Category Archives: Digital History

Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

A number of articles forthcoming in History of Psychology are now available online. These articles explore the disciplinary structure of psychology using digital history methods, the use of the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in American industry during the interwar years, and the role of bias and logical errors in debates of the identity of Little Albert. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS PsycINFO as an Historical Archive of Trends in Psychology,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan.  Abstract

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it.

“Temperamental Workers: Psychology, Business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in Interwar America,” by Lussier, Kira. Abstract

This article traces the history of a popular interwar psychological test, the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), from its development in the early 1930s to its adoption by corporate personnel departments. In popular articles, trade magazines, and academic journals, industrial psychologist Doncaster Humm and personnel manager Guy Wadsworth trumpeted their scale as a scientific measure of temperament that could ensure efficient hiring practices and harmonious labor relations by screening out “problem employees” and screening for temperamentally “normal” workers. This article demonstrates how concerns about the epistemological and scientific credibility of the HWTS were intimately entangled with concerns about its value to business at every step in the test’s development. The HWTS sought to measure the emotional and social dimensions of an individual’s personality so as to assess their suitability for work. The practice of temperament testing conjured a vision of the subject whose emotional and social disposition was foundational to their own capacity to find employment, and whose capacity to appropriately express, but regulate, their emotions was foundational to corporate order. The history of the HWTS offers an instructive case of how psychological tests embed social hierarchies, political claims, and economic ideals within their very theoretical and methodological foundations. Although the HWTS itself may have faded from use, the test directly inspired creators of subsequent popular personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

“Framing Psychology as a Discipline (1950–1999): A Large-Scale Term Co-Occurrence Analysis of Scientific Literature in Psychology,” by Flis, Ivan; van Eck, Nees Jan. Abstract: Continue reading Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

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AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

S. S. Stevens in the Psychoacoustics Lab at Harvard University

The Winter 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is now online. Included as part of the journal’s continuing 130th anniversary coverage are articles on S. S. Stevens’s work on scaling and early work foreshadowing ecological psychology. A further article in the issue offers a digital history of authorship in the American Journal of Psychology and the Psychological Review. Full details below.

“S. S. Stevens’s Invariant Legacy: Scale Types and the Power Law,” by Lawrence M. Ward. Abstract:

S. S. Stevens was one of a number of prominent psychologists who published seminal articles in The American Journal of Psychology (AJP). Indeed, the first or, arguably, most important articles in several of his research strands were published there. In this brief treatment of his monumental work, I review these articles and some of their sequelae, both in Stevens’s own work and in that of others, in an attempt to sketch out how Stevens’s contributions in AJP helped form the development of experimental sensory and perceptual psychology throughout the 20th century. I focus on his work in psychophysical scaling, because in my opinion that has been his most important legacy. Indeed, the article that probably generated the flurry of work in psychophysical scaling that persisted into the 1990s was a brilliant work published in 1956 in AJP. In that article Stevens not only demonstrated the validity and reliability of direct scaling (in this case magnitude estimation and production) but also investigated a range of factors that could affect its results, anchoring the later work that led to its adoption as the fundamental and most popular approach to psychophysical scaling still in use today. In this section I also expand on a few of the modern directions in which this work has gone. Stevens also published in AJP classic articles on the localization of sound, the dimensions of sound, the relation of volume to intensity, and the neural quantum in pitch and loudness discrimination. He even contributed an article on scaling coffee odor. His work is a stellar example of how AJP has influenced psychological science then and now.

“Gibson and Crooks (1938): Vision and Validation,” by Patricia R. Delucia and Keith S. Jones. Abstract: Continue reading AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

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New Article: Publish & Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember

Now in print in the Spring 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is the most recent digital history piece by Christopher Green (left): “Publish and Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember.” The abstract reads,

What is the relationship between being highly prolific in the realm of publication and being remembered as a great psychologist of the past? In this study, the PsycINFO database was used to identify the historical figures who wrote the most journal articles during the half-century from 1890 to 1939. Although a number of the 10 most prolific authors are widely remembered for their influence on the discipline today—E. L. Thorndike, Karl Pearson, E. B. Titchener, Henri Piéron—the majority are mostly forgotten. The data were also separated into the 5 distinct decades. Once again, a mixture of eminent and obscure individuals made appearances. Most striking, perhaps, was the great increase in articles published over the course of the half-century—approximately doubling each decade—and the enormous turnover in who was most prolific, decade over decade. In total, 100 distinct individuals appeared across just 5 lists of about 25 names each.

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Online Digital Project: After the Asylum/Après l’asile

A new national project, After the Asylum/Après l’asile,  documenting the shift from institutional care to community mental health in Canada has recently launched. As historians Megan Davies and Erika Dyck discuss in a recent blog post,

The shift from institutional to community mental health was among the most significant social changes of the late 20th century. Between 1965 and 1980 nearly 50,000 beds were closed in residential psychiatric facilities across Canada. De-institutionalization profoundly changed the lives of former patients and those who worked with them, impacting the larger economy, public health and social planning, and challenging ideas of individual rights and capabilities.

The first national project of its kind, After the Asylum/Après l’asile presents this complex and often difficult history, making clear its continuing relevance. We examine early mental health initiatives, we consider how therapeutic and professional contours of care were reshaped, and we explore new consumer / user networks and cultures that emerged. Many of the exhibits speak to the continuing social and economic marginalization of people deemed mentally ill, whose lives are often poignant testaments to the limits of a reconstituted mental health system.

The project can be explored in full here.

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AHA Today on Archiving the Internet

AHA logoStephanie Kingsley (over on the American Historical Association‘s blog) put up a post on the ethical and technical challenges of retaining records of the web. Summarizing the proceedings of a day symposium on the topic, Kingsley also consults with the York Psyborg lab’s good fried Ian Milligan (Waterloo) to expound on the complex topic. She also provides a compendium of resources for those historians interested in contributing to projects being undertaken to #SaveTheWeb. Find the full post here.


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Interactive Timeline: “Replication in Psychology: A History Perspective”

Those who’ve been following the most recent controversy over the replicability of psychological findings (see here, here, here, here, and here for a primer), may be interested in the latest output from the PsyBorgs Digital History of Psychology Laboratory. Michael Pettit (left) has created an interactive timeline of replication controversies over psychology’s history:

This interactive timeline offers the reader a brief guide to this longer history. I define replication fairly broadly, but attempt to not simply offer a history of psychology in its entirety. Instead, I have focused on famous replication controversies from the past alongside the development of psychology’s favored research methods.

I am personally quite agnostic as to the value of the current interest in direct replication. My worry is that it distracts (as is often the case in psychology) from questions of external validity. My goal is to provide a richer context for contemporary controversies animating psychology.

I welcome corrections, updates, and suggestions of relevant topics. Please contact me at mpettit at

The timeline can be explored in full here.

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Become Wellcome Library’s Wikimedian in Residence!

The Reading Room at Wellcome Collection. Wellcome Images reference: C0108488.
The Reading Room at Wellcome Collection. Wellcome Images reference: C0108488.

Phoebe Harkins, the  Library Communications Co-ordinator at Wellcome, has posted an application announcement for a new contractual position of Wikimedian in Residence on their blog (flexible 6-12 months, depending on the projects the Wikimedian proposes and develops).

Excerpts from the post:

Incurably curious? Interested in the history of medicine? Know a bit about Wikipedia?

Our collections cover so much more than the history of medicine – essentially life, death and everything in between, so there’s huge potential for improving the content on Wikipedia. We’ll also be looking at enriching other Wikimedia projects.

The Wikimedian will work with us on the project to help develop areas of Wikipedia covered by our amazing holdings. We’d love you to help us to make our world-renowned collections, knowledge and expertise here at the Wellcome Library even more accessible.

Application deadline is February 2nd 2016

Harkins contact is

Find the full post here for more info.

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Historical Psychologist Rating Game!

Happy New Year 2016 to our readership!

Looking for a little bit of nerdy entertainment before diving into the winter work season? Well you’ve come to the right place! Amuse yourself and assist the research of Dr. Christopher Green out of York’s Psyborgs Lab at the same time by playing Psychology’s Elorater.

It’s easy and addictive: simply rate the greater impact on psychology between pairs of psychologists (click here), or learn a bunch exploring the full profiles (click here); also check out the current ranking lists (click here)!


Current Top Ten Standings:

  1. B. F. Skinner (1683)
  2. William James (1599)
  3. Jean Piaget (1596)
  4. Ivan Pavlov (1594)
  5. Sigmund Freud (1567)
  6. Wilhelm Wundt (1554)
  7. Charles Darwin (1543)
  8. Albert Bandura (1534)
  9. John B. Watson (1510)
  10. Edward Thorndike (1500)

Current Top Ten Women (the first ranked #77 overall):

  1. Eleanor J. Gibson (1328)
  2. Anna Freud (1316)
  3. Elizabeth Loftus (1315)
  4. Karen Horney (1313)
  5. Mary Ainsworth (1284)
  6. Anne Anastasi (1280)
  7. Maria Montessori (1280)
  8. Margaret Floy Washburn (1264)
  9. Melanie Klein (1237)
  10. Sandra Bem (1226)


Find out more about the project and methods here.

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Networking the Early Years of the American Journal of Psychology

The most recent issue of the American Journal of Psychology includes an article exploring the journal’s earliest years of publication. In “The Evolution of The American Journal of Psychology 1, 1887– 1903: A Network InvestigationChristopher Green and Ingo Feinerer use the methods of the digital humanities to network the journal’s content. The abstract reads,

The American Journal of Psychology (AJP) was the first academic journal in the united states dedicated to the “new” scientific form of the discipline. But where did the journal’s founding owner/editor, G. Stanley Hall, find the “psychologists” he needed to fill the pages of such a venture 1887, when he was still virtually the only professor of psychology in the country? To investigate this question we used the substantive vocabularies of every full article published in AJP’s first 14 volumes to generate networks of verbally similar articles. These networks reveal the variety of research communities that hall drew on to launch and support the journal. three separate networks, corresponding to 3 successive time blocks, show how hall’s constellation of participating research communities changed over AJP’s first 17 years. Many of these communities started with rather nebulous boundaries but soon began to differentiate into groups of more distinct specialties. some topics declined over time, but new ones regularly appeared to replace them. We sketch a quasievolutionary model to describe the intellectual ecology of AJP’s early years.

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Launch of New Online Museum Dedicated to the History of Behavioral Neuroscience in Brazil

Estereotáxico para Cães e Gatos
Stereotactic instrument from collection

AHP is pleased to announce the launch of a rich new web resource: the Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais  [the History Museum of Behavioral Neuroscience]. The site features a digital collection of scientific instruments connected to the history of neuroscience, particularly behavioral neuroscience, in Brazil. It likewise highlights several key researchers who contributed to the development of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil.

The site has emerged out of work Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Miranda initially completed while on an internship at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, OH in 2013. The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais was created while Miranda was completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of São Paulo. Co-editors on the project include Silvana Delfino and Nadia Iara Ramiris Maronesi, under the supervision of Drs. Anette Hoffmann and Marina Massimi.

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais will be of particular interest to those interested in scientific instrument collections and will make for a great online resource for both historians of psychology and their students alike. If your Portuguese is on the weak side, do not despair! You can use your browser settings to translate the pages to your language of choice (Google Chrome makes this particularly easy – see instructions here).

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais has plans to continue growing and contributions to the site are welcomed.  To submit a photograph of an instrument, laboratory space, or researcher connected to the history of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil, contact with a description of the person or object featured in the image, the name of the institution to which it is connected, and any references or links you would want included with the entry (You can download the contribution form here).

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