Forthcoming in HoP: Little Albert (Again), Psychiatry and the Totalitarian State, Intellectual Community

Several pieces forthcoming in History of Psychology will be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Did Little Albert actually acquire a conditioned fear of furry animals? What the film evidence tells us.” Powell, Russell A.; Schmaltz, Rodney M. Abstract:

Watson and Rayner’s (1920) attempt to condition a fear of furry animals and objects in an 11-month-old infant is one of the most widely cited studies in psychology. Known as the Little Albert study, it is typically presented as evidence for the role of classical conditioning in fear development. Some critics, however, have noted deficiencies in the study that suggest that little or no fear conditioning actually occurred. These criticisms were primarily based on the published reports of the study. In this article, we present a detailed analysis of Watson’s (1923) film record of the study to determine the extent to which it provides evidence of conditioning. Our findings concur with the view that Watson and Rayner’s conditioning procedure was largely ineffective, and that the relatively weak signs of distress that Albert does display in the film can be readily accounted for by such factors as sensitization and maturational influences. We suggest that the tendency for viewers to perceive the film as a valid demonstration of fear conditioning is likely the result of expectancy effects as well as, in some cases, an ongoing mistrust of behaviorism as dehumanizing and manipulative. Our analysis also revealed certain anomalies in the film which indicate that Watson engaged in some “literary license” when editing it, most likely with a view toward using the film mainly as a promotional device to attract financial support for his research program.

“Psychiatrists’ agency and their distance from the authoritarian state in post-World War II Taiwan.” Wu, Harry Yi-Jui. Abstract:

By the end of World War II and in the shadow of the Cold War, many Asia–Pacific nations developed their psychiatric disciplines and strengthened their mental health care provision. This article examines the activities of the first generation of psychiatrists in Taiwan during the postwar period, focusing on their self-fashioning during the transition of a medical discipline. At this time, psychiatry was imagined by the state and by professionals as a science serving different clinical and political objectives. Psychiatrists, however, enjoyed a relatively unrestricted environment that allowed them to gradually form a professional identity. At the height of the Cold War, the state attempted to use psychiatry for political ends. Because of its initially malleable nature and undeveloped content, psychiatry could be employed by various authorities for diverse purposes, including patient care, scientific inquiry, psychological warfare, and even political probes to obtain crucial information. Nevertheless, psychiatrists sought to create spaces where they could develop their professional autonomy and prevent exploitation amid complicated political polemics.

“Family, friends, and faith-communities: Intellectual community and the benefits of unofficial networks for marginalized scientists.” Rodkey, Krista L.; Rodkey, Elissa N. Abstract”

Throughout the 20th century, female scientists faced barriers to participation in scientific communities. Within psychology, the 1st generation of women fought for inclusion in the university and access to laboratories; the 2nd generation officially gained access to such resources while still in practice being excluded from many areas of psychology and being denied suitable professional opportunities (Johnston & Johnson, 2008; Scarborough & Furumoto, 1987). Scholarship on these challenges tends to focus on power dynamics or on the strategies used by women to overcome obstacles to their full acceptance in the scientific world. In other words, there has been a focus on women’s participation in official intellectual communities. Less attention has been paid to the motivational consequences of belonging to unofficial or informal intellectual communities. In this article, we argue that exploring the nature of unofficial communities illuminates a pattern of strategies that accounts for women’s success in official communities; challenges a masculine, laboratory-centric model of science; and offers a model of intellectual work that has applications for other disenfranchised groups both in the history of science and in the modern world. We focus on 3 psychologists, Milicent Shinn, Eleanor Gibson, and Magda Arnold, whose success was underpinned by the support of unofficial networks. By so doing, we show how unofficial communities address specific needs for the marginalized. Finally, we explore applications to address the problems of the neoliberal university.

“Seeing inside the child: The Rorschach inkblot test as assessment technique in a girls’ reform school, 1938–1948.” Bultman, Saskia. Abstract:

This article examines the practice of Rorschach testing as it was applied in a Dutch reform school for girls in the mid-20th century. Considering the assessment technique of Rorschach testing as an “examination” in the Foucauldian sense, this article investigates what type of identity was brought into being for the girls who were tested. Inspired by the praxiographic approach to trace the practices involved in testing, it shows that the Rorschach enacted a wholly new conception of the delinquent girl. Through the test, the reform school pupils were conceptualized as individuals with a literal inner realm, populated with drives, complexes and neuroses, which were said to shape their misbehavior. This notion of interiority was, strikingly enough, a rhetorical construction on the part of the psychologist, but was also produced as a reality in the practices surrounding the test. The article argues that, in the reform school, Rorschach testing not only served to assess the pupils’ reeducability—a lesser known application of the Rorschach, particular to this reformatory context—but also served to govern them, precisely through its enactment of interiority. Through the practices of the test, a situation was created that suggested that the psychologist knew something about the girl that she herself did not; it was the creation of this “secret”–which forced pupils to look inside themselves—that placed the psychologist in a position of power. Utilizing the underused source of test reports, the article explores an application of Rorschach testing that has received little attention, further highlighting the test’s versatility and power.

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.