The most recent issue of Theory & Psychology includes a several brief pieces on historiography in psychology. Contributions from Daniel Robinson (above), Kurt Danziger, and Thomas Teo debate the proper approach to the historiography of psychology, as well as the relationship between the history of psychology and the philosophy of psychology. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below. Join in on the discussion in the comments.
“Historiography in psychology: A note on ignorance,” by Daniel N. Robinson. The abstract reads,
A persistent theme in books and essays concerning the history of psychology suggests something amiss in tracing that history to ancient sources. Authoritative writers on the subject reject any intimation of continuity from classical to modern perspectives. Nonetheless, writers of textbooks identify the ancient world of philosophy and science as wellsprings of issues still alive within the discipline. To some, this tendency is attributed to simple ignorance. The controversy here is based on a failure to appreciate the relationship and the differences between continuity and recurrence, as well as an undisciplined application of terms far too protean for the intended purpose.
At the end of April, professors Thomas Teo and Michael Pettit, of York University’s History and Theory of Psychology program, visited the Department of Psychology at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (Department of Psychology, Federal University of Juiz de Fora), which recently established a History and Philosophy of Psychology graduate program. Teo and Pettit spoke about their work at the Seminário de Pós-graduação em Psicologia (Graduate Seminar in Psychology) and were interviewed, along with others, for a video that is now on YouTube (above).
This post is written by Thomas Teo, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.
Adapted from: Teo, T. (2008). Race and psychology. In W. A. Darity (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social sciences (2nd ed.) (Vol. 7, pp. 21-24). Detroit, MI: Macmillan.
Before the formal institutionalization of psychology in the nineteenth century, academics attributed psychological qualities to specific ethnic groups (doing so can even be found in Aristotle’s writings). However, the systematic combination of psychological characteristics with race occurred in the eighteenth century when Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) combined varieties of humans (“races”) with psychological and social characteristics in his taxonomy. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) advanced the concept of the Caucasian based on his idea that European culture originated in the Caucasus. The term Caucasian, still used in empirical studies of psychology, has no scientific validity.
In the second half of nineteenth century some European scholars suggested that the Caucasian variety divided into two branches, identified as Semites and Aryans. Both were associated with different psychological characteristics and formed the theoretical basis for Hitler’s ideology. In the 1860s John Langdon H. Down (1829-1896) studied the structure and function of various organs in idiots and imbeciles. He observed a group of individuals that he characterized as having round faces, flattened skulls, extra folds of skin over their eyelids, protruding tongues, short limbs, and retardation of motor and mental abilities. Continue reading →