Tag Archives: teaching

New HoP: The “Lens,” Helmholtz, The Phi Phenomena, & More

The May 2014 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the interplay of images and concepts in ideas about the “lens” as developed by Fritz Heider and Egon Brunswick, the influence of Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Ego-doctrine on Helmholtz’s theory of perception, the future of the history of psychology course in Canada, and archives on the history of Chinese psychology. The issue also features a special section devoted to the centenary of Max Wertheimer’s publication of the phi phenomena. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Remembering the “lens”: Visual transformations of a concept from Heider to Brunswik,” by Martin Wieser. The abstract reads,

It is argued that Frederic Bartlett’s views on the social and cultural determinants of remembering and recognition provide a useful background for analyzing the transformations of psychological concepts and images when they are introduced into new academic collectives. An example of a “Bartlettian” view on the history of psychology is given by reconstructing and contextualizing the transformation of the “lens,” a model of human perception that was invented by Fritz Heider in the 1920s and adopted by Egon Brunswik from the 1930s onwards. Heider’s early work suggested a new perspective on the epistemological relation between subject, media, and object that was devised to create a new conceptual foundation for academic psychology. Brunswik, on the other hand, transformed Heider’s “lens” into a clear-cut experimental framework that was based on the physicalist and operationalist demands of logical empiricism, the movement for the “unity of science,” and, after his migration to Berkeley, neobehaviorism. This episode provides many similarities with Bartlett’s theory of the social determinants of knowledge and the shaping power of collective presuppositions, norms, and ideals.

“Voluntarism in early psychology: The case of Hermann von Helmholtz,” by Liesbet De Kock. The abstract reads,

The failure to recognize the programmatic similarity between (post-)Kantian German philosophy and early psychology has impoverished psychology’s historical self-understanding to a great extent. This article aims to contribute to recent efforts to overcome the gaps in the historiography of contemporary psychology, which are the result of an empiricist bias. To this end, we present an analysis of the way in which Hermann von Helmholtz’s theory of perception resonates with Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Ego-doctrine. It will be argued that this indebtedness is particularly clear when focusing on the foundation of the differential awareness of subject and object in perception. In doing so, the widespread reception of Helmholtz’s work as proto-positivist or strictly empiricist is challenged, in favor of the claim that important elements of his theorizing can only be understood properly against the background of Fichte’s Ego-doctrine.

Special Section: On the occasion of the centenary of Max Wertheimer’s article on the “phi phenomenon”

“Max Wertheimer centennial celebration in Germany,” by Michael Wertheimer. The abstract reads, Continue reading

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Sept 1: Grad student grant deadline for $2,500

THEN/HiER, the first pan-Canadian organization devoted to promoting and improving history teaching and learning, will give up to $2,500 to support a collaborative project bringing together some of the multiple and varied constituencies involved in history education.

Our goal is to stimulate an active, participatory dialogue among these various communities of history educators, a dialogue that explores how best to improve history education in all its forms through more research-informed practice (from kindergarten to graduate school) and more practice-informed research.

Their aim is to fund knowledge mobilization and dissemination, rather than new research. The next deadline is September 1. (And, after that, November 1.)

Details regarding graduate student projects can be found here; regarding open small grants, which require matching funds or in-kind contributions, here.

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New History of Medicine Website

The Science Museum, London launched a new website today called “Brought to Life.” The site provides a new history of medicine resource that includes 2,500 images from the Science Museum’s collection as well as descriptions of numerous individuals, technologies, objects, and themes from medicine’s history. According to the announcement made on the H-Net listserv for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology, the website is scheduled to receive another 4,000 images over the coming year.

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Becoming a Psychologist-Historian

Kelli Vaughn-BlountIn the latest issue of the American Journal of Psychology, 122(1), Kelli Vaughn-Blount (pictured left) answers — with co-authors Alexandra Rutherford, David Baker, and Deborah Johnson — two key questions: Why do history in psychology?  And how do I get started?

More than 40 years ago, psychologist-historian Robert Watson argued that the study of history was of particular salience to psychology. In this article we explore the relationship between psychology and history and argue that the psychologist-­historian plays a vital role in the discipline of psychology. We provide a brief overview of the emergence of the history of psychology as a professional subdiscipline, describe who psychologist­-historians are, explain why they are needed, and detail how to join their ranks. We argue that increasing historical sophistication among psychologists will have beneficial effects on research and teaching, and we invite all psychologists to participate in the making of psychology’s history.

We wrote to Vaughn-Blount and asked to take us behind-the-scenes on her decision to write this article. This is what she said. Continue reading

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Digitizing the History of Psychology, Part 2

Amazon KindleOne of the benefits of the APA’s “Akron Project” (at AHP here) is that it will make rare books and grey literature more accessible.  This will make it easier for psychologists to “do history” and for students of psychology to engage with the foundations of their discipline.  But at what cost?

The gizmo they’re using at AHAP, bought new, is rumoured to carry a price tag of around  $300,000.  If APA hadn’t rented the two they’ve been using since the project started in 2007, that amount would translate into a fixed cost contribution of ~$0.60 per scanned page (plus the marginal costs of labour and electronic delivery).  These costs are tangible.  What about the intangibles?

What about the cost of replacing the book as a content-delivery device?

This is the question posed by Christopher Conway in the latest issue of Inside Higher Ed:

The commodity of the book, as we have known it for the last few decades, is vanishing and being replaced by new electronic media. Paper-and-binding books have irrevocably begun to fade away as products of mass consumption and will soon transform themselves into curios like vinyl records. The age of the massive emporium bookstore is coming to an end under the crushing, virtual weight of the Internet. Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader is doing well and it promises to get better and cheaper in the future….  And worst of all, if you’re a paper-and-binding book lover such as myself, people are reading less paper than before.

For those of us who love the materiality of history, it’s certainly true that books have a certain hold on the imagination.  When a book is imbued with its own history, when what you hold is more than its contents, it seems almost to sing—a soul greater than the hum of its parts.  The feel and the smell and the dust, strangely, is part of the experience.  It connects you to everyone else who has touched that volume; in a small way, it also makes you part of the history experienced by future readers.

Does it matter that we are becoming increasingly able to separate our historical texts from their history? What do we lose in leaving the book behind? Continue reading

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Does an education in science need history?

Isis, 99(2)In the latest issue of Isis, 99(2), Graeme Gooday, John M. Lynch, Kenneth G. Wilson, and Constance K. Barsky ask an important question: “Does science education need the history of science?” Generalized to address recent questions about the place of “the History of psychology” in “the discipline of Psychology,” their discussion seems particularly timely.

Perhaps predictably, given what is likely my own bias in sharing their article with the readers of AHP, Gooday and his colleagues answer such questions in the affirmative: “science education can gain from close engagement with the history of science both in the training of prospective vocational scientists and in educating the broader public about the nature of science” (p. 322). Their essay makes this case in two parts, with a third suggesting some ways in which historians could further increase the value they offer to science:

First it shows how historicizing science in the classroom can improve the pedagogical experience of science students and might even help them turn into more effective professional practitioners of science [pp. 323-327]. Then it examines how historians of science can support the scientific education of the general public at a time when debates over “intelligent design” are raising major questions over the kind of science that ought to be available to children in their school curricula [pp. 327-329]. It concludes by considering further work that might be undertaken to show how history of science could be of more general educational interest and utility, well beyond the closed academic domains in which historians of science typically operate.

Of the three, the third part of their essay seems most likely to generate the kind of discussion that would help historians of psychology secure the future of History in Psychology. Continue reading

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Teaching around the Paradox of Indoctrination

In the latest issue of Educational Theory, 58(2), Chris Hanks examines the “paradox of indoctrination” faced by educators in their efforts at teaching.

…if indoctrination means instilling beliefs without reasons, and if children lack the rational capacity to evaluate reasons, how can that capacity be cultivated without indoctrination? Some educational theorists have relied on a transcendental justification of rational autonomy that avoids indoctrination, while others have accepted that some indoctrination is inevitable, focusing instead on defending acceptable forms of indoctrination. In this essay, Chris Hanks draws on a conception of rationality, mind, and nature developed by John McDowell to suggest an alternative understanding of the relation between indoctrination and autonomy. He argues that McDowell’s notion of the “space of reasons” defuses standard debates about indoctrination. Here, rationality is understood in both a naturalistic sense, whereby the development of autonomy is the process of being awakened to the space of reasons, and in a sui generis sense, whereby reason cannot be reduced to mechanistic principles or relations. The implications of this view for education point us to the notion of Bildung as the process that cultivates rational autonomy.

If we rephrase the problem — altering it from one of overcoming our students’ “lack of rational capacity to evaluate reasons” (i.e., filling empty heads) to one of instilling an aesthetic among those who have not yet developed their palate (i.e., unveiling hidden beauty) — then it seems Hanks’ argument can be generalized. Continue reading

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What should we teach as controversial?

Michael HandIn the latest issue of Educational Theory, 58(2), Michael Hand examines an issue that will hit close to home for everyone who teaches history: “What should we teach as controversial?”

There is an emerging consensus that to teach something as controversial is to present it as a matter on which different views are or could be held and to expound those different views as impartially as possible. This raises an important normative question that has yet to receive the attention it deserves from educational theorists: how are we to decide which topics to teach in this way? The answer suggested by Robert Dearden is that we should apply the epistemic criterion: a matter should be taught as controversial when contrary views can be held on it without those views being contrary to reason. In this essay, Michael Hand aims to defend that answer. In the first part of the article he revisits Dearden’s rather thin and unsatisfactory justification for the epistemic criterion and attempts to mend its deficiencies. In the second part, Hand examines an alternative to the epistemic criterion in the area of moral education, an alternative he labels the political criterion, and explains why he thinks we should reject it.

This piece is part of a special issue on Epistemology and Education. See the table of contents here.

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Common Errors in History of Psychology Textbooks

Roger K. ThomasIn the fall 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychology, an article by Roger Thomas (U. Georgia) presented the cases of five erroneous stories that frequently appear in history of psychology textbooks. The episodes included (1) what Santayana really said about people who don’t know the past, (2) the events surrounding Pavlov’s mugging in New York in 1923, (3) Broca’s 1861 “discovery” of a speech center in the brain, (4) the misrepresentation of Morgan’s canon, and (5) the reasons Descartes gave for locating the soul in the pineal gland.

The first of these, although a relatively minor error, is particularly ironic in the context. Continue reading

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Debates About Freud & Repression

Simon BoagIn the December 2007 issue of Review of General Psychology, Harvard psychologist Richard J. McNally disputes a claim by Simon Boag (2006) of Macquarie U. (Australia) that Sigmund Freud’s theory of repression is routinely misrepresented in modern textbooks and even research articles. Boag argued that most writers falsely describe repression as being the motivated forgetting of memories of trauma (typically, of childhood sexual abuse). Instead, Boag noted, Freud invoked repression to explain the forgetting of unacceptable impulses and desires. Boag went on to suggest that this repeated error constitutes a form a “pathological science”; precisely the kind of “resistance to psychoanalysis… [that] Freud predicted would occur.” Continue reading

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