serious concerns about the honesty and normality of subjects, the politics of the laboratory, and their own experimental conduct. Their reflective commentaries record the intimacy of subject and experimenter relations and the plentiful cultural materials that constituted the experimental situation, revealing the permeable boundaries between laboratory and everyday life.

“Hypothesis Bound: Trial and Error in the Nineteenth Century,” by Henry M. Cowles. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Isis: Experimenters & Subjects, & Bounded Rationality

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BBC’s History of the Future series & seeing the brain

The world’s first CT scanner (1971), at Science Museum London.

BBC 4’s series History of the Future “uses the fascinating objects in the Science Museum in London to chart how our understanding of ourselves and our technology has changed over time.”  Associated blogger Melissa Hogenbloom posted a piece titled “A brief history of our desire to peer into the brain,” which surveys methods from phrenology to EEG, CT Scan and fMRI. Included are video clips of Science Museum curator Katie Dabin showing Hogenbloom their relevant collection, including ceramic phrenological heads and early electroencephalography technology.

That post, with the films of Dabin’s explanations, can be found here.


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CfP: CPA History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section

The History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section of the Canadian Psychological Association has issued a call for papers for their June 2016 meeting. Submissions are due December 1st. The full call for papers follows below.

Call for Proposals – History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section
CPA Convention, 2016
Victoria, BC, June 9-11

The call for submissions for the Canadian Psychological Association’s 77th Annual Convention (Thursday, June 9th to Saturday, June 11th, 2016) in Victoria, BC, has gone out. The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2015.  See:

The History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section is seeking symposia, individual oral paper presentations, theory reviews, and conversation session submissions.

This year we are encouraging symposium submissions as it will allow us to better manage time restrictions and group presentations within the parameters of CPA’s programming guidelines.

We are asking that all proposals be submitted through both CPA’s online system and to HPP’s Program Co-Chairs; we hope to avoid some of the issues encountered in previous years when only the CPA online system has been used. Please submit your proposals to one of the Program Chairs – Patric Plesa ( or Wanda Power ( – as well as through the CPA website listed above.

We hope to put together a dynamic program for our Section, and we look forward to receiving your submissions. We have also prepared a “submission guideline” as the CPA submission portal has changed this year. We apologize for any cross-posting.

With best wishes,
Patric Plesa & Wanda Power
Program Co-Chairs CPA-HPP

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Human Subjects & Migration and Madness in Social History of Medicine

The November 2015 issue of Social History of Medicine includes several pieces of interest to AHP readers. Articles in this issue include ones that explore the modern construction of human subjects, madness during voyages to New Zealand during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the use of case records of early 20th century Eastern European emigrants as sources. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Migration and Madness at Sea: The Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-century Voyage to New Zealand,” by Angela McCarthy.

This article draws on a range of sources—including surgeon superintendents’ reports as well as asylum records—to examine the mental health of migrants and crew on the voyage to New Zealand during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It examines key themes such as relations between crew and passengers, the emotional dimensions of insanity, attempts to export the insane, and collaboration between doctors and relatives in adhering to mental health legislation in order to repatriate the insane, all of which facilitate assessment of wider debates about medical authority. While surgeon superintendents documented actions rather than causes for unusual behaviour, asylum doctors and family members were more likely to attempt to explain mental disturbance at sea. Additionally, this article examines the beliefs of medical officials who paradoxically argued that the voyage was beneficial, rather than detrimental, to health.

“Making up ‘Vulnerable’ People: Human Subjects and the Subjective Experience of Medical Experiment,” by Nancy D. Campbell and Laura Stark.

This paper explores how ‘the human subject’ was figured historically and expands the interpretive range available to historians for understanding the subjective experiences of people who have served in medical experiments in the past. We compare LSD studies on healthy ‘volunteers’ conducted in two experimental settings in the 1950s: the US National Institutes of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Addiction Research Center (ARC) Lexington, Kentucky and the NIH Clinical Center (NIHCC) in Bethesda, Maryland. Sources consist of oral history interviews, transcripts and archival documents including photographs and records. Political priorities and historical contingencies relevant for crystalising the expert domain of modern bioethics, especially the 1960s US Civil Rights movement, were central for producing the ‘vulnerability’ attributed to the modern figure of the ‘human subject’. Using Ian Hacking’s historical ontology approach, we suggest how this figure of the ‘vulnerable human subject’ affected historical actors’ self-understandings while foreclosing paths of historical inquiry and interpretation.

“‘Insane emigrants’ in transit. Psychiatric Patients’ Files as a Source for the History of Return Migration, c. 1910,” by Gemma Blok. Continue reading Human Subjects & Migration and Madness in Social History of Medicine

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BPS’s The Psychologist: “Psychology and the Great War, 1914–1918”

The November 2015 issue of The Psychologist includes a piece on “Psychology and the Great War, 1914–1918.” Written by Ben Shepard, the article explores psychology’s various involvements in World War One. As Shepard notes,

Many of those involved in the war, on both sides of the Atlantic, were pupils of Wundt. Indeed, the academic discipline of psychology in 1914 was itself essentially a German invention. Frederic Bartlett later recalled that the course taught at Cambridge before the war ‘was Germans, Germans all the way, and if we were going to stick to psychology then to Germany sooner or later we must all surely go’. Bartlett never went to Germany himself, but nearly everyone else did; many had fond memories of the ‘unstinted kindness and precious friendship’ of very many Germans and found it uncomfortable to be at war with them. Amongst the conflict-driven dreams Rivers recorded at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917 was one in which he found himself back in the Heidelberg laboratory where he had worked two decades before. But divided loyalties were most powerfully played out at Harvard, where Hugo Münsterberg, the pioneer of applied psychology and a deeply patriotic German, found himself surrounded by anglophile New Englanders. Instead of returning to Germany, Münsterberg stood his ground but the strain took its toll, and in December 1916, while lecturing at Barnard College, he collapsed, fell from the podium and died.

The full piece can be read online here.

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New Book: Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences

AHP readers may be interested in a new open access monograph, Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences. The book is a product of the research collective Hubbub, the inaugural resident of the Wellcome Collection’s interdisciplinary research space The Hub. Written by Felicity Callard and Des Fitzgerald, Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences

offers a provocative account of interdisciplinary research across the neurosciences, social sciences and humanities. Setting itself against standard accounts of interdisciplinary ‘integration,’ and rooting itself in the authors’ own experiences, the book establishes a radical agenda for collaboration across these disciplines. Rethinking Interdisciplinarity does not merely advocate interdisciplinary research, but attends to the hitherto tacit pragmatics, affects, power dynamics, and spatial logics in which that research is enfolded. Understanding the complex relationships between brains, minds, and environments requires a delicate, playful and genuinely experimental interdisciplinarity, and this book shows us how it can be done.

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New Issue of Revista de Historia de la Psychología

A new issue of Revista de Historia de la Psychología is now available online. Articles in this issue explore the work of Charles Richet (right), Gustav Ichheiser, José Ingenieros, and Rudolf Allers, as well as the history of pedology in Russia and Bulgaria. Titles, authors, and English-language abstracts follow below.

“El concepto de inteligencia inconsciente en la obra de Charles Richet (1850-1935),” by Manuel Sánchez de Miguel, Carlos Mª Alcover, and Izarne Lizaso. The abstract reads,

The phenomenon known as spiritualism reached its maximum popularity and expansion in the period from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The French physician and physiologist Charles Richet, Nobel Prize in physiology (1913) represents the attempt to consolidate a new experimental science known as metaphysics dedicated to the study of unknown phenomena as an alternative to spiritualistic theories. This multifaceted researcher advocates the rigorous study of the strange phenomena based on their knowledge of physiological psychology, a middle course of study located between the spiritualist called scientific medicine and scientific psychology. This paper analyses his biography and his work, the controversies raised by spiritualist current and orthodox medicine on the phenomenon of mediums, linking to the historical study of the genesis and evolution of the concept proposed by Richet, the unconscious intelligence, misunderstood term and relegated to historical oblivion.

“No hay nada malo en ser diferente: notas sobre la psicología crítica de Gustav Ichheiser,” by Eduardo Crespo. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue of Revista de Historia de la Psychología

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Oct 29th BPS/UCL Hist Psych Disciplines Talk: “Getting on in Gotham: Preventing Mental Illness in New York City, 1945-1980”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in their Autumn seminar series. On Thursday October 29th Matthew Smith (right), of the University of Strathclyde, will be speaking on “Getting on in Gotham: Preventing Mental Illness in New York City, 1945-1980.” Full details can be found here. The abstract reads,

In 1962, the authors of the Mental Health in the Metropolis: The Midtown Manhattan Project made a startling claim: fewer than 1 in 5 (18.5%) Manhattanites were in good mental health. Although a third of the population was believed to suffer only from mild symptoms, a quarter were believed to be incapacitated by their mental health problems. Such figures merely underlined the argument made by many American psychiatrists following the Second World War: that mental illness was rife in American society and that the only way to stop its spread was to undertake preventive action. Responding positively to this rhetoric was President Kennedy who a year later passed the Community Mental Health Act, which had prevention at its core. By 1980, however, preventive psychiatry was on the wane, to be eclipsed by psychopharmacology. This paper examines how preventive approaches to mental illness were conceptualised and introduced in New York City, paying particular attention to the perceived relationship between the urban environment and mental health.


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New Articles: Psychosomatic Illness, Crania Americana, & Hypnotism

A number of new articles of interest to AHP readers are now in print. Relevant articles from the most recent issues of Subjectivity, the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, and History of Science are listed below.


Psychosomatic feelings as memory practices,” by Elena Trivelli. The abstract reads,

I here explore the manifestation of problematic memories on a psychosomatic level, with a focus on the work of psychiatrist Franco Basaglia (1924–1980) in the Italian city of Gorizia. As Basaglia transformed the local asylum into a Therapeutic Community during the 1960s, the city became a nationally acclaimed pilot for alternative psychiatry. After he left in 1968, Gorizia’s characterisation in the media shifted from being a radical experiment to a failed revolution, and the city has since held an ambiguous relationship with this heritage. Using the data gathered through an ethnography conducted between 2011 and 2012, I suggest that the controversial vicissitudes of ‘the Basaglia experience’ and the attempts to erase their emotional weight in Gorizia have left traces that I frame as embodied remembering practices. In discussing psychosomatic expressions of social discomfort, I formulate a body that is both somatic and psychological, contributing to a field at the intersection between psychoanalysis, trauma and affect studies.

Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

Panic and Culture: Hysterike Pnix in the Ancient Greek World,” by Susan P. Mattern. The abstract reads,

Starting perhaps in the second century BCE, and with Hippocratic precedent, ancient medical writers described a condition they called hysterike pnix or “uterine suffocation.” This paper argues that uterine suffocation was, in modern terms, a functional somatic syndrome characterized by chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Transcultural psychiatrists have identified and described a number of similar panic-type syndromes in modern populations, and a plausible theory of how they work has been advanced. These insights, applied to the ancient disease of hysterike pnix, demystify the condition and illuminate the experience of the women who suffered from it.

History of Science

The fear of simulation: Scientific authority in late 19th-century French disputes over hypnotism,” by Kim M. Hajek. The abstract reads,

This article interrogates the way/s in which rival schools studying hypnotism in late 19th-century France framed what counts as valid evidence for the purposes of science. Concern over the scientific reality of results is particularly situated in the notion of simulation (the faking of results); the respective approaches to simulation of the Salpêtrière and Nancy schools are analysed through close reading of key texts: Binet and Féré for the Salpêtrière, and Bernheim for Nancy. The article reveals a striking divergence between their scientific frames, which helps account for the bitterness of the schools’ disputes. It then explores Bernheim’s construction of scientific authority in more detail, for insights into the messiness entailed by theorizing hypnotism in psychical terms, while also attempting to retain scientific legitimacy. Indicative of this messiness, it is argued, is the way in which Bernheim’s (apparently inconsistent) approach draws on multiple epistemic frames.

National types: The transatlantic publication and reception of Crania Americana (1839),” by James Poskett. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Articles: Psychosomatic Illness, Crania Americana, & Hypnotism

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New Book: Localization and Its Discontents

Now available from the University of Chicago Press is a book that may be of interest to AHP’s readers: Katja Guenther’s Localization and Its Discontents: A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines. The book is described as follows,

Psychoanalysis and neurological medicine have promoted contrasting and seemingly irreconcilable notions of the modern self. Since Freud, psychoanalysts have relied on the spoken word in a therapeutic practice that has revolutionized our understanding of the mind. Neurologists and neurosurgeons, meanwhile, have used material apparatus—the scalpel, the electrode—to probe the workings of the nervous system, and in so doing have radically reshaped our understanding of the brain. Both operate in vastly different institutional and cultural contexts.

Given these differences, it is remarkable that both fields found resources for their development in the same tradition of late nineteenth-century German medicine: neuropsychiatry. In Localization and Its Discontents, Katja Guenther investigates the significance of this common history, drawing on extensive archival research in seven countries, institutional analysis, and close examination of the practical conditions of scientific and clinical work. Her remarkable accomplishment not only reframes the history of psychoanalysis and the neuro disciplines, but also offers us new ways of thinking about their future.

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