Category Archives: Inside the Digital History of Psych

Taking this Show on the Road: PsyBorgs at EPA, Mar. 13-16, Boston

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.

The PsyBorgs, or at least a subset of us, are taking our digital history of psychology show on the road next month. We’ll – Christopher Green, Jeremy Burman, Daniel Lahham, and I – be travelling to Boston for the Eastern Psychological Association‘s Annual meeting, March 13-16th. If you’re planning to attend the conference, or happen to be in the Boston area, stop by and see us at our Digital History symposium, Saturday March 15th from 3-4:20pm in Winthrop. We’ll be discussing the results of work with a veritable smorgasbord of digital methods: geomapping, networking, and data mining PsycInfo. More details follow below.

Symposium Title: Digital History: Stanley Hall’s Travels, Intellectual Networks, Ethology/Comparative, Trends with PsycINFO

Digital History, in part, is the effort to analyze large electronic databases of historical data by using graphical statistical displays. At York University we have assembled a Digital History of Psychology Laboratory in which faculty and students collaborate on projects to uncover novel aspects of the discipline’s past with these methods. This symposium presents four of those projects. (1) Jacy L. Young presents maps of the many lecture tours made by G. Stanley Hall as he publicized his “Child Study” movement. (2) Christopher D. Green shows how the intellectual structure of early American psychology is revealed by networks of journal articles published during the 1880s­1920s. (3) Daniel E. Lahham uses networks to reveal the impact of European ethology on American comparative psychology in the 1950s. (4) Jeremy T. Burman discusses how to employ APA’s PsycINFO database to investigate intellectual trends in psychology since 1967.

“Mapping the Psychologist as Public Scientist: G. Stanley Hall’s Late-­Nineteenth Century North American Travels,” by Jacy L. Young (York University): Continue reading Taking this Show on the Road: PsyBorgs at EPA, Mar. 13-16, Boston

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 websites. The project is narrated by Arlie Belliveau. The accompanying paper is available here: Belliveau Baseball Digital History Paper.

Psychology is… A Google Autocomplete Adventure

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 few weeks ago, I saw in an article on The Guardian website that the organization UN Women was running an ad campaign aimed a demonstrating how badly women are regarded around the world. The campaign centered on entering phrases like “women should” into a Google search box and seeing what suggestions Google made to “autocomplete” the search string. The idea was that, because Google has a massive database of the ways in which people generally finish search strings, the Google suggestions would reflect the most popular completions. Google’s suggestions were not terribly complimentary toward women. “Women should” was autocompleted with phrases like, “stay at home,” “be slaves,” “be in the kitchen,” and “not speak in church.”

 After recovering from my initial horror, I thought that this might be an interesting approach to finding out about trends in popular belief more generally, so I decided to try it out the phrase, “psychology is.” The suggestions I got were: “not a science,” “bullshit,” “the study of,” “empirical,” and “useless.” These completions were not exactly shocking to me, but they are rather disheartening if you think (as many psychologists do) that the discipline has, over the last century-and-a-third, achieved a relatively secure status among the sciences.

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I sent  off to three psychology e-mail lists to which I subscribe the suggestion that other people might try this out. I did not relay my exact results, but I did indicate that the outcomes would be less happy than they might expect. Soon afterwards, one person wrote back saying that they didn’t understand what I was on about. The autocompletes they had gotten to “psychology is” were “defined as,” “the study of,” “best defined as,” “not a science.” Not exactly favorable – three of the four are incomplete sentences – but not nearly as negative as I had gotten: no “bullshit,” no “useless.”

Only then  did I remember that the Google search engine does not give the same results for everyone. It customizes its responses based on the search history of the person doing the search. So, my question immediately became, how much variability is there between people in this kind of search? Had this one other person and I covered pretty much the entire range, just by coincidence? Or, was everyone going to be wildly different from each other? I decided to ask a number of people to try it out to see what would happen.

I am not one of these people with hundreds or even thousands of Facebook “friends.” I have “only” 104. Many of these people are other historians of psychology, several from my own school. Quite a few are historians of science, psychologists, and baseball researchers, along with a number of old friends who toil in a random assortment of professions. Not exactly a random sample. Nevertheless… Continue reading Psychology is… A Google Autocomplete Adventure

The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 2

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.

Read The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 1 here.

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I found this visualization unsatisfying for a number of reasons. The way I originally entered the data gave no weight to the relations. Each connection (or edge) had a value of one, whether the scientist published dozens of studies or a single one. Defining what counts as sexual behaviour proved tricky. In the history of psychology, it has at times referred to everything that was not (maze) learning from nest-building to maternal care to social organization. Looking for a way to standardize and stay true to the categories of the historical actors, I (along with Darya Serykh and Chris Green) turned to the bibliography produced by the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex in a 1953 volume to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The bibliography covered research published from the 1920s to the 1940s. We focused on the Committee’s psychological research excluding work on the physiology and endocrinology that initially dominated the agenda. If a laboratory or research team received money from the Committee to investigate sexual behavior or sexed personality traits, they counted. Relying on the bibliography uncovered individuals missed in my initial analysis while excluding those who did not receive CRPS funds.

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Continue reading The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 2

The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network, Part 1

This is the first 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.

In our current moment, the network has become one of the most prominent metaphors for the social. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is one tool used to evaluate the perceptual and behavioral consequences of interpersonal associations. The language of networks has been important to the history of science, in no small part due to the influence of Bruno Latour and Actor-Network Theory (ANT). In this post, I will outline one digital history method that brings together the insights from both fields.

Social Network Analysis offers powerful techniques for measuring and visualizing relations. Actor-Network Theory is important when considering what counts as an actor as it encourages us to take seriously the agency of the nonhuman. I am particularly interested in what SNA measures might mean in a history of science context where the relations that exist between humans and things are often as constitutive of the resulting knowledge as interpersonal interactions. Bringing together these two approaches allows for what one might call (somewhat tongue-in) Multispecies Network Analysis. This is a form of network analysis that speaks to history of science concerns about the materiality of scientific practice, the role of instruments, and the agency of experimental subjects.

This approach was inspired by an ongoing project on the moral authority of animal models in the history of sexuality. How did the experiments of animal behaviorists shape how sexologists, psychotherapists, and policy-makers understood sexuality during the twentieth century? How did the very observation of animal behaviour change over the long sexual revolution?

Inspired by a post by Miriam Posner (a very helpful guide for getting started with network analysis), I began to assemble the scientists and organisms that interested me into a network. I coded for scientist, organism, and the year the scientist first published a study on that organism. The focus was on the United States from 1910 to 1960. This graph is undirected as it are intended to be read in a reciprocal fashion. It is an image of both different scientists favoring certain organisms in their research and of different species captivating the interest of certain humans. By design, the visualization is ambivalent on the question of who is acting on whom in these encounters.

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The most visually striking finding of this analysis is also probably the least surprising. Rats have the most connectivity. Nevertheless, this is a fun graph for historians of psychology as it features many recognizable names of individuals not necessarily associated with either comparative psychology and/or sex research. For example, one can find ecological psychologist Roger Barker, psychometrician Quinn McNemar, psychoanalyst Edward Kempf, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan, and historian Julian Jaynes. Often their presence represents their experiences as graduate students. While Maslow’s apprenticeship in Harry Harlow’s laboratory is fairly well known, some of the other relations are not and may cast new light on interpreting their subsequent careers.

The conclusion to The History of Psychology as Multispecies Network will be posted on October 15th. Come back then to find out what came after this initial visualization.