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.

Kiær and the rebirth of the representative method: A case-study in controversy management at the International Statistical Institute (1895–1903)

A new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Kiær and the rebirth of the representative method: A case-study in controversy management at the International Statistical Institute (1895–1903),” by Dominic Lusinchi. Abstract:

Anders N. Kiær (1838–1919), the director of Norway’s Central Bureau of Statistics between 1877 and 1913, was the foremost promoter, at the turn of the 20th century, of the rebirth of what came to be known as the “representative method” or sample survey. His advocacy of a methodology that had been abandoned at the beginning of the 19th century in favor of complete enumeration (the census) provoked a controversy at the International Statistical Institute (ISI) when he first presented it in 1895. Yet, it was “recommended” in fairly short order, by 1903. This was the result of a convergence of factors that prevented the dispute from degenerating into a full-blown conflict and facilitated continuing the discussion while preventing a potential break-up of the association. To understand how this came about, the paper examines (1) the role of the historical background from which the ISI emerged; (2) the epistemic beliefs that informed the ISI members in their daily professional practice; (3) the social structure of the ISI and its “ethos”; (4) the professional standing Kiær enjoyed within the international statistical community. This is a case-study in the sociology of how and why some scientific practices initially seen as “dangerous” gain acceptance and become part of science’s lore.

Putting psychotherapy in its place: The regionalization of behavior therapy in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, 1960s–1990s

AHP readers will be interested in a new open-access article forthcoming in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “Putting psychotherapy in its place: The regionalization of behavior therapy in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, 1960s–1990s,” by Rémy Amouroux, Lucie Gerber, Milana Aronov. Abstract:

This article traces the history of the behavior therapy movement in French-speaking Europe between the 1960s and the 1990s, focusing on its geographically located development, whether on a national, sub- or supra-national scale. By examining the trajectories of the three main behavioral therapy associations in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, we show that it is not possible to subsume them under a common intellectual history. Despite the importance of theoretical debates in the emergence of this brand of psychotherapy in English-speaking countries, adherence to this type of explanation falls short of accounting for the differential reception of behavioral therapies in these countries. We argue that the later development of behavioral therapy in France, Belgium, and Switzerland was shaped more by professional agendas, local definitions, and regulations of psychotherapy than by “pure” theoretical commitments and conflicts between schools of thought. From a historiographical perspective, exploring the regionalization of psychotherapeutic styles thus involves contesting the idea that different therapies are mainly characterized by adherence to psychological theories and embedded ontologies of the self that are radically opposed (i.e., humanism vs. naturalism, psychoanalysis vs. behavior therapy). Localizing psychotherapies and paying attention to the varying circumstances and traditions in which they have evolved allows us to go beyond this dichotomous vision and to access a multiplicity of nondogmatic and intermediate positions that would otherwise be invisible.

Meditation Apps and the Promise of Attention by Design

A new article in Science, Technology, & Human Values may interest AHP readers: “Meditation Apps and the Promise of Attention by Design,” by Rebecca Jablonsky. Abstract:

This article demonstrates how meditation apps, such as Headspace and Calm, are imbricated within public discourse about technology addiction, exploring the consequences of this discourse on contemporary mental life. Based on ethnographic research with designers and users of meditation apps, I identify a promise put forth by meditation app companies that I call attention by design: a discursive strategy that frames attention as an antidote to technology addiction, which is ostensibly made possible when design is done right. I argue that attention by design is a promise unfulfilled. Meditation app companies construct attention as socially valuable by endlessly pointing out its purported opposite, technology addiction. Attention by design is promissory in that it keeps promising even when it doesn’t deliver what it promises, compelling the user to return to a practice that represents socially desirable traits that can never be fully acquired—and that often recede further from reach as the person becomes distracted by other obligations and communication mediated through the smartphone. Despite this broken promise, users believe they are becoming more attentive. The promissory attention designed into meditation apps reflects a new form of governmentality, in which users receive a mental nudge to reinterpret similarly designed experiences as different.

The Senses of Touch and Movement and the Argument for Active Powers

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece by Roger Smith in HOPOS (The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science): “The Senses of Touch and Movement and the Argument for Active Powers.” Abstract:

The paper posits a relationship between the sensory modality of touch, including a sense of active movement, and early modern knowledge of active powers in nature. It seeks to appreciate the strength and appeal of knowledge built on the active-passive distinction, including that which was retrospectively labeled animist. Using statements by Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Stahl, rather than detailed new readings of texts, the paper asks whether scholars drew on phenomenal, or conscious, awareness of activity as effort encountering resistance when they reasoned about activity in the world. How were there relations and analogies between descriptions of psyche’s relation to body, of the relation of living forces to matter, of relations among material objects, of God’s relationship to His creation, and of relations involving causal agency generally? It is possible to understand what were later called animistic theories as belonging to the mainstream of the new natural philosophy, not to a residue of unscientific argument. Early modern theories of active and vital powers cannot be dismissed because they were based, in error, on mere analogy to human action. Rather, they had a central position in reasoning grounded in phenomenal awareness of action-resistance when a person is “in touch.”

Power in psychiatry. Soviet peer and lay hierarchies in the context of political abuse of psychiatry

A new open-access piece in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “Power in psychiatry. Soviet peer and lay hierarchies in the context of political abuse of psychiatry,” by Anastassiya Schacht. Abstract:

Soviet political abuse of psychiatry in the Brezhnevite era offers a rich case study of entanglement between various layers, impact spaces, and actors of power. This article discusses two types of discursive power in Soviet psychiatry. One sprang from the madness-affirmative cultural canon, in which dissidents sought their self-legitimation. More prominently, there was the power of psychiatrists within their own hierarchic system. I analyse how the action scopes for psychiatric power varied, depending on whether the recipient was a patient or fellow professional. Here, the inherent hierarchy structured and regulated the peer community and secured the stability of medical practices – and of the political entanglement of these practices and actors with the state-owned places of power.

Deliberately Divided: Inside the Controversial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopted Apart

AHP readers will be interested in Nancy L. Segal’s soon-to-be released book Deliberately Divided: Inside the Controversial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopted Apart. The book is described as follows:

Takes the first in-depth look at the New York City adoption agency that separated twins and triplets in the 1960s, and the controversial and disturbing study that tracked the children’s development while never telling their adoptive parents that they were raising a “singleton twin.”

In the early 1960s, the head of a prominent New York Cit[y] Child Development Center and a psychiatrist from Columbia University launched a study designed to track the development of twins and triplets given up for adoption and raised by different families. The controversial and disturbing catch? None of the adoptive parents had been told that they were raising a twin—the study’s investigators insisted that the separation be kept secret. Here, Nancy Segal reveals the inside stories of the agency that separated the twins, and the collaborating psychiatrists who, along with their cadre of colleagues, observed the twins until they turned twelve. This study, far outside the mainstream of scientific twin research, was not widely known to scholars or the general public until it caught the attention of documentary filmmakers whose recent films, Three Identical Strangers and The Twinning Reaction,left viewers shocked, angered, saddened and wanting to know more.

Interviews with colleagues, friends and family members of the agency’s psychiatric consultant and the study’s principal investigator, as well as a former agency administrator, research assistants, journalists, ethicists, attorneys, and—most importantly–the twins and their families who were unwitting participants in this controversial study, are riveting. Through records, letters and other documents, Segal further discloses the investigators’ attempts to engage other agencies in separating twins, their efforts to avoid media exposure, their worries over informed consent issues in the 1970s and the steps taken toward avoiding lawsuits while hoping to enjoy the fruits of publication. Segal’s spellbinding stories of the twins’ separation, loss and reunion offers readers the behind-the-scenes details that, until now, have been lost to the archives of history.

From the margins to the NICE guidelines: British clinical psychology and the development of cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis, 1982–2002

A new article in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “From the margins to the NICE guidelines: British clinical psychology and the development of cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis, 1982–2002,” by David J. Harper, Sebastian Townsend. Abstract:

Although histories of cognitive behaviour therapy have begun to appear, their use with people with psychosis diagnoses has received relatively little attention. In this article, we elucidate the conditions of possibility for the emergence of cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis (CBTp) in England between 1982 and 2002. We present an analysis of policy documents, research publications and books, participant observation, and interviews with a group of leading researchers and senior policy actors. Informed by Derksen and Beaulieu’s articulation of social technologies, we show how CBTp was developed and stabilised through the work of a variety of overlapping informal, academic, clinical, professional, and policy networks. The profession of clinical psychology played a key role in this development, successfully challenging the traditional ‘division of labour’ where psychologists focused on ‘neurosis’ and left ‘psychosis’ to psychiatry. Following Abbott’s systems approach to professions, we identify a number of historical factors that created a jurisdictional vulnerability for psychiatry while strengthening the jurisdictional legitimacy of clinical psychology in providing psychological therapies to service users with psychosis diagnoses. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence played a significant role in adjudicating jurisdictional legitimacy, and its 2002 schizophrenia guidelines, recommending the use of psychological therapies, marked a radical departure from the psychiatric consensus. Our analysis may be of wider interest in its focus on social technologies in a context of jurisdictional contestation. We discuss the implications of our study for the field of mental health and for the relationship between clinical psychology and psychiatry.

Killer Instinct: The Popular Science of Human Nature in Twentieth-Century America

AHP readers will be interested in Nadine Weidman’s soon-to-be released book Killer Instinct: The Popular Science of Human Nature in Twentieth-Century America. The book comes out later this month and is described as folllows:

Are humans innately aggressive or innately cooperative? In the 1960s, bestselling books enthralled American readers with the startling claim that humans possessed an instinct for violence inherited from primate ancestors. Critics responded that humans were inherently loving and altruistic. The resulting debate—fiercely contested and highly public—left a lasting impression on the popular science discourse surrounding what it means to be human.

Killer Instinct traces how Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey, and their followers drew on the sciences of animal behavior and paleoanthropology to argue that the aggression instinct drove human evolutionary progress. Their message, spread throughout popular media, brought pointed ripostes. Led by the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, opponents presented a rival vision of human nature, equally based in biological evidence, that humans possessed inborn drives toward love and cooperation. Over the course of the debate, however, each side accused the other of holding an extremist position: that behavior was either determined entirely by genes or shaped solely by environment. Nadine Weidman shows that what started as a dispute over the innate tendencies of animals and humans transformed into an opposition between nature and nurture.

This polarized formulation proved powerful. When E. O. Wilson introduced his sociobiology in 1975, he tried to rise above the oppositional terms of the aggression debate. But the controversy over Wilson’s work—led by critics like the feminist biologist Ruth Hubbard—was ultimately absorbed back into the nature-versus-nurture formulation. Killer Instinct explores what happens and what gets lost when polemics dominate discussions of the science of human nature.

Syndrome du jour: The historiography and moral implications of Diagnosing Darwin

A new piece in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A may interest AHP readers: “Syndrome du jour: The historiography and moral implications of Diagnosing Darwin,” by Roderick D.Buchanan. Abstract:

Diagnosing Darwin’s health problems has a long history. Innumerable diagnoses have been proffered in letters, articles, and a handful of dedicated books. Diagnostic speculation has exhibited contrasting somatogenic or psychogenic preferences. Psychogenic accounts dominated mid-century but were soon challenged by somatic explanations citing specific infectious or toxic aetiologies. This tension remains, although psychogenic accounts have tended to be swamped by an array of somatogenic diagnoses championed by biomedical specialists. As a whole, this parade of diagnoses has a striking syndrome du jour quality. Successive conjectures speak of the preoccupations and diagnostic fads of their particular age. Moreover, for many participants in this diagnostic game, unconscious presentism combined with self-serving projection, turning the question of what ailed Darwin into something of a Rorschach test. Never far from the surface was a sometimes-fraught tussle over the man’s reputation, animated by the moral valences of the conjectures in play. In a broader sense, this diagnostic game has shaped biographical accounts of Darwin and his career in some significant ways.

A Science of Hope? Tracing Emergent Entanglements between the Biology of Early Life Adversity, Trauma-informed Care, and Restorative Justice

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in Science, Technology & Human Values: “A Science of Hope? Tracing Emergent Entanglements between the Biology of Early Life Adversity, Trauma-informed Care, and Restorative Justice,” by Ruth Müller, Martha Kenney. Abstract:

The biology of early life adversity explores how social experiences early in life affect physical and psychological health and well-being throughout the life course. In our previous work, we argued that narratives emerging from and about this research field tend to focus on harm and lasting damage with little discussion of reversibility and resilience. However, as the Science and Technology Studies literature has demonstrated, scientific research can be actively taken up and transformed as it moves through social worlds. Drawing on fieldwork with actors in education and juvenile corrections in the US Pacific Northwest, we found that they employed the biology of early life adversity not only to promote prevention but also to argue for changes within their own institutions that would allow them to better serve children and youth who have experienced adversity and trauma. Our study shows that biosocial narratives are neither inherently liberatory nor inherently oppressive but that the situated narrative choreographies in which they are enrolled are essential for their political effects. In our case, we show how these biosocial narratives have been articulated with knowledge and practices from restorative justice and trauma-informed care to reimagine the social meaning of the biology of early life adversity.