Online First in HoP: Critical Thinking, Minimal Group Paradigm, and More

A number of pieces forthcoming in History of Psychology, and now available online, may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

The origins of the minimal group paradigm,” Brown, Rupert. Abstract:

The minimal group paradigm, published by Henri Tajfel and his colleagues in the early 1970s, is a widely used experimental technique for studying intergroup perceptions and behavior. In its original form, it involved the assignment of participants to one of two meaningless categories and asking them to make allocations of rewards to other (anonymous) members of those groups. Typically, discrimination in favor of the ingroup is observed in those reward allocations. In this article, I examine the historical origins of this paradigm, noting that it was first mooted by another social psychologist, Jaap Rabbie, in the 1960s, although he is seldom credited with this fact. The intellectual disagreements between Rabbie, Tajfel, and Turner over the nature and interpretation of the paradigm are also discussed.

From ecstasy to divine somnambulism: Henri Delacroix’s studies in the history and psychology of mysticism,” Iagher, Matei. Abstract:

This article aims at placing Henri Delacroix’s (1908) book on the psychology of mysticism in the context of debates in the psychology of religion in the earlier part of the 20th century. I argue that Delacroix’s work was authored as part of a wider debate that Delacroix maintained with the American school of the psychology of religion regarding the role of emotions in religious experience. As I show, Delacroix sought to counter the primacy of the affective in religious experience, which the Americans maintained, and to introduce the notion of a developmental logic into the mystical life. In addition, Delacroix also tried to disengage mysticism from an exclusive focus on ecstasy, as well as to offer an account of the value of mysticism based on the existence of a specific mental state that underscored it.

The rise and fall of behaviorism: The narrative and the numbers,” Braat, Michiel; Engelen, Jan; van Gemert, Ties; Verhaegh, Sander. Abstract:

The history of 20th-century American psychology is often depicted as a history of the rise and fall of behaviorism. Although historians disagree about the theoretical and social factors that have contributed to the development of experimental psychology, there is widespread consensus about the growing and (later) declining influence of behaviorism between approximately 1920 and 1970. Because such wide-scope claims about the development of American psychology are typically based on small and unrepresentative samples of historical data, however, the question arises to what extent the received view is justified. This article aims to answer this question in two ways. First, we use advanced scientometric tools (e.g., bibliometric mapping, cocitation analysis, and term co-occurrence analysis) to quantitatively analyze the metadata of 119,278 articles published in American journals between 1920 and 1970. We reconstruct the development and structure of American psychology using cocitation and co-occurrence networks and argue that the standard story needs reappraising. Second, we argue that the question whether behaviorism was the “dominant” school of American psychology is historically misleading to begin with. Using the results of our bibliometric analyses, we argue that questions about the development of American psychology deserve more fine-grained answers.

The construction of “critical thinking”: Between how we think and what we believe,” Lamont, Peter. Abstract:

“Critical thinking” is widely regarded as important, but difficult to define. This article provides an historical perspective by describing how “critical thinking” emerged as an object of psychological study, how the forms it took were shaped by practical and social concerns, and how these related to “critical thinking” as something that results in certain conclusions, rather than as a process of coming to conclusions. “Critical thinking” became a scientific object when psychologists attempted to measure it. The original measurement treated “critical thinking” as both an ability and an attitude. It measured logical abilities, and consistency and extremity of views, but it avoided making assumptions about the correctness of specific real-world beliefs. The correctness of such beliefs was, as problems with other related tests showed, open to dispute. Subsequent tests increasingly focused on logical abilities, and attempted to minimize further the relevance of what people believed about the real world, though they continued to depend on there being correct answers to test items, which privileged the outcome over the process. While “critical thinking” was primarily the domain of philosophers, there was renewed psychological interest in the topic in the 1980s, which increasingly presented “critical thinking” as incompatible with certain real-world (“unscientific”) beliefs. Such a view more explicitly privileged the outcome over the process. It is argued that a more reflective approach, though it may be more difficult to measure, is essential if we wish to understand not only what critical thinking has been, but also what it is now.

Histories of sexology today: Reimagining the boundaries of scientia sexualis


A piece now available in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “Histories of sexology today: Reimagining the boundaries of scientia sexualis,” Kirsten Leng, Katie Sutton. Abstract:

The historiography of sexology is young. It is also expanding at a remarkable pace, both in terms of the volume of publications and, more notably, in terms of its geographical, disciplinary, and intersectional reach. This special issue takes stock of these new directions, while offering new research contributions that expand our understanding of the interdisciplinary and transnational formation of this field from the late 19th through to the mid 20th century. The five articles that make up this special issue stage historiographical interventions by challenging the tendency within sexological history to focus on the medical, the homosexual, the human, and the Western European at the expense of other disciplines, diagnoses, non-human subjects, and geographical locations. A particular strength of these contributions is their focus on mapping conversations among and between sexologists on both sides of the Atlantic in the early to mid 20th century – particularly in Germany, Britain, and the US – and between East and West in the early Cold War era.

April 2020 JHMAS: Certification of Insanity, Student Mental Health, and Physiognomy of Mental Diseases

The April 2020 issue of Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences includes several articles of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Just the Basic Facts: The Certification of Insanity in the Era of the Form K,” Filippo Maria Sposini. Abstract:

This paper investigates the certification of insanity through a standardized template called Form K which was used in Ontario between 1873 and 1883. My main thesis is that the introduction of the Form K had profound and long-lasting effects on the determination of insanity. In particular, it created a unique case in the history of certification, it grounded civil confinement on a strategy of consensus, and it informed mental health documentation for more than a century. As the result of a transnational mediation from Victorian England, the Form K prescribed an examination setting which involved a high number of participants, including three physicians and several witnesses. By comparing this case with other jurisdictions of the time, this paper shows how Ontario became a distinctive case worldwide. In order to get a closer look at this medico-legal procedure, I consider the archival records of the Toronto asylum and conclude that the certification of insanity relied on a strategy of consensus. While the Form K proved quite successful in preventing legal actions, it produced financial, logistic, and bureaucratic issues. The Form K was thus discontinued after a decade, yet its structure influenced Ontario’s mental health documentation throughout the twentieth century. This paper shows the relevance of the certification of insanity for transnational history and for understanding contemporary issues of involuntary confinement and stigma in mental health.

“Strange Cases: Jekyll & Hyde Narratives as Rhetorical Strategy in Sir Alexander Morison’s Physiognomy of Mental Diseases,” Madeline Bourque Kearin. Abstract:

Sir Alexander Morison’s Physiognomy of Mental Diseases (1838) was created as a didactic tool for physicians, depicting lunatics in both the active and dormant states of disease. Through the act of juxtaposition, Morison constituted his subjects as their own Jekylls and Hydes, capable of radical transformation. In doing so, he marshaled artistic and clinical, visual and textual approaches in order to pose a particular argument about madness as a temporally manifested, visually distinguishable state defined by its contrast with reason. This argument served a crucial function in legitimizing the emergent discipline of psychiatry by applying biomedical methodologies to the observation and classification of distinctly physical symptoms. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “quintessentially Victorian parable” serves as a metaphor for the way 19th-century alienists conceptualized insanity, while the theme of duality at the core of Stevenson’s story serves as a framework for conceptualizing both psychiatry and the subjects it generates. It was (and is) a discipline formulated around narrative as the primary organizing structure for its particular set of paradoxes, and specifically, narratives of the self as a fluid, dynamic, and contradictory entity.

“Historicising the “Crisis” in Undergraduate Mental Health: British Universities and Student Mental Illness, 1944–1968,” Sarah Crook. Abstract:

This article explores how and why student mental health became an issue of concern in British universities between 1944 and 1968. It argues that two factors drew student mental health to the attention of medical professionals across this period: first, it argues that the post-war interest in mental illness drew attention to students, who were seen to be the luminaries of the future, investing their wellbeing with particular social importance. Second, it argues that the development of university health services made students increasingly visible, endorsing the view that higher education posed distinctive yet shared mental challenges to young people. The article charts the expansion of services and maps the implications of the visibility of student mental distress for post-war British universities. It suggests that claims that British higher education is currently in the midst of an unprecedented mental health “crisis” should be seen within this broader historical context, for while the contours of the debates around student mental health have shifted substantially, evidence that there was anxiety around student mental wellbeing in the immediate post-war years undermines accusations that contemporary students constitute a unique “snowflake generation.”

Autism in Baltimore, 1938–1943

AHP readers will be interested in a recent piece now online at the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders: “Autism in Baltimore, 1938–1943,” by Marga Vicedo & Juan Ilerbaig. Abstract:

This paper examines the genesis of Leo Kanner’s 1943 seminal paper on autism. It shows that describing children as autistic or lacking affective contact with people was not new by this time. But Kanner’s proposal that infantile autism constituted a hitherto unidentified condition that was inborn and different from childhood schizophrenia was new. It also shows that Georg Frankl’s influence on Kanner was important, but Kanner did not misappropriate his ideas or his research. Kanner developed his views on the basis of his observations of several children, his knowledge of the literature on childhood conditions, and his interactions with many scholars.

Society for the History of Psychology Awards

The Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the American Psychological Association, has announced their 2020 award winners:

Early Career Award

Martin Wieser, Sigmund Freud University-Berlin, Germany.
Dr. Wieser’s research on visual imagery in psychology, disciplinary crisis, and operative psychology in the German Democratic Republic demonstrates significant breadth, depth and originality. Further, his work demonstrates a sophisticated and deep knowledge of historiography, exploring the social, cultural, material, and theoretical roots of psychology.

Jacy L. Young, Quest University, Canada.
Dr. Young’s work exploring the history of questionnaire research, women and feminism in psychology, and the history of sexual harassment in psychology has contributed significantly to our understanding of psychology’s past and present and has led to lasting changes in the field. Further, the committee acknowledges her commitment to and leadership within the Society for the History of Psychology, demonstrated through her service and leadership as program chair, reviewer, and session organizer.

Career Achievement Award

Regina Helena de Freitas Campos, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Dr. Campos’ work on the history of psychology in Brazil has provided an in-depth look at educational psychology, the work of Helena Antipoff, and the roots of laboratory psychology. The committee also recognizes her leadership in preserving and providing public access to the historical record of psychology in Brazil and contributing significantly to the establishment of history of psychology as a specialty area.

Best Journal Article Award

Sebastiaan Broere, the University of Amsterdam.
The committee to select the best article in History of Psychology for Vol. 22 (2019) is delighted to announce its unanimous choice: Sebastiaan Broere (2019). “Picturing Ethnopsychology: A Colonial Psychiatrist’s Struggles to Examine Javanese Minds, 1910–1925,” 22(3), 266-286. This article offers an exceptionally rich and nuanced analysis of Dutch psychiatrist C. F. Engelhard, who set out in the first decades of the twentieth century to apply the clinical expertise acquired in the Netherlands to native subjects in Java with the aid of psychological tests – with entirely ambiguous results. As Broere demonstrates, Engelhard was very much a scientist of his time. He was unable in any meaningful way to see beyond the blinders of his own imperialist imagination. With this excellent essay, Broere provides a model of historical inquiry: thoroughly researched, always accessible, and fascinating to read from start to finish. It adds substantially to our understanding of the overlapping histories of colonial psychiatry, psychometric testing, ethnopsychology, and the dilemmas of cross-cultural social scientific research.

Tonight! Livestream with Martin Summers on Madness in the City of Magnificent Intentions

AHP readers may be interested in a live stream tonight, hosted by the National Humanities Center, with Martin Summers this evening on his recent book, Madness in the City of Magnificent Intentions: A History of Race and Mental Illness in the Nation’s Capital.

Martin Summers
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
7:00 pm EDT
Martin Summers (Fellow, 2013–14), Professor of History, Boston College
Guest Host: Jane O. Newman (Center Trustee; Fellow, 2015–16), Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine

Founded in 1855 to treat insane soldiers and sailors as well as civilian residents in the nation’s capital, Saint Elizabeths became one of the country’s preeminent research and teaching psychiatric hospitals. From the beginning of its operation, Saint Elizabeths admitted black patients, making it one of the few American asylums to do so. Madness in the City of Magnificent Intentions charts the history of Saint Elizabeths and demonstrates how race was central to virtually every aspect of the hospital’s existence, from the ways in which psychiatrists understood mental illness and employed therapies to treat it to the ways that black patients experienced their institutionalization. Martin Summers argues that assumptions about the existence of distinctive black and white psyches shaped the therapeutic and diagnostic regimes in the hospital and left a legacy of poor treatment of African American patients, even after psychiatrists had begun to reject racialist conceptions of the psyche. Yet black patients and their communities asserted their own agency and exhibited a “rights consciousness” in large and small ways, from agitating for more equal treatment to attempting to manage the therapeutic experience.

Active History: Race Relations, Psychological Testing, and Resistance to Change: The Toronto Police, 1970s-1980s

Gerstein pictured with federal Opposition Leader Joe Clark and Ontario Premier Bill Davis in 1980. Dick Darrell, Toronto Star Archive, tspa_0049723f. via Active History

AHP readers will be interested in a piece now up on the site Active History exploring the work of psychologist Reva Gerstein with the Toronto police. In “Active History: Race Relations, Psychological Testing, and Resistance to Change: The Toronto Police, 1970s-1980s” David M. K. Sheinin writes,

As a city changes, as tensions grow between the police and the communities they serve, how can we know if a candidate has what it takes to lead a major police force? Is it possible to predict success (or failure)? Those questions are at the core of a debate that has raged for decades on whether institutional racism exists, on possible improvements, and on implementing changes in policing.

In the mid-1970s, as Toronto faced such challenges, Reva Gerstein emerged as a strong voice for reform. She believed we could scientifically forecast hiring and promotion outcomes. Gerstein began to work closely with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force toward that end. An eminent psychologist, Gerstein wrote a report in 1976 for the Law Reform Commission of Canada on the use of psychological tests in recruiting and promoting police officers.[1]

In 1982, the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission asked Gerstein to conduct a psychological assessment of an extremely bright, fast-rising forty-nine-year-old superintendent; William J. McCormack was a candidate for deputy police chief. Gerstein’s assessment offers strikingly few insights into McCormack beyond what those who worked with him would already have known. She sidestepped racism on the force and poor police-community relations — precisely the problems Gerstein herself had highlighted for years as resolvable through the effective psychological evaluation of officers.

Read the full post here.

The unexpected American origins of sexology and sexual science: Elizabeth Osgood Goodrich Willard, Orson Squire Fowler, and the scientification of sex

AHP readers will be interested in a piece forthcoming in History of the Human Sciences: “The unexpected American origins of sexology and sexual science: Elizabeth Osgood Goodrich Willard, Orson Squire Fowler, and the scientification of sex” by Benjamin Kahan. Abstract:

In spite of the fact that the term ‘sexology’ was popularized in the United States by Elizabeth Osgood Goodrich Willard and that the term ‘sexual science’—which is usually attributed to Iwan Bloch as ‘Sexualwissenschaft’—was actually coined by the American phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler in 1852, the archives of American sexology have received scant attention in the period prior to Alfred Kinsey. In my article, I explore the role of Transcendentalism and phrenology in the production and development of American sexology and sexual science. In particular, I argue that shifting the origins of sexology and sexual science away from Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and Karl-Maria Kertbeny and the more familiar narratives of the German invention of sexuality furnishes a radically different account of early sexology and sexual science. Rather than the unevenly homophilic sympathies of early German activists, their American counterparts promote marital, reproductive, loving sex and vilify prostitution, polygamy, masturbation, contraception, sex for pleasure, and, if they think to mention it, sodomy. In addition to this less progressive story, however, I argue that early American sexologists provide the first theories of gender and help to provide a fuller description of the politics of sexology and sexual science.

Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession

AHP readers may be interested in the new book, Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession by Marjorie Garber. The book is described as follows:

A spirited, engaging investigation into the concept of character, an enduring human obsession in literature, psychology, politics, and everyday life

What is “character”? How can it be measured, improved, or built? Are character traits fixed or changeable? Is character innate, or can it be taught?

Since at least the time of Aristotle, philosophers, theologians, moralists, artists, and scientists have engaged with the enigma of human character. In its oldest usage, “character” derives from a word for engraving or stamping, yet over time, it has come to mean a moral idea, a type, a literary persona, and a physical or physiological manifestation, observable in works of art and scientific experiments. It is an essential term in drama and the focus of self-help books.

In Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession, Marjorie Garber points out that character seems more relevant than ever today—the term is omnipresent in discussions of politics, ethics, gender, morality, and the psyche. References to character flaws, character issues, character assassination, and allegations of “bad” and “good” character are inescapable in the media and in contemporary political debates.

What connection does “character,” in this moral or ethical sense, have with the concept of a character in a novel or a play? Do our notions about fictional characters help to produce our ideas about moral character? Can character be formed, or taught, in schools, in scouting, in the home? From Plutarch to John Stuart Mill, from Shakespeare to Darwin, from Theophrastus to Freud, from nineteenth-century phrenology to twenty-first-century brain scans, the search for the sources and components of human character still preoccupies us.

The question of character arises in virtually every area of modern life. And in each case, there is the same fundamental tension: is it innate or intrinsic to the individual, or something that can be learned or modeled? At a time when both the meaning and the value of this term are put in question, no issue is more important, and no topic more vital, surprising, and fascinating.

With her distinctive verve, humor, and vast erudition, Marjorie Garber explores the stakes of these conflations, confusions, and heritages, from ancient Greece to the present day.

Call for Proposals: Special Issues of Centaurus

The journal Centaurus has issued the following call for proposals for special issues:

As the Official Journal of the European Society for the History of Science, Centaurus regularly publishes issues dedicated to a special theme. Recently published or in press special issues include:

  • Artisanal Culture in Early Modern Iberian and Atlantic Worlds
  • Skulls and blossoms: natural history collections and their meanings
  • Fun and Fear: the banalization of nuclear technologies through display
  • Technology and Information Propagation in a Propaganda War
  • The Periodic System: The (Multiple) Values of an Icon
  • Editorship and the Editing of Scientific Journals, 1750–1950
  • Histories of epidemics in the time of COVID-19

The ESHS and the Editorial Board of Centaurus are now soliciting proposals for 2022 and 2023. Proposals should include the following:

  • A description of the topic of the Special Issue and its significance (approximately 500 words).
  • A list of 5 to 12 contributions: please include title, author names and article abstract.
  • A brief CV of the guest editor(s).
  • A schedule of production (date of first submission; peer review; revisions; final version).

Centaurus is growing and special issues can now be larger than before. More than 175 pages (85,000 words) are available for a special issue, and the size of the issue can be negotiated with the editor. All topics that fall within the scope of the journal can be chosen. See the website of the journal.

For more detailed information for authors, see the author guidelines.

We are especially looking forward to receiving proposals for interdisciplinary special issues.

The committee selecting the special issues will be composed of representatives of the Centaurus editorial board and the ESHS. Criteria include the quality, innovative character and interest of the proposal, the expertise of the guest editor(s), the expertise and diversity of the authors (gender and geography), and the coherence and feasibility of the project.

Deadline: proposals should be sent to the editor (at the address below) no later than September 30, 2020. The results of the selection process will be announced in November 2020.

If you cannot make this deadline, please send a note to the Editor, and it may be possible to negotiate a different deadline. Ad hoc proposals will also be considered, but proposals sent in response to the Call for Special Issues will receive priority.