It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!
In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.
Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.
“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:
This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.
“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:
This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.
“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics
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CFP: From Moral Treatment to Psychological Therapies: Histories of Psychotherapeutics from the York Retreat to the Present Day.
Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, UCL
11-13th October 2013
Whilst the history of psychiatry has become a well developed field of scholarship, there remain few examinations of psychotherapeutic treatments beyond histories of psychoanalytic approaches. This conference will bring together recent historical research on therapeutic treatments for mental distress and disorder, from the 18th century up to the present. It seeks to explore how such therapies were developed, their institutional and intellectual contexts, and the debates and controversies which may surround their use. ‘Psychotherapeutics’ is defined in its broadest terms, and is intended to include approaches that have been accepted by the medical or state establishments, as well as those practiced outside official institutional settings. Such modes of therapy could include moral treatment, mesmerism, mental healing, ‘talking’ therapies with a wide variety of theoretical bases, from psychoanalysis to cognitive therapy, as well as professional interventions such as those from psychiatric nursing, mental health social work, occupational therapy, play therapy and art therapy.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• The philosophical basis of therapies, such as existential, gestalt or behavioural approaches etc.
• Connections between the generation of therapeutic methods and their orginators’ biographies.
• Institutional, economic and political influences on the development of therapeutic practice.
• Psychotherapeutics in the health services.
• The professionalization and regulation of psychotherapeutic practice.
• The relationship between psychotherapeutic methods and other fields of knowledge, e.g. pedagogy, criminology, the neurosciences etc.
• Debates and controversies about psychotherapeutic approaches.
• The development of specific approaches for different age groups.
• Psychotherapeutic concepts in popular culture and the media.
Abstracts of up to 500 words for 20 minute papers should be sent to Sarah Marks at email@example.com. Proposals for themed panels with a maximum of four participants are also welcome. The deadline for individual papers and panel proposals is the 10th June 2013. Participants will be notified whether their papers have been accepted by 20th June 2013.
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The New York Times has run a piece about a historic turnabout in psychiatry: Most psychiatrists in the US do not offer talk therapy of any sort to their patients, but only medication. This will not come as news to most who are close to psychiatry or clinical psychology, but it is interesting that the main driving force behind this change is not an important shift in theory or evidence but, rather, simply cost.
Of the psychiatrist featured in the article, Donald Levin of Pennsylvania, the article says:
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Dr. Levin, 68, first established a private practice in 1972, when talk therapy was in its heyday. Then, like many psychiatrists, he treated 50 to 60 patients in once- or twice-weekly talk-therapy sessions of 45 minutes each. Now, like many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. Then, he knew his patients’ inner lives better than he knew his wife’s; now, he often cannot remember their names. Continue reading Psychiatrists Stop Talking