HoP: Prehistoric Psychology, Critical Thinking, Behaviorism

AHP readers will be interested in the most recent issue of History of Psychology. Full details below.

Special Spotlight Section: Prehistoric Psychology
“On prehistoric psychology: Reflections at the invitation of Göbekli Tepe.” Henley, Tracy B. Abstract:

The Neolithic Revolution has been heralded as the most significant sociocognitive change in human history, yet it is all but ignored by psychology. This gives rise to a reconsideration of the question “Where should the history of psychology begin?” Using the Neolithic archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe as a concrete case study, the advent of writing, organized religion, and our transition from being egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers to socially stratified and specialized builders of “civilization” all stand as salient, but prehistoric, psychological topics. Such matters seem clearly crucial to understanding the full story of psychology, but nevertheless this vital segment of prehistory manages to be passed over by even evolutionary psychologists as well as historians of our discipline. How this problem is best addressed remains an open question.

““That’s a great deal to make one word mean”: Reflections on prehistoric psychology.” Graiver, Inbar. Abstract:

Comments on the article by T. B. Henley (see record 2020-68859-001). Scholarly attempts to broaden the scope of the historical investigation of psychology are welcome. To the extent that Henley’s article seeks to do just that, it provides an important corrective to the traditional approach. The question remains, however, whether the prehistoric developments presented in the article can indeed teach us something about the history of psychology (broadly defined), and more fundamentally, whether they can at all be described as “psychological” in any meaningful way.

“Making a case for Göbekli Tepe in evolutionary psychology: Comment on Henley (2020).” Blackwell, Raini A.; Rossano, Matt J. Abstract:

Göbekli Tepe holds great significance for psychology. However, we think its place in the history of psychology is still very unclear. More clarity may come by giving evolutionary psychology priority over Göbekli Tepe for the time being.

“Psychology in history: Comment on Henley (2020).” Smail, Daniel Lord. Abstract:

This comment engages with Henley’s (2020) proposal for a history of psychology that addresses important transformations in mind and behavior across all periods of humanity’s deep history. To the extent that the history of psychology pays attention to the human past, Henley observes, that history is dominated by evolutionary perspectives focused on the biological changes that took place in the Pleistocene. Using the recent archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe as a case study, his article draws attention to important psychological changes that have taken place in the more recent past and have unfolded over shorter time scales. This comment seeks to amplify some of Henley’s claims and, by advocating for a historical metanarrative described here as “psychology in history,” proposes an alternative framework for achieving some of the goals that Henley has articulated.

“The “space” of history: A response to Graiver (2020), Rossano (2020), and Smail (2020).” Henley, Tracy B. Abstract:

Replies to comments by I. Gravier (see record 2020-68859-002), R. A. Blackwell and M. J. Rossano (see record 2020-68859-003), and D. L. Smail (see record 2020-68859-004) on the article by Henley (see record 2020-68859-001). That each of the commentators acknowledged the significance of the Neolithic for psychology was welcome, as were their alternative views on how such prehistoric events potentially fit with our discipline’s history. As new scholarship continues to emerge related to Göbekli Tepe demonstrating radical changes in how Neolithic humans understood themselves, each other, and the world around them, Henley contends that this is significant for our chronicle of the nature of not just “psychology in history” but also deserves “space” within the history of psychology. To reiterate the last line from Smail’s reply—“Now all we have to do is persuade the historians”.

Regular Articles
“The construction of “critical thinking”: Between how we think and what we believe.” Lamont, Peter. Abstract:

“Critical thinking” is widely regarded as important, but difficult to define. This article provides an historical perspective by describing how “critical thinking” emerged as an object of psychological study, how the forms it took were shaped by practical and social concerns, and how these related to “critical thinking” as something that results in certain conclusions, rather than as a process of coming to conclusions. “Critical thinking” became a scientific object when psychologists attempted to measure it. The original measurement treated “critical thinking” as both an ability and an attitude. It measured logical abilities, and consistency and extremity of views, but it avoided making assumptions about the correctness of specific real-world beliefs. The correctness of such beliefs was, as problems with other related tests showed, open to dispute. Subsequent tests increasingly focused on logical abilities, and attempted to minimize further the relevance of what people believed about the real world, though they continued to depend on there being correct answers to test items, which privileged the outcome over the process. While “critical thinking” was primarily the domain of philosophers, there was renewed psychological interest in the topic in the 1980s, which increasingly presented “critical thinking” as incompatible with certain real-world (“unscientific”) beliefs. Such a view more explicitly privileged the outcome over the process. It is argued that a more reflective approach, though it may be more difficult to measure, is essential if we wish to understand not only what critical thinking has been, but also what it is now.

“The rise and fall of behaviorism: The narrative and the numbers.” Braat, Michiel; Engelen, Jan; van Gemert, Ties; Verhaegh, Sander. Abstract:

The history of 20th-century American psychology is often depicted as a history of the rise and fall of behaviorism. Although historians disagree about the theoretical and social factors that have contributed to the development of experimental psychology, there is widespread consensus about the growing and (later) declining influence of behaviorism between approximately 1920 and 1970. Because such wide-scope claims about the development of American psychology are typically based on small and unrepresentative samples of historical data, however, the question arises to what extent the received view is justified. This article aims to answer this question in two ways. First, we use advanced scientometric tools (e.g., bibliometric mapping, cocitation analysis, and term co-occurrence analysis) to quantitatively analyze the metadata of 119,278 articles published in American journals between 1920 and 1970. We reconstruct the development and structure of American psychology using cocitation and co-occurrence networks and argue that the standard story needs reappraising. Second, we argue that the question whether behaviorism was the “dominant” school of American psychology is historically misleading to begin with. Using the results of our bibliometric analyses, we argue that questions about the development of American psychology deserve more fine-grained answers.

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.