Tag Archives: France

Sick? Or Slow? A History of Early Intelligence Testing in Intelligence

In a recently released, open access article in Intelligence Serge Nicolas, Bernard Andrieu, Jean-Claude Croizet, Rasyid B. Sanitioso, and Jeremy Trevelyan Burman discuss the early history of intelligence testing as it developed in France. In “Sick? Or slow? On the Origins of Intelligence as a Psychological Object” Nicolas and colleagues describe how psychologist Alfred Binet (left) fought to establish authority in the realm of children’s educational assessment. Binet challenged psychiatrists, including rival Désiré-Magloire Bourneville (top), for primacy in this field, arguing that children who fell behind in school should be kept within the school rather than removed to “asylums.” For Binet, such children were slow, but not sick. To identify these children, Binet and his collaborators developed the Binet-Simon test, the direct precursor of the extremely successful American Stanford-Binet test. The article’s abstract reads,

This paper examines the first moments of the emergence of “psychometrics” as a discipline, using a history of the Binet–Simon test (precursor to the Stanford–Binet) to engage the question of how intelligence became a “psychological object.” To begin to answer this, we used a previously-unexamined set of French texts to highlight the negotiations and collaborations that led Alfred Binet (1857–1911) to identify “mental testing” as a research area worth pursuing. This included a long-standing rivalry with Désiré-Magloire Bourneville (1840–1909), who argued for decades that psychiatrists ought to be the professional arbiters of which children would be removed from the standard curriculum and referred to special education classes in asylums. In contrast, Binet sought to keep children in schools and conceived of a way for psychologists to do this. Supported by the Société libre de l’étude psychologique de l’enfant [Free society for the psychological study of the child], and by a number of collaborators and friends, he thus undertook to create a “metric” scale of intelligence—and the associated testing apparatus—to legitimize the role of psychologists in a to-that-point psychiatric domain: identifying and treating “the abnormal”. The result was a change in the earlier law requiring all healthy French children to attend school, between the ages of 6 and 13, to recognize instead that otherwise normal children sometimes need special help: they are “slow” (arriéré), but not “sick.” This conceptualization of intelligence was then carried forward, through the test’s influence on Lewis Terman (1877–1956) and Lightner Witmer (1867–1956), to shape virtually all subsequent thinking about intelligence testing and its role in society.

The full article is currently open access and can be downloaded free of charge here.

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Websites on Binet, Henri, Janet, & Bourdon!

Those interested in the history of psychology in France will find the websites created by Serge Nicholas (left), dedicated to prominent early French psychologists, invaluable resources. Together with Bernard Andrieu, Nicholas has put together a website dedicated to the life and work of Alfred Binet. Although best known for his development of the intelligence test, Binet conducted research in a number of other areas. The diversity of this research is well represented on the Alfred Binet (1857-1911) website, which in addition to featuring a biography of Binet and wonderful photographs of Binet and his family, features a complete bibliography of Binet’s works with links to full text versions of most of these publications.

Nicholas has also created similar sites for French psychologists Benjamin Bourdon (together with Christophe Quaireau), Pierre Janet (together with Isabelle Saillot), and Victor Henri, one of Binet’s best known collaborators. A further site on Théodule Ribot appears to be under development. Visit these sites now to learn more about late-nineteenth and early twentieth century French psychology!

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New JHBS: Ribot, German psych, & More!

The Winter 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on French psychologist Théodule Ribot’s (right) founding of the Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger and the founding of the German Gesellschaft für psychologische Forschung” (“Society for Psychological Research”), which was intended to be an outlet for non-Wundtian psychologies from France and Britain. Other articles in this issue look at the history of ethnographic research and Bayesian rationality in economics. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“‘A Big Piece of News’: Théodule Ribot and the Founding of the Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Etranger,” by Serge Nicolas. The abstract reads,

This paper describes the founding of the Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger by Théodule Ribot (1839–1916) in 1876. Like the English journal Mind, which was launched the same year, this journal introduced the new scientific psychology to France. Its founding increased Ribot’s scientific credibility in psychology and led him to be regarded as the most distinguished French specialist in the field. First, we review the state of French philosophy at the time of the journal’s founding, focusing on the three main French schools of thought in philosophy and on their relations with psychology. Second, after analyzing the preface written by Ribot in the first issue of the Revue Philosophique, we examine how the journal was received in French philosophical circles. Finally, we discuss its subsequent history, highlighting its founder’s promotion of new ideas in psychology.

“Normalizing the Supernormal: The Formation of the “Gesellschaft Für Psychologische Forschung” (“Society for Psychological Research”), c. 1886–1890,” by Andreas Sommer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Ribot, German psych, & More!

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More BPS Hist. of Psychological Disciplines Talks!

The British Psychological Society‘s (BPS) History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series (discussed previously on AHP here) has two events scheduled for later this month. Organized by the BPS’s History of Psychology Centre and University College London’s (UCL) Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, the events take place at 6pm at UCL. If you’re in the London area, be sure to stop by (no registration necessary). Full details follow below and can also be found on the seminar series’s website.

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

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ (map)

Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Wednesday 14 November
Professor Ramón del Castillo (Universdad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid), “Madness and rules: A case for Wittgenstein.” The abstract reads,

This talk explores Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology through exploring his  work on comedy, tragedy, jokes and humour, showing the connection between his  understanding of these and his conception of philosophy. Wittgenstein one said that a serious and philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. His philosophical work was serious and included some jokes. However he was not a good joker, and his perception of social life was as limited as his sense of humour. It argues that Wittgenstein’s later ideas on rules and language-games are better understood if we think in terms of different types of jokes. It explains the diverse types of what Wittgenstein called ‘gramatical jokes’ (from the logical ones to the performative ones), and also indicates the relevance of certain types of humour in illuminating the background of linguistic games (using examples from sports and social acts).

Wednesday 21 November
Dr Maria Teresa Brancaccio (left) (Maastricht University), “War trauma in France and Italy (1920s-1980s).” The abstract reads,

In the twentieth century, medical-psychological theories on the health effects of war- related suffering as well as their social recognition presented large variations in different European countries. Focusing on the medical debates and on the diagnostic categories adopted in France and in Italy in the aftermaths of the two World Wars, the paper will investigate how changes in medical, social and political thinking influenced the understanding of war trauma in the two countries.

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Clinical Nostalgia in 19th Century France

The October 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now online.  Included in this issue is an article on the nineteenth century clinical category of nostalgia that may be of interest to AHP’s readers. In “The Time and Place of Nostalgia: Re-Situating a French Disease,” historian Lisa O’Sullivan (right) traces the history of nostalgia as a disease in post-revolutionary France. The abstract reads,

The history of nostalgia as a clinical category has many highly specific national stories. This paper traces an aspect of this history, examining aspects of nostalgia’s changing meanings in nineteenth-century France. Nostalgia was a disease triggered by displacement, which became medically and politically important after the French Revolution, when military surgeons encountered epidemics of nostalgia in the armed forces. Understood as a form of pathological homesickness, the category straddled environmental medicine and emerging ideas about insanity. The diagnosis became particularly important to Ideologue writers as a case study in regulating and redirecting the emotions, demonstrating the efficacy of their new “moral” treatments and an ability to generate patriotic attachment to the new nation state. Over the course of the century, nostalgia disintegrated as a medical condition reflecting a decline in environmental explanations for disease within medicine, and increasingly plastic meanings attached to nostalgic desire.

The full article can be found online here.

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New! Special Issue History of the Human Sciences

The April 2012 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. This month’s issue is a special issue, guest edited by Elizabeth Valentine, on the topic of parapsychology, occultism, and spiritualism. The eight all new articles in the issue explore the history of psychology’s relationship to spiritualism and other occult matters across the globe; most specifically in the Netherlands, the United States of America, Germany, Britain, France, Spain, Hungary, and Japan. (Pictured above is medium Eusapia Palladino, the subject of one of the issues articles, in a seance in 1898.) Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychical research and parapsychology interpreted: Suggestions from the international historiography of psychical research and parapsychology for investigating its history in the Netherlands,” by Ingrid Kloosterman. The abstract reads,

One of the reasons the history of parapsychology and its ancestor psychical research is intriguing is because it addresses a central issue: the boundaries of science. This article provides an overview of the historiography of parapsychology and presents an approach to investigate the Dutch history of parapsychology contributing to the understanding of this central theme. In the first section the historical accounts provided by psychical researchers and parapsychologists themselves are discussed; next those studies of sociologists and historians understanding parapsychology as deviant and even potentially revolutionary are dealt with; third, more contemporary studies are examined whereby enterprises such as parapsychology are understood as central to the culture in which they arose. On the basis of this analysis a new direction in the historiography of the subject is suggested in the fourth section, centred upon the relation between parapsychology and psychology in the Netherlands throughout the 20th century. In the Netherlands not only were pioneering psychologists such as Gerard Heymans (1857–1930) actively involved in experiments into telepathy, the first professor in parapsychology in the world – Wilhelm Tenhaeff (1894–1981) – was appointed in 1953 at Utrecht University and in the 1970s and 1980s parapsychology had its own research laboratory at Utrecht University in the division of psychology. This unique situation in the Netherlands deserves scholarly attention and makes an interesting case to investigate the much-neglected connections between the fields of psychology and parapsychology in the 20th century. The connections between psychology and parapsychology might help us to understand why parapsychology came to be regarded as a pseudoscience.

“Psychical research and the origins of American psychology: Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino,” by Andreas Sommer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New! Special Issue History of the Human Sciences

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Back issues of Histoire de l’éducation now online

Back issues of Histoire de l’éducation have been made freely available at Persée, going back to its founding. This makes an additional 22 years of full-text available for use.

Founded in 1978, Histoire de l’éducation is an historical review devoted to teaching and education in France and abroad. Through articles, scientific notes, critical notes, and book reviews – in two issues of varia and two annual special issues – the journal aims to publish the best research in the discipline, report on historiographical debates, contribute to the dynamism of the scientific milieu [contribuer à l’animation de son milieu scientifique], and advance a view of the history of education that is consistent with the methods and requirements of disciplinary history. Histoire de l’éducation is also aimed at historians and at researchers from other disciplines in the field of education, as well as at teachers, trainers, and anyone else who looks to education’s past as a key to understanding its current problems.

Material published after 2000 can still be found here.

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