Tag Archives: APA Monitor

APA Monitor: William James & the 6th Sense

The September 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this issue’s Time Capsule section is a piece by section editor Katharine Milar. In “William James and the Sixth Sense,” Milar discusses William James’s foray into experimental research with his investigation of the function of the inner ear (right) and the experience of dizziness. In the early 1880s, to test whether individuals with inner ear damage experienced dizziness, James

… initiated a study of dizziness in Harvard students and in deaf individuals. Participants closed their eyes and sat on a swing that was rotated until its ropes were tightly twisted together. After the swing ropes were allowed to rapidly unwind, the experimenter asked the participants to open their eyes and try to walk a straight line.

Of the 200 Harvard students and instructors, only one did not experience dizziness. But of the 519 deaf children, a majority reported only slight dizziness or none at all. James reported some preliminary results of the study in 1881 in the Harvard University Bulletin. The following year, he published his complete findings in the American Journal of Otology, acknowledging that more thorough research was needed and “in the hope that some one [sic] with better opportunities may carry on the work.”

Read the full piece online here.

New APA Monitor: Charles S. Myers & Shell Shock

The June issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. The month’s Time Capsule section examines the work of British psychologist Charles S. Myers on shell shock during World War I. Historian of medicine and psychiatry Edgar Jones examines Myers efforts establish shell shock as a legitimate condition – and not mere malingering – and to treat those affected. As Jones described,

The first cases Myers described exhibited a range of perceptual abnormalities, such as loss of or impaired hearing, sight and sensation, along with other common physical symptoms, such as tremor, loss of balance, headache and fatigue. He concluded that these were psychological rather than physical casualties, and believed that the symptoms were overt manifestations of repressed trauma.

Along with William McDougall, another psychologist with a medical background, Myers argued that shell shock could be cured through cognitive and affective reintegration. The shell-shocked soldier, they thought, had attempted to manage a traumatic experience by repressing or splitting off any memory of a traumatic event. Symptoms, such as tremor or contracture, were the product of an unconscious process designed to maintain the dissociation. Myers and McDougall believed a patient could only be cured if his memory were revived and integrated within his consciousness, a process that might require a number of sessions.

The full article, Shell Shocked, can be read online here.

AHP readers may also be interested in a series of 5 films of World War I era soldiers suffering from shell shock posted online by the Wellcome Library (previously discussed on AHP here). The first of these is featured below.

APA Monitor: Psychology’s First Forays into Film

The May issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this month’s Time Capsule section is a piece from AHP’s own Arlie Belliveau on the early uses of film in psychology. In particular, Belliveau describes the work of husband and wife team of engineer Frank Gilbreth and industrial psychologist Lillian Moller Gilbreth (both pictured above), who worked in the field of scientific management. The Gilbreths created what were called micromotion films, which aimed to record the minute details of the motions required to perform the highly repetitive work done within factories. (You can view one of their micromotion films online here.) As Belliveau describes,

The first instance of this form of micromotion study occurred in 1912 at the NEBC factory. The Gilbreths set up their camera in a second-floor laboratory in which the walls and floorboards were painted white with a black grid overlay to optimize light reflection and provide a reference to scale. Individual braiding machines and pieces of office equipment were brought upstairs to be filmed under the natural lights of the windows. Factory workers were enlisted to participate as the stars and experts of the films. Each factory task was filmed, and then viewed frame by frame, breaking each motion sequence into individual parts called “Therbligs” (an anagram of “Gilbreths”). The micromotion team (made up of the Gilbreths and cooperating workers) then evaluated the work process to find ways to make it safer, simpler, faster and more ergonomically correct. They developed and filmed these new procedures and used those films to retrain the factory workers.

….Workers reportedly loved seeing themselves projected onto the big screen, and the Gilbreths set up an exhibition room to periodically screen the films. Lillian believed that these screenings improved morale and output while promoting a unification phenomenon she called “happiness minutes.” Happiness minutes were the total amount of time each day that workers felt satisfied with their jobs. Lillian believed this to be an essential element of efficiency, although they only gauged employee happiness through subjective methods (such as their suggestion box system and general impressions obtained from talking to the workers), and never conducted formal psychological surveys. With this in mind, she and Frank adapted later films taken at the Ball Brothers Mason Jar factory in 1918 to include shots of workers smiling at the camera with their names and even nicknames written at the bottom of the screen.

Read the full article, “Psychology’s First Forays into Film,” online here.

America’s First Sport Psychologist

The April 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section includes a piece from AHP‘s own Christopher Green who recounts the story of psychologist Coleman Griffith’s early work with the Chicago Cubs. In America’s First Sport Psychologist, Green writes

Griffith opened America’s first athletics research laboratory at the University of Illinois in 1925. Although the lab attracted some attention at the time, university trustees shut it down after only six years. Official accounts blamed cutbacks on the Depression, but rumors circulated that Illinois football coach Robert Zupke had recommended its closure. Griffith was shifted into a middling administrative role, and it looked like his sport research days were over. But then Wrigley came calling late in 1937 not only with a job, but also with an equipment budget, a laboratory in Chicago and an invitation to join the Cubs for spring training on Santa Catalina Island off the southern California coast. Griffith bought his lab gear — including high-speed movie cameras and chronoscopes — and headed west.

Whatever benefits Wrigley and Griffith thought a psychologist might bring to a professional sports team, the Cubs coaching staff had other ideas. Manager Charlie Grimm had apparently slid into a depression so severe toward the end of the previous season that he had been temporarily replaced by one of the players, catcher and future Hall-of- Famer Gabby Hartnett. The team led the National League into late August of 1937, but slipped into second in the first week of September and finished there. Grimm returned for the 1938 season, but most of the players did not think he would last. Apparently, Grimm felt the pressure. He mocked the “headshrinkers,” as he called them, and ordered his players not to cooperate.

Read the entire piece online here.

APA Monitor: The American Asylum System

The March 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology has just gone online. In this month’s Time Capsule section, Ellen Holtzman describes the private asylum system that developed in the United States in the late 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Holtzman pays particular attention to Boris Sidis a medical doctor who also earned a PhD from Harvard under William James. As Holtzman describes,

In 1910, Sidis opened a private asylum, the Sidis Psychotherapeutic Institute, on the Portsmouth, N.H., estate of a wealthy New Englander. Hoping for referrals from psychologically minded colleagues, he announced the opening of his hospital in the Psychological Bulletin and advertised it in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, which he had founded. The ad noted that he would treat patients by “applying his special psychopathological and clinical methods of examination, observation and treatment.”

Sidis touted the luxury of the asylum’s accommodations and setting, even more than the availability of psychotherapy. “Beautiful grounds, private parks, rare trees, greenhouses, sun parlors, palatial rooms, luxuriously furnished private baths, private farm products,” wrote Sidis in his brochure describing the institute. Moreover, he offered his patients the somatic treatments of hydrotherapy and electrical stimulation, as did his less psychologically minded colleagues. The emphasis on luxury combined with the availability of the popular somatic treatments, even in an institution created by an “advanced” thinker like Sidis, suggests that wealthy patients expected a traditional, medical approach to treatment….

As the Sidis Institute illustrates, life in the small, private asylums contrasted sharply with conditions in the late 19th-century public institutions. Patients at public hospitals were usually involuntarily committed, and they typically displayed violent or suicidal behavior before their hospitalization. The public hospitals were overcrowded and dirty, with bars on the windows. The staff was poorly paid and frequently treated patients harshly. Given these terrible conditions, well-to-do patients used their wealth to take shelter in a physician’s home and escape the fate of the poor. Not surprisingly, the cost of a private hospitalization was steep. Sidis, for example, charged $50 to $100 and “upwards” a week ($50 would be equivalent to roughly $1,000 today). “Bills are payable in advance,” he informed his prospective patients.

The entire article can here read online here.

APA Monitor: A History of Maze Research

This month’s issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology has just gone online. Featured in this issue’s Time Capsule section is an article by C. James Goodwin on the history of maze research in American psychology. As Goodwin describes,

The idea for the first maze study was sparked by a conversation between Sanford and another Clark graduate student, Linus Kline. Small and Kline were both interested in the then-new Darwin-inspired field of comparative psychology. They had been studying rats and were especially interested in what they called the rat’s “home-finding” ability. Kline told Sanford he had observed “runways … made by large feral rats to their nests under the porch of an old cabin on [his] father’s farm in Virginia.” When these runways were exposed during an excavation, their maze-like appearance immediately suggested to Sanford using the Hampton Court Maze design to study “home-finding.”

At that time, the Hampton Court Maze in England was a popular tourist stop, arguably the world’s most famous hedge maze. It was part of the sprawling attraction of Hampton Court, just outside London, built as a home away from throne for the British royal family. Built in 1690, the maze consists of twists and turns and six-foot-tall hedges that continue to perplex visitors today. At the time of his conversation with Kline, Sanford had just returned from London; it is conceivable that he had visited the maze on that trip.

Whatever the origins of Sanford’s suggestion, the Clark lab soon had its own mini-version of the Hampton Court Maze, Continue reading APA Monitor: A History of Maze Research

APA Monitor: The West Cure

The January 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology has just been published online. This month’s Time Capsule article examines the male alternative to the rest cure often prescribed for nervous women in the nineteenth century. The rest cure saw neurasthenic women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman confined to bed, where they were to do little more than eat and avoid all “brain work.”  Gilman recounted her experience with the rest cure in her well-known work, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892). In contrast, as Anne Stiles details in “Go Rest, Young Man,” men treated their neurasthenia by heading to the American west to engage in strenuous physical activity. Among the men who did so were Theodore Roosevelt and Walt Whitman. As Stiles recounts,

Before heading West, Roosevelt’s effeminate looks and high voice provoked comparisons to Oscar Wilde; afterward, he became known for his strenuous brand of masculinity. Roosevelt’s motto, “speak softly and carry a big stick,” sums up the ethos of many Westerns, in which stoic men of action engage in constant battles with nature, Indians and rogue cowboys. Like many men of his generation, Roosevelt felt that masculinity was forged by conflict, an attitude that carried over into his imperialist foreign policy.

The dramatic difference between the Rest and West Cures suggests their prescriptive nature. Both cures existed to reinforce “proper” sexual behavior, serving to masculinize effeminate (and possibly homosexual) men and discourage women from entering the professions. Both were supported by the authority of science in an era that emphasized the biological differences between men and women.

The full article can be read online here.

The Woman Behind the Visual Cliff

The July 2011 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology explores the life and work of psychologist Eleanor Gibson in its Time Capsule section. Elissa Rodkey, in “The Woman Behind the Visual Cliff,” describes the challenges Gibson encountered as a women seeking to become an experimental animal psychologist including a rebuff by Robert Yerkes: ““I have no women in my laboratory.” Later precluded from a position at Cornell University due to antinepotism rules, Gibson eventual collaborated

with Richard Walk, whose Cornell faculty status meant he had access to laboratory facilities. Together they conducted a series of experiments testing the effect of an enriched rearing environment on learning in rats. One experiment called for rats raised in the dark, and the invention of the visual cliff was the serendipitous result of Gibson’s and Walk’s attempt to get more use out of painstakingly dark-reared rats. To their surprise, the dark-reared rats avoided the glass-covered drop-off portion of the cliff, showing that they could perceive depth despite their lack of visual experience. Gibson and Walk found that a variety of species could discriminate depth by the time they could walk, and animals such as chicks and goats that walk at birth could immediately perceive depth.

Eventually, Gibson and Walk tested crawling babies on the cliff, using the presence of the babies’ mothers to motivate the infants to crawl. Their findings were published in Scientific American and covered in the popular press, including a feature in Life magazine. It quickly became one of psychology’s most famous experiments, its engaging photographs incorporated in numerous introductory textbooks.

The full piece on “The Woman Behind the Visual Cliff” can be read online here.

APA Monitor: SPSSI’s 75th Anniversary

The June issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology includes a piece on the 75th anniversary of SPSSI. SPSSI, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, is division 9 of the APA. As Alexandra Rutherford describes,

SPSSI was born on Sept. 1, 1936, at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College. It was conceived and delivered by a dynamic group of concerned social scientists who felt that organized psychology was not acting on the pressing social and economic problems of the 1930s. As one founder, Walter Lurie, put it, “we believed the study of psychology must have some relevance to economic and political problems, if it had any human worth at all.”

In its first year, SPSSI welcomed 17 percent of APA’s members into its ranks.

In the article, Rutherford also describes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech as part of SPSSI’s 1967 APA convention programming. The full piece on SPSSI’s history can be read online here.

AHP’s readers may also want to check out SPSSI’s 75th anniversary gala August 3rd, during the APA convention in Washington, DC.

“Laboratory Babies” in the APA Monitor

The May 2011 Time Capsule section of the APA Monitor on Psychology features a piece by Ann Johnson on the development of the Minnesota Institute of Child Welfare, now the Institute of Child Development. Johnson’s focus is on the Institute’s aborted plan to open an infant laboratory where babies would live and be studied around the clock. The article recounts that,

In late 1925, Minnesota psychologist Florence Goodenough, PhD, wrote excitedly to her mentor at Stanford University, Lewis Terman, PhD, about plans to open the new Minnesota Institute of Child Welfare. As the institute’s chief research scientist, Goodenough would oversee several research projects on children and supervise graduate students. She was particularly enthusiastic about the institute’s plan for securing some very young research participants: “There will be organized an infants’ home where from six to 10 infants will be kept from birth up to the age of two or three years for observation and study. Plans for this are under way, but as yet we have no babies.”

Although plans for a Minnesota Institute of Child Welfare infant laboratory were never realized, placing babies in university-based laboratory settings was not as outlandish an idea as it might seem. At the time that plans were underway to establish a psychological infant laboratory “laboratory babies” were already in place elsewhere on the campus:

In 1914, the Minnesota Home Economics Department opened the first of two “home management houses,” sometimes called home laboratories. These were model homes in which junior- and senior-level home economics majors lived and gained hands-on practice — as well as course credit — for managing domestic tasks. In 1919, a new feature was added: a baby for each house. Working with local child welfare agencies, the home economics administrators arranged for these model homes to qualify as foster-type homes for local orphan babies or other infants separated from their families. These “laboratory babies” became the subject of a 1920 article in Ladies Home Journal titled “The Baby with Forty Mothers.” The subtitle: “A University Course in Home Making with Real, Live Infants for Textbooks.”

These “laboratory babies” or “practice babies” were not unique to the University of Minnesota. From the 1910s through to the 1960s practice babies were used in “practice apartments,” meant to train women in the practices of scientific mothering, in home economics programs across the United States. Details of the use of practice babies in the Cornell University program (left) have been recently fictionalized in the book The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald. The book draws on material available in an online exhibit of the history of the Cornell home economics program. Further details on practice babies can be found in the New York Times review of Grunwald’s book, as well as in this blog post and in this NPR piece (audio available online).

The full Babes in Arms article can be read online here.

Thanks to Elissa Rodkey and the Society for the History of Psychology‘s facebook page for pointing AHP to the sources on Grunwald and the history of practice babies.