New JHBS: Ambiverts, Victimization Surveys, Radical Behaviorism in Brazil, and More

Fred Keller

The Autumn 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the history of the ambivert, the emergence of victimization surveys, the influence of Fred Keller’s radical behaviorism in Brazil, and ideas about mental evolution and unconscious memory in Victorian Britain. Full details follow below.

“The ambivert: A failed attempt at a normal personality,” by Ian J. Davidson. Abstract:

Recently, attention has been drawn toward an overlooked and nearly forgotten personality type: the ambivert. This paper presents a genealogy of the ambivert, locating the various contexts it traversed in order to highlight the ways in which these places and times have interacted and changed—ultimately elucidating our current situation. Proposed by Edmund S. Conklin in 1923, the ambivert only was meant for normal persons in between the introvert and extravert extremes. Although the ambivert could have been taken up by early personality psychologists who were transitioning from the study of the abnormal to the normal, it largely failed to gain traction. Whether among psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, or applied and personality psychologists, the ambivert was personality non grata. It was only within the context of Eysenck’s integrative view of types and traits that the ambivert marginally persisted up to the present day and is now the focus of sales management and popular psychology.

“The genesis of victimization surveys and of the realist-constructionist divide,” by Matthieu de Castelbajac. Abstract:

The invention of victimization surveys is often presented as a synthesis of the two theoretical attitudes that, supposedly, dominated the 1960s debate over official crime statistics: realism and social constructionism. This paper turns this genesis story on its head. Using original archives, I argue that victimization surveys responded to organizational opportunities in the field of applied research. It was only after the fact that two of their architects seized the debate on crime measurement to broadcast their invention. In so doing they strategically recast the terms of this debate into a binary division between two antithetical social ontologies. This case is used to discuss how social scientists come to reinterpret and misunderstand their history.

“In between mental evolution and unconscious memory: Lamarckism, Darwinism, and professionalism in late Victorian Britain,” by Cristiano Turbil. Abstract:

In 1884 Samuel Butler published a collection of essays entitled Remarks on George Romanes’ Mental Evolution, where he attempted to show how Romanes’ idea of mental evolution presented similarities with his theory of unconscious memory. By looking at Romanes’ work through Butler’s writing, this article will reevaluate some aspects of their works regarding the complex debate about memory, heredity, and instinct. This paper will explore the main differences and similarities between Romanes’ science and Butler’s writing on science both in terms of their ideas and contents. It will then look into their different professional relationships with Darwin and how this determined the professional and public reception of their theories.

“Bringing radical behaviorism to revolutionary Brazil and back: Fred Keller’s Personalized System of Instruction and Cold War engineering education,” by Atsushi Akera. Abstract:

This article traces the shifting epistemic commitments of Fred S. Keller and his behaviorist colleagues during their application of Skinnerian radical behaviorism to higher education pedagogy. Building on prior work by Alexandra Rutherford and her focus on the successive adaptation of Skinnerian behaviorism during its successive applications, this study utilizes sociologist of science Karin Knorr Cetina’s concept of epistemic cultures to more precisely trace the changes in the epistemic commitments of a group of radical behaviorists as they shifted their focus to applied behavioral analysis. The story revolves around a self-paced system of instruction known as the Personalized System of Instruction, or PSI, which utilized behaviorist principles to accelerate learning within the classroom. Unlike Skinner’s entry into education, and his focus on educational technologies, Keller developed a mastery-based approach to instruction that utilized generalized reinforcers to cultivate higher-order learning behaviors. As it happens, the story also unfolds across a rather fantastic political terrain: PSI originated in the context of Brazilian revolutionary history, but circulated widely in the U.S. amidst Cold War concerns about an engineering manpower(sic) crisis. This study also presents us with an opportunity to test Knorr Cetina’s conjecture about the possible use of a focus on epistemic cultures in addressing a classic problem in the sociology of science, namely unpacking the relationship between knowledge and its social context. Ultimately, however, this study complements another historical case study in applied behavioral analysis, where a difference in outcome helps to lay out the range of possible shifts in the epistemic commitments of radical behaviorists who entered different domains of application. The case study also has some practical implications for those creating distance learning environments today, which are briefly explored in the conclusion.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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