Winter 2018 JHBS: Ida Frye on Autism, Operative Psychology in Germany, and More

The Winter 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the Peace Corps in the Philippines, the work of Ida Frye on autism, and “operative psychology” in the German Democratic Republic. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The creation of a postcolonial subject: The Chicago and Ateneo de Manila schools and the Peace Corps in the Philippines, 1960–1970,” by Christa Wirth. Abstract:

In the 1950s and 1960s scholars from the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila created social scientific knowledge that helped establish the Peace Corps as a Cold War institution in the Philippines. Central were the social scientists at the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila University who established a knowable postcolonial subject: “the Filipino,” which resulted from their research on Philippine values. In this context, the Ateneo/Chicago social scientists developed the “SIR,” the “smooth interpersonal relation” model that entails the notion that Filipinos and Filipinas particularly valued this nonconfrontational skill set among people. The SIR model was taught by social science experts to early Peace Corps volunteers as they prepared for their assignments in the Philippines. The article shows how the SIR model could cause distress and confusion as it was applied by Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines.

“Rethinking the origins of autism: Ida Frye and the unraveling of children’s inner world in the Netherlands in the late 1930s,” by Annemieke Van Drenth. Abstract:

Historiographies on the phenomenon of “autism” display Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger as the great pioneers. The recent controversy on who was first in “discovering” autism urges research into the question of how scientific discoveries relate to processes of academic reflection and social intervention. The Netherlands provide an interesting case in pioneering work in autism, since Dutch experts described autism in children already in the late 1930s, preceding the first publications on autism in children by Kanner and Asperger. This paper examines the Dutch origins of autism by focusing on Ida Frye’s contribution to the teamwork at the Paedological Institute in Nijmegen, which resulted in descriptions of children with autism. The theoretical aim of this paper is to underline the importance of the productive interplay between social interventions and scientific efforts concerning the complex inner world of special children.

“From Hohenschönhausen to Guantanamo Bay: Psychology’s role in the secret services of the GDR and the United States,” by Moritz Michels and Martin Wieser. Abstract:

This paper presents a historical analysis of the genesis, context, and function of “Operative Psychology,” a little-known branch of applied psychology developed by employees of the Ministry of State Security in the German Democratic Republic. For 25 years, theories and practices of Operative Psychology were taught to elite agents at the Juridical Academy in Potsdam, introducing them to various “silent” psychological techniques of persuasion, interrogation, and repression. After highlighting the economic and political context that increased the need for “silent” techniques of observation and repression, an overview of the topics that were taught and researched at the chair for Operative Psychology is given. Examples of how these techniques were put into practice are provided and the consequences for the victims of Operative Psychology are discussed. Furthermore, commonalities and differences between Operative Psychology and the use of psychological torture by the CIA during the “war on terror” are discussed and questions regarding the relation between methodological and moral strategies of justification are addressed.

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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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