New Issue! History of Psychology

The May 2012 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are a number of all new articles, including pieces on the history of postpartum depression, a late-nineteenth century nerve training controversy, and the use of psychology by American ministers in the mid-twentieth century. Other items in this issue include an interview with Philip Zimbardo on the 40th anniversary of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the incorporation of cross-cultural examples in teaching, and a look back at the Holocaust interviews conducted by psychologist David Boder in the 1940s. Additionally, Frances Cherry, Rhoda Unger, and Andrew Winston comment on an earlier article by William Woodward on Jewish émigré psychologists and Woodward responds. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Can’t a mother sing the blues? Postpartum depression and the construction of motherhood in late 20th-century America,” by Lisa Held & Alexandra Rutherford. The abstract reads,

Popular depictions of 20th-century American motherhood have typically emphasized the joy and fulfillment that a new mother can expect to experience on her child’s arrival. But starting in the 1950s, discussions of the “baby blues” began to appear in the popular press. How did articles about the baby blues, and then postpartum depression, challenge these rosy depictions? In this article, we examine portrayals of postpartum distress in popular magazines and advice books during the second half of the 20th century to examine how the unsettling pairing of distress and motherhood was culturally negotiated in these decades. We show that these portrayals revealed a persistent reluctance to situate motherhood itself as the cause of serious emotional distress and a consistent focus on changing mothers to adapt to their role rather than changing the parameters of the role itself. Regardless of whether these messages actually helped or hindered new mothers themselves, we suggest that they reflected the rarely challenged assumption that motherhood and distress should not mix.

“Delsartean hypnosis for girls’ bodies and minds: Annie Payson Call and the Lasell Seminary nerve training controversy,” by John M. Andrick. The abstract reads,

In the summer of 1890, news that two students at Lasell Seminary for Young Women in Auburndale, MA had suffered a complete nervous collapse as a result of being hypnotized by an instructor in a nerve training class caused a brief but sharp national sensation regarding hypnotism and nerve training in girls’ education. The instructor, Annie Payson Call, denied practicing hypnotism, and the seminary’s principal defended both Call and the “mind concentration” course she taught at Lasell. Call’s approach to nerve training blended Delsartean relaxation exercises, New Thought psychology, and self-hypnotic techniques into a therapeutic regimen which can be termed “Delsartean hypnosis.” Developed further in her 1891 popular self-help handbook, Power Through Repose, Call’s variety of Delsartean hypnosis was incorporated into the procedures of proponents of suggestive therapeutics, and it served as a model for subsequent relaxation training programs in the early- and mid-20th century.

“‘Be the love of God rather than talk about it’: Ministers study psychology,” by Stephanie Muravchik. The abstract reads,

After World War II, American ministers successfully drew on training in psychology to nurture their spiritual and vocational development. Contrary to what critics of a therapeutic ethos in American culture have asserted, this social history of ministers shows that their adoption of psychological modes of thinking was neither atomizing nor secularizing. Rather, it helped them become better people and better ministers. It nurtured their faith as well as their social connections. Thus, I argue against critics who have feared the civically enervating effects of psychological outlooks in American society.

“Philip G. Zimbardo on his career and the Stanford Prison Experiment’s 40th anniversary,” by Scott Drury, Scott A. Hutchens, Duane E. Shuttlesworth, & Carole L. White. The abstract reads,

We interviewed Philip G. Zimbardo on April 19, 2011, in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the Stanford Prison Experiment in August 2011. While Zimbardo’s name is mentioned often in tandem with the experiment, he has distinguished himself in many other areas within psychology before and after the experiment, beginning with an accomplished early career at New York University in which he took interest in social psychology research on deindividuation. We discussed the Stanford Prison Experiment in the greater context of his varied and illustrious career, including recent pioneering work on heroism, the establishment of The Shyness Clinic at Stanford University, and the iconic Discovering Psychology series. We also addressed his adroit and candid approach to the experiment itself over the years.

“Visual illusions and ethnocentrism: Exemplars for teaching cross-cultural concepts,” by Kenneth D. Keith. The abstract reads,

This article discusses the origins of cross-cultural interest in two concepts fundamental to psychology students’ views of the world: simple visual illusions and ethnocentrism. Although students encounter these ideas in introductory psychology, textbooks rarely describe the nature or origin of cross-cultural knowledge about them. The article presents a brief account of the history of these concepts and relates them to contemporary notions of psychology and culture. Using visual perception and ethnocentrism as examples, the article suggests the importance of teaching that different people see the world in different ways and the role of that lesson in a future demanding increased cross-cultural understanding.

“The wonder of their voices: The 1946 Holocaust interviews of David Boder (New York: Oxford, 2010),” by Alan C. Rosen. The abstract reads,

Writing a study of psychologist David Boder’s 1946 displaced persons (DP) interview project gave me a chance to further document the substantial early response to the Holocaust. This was clearly one important piece of my study, and one that was eminently straightforward. Yet much of the research on Boder’s project at the point in time that I carried it out was elliptical, partly because the primary interview materials were coming to light at an astonishing pace, partly because the archive collections were virtually untapped, and partly because of the misconception of Boder and his interview project itself.

“Gender, ethnicity, and career trajectories: A comment on Woodward (2010),” by Frances Cherry, Rhoda Unger, & Andrew S. Winston. The abstract reads,

Woodward (2010) argued that Maria Rickers-Ovsiankina, Eugenia Hanfmann, and Tamara Dembo constituted a group of Jewish émigré psychologists who received substantial help in America from a “Jewish network” of patronage. This comment focuses on the historiographic problems and pitfalls of essentialized ethnic identification. There was no evidence that Maria Rickers-Ovsiankina was a Jew or that Eugenia Hanffman, raised Russian Orthodox, identified herself as a Jew, in contrast to Tamara Dembo, who did so. We argue that these women were part of an active network of Gestaltists, topologists, and Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues leaders, and that any help that they received may be explained by the shared theoretical and disciplinary outlook of these groups as opposed to a “Jewish network.”

“Reply to a commentary on gender, ethnicity, and career trajectories,” by William R. Woodward. The abstract reads,

Cherry, Unger, and Winston suggest that a more nuanced way of treating ethnic differences is called for, suggesting that professional groupings are more salient than ethnic backgrounds in understanding the careers of three émigré women. I affirmed a broader thesis, and I explicitly referred to “Russian women émigrés,” because in fact the ethnic and professional as well as scientific identifications were far more complex. I suggest here that the existing literature on Jewish academics may be guilty of essentializing Jews, leading me astray in minor ways, whereas I attempted to demonstrate the complexities of these women’s career trajectories with particular attention to informal networks of Jews and non-Jews. “Informal Jewish networks” exemplified here include Kurt Lewin, David Shakow, Jerome Frank, Thelma Alper, Heinz Werner, Abraham Maslow, the University of Iowa, Brandeis University, and The New School. Consistent with poststructural and postcolonial literatures, ethnic and multiethnic networks offer apt terms that have broad ramifications in psychology and beyond.

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.

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