The July 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore cinematic representations of brainwashing, scientific expertise and the politics of emotion, and more. Full details below.
“Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind,” by Marcia Holmes. Abstract:
This article argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how ‘brainwashing’ was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science and media, as it exemplifies the era’s innovations for depicting ‘brainwashing’ on screen: the film’s protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the ‘rhythm of brainwaves’. This article describes the making of The Ipcress File’s brainwashing sequence and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s psychedelic counter-culture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science and media was a vision of the human mind as a ‘cybernetic spectator’: a subject who scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, and seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.
The February 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of O. Hobart Mowrer, Howard W. Odum, and Timothée Puel, respectively, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment, and the changing relationship between psychology and philosophy through a digital analysis of journal content. In the news and notes section Chetan Sinha discusses the indigenization of psychology in India. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer,” by Corbin Page. The abstract reads,
O. Hobart Mowrer had one of the most productive and curious careers of any psychologist in the 20th century, despite struggling with severe mental illness and anxiety about his sexuality. Early in his career, he was one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists. During the mid-1940s, he became interested in religion and argued that anxiety was caused by repressed guilt that came from real wrongdoing. By the late 1950s, he had abandoned mainstream psychology, arguing that religion had been corrupted by its embrace of psychology and psychiatry. He claimed that sin was responsible for nearly all psychological problems and that ethical living and confession of wrongdoing could prevent mental illness. During his religious period, Mowrer received an astonishing amount of fawning press attention and was embraced by a public desirous of a path to mental health that did not require jettisoning traditional conceptions of sin, guilt, and human nature. This article examines Mowrer’s life and career and situates him among other mid-century skeptics of psychology and psychiatry. Other historians have argued that by the 1950s, the conflict between religion and psychiatry/psychology in the United States had largely abated, with both sides adapting to each other. Mowrer’s life and the reception of his work demonstrate that this narrative is overly simplistic; widespread conservative and religious distrust of psychology persisted even into the 1960s.
UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Professor Hilary Marland (University of Warwick)
“Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England”
From the early nineteenth century to the current day reformers, policy makers, prison governors and medical officers have grappled with relentlessly high levels of mental illness in prisons. Since the creation of ‘modern’ and specialised prisons and prison regimes, prison regimes and conditions – the separate system, solitary confinement and overcrowding – were criticised for their impact on the mental wellbeing of their inmates. This paper explores the management of mentally ill prisoners in the late nineteenth century, paying particular attention to Liverpool Borough Prison. Managing mentally ill prisoners – male and female – became a significant part of the prison surgeons’ workload and a drain on the prison’s resources. Drawing on underexploited prison archives, official papers, medical literature, and asylum casebooks, this paper examines the efforts of prison officers to cope with mental illness among prison populations, and how these drew on, reflected and reinforced late nineteenth-century preoccupations with the criminal mind.
Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foster 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.
British Psychological Society History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Open to the public.
Date: Monday 27th January
Time: 6pm to 7.30pm
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
Hans Gross and the Birth of the Witness
Dr Heather Wolffram (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
We are by now familiar with historical narratives that relate the emergence of the criminal as an object of scientific study during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We have excellent studies in a wide range of national contexts about the struggle between sociological and biological models of criminality, as well as about the tangible and sometimes terrible effects that such theories had on penal policy, policing and institutions, including prisons and asylums. We also have an increasingly clear idea of the manner in which such ideas provided a vehicle for the professionalisation of fields like psychiatry and the evolution of fields such as law.
Emerging more recently and in response to our own society’s fascination with forensic technologies have been attempts to look at the early history of criminalistics and police science. Such histories, like those which focus on the criminal, have identified a late-19th-century desire to make detection as scientific as possible, not only as a means of capturing and punishing criminals, and protecting society, but also as a means of professionalising policing.
These works have provided us with a much better understanding of policing, criminology and forensics, but perhaps do not fully reflect the more holistic view of crime that late-19th-century criminalists sometimes took. The Austrian investigating judge Hans Gross, for example, believed that as well as forensic expertise the criminalist required a psychological understanding of all those involved in crime, its investigation and prosecution. Although Gross was concerned with the psychology of criminals, police investigators, experts and judges, he was perhaps most focused on the figure of the witness. Using Gross’s book Criminal Psychology this paper will explore how and why the witness became an object of scientific study during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Controversial psychologist John Philippe Rushton (above), best known for his views on the relationship between race and intelligence, has died. Rushton passed away after a battle with cancer on October 2nd. He was 68.
Rushton was born in Bournemouth, England, in 1943. While still a child, he emigrated first to South Africa and then to Canada. He went on to receive his PhD from the London School of Economics in 1977. Prior to receiving his PhD, he taught for a time at York University (1974-76) in Toronto and then at the University of Toronto (1977). He joined the faculty at the University of Western Ontario (UWO, now Western University) in 1978 and became a full professor at the university in 1985. In addition to his work on race and intelligence, Rushton also produced controversial research on the relationship between race and crime, and race and penis size.
In the late 1980s, Rushton’s views on race-based differences in intelligence sparked vehement protest at UWO. (More photographs from these protests can be seen here.) Despite calls for Rushton to be fired – by UWO students and Ontario’s premier – and although he was relieved of teaching duties during the height of these protests, he remained on the faculty of UWO for 25 years. The attention Rushton received for his controversial views on race and intelligence also led to a prominent debate between Rushton and geneticist, and environmentalist, David Suzuki on the subject in February, 1989 (the full debate can be viewed below).
Notice of Rushton’s death can be found here. Further discussion of Rushton’s passing can be found here, here, and here.
The University of Turin has a Museum of Criminal Anthropology that features collections related to the famous turn-of-the-century thinker Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso was particularly well-known for his work on the physical defects that were putatively associated with the criminal type.
If you go to the museum’s website, you can take a virtual tour (click on “la visita virtuale” and then “uno sguardo…”). There are photographs of a number of unusual artifacts having to with Lombroso and crime during his era, including knives hidden in crucifixes.
Thanks for Renato Foschi for alerting me to this site.
Mind Hacks has some great coverage of a recent article in European Neurology about Tourette and his forensic use of hypnosis. I could paraphrase it, but why not just give you a taste of their take, and then you can click through to the whole item.
The 19th century French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette is best known for Tourette’s Syndrome, but a fascinating article in European Neurology traces his interest in the criminal uses of hypnosis.
It is full of surprising facts, like that he was shot in the head by a delusional patient who believed that she had been hypnotised against her will, and that he eventually died in a Swiss asylum after developing psychosis caused by syphilis.
In a recent issue of Social History of Medicine, 21(2), Brendan D. Kelly reports the findings of his examination of the case records for all women admitted to Dublin’s Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1910 and 1948.
The majority of women were Roman Catholic (85.4 per cent) and had a mean age of 36.4 years. The majority were convicted of a crime (85.7 per cent), of whom 75.0 per cent were convicted of killing, most commonly child-killing. The majority of women detained ‘at the Lord Lieutenant’s Pleasure’ (indefinitely) were convicted of murder (51.7 per cent), assault (20.7 per cent) or infanticide (13.8 per cent); mean duration of detention was 5.6 years. The most common diagnoses were ‘mania’ or ‘delusional insanity’ (38.1 per cent) and ‘melancholia’ (23.8 per cent); 7.1 per cent were considered ‘sane’. Following their detention, 28.1 per cent of women were transferred to district asylums and the remainder were released under various different circumstances. In common with similar studies from other countries, these data demonstrate that the fate of these women was largely determined by a combination of societal, legal and medical circumstances, as evidenced by the socio-economic profile of women admitted and changes in admission patterns following the introduction of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. The role of other factors (such as religion) in determining their fate merits further study.
According to the “Today in the History of Psychology” website, the first U.S. eugenic sterilization law was enacted by the Indiana legislature on March 9, 1907. “The law provided for sterilization of ‘confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.'” Indiana was not the first US state to attempt a compulsory sterilization law. A bill was introduced in the Michigan legislature in 1897 but failed to pass. Pennsylvania legislators passed a sterilization bill in 1905, but it was vetoed by the governor. The legislative success in Indiana was repeated in 1909 with similar laws in Washington and California. Thirty other states soon followed suit.
The Associated Press reports that a New York state archivist has been charged with stealing hundreds of historical documents and selling them in order to pay his household bills, including his daughter’s $10,000 credit card debt. Police were tipped off by a Virginia history buff who was surprised to find an 1823 letter from U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun offered for sale on eBay.
The documents allegedly stolen include “Davy Crockett Almanacs, Currier and Ives lithographs and the 1865 railroad timetable for Abraham Lincoln‘s funeral train.” The man accused of taking them was an archives and records management specialist in the New York Department of Education. Continue reading When Archivists Go Bad→