American theme in latest History of Psychology

The latest issue of History of Psychology, 10(3), examines changes in the discipline from an American perspective.

  1. How Southern New England became Magnetic North: The Acceptance of Animal Magnetism.  [More from AHP on Mesmerism here.]
  2. The Discovery of Southern Childhoods: Psychology and the Transformation of Schooling in the Jim Crow South.
  3. Tension and Opportunity in Post-World War II American Psychology.

Abstracts and references are below.  [More from AHP on the journal, History of Psychology, here.]

History of Psychology, 10(3)

  • Quinn, S. O.  (2007).  How Southern New England became Magnetic North: The Acceptance of Animal Magnetism.  History of Psychology, 10(3), 231-248.

Charles Poyen’s lecture tour introducing animal magnetism to America has been described as triumphant (Forrest, 2000), but according to Poyen’s own account (1837/1982) the beginning of his tour, devoted to northern New England, was anything but successful. Poyen’s success did not begin until he partnered with Cynthia Gleason, a talented hypnotic subject, from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The subsequent lectures and demonstrations by Poyen and Gleason generated the interest that Poyen had been seeking. Rhode Island appears to have developed a much more accepting attitude toward animal magnetism than the rest of New England, as indicated by the wide use of magnetism in the Providence area even after Poyen had the left the United States. In this article, I examine the roles played by Cynthia Gleason as well as Thomas H. Webb, M.D., the editor of the Providence Daily Journal, Dr. Francis Wayland, the president of Brown University, and George Capron, M.D., in furthering the acceptance of magnetism in America.

  • Rose, A. C.  (2007).  The Discovery of Southern Childhoods: Psychology and the Transformation of Schooling in the Jim Crow South.  History of Psychology, 10(3), 249-278.

Although the psychology of race in America has been the subject of significant research, psychological science in the principal region of racial interaction before Brown v. Board of Education—the South—has received little attention. This article argues that the introduction of psychological ideas about children by means of school reform in the South during the half-century before the Brown decision established a cultural foundation for both Black resistance to segregated schools and White determination to preserve them. In 1900, southern children and their schools were an afterthought in a culture more committed to tradition and racial stability than innovation and individual achievement. The advent of northern philanthropy, however, brought with it a new psychology of childhood. Although the reformers did not intend to subvert segregation, their premises downplayed natural endowment, including racial inheritance, and favored concepts highlighting nurture: that personality is developmental, childhood foundational, and adversity detrimental. Decades of discussion of children in their learning environment gave southern Blacks a rationale for protest and Whites a logical defense for conservative reaction.

  • Pickren, W.  (2007).  Tension and Opportunity in Post-World War II American Psychology.  History of Psychology, 10(3), 279-299.

The rapid growth of post-World War II psychology in the United States led to intradisciplinary tensions and opportunities. In this article, I examine these tensions and opportunities in the context of social change from the 1950s through the present, attending specifically to the broad impact of federal funding on psychology. I argue that as psychology became a resource-rich field, it was forced to move from a narrow, parochial stance to a position as a national-level professional player that had to deal with the challenges of mixing science and practice, as well as meeting the demands of non-White psychologists at the national level. The impetus to create a more inclusive psychology has grown in the last three decades of the 20th century and has helped create possibilities for greater richness in American psychology and movement toward a truly international role vis-à-vis emergent psychologies around the world.

About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.