Tag Archives: animal

New Article: The Pasteur Institute and the Study of the Animal Mind

Marion Thomas

The February 22016 issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences includes an article that may be of interest to AHP readers.

“Between biomedical and psychological experiments: The unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institutes and the study of animal mind in the second quarter of the twentieth century France,” by Marion Thomas. The abstract reads,

This article explores the unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institute in French Guinea and the study of animal mind in early twentieth century France. At a time when the study of animal intelligence was thriving in France and elsewhere, apes were appealing research subjects both in psychological and biomedical studies. Drawing on two case studies (Guillaume/Meyerson and Urbain), and then, on someone responding negatively to those connections, Thétard, this article shows how the long reach of biomedicine (linked to the prestige of Bernard and Pasteur) impinged on French biology and played a role in the tortuous, if not unsuccessful fate of animal psychology in France in the second quarter of the twentieth century. It shows how attempts to use apes (and other zoo animals) to yield new insights on animal psychology faced heavy restrictions or experienced false starts, and examines the reasons why animal psychology could not properly thrive at that time in France. Beyond the supremacy of biomedical interests over psychological ones, this article additionally explains that some individuals used animal behaviour studies as steppingstones in careers in which they proceeded on to other topics. Finally, it illustrates the tension between non-academic and academic people at a time when animal psychology was trying to acquire scientific legitimacy, and also highlights the difficulties attached to the scientific study of animals in a multipurpose and hybrid environment such as the early twentieth century Parisian zoo and also the Pasteur Institute of French Guinea.

New: May 17 BPS Hist. of Psych. Disciplines Talk!

The next presentation as part of British Psychological Society’s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological DisciplinesHistory of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series will take place in London next week. On Friday, May 17th Fabio De Sio and Chantal Marazia will present on, “The Psychic Hans effect: Experimental animal psi from Karl Krall to the present.” Full details, including the presentation abstract, follow below.

Location: UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

Time: 6pm-7.30pm, Friday 17 May

Dr Fabio De Sio (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf) and Dr Chantal Marazia (Europa-Universität Viadrina), ‘The Psychic Hans effect: Experimental animal psi from Karl Krall to the present’

This paper explores the issue of animal psi experimentation in the 20th century (ca.
1920s–1970s). The passage from what has been called the ‘anecdotal phase’ of animal
psychology to the experimental phase had a rather precise parallel in psi research. From
sources of marvel and anecdotal evidence of paranormal phenomena, in the course of the 20th century animals progressively became elements of a specific experimental setting. More specifically, rigorous animal experimentation was seen as a way of overcoming a number of problems and strictures deriving from the very nature of psi experiences.

Animals were seen as a source of ‘genuine’ instances of psychic phenomena, unaltered
by human culture and communication, as well as standardisable research material, allowing to overcome the scarcity and ephemerality of human cases. Nevertheless, the need to develop animal-specific paradigms raised as many problems as it was supposed to resolve. Making the animal (either in the wild or in the lab) the centre of experimental psychic research entailed the definition of a number of issues that were common to psychic research, animal psychology, physiology and zoology: the issue of animal subjectivity and individuality; that of the evolutionary stand of psychic powers (at what level of the evolutionary ladder were they supposed to belong, their correlation with the evolution of the nervous system, etc.); finally, that of the human–animal relation in the experimental setting (whether the process of bonding between animals and humans was to be considered part of the procedure or a source of confusion). By considering different examples of psi research on animals (both observational and experimental), we explore the ambiguous roles and meanings given to animals in experimental research.

Rat Guillotines

rat guillotineMy York U. colleague Michael Pettit put me on to an item at the blog of the Medical Museion (U. Copenhagen) about home-made devices for the “sacrificing” of rats (and other small animals) that have completed their “service” as laboratory subjects, such as this improvised guillotine (left).

Most psychologists who have worked in an animal laboratory will be familiar with such objects, but they may come as a surprise to others, as they seemed to have been to the person who told the blogger about her discovery of one in a behavioral neuroscience lab in Sydney, Australia.

It is also worth checking out the comments on this posting, several of which are from people who have used machines such as this, and note that commercially produced versions have long been available as well.