Category Archives: Journals

New at HHS: Collingwood’s critique of psychometrics, John Lilly and the control of ‘human agents’

Two articles now in press at History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers. Details below.

On ‘modified human agents’: John Lilly and the paranoid style in American neuroscience,” by Charlie Williams. Abstract:

The personal papers of the neurophysiologist John C. Lilly at Stanford University hold a classified paper he wrote in the late 1950s on the behavioural modification and control of ‘human agents’. The paper provides an unnerving prognosis of the future application of Lilly’s research, then being carried out at the National Institute of Mental Health. Lilly claimed that the use of sensory isolation, electrostimulation of the brain, and the recording and mapping of brain activity could be used to gain ‘push-button’ control over motivation and behaviour. This research, wrote Lilly, could eventually lead to ‘master-slave controls directly of one brain over another’. The paper is an explicit example of Lilly’s preparedness to align his research towards Cold War military aims. It is not, however, the research for which Lilly is best known. During the 1960s and 1970s, Lilly developed cult status as a far-out guru of consciousness exploration, promoting the use of psychedelics and sensory isolation tanks. Lilly argued that, rather than being used as tools of brainwashing, these techniques could be employed by the individual to regain control of their own mind and retain a sense of agency over their thoughts and actions. This article examines the scientific, intellectual, and cultural relationship between the sciences of brainwashing and psychedelic mind alteration. Through an analysis of Lilly’s autobiographical writings, I also show how paranoid ideas about brainwashing and mind control provide an important lens for understanding the trajectory of Lilly’s research.

The fashionable scientific fraud: Collingwood’s critique of psychometrics,” by Joel Michell. Abstract:

In his review of Charles Spearman’s The Nature of ‘Intelligence’ (1923), R. G. Collingwood launched an attack upon psychometrics that was expanded in his Essay on Metaphysics (1940). Although underrated by friend and foe alike, Collingwood’s critique identified a number of defects in the thinking of psychometricians that subsequently became entrenched. However, his main complaint was that psychology generally (and, by implication, psychometrics) was a ‘fashionable scientific fraud’. This charge was inspired by his more general views on logic and metaphysics, which, however, as I argue, are logically unsustainable. Ironically, other elements of his philosophy – his ‘fallacy of calculation’ and concept of ‘scale of forms’ – are relevant to psychometrics and tip the scales in favour of his otherwise unwarranted charge.

New: Guidance Counseling in 20th c. America, Monitoring the self

Two articles now in press at History of Science may interest AHP readers. Details below.

Monitoring the self: François-Marc-Louis Naville and his moral tables,” Harro Maas. Abstract:

This paper examines the self-measurement and self-tracking practices of a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Genevese pastor and pedagogical innovator, François-Marc-Louis Naville, who extensively used Benjamin Franklin’s tools of moral calculation and a lesser known tool, Marc-Antoine Jullien’s moral thermometer, to set a direction to his life and to monitor and improve his moral character. My contribution sheds light on how technologies of quantification molded notions of personal responsibility and character within an emerging utilitarian context. I situate Naville’s use of these tools within his work as a pastor in a parish of the (then occupied) Republic of Geneva and within the Genevese and Swiss pedagogical reform movement of the early nineteenth century. I provide a detailed examination of how Naville used and adapted Franklin’s and Jullien’s tools of moral accounting for his own moral and religious purposes. Time, God’s most precious gift to man, served Naville as the ultimate measure of his moral worth.

Guidance counseling in the mid-twentieth century United States: Measurement, grouping, and the making of the intelligent self,” by Jim Wynter Porter. Abstract:

This article investigates National Defense Education Act and National Defense Education Act-related calls in the late 1950s for the training of guidance counselors, an emergent profession that was to play an instrumental role in both the measuring and placement of students in schools by “intelligence” or academic “ability”. In analyzing this mid-century push for more guidance counseling in schools, this article will first explore a foundational argument for the fairness of intelligence testing made by Educational Testing Service psychometrician William Turnbull in 1951, and then later taken up and employed by other National Defense Education Act-era advocates of testing and grouping. Secondly, this analysis will proceed to National Defense Education Act expert testimony, examining here assertions of the necessity of guidance counseling in schools, and an emergent and shared vision articulating the role guidance counseling was supposed to play in school life. A pattern or structure to this vision emerges here. According to its advocates, guidance counseling would not only inform the self-understanding of the measured individual, but it would also work to condition the ideology of individual intelligence across numerous layers of social life around the student: through peer group, through teachers and school administrators, and finally through home, family, and the wider community.

New CBHM/BCHM: Deinstitutionalization in Québec and Graphics in Psychiatric Drug Maintenance Therapy

Two articles in the fall issue of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History may interest AHP readers. Details below:

En quête de financement pour la création d’une clinique externe et d’un service social comme parachèvement de la désinstitutionnalisation à l’Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange de Beauport, 1961–72,” by Karine Aubin. Abstract:

La parution du rapport de la Commission d’étude des hôpitaux psychiatriques (rapport Bédard) en 1962 fut longtemps considérée comme un point de rupture dans l’histoire de la psychiatrie québécoise. L’historiographie récente propose une nouvelle interprétation du phénomène de la désinstitutionnalisation au Québec en s’intéressant à des initiatives datant du début du 20e siècle. Dans cette perspective, nous proposons l’hypothèse que le rapport Bédard constitue un levier politique pour obtenir un financement après l’entrée en vigueur de la Loi de l’assurance-hospitalisation en 1961 et que ses recommandations s’appuient sur les changements en cours. Cet article offre une relecture du rapport de la commission en ce qui concerne l’Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange de Beauport et jette un éclairage différent sur la désinstitutionnalisation au Québec. Pour illustrer les changements organisationnels qui se produisent entre 1962 et 1972, notamment grâce à un nouveau financement public, nous nous appuyons sur les informations contenues dans un dossier médical spécifique.

The release of the report of the Commission d’étude des hôpitaux psychiatriques (Bédard report) in 1962 was long considered a transformative moment in the history of Québec psychiatry. But recent historiography suggests that deinstitutionalization in Québec features initiatives dating back to the early 20th century. Following this line of argumentation, we suggest that the Bédard report was primarily a political tool to obtain funding in the wake of the 1961 Hospital Insurance Act, and that the report’s recommendations built upon ongoing changes. This article proposes a new reading of the commission’s report on Beauport’s Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange, and offers a new perspective on deinstitutionalization in Québec. Data gathered from medical records help illustrate the organizational changes that occurred between 1962 and 1972 through new public funding.

Erasing the Personal Baseline: Graphing Responders to Psychiatric Drug Maintenance Therapy,” by Dorian Deshauer. Abstract:

Since the 1950s, the practice of psychiatric drug maintenance therapy has been supported by graphics. Lacking physical markers to identify “responders” to long-term drugs, psychiatrists have used graphics to make the outcomes of their interventions visible. This article identifies changes in the graphical representation of drug responders in psychiatric journals between the mid-1950s and the mid-1990s. It argues that before 1970, psychiatrists assessed patients’ responses in relation to their personal baselines or symptom trajectories. After 1970, clinical trials made it possible to see responders through a statistical lens, as a homogeneous population, decontextualized from its past and having a future consisting of two possible states: relapse or remission. Abstracted from their life’s context, responders became the desired outcome of prescribing protocols that could be applied anywhere. Psychiatry’s graphical language supported an authoritative view of mental health as something to be optimized and maintained with prescription drugs.

Depuis les années 1950, les thérapies psychiatriques qui recouraient aux médicaments s’appuyaient sur des graphiques. Ne pouvant faire état de signes physiques, les psychiatres les utilisaient pour rendre « visibles » les réponses des patients aux médicaments administrés à long terme. Cet article retrace l’évolution des représentations graphiques utilisées dans les revues de psychiatrie pour exposer les réponses des patients à des médicaments entre le milieu des années 1950 et le milieu des années 1990. Avant 1970, les psychiatres évaluaient ces réponses en fonction des caractéristiques personnelles des patients ou de l’évolution de leurs symptômes. Après 1970 cependant, les essais cliniques permirent une démarche statistique, qui traitait les patients sous médication comme une population homogène, sans passé et dotée d’un futur exprimé en termes de rémission ou de rechute. Une fois détachés de leur contexte de vie, ces patients symbolisaient les résultats attendus de protocoles de prescription applicables partout. Ce langage graphique véhiculait une conception dominante selon laquelle la santé mentale peut être améliorée et maintenue grâce à la prescription de médicaments.

Credibility and Incredulity in Milgram’s Obedience Experiments: A Reanalysis of an Unpublished Test

Those following ongoing conversations about the Milrgam obedience to authority experiments may be interested in a recent article in Social Psychology Quarterly that reanalyses some of the original data from the experiment. Details below.

Credibility and Incredulity in Milgram’s Obedience Experiments: A Reanalysis of an Unpublished Test,” by Gina Perry, Augustine Brannigan, Richard A. Wanner, Henderikus Stam. Abstract:

This article analyzes variations in subject perceptions of pain in Milgram’s obedience experiments and their behavioral consequences. Based on an unpublished study by Milgram’s assistant, Taketo Murata, we report the relationship between the subjects’ belief that the learner was actually receiving painful electric shocks and their choice of shock level. This archival material indicates that in 18 of 23 variations of the experiment, the mean levels of shock for those who fully believed that they were inflicting pain were lower than for subjects who did not fully believe they were inflicting pain. These data suggest that the perception of pain inflated subject defiance and that subject skepticism inflated their obedience. This analysis revises our perception of the classical interpretation of the experiment and its putative relevance to the explanation of state atrocities, such as the Holocaust. It also raises the issue of dramaturgical credibility in experiments based on deception. The findings are discussed in the context of methodological questions about the reliability of Milgram’s questionnaire data and their broader theoretical relevance.

New in JHBS: Mind-Body Medicine Before Freud, Reflections on Psychology and Biography

Two articles now in press at the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will be of interest to AHP readers. Be sure to check out the fantastic images featured in the new article from Ben Harris and Courtney Stevens. Full details follow below.

Practicing mind? body medicine before Freud: John G. Gehring, the “Wizard of the Androscoggin”,” Ben Harris & Courtney J. Stevens. Abstract:

This article describes the psychotherapy practice of physician John G. Gehring and places it in historical context. Forgotten today, Gehring was a highly sought?after therapist from the 1890s to the 1920s by prominent figures in the arts, sciences, business, and law. He practiced a combination of work therapy, suggestion, and autosuggestion that has similarities to Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Behavioral Activation. Using biographies, memoirs, and archival records, the details of Gehring’s work are reconstructed and the reasons for its success are analyzed. His invisibility in the history of psychiatry is attributed to the later dominance of Freudianism within the field.

The psychologist’s biographer: Writing lives in the history of psychology,” by Eric F. Luckey. Abstract:

How should historians employ psychological insight when seeking to understand and analyze their historical subjects? That is the essential question explored in this methodological reflection on the relationship between psychology and biography. To answer it, this paper offers a historical, historiographical, and theoretical analysis of life writing in the history of psychology. It touches down in the genres of autobiography, psychobiography, and cultural history to assess how other historians and psychologists have answered this question. And it offers a more detailed analysis of one particularly useful text, Kerry Buckley’s (1989) Mechanical Man, to illuminate specific ways in which historians can simultaneously employ, historicize, and critically analyze the theories of the psychologists they study. Although ostensibly about writing biographies of eminent psychologists, this article speaks to a methodological issue facing any historian contemplating the role psychological theories should play in their historical narratives.