Category Archives: Research

Keys To Our Past Film Series: Interview with Laura Ball

 

As previewed in a post from September, Waypoint  Centre for Mental Health Care and Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre have collaborated on a series of videos about the history of mental health care in Canada called Keys to Our Past. The films premiered earlier this month at the Humber Lakeshore Campus, site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as a Canada 150 grant, the project is composed of six pieces that are each roughly ten minutes long on a range of topics relevant to the evolution of care throughout the history of our nation, from its early foundations to its recent iterations: institutional buildings, moral treatment, somatic therapy, drug therapy, the not criminally responsible designation, and language and stigma.

Here’s the link to the Waypoint page for the videos for your viewing pleasure! The site also includes other resources and local media coverage.  Here’s a direct link to the Youtube playlist

AHP conducted an interview with one of the series producers, Laura C. Ball, who is Waypoint’s Knowledge Translation & Implementation Coordinator. We discussed the making of the series, as well as its socio-political relevance to Canadian culture today. We’d like to thank Laura for taking the time to chat with us about the project! As historians of the field and as teachers, we appreciate the sensitivity and sophistication of its historiographic narratives, and we know our readership will as well.

Shayna Fox Lee (SFL): How did the idea for the project develop? Also, give us some insight into the significance of including works such as Keys To Our Past in the Canada 150 activities.

Laura Ball (LB): The idea for Keys to our Past initially came from a desire to extend the work that Jennifer Bazar had done during her post-doctoral fellowship position at Waypoint in Penetanguishene. She had created a wonderful resource – Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive & Exhibit – and we were hoping to secure funding through SSHRC’s Canada 150 grants to expand on her vision. We were thrilled to receive the Canada 150 grant. It was a tangible recognition that mental health and the mental health care system is integral to the foundation and fabric of our country.

However, the real vision for the series came after we got the funding, and hired 2 students to work on the project: Rachel Gerow (MA student in Counselling Psychology, Yorkville University), and Gary Bold (BA student in Psychology, York University). The four of us got together and started to develop a plan. It was very student driven: we chose topics based on what they found interesting, and what they wanted to know more about.

SFL: Tell us about John Leclair! He did such a great job conveying the often very nuanced content in a manner that is straightforward but also sociable, resulting in an eminently accessible series!

LB:  We literally could not have done this project in the way that we did without John’s participation. To most people at Waypoint, he is known as a Recreation Therapist in the Provincial Forensic (max secure) programs – and one who whole-heartedly believes in his clients and has hope for their future. What many don’t know is that he is also a talented stage and film actor.

He has been working with the Huronia Players in Midland, ON for some time now. Once we had established our vision for the series, it had become clear that we needed an actor to be the face and voice of the series – it couldn’t be done by an amateur. Holly Archer – Waypoint’s Senior Development Officer, and supporter of this project – is also a member of the Huronia Players. She arranged the meet for us, and right away we knew he was who we were looking for. He was not only a skilled actor, but also passionate about his patients, and an avid consumer of historical writings (he had read almost every page of the Remembering Oak Ridge site!). He immediately grasped the kind of persona we were looking for: someone who was likeable, funny, persuasive, and speaks with an air of authority – kind of a hybrid between Mr. Rogers, Bill Nye, and Rick Mercer!

John worked with us to develop the scripts to ensure that they were accessible, understandable, and sound like something he would actually say. He also enlisted the help of two other Huronia Players members: Ron Payne, who joined us on the film days to provide his Director expertise, and Wendy Roper, who provided John’s makeup. Despite all our preparation, though, the scripts were still being polished right up until the moment they were performed on film. John is actually reading off of a teleprompter – and some of the final cuts were the first time he had seen some of the material in the scripts! That speaks volumes about John’s skill and commitment to the project. Many working journalists can’t even read off a teleprompter, and John made it look effortless.

SFL: The ‘study’ in which the films take place contains a wonderfully rich and diverse collection of artifacts that illustrate the institutional history, and also the history of mental health care and treatment more broadly. What fun the production of the set must have been! Any favourite pieces with share-worthy stories?

LB: The set was an absolute joy to create (though admittedly, it took a lot of work!). The final set featured contributions from the Waypoint History Walk collection, the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre collection, items on loan from the Mental Health Museum, as well as pieces donated from private collections from Jenn Bazar, Kate Harper, Monica Murphy, and myself (Laura Ball). All of the items on display have an interesting history.

However, I think my favourite has to be two items that appear separately on the set, but are presented as one display in the Waypoint History Walk: the section of the front gate from the former Oak Ridge building, and the Folger Adams key that was used to open it. For anyone who has visited or worked at Oak Ridge, those are usually cited as one of their strongest visual and auditory memories. The gate was profoundly heavy and large – even that small section is difficult to lift! And the key is similarly large and imposing. Together, they were a strong symbol of the security focus of the maximum security setting that was Oak Ridge. It was the gateway in and out of the facility. In recognition of that, the Folger Adams key is the symbol used for both the Remembering Oak Ridge site, and the Keys to our Past series.

SFL: All 6 films have great educational value, each with potential uses in a wide variety of traditional classroom and extracurricular teaching contexts–are there any plans for promotion of their usage in universities or elsewhere?

LB: Absolutely! Though we hope that the general public will enjoy these films, we recognize that the long-term value of the videos will likely be in educational settings. We are hoping to promote these videos as tools to use in the classroom for instructors of classes such as: History of Psychology, History of Psychiatry, Law and Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology. However, these videos touch on such diverse topics, that they will probably be more broadly applicable than we can foresee. For example, the Moral Treatment video discusses events relevant to the development of the disciplines of Occupational and Recreation Therapy.

SFL: Likewise, the piece on Language and Stigma holds considerable emancipatory potential for assisting Canada’s public conversations about how social realities affect psychological experiences. How do you recommend institutions and organizations best employ that film as a resource?

LB: At Waypoint, we are in discussions about how best to use it. So far, we’ve discussed the possibilities of using it as part of new hire and student orientations, and presentations to the public. We are currently planning to show it as part of a Rotary Club presentation in Midland, ON and other outreach events. We think that this video is foundational – even though it is presented last in the YouTube playlist, it is, in fact, the piece that drives why we should understand all of the other topics. We’re hoping that some of our other stakeholders and partners may see the value in these videos as well.

SFL: And finally, but not least, the piece on NCR advocates powerful messages about 2014’s Bill C-14. I consider it to be an invaluable historiographic record for this political moment, providing a sophisticated synopsis of how legal language changes and cycles, and the consequences of those developments. Do you envision ways that it could be used to influence policy moving forward? 

LB: This section of the video was actually a bit of a difficult one for us. As the videos were funded through the Canada 150 grant, we felt a bit awkward about presenting a video that is so blatantly critical of federal law. However, after discussions with some of our stakeholders, we realized that it was absolutely necessary. The evidence simply doesn’t support Bill C-14, and every group who was part of the affected systems spoke out against the change. We hope that it can not only be a lesson for students about how policy is enacted (that sometimes it is developed based on emotional evidence rather than empirical evidence), but also to begin a conversation. With the current political push for “evidence-based” policy, we hope that the messages in this video will start a discussion about an area where evidence-based policy is needed.

 

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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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