Tag Archives: William James

New Issue: Psychologia Latina

The May 2012 issue of Psychologia Latina is now online. Included in this issue are four new articles on the history of psychology. In the issue’s three Spanish language articles the work of William James (right) on brain plasticity and habit is explored, the founding of the Interamerican Society of Psychology in the mid-twentieth century is described, and the history of the Freudian concept of “track switch” is discussed. In an English language article, the 1903 meeting at which both Pavlov introduced conditioned reflexes and Ramón y Cajal introduced the neuron theory is discussed. Full titles, authors, and abstracts, in both Spanish and English, follow below.

“Plasticidad Cerebral y Hábito en William James: un Antecedente para la Neurociencia Social,” (or, “Brain Plasticity and Habit in William James: an Antecedent for Social Neuroscience”) by Carlos María Alcover and Fernando Rodríguez Mazo. The abstract reads,

William James, in the chapter on the habits of “The Principles of Psychology” (1890) introduced as a key concept of plasticity of brain and nervous system. James could not study this phenomenon experimentally, but his proposal was derived from the results of contemporary research in different fields of Biology and Physiology. Plasticity refers to how learning, skill acquisition, interpersonal and social influences and other contextual variables can influence on the physical structure of the brain, modifying and establishing new relationships and neural circuits that in turn can impair their functioning. This concept was studied experimentally in the late Twentieth Century, and it’s a key concept in the current Social Neuroscience, a discipline that seeks to combine and integrate different conceptual and methodological elements from Neuroscience and Social Psychology. This analysis has allowed us, first, to emphasize the meaning and value that James gave to the concept of plasticity in its analysis of habit, and second, to review the meaning of this concept in modern Social Neuroscience, stressing background of the James’ hypotheses in the current concept of brain plasticity. Continue reading New Issue: Psychologia Latina

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APA Monitor: The American Asylum System

The March 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology has just gone online. In this month’s Time Capsule section, Ellen Holtzman describes the private asylum system that developed in the United States in the late 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Holtzman pays particular attention to Boris Sidis a medical doctor who also earned a PhD from Harvard under William James. As Holtzman describes,

In 1910, Sidis opened a private asylum, the Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, on the Portsmouth, N.H., estate of a wealthy New Englander. Hoping for referrals from psychologically minded colleagues, he announced the opening of his hospital in the Psychological Bulletin and advertised it in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, which he had founded. The ad noted that he would treat patients by “applying his special psychopathological and clinical methods of examination, observation and treatment.”

Sidis touted the luxury of the asylum’s accommodations and setting, even more than the availability of psychotherapy. “Beautiful grounds, private parks, rare trees, greenhouses, sun parlors, palatial rooms, luxuriously furnished private baths, private farm products,” wrote Sidis in his brochure describing the institute. Moreover, he offered his patients the somatic treatments of hydrotherapy and electrical stimulation, as did his less psychologically minded colleagues. The emphasis on luxury combined with the availability of the popular somatic treatments, even in an institution created by an “advanced” thinker like Sidis, suggests that wealthy patients expected a traditional, medical approach to treatment….

As the Sidis Institute illustrates, life in the small, private asylums contrasted sharply with conditions in the late 19th-century public institutions. Patients at public hospitals were usually involuntarily committed, and they typically displayed violent or suicidal behavior before their hospitalization. The public hospitals were overcrowded and dirty, with bars on the windows. The staff was poorly paid and frequently treated patients harshly. Given these terrible conditions, well-to-do patients used their wealth to take shelter in a physician’s home and escape the fate of the poor. Not surprisingly, the cost of a private hospitalization was steep. Sidis, for example, charged $50 to $100 and “upwards” a week ($50 would be equivalent to roughly $1,000 today). “Bills are payable in advance,” he informed his prospective patients.

The entire article can here read online here.

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New Issue: History of Psychology

The May 2011 issue of History of Psychology, the official journal of the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association), has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of all new articles on topics including: the nature of coverage of the new psychology in the pages New York Times, the colonization of childhood via developmental psychology, William James on space perception and the history of the concept of regression.

Also included in this issue is a teaching article on using history to illuminate the scientist-practitioner gap within clinical psychology, as well as pieces on the new Center for the History of Psychology, Roderick Buchanan’s reflections on writing a biography of Hans Eysenck, and news from the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Press coverage of the new psychology by the New York Times during the Progressive Era,” by Paul M. Dennis. The abstract reads,

Press coverage of psychology by the New York Times was examined for the Progressive Era. Following a period in which psychology was associated with spiritualism, psychoanalysis, and the Emmanuel movement, the Times gave editorial preference to reports about psychology’s applications. Reaching an audience that was both affluent and influential, the topics emphasized by the Times included the lie detector, psychological applications in the work place, mental tests, and child psychology. These areas reflected issues of social concern to Progressives, publicized the rise of the psychologist as expert, and aided psychology in its challenge to common sense.

“Look–normal: The colonized child of developmental science,” by Donna Varga. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychology

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November issue of HoP

The November issue of History of Psychology has just been released. Included in this issue are pieces marking the centenary of William James’ death and the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (previous discussed on AHP here, here, and here). In additional articles, James Goodwin describe Knight Dunlap’s (right) vision of a national laboratory of psychology, while Peter Lamont explores the inherently reflexive nature psychological knowledge through the case of mesmerism. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Reaching beyond Uncle William: A century of William James in theory and in life,” by Paul J. Croce. The abstract reads,

During the hundred years since his death, James’s works have developed a reputation for literary flair and personal appeal, but also for inconsistency and lack of rigor; this has contributed to more admiration than influence. He had a talent rare among intellectuals for popularization of complex ideas. Meanwhile, his difficult coming of age and his compelling personality have contributed to an iconic status as a kind of uncle figure in philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and more fields that he influenced, and in American intellectual life in general, rather than as a major philosopher and scholar. Often reflecting these ways of depicting James, his biographies have gone through three phases: in the early-to-middle twentieth century, emphasis on his development of theories as solutions to personal problems; since the 1960s, increased scrutiny of deep troubles in his private life; and recently renewed attention to intellectual factors especially as amplified by greater appreciation of James’s theories in the last generation. Now, with so much knowledge and insight achieved for understanding his personal life and his contributions to many fields, a next frontier for biographical work will be in synthesis of these strands of the life of William James. Recent and prospective work offers the promise of finding deeper meaning and implications in his work beyond, and even through, his informal style, and with integration of his apparent inconsistencies.

“The 1928 Carlisle conference: Knight Dunlap and a national laboratory for psychology,” by James C. Goodwin. The abstract reads, Continue reading November issue of HoP

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Interview with Paul Croce on William James

AHP‘s special sneak peak into the forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology (HoP) continues with an interview with Paul Croce, Professor of American Studies at Stetson University. (Previously featured on AHP, as part of this sneak peak, was an interview with David Robinson in celebration of Fechner Day.)

In the November issue of HoP, Stetson, President of the William James Society, reviews a century of research on William James and his work to mark the centenary of James’s death. AHP asked Stetson about his work on James and about what readers can expect to find in his HoP article.

AHP: How did you first become interested in William James?

PC: I was fortunate to have had a graduate education in an interdisciplinary field, American Studies. I would run into William James in each of my areas of interest: in the history of psychology, he was a founder of the scientific turn of the discipline; in philosophy, he was the most articulate of pragmatism’s founders; in religious studies, he “redrew the map” for thinking about religion in psychological terms; in cultural and intellectual history, he bridged academic and public discourse, and was even one of the first Americans to refer to “intellectuals” as a social class (“Social Value of the College Bred,” 1907, Essays Comments, and Reviews, p. 110).

Reading the scholarship on James, however, revealed a strange split: theorists of his psychology, philosophy, and religious thought paid little attention to his life and contexts, and biographers and historians told stories of his deep youthful crisis and impulsive personality often without reference to his theorizing. As a historian, I wondered about the connections between these strands of research: how did a person with such troubles produce an array of interesting and influential ideas? Continue reading Interview with Paul Croce on William James

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“The Psychologies of Mark Twain”

The Time Capsule section of the April issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology contains an article on “The Psychologies of Mark Twain.” Written by clinical psychologist Mark Zehr, the piece explores Twain’s general psychological affinities, as well as his relationships with important early psychologists such as William James. Zehr writes that,

Twain was much more than a “mere humorist.” His reputation as a sharp social critic was … well-established through his verbal assaults on racial and sexual inequality; his anti-imperialist writings; and his fervent support of causes such as treatment of animals, including opposition to vivisection in animal experimentation.

Less known, perhaps, are Twain’s connections to psychology, although it’s no surprise that a man whose writings throughout his career are dominated by his fascination with human nature would be interested in the field. Throughout his life, Twain was an avid student of science and its implications for human behavior.

The full article can be found online here. Previous AHP posts on the Monitor‘s Time Capsule section can be found here, here, here, and here.

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