New HoP: Gestalt Psychology and Deafness, Professional Psychology and the German National Socialist State, & More

Hearing aids teach deaf children the rhythmic patterns of speech, Clarke School for the Deaf, Northampton, Massachusetts. March 1955.

The November 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the American Gestalt psychology’s role at the Clarke School for the Deaf, Luigi Luciani’s work on consciousness in relation to localizationism, and professional psychology in Germany during the National Socialist period. (A fun collection of images from the Clarke School for the Deaf from 1955 is also available from Getty Images.) Full details below.

“Planes of phenomenological experience: The psychology of deafness as an early example of American Gestalt psychology, 1928–1940,” by Marion A.Schmidt. Abstract:

When, in 1928, the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, opened a psychological research division, it was nothing unusual in a time fascinated with the sciences of education. Yet with its longstanding ties to Northampton’s Smith College, the school was able to secure the collaboration of eminent Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, who, in turn, engaged 2 more German-speaking emigrants, Margarete Eberhardt and social psychologist Fritz Heider, and Heider’s American wife Grace Moore Heider. This collaboration has seen little attention from historians, who have treated Koffka’s and Heider’s time in Northampton as a transitory phase. I argue, however, that their research on deafness adds to the history of emigration and knowledge transfer between European and American Schools of psychology, and to historical understanding of the interrelation of Gestalt, child, and social psychology. Professionals in child studies and developmental psychology were keenly interested in the holistic and introspective approach Gestalt psychology offered. Deaf children were considered a particularly fascinating research population for exploring the relationship between thought and language, perception and development, Gestalt, and reality. At the Clarke School, Grace Moore Heider was among the first Americans to apply Gestalt principles to child psychology. In a time in which pejorative eugenic beliefs dominated professional perceptions of disability, the Heiders’ groundbreaking work defined the deaf as a social and phenomenological minority. This was in opposition to dominant beliefs in deaf education, yet it points to early roots of a social model of deafness and disability, which historians usually locate in 1960s and ’70s activism.

“Localizationism, antilocalizationism, and the emergence of the unitary construct of consciousness in Luigi Luciani (1840–1919),” by Giorgia Morgese, Giovanni PietroLombardo, and Vilfredo De Pascalis. Abstract:

This article aims to present the construct of unitary consciousness as it emerged in the work of the Italian physiologist Luigi Luciani (1840–1919). We highlight how Luciani’s work, conducted during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, integrated experimental research with the clinical observation of patients, enabling him to develop elaborate theoretical conceptions. From our historical analysis of Luciani’s main works, an innovative model of unitary consciousness emerges with respect to his contemporary context. We also propose Luciani’s model as a contribution to the modern debate on consciousness. An analysis of his work, not considered up to now, leads us to reevaluate the assumption of an ancient opposition between localization and antilocalization in the history of cerebral localization.

“Professional psychology in Germany, National Socialism, and the Second World War,” by Wolfgang Schönpflug. Abstract:

Hundreds of positions for psychologists were established after the National Socialists seized power in 1933. It has accordingly been asserted that professional psychology in Germany experienced significant growth during the National Socialist period. An analysis of archival materials and of a recent collection of biographies indicates otherwise, however. German psychology, in fact, declined because of systematic persecution and a surge of emigration, a deficit that subsequent cohorts were barely able to make up until 1945. The new positions for psychologists were mainly in the military testing service, and could only be filled after manpower was shifted from the civilian to the military sector. In 1941, the Ministry of Science and Education released regulations for an innovative practice-oriented national curriculum for psychology. The move was in line with Nazi policy, but it was initiated by a group of protagonists from psychology under the aegis of the German Psychological Association, not the National Socialist German Workers Party, the government, or the military. The present article elaborates how the conception of practice-oriented, state-approved studies was part of the traditional German dual system of academic and professional qualification, and thus actually predated 1933. The new curriculum was largely not implemented because of the exigencies of the war. However, as a regulatory framework it marked a turning point in the merging of academic and professional psychology in Germany. The relationship between academic and professional psychology is also discussed, along with the role of German psychology vis-à-vis National Socialism and the German military.

Share on Facebook

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *