New Issue: History of Psychology

The November issue of History of Psychology has just been released online. Included in the issue are three all new research articles, as well as a piece on teaching and a news and notes feature. The latter brings to our attention some previously unknown correspondence between Harry Harlow and Nadya Nikolaevna Ladygina-Kohts, author of The Chimpanzee Child and the Human Child. In his piece on teaching Dana Dunn, proposes emphasizing Kurt Lewin as the link between social psychology and rehabilitation psychology. Research article in this issue of History of Psychology, look at Princeton president James McCosh’s (right) role as part of the tradition of so-called “old psychology,” the use of a rhetoric of uncertainty in early American psychology, and the emergence of Italian social psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Last of the Mohicans” James McCosh and psychology ‘old’ and ‘new’,” by Elissa N. Rodkey. The abstract reads,

This paper addresses the history of a rhetorical tradition in psychology that made a distinct division between old and new psychology and denigrated the old. The views of James McCosh, a transitional old psychologist and Princeton’s president from 1868 to 1888, are analyzed to evaluate the stereotypical view of old psychology as antiscience and dogmatic. The evidence of James McCosh’s writings and his actions while president of Princeton suggest the need for a more nuanced interpretation of the relationship between the old and the new. While McCosh did not share the new psychologists’ valuation of experimental psychology, this was because of a disagreement over the correct methods of science, not a rejection of science itself. Therefore, the negative view of old psychology is better understood as a rhetorical strategy on the part of new psychologists who had professional reasons to distance themselves from their old psychology heritage.

“The invention of uncertainty in American psychology: Intellectual conflict and rhetorical resolution, 1890–1930,” by Anne C. Rose. The abstract reads,

A sharp and personal polemical style characterized psychology as a new human science in American universities at the turn of the 20th century. When the experimental pursuit of truth about the mind produced quarreling rather than clarity, psychologists experienced a crisis of confidence. One solution was rhetorical: the use of a disclaimer that all current knowledge was rudimentary and a call for further research to end contention. The wording established a public tone of modesty and fostered collegiality. Scientific disagreements and underlying personal tensions remained, but conventional phrases promising future resolution of disputes contributed to a language of good manners and thereby facilitated debate. Nonetheless, the verbal formula of deferred hopes also made uncertainty seem normative. Confessions of tentativeness helped lay a historical foundation for routine investigation in psychology, but emphasis on incompleteness as an explanation of discord also made experimentation seem perpetual and truth elusive.

“Building the boundaries of a science: First representations of Italian social psychology between 1875 and 1954,” by Gilda Sensales, Alessandra Areni, and Alessandra Dal Secco. The abstract reads,

The present study embraces the critical traditions of “New History” and of social representations theory articulated with the mainstream historiographical tradition of a bibliometric approach. The historical analysis deals with the early representations of Italian social psychology articulated and disseminated by some of the main Italian scientific-cultural and philosophical journals. We examined seven journals published between 1875 and 1954, and gathered 2,030 texts dealing with the various forms of social and collective psychology. We have applied a grid of content analysis whose data have been transcribed to a numerical file. At the same time, we have created a textual file containing the titles of the contributions as well as the names of the authors and scholars reviewed. The two files have been processed by SPAD-T for a correspondence analysis in which both lexical data and category variables have been considered as active variables. Through the scree-test, two factors that explain 18.90% of the variance have been singled out. Their combination has produced a factorial plan able to highlight three distinct areas differently characterized from journals and years. The results are also discussed with regard to the contextual historical frame.

“Situations matter: Teaching the Lewinian link between social psychology and rehabilitation psychology,” by
Dana S. Dunn. The abstract reads,

A little-recognized fact is that social psychology and rehabilitation psychology share a common theoretical ancestry in the situation perspective of Kurt Lewin. Theory and research in both fields assumes that situational influences often override the impact of personal factors, including dispositions. Situational analyses led to the development of a variety of cognitive explanations capturing people’s phenomenal accounts for the causes of behavior and concomitant interpretation of social problems. Teachers can explore reasons why, despite the fields’ having a shared theoretical perspective and topics of common interest (e.g., attitudes, prejudice, discrimination), little scholarly intradisciplinary contact currently occurs between them.

“An unexpected admirer of Ladygina-Kohts,” by Lenny van Rosmalen, Frank C. P. van der Horst, and René van der Veer. The abstract reads,

Previously unknown correspondence between Nadya Nikolaevna Ladygina-Kohts, author of The Chimpanzee Child and the Human Child (1935), and Harry Harlow shows a reciprocal interest in, and admiration for, each other’s work. In 1960 and 1961, they exchanged some 9 letters as well as numerous reprints and publications. The correspondence shows that Ladygina-Kohts and Harlow had been following each other’s work for years and that Ladygina-Kohts’s work may have been one of the major inspirations to Harlow’s primate program.

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.