Tag Archives: interview

APA Monitor: A (Nearly) Centenarian Jerome Bruner


The May issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology features an interview with psychologist Jerome Bruner in advance of his 100th birthday this fall. As the introduction to the interview describes,

Early on, Bruner explored the ways that experience affects perception. His paper “Value and Need as Organizing Factors in Perception” (Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1947) reported the finding that children were more likely to overestimate the size of coins than cardboard discs — and the greater the value of the coin, the more likely the children were to overestimate its diameter. What’s more, poor children were significantly more likely than rich children to overestimate the size of coins. In other words, both value and need influenced the way the children perceived the world around them.

Through research and observation, Bruner understood that human behavior is always influenced by the world and culture in which we live. His work helped move the field of psychology away from strict behaviorism and contributed to the emergence of cognitive psychology.

Continue reading APA Monitor: A (Nearly) Centenarian Jerome Bruner

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Deception and Psychology

AHP is pleased to present an interview with Michael Pettit, author of the newly released book The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America.

Michael Pettit is a faculty member in the History and Theory of Psychology graduate program at York University. This book represents a culmination of Pettit’s research interests. In particular, his research centers on psychology’s emergence as a science, a discipline, and a profession as well as the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the public sphere. The entire interview is below:

AHP: As an historian of the human sciences, what led you to investigate the topic of deception and psychology?

MP: My interest in deception was originally inspired by my training in American history and the history of capitalism. Early in grad school, I had been reading quite a bit about the showman P. T. Barnum, his entertaining hoaxes, and the culture of exhibition. I was curious about the role of the fledging American scientific community and their expertise in the reception of these spectacles. I also wanted to figure out what happened to fraud (legally and culturally) after the golden age of Barnum’s humbugs had passed. As I began the research, I found books by early popular psychologists on the same shelf as Barnum’s exposés which led me to ask about the historical relationships between the two.

AHP: Psychologists have, at various times, sought to detect, deploy, and even diagnose deceptive practices. How has deception become so central to psychology, and is a psychology without deception even possible?

MP: I think deception is important for psychology methodologically because psychologists from a wide range of perspectives define the human as fundamentally a deceitful and deceivable creature. A large part of the psychologist’s authority derives from the conviction that humans cannot understand themselves (their thoughts, feelings, behaviors) without their considerable mediating role. Because there is a deep suspicion (yet reliance) on human testimony, these concerns are particularly acute in psychology compared to other human sciences (e.g. economics). One long-standing narrative about the intellectual history of the twentieth century is that Freud had a tremendous cultural impact because he introduced a view of human nature as profoundly irrational. My book seeks to reorient this narrative. I would argue that concerns about the deceivable and deceitful self figured prominently in late nineteenth-century American culture, especially in discussions of the market, and that created a space into which psychoanalysis was received and transformed into a particularly American form of self talk. Continue reading Deception and Psychology

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David Boder’s Interviews w/ Holocaust Survivors

In the mid-1940s, in the aftermath of World War II, psychologist David Boder (left) undertook a series of interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, a project that ultimately resulted in over 90 hours of audio recordings. Boder himself published exerts from these interviews, alongside his analysis, in the 1949 book I Did Not Interview the Dead.

Boder’s work is now the basis of a digital archive, Voices of the Holocaust. The project aims “to provide a permanent digital archive of digitized, restored, transcribed, and translated interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in 1946, so that they can be experienced by a global audience of students, researchers, historians, and the general public.” To this end both audio and transcriptions of his interviews can be found on the site.

The Voices of the Holocaust website also features a biography of Boder, which includes discussion of how he came to undertake this project and what the interviews themselves involved. As the site describes,

Arriving in Paris in late July, Boder would spend the next two months interviewing 130 displaced persons in nine languages and recording them on a state-of-the-art wire recorder. The interviews were among the earliest (if not the earliest) audio recordings of Holocaust survivors. They are today the earliest extant recordings, valuable not only for the testimonies of survivors and other DPs, but also for the song sessions and religious services that Boder recorded at various points during the expedition.

…. Boder left Europe in early October, having recorded over ninety hours of material and completely used up the two hundred spools of wire that he had brought with him.

Most of the interviews were conducted with Eastern European Jews, and of these the majority were from Poland. Yet Boder was keen on speaking to many different kinds of groups: Western European Jews (including six Greek Jews that did not fit neatly in either category) number close to twenty. His interviewees thus covered the extreme ends of the spectrum of modern Jewish experience, from passionately Torah-observant Jews who hailed from great yeshiva centers in Lithuania, to assimilated German Jews married to non-Jewish spouses. Most, however, fell somewhere in between. When it came to war time experience, the greater part—whether Eastern or Western, Hungarian or Greek—had ended up in labor or concentration camps. The terrible rigors were what Boder believed his American audience needed an education about: “We know very little in America about the things that happened to you people who were in concentration camps,” was how Boder would orient his narrator to the task and purpose of the interview. But such a mandate did not stop Boder from interviewing over twenty Jews who had not been in the camps. Their stories—of enduring the privation of ghettos, of hiding in woods or on farms, of fleeing to or fighting for Russia—presumably qualified as the “not unusual stories” that Boder said he was seeking and could similarly perform the task of educating an audience across the ocean.

Tip ‘o the hat to the Center for the History of Psychology’s Facebook page for bringing this resource to our attention. Included in the Center’s collections is the Peirce Wire Recorder Boder used in his interviews.

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