Tag Archives: technology

New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

Jean Piaget

The following four recently published articles may be of interest to AHP readers.

History of Science: “Rehabilitating LSD history in postwar America: Dilworth Wayne Woolley and the serotonin hypothesis of mental illness,” by Kim Hewitt. The abstract reads,

Revisiting the history of postwar LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) research illuminates how the work of a chemist at the Rockefeller Institute contributed to the development of a biochemical paradigm for mental functioning. Dilworth Wayne Woolley proposed one of the first theories of the biochemistry of mental illness based on empirical evidence. His research with LSD and serotonin had wide-ranging repercussions for pharmacology and fit neatly into the emerging medicalization of mental illness. Reevaluating Woolley’s ideas and the fruits of psychopharmacology leads to possible new approaches toward mental health and illness when considered alongside lessons learned from past research with psychedelic substances, and exemplifies a broader paradigm shift in cultural studies toward a biopsychosocial model that acknowledges the intersections between biology and culture.

Theory & Psychology: “Controversies on Evolutionism: On the construction of scientific boundaries in public and internal scientific controversies about evolutionary psychology and sociobiology,” by Nora Ruck. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

Share on Facebook

For Your Consideration: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

61Hx4oueqcLThis summer I read Thomas Pynchon’s legendary, post-modern novel Gravity’s Rainbow. Published in 1973, the novel takes place during the latter part of WWII, beginning in London and eventually traversing the European (and occasionally other) landscapes. Pynchon’s work is of such a non-traditional nature that describing a plot is a preposterous attempt; but the novel’s linchpin is the Germans’ rumoured Rocket 00000, and the hitherto unknown power and destruction it may contain. Gravity’s Rainbow is replete with characters and circumstances pertinent to those interested in the history of science, particularly psychology. Though the author attends to and obsesses over the esoteric verbiage and theories of physics, engineering, and espionage, Pynchon devotes a considerable amount of his novel (and the characters therein) to matters related to Psychology. Indeed the main character, Tyrone Slothrop, is at the forefront of this novel due to his intimate physiological and psychological connection with Rocket 00000 (and the Schwarzgerät [AKA ‘black device’] within it). This conditioned connection was wrought when Tyrone was a neonate—the experimental situations of such reflexive conditioning emphasizing Pavolvian theory, while echoing the setting of Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert experiments. An entire club of scientists in this book revere Pavlov as a demigod, and rotate their lone copy of his Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, simply referring to it as ‘The Book’.

infanttyronePynchon also includes scenes of the supposedly supernatural, where the faithful and the skeptical alike attend séances. These scenes mirror Psychology’s early history of actively debunking supernatural occurrences, unmasking the deceptive charlatans; concurrently there are other organizations, such as the Psi Section(s), that are professionally interested in the parapsychological for potential military and espionage tactics. Other characters and scenes concentrate on statistics and probability, and their predictive utility in the unpredictable chaos of war (with a particular focus on the Poisson Distribution). Many of these scenes recall the involvements of psychologists in military and government matters, and shines a light on their bizarre and variegated positions within the national and transnational bureaucratic machines of WWII.

Pynchon-simpsonsThese are a smattering of how the history of Psychology makes it way into Gravity’s Rainbow, and Pynchon develops the complex ramifications of these new theories and technologies for his seemingly endless assemblage of characters. These examples related to the history of psychology are ensconced within a fictional world that reflects the consequences of our scientific and technological progress: the fragmentation and disorganization of our selves and our societies that result from our systems of unification and organization. Tyrone Slothtrop’s continually evolving and confused selves, his nomadic lifestyle leading to places that are in constant destruction and reconstruction, and Pynchon’s own ceaseless change in narrative genre, tone, and syntax, illustrate the dizzying fragmentation-reorganization cycle that revolves more quickly the further we progress in our sciences and technologies. This book is Pynchon’s attempt at capturing the impossibly convoluted state of our post-WWII and post-modern lives.

Though Gravity’s Rainbow encompasses much more than only issues related to disciplinary Psychology, I would still like to recommend it as an excellent source of interest, inspiration, bewilderment, and discussion for anyone interested in the history of Psychology.

Buy it here.

Page-by-page annotations here.

Page-by-page artwork by Zak Smith here.

Learn more about Pynchon here, here, and here.

 

Share on Facebook

History of Technology, Emotion, and Film

MalinThe history of psychology has a presence in the most recent issue of Technology and Culture. In “Mediating Emotion: Technology, Social Science, and Emotion in the Payne Fund Motion-Picture Studies” Brenton J. Malin, Assistant Professor in Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, explores the complex relationship between technology and emotion in 1920s and 1930s America.

The research of University of Iowa psychologists Wendell Dysinger and Christian Ruckmick is at the centre of Malin’s discussion of emotion and technology during this period. The emphasis on technological measurement emotion, rather than introspection, is described in terms of the objective qualities of the former method. As emotion was both an object of study and a subject of concern, technology was employed to ameliorate the potential influence of the researcher’s own emotional state. In Dysinger and Ruckmick’s case a concern with objectivity led to the use of the psycho-galvanometer to gauge children’s emotional response to motion pictures.

Malin contends that research on emotional responses to motion pictures was of interest at the time due to the increasing presence of entertainment-oriented technology in society, as well as an emerging view that excessive emotion had the potential to harm. Continue reading History of Technology, Emotion, and Film

Share on Facebook

Dissertation Fellowship for Histories of Technology

Are you — or one of your students — working on a history of psychological technologies? If so, here’s good news: the Melvin Kranzberg Dissertation Fellowship is presented annually to a doctoral student engaged in the preparation of a dissertation on the history of technology, broadly defined. This award is in memory of the co-founder of the Society for the History of Technology and honors Melvin Kranzberg’s many contributions to developing the history of technology as a field of scholarly endeavor and SHOT as a professional organization. Continue reading Dissertation Fellowship for Histories of Technology

Share on Facebook

International History of Science Congress in Budapest

BudapestIt has been announced that the XXIIIrd Congress of History of Science and Technology will be held July 26-31, 2009 in Budapest, Hungary. The theme of the conference will be “Ideas and Instruments in Social Context.” The website for the conference can be found here. The full announcement from the Congress Secretariat can be found below. Continue reading International History of Science Congress in Budapest

Share on Facebook