The Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of V. M. Bekhterev, patient experiences of “subconscious conflict” in prewar America, the history of the Rorschach test in Britain, and the mid-twentieth century relationship between the Carnegie Corporation and the Social Science Research Council. Full titles, authors and abstracts follow below.
“V. M. BEKHTEREV IN RUSSIAN CHILD SCIENCE, 1900S–1920S: “OBJECTIVE PSYCHOLOGY”/“REFLEXOLOGY” AS A SCIENTIFIC MOVEMENT,” by ANDY BYFORD. The abstract reads,
In the early 20th century the child population became a major focus of scientific, professional and public interest. This led to the crystallization of a dynamic field of child science, encompassing developmental and educational psychology, child psychiatry and special education, school hygiene and mental testing, juvenile criminology and the anthropology of childhood. This article discusses the role played in child science by the eminent Russian neurologist and psychiatrist Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev. The latter’s name is associated with a distinctive program for transforming the human sciences in general and psychology in particular that he in the 1900s labelled “objective psychology” and from the 1910s renamed “reflexology.” The article examines the equivocal place that Bekhterev’s “objective psychology” and “reflexology” occupied in Russian/Soviet child science in the first three decades of the 20th century. While Bekhterev’s prominence in this field is beyond doubt, analysis shows that “objective psychology” and “reflexology” had much less success in mobilizing support within it than certain other movements in this arena (for example, “experimental pedagogy” in the pre-revolutionary era); it also found it difficult to compete with the variety of rival programs that arose within Soviet “pedology” during the 1920s. However, this article also demonstrates that the study of child development played a pivotal role in Bekhterev’s program for the transformation of the human sciences: it was especially important to his efforts to ground in empirical phenomena and in concrete research practices a new ontology of the psychological, which, the article argues, underpinned “objective psychology”/“reflexology” as a transformative scientific movement.
As TheNew York Times reports, Winston Mosesley has died in prison at the age of 81. Mosesley infamously raped and murdered Kitty Genovese in New York City in 1964. The story that 38 bystanders stood by and did nothing as Genovese pled for help during the attack inspired the development of the “bystander effect” within psychology, which describes the diffusion of responsibility that occurs when events are witnessed by multiple individuals. That 38 bystanders in Genovese’s case witnessed the attack and did not intervene, however, has been discredited. (For more on the Genovese case see here.) The full New York Times piece, which describes the Genovese case and its historical significance, can be read online here.
““The Glamour of Arabic Numbers”: Pliny Earle’s Challenge to Nineteenth-Century Psychiatry,” by Lawrence Goodheart. The abstract reads,
A well-established interpretation associates the nineteenth-century psychiatrist Pliny Earle’s deflation of high cure rates for insanity with the onset of a persistent malaise in patient treatment and public health policy during the Gilded Age. This essay comes not to praise Earle but to correct and clarify interpretations, however well intentioned, that are incomplete and inaccurate. Several points are made: the overwhelming influence of antebellum enthusiasm on astonishing therapeutic claims; the interrogation of high “recovery” rates begun decades before Earle’s ultimate provocation; and, however disruptive, the heuristically essential contribution of Earle’s challenge to furthering a meaningful model of mental disorder. In spite of the impression created by existing historiography, Earle, a principled Quaker, remained committed to “moral treatment.”
“Constitutional Therapy and Clinical Racial Hygiene in Weimar and Nazi Germany,” by Michael Hau. The abstract reads,
The paper examines the history of constitutional therapy in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Focusing on Walther Jaensch’s “Institute for Constitutional Research” at the Charité in Berlin, it shows how an entrepreneurial scientist successfully negotiated the changing social and political landscape of two very different political regimes and mobilized considerable public and private resources for his projects. During the Weimar period, his work received funding from various state agencies as well as the Rockefeller foundation, because it fit well with contemporary approaches in public hygiene and social medicine that emphasized the need to restore the physical and mental health of children and youths. Jaensch successfully positioned himself as a researcher on the verge of developing new therapies for feeble-minded people, who threatened to become an intolerable burden on the Weimar welfare state. During the Nazi period, he successfully reinvented himself as a racial hygienist by convincing influential medical leaders that his ideas were a valuable complement to the negative eugenics of Nazi bio-politics. “Constitutional therapy,” he claimed, could turn genetically healthy people with “inhibited mental development” (geistigen Entwicklungshemmungen) into fully productive citizens and therefore made a valuable contribution to Nazi performance medicine (Leistungsmedizin) with its emphasis on productivity.
The Journal Psychology and Health is an electronic journal published every six months that aims to disseminate and to promote scientific knowledge through the dialogue between Psychology and other disciplines of Health (e.g., Nursing, Medicine, Physiotherapy, Social Services, etc.), connecting their scientific debates. Its goal is to disseminate, for free, local and international contributions from research and theoretical considerations for the development of Psychology as a discipline and a professional practice of reference in the field of Health and Culture.
The Journal Psychology and Health is published by the Graduate Program in Psychology at the Universidade Cato?lica Dom Bosco (PMPUCDB). It is currently indexed to the LATINDEX and PePSIC, and in the submission process to RedALyC.
The special issue “Dialogue: History, Psychology, Health” is a PMPUCDB partnership with Iberoamerican Network of Researchers in the History of Psychology (RIPeHP) and the Brazilian Society for the History of Psychology (SBHP). This number is open to original contributions of researchers whose research address historical discussions about the connections between Psychology and Health. Thefore, manuscripts related to the history of various fields of Psychology, such as health psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, mental health, hygienism, etc. are estimated. We also expect manuscripts stressing relations between Psychology and other areas – e.g., Medicine, Nursing, Social Work, Biology, Neuroscience, Special Education and related areas).
Collaborations that highlight disciplinary, social, cultural, political or economical aspects in the history of Pychology and psychological knowledge in the Health are expected. Contributions will be accepted in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
This is a non-binding budget recommendation, and is one of those things that representatives hostile to the NEH, etc. put out year after year…. Although urgency seems less real than apparent, now is still a good time to send a strong message to Congress that you support NEH.
Here is the action alert they created to make for easy emailing to your congress person in support of the Endowment. Please participate!
the most influential example of “pathological togetherness” lifted from the animal kingdom was not a bird. It was a rodent and, in particular, the laboratory experiments performed on rats in the 1960s by ethologist John B. Calhoun at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Calhoun built a “rat city” in which everything a rat could need was provided, except space. The result was a population explosion followed by pathological overcrowding, then extinction. Well before the rats reached the maximum possible density predicted by Calhoun, however, they began to display a range of “deviant” behaviours: mothers neglected their young; dominant males became unusually aggressive; subordinates withdrew psychologically; others became hypersexual; the living cannibalized the dead. Calhoun’s “rat utopia” became a living hell.
Calhoun published the early results of his experiments in 1962 in the now-classic Scientific American article, “Population Density and Social Pathology”. As historians Edmund Ramsden and Jon Adams have shown, Calhoun’s rats circulated widely as “scientific evidence” of the dangers of urban overcrowding in human society. His concept of the “behavioural sink” chimed with despairing journalistic reports of “sink estates” and “sink schools” in 1970s Britain.
A couple of history of psychology related pieces cropped up from podcast land just in time to shift into gear for the weekend. For your listening pleasure, from CBC Radio’s Ideas and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, episodes on transcultural psychiatry and the early history of Bethlem Royal Hospital, respectively.
CBC’s Ideas with Peter Kennedy: Like I Was Talking to Myself in the Mirror
Synopsis: Early in the twentieth century German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin travelled to Indonesia to see how mental illnesses there compared to what he knew back home. Transcultural psychiatry was born. Today McGill University is a world leader in the research and practice of a branch of psychiatry with links to anthropology, cultural studies and family therapy. David Gutnick steps into a world where treatment relies less on medication and more on talk and understanding.
Those in our readership oriented towards the intersection of therapy and philosophy will be quite keen on the June 2016 issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychologybecause of its theme, existential psychotherapy. The guest editor is Duff Waring. The format taken is featured articles, two commentaries per and then a response from the article authors:
Abstract: This article invites conversation regarding what is seen as a pivotal problem in existential psychotherapy today: the loss of its language of being, its foundational understanding of ontology, Being, and the human being, Dasein. The article begins by introducing the disciplinary challenges of being an existential psychotherapist. This is followed by a systematic, multiperspectival discussion of ontology and its language of being and the challenges an ‘ontological eye’ presents for the theory and practice of existential psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy. Historical and cultural factors contributing to America’s conceptual and clinical dispersity and disarray in existential thought and practice are summarized before presenting a brief overview of existential psychotherapy’s present standing, especially with respect to its prospects for developing a regional ontological understanding of the human as human and as a whole.
Abstract: This article attempts to illustrate how an existential ontology has a great deal to offer to psychotherapists. Because this complex interaction may often be difficult to see, three ways in which such philosophical work has been applicable and enriching in the context of a particular psychotherapy practice are presented. These include a) the use of existential themes and concepts in psychotherapy, including the notions of existential guilt, existential anxiety, and bad faith, b) the argument that an existential ontology provides a more suitable philosophical grounding for psychotherapeutic theories and practices, one which better describes the life-world, experiential phenomena in question, and c) the idea that an existential version of the mental status examination, centered around six key dimensions of human experience (derived from an existential ontology) can provide us with a more in-depth understanding of, and better description of, an individual’s experiential world.
Abstract: Heidegger’s existential ontology has greatly influenced existential psychiatry and psychotherapy, yet opinions about the psychotherapeutic utility of an ontological perspective remain divided, especially in light of Heidegger’s negative reactions to misappropriation of his ontological analysis. The present discussion questions the universality of existential ontology, not to do away with it, but, rather, to ‘rehabilitate’ Binswanger’s purported ‘mistaken’ take on ontology and his much critiqued notion of “world-design” with Merleau-Ponty’s ideas of the ontological relevance of “emblems of Being.” The concept of world-design is considered here as a clinically illuminating notion that warrants revision and expansion, which I attempt with the concept of implicit world-projection and its relation to emblems of Being. This reformulation is intended to capture the ontologically world-defining meaning horizon and its relationship to the varying degrees of ontological security and insecurity, ontological robustness, sensitivity, and oversensitivity. This revised notion of emblematic implicit world-projection reaches beyond the confines of the pathological and can be situated within the larger context of relational theorizing. It can also serve as a bridging concept to contemporary reformulations of the unconscious as the “implicit.”
Academic journalism site The Conversation posted a short piece on personality testing that touches on the context-boundedness and reflexive aspects of such measures and how they relate to the history of the field more generally. Titled Psychology by numbers: a brief history of personality tests(and written by Chris Millard, a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Research Fellow), it’s an example of popularization that is both straightforward but still relatively sophisticated; it could work well as a teaching resource.
In acknowledgment of the book’s exceptional contributions to our understanding of Adolf Meyer and the field he singularly shaped, Cheiron awards the 2016 Book Prize to Susan D. Lamb (U. Ottawa) for Pathologist of the Mind: Adolf Meyer and the Origins of American Psychiatry, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2014.
After becoming the first psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1908, Meyer devoted himself over the next five decades to the scientific acceptance of psychiatry as a methodologically sound specialty of medicine. Although historians of psychiatry have recognized Meyer as a founding father, many of his ideas were not well understood, and his highly influential impact on psychiatry has been partially shrouded in mystery. Having gained access to previously sealed patient records as well as Meyer’s personal correspondence, and having offered such a careful and thoughtful analysis of these precious archival materials, Lamb provides historians of the behavioral and social sciences with a coveted window into Meyer’s thinking and decision making.
Pathologist of the Mind clarifies Meyerian notions of psychobiology, psychotherapy, and evolutionary theory (among others) and places this important figure, as well as the hospital and area of specialty to which he was dedicated, into historical context. In impressively detailed fashion, the book brings the man and the era to life.
Our congratulations to Dr. Lamb! Find out more about her work here.