Tag Archives: self experimentation

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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New Issue: Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

The fall 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences is now online.  Included in this issue are articles on the research into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in the 1960s, investigations of animal electricity by Alexander von Humboldt (above), and the academic status of neurobiology in Argentina in the 1920s, among others. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Alexander von Humboldt: Galvanism, Animal Electricity, and Self-Experimentation Part 2: The Electric Eel, Animal Electricity, and Later Years,” by Stanley Finger, Marco Piccolino & Frank W. Stahnisch. The abstract reads,

After extensive experimentation during the 1790s, Alexander von Humboldt remained skeptical about “animal electricity” (and metallic electricity), writing instead about an ill-defined galvanic force. With his worldview and wishing to learn more, he studied electric eels in South America just as the new century began, again using his body as a scientific instrument in many of his experiments. As had been the case in the past and for many of the same reasons, some of his findings with the electric eel (and soon after, Italian torpedoes) seemed to argue against biological electricity. But he no longer used galvanic terminology when describing his electric fish experiments. The fact that he now wrote about animal electricity rather than a different “galvanic” force owed much to Alessandro Volta, who had come forth with his “pile” (battery) for multipling the physical and perceptable effects of otherwise weak electricity in 1800, while Humboldt was deep in South America. Humboldt probably read about and saw voltaic batteries in the United States in 1804, but the time he spent with Volta in 1805 was probably more significant in his conversion from a galvanic to an electrical framework for understanding nerve and muscle physiology. Although he did not continue his animal electricity research program after this time, Humboldt retained his worldview of a unified nature and continued to believe in intrinsic animal electricity. He also served as a patron to some of the most important figures in the new field of electrophysiology (e.g., Hermann Helmholtz and Emil du Bois-Reymond), helping to take the research that he had participated in to the next level.

“Cerebrocerebellar System and Türck’s Bundle,” by Eliasz Engelhardt. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

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