Tag Archives: Titchener

New HoP: Neurohistory, Titchener at Oxford, & Debating the New History of Psych

Edward Bradford Titchener

The May 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore neurohistory, the influence of Titchener’s Oxford years on his thought, and gender and psychoanalysis in 1940s Britain. The issue also features a special section devoted to “Debating the New History of Psychology.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Historiography, affect, and the neurosciences,” by Larry S. McGrath. Abstract:

Recent historiography has put to rest debates over whether to address the neurosciences. The question is how? In this article, I stage a dialogue between neurohistory and the history of the emotions. My primary goal is to survey these two clusters and clarify their conceptual commitments. Both center on the role of affect in embodied subjectivity; but their accounts widely diverge. Whereas neurohistorians tend to treat affects as automatic bodily processes, historians of the emotions generally emphasize that affects are meaningful and volitional activities. This divergence entails contrasting understandings of selfhood, embodiment, and historical change. More importantly, I argue, it reflects a broader realm of disputes within the neurosciences. The divisions among methodologies and commitments testify to the importance of historians’ selection of evidence as well as the critical perspectives they can bring to scientific debates. The neurosciences do not offer readymade theories. Secondarily, I take stock of the shared limitations of neurohistory and the history of the emotions. Both conceptualize the biological bases of affection as a universal ground for historical inquiry. By reexamining this transhistorical approach to neuroscientific evidence, I suggest that historiography might widen the horizon of interdisciplinary scholarship beyond the present options.

“From classicism and idealism to scientific naturalism: Titchener’s Oxford years and their impact upon his early intellectual development,” by Saulo de Freitas Araujo and Cintia Fernandes Marcellos. Abstract: Continue reading New HoP: Neurohistory, Titchener at Oxford, & Debating the New History of Psych

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New Articles: Washburn’s Cognitivism and Boring in the AJP

The Summer 2017 issue of The American Journal of Psychology is now available and includes two articles that may interest AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Margaret F. Washburn in The American Journal of Psychology: A Cognitive Precursor?,” by José T. Boyano. The abstract reads,

In the early 20th century, Margaret F. Washburn (1871–1939) produced numerous studies on perception, affective value of stimulus, memory, emotions, and consciousness. This experimental work was published in The American Journal of Psychology. The purpose of this article is to analyze the temporal evolution of these kinds of experiments and relate them to Washburn’s theoretical production. Contrary to other views, Washburn’s experimental evolution follows a logical sequence and has a strong inner coherence. Among other reasons, the lack of a scientific and social framework to the study of the mind has tended to overshadow large areas of Washburn’s thought. However, both the work published in AJP and the methods used in experiments provide reasons to consider Washburn one of the precursors of contemporary cognitive psychology.

“Edwin G. Boring: The Historian’s Path in the Pages of The American Journal of Psychology,” by Shawn P. Gallagher. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Articles: Washburn’s Cognitivism and Boring in the AJP

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130th Anniversary of The American Journal of Psychology

Psychological Laboratory, Cornell University,1900

The first issue of the 130th volume of The American Journal of Psychology includes a couple articles marking the occasion. Full details below.

“The Synthetic Experiment: E. B. Titchener’s Cornell Psychological Laboratory and the Test of Introspective Analysis,” by Rand B. Evans. The abstract reads,

Beginning in 1900, a major thread of research was added to E. B. Titchener’s Cornell laboratory: the synthetic experiment. Titchener and his graduate students used introspective analysis to reduce a perception, a complex experience, into its simple sensory constituents. To test the validity of that analysis, stimulus patterns were selected to reproduce the patterns of sensations found in the introspective analyses. If the original perception can be reconstructed in this way, then the analysis was considered validated. This article reviews development of the synthetic method in E. B. Titchener’s laboratory at Cornell University and examines its impact on psychological research.

“The Method of Negative Instruction: Herbert S. Langfeld’s and Ludwig R. Geissler’s 1910–1913 Insightful Studies,” by Robert W. Proctor and Aiping Xiong. The abstract reads,

Herbert S. Langfeld and Ludwig R. Geissler published insightful articles during the period of 1910–1913 using what they called the Method of Negative Instruction, which anticipated much current research on action control and the role of instructions. We review their studies and relate the findings to contemporary research and views concerning task-irrelevant congruency effects and deception, concluding that their work has not received the credit it warrants. We also call for contemporary researchers to revisit prior studies, especially ones conducted before the cognitive revolution in psychology, to enrich their knowledge of the field and improve the quality of their research.

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History of Psych in American Journal of Psychology

Society of Experimental Psychologists, 1927

The Winter 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is now available online.  The issue’s “History of Psychology” section includes two articles of interest to AHP readers. Robert Proctor and Rand Evans discuss the complicated relationship between Edward Titchener and female psychologists, given that he trained a number of early American female psychologists, yet excluded women from his society the Experimentalists. In another piece Serge Nicolas and Jacy Young (full disclosure: the latter is the author of this blog post) introduce a translation of a French description of the psychology laboratory at Clark University from 1893. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“E. B. Titchener, Women Psychologists, and the Experimentalists,” by Robert W. Proctor and Rand Evans. The abstract reads,

A well-known fact is that E. B. Titchener, a major figure in psychology in the first quarter of the 20th century, excluded women from the group known as the Experimentalists, which he formed in 1904. This fact provides the basis for depicting him as a misogynist. Less well known and publicized is that he was arguably the strongest advocate for women psychologists in the United States throughout his academic career. He supervised the graduate study of Margaret Washburn, the first woman to receive a PhD in psychology in the United States, directed more than 20 dissertations for women psychologists, most of which were published in The American Journal of Psychology, and influenced and befriended others who were not his PhD students. The purpose of this article is to make psychologists more aware of the prominent role Titchener played in the education of early women psychologists and to reconcile this contribution with his position that the Experimentalists should be restricted to men.

“A French Description of the Psychology Laboratory of G. S. Hall at Clark University in 1893,” by Serge Nicolas and Jacy L. Young. The abstract reads, Continue reading History of Psych in American Journal of Psychology

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In the Days Before PowerPoint…

The November issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section looks at the use of the magic lantern in psychology courses in the late-nineteenth century. As author Laurence Smith informs us,

Prominent among the historical precursors of today’s PowerPoint presentations is the “magic lantern,” which came into wide use in classrooms of the late 19th century. An early sort of slide projector dating to the 17th century, the magic lantern contained a light source (a gas flame or electric bulb) that transilluminated large glass slides bearing images that were projected through lenses onto large cloth screens. Some versions, such as the “episcope,” could project laboratory instruments such as kymographs and other opaque objects onto screens, thus allowing instructors to present live scientific phenomena to large audiences.

Smith goes on to describe the use of the magic lantern by such early luminaries as Wilhelm Wundt, E. B. Titchener, and Edward Scripture. He writes,

By the time the new psychology reached American shores in the late 1800s, college students had developed a strong appetite for image-driven science. These students had many attractive options for sciences to pursue, and psychology professors recognized that their new and still-marginal discipline needed to match the pedagogical flair of the older sciences. In 1897, Scripture wrote that “comparisons are constantly drawn between the various departments, and merely as a matter of self-preservation the psychological laboratory must offer courses equal in attractiveness and value to those of physics, chemistry and biology. A lecture room with at least a single lantern … should be provided. … The students are no longer a ‘class’ to be taught; they are an ‘audience’ that must be led.”

Thus the magic lantern, which arrived from Germany in tandem with scientific psychology, was seen as a crucial means of attracting the student following that would help psychology survive against the competition of entrenched sciences.

The full article, “Multimedia 1890s,” can be read online here.

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Titchener & Scientific Objectivity in Isis

The latest issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, features an article on the importance of scientific objectivity in Edward Bradford Titchener’s experimental psychology. The piece, authored by Christopher Green, extends the analysis of scientific objectivity made by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison in their recent book on the subject.

“Scientific Objectivity and E. B. Titchener’s Experimental Psychology,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s recent book on the history of scientific objectivity showed that, over the course of the nineteenth century, natural scientists of many stripes became intensely concerned with the issue of the distorting influence that their own subjectivities might be having on their observations and representations of nature. At very nearly the same time, experimental psychology arose specifically to investigate scientifically the nature and structure of subjective consciousness. Although Daston and Galison briefly discussed some basic psychological issues—especially the discovery of differences in human color perception—they did not strongly connect the widespread European concern with scientific objectivity to the rise of experimental psychology. This essay critically examines the theoretical and empirical activities of the experimental psychologist who most energetically strove to discover the structure of subjective conscious experience, Edward Bradford Titchener. Titchener’s efforts to produce an objective study of subjectivity reveal important tensions in early experimental psychology and also serve to situate experimental psychology at the center of an important intellectual struggle that was being waged across the natural sciences in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.

Pictured at the right is Titchener’s plan for his psychology laboratory at Cornell University (click to enlarge).

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E. B. Titchener’s Brain on Display

The preserved brain of early psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener (1867-1927) is currently on display as part of Cornell University’s Wilder Brain Collection. Titchener, a British citizen who completed his doctorate in psychology with Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, accepted a position at Cornell in 1892 and remained at the university for the rest of his career. At Cornell, he served as chair of the Department of Psychology and as head of the university’s psychology laboratory. From these positions, Titchener promoted his system of structuralism, which emphasized the use of introspection as a method of psychological investigation.

The Wilder Brain Collection, which features Titchener’s brain, was begun in 1889 by former Civil War surgeon Burt Green Wilder, an animal biologist and founder of Cornell’s Anatomy Department. WIlder’s desire to collect brains was not atypical for this time. As described in a 2005 article on the Widler Brain Collection in the New York Times,

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were the “golden age” of brain collecting…

One force behind the effort was a desire to drive religion from the field of science. Another was a belief, inherited from Franz Joseph Gall, the 18th-century founder of phrenology, that different parts of the brain served different functions.

Even if experts could not tell people apart by their cranial bumps, the theory went, if science closely compared one brain with another it would eventually be clear why one person differed from another, why one was a genius and another a criminal. The brain would reveal the person.

According to Cornell University’s newspaper, The Chronicle Online,

Wilder wanted to see if differences could be detected in size, shape, weight and amount of convolution between the brains of “educated and orderly persons” and women, murderers, racial minorities and the mentally ill. Eventually, it was concluded that such differences could not be detected, at least not by the naked eye or any 19th-century tools.

At its peak, the collection had at least 600 specimens, perhaps as many as 1,200, including human and animal brains as well as some body parts and fetuses. By the time Barbara Finlay, professor of cognitive and brain science, took over curating the collection in 1978, most of the specimens — many more than 100 years old — were dried up. All but 70 were purged; the eight selected for display, including Wilder’s, were chosen because they had biographies to go with them. The rest are stored in a cramped Uris Hall basement closet.

The full Wilder Brain Collection display is pictured directly above, while Titchener’s brain in pictured in the image on the top right. All images are courtesy of Jennifer Bazar.

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Objectivity reviewed in Isis

ObjectivityIn the first issue of the one hundredth volume of Isis, Martin Kusch provides an extensive review of Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s Objectivity (pictured right).

Objectivity is the long-awaited expansion of Daston and Galison’s influential 1992 paper, “The Image of Objectivity,” into a hefty book-length investigation. Undoubtedly, Objectivity will be required reading for anyone in the history, sociology, and philosophy of science for years to come. This is because the book not only throws a striking new light on the last two hundred years of science, art, and philosophy; it also outlines and exemplifies a provocative, bold, and historically as well as philosophically sophisticated approach to the history of thought more generally. In its scope and ambition Objectivity reminds one of classics in the Annales school, like Philip Ariès’s L’homme devant la mort, or of Michel Foucault’s Les mots et les choses. It is likely that Daston and Galison’s chef d’oeuvre will prove equally influential. (p. 129)

For those interested in discussing how some of the ideas in Objectivity can be applied to psychology, AHP‘s own Chris Green will be presenting such a paper at the forthcoming meeting of Cheiron at Penn State: it is entitled, E. B. Titchener and the New History of Objectivity. 

For more information about Cheiron, the international society for the history of the behavioral and social sciences, click here. Also, get the updated conference program here.

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