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

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The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick

Jessica Riskin’s The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick may be of interest to AHP readers, particular its exploration of agency and intelligence. The book is described as follows:

Today, a scientific explanation is not meant to ascribe agency to natural phenomena: we would not say a rock falls because it seeks the center of the earth. Even for living things, in the natural sciences and often in the social sciences, the same is true. A modern botanist would not say that plants pursue sunlight. This has not always been the case, nor, perhaps, was it inevitable. Since the seventeenth century, many thinkers have made agency, in various forms, central to science.

The Restless Clock examines the history of this principle, banning agency, in the life sciences. It also tells the story of dissenters embracing the opposite idea: that agency is essential to nature. The story begins with the automata of early modern Europe, as models for the new science of living things, and traces questions of science and agency through Descartes, Leibniz, Lamarck, and Darwin, among many others. Mechanist science, Jessica Riskin shows, had an associated theology: the argument from design, which found evidence for a designer in the mechanisms of nature. Rejecting such appeals to a supernatural God, the dissenters sought to naturalize agency rather than outsourcing it to a “divine engineer.” Their model cast living things not as passive but as active, self-making machines.

The conflict between passive- and active-mechanist approaches maintains a subterranean life in current science, shaping debates in fields such as evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. This history promises not only to inform such debates, but also our sense of the possibilities for what it means to engage in science—and even what it means to be alive.

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Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond

A new book from from University of Chicago Press may be of interest to AHP readers. As described on the publisher’s site, Cathy Gere’s Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond asks

How should we weigh the costs and benefits of scientific research on humans? Is it right that a small group of people should suffer in order that a larger number can live better, healthier lives? Or is an individual truly sovereign, unable to be plotted as part of such a calculation?

These are questions that have bedeviled scientists, doctors, and ethicists for decades, and in Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good, Cathy Gere presents the gripping story of how we have addressed them over time. Today, we are horrified at the idea that a medical experiment could be performed on someone without consent. But, as Gere shows, that represents a relatively recent shift: for more than two centuries, from the birth of utilitarianism in the eighteenth century, the doctrine of the greater good held sway. If a researcher believed his work would benefit humanity, then inflicting pain, or even death, on unwitting or captive subjects was considered ethically acceptable. It was only in the wake of World War II, and the revelations of Nazi medical atrocities, that public and medical opinion began to change, culminating in the National Research Act of 1974, which mandated informed consent. Showing that utilitarianism is based in the idea that humans are motivated only by pain and pleasure, Gere cautions that that greater good thinking is on the upswing again today and that the lesson of history is in imminent danger of being lost.

Rooted in the experiences of real people, and with major consequences for how we think about ourselves and our rights, Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good is a dazzling, ambitious history.

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Call for Papers: ESHHS Conference in Groningen July 17-20, 2018

The European Society for the History of the Human Sciences (ESHHS) has issued its call for papers for its 2018 meeting in Groningen, July 17-20th.

The conference is hosted by the department of Theory and History of Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, the Netherlands and organized in collaboration with Open University of the Netherlands. Oral presentations, posters, sessions or workshops may deal with any aspect of the history of the human, behavioural and social sciences or with related historiographic and methodological issues (including those related to digital history). This year we particularly invite submissions that deal with external factors – political, ethical, economical or otherwise – that lead to marginalization of theoretical and historical research in the human, behavioural and social sciences. Full submission details can be found here.

Full submission details can be found here.

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From The Monitor: Decolonizing Psychology in South Africa

The APA’s Monitor on Psychology features a compelling article in their November issue by  Rebecca A. Clay on the work currently being done by psychologists in South Africa to become accountable for the discipline’s violent history there, and to change the field in a responsible and functional way moving forward, focusing on revision of assessment practices, and on professional and student training.

Highlights include: debates about the ‘Africanization’ of theory and methods; the inclusion of critical psychology perspectives in the classroom, research, clinic, and psychologists’ worldviews; the current realities of discrimination in the academy experienced by students and faculty; and the efforts made to ensure these processes of change do not become ‘top-down’ and end up reiterating colonial conceptualizations rather than promoting self-determination on the part of psychologists and their clients in collaborative ways.

It’s an excellent summary of a complex and sensitive situation; read the article here.

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Entitled to Addiction? Pharmaceuticals, Race, and America’s First Drug War

A new article in the Fall 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Entitled to Addiction? Pharmaceuticals, Race, and America’s First Drug War,” by David Herzberg. Abstract:

This article rethinks the formative decades of American drug wars through a social history of addiction to pharmaceutical narcotics, sedatives, and stimulants in the first half of the twentieth century. It argues, first, that addiction to pharmaceutical drugs is no recent aberration; it has historically been more extensive than “street” or illicit drug use. Second, it argues that access to psychoactive pharmaceuticals was a problematic social entitlement constructed as distinctively medical amid the racialized reforms of the Progressive Era. The resulting drug control regime provided inadequate consumer protection for some (through the FDA), and overly punitive policing for others (through the FBN). Instead of seeing these as two separate stories—one a liberal triumph and the other a repressive scourge—both should be understood as part of the broader establishment of a consumer market for drugs segregated by class and race like other consumer markets developed in the era of Progressivism and Jim Crow.

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Anthropology’s Most Documented Man, Ca. 1947: A Prefiguration of Big Data from the Big Social Science Era

Don C. Talayesva in Santa Barbara CA
Don Talayesva

The 2017 issue of Osiris is dedicated to Data Histories and includes a piece on big data in mid-twentieth century social science that may be of interest to AHP readers.

“Anthropology’s Most Documented Man, Ca. 1947: A Prefiguration of Big Data from the Big Social Science Era,” by Rebecca Lemov. Abstract:

“Big Data,” a descriptive term of relatively recent origin, has as one of its key effects the radically increased harnessing of ever-more-personal information accrued in the course of pedestrian life. This essay takes a historical view of the amassing and sharing of personal data, examining the genealogy of the “personal” and psychological elements inherent in Big Data through the case of an American Indian man who (the reigning experts claimed) gained the status of the most documented single individual in the history of modern anthropology. Although raised a traditional Hopi Indian in Oraibi, Arizona, Don Talayesva (1890–1985) gave over his life materials to scientists at prominent universities and constituted in and of himself a “vast data set” long before such practices were common. This essay uses this pioneering data set (partially preserved in the Human Relations Area Files and its web-based full-text database, eHRAF) to examine the distinctiveness of Big Data in relation to the personal, psychological realm; finally, a comparison is made with twenty-first-century data-collection practices of quantifying the self.

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Nov 13th BPS/UCL Talk: The Psychologies of Utopia and Reality. E. H. Carr, 1919-1939

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in its autumn seminar series. On Monday November 13th Alex Woodcock will be speaking on “The psychologies of utopia and reality. E. H. Carr, 1919-1939.” Full details below.

Monday November 13th

The psychologies of utopia and reality. E. H. Carr, 1919-1939.
Alex Woodcock (UCL)

How do theories from across human and social science disciplines connect, merge, and inform one another? In the early to mid-twentieth century, Edward Hallett Carr was one of Britain’s most visible and controversial public intellectuals. His legacy had dwindled to being little more than an academic signpost within History and International Relations. However the turmoil of twenty-first century political world and the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, on which he was an authority, have led to a resurgence of interest in his work. This presentation explores in detail Carr’s relation to his own academic, political, and intellectual context. It will look to understand his life and work from 1919 to 1939 in terms of prevailing trends and formative theories derived from the psychological disciplines. Understanding his intellectual formation in this way allows one to appreciate the nuances and depths of his milestone 1939 IR text, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939, as well as giving an insight into how and why Carr arrived at his historical and political conclusions. Moreover, such a view speaks to wider issues regarding the specific importance of the ‘history of the psychological disciplines’ within the human and social sciences.

Tickets/registration

Location:
SELCS Common Room (G24)
Foster Court
Malet Place
University College London

Time: 18:00-19:30

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Online Exhibit about ‘Bibliotherapy’ in WWI

via ALA Archives

“Books,” exclaimed one man to another, apropos of the bookcart’s arrival, “They’re all that hold reason together.”

 

 

 

As part of an exhibit on display at the Homer D. Babbidge Library at the University of Connecticut, doctoral student Mary Mahoney has written and curated an online exhibit about the use of literature as therapy for soldiers during the first World War, titled Books as Medicine: Studies in reading, its history, and the enduring belief in its power to heal.

Guided through sections, the site visitor learns about the (American) Library War Service, Hospital Libraries, Prescribing Books, Contagion (both medical and social), and Science (in which you can use a form from a neuropsychiatric hospital to ‘prescribe’ a book as therapy, and peruse others’ prescriptions).

Experience the exhibit here. 

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Happier? The History of a Cultural Movement That Aspired to Transform America

Now available from Oxford University Press is a historian Daniel Horowitz‘s new book, Happier? The History of a Cultural Movement That Aspired to Transform America. Happier? explores the history of positive psychology and happiness research and is described on the publisher’s website as follows:

When a cultural movement that began to take shape in the mid-twentieth century erupted into mainstream American culture in the late 1990s, it brought to the fore the idea that it is as important to improve one’s own sense of pleasure as it is to manage depression and anxiety. Cultural historian Daniel Horowitz’s research reveals that this change happened in the context of key events. World War II, the Holocaust, post-war prosperity, the rise of counter-culture, the crises of the 1970s, the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and the prime ministerships of Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron provided the important context for the development of the field today known as positive psychology.

Happier? provides the first history of the origins, development, and impact of the way Americans — and now many around the world — shifted from mental illness to well-being as they pondered the human condition. This change, which came about from the fusing of knowledge drawn from Eastern spiritual traditions, behavioral economics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and cognitive psychology, has been led by scholars and academic entrepreneurs, as they wrestled with the implications of political events and forces such as neoliberalism and cultural conservatism, and a public eager for self-improvement.

Linking the development of happiness studies and positive psychology with a broad series of social changes, including the emergence of new media and technologies like TED talks, blogs, web sites, and neuroscience, as well as the role of evangelical ministers, Oprah Winfrey’s enterprises, and funding from government agencies and private foundations, Horowitz highlights the transfer of specialized knowledge into popular arenas. Along the way he shows how marketing triumphed, transforming academic disciplines and spirituality into saleable products. Ultimately, Happier? illuminates how positive psychology, one of the most influential academic fields of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, infused American culture with captivating promises for a happier society.

 

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