The Winter 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is now online. Included as part of the journal’s continuing 130th anniversary coverage are articles on S. S. Stevens’s work on scaling and early work foreshadowing ecological psychology. A further article in the issue offers a digital history of authorship in the American Journal of Psychology and the Psychological Review. Full details below.
“S. S. Stevens’s Invariant Legacy: Scale Types and the Power Law,” by Lawrence M. Ward. Abstract:
S. S. Stevens was one of a number of prominent psychologists who published seminal articles in The American Journal of Psychology (AJP). Indeed, the first or, arguably, most important articles in several of his research strands were published there. In this brief treatment of his monumental work, I review these articles and some of their sequelae, both in Stevens’s own work and in that of others, in an attempt to sketch out how Stevens’s contributions in AJP helped form the development of experimental sensory and perceptual psychology throughout the 20th century. I focus on his work in psychophysical scaling, because in my opinion that has been his most important legacy. Indeed, the article that probably generated the flurry of work in psychophysical scaling that persisted into the 1990s was a brilliant work published in 1956 in AJP. In that article Stevens not only demonstrated the validity and reliability of direct scaling (in this case magnitude estimation and production) but also investigated a range of factors that could affect its results, anchoring the later work that led to its adoption as the fundamental and most popular approach to psychophysical scaling still in use today. In this section I also expand on a few of the modern directions in which this work has gone. Stevens also published in AJP classic articles on the localization of sound, the dimensions of sound, the relation of volume to intensity, and the neural quantum in pitch and loudness discrimination. He even contributed an article on scaling coffee odor. His work is a stellar example of how AJP has influenced psychological science then and now.
“Leo J. Postman: Master Experimentalist,” by James S. Nairne and Michelle E. Coverdale. Abstract:
Leo J. Postman was an internationally recognized experimental psychologist whose work after World War II helped frame the modern empirical study of perception, memory, and other psychological processes. Postman was important to The American Journal of Psychology, serving as a frequent contributor, and the journal remained important to him throughout his career; in fact, he ended his research career as its co-editor. In this article, we briefly review some of his contributions to the journal and try to identify the consistent themes that defined his work. His views and his choice of topics tracked the significant theoretical issues of his time and remain a model of theoretical and empirical rigor.
“Breaking Into the Mind: George A. Miller’s Early Work in the American Journal of Psychology,” by William D. Raymond and Alice F. Healy. Abstract:
Reviewed here are the 9 scholarly articles written by George A. Miller for The American Journal of Psychology (AJP), all dated from 1944 to 1958. These articles include studies on discrimination, temporal judgments, auditory patterns, operant conditioning, animal behavior, verbal recall, and language structure. There are empirical and theoretical investigations and investigations combining both experiments and theory. Despite their breadth and the variety of subjects and procedures, all of the Miller studies in AJP can be viewed as following with behaviorist traditions rather than dealing with more complex cognition. During this time Miller’s view of psychology was changing; these studies, with their inventive methods, can also be seen as initial attempts to break into the mind, or to uncover and understand cognitive processes, in a way that had been discouraged by behaviorist traditions. The studies all also point to the need to consider the immediate contexts and long-term histories of the observer’s experiences, which implicate the broader statistical learning mechanism that is now considered to underlie human learning. The AJP articles reviewed here foreshadow the wide-ranging and profound influence Miller had on psychology and related fields of study. Miller has been described as a founder or pioneer of a number of fields, including psycholinguistics, mathematical psychology, applied psychology, cognitive science, and computational approaches to linguistic analysis. Because of his huge impact on so many areas and his eagerness to communicate psychology’s importance to others, Miller can be considered an ambassador of psychology to a wider audience.
“Margaret F. Washburn in The American Journal of Psychology: A Cognitive Precursor?,” by José T. Boyano. The abstract reads,
In the early 20th century, Margaret F. Washburn (1871–1939) produced numerous studies on perception, affective value of stimulus, memory, emotions, and consciousness. This experimental work was published in The American Journal of Psychology. The purpose of this article is to analyze the temporal evolution of these kinds of experiments and relate them to Washburn’s theoretical production. Contrary to other views, Washburn’s experimental evolution follows a logical sequence and has a strong inner coherence. Among other reasons, the lack of a scientific and social framework to the study of the mind has tended to overshadow large areas of Washburn’s thought. However, both the work published in AJP and the methods used in experiments provide reasons to consider Washburn one of the precursors of contemporary cognitive psychology.
What is the relationship between being highly prolific in the realm of publication and being remembered as a great psychologist of the past? In this study, the PsycINFO database was used to identify the historical figures who wrote the most journal articles during the half-century from 1890 to 1939. Although a number of the 10 most prolific authors are widely remembered for their influence on the discipline today—E. L. Thorndike, Karl Pearson, E. B. Titchener, Henri Piéron—the majority are mostly forgotten. The data were also separated into the 5 distinct decades. Once again, a mixture of eminent and obscure individuals made appearances. Most striking, perhaps, was the great increase in articles published over the course of the half-century—approximately doubling each decade—and the enormous turnover in who was most prolific, decade over decade. In total, 100 distinct individuals appeared across just 5 lists of about 25 names each.
The American Journal of Psychology (AJP) was the first academic journal in the united states dedicated to the “new” scientific form of the discipline. But where did the journal’s founding owner/editor, G. Stanley Hall, find the “psychologists” he needed to fill the pages of such a venture 1887, when he was still virtually the only professor of psychology in the country? To investigate this question we used the substantive vocabularies of every full article published in AJP’s first 14 volumes to generate networks of verbally similar articles. These networks reveal the variety of research communities that hall drew on to launch and support the journal. three separate networks, corresponding to 3 successive time blocks, show how hall’s constellation of participating research communities changed over AJP’s first 17 years. Many of these communities started with rather nebulous boundaries but soon began to differentiate into groups of more distinct specialties. some topics declined over time, but new ones regularly appeared to replace them. We sketch a quasievolutionary model to describe the intellectual ecology of AJP’s early years.