Forthcoming HOPOS Special Issue on Descriptive Psychology and Völkerpsychologie

Two pieces forthcoming in a special issue of HOPOS, the official journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, will be of interest to AHP readers. The special issue, “Descriptive Psychology and Völkerpsychologie—in the Contexts of Historicism, Relativism, and Naturalism,” is guest-edited by Christian Damböck, Uljana Feest, and Martin Kusch. Full details below.

Descriptive Psychology: Brentano and Dilthey,” by Guillaume Fréchette. Abstract:

Although Wilhelm Dilthey and Franz Brentano apparently were pursuing roughly the same objective—to offer a description of our mental functions and of their relations to objects—and both called their respective research programs ‘descriptive psychology’, they seem to have used the term to refer to two different methods of psychological research. In this article, I compare analyses of these differences. Against the reading of Orth but also against a possible application of recent relativist accounts of the epistemology of peer disagreement to this case, I argue that their apparent shared objective is not enough to support an understanding of their views as two alternatives within a given historical or scientific context, or as a mutual peer disagreement. I show that the impression of a shared objective can be explained away as stemming from the influence of their teacher Adolf Trendelenburg, and I stress that the case of introspection strongly suggests that an account in terms of peer disagreement is not plausible. Finally, I conclude that the opposition between two traditions, Austrian philosophy and historicism, might be better suited to account for the dispute and its apparent common historical context.

Völkerpsychologie and the Origins of Hermann Cohen’s Antipsychologism,” by Scott Edgar. Abstract:

Some commentators on Hermann Cohen have remarked on what they take to be a puzzle about the origins of his mature antipsychologism. When Cohen was young, he studied a kind of psychology, the Völkerpsychologie of Moritz Lazarus and Heymann Steinthal, and he wrote apparently psychologistic accounts of knowledge almost up until the moment he first articulated his antipsychologistic neo-Kantianism. To be sure, Cohen’s mature antipsychologism does constitute a rejection of certain central commitments of Völkerpsychologie. However, the relation between Völkerpsychologie and Cohen’s mature antipsychologism is not one of straightforward opposition. This article argues that Cohen had significantly less distance to travel than it appears to get from his early Völkerpsychologie to his mature antipsychologism. In particular, this article argues that Cohen always had an antipsychologistic account of knowledge, even during the period when he was studying Völkerpsychologie, and, further, that key features of his Völkerpsychologie partly shaped his mature account of knowledge. Finally, the article identifies how Cohen’s views did change over the transition from his völkerpsychological period to his later antipsychologism. It thus identifies what changes in Cohen’s views do need to be explained.

Forthcoming in JHBS: Quêtelet on Deviance, McClelland on Leadership, Psychological Warfare, and More

A number of articles now in press at the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Uncovering the metaphysics of psychological warfare: The social science behind the Psychological Strategy Board’s operations planning, 1951–1953,” Gabrielle Kemmis. Abstract:

In April 1951 president Harry S. Truman established the Psychological Strategy Board to enhance and streamline America’s sprawling psychological warfare campaign against the USSR. As soon as the Board’s staff began work on improving US psychological operations, they wondered how social science might help them achieve their task. Board Director, Gordon Gray, asked physicist turned research administrator Henry Loomis to do a full review of America’s social science research program in support of psychological operations. Loomis willingly accepted the task. This paper documents Loomis’s investigation into America’s social science research program. It uncovers the critical role that government departments had in the creation of research in the early 1950s and thus highlights that the government official is an important actor in the history of social science and the application of social science to psychological operations at the beginning of the Cold War.

“At the borders of the average man: Adolphe Quêtelet on mental, moral, and criminal monstrosities,” Filippo Maria Sposini. Abstract:

This study examines Adolphe Quêtelet’s conception of deviance. It investigates how he identified social marginalities and what actions he recommended governments to undertake. To get a close understanding of his views, this paper examines three cases of “monstrosities,” namely mental alienation, drunkenness, and criminality. My main thesis is that Quêtelet provided scientific authority to a conception of deviance as sickness, immorality, and cost thus encouraging legislators to use statistics for containing social marginalities. The case of alienation shows that Quêtelet viewed insanity as a pathology of civilization to be understood through phrenology. The case of drunkenness demonstrates how Quêtelet conflated the notion of statistical mean with moral decency. The case of criminality illustrates Quêtelet’s major concern with the cost of criminals for the state. While advocating for the perfectibility of mankind, Quêtelet urged governments to take actions against what he considered the monstrosities of society.

“From achievement to power: David C. McClelland, McBer & Company, and the business of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), 1962–1985,” Matthew J. Hoffarth. Abstract:

During the 1960s, Harvard psychologist David McClelland focused his research and business endeavors on increasing the need for achievement in small businesspeople, with the goal of fostering economic success in the developing world. However, by the early 1970s, McClelland would focus almost entirely on developing executives’ need for power in the United States. In this paper, I argue that underlying this shift was McClelland’s dedication to the project of behavioral engineering and a newfound belief that training individuals in the responsible exercise of leadership and managerial power had become the most effective path to achieving his liberal political aims.

“A tale of four countries: How Bowlby used his trip through Europe to write the WHO report and spread his ideas,” Frank C. P. van der Horst Karin Zetterqvist Nelson Lenny van Rosmalen René van der Veer. Abstract:

Attachment theory, developed by child psychiatrist John Bowlby, is considered a major theory in developmental psychology. Attachment theory can be seen as resulting from Bowlby’s personal experiences, his psychoanalytic education, his subsequent study of ethology, and societal developments during the 1930s and 1940s. One of those developments was the outbreak of World War II and its effects on children’s psychological wellbeing. In 1950, Bowlby was appointed WHO consultant to study the needs of children who were orphaned or separated from their families for other reasons and needed care in foster homes or institutions. The resulting report is generally considered a landmark publication in psychology, although it subsequently met with methodological criticism. In this paper, by reconstructing Bowlby’s visit to several European countries, on the basis of notebooks and letters, the authors shed light on the background of this report and the way Bowlby used or neglected the findings he gathered.

“Learning to stand tall: Idiopathic scoliosis, behavioral electronics, and technologically?assisted patient participation in treatment, c. 1969–1992,” Lucie Gerber. Abstract:

Drawing on the archives of American learning psychologist Neal E. Miller, this article investigates the role of instrumentation in the expansion and diversification of the behavior therapy domain from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Through the case of Miller’s research on the use of biofeedback to treat idiopathic scoliosis, it argues that the post?World War II adoption of electronic technology by behavioral psychologists contributed to extending their subject matter to include physiological processes and somatic conditions. It also enabled a technologically?instrumented move outside the laboratory through the development of portable ambulatory treatment devices. Using the example of the Posture?Training Device that Miller and his collaborators invented for the behavioral treatment of idiopathic scoliosis, this paper considers how electromechanical psychological instrumentation illustrated a larger and ambiguous strategic shift in behavior therapy from an orientation toward external control to one of self?control.

New Theory & Psychology: Early Critical Theory and Beck’s Cognitive Theory

Two articles in the most recent issue of Theory & Psychology may interest AHP readers. Full details below.

“How lost and accomplished revolutions shaped psychology: Early Critical Theory (Frankfurt School), Wilhelm Reich, and Vygotsky,” by Gordana Jovanovi?. Abstract:

On the occasion of recent centenaries of revolutions in Europe (1917, 1918–19), this article examines, within a general theme of different forms of relationships between revolution and psychology, two types of theories. First, this paper analyses Western theories that, while developing under conditions of a missed or lost revolution in Germany, argued for radical social change by referring to Marxism and psychoanalysis as necessary theoretical tools (Frankfurt School and Wilhelm Reich). Second, this paper analyses the influence of the October Revolution on the development of the psychological theory of Lev Vygotsky in the Soviet Union. In sum, psychology under the conditions of missed or lost revolution was conceptualized as a psychology of the unconscious, of the repression of human needs. Psychology under the conditions of accomplished revolution was conceptualized as a historical social psychology of self-mastery of human beings as social beings.

“Unconscious processes in Aaron Beck’s cognitive theory: Reconstruction and discussion,” by Monika Romanowska, Bart?omiej Dobroczy?ski. Abstract:

The concept of the unconscious has always provoked controversy. While some psychologists treated it as a relic of metaphysics or a manifestation of psychoanalytic mysticism, others saw it as an important explanatory construct. At the heart of this conflict, there is the theory proposed by Aaron Beck, the originator of cognitive therapy. According to the founding myth, he rejected the concept of the dynamic unconscious to develop an evidence-based approach. The aim of this article is to reconstruct and analyze Beck’s understanding of the unconscious based on his published works and archival materials and to identify the values that guided his theoretical choices. We argue that Beck’s conceptualization of the unconscious ignores contradictory conscious and unconscious representations and attitudes and offers no systematic model of basic needs and the conflicts between them. We conclude that this stems from Beck’s attachment to the phenomenological understanding of the psyche, emphasis on humanism in the therapeutic relationship, fear of cognitive theory losing its distinctness, and caution in formulating theories.

History of Spanish Psychology, 1800–2000

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece on “History of Spanish Psychology, 1800–2000” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Full details below.

“History of Spanish Psychology, 1800–2000,” by Javier Bandrés. Abstract:

In the history of Spanish psychology in the 19th century, three stages can be distinguished. An eclectic first stage was defined by the coexistence of currents such as spiritualism, sensism, ideology, and common-sense realism. Jaime Balmes was the most prominent and original author, integrating empiricism and associationism in the Spanish tradition of common-sense philosophy. The second stage was characterized by the influence of Krausism, a version of German rationalist pantheism imported by Julián Sanz del Río, that reached great acceptance during the 1860s and 1870s among intellectuals opposed to traditional Catholicism. The third stage began in the late 1870s: the reception, adaptation, development, and debate of the “new psychology” flowing from Germany, Great Britain, and France. A group of neo-Kantian intellectuals led by Cuban José del Perojo, a disciple of Kuno Fischer, introduced and popularized experimental psychology and comparative psychology in Spain. His project was vigorously seconded in Cuba by Enrique José Varona, author of the first Spanish manual of experimental psychology. In this path, the Marxist psychiatrist and intellectual Jaime Vera promoted in Madrid a materialistic view of psychology, and his colleague and friend Luis Simarro won the first university chair of Experimental Psychology, fostering a school of psychologists oriented toward experimental science. In turn, the publication in 1879 of the papal encyclical Aeterni Patris stimulated the development of a Spanish neoscholastic scientific psychology, developed under the influence of Cardinal Mercier of the Catholic University of Louvain. Authors such as Zeferino González, Marcelino Arnáiz, and Alberto Gómez Izquierdo broke with the anti-modern tradition of the Spanish Church and developed an experimental psychology within the Aristotelian-Thomistic framework.

In the first three decades of the 20th century, applied psychology expanded radically, linked to a period of strong socioeconomic growth. Abnormal and educational psychology developed vigorously, and Spanish psychotechnics, led by José Germain in Madrid and Emilio Mira in Barcelona, was at the forefront of European science. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War imposed a bloody parenthesis to the economic and scientific development of the country. In the postwar period, the psychiatrist Antonio Vallejo-Nágera and his group tried to manipulate psychological research to legitimize some of general Franco’s policies. Simultaneously, two neoscholastic scholars, Manuel Barbado and Juan Zaragüeta, supervised the recovery and scientific development of Spanish psychology through institutions such as the Department of Experimental Psychology of the Higher Council for Scientific Research, the National Institute of Psychotechnics, and the School of Applied Psychology and Psychotechnics of the University of Madrid. José Germain was chosen to direct and guide these projects, and a new generation of academic psychologists was formed: Mariano Yela, José Luis Pinillos, and Miguel Siguán, among others. The economic expansion of the 1960s and 1970s and the end of Franco’s dictatorship produced a huge development of academic and professional psychology, with Spanish psychology becoming positively integrated into Western science. On the other side of the Atlantic, the psychology of liberation developed by Ignacio Martín-Baró in El Salvador promoted the theoretical and methodological renewal of Latin American psychology.

Further entries, including many history focused ones, can be found online here.