Call for Papers: British Society for the History of Science Virtual Conference 13-15 July, 2021

The British Society for the History of Science has issued a call for papers for a Virtual Conference 13-15 July, 2021. Plans are for the virtual event to feature a formal conference for members of the BSHS each morning followed by a public program in the afternoon/evening. Proposals for papers and sessions should be submitted via by Monday 3rd May 2021. Details below (via).

Call for Papers: History of Science Society Joint Meeting with the Society for the History of Technology, Nov 18-21, 2021

The History of Science Society has issued a call for papers for its 2021 joint meeting with the Society for the History of Technology. The meeting will be held on November 18-21, 2021 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. The deadline for submissions is 18 April 2021, 11:59 EDT. The full call for papers can be found here.

Storia Critica della Psicoterapia

AHP readers may be interested in a new Italian language book, Storia critica della psicoterapia, by Renato Foschi and Marco Innamorati on the history of psychotherapy. The book is described as:

Dalla cura dell’anima alla psicoanalisi, dall’ipnosi alle terapie cognitivo-comportamentali: in nove capitoli gli autori ricostruiscono la storia delle diverse forme di psicoterapia, fino alle odierne versioni basate sulle evidenze empiriche.
Il libro descrive l’evoluzione delle teorie ma anche il contesto storico nel quale terapeuti e pazienti hanno vissuto: la maggiore o minore fortuna delle diverse psicoterapie è dipesa anche dalla loro capacità di rispondere alle esigenze poste dai cambiamenti epocali che si sono verificati, in particolare tra la fine dello scorso millennio e l’inizio del nuovo.
Gli autori offrono dunque un quadro storico complessivo e illustrano le differenti psicoterapie anche nelle loro reciproche relazioni e non solo come teorie isolate le une dalle altre.
Ne emerge una visione affascinante, che chiarisce le radici più profonde di una disciplina complessa come la psicoterapia.

Challenging Custodialism: Families and Eugenic Institutionalization at the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children at Elwyn

A new article by Chelsea D. Chamberlain in the Journal of Social History will interest AHP readers. “Challenging Custodialism: Families and Eugenic Institutionalization at the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children at Elwyn,” Abstract:

Historians have described how powerful eugenic ideologies fueled the rapid expansion of custodial institutionalization of the so-called feebleminded in the early twentieth century. Using new sources from the recently opened archive of the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children at Elwyn, this article argues that in practice, this transition to custodialism was difficult, uneven, and subject to constant compromise. Institutional residents and their families contested expert prognoses and disciplinary methods and maintained relationships across institutional boundaries. Their vernacular ideas about mental impairment, curability, and the purpose of institutional segregation produced a gap between eugenic discourse and institutional life. The challenges that residents and their families levied were neither absolute nor consistent: their force and success depended on their class status, community contexts, and most significantly, the perceived severity of a resident’s impairment. Residents with greater care needs were frequently relegated to the background, not only in psycho-medical professionals’ treatises and administration but in the expectations that families brought to bear on the institution. Decades before institutionalized people and their families formed political advocacy groups that struggled for deinstitutionalization and civil rights, they fought individual battles that pitted their intimate knowledge against expertise. Although their victories were small and statistically rare, they tested the bounds of psycho-medical authority and established the ideological and practical limits of eugenic mass institutionalization.

Intelligent Love: The Story of Clara Park, Her Autistic Daughter, and the Myth of the Refrigerator Mother.

AHP readers will be interested in a new book from Marga Vicedo Intelligent Love: The Story of Clara Park, Her Autistic Daughter, and the Myth of the Refrigerator Mother. The book is described as follows:

How one mother challenged the medical establishment and misconceptions about autistic children and their parents.

In the early 1960s, Massachusetts writer and homemaker Clara Park and her husband took their 3-year-old daughter, Jessy, to a specialist after noticing that she avoided connection with others. Following the conventional wisdom of the time, the psychiatrist diagnosed Jessy with autism and blamed Clara for Jessy’s isolation. Experts claimed Clara was the prototypical “refrigerator mother,” a cold, intellectual parent who starved her children of the natural affection they needed to develop properly.

Refusing to accept this, Clara decided to document her daughter’s behaviors and the family’s engagement with her. In 1967, she published her groundbreaking memoir challenging the refrigerator mother theory and carefully documenting Jessy’s development. Clara’s insights and advocacy encouraged other parents to seek education and support for their autistic children. Meanwhile, Jessy would work hard to expand her mother’s world, and ours.

Drawing on previously unexamined archival sources and firsthand interviews, science historian Marga Vicedo illuminates the story of how Clara Park and other parents fought against medical and popular attitudes toward autism while presenting a rich account of major scientific developments in the history of autism in the US. Intelligent Love is a fierce defense of a mother’s right to love intelligently, the value of parents’ firsthand knowledge about their children, and an individual’s right to be valued by society.

Special issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología dedicated to the work Robert A. Rescorla

A new special issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología dedicated to the work Robert A. Rescorla will be of interest to AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Introduction to the Special Issue: Robert A. Rescorla: The Heir of Pavlov,” by Javier Bandrés.

“Robert Rescorla: Pavlov 2.0 and a Model Academic Psychologist. [Robert Escorla: Pavlov 2.0 y Modelo de Psicólogo Académico],” Paul Rozin. Abstract:

Pavlov is one of the greatest psychologists. Being Pavlov 2.0 is very special. Although there are a number of distinguished students of Pavlovian conditioning, at least in my opinion, Bob Rescorla is the heir to Pavlov. But although Pavlov 2.0 is more than enough, there is a lot more. As discussed later, I see Bob as a linking person between the psychology of learning, perhaps the centerpiece of American academic psychology in the mid twentieth century, to cognitive psychology, its successor in the late 20th century.

“Robert Rescorla: Time, Information and Contingency. [Robert Rescorla: Tiempo, Información y Contingencia],” C. R. Gallistel. Abstract:

Rescorla’s first theoretical and experimental papers on the truly random control (random, independent presentations of CSs and USs) showed that associative learning was driven by contingency, that is, by the information that events at one time provide about events located elsewhere in time. This discovery has revolutionary neurobiological and philosophical implications. The problem was that Rescorla was unable to derive a function that mapped conditional probabilities into contingencies. Rescorla and Wagner (1972) proposed a hugely influential model for explaining Rescorla’s results, but their model ignored his earlier insights about time, temporal order, information and contingency in conditioning. Their paper pioneered an empirically indefensible treatment of time that has continued in associative theorizing down to the present day. A key to a more defensible approach to the cue competition problem (aka the temporal assignment of credit problem) in Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning is to measure the information that cues and responses provide about the wait for reinforcement and the information that reinforcement provides about the recency of a response.

Pavlovian Conditioning: It’s not what you think it is – Part II. [El condicionamiento pavloviano: no es lo que tú crees. Segunda parte],” Jan De Houwer. Abstract:

In a highly cited paper, Rescorla (1988) argued that conditioning can be thought of as involving active information seeking and causal reasoning. In this paper, I argue that the full implications of this perspective are yet to be explored. The idea of causal reasoning (a) does not fit well with the association formation models that currently dominate conditioning research and (b) goes beyond the notion of prediction error as the dominant source of learning. As such, Rescorla’s (1988) perspective is bound to remain a source of inspiration for future research.

“The magic mirror of Robert Rescorla’s methodological behaviorism. [El espejo mágico del conductismo metodológico de Robert Rescorla],” Juan M. Rosas. Abstract:

Learning research assumes that the underlying learning processes are mirrored in behavior. However, learning may or may not show as a change in behavior, and a behavioral change may or may not be the result of learning. Thus, behavior turns to be a distorted mirror of what the organism has in its head, and learning researchers put a great effort in designing control conditions to ensure that what the mirror reflects is the learning process responsible. Here I present my tribute to Robert Rescorla and his uncanny ability to use clever designs to allow behavior to separate among different underlying learning processes. I will use the research about the contents of learning as the guiding thread, connecting the results of Rescorla’s research in nonhuman animals with recent research on the same issue in human associative learning.

Talking therapy: The allopathic nihilation of homoeopathy through conceptual translation and a new medical language

A new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers, “Talking therapy: The allopathic nihilation of homoeopathy through conceptual translation and a new medical language,” Lyn Brierley-Jones. Abstract:

The 19th century saw the development of an eclectic medical marketplace in both the United Kingdom and the United States, with mesmerists, herbalists and hydrotherapists amongst the plethora of medical ‘sectarians’ offering mainstream (or ‘allopathic’) medicine stiff competition. Foremost amongst these competitors were homoeopaths, a group of practitioners who followed Samuel Hahnemann (1982[1810]) in prescribing highly dilute doses of single-drug substances at infrequent intervals according to the ‘law of similars’ (like cures like). The theoretical sophistication of homoeopathy, compared to other medical sectarian systems, alongside its institutional growth after the mid-19th-century cholera epidemics, led to homoeopathy presenting a challenge to allopathy that the latter could not ignore. Whilst the subsequent decline of homoeopathy at the beginning of the 20th century was the result of multiple factors, including developments within medical education, the Progressive movement, and wider socio-economic changes, this article focuses on allopathy’s response to homoeopathy’s conceptual challenge. Using the theoretical framework of Berger and Luckmann (1991[1966]) and taking a Tory historiographical approach (Fuller, 2002) to recover more fully 19th-century homoeopathic knowledge, this article demonstrates how increasingly sophisticated ‘nihilative’ strategies were ultimately successful in neutralising homoeopathy and that homoeopaths were defeated by allopaths (rather than disproven) at the conceptual level. In this process, the therapeutic use of ‘nosodes’ (live disease products) and the language of bacteriology were pivotal. For their part, homoeopaths failed to mount a counter-attack against allopaths with an explanatory framework available to them.

When war came home: Air-raid shock in World War I

A new open-access piece in History of Psychiatry may be of interest to AHP readers, “When war came home: air-raid shock in World War I,” Stefanie Caroline Linden. Abstract:

During World War I, civilians became a target of the war machine. Air raids transformed the lives of those not involved in active combat and blurred the lines between the home front and the war front. This paper argues that the experience of air raids in World War I was comparable to the combat stress at the Western Front. The author bases her argument on contemporary publications in medical journals, measures taken by British authorities to prevent air-raid shock, and contemporary case records. The narratives of air-raid shock – similarly to those of shell-shocked soldiers – reflect the feelings of terror and loss of control, and demonstrate the profound effect these experiences could have on individuals’ mental health.

Book Launch: Material Cultures of Psychiatry

AHP readers will be interested in a virtual book launch for Material Cultures of Psychiatry, edited by Monika Ankele and Benoît Majerus, taking place next week. Registration for the event can be found here. The event is described as follows:

Objects have long been and still are shaping our ideas about psychiatric institutions and their history. In many cases, it is exceptional objects such as caged beds or binding belts that we associate with the history of psychiatry, rather than everyday cultural objects such as flowers or a blanket. These outstanding objects are often used as a synonym for psychiatry and the way psychiatric patients were treated, yet very little is known about the agency of objects and their appropriation by staff and patients.

Catherine Coleborne, Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and Bart Marius, Artistic Director at the Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent, Belgium, will discuss with the editors of the book and two of its authors, how a material-based approach opens up new perspectives on the agency and imagination of men and women inside psychiatry.

Betty Eisner: Heroine with a Hitch?

AHP readers will be interested in a piece by Tal Davidson on Chacruna on the work of psychologist and LSD researcher Betty Eisner. In “Betty Eisner: Heroine with a Hitch?” Davidson writes,

When psychedelics were banned, Eisner continued to work on cutting edge psychology, including transpersonal psychotherapy, group therapy, and the formation of intentional communities based on psychotherapeutic principles. It’s hard to read Eisner’s biography and not be struck by the life force she poured into the psychedelic revolution and its spillover into the psychotherapeutic counterculture. Or, to say it another way, Betty Eisner was every bit as deserving of glorification as the 1960s’ all-male cast of psychedelic deities, and I expected that promoting her story could help start to rectify the identity-based exclusions that haunted the history of psychedelics.

But there was a hitch. In 1976, a client died in her care, and the circumstances of his death revealed an alternate story about her that was difficult for me to reconcile with the psychedelic champion she had become in my mind….

Read the full piece here.