All posts by Arlie Belliveau

About Arlie Belliveau

Arlie Belliveau is a doctoral student enrolled in York University's History and Theory of Psychology program. She specializes in psychologists' early use of film.

A Digital History Analysis on the Effect of Early “Sports Psychology” on Baseball Statistics

This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.

A couple years ago it came to my attention just how many historians of psychology were interested in baseball. It occurred to me that, given my interest in Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (who performed a micromotion analysis of the New York Giants baseball team in 1913), I might dabble in the analysis of baseball statistics myself.

Below is a video of a digital history project from my 2012 Multivariate Psychology graduate course. I performed statistical and digital history analyses to visualize batter and pitcher statistics for two baseball teams who experienced very early analysis by psychologists: The New York Giants by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in 1913, and the Chicago Cubs with Coleman Griffith in 1938. I also included a control team, the Boston Red Sox. Here is a link to the original paper: Belliveau Baseball Digital History Paper.

To briefly summarize the analysis: First, I performed repeated measures and mixed models multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to discover if player statistics improved after the psychological interventions. I also created 2D and 3D HE plots and spaghetti plots to visualize this data.

Next, and this is the part that will be of interest to aspiring digital historians, I generated a dynamic bubble chart to visualize trends in player statistics over time. That part of the analysis begins at the 6:11 mark.

To make a long story short, the complete lack of any significant effect on pitching and batting statistics for the intervention teams convinced me not to pursue this line of research. It is, however, an interesting piece of digital history and points to some neat things that we can do to visualize psychological data using the programming language R.

Film and music materials for this project were obtained from the Critical Past and Archive.org websites. The project is narrated by Arlie Belliveau. The accompanying paper is available here: Belliveau Baseball Digital History Paper.

Quit Clowning Around!

Joseph Grimaldi

Smithsonian.com has issued an article titled “The History of Clowns Being Scary” that might be of interest to some of our readers.

“Clowns, as pranksters, jesters, jokers, harlequins, and mythologized tricksters have been around for ages. They appear in most cultures—Pygmy clowns made Egyptian pharaohs laugh in 2500 BCE; in ancient imperial China, a court clown called YuSze was, according to the lore, the only guy who could poke holes in Emperor Qin Shih Huang’s plan to paint the Great Wall of China; Hopi Native Americans had a tradition of clown-like characters who interrupted serious dance rituals with ludicrous antics. Ancient Rome’s clown was a stock fool called the stupidus; the court jesters of medieval Europe were a sanctioned way for people under the feudal thumb to laugh at the guys in charge; and well into the 18th and 19th century, the prevailing clown figure of Western Europe and Britain was the pantomime clown, who was a sort of bumbling buffoon.”

David Kiser, director of talent for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus says, “But clowns have always had a dark side… After all, these were characters who reflected a funhouse mirror back on society; academics note that their comedy was often derived from their voracious appetites for food, sex, and drink, and their manic behavior. “So in one way, the clown has always been an impish spirit… as he’s kind of grown up, he’s always been about fun, but part of that fun has been a bit of mischief”.

In psychology, Coulrophobia is the word used to describe those who suffer from a persistent fear of clowns. When it starts in childhood the fear of clowns is diagnosed under the category of paediatric phobia of costumed characters. According to Dr. Brenda Wiederhold, an American psychologist who specializes in phobia and anxiety treatment, it begins in children around age two who are anxious of strangers and are not able to distinguish fantasy from reality. Most children outgrow this fear; however, Coulrophobia in adulthood would fall under the Anxiety Disorder categorization of specific phobia:a phobia, anxiety, or fear whose symptoms must have been present for at least 6 months (the DSM-V no longer requires that the fear be perceived as excessive or unfounded).

If you’d like a bit of further reading, Joseph Durwin of Trinity University has written an interesting history of clowns as tricksters, gang members, and villains available here.

Some Significant Eccentricities of Sir Francis Galton

The statistics journal Significance has published three historical articles commemorating the centenary of the death of Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911). The introduction, written by Julian Champkin, situates Galton in this celebratory review as an extraordinary but also rather amusing man with notable quirks.

 

A biography which recorded the year in which he developed the concept of correlation (it was 1888) but which neglected to mention his method, in south-west Africa, of getting a horse to swim a river (lead it along the edge of a cliff and give it a sharp push sideways), or of finding a source of honey (catch a bee, tie a feather to its leg so you can see it, and follow it to its hive) would give a partial and wholly inadequate picture of the man.

Subsequent articles by Dan Maier, Michele Bottone, and Stephen Senn note “Galton’s method of cutting a cake so that it does not go stale”; how he came up with the regression to the mean using parent and child height measures; and Galton’s attempt to visualize the number one million by counting one million flowers.

 

Old Resource Made New

The Annals of Human Genetics (AHG), formerly named Annals of Eugenics, has recently made its 1925-1954 journal content available online for researchers. Among the now controversial eugenics research appearing throughout these issues, researchers can also expect to find statistical publications by mathematician Karl Pearson, whose work at University College London concerned the widely used Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient, the Pearson Chi-Square test, and P-value.

The AHG editorial cites “ongoing use and reference to materials”… “and the somewhat limited availability of the original printed copy” as justification for making the content available online. Furthermore,

Online access to the Annals of Eugenics archive will also be of interest to historians of science. In many ways, the history of the Annals embodies the history of human genetics as a scientific enterprise and exemplifies the complex relationship of this discipline with wider society. The somber role that human genetics played in providing what was taken to be a scientific framework to social prejudice during the period of “Eugenics” is a well-known case of the complex interaction between science and society. The present issue of the journal includes four specially commissioned articles that attempt to contextualize the online publication of the Annals of Eugenics archive. To exemplify some of the major scientific contributions made during that period, the article by J. Ott highlights key papers on linkage analysis published by the journal. The contributions by K. Weiss, G. Allen, and D. Kevles deal with aspects of the history of eugenics and of human genetics, and explore their relevance to ongoing debates regarding the social implications of human genetics research.

For further reading see this article by USA Today, Essays in Eugenics by Sir Francis Galton, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness by psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard, and some earlier AHP coverage of the topic.

Hoffmann’s Potion

HoffmannAs many AHP readers might know, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) hosts a free online screening room with nearly 1500 film clips, documentaries, animations, experimental films, and fictional films. A colleague recently directed me to a 2002 film by Canadian filmmaker Connie Littlefield that may be of interest to some AHP readers. Hoffmann’s Potion is a 56 minute film covering the early years of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) research by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffmann. Unlike similar documentaries by the BBC (also this 1997 film), Hoffmann’s Potion is not centered around American activist Timothy Leary. Instead, it looks at the spread of LSD research from Hoffmann’s lab in 1938 to psychiatric facilities in Canada, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and the United States in the 1940s and 50s.

The NFB offers this synopsis:

This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding. Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world.

Littlefield alternates between original documentary footage from the laboratories and new interviews with LSD researchers including: American psychiatrist Myron J. Stolaroff, Czechoslovakian transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof, and British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. Osmond worked at the now demolished Weyburn Mental Hospital in Weyburn Saskatchewan. His work with Canadian schizophrenia specialist Abram Hoffer applied LSD both to better understand the lives of schizophrenics, and to treat addiction.

See these previous AHP posts for a Bibliography of Psychoactive Drug Use in Psychology, and a Bibliography of LSD and Psychiatry.