Psychology’s Radio Days in the APA Monitor

The March issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology has been released online. The Time Capsule section of this issue features an article by Ben Harris on psychology’s radio presence in the late 1920s and 1930s. Titled “Psychology’s Radio Days: APA’s first foray into mass media began in 1931 with “Psychology Today” — no, not the magazine”, the piece explores the various ways American psychologists were involved with radio in the first half of the twentieth century. This included the creation of popular psychology programming for the air waves. As Harris asserts,

Today, no one would propose that professors could run a national radio program. But in the early years of radio, educators shaped the medium more than businessmen and corporate sponsors….From the start, radio offered a mixture of programs related to science and health. Some offered quack advice, such as The Medical Question Box of John R. Brinkley, a physician who claimed to cure impotency with goat prostate gland transplants.

Rather than offering accurate health education, this was part of what former APA President Joseph Jastrow called “cultist America,” a land of superstition and commercial exploitation. But other radio programs were more legitimate, and were given free air-time by local stations and networks and not required to carry advertising. Starting in 1925, for example, the Child Study Association of America sponsored talks on children by authorities such as Helen T. Woolley of Columbia University’s Teachers College. In 1929, journalist Albert Wiggam brought popular psychology to the nation on Friday afternoons with “Your Mind,” a show based on his 1928 book “Exploring Your Mind with the Psychologists.”

The full article on psychology’s role in early American radio can be found here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.