The Genesis of Allport’s 1942 Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science

A new piece in Qualitative Psychology may be of interest to AHP readers. Details below.

The genesis of Allport’s 1942 Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science,” by Vincent W. Hevern. Abstract:

Published by the interdisciplinary Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Allport’s 1942 monograph on The Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science (Allport, 1942) arose from the intersection of 2 sets of concerns: an extended effort by the SSRC during the 1920s and 1930s to chart the boundaries of valid research methodologies in the social sciences, and Allport’s insistence that psychology must account scientifically for individual persons in course of their actual lives. This historical review details a crisis that emerged in the late 1930s within SSRC-sponsored research concerning whether investigators could even use nonquantitative sources such as personal documents as scientific data. Allport’s own early scholarly agenda embraced German-influenced case study methods and the emerging field of personality psychology. This report outlines how, as Allport’s influence grew in the 1930s, he became a central, insistent, but relatively lonely voice rejecting psychological research methods that were exclusively experimental and quantitative. In this context, the Committee on Appraisal of Research of the SSRC accepted Allport’s self-nomination in early 1941 to assess how such data had been and could be used in psychology to achieve reliable and valid scientific results. This review traces how he went about the assignment and the uncertain evaluation he gave of his own work as it reached publication.

“A Complete Emancipation from Philosophy”: Alfred Lehmann’s Laboratory of Psychophysics at the University of Copenhagen, 1886–1924

New in the American Journal of Psychology:

““A Complete Emancipation from Philosophy”: Alfred Lehmann’s Laboratory of Psychophysics at the University of Copenhagen, 1886–1924,” by Jörgen L. Pind. Abstract:

Alfred Lehmann (1858–1921) was the pioneer of experimental psychology in Denmark. Educated as a natural scientist, he spent the winter of 1885–1886 in Wundt’s laboratory in Leipzig. Upon his return to Copenhagen he established the Laboratory of Psychophysics, one of the oldest laboratories of psychology in the world. It would soon become associated with the University of Copenhagen, where Lehmann gained a position in 1890. Lehmann was a tireless experimenter in his laboratory and an important contributor to experimental psychology in its first decades. At the outset of his scientific career, Lehmann focused mainly on the bodily correlates of mental states, emotions in particular. He was an early critic of the James–Lange theory of emotions. Lehmann was also an ardent critic of claims of the paranormal and did experimental work where he attempted to establish the “psychophysical conditions” for the widespread belief in superstition and magic at the turn of the 20th century. Near the end of his career, Lehmann embarked on work in applied psychology, simultaneously realizing his dream of establishing psychology as an independent subject at the University of Copenhagen in 1918. His new curriculum for a master’s degree in psychology emphasized experimental and applied work, free of the field’s earlier ties to philosophy. Lehmann’s turn to applied psychology was instrumental in the success of his curricular reform of psychology education.

Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs

Lucas Richert’s recently released Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs may be of interest to AHP readers. Richert’s book is described as follows:

Drugs take strange journeys from the black market to the doctor’s black bag. Changing marijuana laws in the United States and Canada, the opioid crisis, and the rising costs of pharmaceuticals have sharpened the public’s awareness of drugs and their regulation. Government, industry, and the medical profession, however, have a mixed record when it comes to framing policies and generating knowledge to address drug use and misuse.

In Strange Trips Lucas Richert investigates the myths, meanings, and boundaries of recreational drugs, palliative care drugs, and pharmaceuticals as well as struggles over product innovation, consumer protection, and freedom of choice in the medical marketplace. Scrutinizing how we have conceptualized and regulated drugs amid the pressing and competing interests of state regulatory bodies, pharmaceutical and for-profit companies, scientific researchers, and medical professionals, Richert asks how perceptions of a product shift – from dangerous substance to medical breakthrough, or vice versa. Through close examination of archival materials, accounts, and records, he brings substances into conversation with each other and demonstrates the contentious relationship between scientific knowledge, cultural assumptions, and social concerns.

Weaving together stories of consumer resistance and government control, Strange Trips offers timely recommendations for the future of drug regulation.

The politics of female pain: Women’s citizenship, twilight sleep and the early birth control movement

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece now available in Medical Humanities: “The politics of female pain: Women’s citizenship, twilight sleep and the early birth control movement,” by Lauren MacIvor Thompson. Abstract:

The medical intervention of ‘twilight sleep’, or the use of a scopolamine–morphine mixture to anaesthetise labouring women, caused a furore among doctors and early 20th-century feminists. Suffragists and women’s rights advocates led the Twilight Sleep Association in a quest to encourage doctors and their female patients to widely embrace the practice. Activists felt the method revolutionised the notoriously dangerous and painful childbirth process for women, touting its benefits as the key to allowing women to control their birth experience at a time when the maternal mortality rate remained high despite medical advances in obstetrics. Yet many physicians attacked the practice as dangerous for patients and their babies and antithetical to the expectations for proper womanhood and motherly duty. Historians of women’s health have rightly cited Twilight Sleep as the beginning of the medicalisation and depersonalisation of the childbirth process in the 20th century. This article instead repositions the feminist political arguments for the method as an important precursor for the rhetoric of the early birth control movement, led by Mary Ware Dennett (a former leader in the Twilight Sleep Association) and Margaret Sanger. Both Twilight Sleep and the birth control movement represent a distinct moment in the early 20th century wherein pain was deeply connected to politics and the rhetoric of equal rights. The two reformers emphasised in their publications and appeals to the public the vast social significance of reproductive pain—both physical and psychological. They contended that women’s lack of control over both pregnancy and birth represented the greatest hindrance to women’s fulfilment of their political rights and a danger to the healthy development of larger society. In their arguments for legal contraception, Dennett and Sanger placed women’s pain front and centre as the primary reason for changing a law that hindered women’s full participation in the public order.

New History of Psychiatry: Eugenics, Therapeutic Showers, and More

The March 2019 issue of History of Psychiatry is now available online. Full details follow below.

“Ancient philosophers on mental illness,” by Marke Ahonen. Abstract:

This article explores how the ancient philosophers from Plato to late antiquity understood mental illness. It outlines when, how and in what kind of contexts the phenomenon of mental illness was recognized in the ancient philosophical texts, how mental illness was understood in terms of the body–mind interaction, and how mental disorders of the medical kind were distinguished from non-medical psychic disturbances. It establishes that, while the philosophers mostly understood mental illness along the lines of ancient medical thinking, their ideas, for example on the nature and location of the soul, informed their theories of mental illness.

“Eugenic concerns, scientific practices: international relations in the establishment of psychiatric genetics in Germany, Britain, the USA and Scandinavia, c.1910–60,” by Volker Roelcke. Abstract:

The article describes the emergence of research programmes, institutions and activities of the early protagonists in the field of psychiatric genetics: Ernst Rüdin in Munich, Eliot Slater in London, Franz Kallmann in New York and Erik Essen-Möller in Lund. During the 1930s and well into the Nazi period, the last three had been research fellows at the German Research Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. It is documented that there was a continuous mutual exchange of scientific ideas and practices between these actors, and that in all four contexts there were intrinsic relations between eugenic motivations and genetic research, but with specific national adaptations.

“Amok: a mirror of time and people. A historical review of literature,” by Hissei Imai, Yusuke Ogawa, Kiyohito Okumiya, Kozo Matsubayashi. Abstract:

The conceptualization of psychiatric disorders changes continuously. This study examined ‘amok’, a culture-bound syndrome related to sudden mass homicide, to elucidate changing and varied concepts. A historical review of 88 English articles revealed that the meanings and assumed causes of amok have changed over time. These changes appear to have been affected by social events, medical discoveries, knowledge of descriptors and occasionally, the benefit to users. In other words, the concept of amok changes depending on the history of society and the knowledge and intention of people at the time. We should consider in detail what we focus on when diagnosing a disorder.

“Showers: from a violent treatment to an agent of cleansing,” by Stephanie C Cox, Clare Hocking, Deborah Payne. Abstract:

In the early nineteenth century, physicians designed the first manufactured showers for the purpose of curing the insane. Sustained falls of cold water were prescribed to cool hot, inflamed brains, and to instil fear to tame impetuous wills. By the middle of the century showers had appeared in both asylums and prisons, but shower-related deaths led to their decline. Rather than being abandoned, however, the shower was transformed by the use of warm water to economically wash the skins of prison and asylum populations. In stark contrast to an involuntary, deliberately unpleasant treatment, by the end of the century the shower was a desirable product for the improvement of personal hygiene and population health.

“Psychiatrists and mental health activism during the final phase of the Franco regime and the democratic transition,” by Rafael Huertas. Abstract:

In the final years of the Franco dictatorship and during the period known as the democratic transition, there were a significant number of protests in the sphere of mental health in Spain. This article analyses the origins and functioning of the Psychiatric Network, which emerged in 1971, its connection to the formation of professional organizations and its role in the reception of anti-psychiatry ideas in Spain. We reach the conclusion that, although the Network’s activities took place within a left-wing political and ideological framework, and at such an important time of social change as the end of the dictatorship, its discourse and practices always demonstrated a marked professional approach.

“Colonial surgeon Patrick Hill (1794–1852): unacknowledged pioneer of Australian mental healthcare,” by Toby Raeburn, Carol Liston, Jarrad Hickmott, Michelle Cleary. Abstract:

Despite making a substantial contribution to the development of mental health services in colonial Australia, until now the story of Dr Patrick Hill’s (1794–1852) life has been overlooked by historians. This paper reviews primary sources including clinical notes, patient lists, letters, government documents and newspaper articles which reveal that Dr Hill was a dedicated physician who played a vital role in the development of Australian mental healthcare. He was held in such esteem that by the time of his sudden death in 1852 he had been elevated to the most senior medical office in New South Wales. Dr Hill’s career serves to exemplify how the local practice of individual colonial doctors helped build the reputation of medicine in the modern era.

“Managing difficult and violent adolescents (adolescents difficiles) in France: a genealogical approach,” by Yannis Gansel. Abstract:

‘Difficult adolescent’ is a clinical category defined by psychiatrists’ expertise. Since the end of the 1990s, it has been extensively used to describe a population of disruptive, violent yet vulnerable adolescents, at the margins of public institutions that manage youth deviancy in France. For the present study, an interconnected network of 49 documents was analysed using a genealogical method in order to provide comprehensive elements in the results. This category found its ecological niche in the 1960s, revealing a moral tension in the use of constraint. It addressed new problems of intractable individuals, whose dangerousness and vulnerability require coordination between penal, social and psychiatric institutions. It defines an ambiguous condition, suspended between the trouble experienced by the caregivers and an adolescent’s individual disorder.