Metapsychy’s border: Henri Piéron’s (1881–1964) role as the gatekeeper of French psychology

A new piece in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Metapsychy’s border: Henri Piéron’s (1881–1964) role as the gatekeeper of French psychology,” Renaud Evrard, Stéphane Gumpper, and Bevis Beauvais. Abstract:

Metapsychy, or metapsychics, is the French science known in English-speaking countries as parapsychology or psychical research. As Régine Plas has shown, the ‘psychic’ phenomena were among the first subjects of psychological inquiry. Like many of his colleagues, Henri Piéron began his career researching apparent telepathic phenomena, and in collaboration with Nicolae Vaschide explained them in terms of an ‘intellectual parallelism’. From 1913 onward, Piéron developed the ‘Métapsychie’ section of L’année psychologique, where he used his critical skills to sometimes foster and sometimes discourage this field of research. In the background to these events was the issue of metapsychy’s place within the field of psychology, a field on which Piéron had himself helped to confer institutional and professional status. The growing disparity between metapsychy and psychology suggested a distinct demarcation between the two disciplines, with Piéron zealously fulfilling a missionary role as one of several gatekeepers. While open to what were presented as new examples of physiologically objectified psychic activity, he never really seems to have observed anything he considered convincing and so generally suspected fraud. His interventions played a role in the emancipation/expulsion of metapsychy from the nascent field of psychology, with the advantage of increasing recognition of the epistemic authority of the latter.

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.