Tag Archives: digital history

Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

A number of articles forthcoming in History of Psychology are now available online. These articles explore the disciplinary structure of psychology using digital history methods, the use of the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in American industry during the interwar years, and the role of bias and logical errors in debates of the identity of Little Albert. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS PsycINFO as an Historical Archive of Trends in Psychology,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan.  Abstract

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it.

“Temperamental Workers: Psychology, Business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in Interwar America,” by Lussier, Kira. Abstract

This article traces the history of a popular interwar psychological test, the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), from its development in the early 1930s to its adoption by corporate personnel departments. In popular articles, trade magazines, and academic journals, industrial psychologist Doncaster Humm and personnel manager Guy Wadsworth trumpeted their scale as a scientific measure of temperament that could ensure efficient hiring practices and harmonious labor relations by screening out “problem employees” and screening for temperamentally “normal” workers. This article demonstrates how concerns about the epistemological and scientific credibility of the HWTS were intimately entangled with concerns about its value to business at every step in the test’s development. The HWTS sought to measure the emotional and social dimensions of an individual’s personality so as to assess their suitability for work. The practice of temperament testing conjured a vision of the subject whose emotional and social disposition was foundational to their own capacity to find employment, and whose capacity to appropriately express, but regulate, their emotions was foundational to corporate order. The history of the HWTS offers an instructive case of how psychological tests embed social hierarchies, political claims, and economic ideals within their very theoretical and methodological foundations. Although the HWTS itself may have faded from use, the test directly inspired creators of subsequent popular personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

“Framing Psychology as a Discipline (1950–1999): A Large-Scale Term Co-Occurrence Analysis of Scientific Literature in Psychology,” by Flis, Ivan; van Eck, Nees Jan. Abstract: Continue reading Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

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AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

S. S. Stevens in the Psychoacoustics Lab at Harvard University

The Winter 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is now online. Included as part of the journal’s continuing 130th anniversary coverage are articles on S. S. Stevens’s work on scaling and early work foreshadowing ecological psychology. A further article in the issue offers a digital history of authorship in the American Journal of Psychology and the Psychological Review. Full details below.

“S. S. Stevens’s Invariant Legacy: Scale Types and the Power Law,” by Lawrence M. Ward. Abstract:

S. S. Stevens was one of a number of prominent psychologists who published seminal articles in The American Journal of Psychology (AJP). Indeed, the first or, arguably, most important articles in several of his research strands were published there. In this brief treatment of his monumental work, I review these articles and some of their sequelae, both in Stevens’s own work and in that of others, in an attempt to sketch out how Stevens’s contributions in AJP helped form the development of experimental sensory and perceptual psychology throughout the 20th century. I focus on his work in psychophysical scaling, because in my opinion that has been his most important legacy. Indeed, the article that probably generated the flurry of work in psychophysical scaling that persisted into the 1990s was a brilliant work published in 1956 in AJP. In that article Stevens not only demonstrated the validity and reliability of direct scaling (in this case magnitude estimation and production) but also investigated a range of factors that could affect its results, anchoring the later work that led to its adoption as the fundamental and most popular approach to psychophysical scaling still in use today. In this section I also expand on a few of the modern directions in which this work has gone. Stevens also published in AJP classic articles on the localization of sound, the dimensions of sound, the relation of volume to intensity, and the neural quantum in pitch and loudness discrimination. He even contributed an article on scaling coffee odor. His work is a stellar example of how AJP has influenced psychological science then and now.

“Gibson and Crooks (1938): Vision and Validation,” by Patricia R. Delucia and Keith S. Jones. Abstract: Continue reading AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

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New Article: Publish & Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember

Now in print in the Spring 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is the most recent digital history piece by Christopher Green (left): “Publish and Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember.” The abstract reads,

What is the relationship between being highly prolific in the realm of publication and being remembered as a great psychologist of the past? In this study, the PsycINFO database was used to identify the historical figures who wrote the most journal articles during the half-century from 1890 to 1939. Although a number of the 10 most prolific authors are widely remembered for their influence on the discipline today—E. L. Thorndike, Karl Pearson, E. B. Titchener, Henri Piéron—the majority are mostly forgotten. The data were also separated into the 5 distinct decades. Once again, a mixture of eminent and obscure individuals made appearances. Most striking, perhaps, was the great increase in articles published over the course of the half-century—approximately doubling each decade—and the enormous turnover in who was most prolific, decade over decade. In total, 100 distinct individuals appeared across just 5 lists of about 25 names each.

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New HoP: The Careers of Mowrer, Odum, & Puel, Digital History, & More

The February 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of O. Hobart Mowrer, Howard W. Odum, and Timothée Puel, respectively, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment, and  the changing relationship between psychology and philosophy through a digital analysis of journal content. In the news and notes section Chetan Sinha discusses the indigenization of psychology in India. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer,” by Corbin Page. The abstract reads,

O. Hobart Mowrer had one of the most productive and curious careers of any psychologist in the 20th century, despite struggling with severe mental illness and anxiety about his sexuality. Early in his career, he was one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists. During the mid-1940s, he became interested in religion and argued that anxiety was caused by repressed guilt that came from real wrongdoing. By the late 1950s, he had abandoned mainstream psychology, arguing that religion had been corrupted by its embrace of psychology and psychiatry. He claimed that sin was responsible for nearly all psychological problems and that ethical living and confession of wrongdoing could prevent mental illness. During his religious period, Mowrer received an astonishing amount of fawning press attention and was embraced by a public desirous of a path to mental health that did not require jettisoning traditional conceptions of sin, guilt, and human nature. This article examines Mowrer’s life and career and situates him among other mid-century skeptics of psychology and psychiatry. Other historians have argued that by the 1950s, the conflict between religion and psychiatry/psychology in the United States had largely abated, with both sides adapting to each other. Mowrer’s life and the reception of his work demonstrate that this narrative is overly simplistic; widespread conservative and religious distrust of psychology persisted even into the 1960s.

“Psychological keys in the study of African American religious folk songs in the early work of Howard W. Odum (1884–1954),” by Marcos José Bernal-Marcos, Jorge Castro-Tejerina, and José Carlos Loredo-Narciandi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The Careers of Mowrer, Odum, & Puel, Digital History, & More

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New HoP: The Future of the History of Psychology Revisited

Kurt Danziger

The August 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this special issue, guest edited by Adrian Brock, revisit the issues raised by Kurt Danziger in his 1994 article “Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The future of the history of psychology revisited,” by Adrian C. Brock. The abstract reads,

In 1994, Kurt Danziger published an article in Theory & Psychology with the title, “Does the history of psychology have a future?” The article attracted a great deal of controversy and is now listed on the journal’s website as one of the most cited articles in its history. After providing a synopsis of Danziger’s article, I discuss some of the issues that emerged from the controversy that followed its publication. I also ask whether the position of the history of psychology has changed in the intervening years. We are already in the future that Danziger discussed, even if it is only the near future, and the situation may look different from here. After pointing out that Danziger himself has changed his views on this subject, I suggest that it does look different. The editorial ends with an introduction to the articles in the special issue and some reflections on the importance of understanding the context in which historians of psychology work.

“The history specialist in psychology: From avocation to professionalization,” by Marissa E. Barnes and Scott Greer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The Future of the History of Psychology Revisited

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New JHBS: Palladino, Binet’s Instruments, Textbooks, & More

Palladino séance

The summer 2016 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore investigations of Palladino’s mediumship, Alfred Binet’s collaboration with instrument makers, the historiography of psychology textbooks, and central figures in psychological and philosophical associations at the turn of the twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.


In 1888, the spiritist Ercole Chiaia challenged Cesare Lombroso to go to Naples and study a brilliant though still unknown medium: Eusapia Palladino. At that time Lombroso turned down the challenge. However, in 1891 he became fascinated by the medium’s phenomena. Despite the abundant literature on Palladino, there is still an episode that needs to be explored: in 1888, the Spanish doctor Manuel Otero Acevedo accepted the challenge rejected by Lombroso, spent three months in Naples studying the medium and invited the Italian psychiatrist to join his investigations. This unexplored episode serves to examine the role of scientific authority, testimony, and material evidence in the legitimization of mediumistic phenomena. The use Otero Acevedo made of the evidence he obtained in Naples reveals his desire to proclaim himself an authority on psychical research before other experts, such as Lombroso, Richet, and Aksakof.


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AHA Today on Archiving the Internet

AHA logoStephanie Kingsley (over on the American Historical Association‘s blog) put up a post on the ethical and technical challenges of retaining records of the web. Summarizing the proceedings of a day symposium on the topic, Kingsley also consults with the York Psyborg lab’s good fried Ian Milligan (Waterloo) to expound on the complex topic. She also provides a compendium of resources for those historians interested in contributing to projects being undertaken to #SaveTheWeb. Find the full post here.


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New HoP: “Active Touch” Pre-Gibson, Health Psych & S. Africa, & Digital History

James Gibson (left) and Julian Hochberg. Ecological Optics conference, Cornell University, 1970. (photo: Sverker Runeson)

The May issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue address the (lack of) health psychology in post-apartheid South Africa , the concept of “active touch” before the work of James Gibson, the Lvov-Warsaw School of historical psychology, and the teaching of the history of psychology in Spain. Two further articles contribute to the digital history of psychology: John Benjamin offers a Zipfian analysis of the anglophone vocabulary of psychology, while Michael Pettit argues for caution in using the Google Books Ngram Viewer as a means of assessing cultural change over time. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychology and health after apartheid: Or, Why there is no health psychology in South Africa,” by Jeffery Yen. The abstract reads,

As part of a growing literature on the histories of psychology in the Global South, this article outlines some historical developments in South African psychologists’ engagement with the problem of “health.” Alongside movements to formalize and professionalize a U.S.-style “health psychology” in the 1990s, there arose a parallel, eclectic, and more or less critical psychology that contested the meaning and determinants of health, transgressed disciplinary boundaries, and opposed the responsibilization of illness implicit in much health psychological theorizing and neoliberal discourse. This disciplinary bifurcation characterized South African work well into the postapartheid era, but ideological distinctions have receded in recent years under a new regime of knowledge production in thrall to the demands of the global market. The article outlines some of the historical-political roots of key trends in psychologists’ work on health in South Africa, examining the conditions that have impinged on its directions and priorities. It raises questions about the future trajectories of psychological research on health after 20 years of democracy, and argues that there currently is no “health psychology” in South Africa, and that the discipline is the better for it.

“Pre-Gibsonian observations on active touch,” by Armin Wagner. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: “Active Touch” Pre-Gibson, Health Psych & S. Africa, & Digital History

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New Article: “Scientometric Trend Analyses of Publications on the History of Psychology”

Günter Krampen

A new open access article forthcoming in the journal Scientometrics looking at publication trends in the history of psychology may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Scientometric trend analyses of publications on the history of psychology: Is psychology becoming an unhistorical science?,” by Günter Krampen. The abstract reads,

Examines scientometrically the trends in and the recent situation of research on and the teaching of the history of psychology in the German-speaking countries and compares the findings with the situation in other countries (mainly the United States) by means of the psychology databases PSYNDEX and PsycINFO. Declines of publications on the history of psychology are described scientometrically for both research communities since the 1990s. Some impulses are suggested for the future of research on and the teaching of the history of psychology. These include (1) the necessity and significance of an intensified use of quantitative, unobtrusive scientometric methods in historiography in times of digital “big data”, (2) the necessity and possibilities to integrate qualitative and quantitative methodologies in historical research and teaching, (3) the reasonableness of interdisciplinary cooperation of specialist historians, scientometricians, and psychologists, (4) the meaningfulness and necessity to explore, investigate, and teach more intensively the past and the problem history of psychology as well as the understanding of the subject matter of psychology in its historical development in cultural contexts. The outlook on the future of such a more up-to-date research on and teaching of the history of psychology is—with some caution—positive.

The full article can be accessed online here.

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Historiography in the Social History of Medicine: Records at the NIH and the UK Web Archive

3.coverThe latest issue of Social History of Medicine includes two pieces related to historiographic research methods that may be of interest to our readership.

In light of (and as case against) the downsizing of the Office of History at the American National Institutes of Health and the prevailing uncertainty about its future capacity to be of service to historians, David Cantor has taken it upon himself to provide a guide to the available records, those beyond the collections held at the National Library of Medicine, the National Archives and in private possession, “those squirreled away in the NIH itself, in filing cabinets, on servers and computer systems, and within the records management system, many of which are uncatalogued and can be tricky to find.”

It also outlines how to best approach the bureaucratic system for viewing available records. Upon the dismantling of their historical office, historians will be left to navigate the complexities and social politics of finding and accessing materials at the Institutes without guidance, and as such the insights provided by this short work will likely prove invaluable.

The abstract can be found here: Finding Historical Records at the National Institutes of Health.

Martin Gorsky, out of the Centre for History in Public Health (Faculty of Public Health and Policy), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, provides another methodological guide. His work employs a case study (on the recent decentralization of public health services in Britain) to introduce the search engine interface of the UK Web Archive (colloquially called the Dark Domain Archive) and discuss the opportunities it provides, the challenges posed by its current functionality, and its relation to the future of historiography at large. The analyses conducted were both quantitative and qualitative, and analytic processes include thematic analysis, discourse analysis, and analyses of the selected sites as visual artifacts.

The full article can be found open access here: Into the Dark Domain: The UK Web Archive as a Source for the Contemporary History of Public Health.


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