This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.
Read The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 1 here.
I found this visualization unsatisfying for a number of reasons. The way I originally entered the data gave no weight to the relations. Each connection (or edge) had a value of one, whether the scientist published dozens of studies or a single one. Defining what counts as sexual behaviour proved tricky. In the history of psychology, it has at times referred to everything that was not (maze) learning from nest-building to maternal care to social organization. Looking for a way to standardize and stay true to the categories of the historical actors, I (along with Darya Serykh and Chris Green) turned to the bibliography produced by the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex in a 1953 volume to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The bibliography covered research published from the 1920s to the 1940s. We focused on the Committee’s psychological research excluding work on the physiology and endocrinology that initially dominated the agenda. If a laboratory or research team received money from the Committee to investigate sexual behavior or sexed personality traits, they counted. Relying on the bibliography uncovered individuals missed in my initial analysis while excluding those who did not receive CRPS funds.
Unlike the earlier graph, here the edges are weighted and the nodes are sized based on their weighted degree centrality. The final graph focuses on the relations between institutions and organisms.
Like many historians of science, I would argue that the often contingent and local adoption of certain tools for pragmatic reasons have significant cognitive consequences for disciplines. These visualizations capture how scientists seemingly belonging to the same field and pursuing the same problems actually inhabited very different worlds with distinct relations with the nonhuman. Reflecting my own interests, I focused on living instruments or psychology’s subjects, but this approach could be extended to other forms of instrumentation. The digitization of psychology’s past allows for new approaches to understanding the relations which sustain and nurture innovation.