New HoP: Neurohistory, Titchener at Oxford, & Debating the New History of Psych

Edward Bradford Titchener

The May 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore neurohistory, the influence of Titchener’s Oxford years on his thought, and gender and psychoanalysis in 1940s Britain. The issue also features a special section devoted to “Debating the New History of Psychology.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Historiography, affect, and the neurosciences,” by Larry S. McGrath. Abstract:

Recent historiography has put to rest debates over whether to address the neurosciences. The question is how? In this article, I stage a dialogue between neurohistory and the history of the emotions. My primary goal is to survey these two clusters and clarify their conceptual commitments. Both center on the role of affect in embodied subjectivity; but their accounts widely diverge. Whereas neurohistorians tend to treat affects as automatic bodily processes, historians of the emotions generally emphasize that affects are meaningful and volitional activities. This divergence entails contrasting understandings of selfhood, embodiment, and historical change. More importantly, I argue, it reflects a broader realm of disputes within the neurosciences. The divisions among methodologies and commitments testify to the importance of historians’ selection of evidence as well as the critical perspectives they can bring to scientific debates. The neurosciences do not offer readymade theories. Secondarily, I take stock of the shared limitations of neurohistory and the history of the emotions. Both conceptualize the biological bases of affection as a universal ground for historical inquiry. By reexamining this transhistorical approach to neuroscientific evidence, I suggest that historiography might widen the horizon of interdisciplinary scholarship beyond the present options.

“From classicism and idealism to scientific naturalism: Titchener’s Oxford years and their impact upon his early intellectual development,” by Saulo de Freitas Araujo and Cintia Fernandes Marcellos. Abstract:

Edward Titchener (1867–1927) is one of the most prominent figures in the history of American psychology from the early 20th century. Accordingly, his psychological system—structuralism—has received due attention in the secondary literature. However, a closer look at traditional interpretations of the development of Titchener’s ideas reveals a series of missing elements, such as his early studies before going to Leipzig. The central goal of this article is to present the main elements of Titchener’s intellectual education in Oxford, thereby showing the influence of the British tradition of the 19th century upon his early intellectual development. On the basis of hitherto unexplored primary sources, we discuss Titchener’s relationship with British idealism and scientific naturalism, two movements that shaped a significant part of British psychological thinking in the 19th century. We conclude that Titchener’s Oxford years are much more relevant to understanding his intellectual development than the literature has so far assumed.

“Interpersonal rivalries, gender and the intellectual and scientific making of psychoanalysis in 1940s Britain,” by Michal Shapira. Abstract:

This article examines the 1940s debates regarding the status and professional orthodoxy of psychoanalysis following Sigmund Freud’s death, by exploring the Anna Freud–Melanie Klein Controversial Discussions in the British Psychoanalytical Society. Focusing on the work of now-forgotten analysts Melitta Schmideberg and Edward Glover, and on their relationship with Klein and her supporters, the article reveals how these neglected, yet important, debates were complicated by interpersonal and professional ties, processes of the professionalization, and changing gender norms. Although historians of psychoanalysis have not ignored the jealousies, resentments, and complex relationships between psychoanalysts, these scholars often continue to view these as separate from the processes of creating science. Here, instead, I view the personal and the intellectual in tandem, thus challenging the divide between scientific reason and affect. Rather than imposing a separation between the scientific and the personal, I suggest that we should explore how historical actors negotiated the divide themselves. Indeed, I demonstrate that the study of interpersonal contexts is an invaluable tool for understanding the development of psychological disciplines.

Special Section: Debating the New History of Psychology.

“The new history of psychology: Some (different) answers to Lovett’s five questions,” by Adrian C. Brock. Abstract:

[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported in Vol 20(2) of History of Psychology (see record 2016-53552-001). In this article there was an error in the 11th paragraph of the Lovett’s Five Questions for the New Historians section. The conference paper “The “new” history of science: Implications for philosophy of science” by Rachel Laudan (1992) was wrongly attributed to her husband, Larry Laudan. All versions of this article have been corrected.] The professionalization of the history of psychology from the 1960s led to significant changes in the way that history was written. Several authors tried to summarize these changes in the 1980s, and Laurel Furumoto’s (1989) G. Stanley Hall lecture, “The new history of psychology” is the best-known example of this genre. This journal published a critique of the new history by Benjamin R. Lovett (2006) with the title, “The new history of psychology: A review and critique,” and it is still being cited as an authoritative source. The article consists of 3 parts. First, the author attempts to show that the new history is not as different from the old as its proponents claim. He then discusses some problems that he considers to be unique to the new history, and he presents them in the form of 5 questions for the new historians, which he then goes on to answer himself. Finally, he discusses the problematic relationship between critical history and psychology. This article is a reply to Lovett’s article. The author argues that the new history is different from the old in every way that Lovett claims that it is not. It critically analyzes Lovett’s answers to his own 5 questions and offers some alternative answers to these questions. It also suggests that many psychologist-historians are opposed to new history of psychology, especially in its critical versions, and that this explains why Lovett’s article has been uncritically received.

“For balance in the historiography of psychology: Reply to Brock (2017),” by Benjamin J. Lovett. Abstract:

Adrian Brock (2017) critiques my article (Lovett, 2006) on the new history of psychology. However, his critique repeatedly misrepresents my views. Moreover, he misrepresents the views of some new historians of psychology. I use a variety of examples from his paper to illustrate his misrepresentations, and I reply on each of these points. I conclude by reflecting more broadly on the issues raised by historiographic debates, especially with reference for the future of the history of psychology in psychology departments.

“The ambiguous “new history of psychology”: New questions for Brock (2017),” by João Paulo Watrin. Abstract:

In 2006, Benjamin J. Lovett published the first critique of the “new history of psychology” in History of Psychology (Lovett, 2006). The first reply to it, from Adrian C. Brock, did not come until a decade later. The present article answers Brock’s (2017) comments by asking new (rhetorical) questions. The author claims that both Lovett and Brock misunderstood the ambiguity of the term “new history,” which refers simultaneously to critical narratives in general and to a particular rhetoric about the commitments of critical historiography (e.g., externalism, historicism, anti-Whiggism). Although Lovett’s article does present shortcomings, it is argued that many of his claims are still valid because his critique focused on the rhetoric of “new history.” Brock, for his part, uses the term “new history” in its full ambiguity and attempts to defend critical histories with the rhetoric of “new history.” As a result, Brock ends up reproducing many of the problems criticized by Lovett.

“The new history of psychology II: Some (different) answers to Watrin’s four questions,” by Adrian C. Brock. Abstract:

This article is mainly a response to the article by João Paulo Watrin, “The Ambiguous ‘New History of Psychology’: Some New Questions to Brock (2017)” (Watrin, 2017), which was itself a reply to my article, “The New History of Psychology: Some (Different) Answers to Lovett’s Five Questions” (Brock, 2017). Watrin (2017) suggested that previous writers have conflated the terms “critical history” and “new history.” They are said to differ, in that although the former is merely a name for a loose collection of approaches to the history of psychology, the latter involves rhetoric about the historiographical commitments of critical history. He also disputed the validity of the distinction between “old” and “new” history. I suggest that he is wrong on all these points. Watrin then poses and answers four rhetorical questions on Whig history, textbooks, critical thinking, and ad hominem arguments, and I provide alternative answers to all of them. After suggesting that our different views can be attributed to different agendas, I conclude with some reflections on how professional historians and psychologists can work together.

“News,” by Shayna Fox Lee (Ed). Abstract:

Provides a brief summary of news of interest to the Society for the History of Psychology. Items include publications by Harwood Fisher and Wayne Viney.

“The collection of historical instruments at National Taiwan University,” by Lothar Spillmann, Su-Ling Yeh, Chien-Chung Chen, Keng-Cheng Liang, and Shojiro Sakurai. Abstract:

This article presents three of the historical instruments from the National Taiwan University collection. The instruments were built between 1894 and 1902. The instruments are (1) Meumann’s Largest Time Sense Apparatus, (2) Wundt’s Pendulum Tachistoscope, and (3) Schumann’s Wheel Tachistoscope. It is hoped that the presentation of these three historical instruments will serve a triple purpose: (a) to enable a greater appreciation of achievements of the scientists on whose shoulders we stand; (b) to illustrate the need for the time-consuming task of designing specialized apparatuses for a given experiment, typical at the time; and (c) to encourage a reflection on the mutual relationship between the instruments available, the questions asked, and the experiments done. In addition, the collection helps illuminate how the importation of apparatuses designed and built in Europe (Germany) to Taiwan and Japan contributed to the spread of Western psychology and its associated technologies on a global scale.

“Review of Hermann Lotze: An intellectual biography,” by Horst Gundlach. Abstract:

Reviews the book, Hermann Lotze: An Intellectual Biography by William R. Woodward (see record 2015-31971-000). Lotze (1817–1881), the once-renowned physician, philosopher, and psychologist, as well as professor in Leipzig, Göttingen, and Berlin, was one of the last philosophers who actually planned a system of philosophy. In this book, Woodward has presented the results of his decades-long engagement with Lotze and his personal, intellectual, and political environment. The reviewer believes that any problems with the book, small or not so small, should not divert the attention from the merits Woodward has earned with this energetically researched, insightful work that deserves its place as an excellent stepping stone for reconsidering Lotze’s place in the historiography of philosophy and psychology of the 19th century.

“Poetry corner,” by Shayna Fox Lee (Ed). Abstract:

This section briefly presents poetry with a psychology theme. This submission was made by The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology’s reference archivist Lizette Royer. Two transcribed poems by Knight Dunlap are presented.

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.