CHSTM Working Group – New Histories of Psychology: Politics, Publics, and Power

As of 2021 the History of Psychology Virtual Workshop that has run since August 2020 is a “working group” affiliated with the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Philadelphia. CHSTM hosts a wide range of groups and resources including the newly rebranded group “New Histories of Psychology: Politics, Publics, and Power.” The Consortium will host all subsequent meetings, which will take place at 1pm Eastern on the 4th Monday of the month.

Attendance requires creating a free CHSTM account and then signing up for the working group. Future group announcements will go through that list.

The next two meetings will focus on the history of happiness studies and behavioral economics, respectively. Descriptions and readings are below as well as at the new working group CHSTM site.

(Un)happy Times

We live in a world awash in emotion. Its experience, measurement, manipulation, and augmentation shape daily life. From feminist engagements with “public feelings” to the emergence of positive psychology as a third force to hot cognition in decision making, the affective realm has recently taken a more prominent place across numerous academic disciplines. How should we make historical sense of this “affective revolution”? Is the pursuit of happiness a political ideal or an existential curse? In this session, we focus on the long past and short history of (un)happiness.

Date: January 27th at 1pm Eastern


Sara Ahmed, “Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness,” Signs 35, no. 3 (2010): 571-594.

Content Warning: suicide
Jennifer Senior, “Happiness Won’t Save You,” New York Times, November 24, 2020

What is “Behavioral” in Behavioral Economics?

Behavioral economics has a particular hold on the twenty-first century (neo)liberal imagination. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the field of mathematical psychology went from the academic margins to the political mainstream as a scientifically respectable way of talking about human irrationality. In this session, we will scrutinize this ascendency, focusing on the popular dichotomy between thinking fast and slow, short- and long-term. Why did heuristics switch from making us smart in the 1950s to error-prone in the 1970s? Is the distinction between behavioral and neuro-economics a semantic or ontology one? Is brainhood a necessary component of dual process theories? Does the popularity of ‘nudges’ among policy-makers represent a behaviorist “counter-revolution” against cognitivism (and democracy)? How is behavioral economics’ critique of human judgment related to wider critiques and venerations of expertise?

Date: February 24th at 1pm Eastern


Natasha Dow Schüll and Caitlin Zaloom. “The shortsighted brain: Neuroeconomics and the governance of choice in time.” Social Studies of Science 41, no. 4 (2011): 515-538.

John McMahon, “Training for Neoliberalism” Boston Review (2015)

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.