Category Archives: Magazine

Anthony Enns on Apocryphal Psychotechnologies

A recent piece, “Apocryphal Psychotechnologies,” published in Continent may interest AHP readers. Contintent is “a platform for thinking through media. text, image, video, sound and new forms of publishing online are presented as reflections on and challenges to contemporary conditions in politics, media studies, art, film and philosophical thought.” As author Anthony Enns writes,

Apocryphal technologies are particularly interesting for the study of technological imaginaries precisely because they blur the boundaries between the legitimate and the illegitimate or the plausible and the implausible. For instance, it is often difficult to distinguish apocryphal technologies from real technologies because they tend to be based on the same underlying principles and assumptions. The aspirations that inform apocryphal technologies can also inform real technological innovations by serving as a springboard for new ideas or by anticipating the development of new inventions. The combination of fantastic effects and apparent plausibility also makes apocryphal technologies particularly suitable for conspiracy theories, which similarly encourage a belief in the impossible by imposing a veneer of truth and veracity. Unlike imaginary technologies, therefore, apocryphal technologies can promote faith in technological progress as well as fear of technocratic control. The following paper will explore the desires and anxieties that inform apocryphal technologies by examining a series of electronic devices that allegedly influenced (or were influenced by) the mind. While the claims made about these machines were not supported by scientific research, they were all based on a common understanding of the mind as an electronic apparatus that was subject to modification and manipulation, and they reflected a shared desire for a perfect mind-machine interface, which was imagined as a source of either unlimited power or complete powerlessness. At the same time that these psychotechnologies blur the boundaries between the legitimate and the illegitimate or the plausible and the implausible, therefore, they also illustrate the uneasy tension between utopian aspiration and dystopian paranoia—particularly with regard to the future of humanity.

The full piece can be read online here.

History of the Bereitschaftspotential in The Atlantic

Science journalist Bhahar Gholipour reports on the history of how Helmut Kornhuber and Lüder Deecke’s 1964 bereitschaftspotential research has signified in neuroscience.

The article deftly surveys the eras of interpretation about the results of the study, identifying presumptions that affected decades of seemingly positive replication, and how advancing comprehension of ambient neuronal activity in the brain led to a reframing of the landmark results, creating new directions for inquiry.

This piece would serve well as a resource for teaching, read the entirety here:
A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked

The New Yorker: The Troubled History of Psychiatry

A new piece in The New Yorker takes a look at Anne Harrington’s new book Mind Fixers (covered previously on AHP here and here). As Jerome Groopman writes,

Her narrative begins in the late nineteenth century, when researchers explored the brain’s anatomy in an attempt to identify the origins of mental disorders. The studies ultimately proved fruitless, and their failure produced a split in the field. Some psychiatrists sought nonbiological causes, including psychoanalytic ones, for mental disorders. Others doubled down on the biological approach and, as she writes, “increasingly pursued a hodgepodge of theories and projects, many of which, in hindsight, look both ill-considered and incautious.” The split is still evident today.

The history that Harrington relays is a series of pendulum swings. For much of the book, touted breakthroughs disappoint, discredited dogmas give rise to counter-dogmas, treatments are influenced by the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry, and real harm is done to patients and their loved ones. One thing that becomes apparent is that, when pathogenesis is absent, historical events and cultural shifts have an outsized influence on prevailing views on causes and treatments. By charting our fluctuating beliefs about our own minds, Harrington effectively tells a story about the twentieth century itself.

The full piece can be read online here.

The History of Maslow’s Pyramid

AHP readers may be interested in a recent article investigating the history of Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, as well as a recent Quartz piece that delves further into the ubiquity of Maslow’s pyramid.

Who Built Maslow’s Pyramid? A History of the Creation of Management Studies’ Most Famous Symbol and Its Implications for Management Education,” Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings and John Ballard. Abstract:

Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, the idea that human needs exist in a hierarchy that people strive to satisfy progressively, is regarded as a fundamental approach to understanding and motivating people at work. It is one of the first and most remembered models encountered by students of management. Despite gaining little support in empirical studies and being criticized for promoting an elitist, individualistic view of management, Maslow’s theory remains popular, underpinned by its widely recognized pyramid form. However, Maslow never created a pyramid to represent the hierarchy of needs. We investigated how it came to be and draw on this analysis to call for a rethink of how Maslow is represented in management studies. We also challenge management educators to reflect critically on what are taken to be the historical foundations of management studies and the forms in which those foundations are taught to students.

What the Origins of the “1 in 5” Statistic Teaches Us About Sexual Assault Policy

New over at Behavioral Scientist, as part of a special issue on the intersection of behavioral science and public policy, is a piece by Alexandra Rutherford on the origins and import of the “1 in 5” sexual assault statistic. This history is also explored more fully in a recent article-length piece in History of the Human Sciences.

As Rutherford notes,

It is now over 30 years since Koss first published her work on hidden rape victims. Instead of rehashing whether “1 in 5” is valid and whether women are reliable interpreters of their own experiences, we should be asking why it is so hard for us to hear these experiences and connect them to larger structures of power and domination. The history of “1 in 5” challenges us to critically examine, in the present moment, who has the power to name rape and be believed, under what conditions, and with what consequences.

Read the full piece here.