The November issue of History of Psychology has just been released. Included in this issue are pieces marking the centenary of William James’ death and the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (previous discussed on AHP here, here, and here). In additional articles, James Goodwin describe Knight Dunlap’s (right) vision of a national laboratory of psychology, while Peter Lamont explores the inherently reflexive nature psychological knowledge through the case of mesmerism. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Reaching beyond Uncle William: A century of William James in theory and in life,” by Paul J. Croce. The abstract reads,
During the hundred years since his death, James’s works have developed a reputation for literary flair and personal appeal, but also for inconsistency and lack of rigor; this has contributed to more admiration than influence. He had a talent rare among intellectuals for popularization of complex ideas. Meanwhile, his difficult coming of age and his compelling personality have contributed to an iconic status as a kind of uncle figure in philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and more fields that he influenced, and in American intellectual life in general, rather than as a major philosopher and scholar. Often reflecting these ways of depicting James, his biographies have gone through three phases: in the early-to-middle twentieth century, emphasis on his development of theories as solutions to personal problems; since the 1960s, increased scrutiny of deep troubles in his private life; and recently renewed attention to intellectual factors especially as amplified by greater appreciation of James’s theories in the last generation. Now, with so much knowledge and insight achieved for understanding his personal life and his contributions to many fields, a next frontier for biographical work will be in synthesis of these strands of the life of William James. Recent and prospective work offers the promise of finding deeper meaning and implications in his work beyond, and even through, his informal style, and with integration of his apparent inconsistencies.
“The 1928 Carlisle conference: Knight Dunlap and a national laboratory for psychology,” by James C. Goodwin. The abstract reads,
In late March 1928, 32 experimental psychologists met in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The National Research Council (NRC) sponsored the conference, which was organized by Knight Dunlap, chair of the NRC’s Division of Anthropology and Psychology. The purpose of the Carlisle conference was to examine the status of experimental psychology, and Dunlap used it to propose a national laboratory for psychology, to be created in Washington, DC. This vision clashed with the traditional university-centered research model and the group resisted Dunlap’s plan. Dunlap persisted, the eventual result being a National Institute of Psychology, which accomplished little. The Carlisle conference did succeed in being the impetus for small NRC-funded grants-in-aid to researchers, and it set in motion events that eventually led to the American Psychological Association publication manual.
“Reflexivity, the role of history, and the case of mesmerism in early Victorian Britain,” by Peter Lamont. The abstract reads,
As part of a wider argument that history is essential to psychological understanding because of the reflexive nature of psychological knowledge, this article examines the case of mesmerism in early Victorian Britain as an example of how psychological knowledge is both constructive and constructed. It is argued that the shift from “mesmerism” to “hypnotism” was a change in understanding that created a new kind of psychological experience. It is also argued that demonstrations of mesmerism, far from being self-evident facts, could be framed as evidence either for or against the central claims of mesmerism. It is concluded that the case of mesmerism in early Victorian Britain provides a further example of the need for historical understanding within Psychology.
“Gustav Fechner: 150 years of Elemente der Psychophysik,” by David K. Robinson. The abstract reads,
The year 2010 marks the 150th anniversary of Elements of Psychophysics [Elemente der Psychophysik] by Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–1887) in Leipzig, Germany. It is near consensus among historians of psychology that this two-volume work was the first major publication to demonstrate that psychological phenomena could be studied experimentally and quantitatively.
“Gustav Theodor Fechner: Life and work in the mirror of his diary,” by Anneros Meischner-Metge. The abstract reads,
The diaries of Gustav Fechner reveal much about his motivations to develop the field of psychophysics, as well as some of the steps toward its formulation. Together with his publications on various subjects, the diaries show how psychophysics fits into Fechner’s broader scientific program, illuminate his worldview, and reveal his hopes for acceptance of his work by his colleagues.
“Fechner’s ‘inner psychophysics,'” by David K. Robinson. The abstract reads,
Though psychologists are generally aware that Gustav Fechner introduced psychophysics and set down its essential methodology, most of them only know about the part that Fechner called “outer psychophysics.” In his classic publication of 1860, Fechner insisted that “inner psychophysics” was more important, yet this aspect of Fechner’s work failed to receive any attention. The article reviews Fechner’s presentation of inner psychophysics and suggests reasons why that part of his work was neglected and has been forgotten.
“Sources: Archives for the History of Psychology in Spain: The Arxiu I Seminari d’Història de la Psicologia of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,” by Milagros Sáiz, Dolors Sáiz, Mónica Balltondre, and José Quintana. The abstract reads,
The need of preserving the historical record of psychology is a fundamental requirement for working on its history. In Spain, archives were established in the 1980s at the universities of Madrid and Barcelona. The authors will discuss the collections of Madrid in a future paper for this journal. We can find the Arxiu i Seminari d’Història de la Psicologia (The Archive and Seminar for the History of Psychology) with a rich collection of material on psychology in Spain and Catalonia including manuscripts and libraries of some of the main Spanish and Catalan psychologists. It is this last archive that this article will focus on.
“Research notes: San Lázaro Psychiatric Hospital, “El hospicio de Quito”, Ecuador,” by Vaughn Bell. The abstract reads,
The author had heard of “El Hospicio de Quito” from colleagues in Colombia who had informed the author that it was one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in Latin America, but yet it merits barely a mention in the English language literature and surprisingly little in the Spanish. Those wishing to investigate further may want to obtain Mariana Landázuri Camacho’s (2008) book Salir del encierro. Medio siglo del Hospital Psiquiátrico San Lázaro, which apparently contains a more complete history, although it seems only available from select shops in Quito. Archives relating to the hospital are held in Quito’s Museo Nacional de Medicina. The building is not open to the public, but the staff were friendly and welcoming, and, at the very least, the exterior is worth a visit for its architectural beauty and evocative location. There are no histories of this important institution in the English academic literature, and Landázuri Camacho’s book is apparently the only serious attempt at historical scholarship anywhere. Clearly, there is still much to be investigated about the history of this important institution.
“News,” by James Pate. The abstract reads,
The Council of Representatives (COR) of the American Psychological Association (APA) considered many significant agenda items at the February 2010 meeting in Washington, DC, but the most important item for the Society for the History of Psychology (SHP) was the budget for 2010. The COR adopted a revised version of Ethical Standard 1.02 and Ethical Standard 1.03. The COR voted to hold its meetings in San Diego at a facility other than the Manchester Grant Hyatt Hotel, which is owned by Douglas Manchester who contributed significantly to supporting a proposition that bans same-sex marriage in California. The COR approved a revised Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists and numerous other items that are unlikely to be of direct interest to the members of the SHP. A report of additional actions of the COR was published in the April issue of the Monitor on Psychology.