The Guardian: “Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers”

The Guardian recently published a piece looking back on the history of Genie, the so-called feral child whose horrendous treatment at the hands of her father made headline news in the 1970s. The fact that Genie had been raised without language or basic social skills also attracted the attention psychologists interested in understanding language development. As The Guardian recounts, however, it was not long before Genie fell out of the public eye and out of the reach of researchers. Her fate today remains something of a mystery.

Read the full piece online here.

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5 Minute History Lesson, Episode 5: A Love Story of Academic Proportions

New from the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology is the fifth episode of 5 Minute History Lesson: A Love Story of Academic Proportions. Written and narrated by Ludy Benjamin, Jr. the video describes the lives and work of psychologists Harry and Leta Stetter Hollingworth. Enjoy!

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New JHBS: Palladino, Binet’s Instruments, Textbooks, & More

Palladino séance

The summer 2016 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore investigations of Palladino’s mediumship, Alfred Binet’s collaboration with instrument makers, the historiography of psychology textbooks, and central figures in psychological and philosophical associations at the turn of the twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“DISCOVERING PALLADINO’S MEDIUMSHIP. OTERO ACEVEDO, LOMBROSO AND THE QUEST FOR AUTHORITY,” by ANDREA GRAUS. The abstract reads,

In 1888, the spiritist Ercole Chiaia challenged Cesare Lombroso to go to Naples and study a brilliant though still unknown medium: Eusapia Palladino. At that time Lombroso turned down the challenge. However, in 1891 he became fascinated by the medium’s phenomena. Despite the abundant literature on Palladino, there is still an episode that needs to be explored: in 1888, the Spanish doctor Manuel Otero Acevedo accepted the challenge rejected by Lombroso, spent three months in Naples studying the medium and invited the Italian psychiatrist to join his investigations. This unexplored episode serves to examine the role of scientific authority, testimony, and material evidence in the legitimization of mediumistic phenomena. The use Otero Acevedo made of the evidence he obtained in Naples reveals his desire to proclaim himself an authority on psychical research before other experts, such as Lombroso, Richet, and Aksakof.

“THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTRUMENT MAKERS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY: THE CASE OF ALFRED BINET AT THE SORBONNE LABORATORY,” by SERGE NICOLAS. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Palladino, Binet’s Instruments, Textbooks, & More

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New Books Network Podcast Interview: Sabine Arnaud’s On Hysteria

Now available on the New Books Network is an interview with Sabine Arnaud on her recent book On Hysteria: The Invention of a Medical Category between 1670 and 1820. As the New Books Network describes,

Sabine Arnaud‘s new book explores a history of discursive practices that played a role in the construction of hysteria as pathology. On Hysteria: The Invention of a Medical Category between 1670 and 1820 (University of Chicago Press, 2015) considers a wide range of issues that are both specific to the particular history of hysteria, and more broadly applicable to the history medicine. Arnaud pays special attention to the role played by language in the definition of any medical category, basing her analysis on a masterful analysis of a spectrum of written medical genres (including dialogue, autobiography, correspondence, narrative, and polemic) that have largely been forgotten by the history of medicine. Arnaud asks, “What made it possible to view dozens of different diagnoses as variants of a single pathology, hysteria?” The answer can be found in a long process of rewriting and negotiation over the definition of these diagnoses enabled this retrospective assimilation, which was driven by enormously diverse political and epistemological stakes. In a series of fascinating chapters, the book interweaves the history of hysteria with studies of gender, class, literature, metaphor, narrative, and and religion. It’s an expertly-researched and compellingly-written account that will amply reward readers interested in the histories of medicine and gender.

The full interview can be heard online here.

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Neuroskeptic Review: Patient H.M.

Neuroskeptic, part of Discover Magazine’s series of blogs, recently posted a review of a new book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets. The book, written by Luke Dittrich who is himself the grandson of H.M.’s neurosurgeon, tells the story of the infamous case study of the patient now known to be Henry Molaison.

In the review Neuroskeptic focuses on three troubling aspects of H.M.’s story as discussed in the book. First, the psychosurgery performed on H.M. to address his epilepsy had no medical basis. Second, H.M.’s life was not nearly as sedate and content as it often portrayed and he threatened suicide at various points in time. Finally, the ethics of Suzanne Corkin’s longterm study of H.M. is thrown into doubt as, following the death of his parents, H.M. lacked a legal conservator to speak to his interests. This meant that H.M. himself provided consent for many of Corkin’s studies, though whether this can be understood as informed consent is doubtful. Moreover, the cousin eventually appointed conservator for H.M., it turns out, was not related to H.M. at all and simply provided blanket consent for Corkin’s tests of H.M.

Read Neuroskeptic’s full review online here.

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UCL/BPS Talk July 18th: Fabio de Sio on J. C. Eccles and the Dawn of Neuroscience in Britain

J. C. Eccles

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 the Summer term. On Monday July 18th Fabio de Sio will be speaking on “The title is misleading: J.C. Eccles, the Waynflete Lectures and the dawn of the neurosciences in Britain (1945–1954).” Full details follow below.

Monday 18th July
Dr Fabio de Sio (Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf): “The title is misleading: J.C. Eccles, the Waynflete Lectures and the dawn of the neurosciences in Britain (1945–1954).”

The history of the neurosciences is usually cast as a cumulative process of discovery and theoretical innovation, leading to a veritable cultural revolution. The latter is accounted for in terms of an unstoppable growth of the brain, at the expense of the mind (or the soul), and as a progressive obliteration of old and fuzzy problems and entities (free will, mind, soul), traditionally associated with the explanation of human action. As a consequence, the neurosciences have been widely marketed not simply as the new model of scientific rationality (incorporating and integrating the bio- and psycho-disciplines), but also as the most suitable candidate to the title of ‘next science of Man’. This is based on the conflation between the growth of specialised knowledge and its interpretation in a wholly materialistic, brain-centric framework. This paper points at a different interpretation of the neurosciences as a cultural programme, based not on scientific revolution, interdisciplinarity and brain-centrism, but rather on tradition, harmonic cooperation between distinct disciplines (physiology, philosophy, introspective psychology) and a strong, reductionistic focus on the neurone as the basic level of interpretation. Through an analysis of the scientific and cultural endeavours of the physiologist and Nobelist J.C. Eccles FRS (1903–1997), his 1952 Lectures, The Neurophysiological Bases of the Mind: the Principles of Neurophysiology, I show how the New Science of the Brain was criticised by Eccles as a materialistic heresy, rooted in cultural prejudices, rather than on sound experimentation and proper scientific method. In parallel, I will show how the special brand of neurosciences heralded by Eccles was almost universally ignored by its critics. Finally, I wish to point at a whole network of neuroscience-related specialists (physiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists) and engaged intellectuals, who took Eccles’ programme seriously, and tried to consolidate, in the following decades, an alternative science of the mind/brain.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 6-7:30pm

Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place.  After fifty metres, you will find Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right.  The common room is straight ahead.

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Social History of Medicine “Focus on Managing Mental Disorder”

The may 2016 issue of Social History of Medicine includes a section of book reviews focusing on the historiography of mental disorders. The books reviewed in this section are as follows:

  • Leonard Smith, Insanity, Race and Colonialism: Managing Mental Disorder in the Post-Emancipation British Caribbean 1838–1914  (Reviewer Pedro L. V. Welch)
  • Louise Hide, Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890–1914 (Reviewer Catharine Colborne)
  • Howard Chiang (ed.), Psychiatry and Chinese History (Studies for the Society for the Social History of Medicine) (Reviewer Lijing Jiang)
  •  Laure Murat, The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward a Political History of Madness (Reviewer Aude Fauvel)
  • Claudia Malacrida, A Special Hell: Institutional Life in Alberta’s Eugenic Years (Reviewer Katrina N. Jirik)

Find the full texts through the journal table of contents here.

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Oct. 6th: BPS’s 6th Annual Stories of Psychology Symposium “With Childhood in Mind”

On Thursday October 6th, 2016 the British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with the BPS History & Philosophy of Psychology Section, will be holding their sixth annual Stories of Psychology Symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium is “With Childhood in Mind” and registration for the event is required. Full details are provided on the Stories of Psychology Symposium flyer and also follow below.

With Childhood in Mind
A BPS Flagship Event

In conjunction with BPS History & Philosophy of Psychology Section

Thursday 6 October 2016, 10.30am–4.30pm

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House
University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
Speakers:
Professor Matthew Smith (University of Strathclyde)
The Nervous and Allergic Child: Psychosomatic Understanding of Allergy in Mid-Century USA

Professor Mathew Thomson (University of Warwick)
Psychology and the Landscape of the Child in 20th-Century Britain: A Story of Lost Freedom?

Professor Ingrid Lunt (University of Oxford)
The Child’s Place in the World: Evolving Rights and Responsibilities

Professor Vasu Reddy (University of Portsmouth)
The Child as a Psychologist? – Shifting Assumptions and Changing Understandings

Plus a presentation of his PhD research by Andrew Burchell (University of Warwick)
Mental Health in the ‘blackboard jungle’: Psychology and youth violence in post-war Britain

Convenors:
Professor John Stewart (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Professor John Hall (Oxford Brookes University)

Cost: £15: including welcome refreshments and light buffet lunch

Register HERE (registration is essential)

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The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific history

Robert Heath

This article first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

Robert Heath claimed to have cured homosexuality by implanting electrodes into the pleasure centre of the brain. Robert Colvile reports on one of the great forgotten stories of neuroscience.

For the first hour, they just talked. He was nervous; he’d never done this before. She was understanding, reassuring: let’s just lie down on the bed together, she said, and see what happens. Soon, events took their course: they were enjoying themselves so much they could almost forget about the wires leading out of his skull.

The year was 1970, and the man was a 24-year-old psychiatric patient. The woman, 21, was a prostitute from the French Quarter of New Orleans, hired by special permission of the attorney general of Louisiana. And they had just become part of one of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.

The patient – codenamed B-19 – was, according to the two academic papers that catalogued the course of the research, a “single, white male of unremarkable gestation and birth”. He came from a military family and had had an unhappy childhood. He had, the papers said, entered the military but had been expelled for “homosexual tendencies” within a month. He had a five-year history of homosexuality, and a three-year history of drug abuse: he had tried glues, paints, thinners, sedatives, marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, even nutmeg and vanilla extract. He had temporal lobe epilepsy. He was depressive, suicidal, insecure, procrastinating, self-pitying and narcissistic. “All of his relationships,” wrote his doctors, with an unsparing lack of sympathy, “have been characterised by coercion, manipulation and demand.”

One of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.

In 1970, B-19 ended up in the care of Robert Galbraith Heath, chair of the department of psychiatry and neurology at Tulane University, New Orleans. Heath’s prescription was drastic. He and his team implanted stainless steel, Teflon-coated electrodes into nine separate regions of B-19’s brain, with wires leading back out of his skull. Once he had recovered from the operation, a control box was attached which enabled him, under his doctors’ supervision, to provide a one-second jolt to the brain area of his choice. Continue reading The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific history

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UCL/BPS Talk July 11th: Martyn Pickersgill “On Infrastructure and Ontology”

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 the Summer term. On Monday July 11th Martyn Pickersgill (right) will be speaking on ‘On infrastructure and ontology: Shifting dynamics of knowledge production and application in mental health.’ Details follow below.

Monday 11th July
Dr Martyn Pickersgill (Usher Institute for Population Health Studies and Informatics, Edinburgh Medical School): ‘On infrastructure and ontology: Shifting dynamics of knowledge production and application in mental health’

Infrastructures proliferate within mental health. Services are developed and instantiated both through and as particular socio-material configurations. These are underpinned by diverse kinds of infrastructure, as well as serving as the underpinning for therapeutic encounters. The knowledge drawn upon, ignored or un-encountered by psychological therapists is itself produced through a range of infrastructural arrangements, which are impacted and directed by research funders in varying ways. In this talk, I take considerations of infrastructure as a departure point for discussing two Wellcome Trust-funded projects on the sociology of mental health. The first represents an analysis of the social dimensions of initiatives to enhance access to psychological therapy in England and Scotland; the second is a new study interrogating innovation in psychiatric diagnosis across the US and the UK. I will discuss the forms of normativity that (are claimed to) structure both of the cases I explore, and consider the infrastructural arrangements my respondents imagine and enact in response to these. In turn, I want to reflect on what (drives to develop) infrastructures do to the ontologies of pathologies, patients and professionals working in mental health research and practice.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 6-7:30pm

Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place.  After fifty metres, you will find Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right.  The common room is straight ahead.

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