New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

A quick roundup of new articles for your summer reading pleasure:

Behavioral Scientist
Psychologists Go to War,” by John Greenwood. No abstract. Discusses psychologists’ involvement in WWI and the broader effects of this work.

All the (Pseudo)Science That’s Fit to Print,” by Evan Nesterak. No abstract. Discusses the popular psychology magazine collection held at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

History of Psychology
Buried Layers: On the Origins, Rise, and Fall of Stratification Theories,” by Martin Wieser. Abstract:

This article presents a historical analysis of the origins, rise, and demise of theories of stratification (Schichtentheorien). Following their roots in the ancient metaphysical idea of the “great chain of being,” Aristotle’s scala naturae, the medieval “Jacob’s ladder,” and Leibniz’s concept of the lex continua, I argue that theories of stratification represent the modern heir to the ancient cosmological idea of a harmonious, hierarchical, and unified universe. Theories of stratification reached their heyday during the interwar period within German academia, proliferating over a vast number of disciplines and rising to special prominence within personality psychology, feeding the hope for a unitary image of the world and of human beings, their biological and mental development, their social organization and cultural creations. This article focuses on the role of visuality as a distinct mode of scientific knowledge within theories of stratification as well as the cultural context that provided the fertile ground for their flowering in the Weimar Republic. Finally, the rapid demise of theories of stratification during the 1950s is discussed, and some reasons for their downfall during the second half of the 20th century are explored.

Medical History
Lives in the Asylum Record, 1864 to 1910: Utilising Large Data Collection for Histories of Psychiatry and Mental Health,” by Angela McCarthy, Catharine Coleborne, Maree O’Connor, and Elspeth Knewstubb. Abstract:

This article examines the research implications and uses of data for a large project investigating institutional confinement in Australia and New Zealand. The cases of patients admitted between 1864 and 1910 at four separate institutions, three public and one private, provided more than 4000 patient records to a collaborative team of researchers. The utility and longevity of this data and the ways to continue to understand its significance and contents form the basis of this article’s interrogation of data collection and methodological issues surrounding the history of psychiatry and mental health. It examines the themes of ethics and access, record linkage, categories of data analysis, comparison and record keeping across colonial and imperial institutions, and constraints and opportunities in the data itself. The aim of this article is to continue an ongoing conversation among historians of mental health about the role and value of data collection for mental health and to signal the relevance of international multi-sited collaborative research in this field.

Perspectives on Psychological Science
The Killing of Kitty Genovese: What Else Does This Case Tell Us?,” by Saul M. Kassin. Abstract:

Well known in popular culture, the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York, became famous because not one of an alleged 38 bystanders called police until it was too late. Within psychology, this singular event inspired the study of bystander intervention. With the spotlight of history focused on Ms. Genovese and bystanders, other events, also profound for what they tell us about human social behavior, have escaped public notice. Based on archival records and current interviews, this article describes the three issues linked to Genovese. First, three false confessions, taken from two individuals, led to their wrongful convictions and imprisonment. One of these individuals was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona (1966); the other individual is alive and well and wants to clear his name. Second, the narrative of the unresponsive bystander was initiated by police, not by journalists, in response to probing questions about one of these confessions. Finally, there is the ironic fact, which somehow has slipped through the cracks, that the killer of Genovese was ultimately captured as a result of the intervention of two bystanders.

Perspectives on Science
The Sensation and the Stimulus: Psychophysics and the Prehistory of the Marburg School,” by Marco Giovanelli. Abstract:

This paper analyzes the role played by Fechner’s psychophysics—the new science meant to measure sensation as a function of the stimulus—in the development of Marburg Neo-Kantianism. It will show how Cohen, in the early 1870s, in order to make sense of Kant’s obscure principle of the Anticipations of Perception, resorted to psychophysics’ parlance of the relation between stimulus and sensation. By the end of the decade, Cohen’s remarks encouraged the early ‘Cohen circle’ (Stadler, Elsas, Müller) to pursue what were often sophisticated analyses of the problem of the measurability of sensation. This paper argues that in reaction to these contributions, Cohen shifted his interests towards the history of the infinitesimal calculus in his controversial 1883 monograph, Das Princip der Infinitesimal-Methode. This book, with its characteristic amalgam of transcendental philosophy and history of science, paved the way to what, around 1900, would become the “Marburg school” (Natorp, Cassirer, Görland and others). However, it also interrupted a promising discussion in Marburg on the problem of measurability in science.

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.