The Tinbergens on Austism, Ernest Jones in Toronto, and Psychiatry in Medical Education

Forthcoming in the Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine are several articles of interest to AHP readers. Details below.

“Ethopathology and Civilization Diseases: Niko and Elisabeth Tinbergen on Autism,” by Marga Vicedo. Abstract:

The idea that some diseases result from a poor fit between modern life and our biological make-up is part of the long history of what historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg has called the “progress-and-pathology narrative.” This article examines a key episode in that history: 1973 Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen’s use of an evolutionary framework to identify autism as a pathogenic effect of progress. Influenced by British psychiatrist John Bowlby’s work, Tinbergen and his wife Elisabeth saw autistic children as victims of environmental stress caused mainly by mothers’ failure to bond with their children and to protect them from conflicting situations. However, the author argues that their position was not “environmental.” For them, autism was due to a failure of socialization but the mechanisms that explain that failure were established by biological evolution. Situating their views within the context of Niko’s concern about the derailment of biological evolution by cultural evolution, this article shows that their ideas are of special significance for understanding the persistence of the view that civilization poses a risk to human health.

“When Ernest Jones First Arrived in Toronto, or Reappraising the Bruce Letter,” by
Philip Kuhn. Abstract:

In July 1962, Toronto-based surgeon, Herbert Bruce, wrote a private and confidential letter to social worker and historian Cyril Greenland with some memories and impressions of Sigmund Freud’s lifelong friend and biographer, Ernest Jones, in Toronto (1908–1913). In the letter, Bruce described Jones as a ‘sexual pervert’. Despite Bruce’s condemnation of Jones, historians and biographers have largely ignored this controversial aspect of Jones’ impression in Toronto. The article traces how scholars have handled the existence of the Bruce letter, and the consequences for how this history has been understood. In the latter half of the article, the author considers how the existence of this letter offers insights into how the Toronto medical establishment regarded Ernest Jones.

“Psychiatry in American Medical Education: The Case of Harvard’s Medical School, 1900–1945,” by Tara H. Abraham. Abstract:

As American psychiatrists moved from the asylum to the private clinic during the early twentieth century, psychiatry acquired a growing presence within medical school curricula. This shift in disciplinary status took place at a time when medical education itself was experiencing a period of reform. By examining medical school registers at Harvard University, records from the Dean’s office of Harvard’s medical school, and oral histories, this paper examines the rise in prominence of psychiatry in medical education. Three builders of Harvard psychiatry—Elmer E. Southard, C. Macfie Campbell, and Harry C. Solomon—simultaneously sought to mark territory for psychiatry and its relevance, and in doing so, I argue, capitalized on three related elements: the fluidity that existed between psychiatry and neurology, the new venues whereby medical students gained training in psychiatry, and the broader role of patrons, professional associations, and certification boards, which sought to expand psychiatry’s influence in the social and cultural life of twentieth-century America.

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April 30th BPS/UCL Talk: Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in their seminar series. On Monday April 30th Peter Forshaw will discuss “Jung, Psychology and Alchemy.” Those interested in the event can rsvp for free online here. Abstract below.

This paper discusses C. G. Jung’s fascination with the art of alchemy. We shall look at some of the diverse theories and practices that lie behind the monolithic term ‘alchemy’; at the appeal of this ‘hermetic philosophy’ to Jung for the support and development of his psychology, his notion of alchemy as the historical link between ancient gnosis and the modern psychology of the unconscious; and his argument that it acted ‘like an undercurrent to the Christianity that ruled on the surface.’ We shall examine some of the alchemical works from which he drew inspiration and meet some of the authorities (Hermes Trismegistus, Paracelsus, Dorn, Khunrath) who were influential figures not only in the history of alchemy but also in his psychology.

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New JHBS: Catholic Church and Psychoanalysis, Vygotsky on Thinking and Speech, & More

The Spring 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online.  Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

““A disease of our time”: The Catholic Church’s condemnation and absolution of psychoanalysis (1924–1975),” by Renato Foschi, Marco Innamorati, and Ruggero Taradel. Abstract:

The present paper is focused on the evolution of the position of the Catholic Church toward psychoanalysis. Even before Freud’s The Future of an Illusion (1927), psychoanalysis was criticized by Catholic theologians. Psychoanalysis was viewed with either contempt or with indifference, but nonpsychoanalytic psychotherapy was accepted, especially for pastoral use. Freudian theory remained for most Catholics a delicate and dangerous subject for a long time. From the center to the periphery of the Vatican, Catholic positions against psychoanalysis have varied in the way that theological stances have varied. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, some Catholics changed their attitudes and even practiced psychoanalysis, challenging the interdict of the Holy Office, which prohibited psychoanalytic practice until 1961. During the Cold War, psychoanalysis progressively became more and more relevant within Catholic culture for two main reasons: changes in psychoanalytic doctrine (which began to stress sexuality to a lesser degree) and the increasing number of Catholic psychoanalysts, even among priests. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, psychoanalysis was eventually accepted and became the main topic of a famous speech by Pope Paul VI. This paper illustrates how this acceptance was a sort of unofficial endorsement of a movement that had already won acceptance within the Church. The situation was fostered by people like Maryse Choisy or Leonardo Ancona, who had advocated within the Church for a sui generis use of psychoanalysis (e.g., proposing a desexualized version of Freudian theories), despite warnings and prohibitions from the hierarchies of the Church.

“The final chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech: A reader’s guide,” René van der Veer Ekaterina Zavershneva. Abstract:

The seventh and last chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech (1934) is generally considered as his final word in psychology. It is a long chapter with a complex argumentative structure in which Vygotsky gives his view on the relationship between thinking and speech. Vygotsky’s biographers have stated that the chapter was dictated in the final months of Vygotsky’s life when his health was rapidly deteriorating. Although the chapter is famous, its structure has never been analyzed in any detail. In the present article we reveal its rhetorical structure and show how Vygotsky drew on many hitherto unrevealed sources to convince the reader of his viewpoint.

“Japanese-American confinement and scientific democracy: Colonialism, social engineering, and government administration,” by Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt and Leandro Daniel Benmergui. Abstract:

During World War II, the U.S. Indian Service conducted social science experiments regarding governance among Japanese Americans imprisoned at the Poston, Arizona, camp. Researchers used an array of techniques culled from anthropological culture and personality studies, psychiatry, psychology, medicine, and public opinion research to probe how the personality traits of the confined Japanese?Americans and camp leaders affected the social interactions within each group and between them. The research drew on prior studies of Indian personality in the US Southwest, Mexico’s Native policies, and indirect colonial rule. Researchers asked how democracy functioned in contexts marked by hierarchy and difference. Their goal was to guide future policies toward US “minorities“ and foreign races in post?war occupied territories. We show how researchers deployed ideas about race, cultural, and difference across a variety of cases to create a universal, predictive social science, which they combined with a prewar romanticism and cultural relativism. These researchers made ethnic, racial, and cultural difference compatible with predictive laws of science based on notions of fundamental human similarities.

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New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

A new student run journal, Psychology from the Margins, out of the University of Akron has just been launched. The journal focuses on the work at the intersections of history, practice, and social justice issues. It is described as

… a student-run, student-led, peer-reviewed journal. This journal features scholarly work addressing the history of research, practice, and advocacy in psychology, especially in areas related to social justice, social issues, and social change. Its purpose is to help fill gaps in the historical literature by providing an outlet for articles in the history of psychology highlighting stories that have been unrepresented or underrepresented by other historical narratives. The journal will accept and invite graduate and undergraduate students to submit manuscripts.

Articles in the inaugural issue include:

“Stuck in the Present: Gaps in the Theoretical Past and Applied Future of the Psychology of Men and Masculinities,” by Zachary T. Gerdes. Abstract:

Over 30 years of research in the psychology of men and masculinities (PMM) has relied primarily on social constructionist and social learning theoretical perspectives. Social constructionism applied to gender and masculinity is much older than is often claimed in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. By paying a deeper homage to the feminist and social science researchers throughout the 20th century that influenced social constructionist theory applied to gender, PMM theory can grow and more effective clinical and prevention interventions can be designed for men. This is especially important considering the hundreds of problematic outcomes associated with how masculine norms have been defined and measured in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. Strict adherence to problematic masculine norms has been identified as a crisis in the U.S. Progress in the psychology of men and masculinities relies on the deepening of its theoretical past and the broadening of its clinical future. Concrete suggestions for doing so are addressed in this manuscript.

“Milton Rokeach’s Experimental Modification of Values: Navigating Relevance, Ethics and Politics in Social Psychological Research,” by Stefan Jadaszewski. Abstract: Continue reading New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

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On the Problems of Psychobiography – Comment in the American Psychologist

The recently released April issue of American Psychologist includes a comment from myself and Brianne Collins on a recent special section on psychobiography that appeared in the journal. In this brief comment, we outline some of the foundational issues with psychobiographical attempts to analysis contemporary and historical figures through the lens of what is presumed to be universal, ahistorical psychological theories.

“For whose benefit? Comment on the psychobiography special section,” by Jacy L. Young and Brianne M. Collins. Abstract:

This commentary addresses a recent special section on psychobiography that appeared in the pages of the July–August 2017 American Psychologist. The claims made by the authors of these articles raise a number of serious ethical, scientific, and historical concerns about psychobiography. These concerns include the potential public harm from the indiscriminate analysis of public figures; the inherent problem of publicly analyzing individuals without their participation or consent; overly deterministic conclusions of such analyses; difficulties analyzing figures from a distance and in retrospect; the impossibility of validating psychological theories through singular accounts; the presumption that psychological knowledge is ahistorical; the highly selective nature of psychobiography; and a focus on largely White, male figures as historically significant. These issues highlight the potential risks of this approach for both individuals under analysis and the broader public, while also questioning the professed benefit of psychobiography to psychological science and its value to historical scholarship.

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The Anti-Feminist Reconstruction of the Midlife Crisis: Popular Psychology, Journalism and Social Science in 1970s USA

A new article in Gender & History will interest AHPer readers: “The Anti-Feminist Reconstruction of the Midlife Crisis: Popular Psychology, Journalism and Social Science in 1970s USA,” by Susanne Schmidt. No abstract.

As Schmidt writes early in the piece,

…the historical story about the feminist origins and chauvinist appropriation of the midlife crisis points to the relations between the ‘change of life’ and social change. Historians, historical anthropologists and literary scholars have drawn attention to the social, economic and cultural functions of concepts of the life course and their important roles in making and changing social structures.6 Here, I show that the midlife crisis has historical roots in debates about gender roles and work and family values, and the shape these took in the United States in the 1970s. Thus, ‘midlife crisis’ turns from an anthropological constant or platitude and fabrication into a historically, culturally and socially specific concept for negotiating changing gender relations and life patterns. (p. 154)

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Special Issue! Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery

AHP readers may be interested in a recent special issue from Neurosurgical Focus on “Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery.” Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.

“Introduction. Neurosurgery, psychiatry, and function: the history of altering behavior, thought, and function through neurosurgery,” by Mark C. Preul, MD, T. Forcht Dagi, MD, Charles J. Prestigiacomo, MD, and Chris A. Sloffer, MD, MBA. No abstract.

“Sanger Brown and Edward Schäfer before Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy: their observations on bilateral temporal lobe ablations,” by Prasad S. S. V. Vannemreddy, MD, and James L. Stone, MD. Abstract:

Fifty years before a report on the complete bitemporal lobectomy syndrome in primates, known as the Klüver-Bucy syndrome, was published, 2 talented investigators working at the University College in London, England—neurologist Sanger Brown and physiologist Edward Schäfer—also made this discovery. The title of their work was “An investigation into the functions of the occipital and temporal lobes of the monkey’s brain,” and it involved excisional brain surgery in 12 monkeys. They were particularly interested in the then-disputed primary cortical locations relating to vision and hearing. However, following extensive bilateral temporal lobe excisions in 2 monkeys, they noted peculiar behavior including apparent loss of memory and intelligence resembling “idiocy.” These investigators recognized most of the behavioral findings that later came to be known as the Klüver-Bucy syndrome. However, they were working within the late-19th-century framework of cerebral cortical localizations of basic motor and sensory functions.

Details of the Brown and Schäfer study and a glimpse of the neurological thinking of that period is presented. In the decades following the pivotal work of Klüver and Bucy in the late 1930s, in which they used a more advanced neurosurgical technique, tools of behavioral observations, and analysis of brain sections after euthanasia, investigators have elaborated the full components of the clinical syndrome and the extent of their resections.

Other neuroscientists sought to isolate and determine the specific temporal neocortical, medial temporal, and deep limbic structures responsible for various visual and complex behavioral deficits. No doubt, Klüver and Bucy’s contribution led to a great expansion in attention given to the limbic system’s role in action, perception, emotion, and affect—a tide that continues to the present time.

“Editorial. The Klüver-Bucy syndrome and the golden age of localization,” by Chris A. Sloffer, MD, MBA. No abstract. Continue reading Special Issue! Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, and Function: The History of Altering Behavior, Thought, and Function Through Neurosurgery

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Ezra Klein on the Genetics of IQ

Ezra Klein, founder of the “explainer” media company Vox, has written a long piece arguing that, given the long-fraught character of race relations in American society, it is nearly impossible to fairly interpret studies that purport to show that racial differences in IQ are genetic in origin. Klein’s article frames the topic in the context a recent podcast in which “new atheist” blogger Sam Harris defended Charles Murray against his many highly vocal critics. (Murray is co-author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, in which he endorsed the claim that persistent racial gaps in IQ are the result of genetic differences.)

Although Klein’s article begins there (and Harris has responded with vociferous denials, claims of defamation, and the puzzling release of an old e-mail exchange with Klein), the article soon shifts focus to the more general question of whether anyone can make sense of racial claims of this sort without first coming to terms with the long, sordid history of racial prejudice in the US.

Klein summarizes his view thus:

Research shows measurable consequences on IQ and a host of other outcomes from the kind of violence and discrimination America inflicted for centuries against African Americans. In a vicious cycle, the consequences of that violence have pushed forward the underlying attitudes that allow discriminatory policies to flourish and justify the racially unequal world we’ve built.

Although Harris advances the belief that racialist views like Murray’s are “forbidden” in today’s culture of “political correctness,” Klein notes that there is nothing new in such views; they have been openly held in American society literally for centuries, and are, indeed, the foundation upon which many American institutions were founded.

Klein also considers seriously the view of IQ researcher James Flynn (of the ”Flynn Effect”), who has explained the marked rise in average IQs over the past century in terms of the increasing cognitive demands of the modern technological world that we have created. However, Klein continues,

Over hundreds of years, white Americans have oppressed black Americans — enslaved them, physically terrorized them, ripped their families apart, taken their wealth from them, denied their children decent educations, refused to let them buy homes in neighborhoods with good schools, locked them out of the most cognitively demanding and financially rewarding jobs, deprived them of the professional and social networks that power advancement.

Among the many, many awful effects this has had is to deny black Americans the full cognitive advantages of navigating the modern economy, of wearing their scientific spectacles. For this reason, Flynn argues that “the black/white IQ gap is probably environmental in origin.”

Harris and Murray do not take this scenario seriously, according to Klein, nor do they consider its relevance to claims of genetic differences. Instead, Harris and Murray shift the argument to one in which white advocates of the genetic theory of racial inferiority are the real victims, attacked for “daring” to suggest what has, in fact, been a central trope throughout much of American history.

Klein and Harris have apparently agreed to appear together on one or the other of their popular podcasts. It might well prove to be a tense encounter.

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Algorithmic Psychometrics and the Scalable Subject

Luke Stark

As a follow up to our recent post highlighting Luke Stark’s Slate piece on “The Long History of Computer Science and Psychology Comes Into View,” we point you to Stark’s forthcoming piece in the April issue of Social Studies of Science. Now available online as a preprint, the article explores what Stark terms the “scalable subject” in relation to the history of the psy-disciplines and the ongoing big data controversies around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Full details below.

“Algorithmic Psychometrics and the Scalable Subject,” by Luke Stark. Abstract:

Recent public controversies, ranging from the 2014 Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ study to psychographic data profiling by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 American presidential election, Brexit referendum and elsewhere, signal watershed moments in which the intersecting trajectories of psychology and computer science have become matters of public concern. The entangled history of these two fields grounds the application of applied psychological techniques to digital technologies, and an investment in applying calculability to human subjectivity. Today, a quantifiable psychological subject position has been translated, via ‘big data’ sets and algorithmic analysis, into a model subject amenable to classification through digital media platforms. I term this position the ‘scalable subject’, arguing it has been shaped and made legible by algorithmic psychometrics – a broad set of affordances in digital platforms shaped by psychology and the behavioral sciences. In describing the contours of this ‘scalable subject’, this paper highlights the urgent need for renewed attention from STS scholars on the psy sciences, and on a computational politics attentive to psychology, emotional expression, and sociality via digital media.

You can find the full piece here.

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Special Issue: Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies

The European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling has just released a special issue: “Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies.” Guest edited by Sonu Shamdasani, the issue includes the following articles:

“Introduction to special issue ‘Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies’,” Del Loewenthal (Editor-in-Chief). No abstract.

Editorial: “Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies,” by Sonu Shamdasani (Guest Editor). No abstract.

“Suggestion, persuasion and work: Psychotherapies in communist Europe,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article traces what recent research and primary sources tell us about psychotherapy in Communist Europe, and how it survived both underground and above the surface. In particular, I will elaborate on the psychotherapeutic techniques that were popular across the different countries and language cultures of the Soviet sphere, with a particular focus upon the Cold War period. This article examines the literature on the mixed fortunes of psychoanalysis and group therapies in the region. More specifically, it focuses upon the therapeutic modalities such as work therapy, suggestion and rational therapy, which gained particular popularity in the Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The latter two approaches had striking similarities with parallel developments in behavioural and cognitive therapies in the West. In part, this was because clinicians on both sides of the ‘iron curtain’ drew upon shared European traditions from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, this article argues that in the Soviet sphere, those promoting these approaches appropriated socialist thought as a source of inspiration and justification, or at the very least, as a convenient political shield.

“Manualizing psychotherapy: Aaron T. Beck and the origins of Cognitive Therapy of Depression,” by Rachael I. Rosner. Abstract:

This paper examines the origins of psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck’s 1979 Cognitive Therapy of Depression (CTOD). CTOD was the first psychotherapy manual designed to be used in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Making psychotherapy amenable to the RCT design had been a ‘holy grail’ for leading American psychotherapy researchers since the late 1960s. Beck’s CTOD – which standardized his treatment so it could be compared with drug treatments in a clinical trial – delivered that holy grail, and ushered in the manualized treatment revolution. Manuals are now a sine qua non in psychotherapy research. In this paper, I explore some of the personal, political, and economic variables that made the idea of a manual irresistible to Beck and to those who first championed him.

“Modernist Pills against Brazilian Alienism (1920–1945),” by Cristiana Facchinetti. Abstract: Continue reading Special Issue: Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies

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