Category Archives: Research

Demons of the Mind Project: Exploring Cinema and the Psy-Disciplines

AHP readers may want to key an eye on a new project: “Demons of the Mind.” The project is described as follows,

The 1960s was a period of intense struggles over knowledge about the human mind, with psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts in deep conflict. It was also a period in which cinema became preoccupied with psychological ideas, becoming an increasingly significant way in which new theories were disseminated and debated within the public sphere. Popular horror, crime films and science fiction became preoccupied with the ‘demons of the mind’, as asylums displaced Gothic castles, diagnosis supplanted deduction, and inner and outer space entwined.

This interdisciplinary project offers the first in depth study of the interactions of the psy sciences and cinema in this defining period, as the influence of psychology and allied sciences expanded into everyday political and public life. You can explore some of these historical connections through our interactive timeline, and find out about events near you, including free film screenings and science festival events.

Find out more about Demons of the Minds’s various projects here and explore an interactive timeline here.

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Psychologist and Wonder Woman Creator William Marston’s Papers Now at Schlesinger Archives

A collection of papers of psychologist and Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston have landed at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library. And more papers from Marston’s granddaughters are set to arrive at in the archives in the months ahead. Undoubtedly the Marston’s papers will also feature items from his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and partner Olive Byrne, both of whom are well deserving of collections in their own right. As described in the Harvard Gazette,

Over the past academic year, two collections of William Moulton Marston, the Harvard graduate, psychologist, and inventor of the lie detector machine whose Wonder Woman comics promoted the triumph of women, arrived at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library.

Though there’s little material directly related to Wonder Woman among the photos, letters, articles, drawings, and miscellanea in the archive, the collections go a long way toward explaining the influences in Marston’s life that inspired his righteous crime-fighting character, her racy look, and her fantasy storylines.

“His collection helps tell a back story rooted in Marston’s controversial research and the women in his unorthodox personal life,” said Kathy Jacob, curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger. That includes Marston’s simultaneous relationships with two strong and idealistic women, a connection to Margaret Sanger ­— one of the most important feminists of the 20th century — as well as Marston’s work with behavioral psychology and his theories on love.

Relatedly, a new feature film, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, is set to be released later this fall.

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The Psycho-Phone!

We want one too!

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New at the Wellcome Library: Tavistock Institute of Human Relations Archive Now Open to Researchers!

The papers of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) have now been catalogued – 130 boxes of them! – and are now open to researchers at the Wellcome Library. As the TIHR Archive Project reports,

These papers – the registered document series (SA/TIH/B/1) – provide a framework for the research and outputs of the Institute from 1945 to 2005, containing key reports and findings from seminal social studies from the post-war period to the early 21st century.

The reports trace the dynamic and cutting-edge work undertaken by the Tavistock Institute’s team of social scientists, anthropologists and psychoanalysts, in their efforts to apply new thinking emerging in the social sciences to the most prevalent contemporary needs and concerns of society. The topics addressed in the reports are hugely diverse, covering many aspects of the organisation of human social and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, and organisational structures and group dynamics.

More details about the archive can be found here, while the collection can be explored here.

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The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific history

Robert Heath

This article first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

Robert Heath claimed to have cured homosexuality by implanting electrodes into the pleasure centre of the brain. Robert Colvile reports on one of the great forgotten stories of neuroscience.

For the first hour, they just talked. He was nervous; he’d never done this before. She was understanding, reassuring: let’s just lie down on the bed together, she said, and see what happens. Soon, events took their course: they were enjoying themselves so much they could almost forget about the wires leading out of his skull.

The year was 1970, and the man was a 24-year-old psychiatric patient. The woman, 21, was a prostitute from the French Quarter of New Orleans, hired by special permission of the attorney general of Louisiana. And they had just become part of one of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.

The patient – codenamed B-19 – was, according to the two academic papers that catalogued the course of the research, a “single, white male of unremarkable gestation and birth”. He came from a military family and had had an unhappy childhood. He had, the papers said, entered the military but had been expelled for “homosexual tendencies” within a month. He had a five-year history of homosexuality, and a three-year history of drug abuse: he had tried glues, paints, thinners, sedatives, marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, even nutmeg and vanilla extract. He had temporal lobe epilepsy. He was depressive, suicidal, insecure, procrastinating, self-pitying and narcissistic. “All of his relationships,” wrote his doctors, with an unsparing lack of sympathy, “have been characterised by coercion, manipulation and demand.”

One of the strangest experiments in scientific history: an attempt to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight.

In 1970, B-19 ended up in the care of Robert Galbraith Heath, chair of the department of psychiatry and neurology at Tulane University, New Orleans. Heath’s prescription was drastic. He and his team implanted stainless steel, Teflon-coated electrodes into nine separate regions of B-19’s brain, with wires leading back out of his skull. Once he had recovered from the operation, a control box was attached which enabled him, under his doctors’ supervision, to provide a one-second jolt to the brain area of his choice. Continue reading The ‘gay cure’ experiments that were written out of scientific history

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Allan Branstiter: Madness & A Thousand Reconstructions

The Mississippi State Asylum, see original post on AHA Today for full image citation
The Mississippi State Asylum, see original post on AHA Today for full image citation

Another highlight from the AHA Today blog–an announcement of a three parted post series by University of Southern Mississippi PhD Student Branstiter.  Titled “Madness and a Thousand Reconstructions: Learning to Embrace the Messiness of the Past,” the series, a reflexive narrative about archival research and historiography, will be of particular interest to other graduate students and early career historians engaging in similar processes of craft development.

Branstiter’s series will explain how shifts in the reformulation of his topic (an asylum scandal in Reconstruction-era US south) from ‘event’ to ‘lens’ allowed him to investigate its contexts in a way that could more fully apprehend the complexity involved. By recounting his own historiographic processes, Branstiter expounds upon common challenges in the construction of historical knowledge, including the politics of interpretation, the benefits of allowing the data to speak, as well as negotiation of the limits of formal records and informal memory practices. We look forward to the installments!

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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 yorku.ca

The timeline can be explored in full here.

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History of psychology in Nautilus

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The popular publication on science, Nautilus, offers two recent features relevant to our readership.

The first is an adroit biographical and theoretical sketch of distinctive psychologist and historian of psychology Julian Jaynes. In addition to a survey of the impact his opus The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind  made upon its publication, focus is also placed on current interpretations of his polarizing thinking, and the ways in which it can be said to have anticipated persistent “vexations” in neuroscience. Find here.

The second, in spite of a somewhat click-baity title, provides a rather nuanced and concise history of research on gender differences in ‘spatial skills,’  touching on the various tensions that are at play in any discussion of why females are currently understood to struggle with spatial cognition, including the perennial oversimplification of  a nature/nurture dichotomy, social construction, neuro plasticity, sexism in STEM fields, and even evolutionary explanations. Find here. 

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NIMH’s Insel moves to Google….

InselAPA’s Monitor reports that after 13 years as director of the American National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel is joining Verily, the Life Sciences Division of Google’s new Alphabet Inc. empire.

His vision for Google’s role in reforming mental health care creates an unprecedented intersection between the fraught social politics of public surveillance, ‘philanthrocapitalism‘ and the psychological industries:

“Google’s strength in data analytics could be leveraged to identify patterns such as changes in cognition and behavior that are difficult to detect in the early stages of psychosis, he says. In many cases, people who were eventually diagnosed with the disease went undiagnosed for years because their initial symptoms masked themselves as traditional adolescent behavior, such as isolation from others and difficulty with academics, Insel says. Smartphones, for example, could collect speech data that would be plugged into an algorithm that detects disorganized speech patterns indicative of psychosis.”

Read the full article here. Conversation on the topic welcome and encouraged.

 

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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)!

Enjoy!

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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