Category Archives: Journals

The Persuasive Rhetoric of a Manifesto (1870): Ribot’s Promise of an “Independent” Psychological Science

A special issue of Centaurus on “The promises of science. Historical perspectives,” guest edited by Annette Mülberger and Jaume Navarro includes an article of interest to AHP readers.

The persuasive rhetoric of a manifesto (1870): Ribot’s promise of an “independent” psychological science,” by Annette Mülberger. Abstract:

Here, I take a closer look at a manifesto in the history of psychology: the introduction to the book entitled “La psychologie anglaise contemporaine.” It was published in 1870 and written by the French psychologist and philosopher Théodule Ribot (1839–1916). First, I review the use of the label “manifesto” in the historiography of psychology. Then the aim, rhetoric, and arguments of Ribot’s text are examined, as well as the intellectual atmosphere surrounding it. Through this research, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the aims and some immediate reactions to Ribot’s text. My analysis focuses on his understanding of psychology as “independent science.” Ribot’s manifesto contains criticism of the prevalent philosophies of his time, namely eclectic spiritualism and the positivistic schools. Within this setting, Ribot tried to present his psychology as ideologically neutral, aiming at revealing “psychological facts.” My interpretation portrays Ribot’s tone as optimistic, framed in terms of a promise and an invitation; I see his text as primarily an attempt to attract collaborators through a broadly defined scientific project. He envisaged an almost boundless field of empirical research, based on the promise of intellectual freedom and scientific progress.

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History of Psychiatry: Hysteria in WWI, Leucotomy in Western Australia, and More

A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“‘A more perfect arrangement of plants’: the botanical model in psychiatric nosology, 1676 to the present day,” by Daniel Mason and Honor Hsin. Abstract:

Psychiatric classification remains a complex endeavour; since the Enlightenment, nosologists have made use of various models and metaphors to describe their systems. Here we present the most common model, botanical taxonomy, and trace its history from the nosologies of Sydenham, Sauvages and Linnaeus; to evolutionary models; to the later contributions of Hughlings-Jackson, Kraepelin and Jaspers. Over time, there has been a shift from explicit attempts to pattern disease classification on botanical systems, to a more metaphorical use. We find that changes in the understanding of plants and plant relationships parallel changes in the conceptualization of mental illness. Not only have scientific discoveries influenced the use of metaphor, but the language of metaphor has also both illuminated and constrained psychiatric nosology.

“Psychiatry in Portugal: Key actors and conceptual history (1884–1924),” by José Morgado Pereira. Abstract: Continue reading History of Psychiatry: Hysteria in WWI, Leucotomy in Western Australia, and More

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Sebastián Gil-Riaño on “Relocating Anti-Racist Science”

A forthcoming article in The British Journal for the History of Science, available now online,  on mid-twentieth century anti-racist science may be of interest to AHP readers.

Relocating anti-racist science: the 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race and economic development in the global South,” by Sebastián Gil-Riaño. Abstract:

This essay revisits the drafting of the first UNESCO Statement on Race (1950) in order to reorient historical understandings of mid-twentieth-century anti-racism and science. Historians of science have primarily interpreted the UNESCO statements as an oppositional project led by anti-racist scientists from the North Atlantic and concerned with dismantling racial typologies, replacing them with population-based conceptions of human variation. Instead of focusing on what anti-racist scientists opposed, this article highlights the futures they imagined and the applied social-science projects that anti-racist science drew from and facilitated. The scientific experts who participated in drafting the first UNESCO Statement on Race played important roles in late colonial, post-colonial and international projects designed to modernize, assimilate and improve so-called backward communities – typically indigenous or Afro-descendent groups in the global South. Such connections between anti-racist science and the developmental imaginaries of the late colonial period indicate that the transition from fixed racial typologies to sociocultural and psychological conceptualizations of human diversity legitimated the flourishing of modernization discourses in the Cold War era. In this transition to an economic-development paradigm, ‘race’ did not vanish so much as fragment into a series of finely tuned and ostensibly anti-racist conceptions that offered a moral incentive for scientific elites to intervene in the ways of life of those deemed primitive.

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May Issue of History of Psychology: Temperament, Psychical Research, and More

The May 2018 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Temperamental workers: Psychology, business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in interwar America,” by Kira Lussier. 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.

“Pierre Janet and the enchanted boundary of psychical research,” by Renaud Evrard, Erika Annabelle Pratte, and Etzel Cardeña. Abstract: Continue reading May Issue of History of Psychology: Temperament, Psychical Research, and More

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“He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52

AHP readers may be interested in an article in the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

““He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52,” by Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland. Abstract:

The relationship between prisons and mental illness has preoccupied prison administrators, physicians, and reformers from the establishment of the modern prison service in the nineteenth century to the current day. Here we take the case of Pentonville Model Prison, established in 1842 with the aim of reforming convicts through religious exhortation, rigorous discipline and training, and the imposition of separate confinement in its most extreme form. Our article demonstrates how following the introduction of separate confinement, the prison chaplains rather than the medical officers took a lead role in managing the minds of convicts. However, instead of reforming and improving prisoners’ minds, Pentonville became associated with high rates of mental disorder, challenging the institution’s regime and reputation. We explore the role of chaplains, doctors, and other prison officers in debating, disputing, and managing cases of mental breakdown and the dismantling of separate confinement in the face of mounting criticism.


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Late Enlightenment Crises of Facts: Mesmerism and Meteorites

Now available from Configurations:

Late Enlightenment Crises of Facts: Mesmerism and Meteorites,” by Simon Schaffer. Abstract:

Scientific communities have frequently denied claims that later prove justified: such episodes are used in debates about the conventions that govern decisions about matters of fact. Instructive cases of such decisions and reversals occurred during a serious crisis of facts that erupted in Enlightenment Europe from the 1780s. Establishment of scientific facts relied on appropriate groups to produce and judge them, but during such periods of radical social instability, these systems were in trouble. Notions of popular superstition and of over-sophisticated imagination were then used to manage fact claims. Plebeians were reckoned superstitious and incapable of imagination; genteel elites could seem too prone to imaginative fancy, too skeptical of received doctrine. Examples of the late Enlightenment fact crises especially evident during controversies around animal magnetism, which seemed to dramatize refined vulnerability to imagination, and around aeroliths, the widespread and allegedly vulgar superstition that stones could fall to Earth, illuminate issues of authority and evidence that continue decisively to affect public sciences, traditional customs, and their claims to produce effective factual knowledge.

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The Tinbergens on Austism, Ernest Jones in Toronto, and Psychiatry in Medical Education

Forthcoming in the Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine are several articles of interest to AHP readers. Details below.

“Ethopathology and Civilization Diseases: Niko and Elisabeth Tinbergen on Autism,” by Marga Vicedo. Abstract:

The idea that some diseases result from a poor fit between modern life and our biological make-up is part of the long history of what historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg has called the “progress-and-pathology narrative.” This article examines a key episode in that history: 1973 Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen’s use of an evolutionary framework to identify autism as a pathogenic effect of progress. Influenced by British psychiatrist John Bowlby’s work, Tinbergen and his wife Elisabeth saw autistic children as victims of environmental stress caused mainly by mothers’ failure to bond with their children and to protect them from conflicting situations. However, the author argues that their position was not “environmental.” For them, autism was due to a failure of socialization but the mechanisms that explain that failure were established by biological evolution. Situating their views within the context of Niko’s concern about the derailment of biological evolution by cultural evolution, this article shows that their ideas are of special significance for understanding the persistence of the view that civilization poses a risk to human health.

“When Ernest Jones First Arrived in Toronto, or Reappraising the Bruce Letter,” by
Philip Kuhn. Abstract:

In July 1962, Toronto-based surgeon, Herbert Bruce, wrote a private and confidential letter to social worker and historian Cyril Greenland with some memories and impressions of Sigmund Freud’s lifelong friend and biographer, Ernest Jones, in Toronto (1908–1913). In the letter, Bruce described Jones as a ‘sexual pervert’. Despite Bruce’s condemnation of Jones, historians and biographers have largely ignored this controversial aspect of Jones’ impression in Toronto. The article traces how scholars have handled the existence of the Bruce letter, and the consequences for how this history has been understood. In the latter half of the article, the author considers how the existence of this letter offers insights into how the Toronto medical establishment regarded Ernest Jones.

“Psychiatry in American Medical Education: The Case of Harvard’s Medical School, 1900–1945,” by Tara H. Abraham. Abstract:

As American psychiatrists moved from the asylum to the private clinic during the early twentieth century, psychiatry acquired a growing presence within medical school curricula. This shift in disciplinary status took place at a time when medical education itself was experiencing a period of reform. By examining medical school registers at Harvard University, records from the Dean’s office of Harvard’s medical school, and oral histories, this paper examines the rise in prominence of psychiatry in medical education. Three builders of Harvard psychiatry—Elmer E. Southard, C. Macfie Campbell, and Harry C. Solomon—simultaneously sought to mark territory for psychiatry and its relevance, and in doing so, I argue, capitalized on three related elements: the fluidity that existed between psychiatry and neurology, the new venues whereby medical students gained training in psychiatry, and the broader role of patrons, professional associations, and certification boards, which sought to expand psychiatry’s influence in the social and cultural life of twentieth-century America.

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New JHBS: Catholic Church and Psychoanalysis, Vygotsky on Thinking and Speech, & More

The Spring 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online.  Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

““A disease of our time”: The Catholic Church’s condemnation and absolution of psychoanalysis (1924–1975),” by Renato Foschi, Marco Innamorati, and Ruggero Taradel. Abstract:

The present paper is focused on the evolution of the position of the Catholic Church toward psychoanalysis. Even before Freud’s The Future of an Illusion (1927), psychoanalysis was criticized by Catholic theologians. Psychoanalysis was viewed with either contempt or with indifference, but nonpsychoanalytic psychotherapy was accepted, especially for pastoral use. Freudian theory remained for most Catholics a delicate and dangerous subject for a long time. From the center to the periphery of the Vatican, Catholic positions against psychoanalysis have varied in the way that theological stances have varied. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, some Catholics changed their attitudes and even practiced psychoanalysis, challenging the interdict of the Holy Office, which prohibited psychoanalytic practice until 1961. During the Cold War, psychoanalysis progressively became more and more relevant within Catholic culture for two main reasons: changes in psychoanalytic doctrine (which began to stress sexuality to a lesser degree) and the increasing number of Catholic psychoanalysts, even among priests. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, psychoanalysis was eventually accepted and became the main topic of a famous speech by Pope Paul VI. This paper illustrates how this acceptance was a sort of unofficial endorsement of a movement that had already won acceptance within the Church. The situation was fostered by people like Maryse Choisy or Leonardo Ancona, who had advocated within the Church for a sui generis use of psychoanalysis (e.g., proposing a desexualized version of Freudian theories), despite warnings and prohibitions from the hierarchies of the Church.

“The final chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech: A reader’s guide,” René van der Veer Ekaterina Zavershneva. Abstract:

The seventh and last chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech (1934) is generally considered as his final word in psychology. It is a long chapter with a complex argumentative structure in which Vygotsky gives his view on the relationship between thinking and speech. Vygotsky’s biographers have stated that the chapter was dictated in the final months of Vygotsky’s life when his health was rapidly deteriorating. Although the chapter is famous, its structure has never been analyzed in any detail. In the present article we reveal its rhetorical structure and show how Vygotsky drew on many hitherto unrevealed sources to convince the reader of his viewpoint.

“Japanese-American confinement and scientific democracy: Colonialism, social engineering, and government administration,” by Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt and Leandro Daniel Benmergui. Abstract:

During World War II, the U.S. Indian Service conducted social science experiments regarding governance among Japanese Americans imprisoned at the Poston, Arizona, camp. Researchers used an array of techniques culled from anthropological culture and personality studies, psychiatry, psychology, medicine, and public opinion research to probe how the personality traits of the confined Japanese?Americans and camp leaders affected the social interactions within each group and between them. The research drew on prior studies of Indian personality in the US Southwest, Mexico’s Native policies, and indirect colonial rule. Researchers asked how democracy functioned in contexts marked by hierarchy and difference. Their goal was to guide future policies toward US “minorities“ and foreign races in post?war occupied territories. We show how researchers deployed ideas about race, cultural, and difference across a variety of cases to create a universal, predictive social science, which they combined with a prewar romanticism and cultural relativism. These researchers made ethnic, racial, and cultural difference compatible with predictive laws of science based on notions of fundamental human similarities.

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New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

A new student run journal, Psychology from the Margins, out of the University of Akron has just been launched. The journal focuses on the work at the intersections of history, practice, and social justice issues. It is described as

… a student-run, student-led, peer-reviewed journal. This journal features scholarly work addressing the history of research, practice, and advocacy in psychology, especially in areas related to social justice, social issues, and social change. Its purpose is to help fill gaps in the historical literature by providing an outlet for articles in the history of psychology highlighting stories that have been unrepresented or underrepresented by other historical narratives. The journal will accept and invite graduate and undergraduate students to submit manuscripts.

Articles in the inaugural issue include:

“Stuck in the Present: Gaps in the Theoretical Past and Applied Future of the Psychology of Men and Masculinities,” by Zachary T. Gerdes. Abstract:

Over 30 years of research in the psychology of men and masculinities (PMM) has relied primarily on social constructionist and social learning theoretical perspectives. Social constructionism applied to gender and masculinity is much older than is often claimed in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. By paying a deeper homage to the feminist and social science researchers throughout the 20th century that influenced social constructionist theory applied to gender, PMM theory can grow and more effective clinical and prevention interventions can be designed for men. This is especially important considering the hundreds of problematic outcomes associated with how masculine norms have been defined and measured in the psychology of men and masculinities literature. Strict adherence to problematic masculine norms has been identified as a crisis in the U.S. Progress in the psychology of men and masculinities relies on the deepening of its theoretical past and the broadening of its clinical future. Concrete suggestions for doing so are addressed in this manuscript.

“Milton Rokeach’s Experimental Modification of Values: Navigating Relevance, Ethics and Politics in Social Psychological Research,” by Stefan Jadaszewski. Abstract: Continue reading New Journal: Psychology from the Margins

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On the Problems of Psychobiography – Comment in the American Psychologist

The recently released April issue of American Psychologist includes a comment from myself and Brianne Collins on a recent special section on psychobiography that appeared in the journal. In this brief comment, we outline some of the foundational issues with psychobiographical attempts to analysis contemporary and historical figures through the lens of what is presumed to be universal, ahistorical psychological theories.

“For whose benefit? Comment on the psychobiography special section,” by Jacy L. Young and Brianne M. Collins. Abstract:

This commentary addresses a recent special section on psychobiography that appeared in the pages of the July–August 2017 American Psychologist. The claims made by the authors of these articles raise a number of serious ethical, scientific, and historical concerns about psychobiography. These concerns include the potential public harm from the indiscriminate analysis of public figures; the inherent problem of publicly analyzing individuals without their participation or consent; overly deterministic conclusions of such analyses; difficulties analyzing figures from a distance and in retrospect; the impossibility of validating psychological theories through singular accounts; the presumption that psychological knowledge is ahistorical; the highly selective nature of psychobiography; and a focus on largely White, male figures as historically significant. These issues highlight the potential risks of this approach for both individuals under analysis and the broader public, while also questioning the professed benefit of psychobiography to psychological science and its value to historical scholarship.

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