All posts by Michael Pettit

The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 2

This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

Read The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 1 here.

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I found this visualization unsatisfying for a number of reasons. The way I originally entered the data gave no weight to the relations. Each connection (or edge) had a value of one, whether the scientist published dozens of studies or a single one. Defining what counts as sexual behaviour proved tricky. In the history of psychology, it has at times referred to everything that was not (maze) learning from nest-building to maternal care to social organization. Looking for a way to standardize and stay true to the categories of the historical actors, I (along with Darya Serykh and Chris Green) turned to the bibliography produced by the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex in a 1953 volume to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The bibliography covered research published from the 1920s to the 1940s. We focused on the Committee’s psychological research excluding work on the physiology and endocrinology that initially dominated the agenda. If a laboratory or research team received money from the Committee to investigate sexual behavior or sexed personality traits, they counted. Relying on the bibliography uncovered individuals missed in my initial analysis while excluding those who did not receive CRPS funds.

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Continue reading The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 2

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The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 1

This is the first of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

In our current moment, the network has become one of the most prominent metaphors for the social. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is one tool used to evaluate the perceptual and behavioral consequences of interpersonal associations. The language of networks has been important to the history of science, in no small part due to the influence of Bruno Latour and Actor-Network Theory (ANT). In this post, I will outline one digital history method that brings together the insights from both fields.

Social Network Analysis offers powerful techniques for measuring and visualizing relations. Actor-Network Theory is important when considering what counts as an actor as it encourages us to take seriously the agency of the nonhuman. I am particularly interested in what SNA measures might mean in a history of science context where the relations that exist between humans and things are often as constitutive of the resulting knowledge as interpersonal interactions. Bringing together these two approaches allows for what one might call (somewhat tongue-in) Multispecies Network Analysis. This is a form of network analysis that speaks to history of science concerns about the materiality of scientific practice, the role of instruments, and the agency of experimental subjects.

This approach was inspired by an ongoing project on the moral authority of animal models in the history of sexuality. How did the experiments of animal behaviorists shape how sexologists, psychotherapists, and policy-makers understood sexuality during the twentieth century? How did the very observation of animal behaviour change over the long sexual revolution?

Inspired by a post by Miriam Posner (a very helpful guide for getting started with network analysis), I began to assemble the scientists and organisms that interested me into a network. I coded for scientist, organism, and the year the scientist first published a study on that organism. The focus was on the United States from 1910 to 1960. This graph is undirected as it are intended to be read in a reciprocal fashion. It is an image of both different scientists favoring certain organisms in their research and of different species captivating the interest of certain humans. By design, the visualization is ambivalent on the question of who is acting on whom in these encounters.

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The most visually striking finding of this analysis is also probably the least surprising. Rats have the most connectivity. Nevertheless, this is a fun graph for historians of psychology as it features many recognizable names of individuals not necessarily associated with either comparative psychology and/or sex research. For example, one can find ecological psychologist Roger Barker, psychometrician Quinn McNemar, psychoanalyst Edward Kempf, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan, and historian Julian Jaynes. Often their presence represents their experiences as graduate students. While Maslow’s apprenticeship in Harry Harlow’s laboratory is fairly well known, some of the other relations are not and may cast new light on interpreting their subsequent careers.

The conclusion to The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network will be posted on October 15th. Come back then to find out what came after this initial visualization.

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Bibliography: Historiography of Psychology

This post is written by Michael Pettit, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.

Making (and reading) these kinds of lists is fun but always tricky. The problem is not so much what to include but exclude. The following gives you a snapshot of how I conceive of the “greatest hits” in the history of psychology (rather broadly construed) over the past fifty years. The list consists entirely of books: this reflects my graduate training if not necessarily my current reading habits. Most authors get only one book. The thought of Michel Foucault definitely has shaped this historiography profoundly, but the response among historians has been quite nuanced and sophisticated. This list of books includes work by historians, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, alongside psychologists, demonstrating how interdisciplinary the field has become. An important question to contemplate at the current moment is whether there are new, untapped historiographic directions offered by this tradition or whether we require a new starting point for debate?

Foucault, M. (1966/1970). The Order of Things. New York: Vintage.

Ellenberger, H. (1970). The discovery of the unconsciousness. New York: Basic Books.

Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. New York: Vintage.

Young, R. M. (1985). Darwin’s metaphor: Nature’s place in Victorian culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Digby, A. (1985). Madness, morality and medicine: A study of the York Retreat, 1796-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Donnell, J. M. (1985). The origins of behaviorism: American psychology, 1870-1920. New York: New York University Press. Continue reading Bibliography: Historiography of Psychology

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