History of Psychology in Isis

Historians of psychology will be pleased to see a large history of psychology presence in the latest issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society. Each of the two articles included in this issue touch on the history of psychology, specifically on the nature of psychological research in the context of Cold War society.

The first article featured in Isis is, “The Creative American: Cold War Salons, Social Science, and the Cure for Modern Society.” Authored by Jamie Cohen-Cole of the Department of History at Yale University, the article explores the Cold War era study of individual character, specifically creativity. As described by the abstract:

This essay examines how post–World War II Americans linked their understanding of domestic society and international affairs by using a common lens of psychological and characterological analysis for both. That lens was fashioned by social scientists and developed to study conformity and its opposite, creative and autonomous selfhood. Creativity offered a means to achieve the liberal national society they desired. Social scientists managed their technical definitions of conformity and autonomy as a way of defining reasonable political sentiment. This essay details how, ultimately, the forms of self and sociality they advocated for America were grounded in the kinds of community and interpersonal interaction they valued in their own professional lives.

The second article is authored by Marga Vicedo of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at University of Toronto. Vicedo’s article, “The Father of Ethology and the Foster Mother of Ducks: Konrad Lorenz as Expert on Motherhood,” explores the Cold War era concern with maternal character.  Those who attended the 2008 meeting of Cheiron at Ryerson University in Toronto had the opportunity to hear Vicedo speak on just this topic. The abstract to Vicedo’s article reads:

Konrad Lorenz’s popularity in the United States has to be understood in the context of social concern about the mother-infant dyad after World War II. Child analysts David Levy, René Spitz, Margarethe Ribble, Therese Benedek, and John Bowlby argued that many psychopathologies were caused by a disruption in the mother-infant bond. Lorenz extended his work on imprinting to humans and argued that maternal care was also instinctual. The conjunction of psychoanalysis and ethology helped shore up the view that the mother-child dyad rests on an instinctual basis and is the cradle of personality formation. Amidst the Cold War emphasis on rebuilding an emotionally sound society, these views received widespread attention. Thus Lorenz built on the social relevance of psychoanalysis, while analysts gained legitimacy by drawing on the scientific authority of biology. Lorenz’s work was central in a rising discourse that blamed the mother for emotional degeneration and helped him recast his eugenic fears in a socially acceptable way.

This issue of Isis also includes several reviews of new books on the history of psychology. These reviews include one by John C. Burnham of Erika Dyck’s volume Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus; a review of David Healy’s newest book, Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder by Erika Dyke; and a review by Hans Pols of History of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology: With an Epilogue on Psychiatry and the Mind-Body Relation, an edited volume by Edwin R. Wallace IV and John Gach.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.