New JHBS: Wundt’s Apperceptionism, Police Selection during the Civil Rights Movement, and More

The Autumn 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

““Drawn from Alice in Wonderland”: Expert and public debates over merit, race, and testing in Massachusetts police officer selection, 1967–1979,” by Kimberly Probolus. Abstract:

This study explores the use of tests to select police officers in Massachusetts from 1967–1979. I show how a range of actors understood the construction of merit within the context of police selection in Boston during the Civil Rights movement and how these debates raised larger questions about objectivity in the social sciences and the law. I argue that when experts exposed the way seemingly objective “intelligence” tests perpetuated racial inequality, the public rejected their expertise, instead reaffirming their trust in tests as the best way to evaluate merit and by instead challenging the law’s objectivity. This paper puts histories of merit in conversation with scholarship on affirmative action and employment discrimination to provide a fuller understanding of how intelligence tests are constructed and how nonexpert actors interpreted debates about testing, defining and redefining merit in ways that reflected their beliefs about race, opportunity, and employment.

“Robert Owen, utopian socialism and social transformation,” by Chris Rogers. Abstract:

This paper critically scrutinizes accounts of Robert Owen’s life and works focusing on his purported “utopianism” and his supposedly deficient “socialism.” It suggests that such positions have relied on questionable assertions about the potential of particular modes of social transformation, and a failure to acknowledge the distinction Owen makes between the practical arrangements necessary to begin the process of transformation, and those arrangements that would ultimately prevail in “the new moral world.” It also argues that such accounts may contribute to the development of fatalistic narratives surrounding cooperative values and projects involving strategic compromise. In response, the paper reconsiders the significance of Owen through the lens of a “strategic presentism” that considers how Owen’s ideas can be thought of as significant contributions to theorizing social transformation.

“On making sense. An exploration of Wundt’s apperceptionist account of meaningful speech,” by Liesbet De Kock. Abstract:

In the wake of the critical reorientation in the historiography of psychology, a number of scholars challenged the one?sided structuralist and positivist interpretation of Wilhelm Wundt’s work. This paper aims at contributing to these recent efforts, by providing an analysis of the way in which Wundt’s apperceptionism conditioned his account of the relation between thought and speech, and by extrapolation, of disorganized thought and speech. While Wundt’s pivotal role in the development of the psychology of language is relatively well?known, discussions on this part of his theorizing tend to focus exclusively on his gestural or motor account of language. This obliterates the complex theoretical background of Wundt’s theory of language and speech, as well as its systematic place within his psychological system. Highlighting this neglected dimension of Wundt’s theorizing, however, could open up a new horizon of pressing research questions in the historiography of psychology.

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.