Tag Archives: Cold War

History and the Hoffman Report: A Round-Up

Chances are you, like us, have been following the fall out from the American Psychological Association’s Hoffman Report, which details how the organization colluded with the United States government to ensure psychologists remained part of its torture program. While there are a ton of opinion pieces floating around in the wake of the report, we thought we’d highlight a few pieces that take a particularly historical view on the current situation.

Over on the Hidden Persuaders blog, part of a project on Cold War era brainwashing efforts, Marcia Holmes has written “What we’re reading now: The APA report.” Holmes details the events leading up to the Hoffman Report and situates psychology’s involvement in torture in relation to the emergence of “operational psychology.” The fundamental tension between “operational psychology” and ethics, Holmes argues, may never be resolved. Read the full piece online here.

BBC Radio program Witness has produced an episode on “CIA Mind Control Experiments” in the 1950s. While this piece is not directly about the Hoffman Report, it documents  the long history of relations between psychology and the CIA:

In the 1950s the CIA started attempting to brainwash psychiatric patients. They wanted to develop methods which could be used against enemies in the Cold War. Hear from one man whose father was experimented on in a Canadian psychiatric hospital.

The full 10-minute episode can be heard online here.

Finally historian Laura Stark, writing in Inside Higher Ed, explains “Why Ethics Codes Fail.” Stark, having previously written about the first ethics code adopted by the APA in 1973, argues that,

The APA’s current ethics mess is a problem inherent to its method of setting professional ethics policy and a problem that faces professional organizations more broadly. Professions’ codes of ethics are made to seem anonymous, dropped into the world by some higher moral authority. But ethics codes have authors. In the long term, the APA’s problems will not be solved by repeating the same process that empowers a select elite to write ethics policy, then removes their connection to it.

All ethics codes have authors who work to erase the appearance of their influence. Personal interests are inevitable, if not unmanageable, and it may be best for the APA — and other professional groups — to keep the link between an ethics policy and its authors. Take a new lesson from the Hippocratic oath by observing its name. The APA should make its ethics policies like most other papers that scientists write: give the code of ethics a byline.

Read the full piece online here.

If there are other historically focused responses to the Hoffman Report that we’ve missed please feel free to add them in the comments!

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New JHBS: The Visual Cliff, POW Stress, Models of Addiction, & More

The Spring 2015 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the forgotten animals of the visual cliff experiment, stress research and the POW experience, the use of animal models in addiction research, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The visual cliff’s forgotten menagerie: Rats, goats, babies, and myth-making in the history of psychology,” by Elissa N. Rodkey. The abstract reads,

Eleanor Gibson and Richard Walk’s famous visual cliff experiment is one of psychology’s classic studies, included in most introductory textbooks. Yet the famous version which centers on babies is actually a simplification, the result of disciplinary myth-making. In fact the visual cliff’s first subjects were rats, and a wide range of animals were tested on the cliff, including chicks, turtles, lambs, kid goats, pigs, kittens, dogs, and monkeys. The visual cliff experiment was more accurately a series of experiments, employing varying methods and a changing apparatus, modified to test different species. This paper focuses on the initial, nonhuman subjects of the visual cliff, resituating the study in its original experimental logic, connecting it to the history of comparative psychology, Gibson’s interest in comparative psychology, as well as gender-based discrimination. Recovering the visual cliff’s forgotten menagerie helps to counter the romanticization of experimentation by focusing on the role of extrascientific factors, chance, complexity, and uncertainty in the experimental process.

“Understanding the POW Experience: Stress research and the implementation of the 1955 U.S. Armed Forces code of conduct,” by Robert Genter. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: The Visual Cliff, POW Stress, Models of Addiction, & More

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JHBS Special Issue: “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age”

The winter 2015 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is a special issue dedicated to “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age.” Guest edited by Philippe Fontaine (left), the articles in this issue explore facets of interdisciplinarity in the social sciences post-1945. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age,” by Philippe Fontaine. The abstract reads,

As studies of the history of social science since 1945 have multiplied over the past decade and a half, it has not been unusual for commentators to present cross-disciplinary ventures as a byproduct of the disciplinary system and to contrast the stability of disciplines with the highs and lows of interdisciplinary relationships. In contrast, this special issue takes the view that cross-disciplinary ventures should be considered not so much as efforts to loosen up the disciplinary yoke, but as an alternative form of production and dissemination of social scientific knowledge. Paradoxically, the relationship between cross-disciplinary ventures and the disciplinary system appears as one of complementarity and not of dependence. The essays in the special issue provide examples of ways to reconsider what can be called the interdisciplinary chaos.

“Mnemonic Multiples: The Case of the Columbia Panel Studies,” by Jefferson D. Pooley. The abstract reads, Continue reading JHBS Special Issue: “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age”

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Dec. 1st Talk! BPS History of Psych Disciplines Seminar Series

The British Psychological Society’History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk as part of its autumn BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On December 1st, Marcia Holmes of Birkbeck College will be speaking on “Performing Proficiency: Psychological Experiments on Man-Machine Systems in the United States, 1950-1965.” Full details follow below.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG
Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Monday 1 December

Dr Marcia Holmes (Birkbeck College), “Performing Proficiency: Psychological Experiments on Man-Machine Systems in the United States, 1950-1965″

Historians have traced American psychology’s ‘Cognitive Revolution’ – and its defining metaphor of the mind as information processor – to World War II, when the American and British militaries employed experimental psychologists to improve servicemen’s proficiency in operating the war’s complex electronics for communication, command and control. Yet the problem of matching men’s abilities to the design of machines not only encouraged the theorisation of cognition and information processing, it also motivated a new field of applied experimental psychological research, now known as human factors engineering. During the early years of the Cold War, this field of psychological engineering pioneered an elaborate form of behavioural experiment called ‘man–machine systems simulation.’ In this talk I will argue that interpreting these man–machine systems simulations through a cognitive or cybernetic lens, as some historians have done, misses their more direct, contemporary significance. For the psychologists conducting the experiments, these simulations performed the possibility of maintaining liberal-democratic sociability within the Cold War’s regimented networks of military command and control. Recognising the performative aspects of man–machine systems simulations, I argue, sheds new light on the political and epistemological stakes of the Cognitive Revolution in psychology.

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New Books in STS Interview: Jamie Cohen-Cole on The Open Mind

Historian Jamie Cohen-Cole (left), author of the recent book The Open Mind:  Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, has been interviewed by New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network. As the site describes,

Jamie Cohen-Cole’s new book explores the emergence of a discourse of creativity, interdisciplinarity, and the “open mind” in the context of Cold War American politics, education, and society. The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature (University of Chicago Press, 2014) considers how open-mindedness took on a political role (as a model of citizenship contrasted with that of totalitarian states), an academic role (as a model of a scientist or thinker), and a broader role as a model of human nature in the mid-late twentieth century. Cohen-Cole’s book not only offers a fascinating glimpse into the development of mid-century psychology and cognitive science, but also shows the deep connections among what was happening in what might otherwise be considered separate social and political spaces that include laboratories, classrooms, cocktail parties, conferences, academic departments, and various physical and textual loci of political and social engagement. It is exceptionally clear in its narrative structure, prose style, and argument, and it offers a fresh perspective on how we understand the co-creation of science and society in Cold War America.

Listen to the full interview here.

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Interview with Marga Vicedo on The Nature and Nurture of Love

AHP is pleased to present an interview with historian of science Marga Vicedo on her recent book The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War AmericaThe full interview follows below. Many thanks to Marga for agreeing to be interviewed!

AHP: As a historian and philosopher of biology how did you first become interested in the various ways we’ve conceptualized human instincts and the nature of love?

I have always been interested in understanding our views on human nature because those views inform our ideas about how to lead a moral life. How should I act? What should I do in order to be a good person and have a life worth living? Those seem to me the most fundamental questions we all confront in our lives. The more we understand who we are, the better we will be able to answer those questions. Thus, very early in my philosophical and historical studies I wanted to explore what biology and psychology have to say about human nature.

A central debate in those fields focuses on how much and in what ways our biological constitution influences our mental and emotional makeup. Scientists have used different concepts over time: instincts, innate drives, evolutionary stable strategies, human nature, genetic makeup, … but the question is basically the same: how much does biology shape the way we think, feel, and act? The answer to that question is central for explaining human behavior in psychology and biology. In addition, it also informs our ideas about biological or environmental determinism, standards of normality, conceptions of ethics, and views about individual and social responsibility. Trying to understand all those fundamental issues and their interrelations is what led me to focus on instincts.

One striking feature of the discourse on instincts is the profound “gendering” of some behaviors and emotions. Although the search for instincts aims to locate those characteristics that are part of all human beings, many scientists claimed that human nature came in two forms: male and female. Aggession became the defining instinct for males. And the maternal instinct became the defining characteristic of women’s nature. But how did love become “gendered”? How can we differentiate maternal and parental love? And how did we come to think that maternal love is fundamental to the emotional development of a child?

In this book, I explore ideas about mother love in the United States from World War II until the 1970s. My central claim is that during that period prominent researchers from various fields of study established the view that emotions are an integral part of the self and that mother love determines an individual’s emotional development. One theory in particular played a key role in the establishment and permanence of those views: John Bowlby’s ethological theory of attachment behavior. This was not the only theory that put forth maternal care and love as the cradle of the emotional self, but it has become the most enduring and successful one. My book tries to explain why.

AHP: What were some of the factors that supported the post-WWII move toward envisioning maternal love as a biological instinct? Continue reading Interview with Marga Vicedo on The Nature and Nurture of Love

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New Book: How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality

A new volume from the University of Chicago Press may be of interest to AHP readers. How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality describes efforts to reshape rationality within the human sciences during the Cold War. A recent review of the book by Ole Holsti, of Duke University, can be found on H-Net. As described on the publisher’s site,

In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and economics, among others—and its participants enlisted in an intellectual campaign to figure out what rationality should mean and how it could be deployed.

How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind brings to life the people—Herbert Simon, Oskar Morgenstern, Herman Kahn, Anatol Rapoport, Thomas Schelling, and many others—and places, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Cowles Commission for Research and Economics, and the Council on Foreign Relations, that played a key role in putting forth a “Cold War rationality.” Decision makers harnessed this picture of rationality—optimizing, formal, algorithmic, and mechanical—in their quest to understand phenomena as diverse as economic transactions, biological evolution, political elections, international relations, and military strategy. The authors chronicle and illuminate what it meant to be rational in the age of nuclear brinkmanship.

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New Book: Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature

Cohen-Cole_the open mindHistorian Jamie Cohen-Cole‘s new book, The Open Mind:  Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, is now available. The volume explores how the human sciences crafted a particular vision of autonomous, rational, and creative selfhood in the post-war years. Although first used to promote centrist political policies, the open-minded self – and its attendant scientific technologies – later came to divide individuals into increasingly polarized political factions.  As Cohen-Cole writes,

If psychology could explain everything, there was one aspect of the self that held special importance to the intellectual and policy worlds: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness was a kind of mind characterized by autonomy, creativity, and the use of reason. To the scientific experts, intellectuals, and policy makers who developed and utilized the concept of the open mind, this type of self served simultaneously as model and ideal of national and intellectual character. They projected upon the open mind their aspirations for the American character and liberal pluralist democracy, for scientific thinking and true intellectual inquiry. Indeed, for some of these individuals the open mind transcended the academic and political, as its traits were even conscripted to serve as criteria for human nature itself. Cold War intellectuals and policy makers saw in open-mindedness solutions to the most pressing problems faced by the nation. Those who defined American foreign policy believed that open-minded autonomy, a hallmark of American virtue, posed a threat to the communist system. Traditional or authoritarian societies could not be sustained in the presence of a citizen body that thought autonomously, but for a modern democracy like America, open-mindedness would have the opposite effect, offering social cohesion. The open mind meant a respect for individuality, tolerance of difference, appreciation of pluralism, and appreciation of freedom of thought. If citizens were sufficiently equipped with these virtues, thought policy makers and social critics, the nation would flourish.

An extended excerpt from The Open Mind can be read online here. The University of Chicago Press describes the volume as follows,

The Open Mind chronicles the development and promulgation of a scientific vision of the rational, creative, and autonomous self, demonstrating how this self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates how from 1945 to 1965 policy makers and social critics used the idea of an open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics. They reshaped intellectual culture and instigated nationwide educational reform that promoted more open, and indeed more human, minds. The new field of cognitive science was central to this project, as it used popular support for open-mindedness to overthrow the then-dominant behaviorist view that the mind either could not be studied scientifically or did not exist. Cognitive science also underwrote the political implications of the open mind by treating it as the essential feature of human nature. While the open mind unified America in the first two decades after World War II, between 1965 and 1975 battles over the open mind fractured American culture as the ties between political centrism and the scientific account of human nature began to unravel. During the late 1960s, feminists and the New Left repurposed Cold War era psychological tools to redefine open-mindedness as a characteristic of left-wing politics. As a result, once-liberal intellectuals became neoconservative, and in the early 1970s, struggles against open-mindedness gave energy and purpose to the right wing.

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Interview: Marga Vicedo on The Nature and Nurture of Love

The podcast series, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society (part of the New Books Network), has just released a new episode featuring an interview with Marga Vicedo on her recent book, The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America (previously on AHP here). In the interview Vicedo, a professor at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, discusses her work with host Carla Nappi. As described on the podcast website,

Between WWII and the 1970s, prominent researchers from various fields established and defended a view that emotions are integral to the self, and that a mother’s love determines an individual’s emotional development. In Marga Vicedo, The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Marga Vicedo explores the emergence of the science of children’s emotional needs in the twentieth century. Masterfully bringing together approaches from the history and philosophy of the biological sciences, Vicedo’s book focuses on British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist John Bowlby (1907-1990), whose ethological work became one of the most influential and controversial psychological theories of the 20th century. Vicedo uses the story of Bowlby’s science to explore a broader modern history of work on animal and human behavior that includes Konrad Lorenz, Anna Freud, Benjamin Spock, and Niko Tinbergen, among others. Along the way, The Nature & Nurture of Love chronicles the emergence of a kind of anthropomorphic material culture of the human sciences, inhabiting its story with a fascinating cast of robots, dolls, geese, monkeys, and stuffed animals, as well as humans. It is a fascinating and gripping trans-disciplinary story and an absolute pleasure to read.

Listen to the full interview here.

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Edited Volume on Cold War Social Science

The history of Cold War era American social science has been ably documented in a new edited collection, Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Library Democracy, and Human Nature. Edited by historians Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens, the volume includes contributions on linguistics, social relations, anthropology, psychology, as well as the social sciences more broadly, from a number of accomplished scholars. The volume, comprised of three sections, on knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature, respectively, is described as follows.

From World War II to the early 1970s, American social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion. This volume offers fascinating perspectives on the rise of U.S. practitioners as global leaders in the field, exploring how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with Cold War politics. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of ‘Cold War social science,’ the histories gathered here reveal how scholars from established disciplines and new interdisciplinary fields of study made important contributions to long-standing debates about knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature.

Table of Contents
Foreword: Positioning Social Science in Cold War America – Theodore M. Porter
Cold War Social Science: Spectre, Reality, or Useful Concept? – Mark Solovey
PART I: Knowledge Production
The Rise and Fall of Wartime Social Science: Harvard’s Refugee Interview Project, 1950-54 – David C. Engerman
Futures Studies: A New Social Science Rooted in Cold War Strategic Thinking – Kaya Tolon
‘It was All Connected’: Computers and Linguistics in Early Cold War America – Janet Martin-Nielsen
Epistemic Design: Theory and Data in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations – Joel Isaac
PART II: Liberal Democracy
Producing Reason – Hunter Heyck
Column Right, March! Nationalism, Scientific Positivism, and the Conservative Turn of the American Social Sciences in the Cold War Era – Hamilton Cravens
From Expert Democracy to Beltway Banditry: How the Anti-War Movement Expanded the Military-Academic-Industrial Complex – Joy Rohde
Neo-Evolutionist Anthropology, the Cold War, and the Beginnings of the World Turn in U.S. Scholarship – Howard Brick
PART III: Human Nature
Maintaining Humans – Edward Jones-Imhotep
Psychology, Psychologists, and the Creativity Movement: The Lives of Method Inside and Outside the Cold War – Michael Bycroft
An Anthropologist on TV: Ashley Montagu and the Biological Basis of Human Nature, 1945-1960 – Nadine Weidman
Cold War Emotions: The War over Human Nature – Marga Vicedo

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