Tag Archives: APA Monitor

APA Monitor Time Capsule: Asylum Tourism

The February 2014 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this month’s Time Capsule section is a piece by Jennifer Bazar and Jeremy Burman on what in retrospect may seem an odd practice: nineteenth century asylum tourism.  As Bazar and Burman describe,

Alongside mentions of monuments, churches and historical sites, a 19th-century tourist in New York might have found this recommendation in his or her guidebook: Visit the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane, in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan (on the grounds of what is now Columbia University).

“The approach to the Asylum from the southern entrance … is highly pleasing,” reads the 1880 guide “Miller’s New York As It Is.” The author continues, “The sudden opening of the view, the extent of the grounds, the various avenues gracefully winding through so large a lawn. … The central building … is always open to visitors, and the view from the top of it being the most extensive and beautiful of any in the vicinity of the city, is well worthy of their attention” (Miller, 1880, p. 46-47).

Recommending a visit to a mental hospital might seem surprising to modern readers, but this was not unusual at the time. In fact, the “asylum tourism” of the late 1800s was less voyeuristic than its earlier incarnations. The patients — sometimes including the powerless wives of jealous or bored aristocrats — had often been treated like animals, housed in institutions that were little more than human zoos. (It cost only a shilling to see “the beasts” rave at Bedlam, as the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, England, was then known.)

The full article can be read online here.

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APA Monitor: The Psychology of Hunger

The October 2013 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features an article by David Baker and Natacha Keramidas on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment: “The Psychology of Hunger.”

In the 1940s, at the height of World War Two, researchers at the University of Minnesota recruited 36 young men to participate in a nearly year long study of the physical and psychological effects of starvation. Over the course of the study the men were charged with losing 25 percent of their normal body weight. The hope was that the findings of such research could be used in war related relief efforts. Needless to say, participation in this study was difficult. As Baker and Keramidas describe,

 

During the semi-starvation phase the changes were dramatic. Beyond the gaunt appearance of the men, there were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.

For some men, the study proved too difficult. Data from three subjects were excluded as a result of their breaking the diet and a fourth was excluded for not meeting expected weight loss goals.

The men and the study became subjects of national interest, even appearing in Life magazine in 1945. But in some ways, world events overtook the study. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, barely halfway through the starvation phase of the experiment. Keys and the men worried that the data they had sacrificed for would not get to relief workers and the starving people they wished to serve in time to help them. Relief efforts were underway and there was no clear guide for rehabilitating those who were starving.

The article can be read in full here.

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APA Monitor: Preparing the Human Machine for War

The July/August issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This issue’s Time Capsule section features an article on psychologist E. G. Boring’s popular 1943 book Psychology for the Fighting Man. As Ben Harris describes in the piece,

At first, the book was planned as a textbook for officer candidates to educate them about “the great human war machine.” Boring was a logical choice for editor because he had done psychological work in World War I and was first author of a popular, collaborative introductory text. But plans for such a textbook were scrapped in favor of a paperback geared toward the high-school reading level, thanks to Col. Joseph Greene, editor of the popular Infantry Journal, which had a sideline of book publishing. Its 25¢ Fighting Forces Penguin Specials were cheap paperbacks modeled after a British series that Penguin Books created to make money and circumvent wartime paper rationing.

Greene convinced Boring to aim the book at general readers with no college education. As the inside cover explained, “the corporal in the next bunk can get as much out of the book as his colonel can.”

The book’s appeal began with its striking cover, which promised it would tell readers “what you should know about yourself and others.” Using a technique that ad men had perfected in the 1930s, the editors aroused the soldier’s fears and then promised to show the path to safety. The book promised “practical ideas that will improve his personal adjustment, and give him a better chance to stay off the casualty lists than he already has.”

The full article can be read online here.

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APA Monitor: Building a ‘Better’ Brain

The May 2013 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features an article on the work of psychologist David Krech. In this piece Barbara Lusk describes Krech’s interest, in the wake of Watson and Crick’s work on the structure of DNA, in the possibility that RNA encoded learned information and that knowledge of such could be used to improve brain functioning. As she describes,

A watershed event occurred in 1965 when Krech arranged a multi-session symposium on “Brain, Biochemistry and Behavior” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Approximately 2,000 attendees heard prominent geneticists, anatomists, biochemists, physiologists, pharmacologists, neurologists and psychologists who discussed the tantalizing evidence on the role of RNA. Biochemist Bernard Agranoff of the University of Michigan reported that administering various RNA or protein-synthesis inhibitors before or just after training had significant adverse effects on the retention of newly acquired learning in goldfish. In other experiments, James McGaugh and Lewis Petrinovich (both former students of Krech) demonstrated that increasing RNA synthesis by administering strychnine improved learning. Psychiatrist Ewen Cameron of McGill University reported that yeast RNA administered to elderly people suffering from dementia had a positive effect on their memory. Researchers at Abbott Labs reported that Cylert (magnesium pemoline) enhanced learning in rats and, more important, that human trials were planned.

In both his introductory remarks and closing commentary at the symposium, Krech worried out loud. The potential benefits of this research, he agreed, were enormous. But the social and ethical questions raised by this work were of the same magnitude as those resulting from the achievements of the atomic physicists: If the biochemical tools are developed, will governments be tempted to manipulate the behavior of their citizens? Should scientists or governments tamper with individuals’ natural endowments? Should such potions, once developed, be used only to treat cognitive deficiencies or should they be used to enhance normal functioning? Who gets what and when? Who bears the cost of these treatments? Who decides? Who keeps watch over those who do?

The full article can be read online here.

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APA Monitor: McConnell’s Worm Runner’s Digest

The first 2013 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features a piece by Larry Stern on psychologist James McConnell’s efforts to poke fun at the discipline.

In 1959, McConnell began the Worm Runner’s Digest after the appearance of his memory transfer research in the pages of Newsweek. As Stern describes,

… McConnell was inundated with letters from high school students from around the country asking where they could obtain worms for their projects and how they should go about caring for and training them. Some students, according to McConnell, demanded that he send a few hundred trained worms at once since their projects were due within days.

After answering the first few letters McConnell realized that something more efficient was needed. So he and his students wrote what amounted to a training manual describing their work and how to repeat their experiments.

McConnell firmly believed that “anyone who takes himself, or his work, too seriously is in a perilous state of mental health.” So as a joke, he affixed the name Worm Runner’s Digest to the top of the manual. Adorning the front page was a crest that one of his students designed, complete with a two-headed worm with pharynx fully exposed, a pair of diagonal stripes in the maize and blue colors of Michigan across the escutcheon of said planarian, a coronet made up of a Hebbian cell assembly, a ¥ for psychology, a homage to the stimulus-response of behaviorism, and a motto, ignotum, ignotius which, loosely translated, means “When I get through explaining this to you, you will know even less than before I started.” To top things off, McConnell labeled it Volume I, No. 1.

To McConnell’s astonishment, word of this new “journal” got out and he started receiving submissions. So he decided to “pep things up a bit” by scattering poems, jokes, satires, cartoons, spoofs and short stories more or less randomly among the more serious articles.

Other psychologists who joined in on the fun include B. F. Skinner and Harry Harlow, who each wrote satirical pieces related to their own work.

Before long McConnell received criticism that it was difficult to distinguish between the serious scientific contributions to the journal and the comedic contributions. To address this issue, in 1967 the journal was renamed the Journal of Biological Psychology, with the Worm Runner’s Digest relegated to the publication’s back pages where its pieces were printed upside down. Twelve years later, the Worm Runner’s Digest came to an end.

Read the full piece, “Psychological Hijinks,” online here.

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APA Monitor: Civil Rights Activist Olivia Hooker

The November issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features a piece on psychologist and civil rights activist Olivia Hooker (right). At the APA’s 2011 convention Hooker spoke about her experience, when she was just six years old, of the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921. Hooker shares similar recollections in the above video from CUNY TV. As described in the article,

Hooker is also renowned as the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and as a pioneering psychologist when there were few African-American women in the field. Her other noteworthy accomplishments include writing a German vocabulary guide for psychology students, leading a Girl Scout troop in a town where she was the only black person, helping to establish APA’s Div. 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and teaching people of all ages — from preschoolers to PhD candidates — to embody the Golden Rule.

The entire piece on Hooker’s life and work can be read online here.

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APA Monitor: Notes On a Scandal

The October 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in the issue’s Time Capsule section is a piece by Jamie Chamberlin on the persistent myth that John Watson was fired from Johns Hopkins in 1920, not due to his affair with graduate student Rosalie Raynor, but rather because it was discovered that Watson was conducting research on physiological responses during sexual intercourse. This rumor seems to have originated with psychologist James Vernon McConnell (1925–90) and made its way into numerous of textbooks in the latter part of the twentieth century.

As Chamberlin describes,

It wasn’t until 2001 that the story was seriously investigated. That’s when Benjamin began his probe, eventually working with three graduate students to trace the story through introductory and history textbooks, the Watsons’ divorce record and the correspondence of Watson, Larson, McConnell and others. The research team found that the story stretched and changed, with other versions alleging that Watson and Rayner used a kymograph measuring device during intercourse. McConnell claimed that there was a photo of the instruments Watson used for the sex research. But Benjamin, who traveled to both Hopkins and the Canadian Psychological Association museum where they supposedly hailed from, found no evidence that the instruments existed or had ties to Watson.

At least one textbook regarded the sex research story as gossip, the AP authors found. In the third version of his “History of Psychology” text, psychologist David Hothersall wrote: “A careful examination of Watson’s dismissal and divorce convinced a recent biographer of Watson that there is no evidence that he was dismissed because of alleged experiments concerned with human sexual behavior.” Hothersall omitted the story entirely from his text’s 2004 fourth edition, as did most other authors by that time.

How did a rumor become textbook fodder? “Nothing really sells like sex,” posits Jodi Whitaker, of The Ohio State University, one of Benjamin’s co-authors. “It was a wonderfully salacious story to spread around.”

The full article, “Notes on a Scandal,” can be read online here.

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APA Monitor: William James & the 6th Sense

The September 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this issue’s Time Capsule section is a piece by section editor Katharine Milar. In “William James and the Sixth Sense,” Milar discusses William James’s foray into experimental research with his investigation of the function of the inner ear (right) and the experience of dizziness. In the early 1880s, to test whether individuals with inner ear damage experienced dizziness, James

… initiated a study of dizziness in Harvard students and in deaf individuals. Participants closed their eyes and sat on a swing that was rotated until its ropes were tightly twisted together. After the swing ropes were allowed to rapidly unwind, the experimenter asked the participants to open their eyes and try to walk a straight line.

Of the 200 Harvard students and instructors, only one did not experience dizziness. But of the 519 deaf children, a majority reported only slight dizziness or none at all. James reported some preliminary results of the study in 1881 in the Harvard University Bulletin. The following year, he published his complete findings in the American Journal of Otology, acknowledging that more thorough research was needed and “in the hope that some one [sic] with better opportunities may carry on the work.”

Read the full piece online here.

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New APA Monitor: Charles S. Myers & Shell Shock

The June issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. The month’s Time Capsule section examines the work of British psychologist Charles S. Myers on shell shock during World War I. Historian of medicine and psychiatry Edgar Jones examines Myers efforts establish shell shock as a legitimate condition – and not mere malingering – and to treat those affected. As Jones described,

The first cases Myers described exhibited a range of perceptual abnormalities, such as loss of or impaired hearing, sight and sensation, along with other common physical symptoms, such as tremor, loss of balance, headache and fatigue. He concluded that these were psychological rather than physical casualties, and believed that the symptoms were overt manifestations of repressed trauma.

Along with William McDougall, another psychologist with a medical background, Myers argued that shell shock could be cured through cognitive and affective reintegration. The shell-shocked soldier, they thought, had attempted to manage a traumatic experience by repressing or splitting off any memory of a traumatic event. Symptoms, such as tremor or contracture, were the product of an unconscious process designed to maintain the dissociation. Myers and McDougall believed a patient could only be cured if his memory were revived and integrated within his consciousness, a process that might require a number of sessions.

The full article, Shell Shocked, can be read online here.

AHP readers may also be interested in a series of 5 films of World War I era soldiers suffering from shell shock posted online by the Wellcome Library (previously discussed on AHP here). The first of these is featured below.

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APA Monitor: Psychology’s First Forays into Film

The May issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this month’s Time Capsule section is a piece from AHP’s own Arlie Belliveau on the early uses of film in psychology. In particular, Belliveau describes the work of husband and wife team of engineer Frank Gilbreth and industrial psychologist Lillian Moller Gilbreth (both pictured above), who worked in the field of scientific management. The Gilbreths created what were called micromotion films, which aimed to record the minute details of the motions required to perform the highly repetitive work done within factories. (You can view one of their micromotion films online here.) As Belliveau describes,

The first instance of this form of micromotion study occurred in 1912 at the NEBC factory. The Gilbreths set up their camera in a second-floor laboratory in which the walls and floorboards were painted white with a black grid overlay to optimize light reflection and provide a reference to scale. Individual braiding machines and pieces of office equipment were brought upstairs to be filmed under the natural lights of the windows. Factory workers were enlisted to participate as the stars and experts of the films. Each factory task was filmed, and then viewed frame by frame, breaking each motion sequence into individual parts called “Therbligs” (an anagram of “Gilbreths”). The micromotion team (made up of the Gilbreths and cooperating workers) then evaluated the work process to find ways to make it safer, simpler, faster and more ergonomically correct. They developed and filmed these new procedures and used those films to retrain the factory workers.

….Workers reportedly loved seeing themselves projected onto the big screen, and the Gilbreths set up an exhibition room to periodically screen the films. Lillian believed that these screenings improved morale and output while promoting a unification phenomenon she called “happiness minutes.” Happiness minutes were the total amount of time each day that workers felt satisfied with their jobs. Lillian believed this to be an essential element of efficiency, although they only gauged employee happiness through subjective methods (such as their suggestion box system and general impressions obtained from talking to the workers), and never conducted formal psychological surveys. With this in mind, she and Frank adapted later films taken at the Ball Brothers Mason Jar factory in 1918 to include shots of workers smiling at the camera with their names and even nicknames written at the bottom of the screen.

Read the full article, “Psychology’s First Forays into Film,” online here.

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