Summer 2019 Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

The summer 2019 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Full details follow below.

“The professionalization of psychologists as court personnel: Consequences of the first institutional commitment law for the “feebleminded”,” by Ingrid G. Farreras. Abstract:

The first law providing for the permanent, involuntary institutionalization of “feeble?minded” individuals was passed in Illinois in 1915. This bill represented the first eugenic commitment law in the United States. Focusing on the consequences of this 1915 commitment law within the context of intelligence testing, eugenics, and the progressive movement, this paper will argue that the then newly devised Binet–Simon intelligence test facilitated the definition and classification of feeble?mindedness that validated feeble?mindedness theory, enabled the state to legitimize the eugenic diagnosis and institutionalization of feeble?minded individuals, and especially empowered psychologists to carve out a niche for themselves in the courtroom as “experts” when testifying as to the feeble?mindedness of individuals.

“1784: The Marquis de Puységur and the psychological turn in the west,” by Adam Crabtree. Abstract:

In 1970 Henri Ellenberger called attention to the previously unrecognized importance of Franz Anton Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” in the rise of psychodynamic psychology in the West. This article takes the next step of tracing the course of events that led to Puységur’s discovery of magnetic somnambulism and describing the tumultuous social and political climate into which it was introduced in 1784. Beginning from the secret and private publication of his first Mémoires, only a few copies of which remain today, the original core of his discovery is identified and the subsequent development of its implications are examined. Puysègur was initiated into his investigations by Mesmer’s system of physical healing, which bears some resemblance to the traditional healing approaches of the East. But Puységur took Mesmer’s ideas in an unexpected direction. In doing so, he accomplished a turn toward the psychological that remains one of the distinguishing features of Western culture.

“Psychology’s own mindfulness: Ellen Langer and the social politics of scientific interest in “active noticing”,” by Shayna Fox Lee. Abstract:

Ellen Langer’s mindfulness construct is presented as “indigenous” to disciplinary psychology. Langer’s early work laid the foundations for the research program she would come to call the psychology of possibility. Studying inattentive behavior (mindlessness) and intentionally reflective cognition (mindfulness) placed her work directly in line with the theoretical priorities of the 1970s and influenced the direction of research in several subdisciplines related to social cognition. Positioning Langer’s work at an intersection crossed by various discourse communities in psychology explains much of its influence within the discipline. However, its relevance is additionally related to a broader field of research and application also employing the terminology of mindfulness. While superficially synonymous, the majority of mindfulness research is distinguished from Langer’s due to differences in origination, definition, and goals. Comparative assessments are used as a lens through which to interrogate the social politics of mindfulness theories’ burgeoning success over the past half century.

“Documenting the multisensory and ephemeral: Navajo Chantway singers and the troubles of a “science” of ceremonialism,” by Adam Fulton Johnson. Abstract:

Even as American ethnology in the late?nineteenth century continued to accumulate data about indigenous groups for comparative study, the surgeon?turned?ethnographer Washington Matthews found standardized documentary methods constricting, unable to reflect the complexity of a community’s spiritual practices. Through studies of Navajo Indians in the 1880s and 90s, Matthews experimented with documentation techniques to capture the multisensorial and ephemeral elements of Navajo healing ceremonialism, such as the design of sandpaintings that were later destroyed as the rites concluded. Investigating his ethnographic strategies and his relationships with Navajo knowledge stewards, this article charts Matthews’ emerging conviction in social immersion and bonding with indigenous informants, tenets that predated the rise of cultural relativism in anthropology. The article argues that his experience among and tutelage from Navajo medicine “singers” reshaped Matthews’ documentary practices to emphasize the irreducibility of cultural facets to tabular columns, raising doubts about then?dominant theories of social evolution.

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.