Tag Archives: Fritz Heider

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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New HoP: The “Lens,” Helmholtz, The Phi Phenomena, & More

The May 2014 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the interplay of images and concepts in ideas about the “lens” as developed by Fritz Heider and Egon Brunswick, the influence of Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Ego-doctrine on Helmholtz’s theory of perception, the future of the history of psychology course in Canada, and archives on the history of Chinese psychology. The issue also features a special section devoted to the centenary of Max Wertheimer’s publication of the phi phenomena. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Remembering the “lens”: Visual transformations of a concept from Heider to Brunswik,” by Martin Wieser. The abstract reads,

It is argued that Frederic Bartlett’s views on the social and cultural determinants of remembering and recognition provide a useful background for analyzing the transformations of psychological concepts and images when they are introduced into new academic collectives. An example of a “Bartlettian” view on the history of psychology is given by reconstructing and contextualizing the transformation of the “lens,” a model of human perception that was invented by Fritz Heider in the 1920s and adopted by Egon Brunswik from the 1930s onwards. Heider’s early work suggested a new perspective on the epistemological relation between subject, media, and object that was devised to create a new conceptual foundation for academic psychology. Brunswik, on the other hand, transformed Heider’s “lens” into a clear-cut experimental framework that was based on the physicalist and operationalist demands of logical empiricism, the movement for the “unity of science,” and, after his migration to Berkeley, neobehaviorism. This episode provides many similarities with Bartlett’s theory of the social determinants of knowledge and the shaping power of collective presuppositions, norms, and ideals.

“Voluntarism in early psychology: The case of Hermann von Helmholtz,” by Liesbet De Kock. The abstract reads,

The failure to recognize the programmatic similarity between (post-)Kantian German philosophy and early psychology has impoverished psychology’s historical self-understanding to a great extent. This article aims to contribute to recent efforts to overcome the gaps in the historiography of contemporary psychology, which are the result of an empiricist bias. To this end, we present an analysis of the way in which Hermann von Helmholtz’s theory of perception resonates with Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Ego-doctrine. It will be argued that this indebtedness is particularly clear when focusing on the foundation of the differential awareness of subject and object in perception. In doing so, the widespread reception of Helmholtz’s work as proto-positivist or strictly empiricist is challenged, in favor of the claim that important elements of his theorizing can only be understood properly against the background of Fichte’s Ego-doctrine.

Special Section: On the occasion of the centenary of Max Wertheimer’s article on the “phi phenomenon”

“Max Wertheimer centennial celebration in Germany,” by Michael Wertheimer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The “Lens,” Helmholtz, The Phi Phenomena, & More

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