All posts by Jacy Young

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

“Act thin, stay thin”: Commercialization, behavior modification, and group weight control

A new article in press at Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers.

““Act thin, stay thin”: Commercialization, behavior modification, and group weight control,” by Jessica Parr. Abstract:

In 1968, Weight Watchers International introduced behavior modification practices to their established commercial program. At the time, the addition of behavioral psychology gave Weight Watchers a distinct advantage over the many competing weight control groups in postwar America. The process of combining group therapy with a controlled diet plan, behavior techniques and later, exercise, has significantly influenced American popular culture. This article considers how the commercialization of group weight control impacted the development and dissemination of a new multidimensional approach for weight management and how this has shaped popular ideas associated with dieting and wider understandings of healthy living.

The Republic of Color: Science, Perception, and the Making of Modern America

AHP readers will be interested in a new book on the history of colour in America: The Republic of Color: Science, Perception, and the Making of Modern America by Michael Rossi. The book is described as follows:

The Republic of Color delves deep into the history of color science in the United States to unearth its origins and examine the scope of its influence on the industrial transformation of turn-of-the-century America.

For a nation in the grip of profound economic, cultural, and demographic crises, the standardization of color became a means of social reform—a way of sculpting the American population into one more amenable to the needs of the emerging industrial order. Delineating color was also a way to characterize the vagaries of human nature, and to create ideal structures through which those humans would act in a newly modern American republic. Michael Rossi’s compelling history goes far beyond the culture of the visual to show readers how the control and regulation of color shaped the social contours of modern America—and redefined the way we see the world.

Table of Contents

Introduction / Cloven Tongues of Fire

Chapter One / Modern Chromatics: Ogden Rood and the Wrong-Workings of the Eye

Chapter Two / From Chemistry to Phanerochemistry: Charles Sanders Peirce and the Semiotic of Color

Chapter Three / Pathologies of Perception: Benjamin Joy Jeffries and the Invention of Color Blindness

Chapter Four / Colors and Cultures: Evolution, Biology, and Society

Chapter Five / The Pragmatic Physiology of Color Vision: Christine Ladd-Franklin and the “Evolutionary Theory” of Color

Chapter Six / Small Lies for Big Truths: Standards, Values, and Color Terms

Chapter Seven / The Logical and the Genetic: Bodies, Work, and Formal Color Notations

Conclusion / Talking about Color

September Issue of History of Psychiatry

The September issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are pieces on child psychiatry, Nazi euthenasia, psychosurgery, and more. Full details below.

“The Baldovan Institution Abuse Inquiry: A forgotten scandal,” David May. Abstract:

In this paper, I resurrect a long-forgotten inquiry into abuse and maladministration at an institution for people with learning disabilities, the Baldovan Institution near Dundee, that has lain buried in the archives for the past 60 years. I contrast the response to it with the very different response to the similar revelations of the Ely Hospital Inquiry more than a decade later. Whereas Ely opened up the institutional sector to greater public scrutiny and brought with it a formal commitment from the government to shift the balance of care away from the long-term hospital, Baldovan produced recommendations that were limited to the institution and had no impact on public policy or institutional practice. I consider the reasons for this and its implications.

“The influence of Max Weber on the concept of empathic understanding (Verstehen) in the psychopathology of Karl Jaspers,” Massimiliano Aragona. Abstract:

This paper explores key concepts in the writings of Weber in the years preceding the publication of the first edition of Karl Jaspers’ Allgemeine Psychopathologie, focusing on the concept of understanding (Verstehen). This is a key hermeneutic concept and is discussed within the larger context of the epistemological and methodological reflections of both authors. They similarly tried to import the understanding within the humanistic disciplines as a rigorous but anti-reductionist scientific method. However, while Weber tried to mix explanation and understanding according to a legal metaphor, Jaspers retained Dilthey’s sharper distinction between explanation in natural sciences and understanding in humanistic sciences. Finally, Jaspers’ understanding is relatively more empathic, while Weber’s understanding is more rationalistic.

“‘Dementia praecocissima’: The Sante De Sanctis model of mental disorder in child psychiatry in the 20th century,” Giorgia Morgese, Giovanni Pietro Lombardo. Abstract:

The aim of this article is to describe the nosographical contribution of the Italian psychiatrist Sante De Sanctis (1862–1935) to early twentieth-century child psychiatry. De Sanctis first proposed the category of ‘dementia praecocissima’ in 1906, and it was recognized by Kraepelin. Dementia praecocissima has its roots in a theoretical and methodological conception of mental disorder based on ‘psycho-physical proportionalism’ and the ‘law of circle’. This article deals with De Sanctis’s model, which has so far been neglected by historiographers; it shows the pioneering role that this Italian psychiatrist played in child psychiatry in Italy.

“The ‘Poitrot Report’, 1945: The first public document on Nazi euthanasia,” Thomas Müller, Bernd Reichelt. Abstract:

The aim of this paper is to shed light on the so-called ‘Poitrot Report’, submitted to the French Military Government in Baden-Baden, Germany, in December 1945 and published in a reduced German version in 1946. Its author was the French-Moroccan psychiatrist Robert Poitrot, who had been put in charge of the public mental asylums in Südwürttemberg after World War II. Poitrot took responsibility for restoring psychiatric care during the occupation, and was also eager to document Nazi ‘euthanasia’ and to start investigating the role of staff in mental hospitals during National Socialism. Focusing on the ‘Poitrot Report’, this paper also reflects on life in Württemberg mental hospitals and the interaction between French representatives such as Poitrot and regional German medical staff.

“The introduction of leucotomy in Germany: National Socialism, émigrés, a divided Germany and the development of neurosurgery,” Lara Rzesnitzek. Abstract:

Thinking about the chronology of the introduction of leucotomy in Germany sheds new light on the hypothesis of a special ‘radical’ approach of German psychiatry to the treatment of the mentally ill during the period of National Socialism. Moreover, it offers new insights into the transnational and interdisciplinary conditions of the introduction of leucotomy in early divided post-war Germany.

“The Kirkbride buildings in contemporary culture (1850–2015): From ‘moral management’ to horror films,” Francisco Pérez-Fernández, Francisco López-Muñoz. Abstract:

The so-called ‘Kirkbride Plan’ is a type of mental institution designed by the American psychiatrist Thomas Story Kirkbride. The Kirkbride-design asylums were built from 1848 to the end of the nineteenth century. Their structural characteristics were subordinated to a certain approach to moral management: exposure to natural light, beautiful views and good air circulation. These hospitals used several architectural styles, but they all had a similar general plan. The popularity of the model decreased for theoretical and economic reasons, so many were demolished or reused, but at least 25 of the original buildings became protected places. Over the years, surrounded by a legendary aura, these buildings have become a leitmotif of contemporary popular culture: ‘the asylum of terror’.

“How amytal changed psychopharmacy: Off-label uses of sodium amytal (1920–40),” Ariel Gershon, Edward Shorter. Abstract:

In the early 1930s, American neurologist and psychiatrist William Bleckwenn used sodium amytal to render catatonic patients responsive, so that he could engage in talk therapy. Bleckwenn found a new, ‘off-label’ use for this anaesthetic and anxiolytic medication in psychiatry and, in doing so, allowed for important discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of catatonia. Pharmacological textbooks reveal a ‘label’, while the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office reveals explorations ‘off label’ of barbiturates. The ‘off-label’ use of barbiturates facilitated talk therapy, heralding an important shift in psychopharmacy. Drugs previously only used as chemical restraints became a form of treatment for specific psychiatric diseases. The current strictures against off-label prescribing are overprescriptive and close off innovative new uses.

The Stakes Podcast: A History of Persuasion

AHP readers may be interested in a recent three-part series from the podcast The Stakes: “A History of Persuasion.” The series tackles the work of James McConnell and B.F. Skinner, and features interviews with, amongst others, historians of the human sciences Larry Stern (parts one and two) and Alexandra Rutherford (part three). Full details below.

Part One:

Infinite scrolling. Push notifications. Autoplay. Our devices and apps were designed to keep us engaged and looking for as long as possible. Now, we’ve woken up from years on social media and our phones to discover we’ve been manipulated by unaccountable powers using persuasive psychological tricks. But this isn’t the first time.

In this three-part series of The Stakes, we look at the winding story of the science of persuasion — and our collective reaction to it. In this episode: A once-famous psychologist who became embroiled in controversy, and how the Unabomber tried to kill him. Already heard this one?

Part Two:

Ted Kaczynski had been a boy genius. Then he became the Unabomber. After years of searching for him, the FBI finally caught him in his remote Montana cabin, along with thousands of pages of his writing. Those pages revealed Kaczynski’s hatred towards a field of psychology called “behaviorism,” the key to the link between him and James McConnell.

Part Three:

Silicon Valley’s so-called “millionaire maker” is a behavioral scientist who foresaw the power of putting persuasion at the heart of the tech world’s business model. But pull back the curtain that surrounds the industry’s behemoths, and you’ll find a cadre of engineers and executives that’s small enough to rein in. This is the final installment of our three-part series.

Between Shell Shock and PTSD? ‘Accident Neurosis’ and Its Sequelae in Post-War Britain

The August issue of Social History of Medicine includes a piece that may interest AHP readers:

Between Shell Shock and PTSD? ‘Accident Neurosis’ and Its Sequelae in Post-War Britain,” by Ryan Ross. Abstract:

This article focuses on the concept of ‘accident neurosis’, popularised by neurologist Henry Miller in studies published in 1961. It aims to realise two goals. First, it introduces Miller’s concept of accident neurosis to the broader history of trauma—to a field, that is, more preoccupied with military traumata and clear-cut psychiatric aetiologies. Secondly, I use Miller’s studies, and the considerable legacy they created, to reflect on how historians of trauma construct historical narratives, asking whether there is sufficient appreciation of the ways in which events seem to leak into or retroactively animate one another.