New Issue of JHBS

A new issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences just been released online. Included in the October issue of the journal is an article detailing how post-World War II social scientists, associated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “consciously sought to create a scientific way of knowing that would bring unity to diversity” (p. 309) and thus reinforce democratic governance. Also featured is an article that recounts the the late-nineteenth century aesthetic research undertaken by Vernon Lee, a pseudonym adopted by British writer Violet Paget (pictured to the right). Finally, this issue of JHBS includes an account of the work of the the Social Science Research Council’s Advisory Committee on Personality and Culture (1930-1934), an interdisciplinary committee that included among its members a number of notable social scientists and clinicians, including Adolf Meyer, Edward Sapir, and Harry Stack Sullivan, among others.

Eight all-new book reviews can also be found in this issue of JHBS, including a review of Alexandra Rutherford’s Beyond the Box: B. F. Skinner’s Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life, 1950s-1970s, by Ludy T. Benjamin Jr. Beyond the Box has previously been discussed on AHP here and here. Titles, authors, and abstracts of the above articles and book reviews can be found below:

“The view from everywhere: Disciplining diversity in post-World War II international social science,” by Perrin Selcer, Visiting Scholar, Science, Technology, and Public Policy program, University of Michigan. The abstract reads:

This paper explores the attempt of social scientists associated with Unesco to create a system of knowledge production to provide the international perspective necessary for democratic governance of a world community. Social scientists constructed a federal system of international associations that institutionalized American disciplines on an international scale. An international perspective emerged through the process of interdisciplinary international research. I call this ideal of coordinating multiple subjectivities to produce objectivity the view from everywhere. Influenced by social psychological action-research, collaborative research was group therapy. The attempt to operationalize internationalists’ rallying slogan, unity in diversity, illuminated tensions inherent in the mobilization of science for social and political reform.

“Practicing psychology in the art gallery: Vernon Lee’s aesthetics of empathy,” by Susan Lanzoni, a Visiting Scholar, Science, Technology, and Society program, MIT. Lanzoni also teaches at the Harvard Extension School. The abstract reads:

Late nineteenth-century psychologists and aestheticians were fascinated by the study of psychological and physiological aspects of aesthetic response, and the British intellectual and aesthete Vernon Lee was a major participant in this venture. Working outside the academy, Lee conducted informal experiments with Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, recording changes in respiration, balance, emotion, and body movements in response to aesthetic form. In fashioning her aesthetics of empathy, she mined a wealth of psychological theories of the period including motor theories of mind, physiological theories of emotion, evolutionary models of the usefulness of art, and, most prominently, the empathic projection of feeling and movement into form. Lee distributed questionnaires, contributed to scientific journals, carried out her own introspective studies, and debated aesthetics with leading psychologists. This paper critiques the prevailing view of Lee’s aesthetics as a displaced sign of her gender or sexuality, and questions her status as simply an amateur in the field of psychology. Instead, I argue that Lee’s empirically based empathy theory of art was a significant contribution to debates on psychological aesthetics at the outset of the twentieth century, offering a synthesis of Lipps’s mentalistic Einfühlung and sensation-based imitation theories of aesthetic response.

“Personality and culture, the Social Science Research Council, and liberal social engineering: The Advisory Committee on Personality and Culture, 1930-1934,” by Dennis Bryson, Department of American Culture and Literature, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

The field of personality and culture was given a significant impetus during the 1930s with the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Personality and Culture (1930-1934) by the Social Science Research Council. This committee provided an early formulation of personality and culture that emphasized the interdisciplinary focus on the processes of personality formation within small-scale social settings. The committee’s formulation also coupled personality and culture with a liberal social engineering approach geared toward cultural reconstruction. Major social scientists and clinicians were involved in the activities of the committee, including Edward Sapir, W. I. Thomas, E. W. Burgess, E. A. Bott, Robert S. Woodworth, Harry Stack Sullivan, C. M. Hincks, and Adolf Meyer.

Book Reviews

Lisa Appignanesi. Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. Reviewed by Gail Donaldson, Department of Psychology, Union College, Schenectady, NY.

Werner J. Cahnman. Social Issues, Geopolitics, and Judaica. Judith T. Marcus and Zoltan Tarr, Eds. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007. Reviewed by Lee Congdon, Professor Emeritus of History, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

William H. Tucker. The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, and Ideology. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Reviewed by Daniel J. Denis, Assistant Professor of Quantitative and Statistical Psychology, University of Montana, Missoula.

Jonathan Peter Spiro. Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Press (published by University Press of New England), 2009. Reviewed by David Cullen, Professor of History, Collin College, Plano, TX.

Stephen H. Kellert. Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008. Reviewed by Michael J. Root, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC.

Nikolas Rose. The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007. Reviewed by Renato Foschi, Aggregate Professor, “Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy.

Sam Binkley. Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Reviewed by Ian Nicholson, Professor of Psychology, St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Alexandra Rutherford. Beyond the Box: B. F. Skinner’s Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life, 1950-1970s. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Reviewed by Ludy T. Benjamin Jr., Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

Response to Richard Weikart’s Review of The Tragic Sense Of Life: Ernst Haeckel and The Struggle Over Evolutionary Thought, by Robert J. Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor, History of Science, University of Chicago.

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.