Tag Archives: Behaviorism

Leo Postman and George Miller in the New AJP

L-R: Harry F. Harlow, Judson S. Brown, and Leo J. Postman. Copyright: Department of Psychology, UNL.

The Fall 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology features two articles marking the journal’s 130th anniversary. The first explores the work of experimentalist Leo Postman and the second, the contributions of George Miller to the American Journal of PsychologyFull details below.

“Leo J. Postman: Master Experimentalist,” by James S. Nairne and Michelle E. Coverdale. Abstract:

Leo J. Postman was an internationally recognized experimental psychologist whose work after World War II helped frame the modern empirical study of perception, memory, and other psychological processes. Postman was important to The American Journal of Psychology, serving as a frequent contributor, and the journal remained important to him throughout his career; in fact, he ended his research career as its co-editor. In this article, we briefly review some of his contributions to the journal and try to identify the consistent themes that defined his work. His views and his choice of topics tracked the significant theoretical issues of his time and remain a model of theoretical and empirical rigor.

“Breaking Into the Mind: George A. Miller’s Early Work in the American Journal of Psychology,” by William D. Raymond and Alice F. Healy. Abstract:

Reviewed here are the 9 scholarly articles written by George A. Miller for The American Journal of Psychology (AJP), all dated from 1944 to 1958. These articles include studies on discrimination, temporal judgments, auditory patterns, operant conditioning, animal behavior, verbal recall, and language structure. There are empirical and theoretical investigations and investigations combining both experiments and theory. Despite their breadth and the variety of subjects and procedures, all of the Miller studies in AJP can be viewed as following with behaviorist traditions rather than dealing with more complex cognition. During this time Miller’s view of psychology was changing; these studies, with their inventive methods, can also be seen as initial attempts to break into the mind, or to uncover and understand cognitive processes, in a way that had been discouraged by behaviorist traditions. The studies all also point to the need to consider the immediate contexts and long-term histories of the observer’s experiences, which implicate the broader statistical learning mechanism that is now considered to underlie human learning. The AJP articles reviewed here foreshadow the wide-ranging and profound influence Miller had on psychology and related fields of study. Miller has been described as a founder or pioneer of a number of fields, including psycholinguistics, mathematical psychology, applied psychology, cognitive science, and computational approaches to linguistic analysis. Because of his huge impact on so many areas and his eagerness to communicate psychology’s importance to others, Miller can be considered an ambassador of psychology to a wider audience.

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‘The Last Behaviorist’ an upcoming film on Skinner

Filmmaker Ted Kennedy is using footage from B. F. Skinner’s life to produce an audio-visual portrait that is loyal to the psychologist’s own theoretical propositions.

Follow here for more information.

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New Book: Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology

Soon-to-come from Cambridge University Press is a new volume on psychologist Edward Tolman and his influence on American Psychology. Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology, is written by psychologist David W. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Superior. The book is described on the publisher’s website, as discussing

the development of Edward Tolman’s purposive behaviourism from the 1920s to the 1950s, highlighting the tension between his references to cognitive processes and the dominant behaviourist trends. It shows how Tolman incorporated concepts from European scholars, including Egon Brunswik and the Gestalt psychologists, to justify a more purposive form of behaviourism and how the theory evolved in response to the criticisms of his contemporaries. The manuscript also discusses Tolman’s political activities, culminating in his role in the California loyalty oath controversy in the 1950s. Tolman was involved in a number of progressive causes during his lifetime, activities that drew the attention of both state legislators in California and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It treats Tolman’s theoretical and political activities as emanating from the same source, a desire to understand the learning process in a scientific manner and to apply these concepts to improve the human condition.

 

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FHHS Sponsored Session: “Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film”

This November’s History of Science Society (HSS) meeting features a session sponsored by HSS’s special interest group the Forum for History of Human Science (FHHS). The HSS meeting runs November 3rd through 6th in Atlanta, Georgia. The session “Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film,” organized by Ben Harris (right), will take place on the morning of Sunday November 6th. Full details follow below.

Sunday Nov. 6, 9-11 am
Session 87. Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film
Chair(s): John Carson, University of Michigan
Commentator(s): Nadine Weidman, Harvard University
Organizer(s): Ben Harris, University of New Hampshire

A Novelist’s Perspective, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Independent Scholar
An Artist’s Perspective, Matteo Farinella, Independent Scholar and Columbia University
Putting Stanley Milgram on Film, Gina Perry, University of Melbourne

Summary:

In studies of science popularization the focus is usually on non-fiction. But what about fictionalized portraits of science? This session looks at three attempts to bring the human and neuro- sciences to the public through fiction. Among the questions explored are: how is the fact/fiction boundary negotiated? how do a “fact writer” and a “fiction writer” think about popularization differently? What are the different relationships that they have to their sources, or that they envision with their audiences? Andromeda Romano-Lax is a successful novelist whose most recent work, Behave (2016), dramatizes the life and career of Rosalie Rayner, wife and former student of behaviorist John Watson. Matteo Farinella is an illustrator and artist with a doctorate in neuroscience. His visual narrative, Neurocomic (2013, co-authored with Hana Roz), portrays the history of neuroscience through a young man’s a voyage of discovery in a land of giant neurons and encounters with famous scientists. Gina Perry is an Australian journalist who used her investigative and narrative skills to write a Behind the Shock Machine (2013), a history of Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies. Now a doctoral student in psychology, she will review Experimenter, Michael Almereyda’s 2016 film about Milgram and his work. Our commentator is Nadine Weidman, a historian of science at Harvard University known for her work on public controversy and popularization in the twentieth century human sciences. Our Chair is John Carson, a historian at the University of Michigan and Director of Undergraduate Studies for its Program in Science, Technology, and Society.

Come back tomorrow for a roundup of all the history of human science related programming at HSS!

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Romano-Lax’s Behave: The (Fictionalized) Story of Rosalie Rayner Watson

Way back in the Spring of 2013 we brought you news that author Andromeda Romano-Lax was working on a fictionalized account of the life of psychologist Rosalie Rayner Watson. That book, now titled Behave, has just been published by SoHo Press. A trailer for the book is featured above and a recent Kirkus review of Behave can be found here.

The book is described on the publishers website:

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,” wrote the founder of behaviorist psychology, John B. Watson, whose 1928 parenting guide was revered as the child-rearing bible. For their dangerous and “mawkish” impulses to kiss and hug their child, “most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.” Behave is the story of Rosalie Rayner, Watson’s ambitious young wife and the mother of two of his children.

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs — and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

With Behave, Andromeda Romano-Lax offers a provocative fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, a woman whose work influenced generations of Americans, and whose legacy has been lost in the shadow of her husband’s. In turns moving and horrifying, Behave is a richly nuanced and disturbing novel about science, progress, love, marriage, motherhood, and what all those things cost a passionate, promising young woman.

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Special (31 Article!) Issue of Universitas Psychologica

A special issue of the journal Universitas Psychologica dedicated to the history of psychology is now freely available online. The issue includes 31 contributions which explore the history of psychology in a variety of international locales. Articles in this issue include ones on the work of Christian Wolff, the history of psychoanalysis in Chile, a comparative study of behaviorism in Argentina and Brazil, and much, much more.

While most articles are in Spanish a number are written in English. For more on this issue see this post by the Blog da Rede Iberoamericana de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Happy reading!

“La Idea de Psicología Racional en la Metafísica Alemana (1720) de Christian Wolff,” Saulo Araujo and Thiago Constâncio Ribeiro Pereira. The abstract reads,

Christian Wolff (1679-1754) fue una figura central en la Ilustración europea del siglo XVIII. Al mismo tiempo, tuvo una importancia particular para el desarrollo histórico de la psicología, pues fue el primero en darle a ésta su significación moderna. Sin embargo, la historiografía tradicional de la psicología no le ha dado el debido reconocimiento. El objetivo de este artículo consiste en presentar los elementos centrales de su psicología racional en su Metafísica Alemana (1720) y mostrar su importancia para los debates psicológicos posteriores. Con ello, esperamos contribuir a la divulgación de un aspecto importante del desarrollo histórico de la psicología.

““MUJERES EXTRAVIADAS”: PSICOLOGÍA Y PROSTITUCIÓN EN LA ESPAÑA DE POSTGUERRA,” by Javier Bandrés, Eva Zubieta, and Rafael Llavona. The abstract reads,

La brutal depresión económica en que se sumió la España de postguerra empujó a muchas mujeres a recurrir a la prostitución como único medio de subsistencia. Las autoridades franquistas habían anulado el decreto abolicionista republicano por lo que el comercio sexual era tolerado. Sin embargo, el auge incontrolado de la prostitución hizo reaccionar a las autoridades y se establecieron cárceles especiales para prostitutas. Se analizan los trabajos de postguerra sobre la psicología de la prostitución de tres personajes situados en instituciones claves de la época: Antonio Vallejo Nágera (Universidad de Madrid, Consejo Nacional de Sanidad), Eduardo Martínez Martínez (Clínica Psiquiátrica Penitenciaria de Mujeres) y Francisco J. Echalecu y Canino (Patronato de Protección a la Mujer). Los textos de estos tres autores y sus investigaciones sobre prostitutas españolas les llevan a caracterizarlas como afectas innatas de psicopatía sexual, deficiencia mental y amoralidad. Este diagnóstico les lleva a justificar su internamiento para reforma en las cárceles especiales para prostitutas. Los trabajos de Vallejo, Martínez y Echalecu fueron instrumentales para justificar el establecimiento de las cárceles especiales. El marco conceptual de la biopsicología de inspiración alemana se puso al servicio del proyecto social de la biopolítica franquista.

“Scientifics exchanges between France and Brazil in the history of psychology – the role of Georges Dumas (1908-1946),” by Carolina S. Bandeira de Melo and Regina de Freitas Campos. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special (31 Article!) Issue of Universitas Psychologica

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Who Was Little Albert? The Story Continues…

Little Albert and a rat.
Little Albert and a rat. Source: http://hopkins. typepad.com/guest/images/2007/11/03/tanya8.jpg

For generations, psychology students have been asking the question, “Whatever happened to Little Albert?”, the baby who John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner conditioned to fear furry things back in 1919. Five years ago, it seemed that the question had finally been answered when Hall Beck of Appalachian State University in North Carolina and his colleagues published the results of some intensive archive-snooping. They declared that “Albert B.” (as the baby was called in the original report) had actually been Douglas Merritte, a child who died of hydrocephaly just a few years after the experiment. Now, however, two psychologists in Alberta are disputing that claim, and The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published an article on the matter. Continue reading Who Was Little Albert? The Story Continues…

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Special Issue: Behaviorism at 100: The Legacies of Watson’s Behaviorist Manifesto

The Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis (Revista mexicana de análisis de la conducta) has  published a special issue celebrating the centennial of John B. Watson’s behaviorist manifesto. The full issue is freely available in both Spanish and English. Guest guest edited by Kennon A. Lattal and Alexandra Rutherford, the issue includes articles by a number of prominent historians of psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“John B. Watson’s Behaviorist Manifesto at 100,” by Kennon A. Lattal and Alexandra Rutherford. The abstract reads,

In this introduction to the special issue of the Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis on Behaviorism at 100: The Legacies of Watson’s Behaviorist Manifesto, we consider Watson’s seminal 1913 Psychological Review article “Psychology as the behaviorist views it” as a contribution in its own time, and reflect on the significance of the article in both contemporary psychology and contemporary behaviorism. Despite its lukewarm reception at the time of its publication and the mixed reviews of its impact even today, it remains one of the touchstone articles in psychology and an undeniably important text in understanding the evolution of 20th century American psychology. The different contributors to the special issue consider Watson’s article in the context of a number of subdisciplines of psychology.

“John B. Watson’s Early Work and Comparative Psychology,” by Donald A. Dewsbury. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue: Behaviorism at 100: The Legacies of Watson’s Behaviorist Manifesto

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More HOP Graphic Novels: It’s Harry Harlow’s Turn

Cover of Wire Mothers

AHP has previously posted on the relationship between graphic novels and the history of psychology – in terms of psychology’s interactions with the reading of comics, the lie detector-Wonder Woman link, and the ways its history has periodically found its way into the stories themselves (see Freud’s appearance as a superhero and the Kitty Genovese connection to the Watchmen character Rorschach). Thanks to the newly downloaded comiXology app on my iPad, I have another recommendation for AHP readers: “Wire Mothers: Harry Harlow and the Science of Love“.

Created in 2007 by Jim Ottaviani and Dylan Meconis for G.T. Labs, the novel – as the title makes clear – focuses on the work of psychologist Harry Harlow. It was released as a part of G.T. Labs’ “science of the unscientific” series (bear with me for a bit here) as a companion to “Levitation: Physics and Psychology in the Service of Deception” (which I’ve only just started to read so perhaps more in a future post?).

Although “Wire Mothers” highlights several aspects of Harlow’s career and alludes to the work of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner, the bulk of the story focuses on Harlow’s best known work with infant rhesus monkeys beginning in the late 1950s. These studies included questions related to the fear responses of these animals (see some original footage), the effects of contact comfort (see The Nature of Love), and the effects of social isolation (see Total Isolation in Monkeys). The authors also seem to capture a fair characterization of Harlow himself.

Overall, the project is well done – ex. the wire and cloth “mothers” will be easily recognizable to Historians of Psychology – and even concludes with a two page list of recommended primary and secondary source readings. This could be a great way to introduce our students to the topic – or perhaps just a fun read this summer when you want to goof off but still feel productive.

 

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The Expert: A Novel Based on the Life of Rosalie Rayner

Author Andromeda Romano-Lax has crowd funded, through USA Projects, a book in progress on the life of Rosalie Rayner (left). Tentatively titled The Expert, Romano-Lax’s the novel will be a fictionalized account of Rayner’s short life (1899-1935). Most famously, Rayner was John Watson’s graduate student assistant during the Little Albert study. Following a scandal caused by their affair, while Watson was married to someone else, they married and had two children.

As described on the project’s now closed fundraising site,

He was the founder of behaviorism and the most influential American psychologist of his day—a famous parenting “expert” who counseled mothers never to kiss or cuddle their children, and who went on to apply behaviorist principles to Madison Avenue advertising. She was the 19-year-old graduate student who assisted his research—and within a year, found her own career derailed when their steamy affair made front-page news in the East Coast newspapers.

John Watson is well known in psychology circles, but his second wife, Rosalie Rayner, the narrator of this based-on-real-events novel, is known mostly as a textbook footnote—a woman involved in scandal who retreated from her own career ambitions to support her larger-than-life, controversial husband before dying at the tragically young age of 35. Rayner’s own little-known story (informed by the stories of other women psychologists and professionals of the same time period) aims to shed light on the life of a 1920s Vassar-educated woman and mother, part of a post-suffragette, interwar, Jazz Age generation that looked to science, technology, and corporate slogans for expert answers on how to live.

….I will use project funds to continue the first phase of research (which began with a visit to Baltimore MD, Washington DC, and Poughkeepsie NY and continues with ongoing follow-up historical research) necessary to write dramatically about a woman of cultural and scientific significance who left almost no paper trail. It would be easier to write about her famous husband, but it is the little-known quality of Rosalie’s life – and the story of forgotten women like her – that draws me to this project. To recreate Rosalie Rayner’s life, I will continue to seek out scarce primary sources on Rayner, visit places that were formative to her development, and also continue to learn more about women psychologists and Baltimore life from 1900 to the mid-1930s.

Although this crowd funded project is a literary endeavour — one that just happens to overlap with the history of psychology — this kind of funding initiative raises questions about the future of funding for historical work more generally. What role, if any, will crowd funding have in future research in the history of psychology?

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