During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans with all sorts of disabilities came to be labeled as “unproductive citizens.” Before that, disabled people had contributed as they were able in homes, on farms, and in the wage labor market, reflecting the fact that Americans had long viewed productivity as a spectrum that varied by age, gender, and ability. But as Sarah F. Rose explains in No Right to Be Idle, a perfect storm of public policies, shifting family structures, and economic changes effectively barred workers with disabilities from mainstream workplaces and simultaneously cast disabled people as morally questionable dependents in need of permanent rehabilitation to achieve “self-care” and “self-support.”
By tracing the experiences of policymakers, employers, reformers, and disabled people caught up in this epochal transition, Rose masterfully integrates disability history and labor history. She shows how people with disabilities lost access to paid work and the status of “worker”–a shift that relegated them and their families to poverty and second-class economic and social citizenship. This has vast consequences for debates about disability, work, poverty, and welfare in the century to come.
The Spring 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine is now online. Included in this issue are two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. The articles explore the 1950 ban on lobotomy in the Soviet Union and the fall of Freud in Cuban psychiatry in the latter half of the twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.
“Banning the Soviet Lobotomy: Psychiatry, Ethics, and Professional Politics during Late Stalinism,” by Benjamin Zajicek. The abstract reads,
This article examines how lobotomy came to be banned in the Soviet Union in 1950. The author finds that Soviet psychiatrists viewed lobotomy as a treatment of “last resort,” and justified its use on the grounds that it helped make patients more manageable in hospitals and allowed some to return to work. Lobotomy was challenged by psychiatrists who saw mental illness as a “whole body” process and believed that injuries caused by lobotomy were therefore more significant than changes to behavior. Between 1947 and 1949, these theoretical and ethical debates within Soviet psychiatry became politicized. Psychiatrists competing for institutional control attacked their rivals’ ideas using slogans drawn from Communist Party ideological campaigns. Party authorities intervened in psychiatry in 1949 and 1950, persecuting Jewish psychiatrists and demanding adherence to Ivan Pavlov’s theories. Psychiatrists’ existing conflict over lobotomy was adopted as part of the party’s own campaign against harmful Western influence in Soviet society.
The Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in the issue explore the promotion of the scientific status of polling, Robert H. Lowie and the concept of culture, the work of Lawrence Krader, and work on mental associations prior to mental testing. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“THE RHETORICAL USE OF RANDOM SAMPLING: CRAFTING AND COMMUNICATING THE PUBLIC IMAGE OF POLLS AS A SCIENCE (1935–1948),” by DOMINIC LUSINCHI. The abstract reads,
The scientific pollsters (Archibald Crossley, George H. Gallup, and Elmo Roper) emerged onto the American news media scene in 1935. Much of what they did in the following years (1935–1948) was to promote both the political and scientific legitimacy of their enterprise. They sought to be recognized as the sole legitimate producers of public opinion. In this essay I examine the, mostly overlooked, rhetorical work deployed by the pollsters to publicize the scientific credentials of their polling activities, and the central role the concept of sampling has had in that pursuit. First, they distanced themselves from the failed straw poll by claiming that their sampling methodology based on quotas was informed by science. Second, although in practice they did not use random sampling, they relied on it rhetorically to derive the symbolic benefits of being associated with the “laws of probability.”
In the nineteenth century, several institutions were established in the United States to house and care for the mentally ill. By 1880, 139 “asylums” and “mental hospitals” had been created using both private and public funds, and by 1890, every state had built one or more publicly supported mental hospitals. Although early American asylums were often underfunded and crowded, they were often one of the few options for those suffering from mental illness. These large and grandiose facilities could therefore serve as a place of refuge. In addition, these asylums were significant places for research and teaching in early medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.
Postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, coinciding with the establishment of many “state lunatic hospitals.” Featuring more than 300 images of early public and private asylums as presented in picture postcards, this book offers a fascinating view of these grand structures, the expansive grounds and gardens they occupied, and their unique architectural features. The images are accompanied by brief historical descriptions of each institution, along with information about their current status. Together, the images and text offer the reader an opportunity to explore the space and places of early mental health care of the United States.
The most recent issue of Business History Review includes a special section on the history of psychological ideas in management post The Organization Man. This “Roundtable on Management Theory after Organization Man: Creativity, Burnout, Intuition, Heterarchy” includes the following contributions, all freely available:
“Introduction: From Management Consultant to Psychological Counsel,” by Christopher McKenna.
“Creativity,” by Samuel Franklin.
“Executive Burnout,” by Matthew J. Hoffarth.
“Managing Intuition,” by Kira Lussier.
“Evolution through Heterarchical Organization,” by Bretton Fosbrook.
The April 2017 issue of Philosophy of Science includes an article that may be of interest to AHP readers. John Jackson Jr. (left) tackles the history racism within the context of cognitive and evolutionary psychology. Full details below.
“Cognitive/Evolutionary Psychology and the History of Racism,” by John P. Jackson Jr. The abstract reads,
Philosophical defenses of cognitive/evolutionary psychological accounts of racialism claim that classification based on phenotypical features of humans was common historically and is evidence for a species-typical, cognitive mechanism for essentializing. They conclude that social constructionist accounts of racialism must be supplemented by cognitive/evolutionary psychology. This article argues that phenotypical classifications were uncommon historically until such classifications were socially constructed. Moreover, some philosophers equivocate between two different meanings of “racial thinking.” The article concludes that social constructionist accounts are far more robust than psychological accounts for the origins of racialism.
In his new book The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and The Power of Seeing (Crown, 2017), Damion Searls presents the first biography of Hermann Rorschach and the history of the Rorschach Test. A story that is largely untold, Searls starts with the childhood of Rorschach and brings readers through his growth as a psychiatrist as he created an experiment to probe the mind using a set of ten inkblots. As a visual artist, Rorschach incorporated his ability to think about visuals and his belief that what is seen is more important than what we say. After his early death, Rorschach’s Test found its way to America being used by the military, to test job applicants, to evaluate defendants and parents in custody battles and people suffering from mental illness. In addition, it has been used throughout advertising and incorporated in Hollywood and popular culture. A tragic figure, and one of the most influential psychiatrists in the twentieth century, The Inkblots allows readers to better understand how Rorschach and his test impacted psychiatry and psychological testing. Searls’ work is eloquently written and detailed, pulling in unpublished letters, diaries and interviews with family, friends and colleagues. Searls’ well researched text presents insight into the ways that art and science have impacted modern psychology and popular culture.
A recent article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine may be of interest to AHP readers. Exploring the happenings at the New York State Lunatic Asylum, Kathleen Brain describes how the antebellum asylum asserted ownership over the prevention of suicide and the ramifications of this claim. Full details below.
““The Weight of Perhaps Ten or a Dozen Human Lives”: Suicide, Accountability, and the Life-Saving Technologies of the Asylum,” by Kathleen M. Brian. The abstract reads,
By accounting for the law’s productive capacity to structure asylum physicians’ encounters with suicide, this essay argues that the antebellum asylum was a technology for the preservation of life. The essay first shows how suicide’s history as a crime encouraged popular attributions of suicide to insanity. What began as a tactic to protect survivors, however, ended by bolstering the professional claims of asylum medicine. Initially it appeared there was much to gain from claiming suicide as their own, but dominion over prevention in fact rendered asylum physicians and their staffs vulnerable in unanticipated ways: for while agents of suicide were effectively evacuated of legal responsibility, a variety of laws made physicians more accountable than ever. Focusing on medical superintendent Amariah Brigham and his staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum shows how the anxiety of assuming guardianship over the suicidal created networks of accountability that profoundly affected daily life.
“Scientific Study of Magic: Binet’s Pioneering Approach Based on Observations and Chronophotography,” Cyril Thomas, André Didierjean and Serge Nicolas. The abstract reads
In 1894, French psychologist Alfred Binet (1857–1911) published an article titled “The Psychology of Prestidigitation” that reported the results of a study conducted in collaboration with two of the best magicians of that period. By using a new method and new observation techniques, Binet was able to reveal some of the psychological mechanisms involved in magic tricks. Our article begins by presenting Binet’s method and the principal professional magicians who participated in his studies. Next, we present the main psychological tools of magicians described by Binet and look at some recent studies dealing with those mechanisms. Finally, we take a look at the innovative technique used by Binet for his study on magic: the chronophotograph.
“A Particular Kind of Wonder: The Experience of Magic Past and Present,” Peter Lamont. The abstract reads,
Wonder may be an important emotion, but the term wonder is remarkably ambiguous. For centuries, in psychological discourse, it has been defined as a variety of things. In an attempt to be more focused, and given the growing scientific interest in magic, this article describes a particular kind of wonder: the response to a magic trick. It first provides a historical perspective by considering continuity and change over time in this experience, and argues that, in certain respects, this particular kind of wonder has changed. It then describes in detail the experience of magic, considers the extent to which it might be considered acquired rather than innate, and how it relates to other emotions, such as surprise. In the process, it discusses the role of belief and offers some suggestions for future research. It concludes by noting the importance of context and meaning in shaping the nature of the experience, and argues for the value of both experimental and historical research in the attempt to understand such experiences.