SHP Program at the APA Convention

Boston skyline at sunsetThe program of the Society for the History of Psychology (Div 26) at the APA convention, held this past weekend in Boston, featured talks by famed developmentalist Jerome Kagan and Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington.

Kagan, who is listed #22 in Hagbloom’s list of most influential psychologists of the 20th century, spoke about psychology’s traditional dependence on physics as the model of science to be followed, and argued that perhaps biology is a more relevant example. He also hinted at an extension of C. P. Snow’s famous “Two Cultures” lecture, suggesting that the social sciences might constitute an intellectual culture in their own right, somehow “between” the natural sciences and the humanities. Unfortunately, he did not develop this theme during the 50-minute presentation. He noted, however, that he has just completed a manuscript on it, so there may be a related book on offer in the near future.

Harrington, who is best known for her work on left/right brain/mind research and for research on the placebo effect, spoke on the related histories of 19th-century “mind cures” and the late 20th century belief in the power of mind to influence the course of disease (e.g., the importance of a “positive attitude” in overcoming cancer).

SHP president Deborah Johnson (U. Southern Maine) presented a paper on the influence on Josiah Royce’s philosophy of his upbringing in the then-frontier state of California. Royce was William James philosophical colleague at Harvard during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He adopted a more traditional religious and idealist philosophical path than James, but was interested in psychology and served as APA president in 1901.

The SHP early career award went to Robin Cautin of Manhattenville College (NY). The lifetime achievement award wen to Donald Dewsbury of U. Florida. David Baker of U. Akron (OH) received a special citation from the APA President for his work directing the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.