Tag Archives: Piaget

New History of Psychology: Reputation, Politics, and Archives

The May 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the role of reputation in academic life via a study of psychologist Kenneth James William Craik, the intersection of science and politics in communist Germany, and the work of Italian Catholic psychologist Agostino Gemelli (left). Other pieces include a discussion of Gantt charts as a means of visually depicting history and a look at the Piaget Archives in Geneva, Switzerland. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The reputation of Kenneth James William Craik,” by Alan F. Collins. The abstract reads,

Reputation is a familiar concept in everyday life and in a range of academic disciplines. There have been studies of its formation, its content, its management, its diffusion, and much else besides. This article explores the reputation of the Cambridge psychologist Kenneth Craik (1914–1945). Having examined something of Craik’s life and work and the content of his reputation, the article concentrates on the functions that Craik’s reputation has served, particularly for psychology and related disciplines. The major functions of that reputation are identified as being a legitimation and confirmation of disciplinary boundaries and discontinuities in the period shortly after World War II, an exemplification of how to be a modern scientist and of the values to embrace, a reinforcement of science as having a national dimension, an affirmation of psychology as a science that can serve national needs, and a creation of shared identities through commemoration. The article concludes that studies of reputations can illuminate the contexts in which they emerge and the values they endorse.

“Science in a communist country: The case of the XXIInd International Congress of Psychology in Leipzig (1980),” by Wolfgang Schönpflug & Gerd Lüer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New History of Psychology: Reputation, Politics, and Archives

Share on Facebook

Egocentrism in Piaget’s theory

New Ideas in Psychology

A valuable new article will appear in the December issue of New Ideas in Psychology: “The concept of egocentrism in the context of Piaget’s theory,” by Thomas Kesselring and Ulrich Müller.  As a hybrid serving both historical and contemporary interests, it is very nearly perfect.  And it makes some incredibly valuable contributions.

The gist: the term “egocentrism” is a hold-over from Jean Piaget’s postdoc in psychoanalysis.  But what he meant by its use has been badly misunderstood.  Really, it ought to be conceptualized in terms of a process of “decentering.”  This claim is supported by appealing to an apology by Piaget—he explained that his choice of terms was “unfortunate”—and by a deep and thorough reading of the relevant primary sources (in both English and French).

We don’t know much, in English, about Piaget’s postdoctoral training (but in French see Ducret, 1984).  The article lays out some of that background: “The roots of the concept of egocentrism can be traced back to Freud’s influence” (p. 328).  This then situates what follows: the article’s focus is on how Piaget’s empirical work led him away from psychoanalysis toward something new.  It also engages the subsequent misunderstandings that emerged as a result of the uneven translation of Piaget’s writings into English.

In this connection, I would like to draw particular attention to the article’s new translation of a short passage from a lecture delivered in 1920.  This has never before been available in English:

Autistic thinking that forms personal symbols remains with us throughout our lives. However, its role changes with age. In the child, autism is everything. Later, reason develops at the expense of autism but can reason ever completely shed itself of autistic thinking? It does not appear this way. The task is therefore to create… a psychology in order to determine in each individual the exact relations between the level of intelligence and the level of autistic or unconscious life (Piaget, 1920, p. 57; trans by Kesselring & Müller, 2011, p. 328).

This paragraph provides the basis for everything that follows: egocentrism, as a concept, sits midway between self-focussed thought (autism) and self-transcendent thought (logical, scientific thinking).  It is important to note, however, that this use of “autism” is different from what we mean today by applying that label.  And the authors, quite helpfully, note this.

This leads Kesselring and Müller to reference some of Piaget’s early comments on the importance of social interaction in decentering the child from overly-narrow thinking: “Social interaction and the becoming aware of the self lead to a mediation of the child’s own point of view by other perspectives and, as a consequence, a universe of relations gradually replaces the universe of absolute substances” (p. 329; citing Piaget, 1927/1930, p. 250).  These claims are critically important for a proper understanding of Piaget’s theory, but so often missed.  Related ideas can also be found in Sociological Studies, which includes reprints of two articles from that period (1928 [pp. 184-214] & 1933 [pp. 215-247]).

There are lots of other wonderful insights (e.g., regarding the replacement of “imitation” with “accommodation” and his replies to Vygotsky), but my purpose here is not to provide highlights.  The article is too valuable to allow it to be glossed over.  It is, simply, an excellent example of a project that uses history to serve science.

Share on Facebook

Jeremy Burman Returns Victorious!

Jeremy BurmanKudos to AHP’s own Jeremy Burman who received the inaugural Pufall Award at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Knowledge and Development (a.k.a. the Jean Piaget Society) in Utah this past week.  Jeremy was recognized for his efforts to understand and explain the history of Jean Piaget’s theory.  This year, he organized a symposium at which Robert Campbell, Katherine Nelson, and Phil Zelazo presented papers related to his ongoing research on Piaget’s “new theory” (1964-1980).  Pursuant to the conference theme, he also presented a paper on Conrad Waddington’s conception of “pathways” in evolutionary-developmental biology.

Share on Facebook

Alfred Binet in The Psychologist

Alfred BinetThe latest issue of the British Psychological Society’s flagship journal, The Psychologist, has just come out and it is freely available on-line in its entirety.

Of particular interest to historians will be Richard Howard’s piece on the French inventor of the intelligence test (among other things), Alfred Binet. Dr. Howard, who is a Reader in Personality Disorders in the Psychiatry Division at Nottingham University, emphasizes the differences between the value Binet saw in his own test and the uses to which it was put by Lewis Terman and other in the US. He also covers Binet’s wide range of interests prior to the intelligence test, from his work on hysteria and suggestibility in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic, to his studies of the unreliability of eyewitnesses in law courts, to his doctorate in insect physiology.

Share on Facebook

First Psychology Laboratory in the British Empire

University College, TorontoOn this day in 1890, the first experimental psychology laboratory in the British Empire opened, at the University of Toronto in Canada. It was the brainchild of James Mark Baldwin, who had been hired just a few months earlier in the face of immense public opposition by those who believed the school should hire Canadians only. The controversy was settled when the Premier of Ontario agreed to hire a Canadian at the same time, James Gibson Hume (see Green, 2004). Continue reading First Psychology Laboratory in the British Empire

Share on Facebook

CFP: Jean Piaget Society, Quebec City 2008

Piaget Society logoThe Jean Piaget Society invites program submissions for the 38th Annual Meeting to take place in Québec City, Canada, at the Loews Le Concorde Hotel, June 6-8, 2008. The theme of this year’s meeting is Adolescent Development: Challenges and Opportunities.

Marking the 50th anniversary of its English publication, Inhelder & Piaget’s The Growth of Logical Thinking from Childhood to Adolescence will also be discussed at a special session. Continue reading CFP: Jean Piaget Society, Quebec City 2008

Share on Facebook

Piaget & Kuhn

Jean PiagetThomas KuhnIn a 2006 article in the journal Theory & Psychology, Jonathan Y. Tsou of U. Chicago argued that Jean Piaget’s genetic epistemology could be used to rectify various aspects of Thomas Kuhn’s influential philosophy of science that Tsou regarded as being problematic.

In the latest issue of Theory & Psychology, Jeremy Burman of York University has published a reply in which he argues that Tsou’s effort did not come to terms with a number of complications in the relationship between Piaget and Kuhn. As Burman puts matters in his abstract: Continue reading Piaget & Kuhn

Share on Facebook